The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Biological Sciences

The Bible's dismal knowledge of the facts of biology is another evidence of its human, pre-scientific, origins. Let us look at a few of these errors.

These examples clearly show that the knowledge of the biblical authors were no different from their pre-scientific contemporaries. [a]

Biology of Mammals

It seems that the maker of the universe sometimes forget the detailed biology of the things He has created:

Leviticus 11: 1-6
And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the people of Israel, there are living things which you may eat among all the beasts that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven footed and chews the cud, among the animals you can eat. Nevertheless among those that chew the cud or part the hoof, you shall not eat these: The camel because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the rock badger, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you. And the hare, because it chews the cud but does not part the hoof, is unclean to you.

There are two major mistakes here:

  • “Parting the hoof” refers to the foot of the animals being divided into two parts. The feet of cows and sheep are of this kind. the problem with the Biblical passage above is that the camel too is a cloven-footed animals. Like, the cow and the sheep, the camel has only two bones connecting the upper bones of the foot to the ankle bones. These connecting bones, called metacarpals in the forefoot and metatarsals in the hind foot, are actually fused for most of its length but remain unfused towards the end; thus giving the “cloven” look to the feet. Thus the camel is certainly an animal that “parts the hoof”. Therefore by the standards set in the Leviticus passage, it should actually be a clean animal!

  • “Chewing the cud” is an expression that means ruminating. It involves rechewing the food that has been eaten earlier and passed on to the stomach. To do this, some mammal have evolved a four chambered stomachs; these mammals include deers, giraffes, sheep, goats, antelopes and oxen. Some animals, such as the camel, ruminates inefficiently as they do not have the four chambered stomach. The main point in the paragraph in Leviticus is that the rock badger (or rock hyrax) and the rabbit do not ruminate their food. The constant chewing action of these animals may have misled the author of Leviticus.

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Anatomy of Insects

In the same chapter of Leviticus as the one we have seen above, we find that the author does not even know that insects have six legs.

We are told that insects such as the locust, grasshopper and the cricket have four legs. [1]

Leviticus 11: 20-23
“All winged insects that go upon all fours are an abomination to you. Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those who have legs on their feet, with which to leap on the earth. Of them you may eat: the locust according to it’s kind, the cricket according to its kind, and the grasshopper according to its kind. But all other winged insects which have four feet are an abomination to you.

It is indeed strange, if one considers the Bible to be the directly inspired word of God, that He should have forgotten the anatomies of the insects he created!

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Botany of the Mustard Plant

There is a claim attributed to Jesus about the botany of the mustard plant in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew that goes like this:

Matthew 13:31-32 NRSV
He [Jesus] put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the field; it is the smallest of all seeds...

Here was Jesus, supposedly God himself, reported in the Bible, the supposed inerrant word of God, as claiming something which is manifestly false. The mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds. For while it is true that mustard seeds are small, they are not the smallest. According to my copy of the Guinness Book of World Records, the smallest seeds are those of the epiphytic orchids. Each seed weighs in at approximately 0.0000008 grams!

This one passage proves that neither the Bible, nor Jesus, can be considered the word of God in the fundamentalist sense. [b]

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Genetics

The Biblical authors' knowledge of genetics is dismal.

Genesis 30:37-39
Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the runnels, that is, the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.

This passage tells us that cattle can give birth to striped, speckled and spotted cattle merely by looking at striped rods. Modern genetics have discovered many of the causes of chromosomal abnormalities and genetic mutations, but staring at striped rods is not one of them! [2]

[a]

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Notes

a.Attempts by fundamentalists to claim the contrary, that the Bible shows scientific foreknowledge, are normally based on desperate readings of modern interpretations into simple Biblical statements. One such example is that of the function of blood. The verses normally cited are from Genesis and Leviticus:

Genesis 9:4
Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

Leviticus 17:11
For the life of the flesh is in the blood

The fundamentalist engineer Henry Morris in his book Science and the Bible (1986) [p16] claimed on the basis of these verses that:

Continuance of life is now known to depend upon the continued supply of oxygen, water, and food to the cells of the body. This essential function is accomplished in a marvelous manner by the blood as it circulates constantly throughout the body, year after year. The role of blood in combating disease-producing organisms and in repairing injured tissue is one of the most significant discoveries of medical science, and the use of blood transfusions as one of the most beneficial treatments for many medical needs…

Yet surely this is reading too much into the verses. In ancient times, anyone who had ever slaughtered an animal for food or hunting will know that slitting their throats and allowing the blood to bleed out will kill it. Anyone who has been involved in warfare will have noticed the same thing - when an enemy is stabbed, slashed or killed by a bow. One bleeds and then dies. This simple and crude observation is all that is required to account for the observation that "life of the flesh is in the blood". It surely does not lead us to conclude that the author(s) knew about the role of blood in supplying oxygen or in combating disease as claimed by Morris. There is simply no evidence that the biblical authors knew more than the fact that when a human or an animal bleeds too much - they die!

Thus the claim that the Bible shows prescience in its understanding of hematology is pure wishful thinking.

b.In desperation, fundamentalist translations of the Bible, such as the NIV, have resorted to adding words that are not present in the original Greek into the verse here. Thus if you turn to the NIV you will find that the verse is now given as "Though it is the smallest of all your seeds". The "your" is not found in any extant Greek manuscripts. For a more detailed discussion on this you can go to this posting in my website.

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References

1.Clements, Science vs. Religion: p201-202
Lofmark, What is the Bible?: p44
Schwartz, The Red Ape: p98-100
2.Clements, op.cit: p204
McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy: p214

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