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Science and Skepticism

Author/DatePost
Alex_Kasman
Mar 19 2006
are science and religion compatible?

We had an EXCELLENT talk at the SHL meeting today by Professor Rob Dillon, a defender of science education in SC schools and a devout Calvinist Christian. One interesting topic, that we did not get to discuss sufficiently for my tastes, is the question of whether science and religion are compatible.

Rob argues that they are not compatible, but I would like to talk more about why this is and what the implications are.

I have trouble understanding Rob's ability to accept both religion and science (in their own spheres) but claim that they are somehow not compatible. It seems to me that they are either both TRUE (which means that they can't be in conflict...valid scientific experiments would always reveal some truth about the universe as described by the correct religious texts) or that one of them is WRONG (in which case it is strange to go on accepting both as he seems to do.)

In fact, it sounded as if Rob was saying that religion and science are like two different languages, two different "terminologies". Of course, they are more like (perhaps exactly like?) two different PHILOSOPHIES.

If they are both correct (as different languages or different philosophies) then they must agree on whatever common topics they can address, and there is no "incompatibility" when they address topics unaddressable by the other.

Or, to put it in more simple terms: If both science and (for example) the Christian religion are right, then anything science discovers must be some truth about the universe as created by the Christian god. We only run into incompatibilities if (as I believe) there actually IS no such thing as a "god" and so the valid discoveries of science are in conflict with the bogus teachings of religion or (and I forgot to mention this at the meeting) if some religion is correct but science is completely screwed up and not actually leading us to a better understanding of reality.

Do you see what I mean?

-ak

Alex_Kasman
Mar 19 2006
PS

Following-up on my own post (am I allowed to do that?)....

I'm reminded that my father, who spent hours praying every morning, liked to point out that it was no surprise to find that people could consider science and religion to be compatible. As he put it, when you look at all of the examples of corrupt and evil religious people out there, it is no surprise. If religion is compatible with these things, when morality is supposedly one of its most positive consequences, then religion must be compatible with EVERYTHING.

What I'd like to add is that compatibility can be one sided. We can all imagine two people where one just loves the other, but the love is completely unrequited. Much of religion values faith without evidence (or even despite contrary evidence) and contradiction (like the Fundamentalists who believe the Bible to be literal truth, even when it retells a story but contradicting the first telling). So, it may well be that science is compatible with religion (i.e. throwing in some more contradictions won't make it any worse than it already was) but that the opposite is not true. Again, assuming that the scientific method works (and it sure SEEMS to work in preventing disease, discovering radio waves, etc.) then religion would be compatible with it as long as it is true...but if the religion is made up of "myths" then the evidence based philosophy of science with little tolerance for contradictions is not likely to find it compatible in return.

-ak

Comfort
Oct 13 2006
Science and the Bible

The Bible and Earth’s Free-float in Space

At a time when it was believed that the earth sat on a large animal or a giant (1500 B.C.),

the Bible spoke of the earth’s free float in space: “He . . . hangs the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). Science didn’t discover that the earth hangs upon nothing until 1650.

The Scriptures Speak of an Invisible Structure

Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of things that we cannot see—invisible atoms. In Hebrews 11:3, written 2,000 years ago, Scripture tells us that the “things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

The Bible Reveals that the Earth is Round

The Scriptures tell us that the earth is round: “It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22).

The word translated “circle” here is the Hebrew word chuwg, which is also translated “circuit” or “compass” (depending on the context). That is, it indicates something spherical, rounded, or arched—not something that is flat or square. The book of Isaiah was ritten sometime between 740 and 680 B.C. This is at least 300 years before Aristotle suggested, in his book On the Heavens, that the earth might be a sphere. It was another 2,000 years later (at a time when science believed that the earth was flat) that the Scriptures inspired Christopher Columbus to sail around the world.

The Bible and the Science of Oceanography

Matthew Maury (1806–1873) is considered the father of oceanography. He noticed the expression “paths of the sea” in Psalm 8:8 (written 2,800 years ago) and said, “If God said there are paths in the sea, I am going to find them.” Maury then took God at His word and went looking for these paths, and we are indebted to his discovery of the warm and cold

continental currents. His book on oceanography remains a basic text on the subject and is still used in universities.

The Bible and Radio Waves

God asked Job a very strange question in 1500 B.C. He asked, “Can you send lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, Here we are?” (Job 38:35). This appears to be a scientifically ludicrous statement—that light can be sent, and then manifest itself in speech.

But did you know that all electromagnetic radiation —from radio waves to x-rays—travels at the speed of light? This is why you can have instantaneous wireless communication with someone on the other side of the earth. The fact that light could be sent and then manifest itself in speech wasn’t discovered by science until 1864 (3,300 years later), when “British scientist James Clerk Maxwell suggested that electricity and light waves were two forms of the same thing” (Modern Century Illustrated Encyclopedia).

The Bible and Entropy

Three different places in the Bible (Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:25,26; and Hebrews 1:11) indicate that the earth is wearing out. This is what the Second Law of Thermodynamics (the Law of Increasing Entropy) states: that in all physical processes, every ordered system over time tends to become more disordered. Everything is running down and wearing out as energy is becoming less and less available for use. That means the universe will eventually “wear out” to the extent that (theoretically speaking) there will be a “heat death” and therefore no more energy available for use. This wasn’t discovered by science until recently, but the Bible states it in concise terms.

The Bible and the Water Cycle

The Scriptures inform us, “All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, there they return again” (Ecclesiastes 1:7). This statement alone may not seem profound. But, when considered with other biblical passages, it becomes all the more remarkable. For example, the Mississippi River dumps approximately 518 billion gallons of water every 24 hours into the Gulf of Mexico. Where does all that water go? And that’s just one of thousands of rivers. The answer lies in the hydrologic cycle, so well brought out in the Bible. Ecclesiastes 11:3 states that “if the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth.” Look at the Bible’s concise words in Amos 9:6: “He . . . calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the face of the earth.” The idea of a complete water cycle was not fully understood by science until the seventeenth

century. However, more than two thousand years prior to the discoveries of Pierre Perrault, Edme Mariotte, Edmund Halley, and others, the Scriptures clearly spoke of a water cycle.

The Bible and the First Law of Thermodynamics

The Scriptures say, “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them” (Genesis 2:1). The original Hebrew uses the past definite tense for the verb “finished,” indicating an action completed in the past, never again to occur. The creation was “finished”—once and for all. That is exactly what the First Law of Thermodynamics says. This law (often referred to as the Law of the Conservation of Energy and/or Mass) states that neither matter nor energy can be either created or destroyed. It was because of this Law that Sir Fred Hoyle’s “Steady-State” (or “Continuous Creation”) Theory was discarded. Hoyle stated that at points in the universe called “irtrons,” matter (or energy) was constantly being created. But, the First Law states just the opposite. Indeed, there is no “creation” ongoing today. It is “finished” exactly as the Bible states.

The Bible and Ship Dimensions

In Genesis 6, God gave Noah the dimensions of the 1.5 million cubic foot ark he was to build. In 1609 at Hoorn in Holland, a ship was built after that same pattern (30:5:3), revolutionizing shipbuilding. By 1900 every large ship on the high seas was inclined toward the proportions of the ark (verified by “Lloyd’s Register of Shipping” in the World Almanac).

The Bible and Meteorological Laws

The Scriptures describe a “cycle” of air currents two thousand years before scientists iscovered them: “The wind goes toward the south, and turns about unto the north; it whirls about continually, and the wind returns again according to his circuits” (Ecclesiastes 1:6).

We now know that air around the earth turns in huge circles, clockwise in one hemisphere and counterclockwise in the other.

The Bible and Science“In antiquity and in what is called the Dark Ages, men did not know what they now know about humanity and the cosmos. They did not know the lock but they possessed they key, which is God. Now many have excellent descriptions of the lock, but they have lost the key. The proper solution is union between religion and science. We should be owners of the lock and the key. The fact is that as science advances, it discovers what was said thousands of years ago in the Bible.” Richard Wurmbrand, Proofs of God’s Existence.

Alex_Kasman
Oct 16 2006

Comfort,

Certainly, the people who wrote the Bible knew some interesting things. I suspect they knew a lot more about the night sky than I do now, for example. And so, you may be right that a few of the things you mention are actually scientific discoveries that were known to these ancient peoples. (I could also point out that much of what you quote is vague and misleading...but that's really beside the point and so I will leave it for another discussion.)

However, I note that you are careful to leave out all of the many things that the Bible says which contradict the discoveries of science and archeology (e.g. the age of the Earth, the instantaneous creation of species, the Exodus of Jews from Egypt and their conquest of Canaan, the flooding of the entire planet and reduction of the human race to just Noah's family in relatively recent history, etc.) and I think there are at least as many of these as there are places where the Bible appears to be scientifically prescient.

But, I'm more interested in something ELSE. Why are there so many important things on which the Bible is entirely SILENT?!? If, as you believe, the Bible was written with divine knowledge and therefore could state things that humans would not discover for a long time, why does the Bible not give specific instructions as to how to avoid infection? It could have described the creation of anti-biotics from bread mold, or the sterilization of medical equipment using alcohol! It could have explained that malaria was not caused by "bad air" (as was believed for centuries) but by mosquito bites. These pieces of scientific knowledge would have saved lives and avoided misery. Why did your divine (or divinely inspired) author think it was more important to prohibit the eating of shellfish and the wearing of clothing made from certain combinations of fabrics than to discuss these important facts? (Of course, this is not a difficulty question for ME to answer. I think the book was written by people who simply did not know about bacteria or the causes of disease.)

Comfort
Oct 16 2006

Your question: "Why are there so many important things on which the Bible is entirely SILENT?!?" could also be asked, "if God is God, why is he silent on some issues and allow misery or suffering?"

Study the soil for a moment. It naturally produces weeds. No one plants them; no one waters them. They even stubbornly push through cracks of a dry sidewalk. Millions of useless weeds sprout like there’s no tomorrow, strangling our crops and ruining our lawns. Pull them out by the roots, and there will be more tomorrow. They are nothing but a curse!

Consider how much of the earth is uninhabitable. There are millions of square miles of barren deserts in Africa and other parts of the world. Most of Australia is nothing but miles and miles of useless desolate land. Not only that, but the earth is constantly shaken with massive earthquakes. Its shores are lashed with hurricanes; tornadoes rip through creation with incredible fury; devastating floods soak the land; and terrible droughts parch the soil. Sharks, tigers, lions, snakes, spiders, and disease-carrying mosquitoes attack humanity and suck its life’s blood.

The earth’s inhabitants are afflicted with disease, pain, suffering, and death. Think of how many people are plagued with cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, emphysema, Parkinson’s, and a number of other debilitating illnesses. Consider all the children with leukemia, or people born with crippling diseases or without the mental capability to even feed themselves. All these things should convince thinking minds that something is radically wrong. Did God blow it when He created humanity? What sort of tyrant must our Creator be if this was His master plan?

Sadly, many use the issue of suffering as an excuse to reject any thought of God, when its existence is the very reason we should accept Him. Suffering stands as terrible testimony to the truth of the explanation given by the Word of God. But how can we know that the Bible is true? Simply by studying the prophecies of Matthew 24, Luke 21, and 2 Timothy 3. A few minutes of openhearted inspection will convince any honest skeptic that this is no ordinary book. It is the supernatural testament of our Creator about why there is suffering...and what we can do about it.

The Bible tells us that God cursed the earth because of Adam’s transgression. Weeds are a curse. So is disease. Sin and suffering cannot be separated. The Scriptures inform us that we live in a fallen creation. In the beginning, God created man perfect, and he lived in a perfect world without suffering. It was heaven on earth. When sin came into the world, death and misery came with it. Those who understand the message of Holy Scripture eagerly await a new heaven and a new earth "wherein dwells righteous-ness." In that coming Kingdom there will be no more pain, suffering, disease, or death. We are told that no eye has ever seen, nor has any ear heard, neither has any man’s mind ever imagined the wonderful things that God has in store for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Think for a moment what it would be like if food grew with the fervor of weeds. Consider how wonderful it would be if the deserts became incredibly fertile, if creation stopped devouring humanity. Imagine if the weather worked for us instead of against us, if disease completely disappeared, if pain was a thing of the past, if death was no more.

The dilemma is that we are like a child whose insatiable appetite for chocolate has caused his face to break out with ugly sores. He looks in the mirror and sees a sight that makes him depressed. But instead of giving up his beloved chocolate, he consoles himself by stuffing more into his mouth. Yet, the source of his pleasure is actually the cause of his suffering. The whole face of the earth is nothing but ugly sores of suffering. Everywhere we look we see unspeakable pain. But instead of believing God’s explanation and asking Him to forgive us and change our appetite, we run deeper into sin’s sweet embrace. There we find solace in its temporal pleasures, thus intensifying our pain, both in this life and in the life to come.

Alex_Kasman
Oct 17 2006

Comfort,

I am grateful to you for writing in with your viewpoint, which is clearly different from that of the group which sponsors this website. Having had many conversations like this in the past, I suspect that neither of us will convince the other. In fact, we will likely leave the conversation both still feeling as if the other person is missing the OBVIOUS clues that they are deluded and wrong. Since this seems to be the way such conversations go, I will not really be hoping for anyone to "see the light". Rather, I am only hoping that each of us will leave with a better understanding of how things look to the other.

Your posting gives a very interesting and compelling description of your viewpoint. According to you, all of the suffering in the world is tolerated (if not caused) by God as a punishment to man for sinful behavior. Moreover, you claim that if I really look at the Bible I will see that it is true.

Let me tell you that I really have read the Bible, as well as Bible criticism (by which I do not necessarily mean "anti-Biblical" criticism...I've read the writings of theologians as well as freethinkers). Moreover, I've read a lot about the archeology of the ancient world, including the texts of the religions in the middle east which preceded Judaism. Contrary to your predictions, all of this reading only served to further convince me that the Bible really is just another book written by humans. It has all of the hallmarks of being a human creation. Just like the non-religious texts people write (e.g. novels), it is full of obsession with the human concerns of sex, food and violence. It contains huge passages which were taken nearly verbatim from the texts of other religions that you would have considered "false" (primarily the idolatry of the Canaanites). It contains several different versions of the same stories (clearly by different authors with different viewpoints). And, like all of the other religious texts worshipped in the world, it contains vague predictions (e.g. "there will be a war and good will triumph over evil") that believers insist PROVE that it must really be the divine word.

As for your claims that the suffering in the world exists as a punishment from a just god, I do not understand how you can possibly believe that. I mean, even if I play a mental game and PRETEND that I believe in the Bible and all of that, the punishment that you describe still strikes me as being unjust, out of proportion of the "crime", and administered to people who do not really deserve it. Of course, there are bad people in the world who deserve punishment. I have no direct knowledge of whether they receive this punishment in an after-life, but I can tell you for certain from watching the natural world, many of them live long, healthly lives free of suffering in this world. Perhaps, as you will surely say, they will suffer in the next world. But, if the punishment can come in the next world, why is there need for so many people who do NOT deserve suffering to suffer in this world? I have in mind my own family members who suffered under the pogroms in Europe and then died at the hands of the Nazis, or the Amish children (and their families) who suffered in the recent horrific tragedy that we read about in the news. Perhaps you could argue that these people were not following exactly the RIGHT religious rules (should they have been Baptist? Catholic? Hasidic?), but all of these people were virtuous, "God fearing" adherents of biblical religions. Many of them were children who might have grown up to follow the "right" religious rules that your God wants them to follow...and in any case I have trouble seeing them as being deserving of punishment simply because their parents -- while TRYING to do what they thought the Bible asked them to -- chose the wrong rules to follow and teach to their children.

Just as you asked me to look at the Bible with the thought that I'd "see the light", I'll ask you to look at the world around you. Not just your neighborhood, but the whole world...everyone. There are people in lots of different countries each trying to do what they THINK God wants them to. There are also countries where almost nobody believes in God (most of Western Europe these days has Church attendance below 10% and belief in God below 50%). And, of course, there are countries that still worship a whole bunch of different Gods. (India comes to mind.) I look at them and I see that they all have their share of suffering and joy, and that the suffering seems to have a lot to do with what kind of government they have (democracy seems to be a plus), how technologically advanced they are (science seems to be more closely related to the elimination of disease and starvation than religion or morality), and what their climate is like (which, again, does not seem to be distributed by God based on how many times a day people pray, but rather does exactly what the mathematical models predict based on altitude, latitude, and proximity to bodies of water).

In other words, if I think of the world as being something governed by natural laws without any God or gods watching over it, I come up with something that looks very much like what it actually looks like. But, if I try to think of a world with God in it, it would be a very different place, where the suffering was distributed more sensibly (by how evil people were, or at least by their religious convictions). I can see why people WANT to believe that it really is sensible, that the suffering is somehow deserved...but it clearly does not look to me as if that is the way it is. Moreover, when I think about how much suffering there is and how many of those who suffer are undeserving, I am actually relieved to realize that it is just blind luck (rather than the intent of a super-powerful being) and that we can figure out how to prevent it using science and morality.

Anyway, that's how the world looks to me. I know you don't see it the same way. Feel free to write back to clarify the way it looks to you, or even to try to change my mind. But, my experience leads me to expect that this conversation will not result in either of us "converting".

-Alex

Thomas_True
Oct 19 2006

Thought Comfort's comments read as if they were cut and pasted from the Internet; did a search, found them word-for-word on several sites.

infinitelink
Jan 19 2007
Bible is Silent? Science and Preference...

Certainly, the people who wrote the Bible knew some interesting things. I suspect they knew a lot more about the night sky than I do now, for example. And so, you may be right that a few of the things you mention are actually scientific discoveries that were known to these ancient peoples. (I could also point out that much of what you quote is vague and misleading...but that's really beside the point and so I will leave it for another discussion.)

However, I note that you are careful to leave out all of the many things that the Bible says which contradict the discoveries of science and archeology (e.g. the age of the Earth, the instantaneous creation of species, the Exodus of Jews from Egypt and their conquest of Canaan, the flooding of the entire planet and reduction of the human race to just Noah's family in relatively recent history, etc.) and I think there are at least as many of these as there are places where the Bible appears to be scientifically prescient.

But, I'm more interested in something ELSE. Why are there so many important things on which the Bible is entirely SILENT?!? If, as you believe, the Bible was written with divine knowledge and therefore could state things that humans would not discover for a long time, why does the Bible not give specific instructions as to how to avoid infection? It could have described the creation of anti-biotics from bread mold, or the sterilization of medical equipment using alcohol! It could have explained that malaria was not caused by "bad air" (as was believed for centuries) but by mosquito bites. These pieces of scientific knowledge would have saved lives and avoided misery. Why did your divine (or divinely inspired) author think it was more important to prohibit the eating of shellfish and the wearing of clothing made from certain combinations of fabrics than to discuss these important facts? (Of course, this is not a difficulty question for ME to answer. I think the book was written by people who simply did not know about bacteria or the causes of disease.)

I'd like to reply Alex here. He says the Bible is “Silent” on these things, and contradicts “discoveries”. First, read Leviticus and Deuteronomy and you'll find that the Bible DOES give MANY instructions about how to avoid disease: I'm a pre-med student in Biology and it's interesting to me that medicine is currently thought to be coming to its limits (in terms of medicating) whereas doctors are increasingly perusing in the direction of “preventative” medicine as far superior: change behavior and you prevent disease. The Bible not only gives instructions on identifying contagious (verses isolated) disease, but also quarantine of infected persons, to burn clothes contaminate with mildew...the reason current medicine uses soap and warm water, and recommends it, is this “crazy” doctor who instituted the practice during the civil war (and was fired because of this); the same experience was encountered by at least one other doctor before him—the source of this “crazy” practice was...the Bible.

The Bible also speaks on the subject of sterilization: pots which a reptile fell-into were to be burned: of course reptiles are typically covered in salmonella. In fact, there's a lot of other similar commands too. There are many commands of what to eat and not to eat...and this diet is now known to avoid many carcinogenic foods, animals which are toxic to the human body (mostly scavengers and animals with simple digestive tracts), encourages consumption of fruits and grains, and prohibits the consumption of meat-fats (which we now know is where organisms, even those such as you or I, store contaminants we're unable to discharge in order to prevent damage to other cells). Shelfish are toxic to the body, and shellfish are how we currently measure mercury (among other things) concentrations in the water, and many of these toxins cause nerve damage. Mixing fabrics could be explained in terms of its symbolry or in the modern terms that such mixtures do often cause alergies and irritation on the skin.

After battles, the Israelites were instructed to bury the dead, and then to burn a specific specie of red-hefer and spread the ashes of this hefer on themselves. This might seem grotesque...unless you're a coroner who understands that the fungus in a corpse quickly grows and becomes a danger to any person touching it, and then if you're also a chemist who has studied the ash of this specie and know that it contains and anti-fungal agent.

The Bible is gives detailed instructions about marital and sexual relations. The marital details are important because they allow the closest possible unions which do not cause deformities: until about 2000 it was thought that marriage between 1st cousins caused deformities...we now know this is not the case: such close marriages do have more probability of genetic issues, but do not cause deformities: cousin-to-cousin is about as close as the Bible allows.

The Bible also gives detailed instructions on the treatment of servants: as family. One of the principle concerns you'll find, if you understand the culture of the OT, is found in the Law: the care of women which lived in a society in which they were unable to suppor themselves except for becoming prostitutes: indeed the first women's rights groups in the US appealed to the Bible, not to humanism.

The commands concerning sexual relations, if applied today, would eliminate most STDs, and combined with the commands of quarantine, would in all likelihood stop any further spread. This is in a culture surrounded by others peoples which designated mandatory service by women as “temple prostitutes” to serve their idols.

The above medical stuff is in a culture which left egypt which, at the time, prescribed innumerable varieties of dung to cure everything from a crying (soon to be dead) baby, to deadly infections; and, yes, archaelogy has actually discovered evidence of Jews in Egypt, and Scarabs from Egypt at altars in the locations described in the Bible.

The Bible was assailed for “innacuracies” of such details of Kings, Empires, Peoples...now all discovered (nearly 50 Kings), and the details of such books as those of the OT are corroborated from extra-biblical sources such as the Stele of Cyrus. Xerxes (persian-median: Ahurazheus) is one of the Kings in question who we know ruled Babylon, the habits and manners of which are plainly written in the Bible—and in Babylonian and Greek sources.

Before science repented of calling space a “vaccum” Isaiah said God “stretches” the heavens (like a sheet) and like “a tent to dwell in” (see Isaiah 44 and 45). In other places it says that space can be torn, shaken, worn-out, and folded...this is all consistant with modern physics.

As for the “discoveries” of science such as evolution, the age of the earth, etc...there is no observed mutation that ever did anything except destroy information, and most scientists (if not publicly) who are trained beyond the biology you get in High-school and 100 and 200 level courses seem to reject it: even the National Science Foundation has had meeting about these things (which to their chagrin were recounted by attendees). Evolution is absurd, and to go into the details of it all would take forever: if you want, I can. The age of the earth according to the standard geologic model is based on evolution, and as one geologist put it, “we determin the age of the rock (stratum) by the fossils, and the fossils by the rocks”. That's absurd in and of itself.

If you'd like to know, I was not originally a person who believed absolutely in the Biblical account, however entering-into the sciences I began to ask questions and find contradictions, outright misrepresentations, and a host of “forbidden” objections, fields, subjects, and most importantly much common sense. I've also discovered how conveniently the evidences are twisted in favor of views when that which is observed does not support them: and these are observations of many other atheist scientists as well. My personal best-subject was evolutionary biology: now its asking “undesirable” questions in class. Atheists such as Dawkins and Lewontin openly declare that everything observed looks as if everything is by design (objective science) but then go on to reject that implication (which means they have deviated from a scientific conclusion). Lewontin is most honest when he says “we have an a priori commitment to naturalism...” and “we cannot allow the devine foot in the door”. Take genetics courses and if your proffessor is up-to-speed ask for the picture of Ribosome (as it's finally known after a tour-de-force of X-ray crystalography) and then ask her how it's assembled (after you've been studying heavily, I dare you). I was an evolutionist without an a priori commitment: and some of what I consider some of the greatest minds (in comprehensiveness and ability) I become agape at when they say such things as “I do not believe in the theory I teach but there is no other” or make comments that they choose the theory not on scientific basis, but because the only other alternative interferes with their sexual moores.

I hope some of this helps: if you would like more information from biologists and evolutionists on this subject I can post it. Have a wonderful day and peace.

Alex_Kasman
Jan 22 2007

Hey Infinite, thanks for writing in.

You make some good points and some bad points. Let's discuss further.

The question is this: does the Bible look like something written by the men in a relatively advanced culture for 5000 years ago, or does it look like something written by an omnicient being?

In theory, the Bible could have mentioned things that really were well beyond the knowledge of the time. If it did, this would be interesting evidence in support of the idea that it really was the work of some intelligent supebeing. As it is, I think figuring out that washing hands and burying bodies are good ways of avoiding disease were IMPRESSIVE things for humans with little science to figure out, but I still believe that there are lots of things a God COULD have said in there which would have been very useful but were not mentioned. Their absence says much more to me than the presence of a few good ideas. Let me explain why.

I agree that many of the rules found in the Bible have some benefit. Most of the ancient cultures had some rules like these. For instance, as you point out, there are rules about who can marry and have children. This is not, of course, unique to Judeo-Christian cultures. Similarly most cultures have dietary LAWS which they attribute to some deity and, by coincidence, those laws give them a healthy diet.

Well, no, really it is not a coincidence. We can imagine that there were also cultures that had laws on marriage that forced siblings to marry, or to eat only very unhealthy foods. Clearly, such cultures would not survive very long, especially if there were other cultures around that had different rules.

I'm making two points here: one is that it is not a surprise to me that some of the rules in the Bible had practical value, and two is that this is the sort of thing one expected to see in ancient civilizations.

Similarly, you are correct that some important bits of history are contained in the Bible. The writings about King Omri have largely been verified by other historical investigations. This, though, does not really prove that the book was written by an omniscient God. But, there are also lots of places in which the Bible contradicts the best conclusions reached by all historical investigation. History not only finds no evidence of a mass exodus of slaves from Egypt or ten plagues in Egypt, it concludes that this did NOT happen because the Egyptians were such careful record keepers that it is practically inconceivable that such events would go unmentioned. Similarly, history concludes that there was no trive wandering in the dessert for 40 years (they would leave evidence of their presence) and that Canaan was not conquered by outsiders between the time it was a polytheistic nation worshipping the god El and his children and the time it became the monotheistic country of Isra-El. History and the Bible disagree on these details. I suppose you could try to argue that the conclusion reached so far by the historians is wrong (it wouldn't be the first time) or that God intentionally hid the evidence of these historical events, but I would not find such arguments convincing without some supporting evidence. And, to repeat my original point, these sorts of inaccuracies look just like the sort you find in religious documents from OTHER religions that you don't believe in any more than I do.

BTW Do you really think it was more important to tell people to avoid shellfish than to teach them about anti-biotics? Come on! The mercury problems in fish now are a result of polution from cities, and even so eating shellfish is hardly a serious health risk even today.

-ak

Laura_Kasman
Jan 22 2007

Hello Infinite,

You make some interesting claims and I would be interested in some of your sources, as you offered to Alex. I am a professor at a medical school (PhD. in Microbiology) so I am mostly interested in your claims regarding biology.

The Bible also speaks on the subject of sterilization: pots which a reptile fell-into were to be burned: of course reptiles are typically covered in salmonella.

> Chickens are also covered with salmonella, but they are not prohibited from falling into pots? The Bible actually misses the boat on microbiology. There are more bacteria in one pile of dog poop than there are people on the planet, yet their existence is never mentioned.

After battles, the Israelites were instructed to bury the dead, and then to burn a specific specie of red-hefer and spread the ashes of this hefer on themselves. This might seem grotesque...unless you're a coroner who understands that the fungus in a corpse quickly grows and becomes a danger to any person touching it, and then if you're also a chemist who has studied the ash of this specie and know that it contains and anti-fungal agent.

>I would be interested in the evidence that the ashes of a young cow have any greater anti-fungal properties than the ashes of anything else. I am also unaware of a fungus that commonly grows on corpses. Corpses smell bad after a time but are not any more dangerous to the living than they would have been before death - actually less since once dead they can’t cough on you.

As for the “discoveries” of science such as evolution, the age of the earth, etc...there is no observed mutation that ever did anything except destroy information, and most scientists (if not publicly) who are trained beyond the biology you get in High-school and 100 and 200 level courses seem to reject it: even the National Science Foundation has had meeting about these things (which to their chagrin were recounted by attendees).

>You have been badly misled by someone. Please give me more information about this conference. As a professional molecular biologist , who has worked at several medical universities and in the biotech industry for over 20 years, the idea that more than a tiny percentage of PhD level biologists reject evolution is absurd. Evolution is the framework on which all modern life science rests. Without it, the field of biology is like a library of a million books without shelves. People often confuse evolution with an explanation for the origin of life. It is not. Evolution is simply this: “A change in gene frequencies in a population over time.” Which brings me to your claim that “there is no observed mutation that ever did anything except destroy information.”

This is simply untrue. I will provide three counterexamples:

1) Matthew Harris at the University of Wisconsin was studying mutant chicken embryos when he found some that had teeth, alligator-like teeth, growing from their beaks. (see ScientificAmerican.com_Feb 2006)

2) Polydactyly - a well known genetic mutation that causes the person to be born with extra toes and/or fingers.

3) And an example that has been reproduced in the lab many times: gain of resistance to an antiviral drug by herpes simplex virus. A single virus particle is used to infect a cell culture and makes millions of copies of itself. Most of the copies will be identical to the original virus, but a small percentage will have mutations, none of which existed in the original. If these millions of copies are then used to infect a new cell culture but this time in the presence of an antiviral drug, only a few of the copies will be able to replicate. When the DNA of these mutants is sequenced, the changes are almost always found to be a change of a single amino acid in the viral protein that binds to the drug. The protein still is capable of its original function, since the virus is able to replicate, but it has gained a new property - the ability to grow in the presence of the anti-viral drug.

There is an excellent website on evolution written by a Christian scientist - please try it. (http://community.berea.edu/scienceandfaith/essay05.asp)

Even the Pope believes in evolution.

The age of the earth according to the standard geologic model is based on evolution, and as one geologist put it, “we determin the age of the rock (stratum) by the fossils, and the fossils by the rocks”. That's absurd in and of itself.

This is also simply false. The age of the earth was determined in 1953 by Clair Patterson by painstakingly measuring the amounts of uranium isotopes and its degradation product, lead, in the oldest rocks he could find. His result was 4.55 billion years. Since fossils do not appear in rocks more than 3.8 billion years old, and then don’t change perceptibly for another couple billion years, the fossil record cannot and was not used to date the earth.

My personal best-subject was evolutionary biology: now its asking “undesirable” questions in class. Atheists such as Dawkins and Lewontin openly declare that everything observed looks as if everything is by design (objective science) but then go on to reject that implication (which means they have deviated from a scientific conclusion).

Please provide the source of this Dawkins quote. I don’t think it means what you think it means. In any case, I suspect the next sentence is something like “looks can be deceiving.” Certainly, I appear to myself and anyone who sees me to be a single organism, but in fact I am a colony consisting of a 10 million million micro-organisms and one human being.

Take genetics courses and if your proffessor is up-to-speed ask for the picture of Ribosome (as it's finally known after a tour-de-force of X-ray crystalography) and then ask her how it's assembled (after you've been studying heavily, I dare you).

I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here. Is it that ribosomes are too complex to assemble on their own or that we can’t yet explain how it occurs? If it is the first - they do apparently assemble, so unless you are postulating divine intervention for every ribosome on the planet, I miss your point.

I am happy to hear any of your “undesirable” questions. Scientifically, the only interesting ones are those that can be tested. The others are best suited to a philosophy class.

Best wishes in your studies.

Rob_Dillon
Jan 22 2007
Evolution on Campus

Dear Laura,

Thanks for your excellent reply to “Infinitelink.” It must be quite frustrating to those of you who are regular members of this group when folks like this person intrude on otherwise reasonable conversations. Who is “Infinitelink?” I hit the little “profile” button at the bottom of his post and was unable even to learn his actual name.

Regardless, his message is a rehash of standard Creationist boilerplate, with which I think you showed remarkable patience. This quote regarding evolution, for example:

“most scientists (if not publicly) who are trained beyond the biology you get in High-school and 100 and 200 level courses seem to reject it”

... comes from The Discovery Institute, the Creationist think-tank based in Seattle, which has gathered the names of 600 scientists who “dissent from Darwinism.”

http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/

In response, the National Center for Science Education has gathered a list of 778 scientists who support evolution named “Steve.”

http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/3541_project_steve_2_16_2003.asp

There was an interesting article in Science last February entitled, “Darwin’s Place on Campus is Secure, but not Supreme.” It’s a good news / bad news story – basically that we college professors, although committed to evolutionary science ourselves, have been unable to make much progress fighting misunderstandings widespread among our students. Darwin Week at the College of Charleston was mentioned prominently. Here’s a PDF download:

http://www.cofc.edu/%7Edillonr/Science10Feb06.pdf

And speaking of which…Darwin Week 2007 is just around the corner! All free, all open to the public:

http://www.cofc.edu/~dillonr/DarwinWeekVII.html

So here’s a special, raised-letter invitation from the Coordinator of Darwin Week in Charleston to the one-two team of Alex and Laura Kasman. We would love to see you both in Science Center 123 on Thursday, February 15 at 4:00 PM. Rev. Monty Knight will preach his “Science and Faith” sermon, and we’ll save seats in the front pew with your names on them!

See you then,

Rob

Alex_Kasman
Jan 23 2007

I hope that "InfiniteLink" is still out there and that we have not scared him/her away. Perhaps our response has been overwhelming, but some things needed to be said.

And, I'm afraid I have a few more thoughts that I would like to share.

As for the age of the Earth, an interesting thing about math and science is that there is often more than one way to compute (or at least estimate) some given quantity. When those different methods do not agree, it is generally an indication that something is wrong. In this case, all of the scientific methods give similar values for the age of the Earth.

For instance, how else could we get at least a rough estimate of the age of the Earth without resorting to advanced physics? How about this: take a look at the Grand Canyon which has layers and layers of different rock. Now, I know that creationists like to say that the canyon was carved by the flood. Let's ignore what dug the canyon for a moment and ask how long it would have taken for that many layers (a mile deep) to have formed. The thing is, we can see layers forming like that still today and from that get an estimate and, surprise surprise, you get a number in the millions. How about plate tectonics? We can measure the movement of the continents today and ask if they had been going at a constant speed, how long ago would they have been in contact? Again, you get a number in the millions...which coincidentally agrees with our estimate of the age of the layers of fossils in Africa and South America which look so much alike that they first led to speculation that the two continents had once been joined. And, as Laura mentioned, the method considered currently most reliable is the radioactive decay computations which again agree with the idea that the Earth is more than millions of years old. In fact, all of the different scientific methods are in agreement on this.

The Bible is a real outlier here. If you're looking at the Bible with a fundamentalist perspective then you'll get an age of the Earth which is less than 10,000 years. A big difference from all of the science. Now, for many people there is no conflict between religion and science. (Professor Rob Dillon who wrote in above is one of those people. See the top of this thread.) But, if they do conflict, and it seems that for you they do, then you have to make a choice. And that is what this thread was about. As far as I'm concerned, you are free to reject the science if you want. But, I'm not so willing to let you distort it as you are attempting to do!

Another thought about evolution! You know, mutations seem to occur at random. There are changes (a base will change to another during replication), deletions (strings get dropped) and insertions (extra DNA gets added, usually just a copy of DNA that was already present somewhere else). You won't see these with equal frequency at all locations in the DNA in living creatures because many cause the fertilized egg to die, so you only see the ones that are not immediately fatal, but they do seem to occur with equal frequency. Now, consider the human genome and the chimp genome which are largely the same but do have a few small differences. Some of those differences could be achieved merely by some base changes. Apparently, they are not fatal changes. So, what makes you think they wouldn't just happen on their own sometimes? Of course, it would be very rare...but why WOULDN'T it happen? You almost have to imagine that God is watching and trying to PREVENT these mutations in order to think that they wouldn't happen sometimes just by chance. Similarly, the other differences between our genome and the chimp genome could all be achieved through some combination of insertions, deletions and changes. If it COULD happen, and these mutations happen at random, then what makes you think it couldn't have happened in the past?

And, finally, I'm always curious to know why people are capable of imagining that scientists are part of some huge conspiracy to cover up the existence of God? Most of the scientists I know are really motivated by an interest in finding out the truth. We think of science as a way to figure out what is going on in the world. Perhaps you think that science is not the right way to do that, perhaps you think we should just learn from the Bible and not think about anything else. That would be an interesting discussion for another time. But, that's not the point here. The point is that if scientists were finding evidence that the world was 6000 years old, or that there was some big flood that wiped out all but a single boatload of people and animals, or anything showing that there was a superbeing, then they would share it, they would write about it, they would not cover it up. What would be their motivation in doing so?

Well, enough of this philosophy, I'd better get back to mathematical physics.

-Alex

Larry_Carter_Center
Feb 27 2007
devotion useful in science

I'm getting the impression that Professor Dillon is a fighter for science in this world & looking forward BY GRACE for a reward in another realm.

At the Haddasa Forum this month, he even claimed George Washington & the Presbyterian Religion was responsible for the American Revolution.

As Paine wrote, we do have the chance to make the world anew.

To be devoted to religious subjects is not totally incompatible with scientific subjects. Scientists SHOULD observe religionists & devise technologies which might confirm any efficacies of religious claims.

Paine felt it was his duty as a Creationist to expose the fictions of the King James Bible. Dillon may be stretching Vestrymen results in 1776 & thereafter, but I think his four point analysis of this issue means that WHEN ONE IS DOING SCIENCE, ONE IS NOT DOING RELIGION.

As Issac Newton failed in his many treatises to do so, NEWTON ONLY SUCCEEDED when he was publishing his pure mathematical replicable formulae & calculations.

Newton's alchemy, for example was an incompetent failure. Newton was so devoted & allegedly pious that he bragged on his deathbed that "he never masturbated, he never married."

We should give credit where credit is due.

Rob is a scientist. When he sings in church & expresses his personal faith, he is not teaching genetic change over time, he is singing & making heaven plans. I for one would build a heaven now here on earth for all to share with him. Especially science classrooms built for students to observe rather than brainwash the gullible to pretend all was designed by an alleged designer.

tersse
Jan 18 2008

its quite simple, the are not uncompatible if you dont chalenge one set of belifes with the other.

religion was and is a necesary thing for some ppl to have and belive in, it helps them to understand things that even sience cant explain to them or any one else, and gives them the comfort the need in times that science would be uslees to them, such as dealing with the unexpected death of a child or loved one.

and science is something that those ppl and all of us need at other times, like working out how to stop electrocuting ourslevs evry time we plug in an electric device in our houses, or getting the best work energy per liter of fuel from an engine for the carbon released, no bible will tell you that, so you see we just need to stop trying to prove or disprove ever changeing beliefs and knowledge, accept that both have merits, and decide to alow ppl to choose what they belive, not see it as a threat if its difrent from our own, and not decend to the insane level of our past, and kill anyone that dosnt conform to our beliefe system.

tersse
Jan 18 2008

to alex kasman

here is some thing to think about :)

just suppose for a minute that the edge of our univers acts like the surface of a pond, and that from our side of it we cant see outside, dose this negate the possible existence of other universes, with space between them like galaxies have but larger so thier gravitation dosnt afect this one enough to be detected eccept to perhaps acount for the black matter or some of it that makes our univers heavyer than we can acount for with the known so far amount of matter we asses exists, and a being from one of these universes came to were our univers started and planted a timed device that expladed later and caused our big bang, starting our univers, would you consider him god, or just a poor worker with more knowledge than us.

i know what i would think, but then i have spent my life trying to gather knowledge not truth, as one is real and another is opinion.

but would you blame some one for believeing him a god.

in my world there is room for both of us, its the fanatics that want me to believe what they do that i hate.

R_U_Evolving?
Jan 28 2009
Re: are science and religion compatible?

"The Bible is like a person, and if you torture it long enough, you can get it to say almost anything you'd like it to say." -- Rev. Dr. Francis H. Wade

reasonwithme
Jan 28 2009
Re: are science and religion compatible?

Science and religion are incompatible in their true sense. If you want to skew science you can make it fit your religion or appeasing to the religious. If you want to skew religion you can make it fit science. But to have an honest understanding and acceptance of science totally excludes the Abrahamic religions. There really is no arguing.

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