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The Bible and Suicide

Bible FAQ

The Bible predicted some scientific facts long before people knew about it

Theists will sometimes proclaim that the bible demonstrates knowledge of some scientific fact long before people actually knew this fact and that this therefore proves the divine nature of the bible. This is similar to the biblical prophecies concept but is different since it deals with common facts (science) rather than with the supernatural. This argument isn't convincing for a number of reasons. First, there is a rather trivial rebuttal to the idea that showing that the bible demonstrates knowledge of some scientific fact proves its divine origin. Namely, since atheists believe the bible was written by people, if the bible actually does demonstrate some scientific knowledge then it is simply proof that this knowledge was known by people before it is commonly thought to have been known. Since we can not determine for certain exactly when some scientific concepts were discovered the fact that they may have been discovered somewhat earlier then we thought is not really a big deal. It makes a lot more sense to us to think that a scientific fact was discovered earlier than we previously thought than to say that this fact was revealed by some supernatural entity. So, unless the argument refers to very complex scientific phenomenon (something considerably more complex than that the earth is a sphere for example) then the argument isn't particularly convincing.

However, assuming that we are confident in the time of discovery of the fact in question then the issue becomes 1) does the biblical account really predate the discovery of this fact and/or 2) does the biblical account really desccribe the fact being asserted. These are generally the avenues that rebuttals will take.

An example of a frequent claim is in reference to the bible's "knowledge" that the earth is a sphere. First it is highly questionable that passages that theists claim suggest this were written much earlier than this fact was known. Classical writers attribute the view that the earth is spherical to Pythagoras which, if true, would give a date for this knowledge at least as early as the mid-sixth century BCE. It is certainly as old as Aristotle which puts it in the fourth century BCE. So, the idea of the sphericity of the earth is not exactly a new concept and it is not unthinkable that it could have been known even earlier. Even ignoring this there are problems. The first problem is that this particular breed of the claim usually refers to Isaiah 40:22, which refers to the earth as a circle. A circle is not the same as sphere. It is quite conceivable that the writeers conceived of a circular but flat earth. Furthermore, if we are to employ wishful thinking and read "circle" as "sphere," what are we to do with verses like Isaiah 11:12 and Revelation 7:1 which refer to the earth as having four corners--i.e. being square or rectangular?

If a theist is going to assert a divine nature of the bible (which usually includes infallibility) and claim that scientific facts can be found in this divine book then one would think that all facts found in the book should be scientifically correct. This is clearly untrure and casts a great deal of doubt on the veracity of the claim that the bible is divine in nature. Presumably if it is divine it would not make mistakes about scientific facts. If a theist expects us to consider that the bible contains "divine pre-knowledge" of some scientific facts then they should be willing to consider the apparent mistakes in such facts. Exmaples of these mistakes can be found in a variety of locations. One source is: Some Reasons Why Humanists Reject The Bible in the Teachings Inconsistent with the Laws of Nature and Teachings Inconsistent With the Structure of the Physical World. The rest of the article is worth reading as well. 

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