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Science and the Bible


What Is The Current Status Of The Assumed Bible/Science Conflict ?

The Problem

Everyone knows that we are living in a period of explosively growing scientific knowledge. Tens of thousands of scientific journals are published all over the world to report scientific discoveries. In spite of this large number, these publications are struggling under the weight of information sent for publication.

SCIENCE is the result of man's quest for truth. The dazzling performance of science and the resulting technology has made science a synonym for truth in our generation. Many have been quick to use this atmosphere to attack the Bible in the name of science. These people claim that Christians have always been anti-scientific.

An example quoted frequently is that of Galileo Galilee. The Church forced him to renounce his scientific discoveries. This, they claim, is an example of the "warfare" between Bible and Science. Further, many of them claim that the twentieth century science has completely disproved the Bible, and that the theory of evolution has completely negated the possibility of creation.

Most people don't know that many arguments brought against Bible or Christianity are artificially forged by people interested in discrediting Bible. Even in the case of Galileo, many historians of science have demonstrated that, it was the scientific and political community that punished him. The reason was pure professional jealousy that was aggravated by Galileo's uncontrolled sarcastic speeches and writings. The Bible was an innocent victim in this drama.

The Historical Background:Attacks directed against the Bible are not new. Since this is the only book in the world that teaches the total depravity of man -- who cannot in any way save himself -- this book has received much opposition for thousands of years. However, this opposition gained momentum only in the last two hundred years.

A key factor that united the critics is the Theory Of Evolution. The opposition was divided before Darwin proposed his theory, but his hypothesis gave them a common ground to come together. This coming together had a snowball effect with each anti-Bible movement strengthening the other. Today thousands of organizations and publications around the world are devoted to some kind of attack or other against the Bible. This is the reason why even in the most unlikely place you keep hearing that "Science has discredited the Bible". It is only a propaganda, and not a fact, and you will discover that as you continue with this course.

Present Situation Of The Attacks: The Theory Of Evolution has infiltrated education systems all over the world. This hypothesis is being taught as a fact in schools at an ever earlier stage. Almost all textbooks -- science, commerce, humanities -- have been written with this theory serving as the foundation.

Rationalist and atheistic organizations and publications have come up everywhere. More and more influential writers and thinkers are spreading the message. Various movements, even if not directly teaching atheism, are joining hands with atheistic philosophies for their selfish goals.

The world of knowledge (research, publications, textbooks) and the world of communication (periodicals, radio, TV, movies) are now dominated by these people. They aggressively use their authority and position to propagate their views, but do not allow anyone else to present the other side.

Young people brought up in this atmosphere know only one side of the picture -- that science and evolution have discredited the Bible. They are never told that there is another side to this picture -- a shocking one indeed. They are never shown the two sides and therefore they are deprived from choosing the one that better fits the facts.

Response of Christians: The situation definitely needs a response from Christians. After all, when there is such an aggression against them, they cannot remain silent. Over the years, the community has split up into three groups.

One group of Christians continues in their commitment to the Bible with no question whatsoever about its reliability. They were never affected by all this noise, and they have never tried to see any of the sides. They are not at all interested in the question and therefore they lead quite stable lives. However, they have one handicap -- usually they are unable to help or sympathize with another believer who might be struggling with these problems.

The second group consists of those people who have clearly understood that both sides stand upon conflicting grounds. But they are not interested in studying the subject further. They usually take refuge behind statements like, "scientists teach evolution while Bible teaches creation. I believe in the Bible." This is spiritual escapism, and these people -- due to their awareness of the real conflict -- remain in a perpetual state of tension. After all, no person can continue to believe peacefully in two mutually conflicting ideas. When a seeker approaches this kind of a person, he is told to behave in the same way -- run away from your problems, lest it start troubling both of us.

The third group consists of seekers. They don't want to run away. They want to know the truth. They believe that knowing the truth will only strengthen them and make them more secure in their faith. Usually they are able to find a believer or writer who belongs to this very group -- sometimes in the past these people struggled with their faith, then saw both the sides, evaluated them, made their choices, and are now fully assured about their stand. These people, since they intimately know the emotions of a searching soul, are able both to sympathize with the inquirer and also to guide them in their quest for truth.

The Purpose Of This Course: This course has been prayerfully prepared by people in the third category mentioned above. Scholars and researchers all over the world have spent hundreds of thousands of hours in experimental, theoretical, and library research into the relationship between Bible/Science/Evolution. Enough course material is available today to offer University level Bachelors to Doctorate level courses. But since most people are interested only in knowing what is just sufficient for their needs, we are offering this brief six-lesson course for them. If this does not meet your needs, we can always guide you to more advanced courses, books, and library-research.

What Is Science ?

Right from the beginning of this study you should understand the difference between science and technology. Science deals with the study of the physical world while technology deals with application of scientific knowledge. For example, studying the effect of combustion is science, while using internal combustion to make cars is technology. Technology can sometimes make great progress without understanding the underlying scientific principles.

Many ancient civilizations made tremendous progress in their technology -- this includes the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and the Indians. The incredible constructions left by the ancient Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs surprises everyone even today. But very few of these civilizations developed sciences. Many are amazed that those who developed technology failed to develop science.

The present-day science is hardly four hundred years old. Historians of science have repeatedly pointed out that the present-day science has its roots in the Protestant Reformation. A few hundred years ago some Protestant church fathers, because of their biblical convictions, formed the first society dedicated to promote systematic investigation of Nature. This became the model for all Royal Societies and other institutions devoted to the spread of science.

This history in itself is sufficient to tell any a sincere inquirer that modern science is the offspring of people's commitment to Bible. If Bible gave birth to modern scientific activities, it is inconceivable that this activity would in turn refute the Bible.

What Is Science: Science is a tool developed for the systematic and objective study of nature. "Systematic" means that all facts are considered, compared to superstition where only facts supporting the superstition are taken into account. "Objective" means that scientific interpretations give no place to feelings and emotions.

Contrary to what many people believe, the opposite of 'science' is not 'faith'. Faith is an important part of science, as pointed by almost every philosopher of science. The opposite of science is 'superstition'. Superstition is a faith, but all faith is not superstition. When a student accepts Newton's laws of motion, he accepts them on faith, not based on experiments performed by him. This faith is not superstition, and this kind of faith plays an important role in the growth of science.

The aim of science is to study the physical world with the help of repetitive experiments. This repetitiveness gives it the objectivity and correctability needed to arrive at objective conclusions. Roughly speaking, scientific investigation goes on in this way :

Experiments --> Observations --> Analysis --> Deductions --> Verification -->
Further Experiments --> Refinements --> Better Deductions --> Further Study -->
Better Overall Understanding Of Nature

Experiments are performed, observations are taken, deductions are made, and these deductions are verified with the help of further experiments. Thus repetitive experimentation is the soul of scientific investigation.

If a particular subject cannot be brought to laboratory for repetitive experimentation, then studying it is beyond the scope of science. The subject might be real, but does not come under the jurisdiction of empirical sciences.

The Categories Of Information: Science aims to study nature, but this world is so complex that one has to pass through various stages of information-collection and analysis. This means that at any given time the available scientific information will be made up of different categories of information -- some fully certain and others less than certain. These categories are expressed with the help of terms like :

Hypothesis, Assumptions, Theories, Observations, Facts, Laws, Interpretations, Schools Of Opinion, Models, Deductions, Inferences, etc.

Obviously, an assumption is not as reliable as an observation, and a theory is not as reliable as a fact. And here is the crux of the matter -- we need to distinguish between types of information found in the world of science. For the sake of convenience these terms can be grouped into two broad categories : Theories of Science and Facts of Science.

THEORIES Of Science represent all that information that is not certain yet. This category of information is necessary for the development of science, but it does not represent the final truth in a particular subject. Theories of science undergo a lot of change -- very few theories survive for more than one generation. Most of them are severely modified or even thrown out soon.

FACTS Of Science represent all that information that is known with certainty. There are no exceptions to them, and they are not modified further.

At any given time, most of the prevailing scientific information is in a theoretical stage while only a small percentage represents facts. Thus, today the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a fact of science while the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe is a theory. The Law of Biogenesis is a fact, while the Theory of Evolution (as the name itself implies) is a mere theory or assumption.

The Domain (Territory) Of Science: Every tool has a purpose. It is best utilized for that purpose within a given territory. Science is a tool designed for studying nature. It does the job very well within the territory assigned to it, but fails to do the job outside its domain.

Science was designed to study Nature -- made up of matter and energy. Repetitive experiments and observations are essential. Mass, weight, velocity, density, refractive index, and other physical quantities are measured. But if a particular reality in nature is not made up of matter or energy, and if it does not have these measurable physical quantities as its properties, then that subject cannot be studied with the help of science.

For example love is a reality. Everyone craves for love, feels fulfilled when it is obtained, and gives out love in turn. We who experience love are made up of matter and energy, but the love experienced by us is not made up of matter or energy. It has no mass, no refractive index, and no density. No scientific instrument can measure love. But this does not negate the existence of love.

One should understand very clearly that truth exists in many forms. Physical truth can be investigated through empirical sciences, but not historical truths. Historical truths are investigated with the tools of historical sciences, legal truths with the tools of legal sciences, and personal truths are investigated with the help of relational investigations.

This means that empirical sciences can examine only a few statements in the Bible. They cannot deal with a historical subject, say the historicity of Lord Jesus. That question can be examined only with the help of historical sciences. This further implies that statements like, "science has disproved the Bible" are the result of haste. One has to specify what kind of science has disproved what kind of records.

If someone claims that physics has disproved the existence of Lord Jesus, or his resurrection, he is expressing his ignorance. Physics can be used only to test things related to physics. Other types of truths need tests suitable for their own category. Considering the historicity of Lord Jesus, for example, one can claim that "historical investigations have demonstrated that Lord Jesus was/wasn't a historical person". This kind of a statement makes sense, and it can be investigated by anyone who is competent in historical sciences.

What About Bible And Science: It is clear by now that physical sciences deal only with matter and energy. Historical sciences deal with historical truths, and relational knowledge deals with things like love, hatred, anger, etc. that can be known only through relationship.

The aim of scientific investigation is to discover truth, but one does not arrive at all truth immediately through science. Instead, truth is discovered step by step and much theorizing is needed in this process.

Theories of science are a necessary part of scientific investigation, but they do not represent final or confirmed truth. Rather, a theory represents something that is not yet known for sure. Theories barely last for one generation. Most of them are modified severely or even thrown out completely.

Facts of science represent that information that is known for sure. There are no exceptions, and there is no more chance of it being modified or rejected.

This means that whenever the question of Bible and Science comes up, only the FACTS OF SCIENCE can be used in this connection. Since a theory has not permanent existence, and since a theory does not represent confirmed knowledge, it is not legitimate to use a theory to examine any statement in the Bible.

So What Is It To The Reliability Of The Bible: Intense examinations over the past five decades (by believers as well as non believers) have shown that whenever a FACT of science is used to examine the Bible, it never contradicts the Book ! NO fact of science has ever contradicted any statement of Bible.

On the other hand, NO statement of Bible has ever contradicted any fact of science. Statements of Bible are not inconsistent with the facts of science.

There is no end to the making of theories. They are necessary for the growth of science, but they do not represent definite knowledge. Many theories have come in direct conflict with the Bible, but these theories are after all only theories -- mere assumptions. Whoever in his right senses tries to contradict anything with the help of mere assumptions ? This is contrary to logic, science, and the standards laid down for legal investigation.

Only a FACT of science can be used to investigate the relationship between Bible and Science. When that is done, we find that:

Established facts of science have never contradicted any statement of the Bible, and no statement of the Bible has ever contradicted any established fact of science. Any Christian believer can silence critics with the above information -- simple yet having serious implications for anyone who wishes to think objectively about the Bible.

Bible And The World Of Science

In the previous lesson you saw that the present-day science developed as a direct cause of the Protestant Reformation, as recognized even by non-Christian historians of science.

Science is a tool for the systematic and objective study of the material world. Every branch of science, in every generation, is made up of the theories of science and the facts of science. Theories of science are temporary entities, and most of them are modified or reject in the course of time. Facts of science are things more fully and accurately known. Compared to theories, facts represent definite knowledge.

Bible And Science: Facts of science have never contradicted any statement in the Bible, and statements of Bible have never contradicted any fact of science.

Bible contains numerous statements related to the natural world. The purpose of Bible is not to teach us science, still when it makes a statement related to science it is fully accurate. Hundreds of statements in the Bible anticipate scientific information much before scientists could discover them. Let us pick up some examples :

1--The Finite Age Of The Universe: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". This implies that the universe is not infinitely old. This is interesting because most religions and most scientists (till recent times) maintained that the universe is infinitely old.

The second law of thermodynamics, however, suggests that the universe is not infinitely old. It has a definite and finite age.

2--Conservation Of Agricultural Land: Man in his greed for profit has been cultivating land mercilessly, only to find that it is no longer fertile. Artificial fertilizers help for some more years, but then the land becomes terribly barren.

The same God who asked man to "subdue the earth" also has given some instructions related to conservation. Exodus 23:10-11 says "And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof; but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still... In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard."

Agricultural scientists have found that no chemical treatment can restore the original fertility and vitality to the ground, but one thing can -- allow the land to rest once every seven years !! This is exactly what Bible says with one difference : the statement in Bible came 3500 years before scientists discovered it !

3--Washing For Cleanliness: It is widely held today that cleanliness is next to godliness. In spite of this belief, most people don't know the importance of washing with water for cleanliness. If you are not convinced, all you need to do is to take a trip through any city street or village with an open eye. Except for few developed countries, the level of personal cleanliness is very bad among the masses.

The word of God, however, lays great stress on washing for cleanliness. Dozens of verses are spread all over, and let me quote just one of them. "And he that is to be cleaned shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and wash himself in water, that he may be CLEAN...".

The instructions for washing came 3500 years ago, and they should be compared with the ignorance of masses, even in this enlightened and educated twentieth century, to realize how modern the Bible is in comparison to the "modern" man !

4--Blood Is Carrier Of Life: Today most of us know that blood has got an intimate connection with life. If a significant amount of blood is lost, a person might die. However, this knowledge is only very recent. Till the seventeenth century people used to view blood as a minor, or even useless, component of body.

Some maintained that blood is merely a liquid meant to cool the head, while others felt that it is a reservoir of wastes that has to be let out to purify the body. Consequently, patients suffering from all kind of ailments -- from minor headaches to major health problems -- were "bled" to cure them. As recently as 1799 the American president George Washington died when he was "bled" to cure a mere cold ! Interestingly, even in the twentieth century India many people still practice this technique of cutting and bleeding as a cure for all kinds of diseases.

The function of blood, as carrier of life, was identified only as late as 1616 AD by William Harvey. But several verses in the Bible say that "The life of the flesh is in the blood". (See Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:11, 14, etc.). The biblical statements came more than 3300 years before the medical community discovered these truths.

5--Geometrically Accurate: In I Kings chapter 7 we read about a huge hemispherical water-tank constructed by the order of king Solomon. Several pieces of information are given about the dimension of this vessel.

Using the data given here, one can calculate the value of 'pi' used in geometry. ('pi' = circumference/diameter) It comes out to be 3.14, accurate up to two decimal points. This is in striking contrast to the value recorded by other civilizations of that time. Egyptians used a value of 3.16, while Babylonians used a value of 3.125. The correct value was calculated by Greeks centuries after this period.

6--Embryology: Embryology is a very recent science. It is less than one hundred years since people started to understand things related to embryos. But an interesting discussion is found in Psalms 139:13-16. You should read this passage from a modern Bible translation to understand the full significance of these statements.

These highly accurate embryological statements were recorded in the Bible about 3000 years ago !

7--The Earth Hanging In Space: It was difficult for the ancient man to imagine anything hanging in space without support. He thought that stars were studded in solid skies and that the earth was supported similarly. The Greeks thought that god Atlas supported the earth on his shoulders, and that earthquakes happened whenever he moved. (The name Atlas for world-maps comes from this myth !).

Other ancients thought that the earth is supported by a giant snake with thousands of hoods. Still others thought that it is supported by four elephants, that stand upon a turtle, and that in turn swims in a cosmic ocean.

All this should be compared with Job 26:7 which says that God "hangeth the earth upon nothing" !! Interestingly, Job is one of the oldest books in the Bible. Most probably Job was a contemporary of Abraham, taking this story back to 4000 years before present !!

8--The Spherical Earth: For thousands of years people believed the earth to be flat, and they considered it foolish to sail into unknown seas lest the ships fall into the abyss where the earth ends. In the light of this it is interesting that the Bible does not teach anything like that.

In Isaiah 40:22 there is a reference to the "circle of the earth". It is interesting to note that the word translated "circle" had connotations of a spherical body also.

Further, Luke 17:34 to 36 says, "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one will be taken, and the other left". It is interesting to note that noon, night, and early morning are said to occur at the same moment on the earth. This is possible only on a spherical earth !

Conclusion

So now we can come to the following safe deductions:

1-Though the Bible is a very ancient book, and though it is not meant to be a science textbook, the statements it makes about nature are all accurate.

2-No FACT of science has ever contradicted a statement of the Bible. On the other hand, statements of the Bible have never contradicted any facts of science.

3--Bible contains several hundred references that touch upon scientific topics. These are not only accurate, but also came thousands of years before moderns science discovered them.

4--If someone says that a particular statement of science has contradicted the Bible, you should immediately ask whether that statement is a FACT or a mere THEORY !

5--When you read statements like the "four corners" of the earth you should check what kind of text it is -- prose or poetry. (This particular reference is from Psalms, which is poetry).