IN SPITE OF WHAT SOME CRITICS MAY SAY,
THE BIBLE IS SCIENTIFIC !
By: Harold W. Clark
* * * * * * * *
I N THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY AFTER CHRIST, WHEN THE CHURCH BECAME VERY FEARFUL THAT RISING SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE WOULD THREATEN THE AUTHORITY OF THE CLERGY, THOMAS AQUINAS, CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN, ATTEMPTED TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM BY SETTING UP A DUALISM BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION.
Let men believe what they please in science, he said, so long as they recognize the authority of the church in religion. And from his day to ours, there has been a tendency to set science and theology apart; not only so, but to feel that they are antagonistic one to the other . There seems to be a general attitude that assumes that science is a corrupter of faith, and that the Bible canno t agree with science.
Much of this attitude is due to a misintcrpretation of the statement of Paul in 1 Timothy 6:20, where he warns against the danger of science falsely so called.” The New English Bible renders this as “contradictions of so-called ‘knowledge. “ But let us examine this “knowledge” and see what it was, and then see how it compares with science of today.
The word “science” comes from the Latin scio, “to know.” In science we gain knowledge of the natural world by observing, weighing, measuring. Then we interpret what we have ascertained and reach certain conclusions regarding the earth around us and the universe beyond. This is science.
But what is science falsely so-called”? Was all the knowledge of Paul’s day false science? Or was Paul making a difference between science that was good and right and another type of science that was given that honorable name falsely? We think he was making such a distinction.
Recent studies have revealed that Egypt and Babylonia possessed astronomical and mathematical knowledge far beyond what has generally been believed. They had exact measurements of lunar and solar cycles, and of the paths of the planets. The circle was divided into 360 degrees. Egypt had the elements of geometry.
Greek science and philosophy began about 500 B.C., and some progress was made during the period before the advent of Christ. Thales of Milctus, one of the earliest Greek scholars, developed geometry and discovered principles of elementary mathematics . Pythagoras. of Sicily, developed very extensive mathematical relations. Archimedes of Syracuse discovered more many facts of physics and mathematics. Aristarchus of Samos, about 270 B.C., held that the earth rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun. Hipparchus, about 130 B.C., erected an observatory at Rhodes . He developed trigonometry as an aid in his astronomical observations. All these men were legitimate scientists. What, then, was the false science tha t Paul warns against?
The answer becomes clear when we note the development of Greek philosophy. Against the polytheism of the Greek religion the philosophers attempted to set up a system of “naturalism” by which all natural phenomena could be explained. It was this system, which the Greeks called knowledge (science ), that Paul was speaking of. In Colossians 2:8 he warns against being spoiled “through philosophy and vain deceit. The New English Bible renders the passage: delusive speculations , based on traditions of man-made teaching and centered on the elemental spirits of the universe.
This seems a bit bard to under stand until we examine Greek philosophy closely. When we do we find that it was largely a pantheistic view of God . God was merely a name for the power pervading the universe. Plato used the term good in much of his writings, and it is never clear whether he believed in a personal god, but apparently he did not. The life energy of man was an emanation from the universal “good“ whatever that was. The stars were gods Some Greek philosophers taught that the human spirit rose to the heavens and became a god----a star.
When we study the history of the early Christian church, we can see why Paul was so concerned. Christian theology became heavily adulterated by Greek notions. For centuries wild philosophic theories were advocated by several leading Christian scholars.
Now, what docs all this have to do with th e question whether the Bible is scientific or not?
A great deal! For it shows that the Bible condemns only false science; good research is encouraged. Let us examine some Bible statements and see how they stand rrelated to modern scientific views.
Colossians 1:17 says, “By him all things consist,” or “are held together.” (NEB ) This agrees with other Bible statements regarding the origin of things. “In the beginning God created.” . ---- Gencsis 1:1 “All things wcre made by him.” --- John 1:3. This is a basic premise that is carried through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Is it true or false science?
There are only two choices: Either God created the universe or He did not. What does modern science have to say about it? Absolutely nothing that can be proved. Today scientists argue over two opposite theories, commonly known as the “Big Bang” and the “Steady State” theories.
According to the first, thc universe began xvitb an almost infinitely compact bit of matter, which exploded an(l began to move outward. The theory of the expanding The theory of the expanding universe postulates that from this central mass all the suI)stance of the universe is moving out into space at tcrrific velocities.
On the other hand, the second theory assumes that the original substance of the universe was scattered throughout space to begin with, and has been drawing together locally to produce the heavenly bodies.
This looks like one of the “contradictions of so-called ‘knowledge” of which Paul was talking. Anyone caii see clearly that the creation “theory” is as reasonal)le as either of these contradictory vie\vs.
Now let us take another case. In Job 26:7 we read, “He ....... hangeth the earth upon nothing.” In ancient times all kinds of fanciful ideas were put forth to explain bow the earth was supported. . According to some the earth rested on back of an elephant, who in turn stood on the back of a huge turtle. According to the Greeks the God “Atlas” held the earth on his shoulders.
For 2,000 years men were ignorant regarding this problem until in A. D. 1684 Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravitation.
Truly the earth hangs upon nothing! It is supported in fact by that mysterious force we call gravity. The Bible is scientific on this point.
Another example----—that of the ehemical elements. The earth is made up of around 90 elements. such as iron, copper, oxygen, nitrogen, et cetera. But where did they all come from? Let its turn to a Bible statement that at first may seem to have no bearing on the question. “He formed it to be inhabited.” ---Isaiah 45:18.
Is it just an accident that the 90 or more elements are combined into endless compounds, so arranged as to make life possible?
Just to note one case, that of the peculiar properties of water.
It is a liquid at temperatures that favor living creatures, and a certain amount of it vaporizes to modify the atmosphere. When it cools, it contracts until it reaches 39 degrees F., at which time it begins to expand, so that when it gets down to 32 degrees and ice is formed, the ice is lighter than water and floats.
If this were not so, lakes would fill with icc and never be free from it. Volumes could be xvritten on this line, showing the marvelous fitness of the environment to the needs of living creatures. In the Bible God is represented as the One whose wisdom has made all these provisions. Is this true science?
The Genesis record of creation states that all major types of plants and animals were.made..each. after his kind . . See verses 12, 21, 24, 25. Who is right,--- Moses or Darwin?
Zoologists like to compare the animal kingdom to a tree, with its roots in the simple Protozoa such as the amoeba, and its top in the vertebrates, with man at the top.
The other groups of animals are represented as the branches along the si(les. This is sometimes called the “tree of life.” But the trouble with this tree is that in reality all the branches are separate—there is no connecting limbs to support them.
l’or instance, if we examine the branch known as Mollusca —the clams and ovsters—we find that they are so different from anything else that there is no way of tracing their possible ancestry nor what they might have given rise to, if anything else . The same can be said of all the other major groups. The Arthropoda —spiders, insects, crabs, lobsters—are totally unlike any other group. Where they could have come from or to ‘a hat they could have been the ancestors, is also an unsolved mystery.
One of the greatest of all biological puzzles is the possible evolution of the vertebrates . Many theories have been proposed, but none of them arc worth anything . Vertebrates are so different from any members of the invertebrate group tliat their evolution has no satisfactory support.
What is the scientific evidence? It is simply that each group of animals is an indcpendent entity -- —that the Genesis declaration “each after his kind” is truth that nothing yet proposed by evolutionists can gainsay. Again, science is on the side of the Bible.
In recent sears we have beard much regarding discoveries of fossil men, and many discussions have taken in place as to mans possible ancestry. What are the real facts?
When, in the nineteenth century, Neanderthal Man, found in central Europe, did not offer clear evidence regarding human evolution, the search turned to southeast Asia. But the evidence there proved to be unsatisfactory, and so new discoveries in south and east Africa raised great hope for a solution to the problem. But with all the publicity given to these discoveries, the question of the ancestry of man is as much a mystery as ever.. In fact, the latest publications in anthropology are placing all the supposed apemen in the genus, Homo -man. The connection them remains, and any possible apelike ancestry seems more remote than ever. The Bible says that man was created in the image of God, not in the image of a brute. Science can offer no other proof otherwise.
Man is not simply an “advanced” beast, but it is so immeasurable superior to any other animal that it is ridiculous to try to link him to the beats. Man’ssuperiority is not merely in degree but difference in total quality.
Paul said to beware of the “contradictions of so-called knowledge.” 1 Timothy 6:20. NEB. Anyone reading the conflicting theories of human evolution cannot but be impressed with the futility of attempts to controvert the Scripture record Which then is nearer the truth----Genesis or anthropology? Genesis wins, every time.
Mv readers will pardon the brevity of these discussions. Each point is worthy of several pages of cxplanation. But this is only a survey of the question of Bil)le vs. science.
In review let us compare the two views ----- evolution or creation, and see how the Bible rates regarding them.
Evolution speculates on the origin of higher types of life from lower. Gencsis says “each after his kind.” Science supports the Bible statement. .
Evolution traces man’s origin to animal ancestry. Genesis says he was created in the image of God.The latest fails to support the evolutionary view.
Evolution says that ecological relations are fortuitous . The Bible says that God designed the earth to be inhabited. Scientific studies give almost endless illustrations of the fitness of the environment to the needs of living creatures, thus supporting the Bible statement of Isaiah 45:18.
Speculations–hypotheses—are tools to aid in establishing truth,-----BUY they are only tools . They are not truth until they have becn demonstrated and proved beyond reasonable doubt. All scientific theories are only interpretations of natural phenomena. They are of no more value than the mental operations of the men who develop them.
The Bible offers the philosophy of a Supreme Being who created all things, whereas evolution offers a worl(l operating by the properties residing in matter itself. Neither of these philosophies can be proved to be correct by scientific experiment.
All man can do is to study the natural world and decide on which side the evidence is stronger. Science is full of hypotheses---—“maybe,” “ perhaps,” “possibly,” “could have been,” et cetera, et cetera. The Bible is positive in its declaration, as it is the word of God! If there is a God who created all things, then what He says about them must be true.
When all known scientific data are applied to the naturalists vs. the theistic interpretations, the evidence favors the Biblical philosophy of the origin and maintenance of the earth!
Harold W. Clark taught biological
sciences at Pacific Union College
for many years. He is author of
hundreds of articles on creationism
SIGNS OF THE TIMES Magazine
February 1974. Vol. 101 No. 2 (pgs. 22-24)
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