Science in the Bible

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

A Christian and an atheist in a jury deliberation room

Denise: Do you think they’d mind if I brought my Bible with me tomorrow?

Eric: I’m sure it’s fine, so long as you’re just using it as something to read on breaks and stuff and not as a reference.

Denise: Why couldn’t I refer to my Bible during deliberations?

Eric: It’s not exactly a law book. At least, not one that’s part of the American legal system.

Denise: The Bible has more than just laws in it. It’s also about morality and nature, and both of those are important in this case.

Eric: I can buy the part about morality, but since when is the Bible about nature other than poetically? It’s not exactly a science text book.

Denise: Maybe not, but when it does talk about science it’s completely accurate.

Eric: I don’t think so. Doesn’t the Bible say that bats are a kind of bird?*

Denise: That’s from a passage in the kosher laws with a list of birds. The Hebrews grouped flying things that weren’t insects together, and the closest word we have for that group is "bird." They didn’t group animals the way we do, and you can’t say that the Bible is scientifically inaccurate because it was written for a different culture and language.

Eric: What about where it says that rabbits chew their cud?** That’s not even close to true.

Denise: That’s just another cultural and linguistic thing. Rabbits — hares, actually — don’t chew their cud, but they do eat their feces so that they can digest the same food a second time. That’s the same concept as chewing cud and the Hebrews didn’t draw a distinction.

Eric: No, I’ve read about this one. The Hebrew words that get translated as chewing cud literally mean "bring up the cud." You can’t tell me that a hare pooping out half-digested food is "bringing up" anything.

Denise: After it excretes the matter it brings it back up to its mouth to eat. It’s the same thing.

Eric: That doesn’t sound like the same kind of thing at all, except that they’re both disgusting. In any case, that’s two extremely different uses of the phrase "bring up," to the point that I don’t think it makes sense to use them both in the same sentence.

Denise: Be that as it may, there’s no scientific statement in the Bible that you can prove is incorrect.

Eric: I think that has more to do with your ability to argue than it does with the Bible’s scientific accuracy.

*Deuteronomy 14:12–18 But these are they of which ye shall not eat: the eagle, and the ossifrage, and the ospray, And the glede, and the kite, and the vulture after his kind, And every raven after his kind, And the owl, and the night hawk, and the cuckow, and the hawk after his kind, The little owl, and the great owl, and the swan, And the pelican, and the gier eagle, and the cormorant, And the stork, and the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat.

**Leviticus 11:4–6: " Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you."


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Posted on December 27, 2013 at 8:39 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

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