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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 !
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).