Science and the Bible
By: Kyle Butt, M.Div.
Generally speaking, science is the study of the natural world. Scientific breakthroughs produce amazing technologies that allow us to launch rockets into space, create vaccines that save lives, genetically modify crops to increase yields, and so much more. One thing we understand about science is that modern discoveries often disprove incorrect ideas that people had in the past. Newtonian physics changed the way the world viewed nature, and Einstein’s theories of relativity pushed our understanding even further. Quantum physics and mechanics continue to plumb the depths of the smallest subatomic particles, and the latest medical research proves that many of the old ideas en vogue years ago were simply wrong. Due to the nature of human fallibility, asbestos, that we once thought was a perfect flame retardant, has been replaced because of its health dangers. Lead-based paint that once seemed like such a good idea, must be removed from homes so babies don’t get lead poisoning. There is a good reason that many science textbooks are in their 10th, 11th, and 12th editions. The first editions needed correcting and updating. The most up-to-date modern science is often the most accurate, and even much of that will be replaced as the overall knowledge of humanity continues to increase.
The Bible, on the other hand, is an old book. The first books of the Old Testament were penned by Moses around 1450 B.C. The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, was finished before the end of the first century. That means the entire Bible is almost 2,000 years old and some parts of it are approximately 3,500 years old. If the 66 books that compose the Bible were written by mere humans, as some people claim they were, we would expect to find all of the foibles and mistakes that plague other books. In light of the rapid advances in scientific fields, we would certainly expect to find outdated information about the natural world; information that has been shown by modern science to be incorrect. If, on the other hand, the Bible is inspired by the Creator of the Universe, as the writers claim it was, we should find a different situation altogether. If the God Who Created the World inspired the Bible we should observe perfect agreement between every scientific statement in the Bible and everything that is verified as fact in the natural world. In addition, since the all-knowing God has knowledge that surpasses that of any human at any given time in history, we might also expect to discover that some of the scientific information in the Bible would exhibit an understanding of science that was far ahead of anything the writers knew at the time—an idea known as scientific foreknowledge.
The stage, then, is set for a showdown between the skeptic, who claims that the Bible is not inspired, and the Christian, who believes it is. The skeptic must simply show that the Bible, a 3,500-year-old book, is filled with the typical scientific mistakes made by mere humans. If the Bible is a human production, that should be extremely easy to do. The Christian, on the other hand, must show that the Bible does not contain even one scientific error. Further, it would add credence to the case for inspiration if it could be proven that the Bible exhibits scientific information that was ahead of anything the human writers could have known by themselves. Which of these two positions is validated by an honest comparison between the Bible and modern scientific research? Time and again, the Bible exhibits a perfectly accurate understanding of natural phenomena, even to the point of legitimate scientific foreknowledge, without putting forth a single idea that contradicts a known scientific fact. Let us turn our attention to a listing of some of these findings.
The Law of Biogenesis
In biology, one of the most widely used laws of science is the Law of Biogenesis. “Biogenesis” is composed of two words—“bio,” which means life, and “genesis,” which means beginning. Thus, this law deals with the beginning of life. It simply says that life in the material world comes only from previous life of its own kind. We see this law played out everyday all around the world. Over the years, the truthfulness of this law has been documented by thousands of scientists, one of the most famous of whom was Louis Pasteur. His work dealt a crushing blow to the notion of spontaneous generation (the idea that life arises on its own from nonliving sources). In earlier centuries, the idea that life arose from nonliving chemicals was very popular.
Teachers and professors correctly point out today that Pasteur triumphed over this “mythology” when he disproved the concept of spontaneous generation through his well-designed scientific experiments. In truth, however, the naturalistic theory of evolution could not have occurred without some form of spontaneous generation. For this reason, many scientists have concocted experiments attempting to create life from nonliving substances. But after all these attempts, life has never been created from something nonliving. If thousands of scientists have designed carefully planned experiments to create life from something nonliving, and yet have failed miserably every time, how in the world can we be expected to believe that nature did it by using accidents, chance, and blind forces? On the contrary, whether in nature or in the laboratory, scientists never have documented a single case of spontaneous generation! Life comes only from previous life of its own kind, which is exactly what the Bible has taught for 3,500 years. To put it in the words of Genesis 1:24: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so.”1
The Laws of Thermodynamics
The study of matter and energy and how they relate is often referred to as thermodynamics. There are four primary Laws of Thermodynamics, and two of them are of particular importance. The first is known as the Law of Conservation of Energy. It simply says that in a closed system, such as our Universe, matter and energy can change forms, but no matter or energy can be created or destroyed. To understand this, think of a burning piece of paper. The paper is burned and changes to ash, while heat and gases are released into the atmosphere, but the total amount of matter/energy is still the same. The Second Law of Thermodynamics basically states that closed systems are moving toward a state of disorder, also known as entropy. Think about the burning paper. The energy and gases released after burning are less usable than they were before. The Second Law dictates that rooms get messier over time, automobiles wear out, and things wear down.
As we look into the Bible, we see that it agrees perfectly with these Laws. As Dr. Jeff Miller stated:
The Laws of Thermodynamics, which science itself recognizes in its explanations of the phenomena in the Universe, were designed by the Chief Engineer. As expected, they prove to be in complete harmony with His existence…. God, Himself, articulated these laws centuries ago. At the very beginning of the Bible, the First Law of Thermodynamics was expressed when Moses penned, “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day, God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (Genesis 2:1-2). After the six days of Creation, the mass/matter/energy creation process was terminated…. Through the hand of the Hebrews writer, God also articulated centuries ago what scientists call the Second Law of Thermodynamics: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands; they will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment” (1:10-11).2
Who could forget God’s promises to the “father of the faithful?” Not only would God bless all nations through Abraham and give his descendants the land upon which Abraham’s feet had trod, but God also would cause Abraham’s descendants to multiply so that they would be as countless as the stars of the sky. In Genesis 15:5, we read God’s promise to His friend Abraham: “Then He [God] brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’” The fact that the stars are numberless comes as no surprise to those of us who have seen pictures taken from the Moon, or peered into other galaxies through million-dollar telescopes.3
Yet the idea that the stars could conceivably be counted remained firmly planted in the minds of some all the way up until the early 1900s. In the past, ancient (and not-so-ancient) personalities attempted to count the stars. One such Greek astronomer, Hipparchus, almost two centuries before Christ, went on record in multiple ancient sources with figures anywhere from 800 to 1,080 for the total number of stars. Chang Hing, put the number around 2,500 “not including those which the sailors observe.” The idea that there existed a fairly small number of stars that could be counted by humans was quite a prevalent notion.4
It is humorous today to compare the actual estimated number of stars to those figures garnered from the ancients. With our modern knowledge we have estimated that there are at least thousands of billions of stars! Indeed, the Bible was correct when it commented that the stars “cannot be numbered.” And, even though the promises to Abraham and David were not uttered with scientific information as their primary concern, it is true that whenever the Bible speaks on such matters, it is always scientifically accurate.
In Genesis 6:15, God instructed Noah to build an ark that was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. This is a ratio of 30 to 5 to 3 (length to breadth to height). In terms that we understand better, the ark was about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. As it turns out, these dimensions are the perfect ratio for a huge boat built for seaworthiness and not for speed. Obviously the ark was not built for speed, since it had nowhere to go! What is more, shipbuilders during World War II used a similar ratio to build a boat named the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien, that came to be known as “the ugly duckling”—a barge-like boat built to carry tremendous amounts of cargo.5 How did Noah know the perfect seagoing ratio to use in building the ark? Modern shipbuilders had many generations of shipbuilding knowledge to use, but Noah’s was the first of its kind ever recorded.
Sewage and Waste Disposal
In modern First World countries, it is well understood that raw sewage carries disease. Historically, however, and even in some places today, people do not understand this fact. Literally millions of people have died due to diseases caused by the improper disposal of waste. The London cholera epidemic of 1846, in which 16,000 people died, is just one example of this unfortunate truth.6
If only the people of London had turned in their Bibles to Deuteronomy 23:12: “Also, you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse.” More than 3,300 years before London’s epidemic, the Lord, through his servant Moses, implemented a plan to stop such epidemics before they started. Such tragedies as those that befell London could have been prevented if people simply had accepted God’s Word on the matter and observed the kind of hygiene that the Israelites had practiced so many years before. The fact is, Moses’ instructions could still be used to save lives today in countries all over the world that do not have running water or proper waste disposal.
Blood: The Liquid of Life
Blood has always been an amazing substance whose vast mysteries and capabilities have yet to be fully explored. Doctors in the twenty-first century transfuse it, draw it, separate it, package it, store it, ship it, and sell it. And, although modern-day scientists have not uncovered completely all of the wonders of blood, they have discovered that it is the key to life. In the past, ignorance of blood’s value caused some “learned” men to do tragic things. For instance, during the middle ages, and even until the nineteenth century, doctors believed that harmful “vapors” entered the blood and caused sickness. For this reason, leeches were applied to victims of fever and other illnesses in an attempt to draw out blood containing these vapors. Also, the veins and arteries located just above the elbow were opened, and the patient’s arms were bled to expunge the contaminated blood. George Washington, the first President of the United States, died because of such misplaced medical zeal.7
Thousands of years before the lethal practice of bloodletting was conceived, mankind had been informed by God that blood was indeed the key to life. In Leviticus 17:11, Moses wrote: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Today, we understand completely the truthfulness of Moses’ statement that “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” How did Moses know, almost 3,500 years ago, that life was in the blood, while it took the rest of the scientific and medical community thousands of years (and thousands of lives!) to discover this truth?
Germs, Labor Fever, and Dealing with Dead Bodies
In 1847, an obstetrician named Ignaz Semmelweis was the director of a hospital ward in Vienna, Austria. Many pregnant women checked into his ward, but 18% of those women never checked out. One out of every six that received treatment in Semmelweis’ ward died of labor fever. Autopsies revealed pus under their skin, in their chest cavities, in their eye sockets, etc. Semmelweis was distraught over the mortality rate in his ward, and other hospital wards like it all over Europe. If a woman delivered a baby using a midwife, then the death fell to only 3%. Yet if she chose to use the most advanced medical knowledge and facilities of the day, her chance of dying skyrocketed to 18%!8
As he contemplated his dilemma, he watched young medical students perform their routine tasks. Each day the students would perform autopsies on the dead mothers. Then they would rinse their hands in a bowl of bloody water, wipe them off on a common, shared towel, and immediately begin internal examinations of the still-living women. As a twenty-first-century observer, you probably are appalled to think that such practices actually took place in institutes of what was at the time “modern technology.” What doctor in his right mind would touch a dead person and then perform examinations on living patients—without first employing some sort of minimal hygienic practices intended to kill germs? But to Europeans in the middle-nineteenth-century, germs were a foreign concept. They had never seen a germ, much less been able to predict its destructive potential. According to their theories, disease was caused by “atmospheric conditions” or “cosmic telluric influences.”
Semmelweis ordered everyone in his ward to thoroughly wash his or her hands in a chlorine solution after every examination. In three months, the death rate fell from 18% to 1-3%. Semmelweis had made an amazing discovery. Or had he? Dr. Semmelweis simply “rediscovered” what was written millennia earlier. Almost 3,300 years before Semmelweis lived, Moses had written: “He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean” (Numbers 19:12). The Bible was right all along.9
Moses detailed measures to prevent the spread of germs from dead bodies to living humans long before such was understood and prescribed in modern medicine. But the Old Testament added another extremely beneficial practice to the field of medicine in its detailed descriptions of maladies for which living individuals should be quarantined. The book of Leviticus lists a plethora of diseases and ways in which an Israelite would come in contact with germs. Those with such diseases as leprosy were instructed to “dwell alone…outside the camp” (Leviticus 13:46). If and when a diseased individual did get close to those who were not diseased, he was instructed to “cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!” (13:45). It is of interest that the covering of one’s mustache would prevent spit and spray from the mouth of the individual to pass freely through the air, much like the covering of one’s mouth during a cough or sneeze.
Concerning such quarantine practices, S.E. Massengill wrote in his book A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy:
In the prevention of disease, however, the ancient Hebrews made real progress. The teachings of Moses, as embodied in the Priestly Code of the Old Testament, contain two clear conceptions of modern sanitation—the importance of cleanliness and the possibility of controlling epidemic disease by isolation and quarantine.10
In regard to the understanding of contagion implied in the quarantine rules in the Old Testament, McGrew noted in the Encyclopedia of Medical History: “The idea of contagion was foreign to the classic medical tradition and found no place in the voluminous Hippocratic writings. The Old Testament, however, is a rich source for contagionist sentiment, especially in regard to leprosy and venereal disease.”11 Here again, the Old Testament exhibits amazingly accurate medical knowledge that surpasses any known human ingenuity available at the time of its writing.
Laws of Food Consumption
Food regulations enumerated in the first five books of the Old Testament have been scrutinized repeatedly by credentialed professionals in the fields of dietary and pathological research. The regulations have proven to coincide with modern science’s understanding of various aspects of health and disease prevention. Old Testament food laws exhibit knowledge of bacteria, food preparation, and pathogen awareness that surpasses anything from cultures contemporary with the ancient Israelites. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the knowledge inherent in the laws was, or could have been, gathered experimentally by the Israelite nation. Thus, the Israelites could not have copied these laws from nations around them, nor did they arrive at them through their own experimental, scientific research. Where, then, did such amazingly accurate laws originate? Moses repeatedly acknowledged that the laws came from the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:4-5). These laws included a prohibition of eating pork, a meat that is known to be more susceptible to contamination than others such as beef or mutton.12 They also prohibited the consumption of the bat, an animal with an extremely high probability of carrying diseases harmful to humans. The fact that animals in the water had to have scales and fins to be eaten would have helped the Israelites avoid bacterial laden oysters and poisonous/venomous fish such as the blowfish and the lionfish. In addition, warnings against handling and eating reptiles would have cut down on the spread of salmonella, since the vast majority of reptiles carry the bacteria.13
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Countries across the globe are experiencing major epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. For instance, every hour in China a baby is born with syphilis, and “the rate of mother-to-child transmission jumped from 7 to 57 cases per 100,000 live births between 2003 and 2008.”14 In recent years, syphilis cases in China were “rising by 30 percent every year.” Syphilis infection is increasing in the United States as well. To what do the experts attribute the surge of syphilis infection? “Prostitutes along with gay and bisexual men, many of whom are married with families, are driving the epidemic” in China. And in the United States, “more than 60 percent of cases [are] linked to gay sex.”15
What is the solution to epidemic sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis? The United States Center for Disease Control outlined a simple, effect way to eradicate such diseases:
The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis, is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.16
The recipe for eliminating STDs bears a striking resemblance to the Bible’s instructions concerning sex being reserved for a life-long covenant marriage relationship between one man and one women (see Matthew 19:1-4; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:15-20).
In truth, God’s instructions concerning sex and all other aspects of human life have always been intended to help humans be truly happy. In Deuteronomy 6:24, Moses wrote: “And the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day.” The biblical instructions in this regard agree perfectly with the best scientific research we have on the subject.
In the book of Genesis, the text relates that God chose Abraham and his descendants to be a “special” people who were set apart from all other nations. The covenant that God made with Abraham included a physical “sign” that was to be implemented in all future generations of Abraham’s descendants. According to the text, God said: “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant” (Genesis 17:12).
The Bible’s inclusion of this surgical practice provides another excellent example of the scientific accuracy of the text.17 The day on which the biblical record commands the practice to be implemented is of extreme importance. The human body requires prothrombin, Vitamin K, and platelets in order for blood to clot. The percent of available prothrombin in a newborn dips from about 90% of normal on its day of birth to about 35% on its third day of life outside the womb. After the third day, the available prothrombin begins to climb. By the eighth day of the child’s life, the available prothrombin level is approximately 110% of normal, about 20% more than it was on the first day, and about 10% more than it will be during subsequent days and years of its life.18 Such data prove that the eighth day is the perfect day on which to perform a major surgery such as circumcision. This amazing medical accuracy cannot be accounted for on the basis of human ingenuity in the ancient world. Divine oversight remains the only reasonable answer.
A Global Flood
Genesis chapters 6-9 tell the story of Noah and a worldwide Flood that covered every square inch of the globe. Consider the boldness of such a statement. There would have been no possible way for one man or family to know what happened across the whole Earth. The most any person could do would be to describe what happened in their specific geographic area. Today we have global communication and satellite surveillance that allow us to know what is happening on the other side of the world, but nothing like that was available during the time of Noah or Moses who recorded the story. For a mere human to recount with certainty the fact of a global Flood would be beyond the scope of any and all human knowledge. Yet, that is exactly what Moses did.
When we look at the globe, do we find evidence of massive, worldwide flooding? We certainly do. Geologist Andrew Snelling provides a list of six powerful lines of evidence that verify the fact of a global Flood:
- Fossils of sea creatures high above sea level.
- Rapid burial of plants and animals
- Rapidly deposited sedimentary layers spread across vast areas
- Sediment transported long distances
- Rapid or no erosion between strata
- Many strata laid down in rapid succession19
Snelling further described a geological formation known as a seismite that normally forms in water during earthquakes. The ones formed in modern times generally are only a few inches. The ones he describes are 30 feet thick, massively bigger than anything geologists have ever seen form. He noted that those who reject the Flood have no explanation for these huge seismites. The Flood, however, perfectly predicts and explains their existence.20
The scientific discipline of archaeology deals with the study of human artifacts from the past. These artifacts provide information and evidence for historical events. Just as we can study various aspects of geology and know what happened in the past to cause certain formations, we can study archaeological finds and gather accurate information about ancient people and civilizations. This field of research provides an excellent arena in which to test the accuracy of the Bible. If the Bible was composed by mere men, the writers should have made various mistakes in listing ancient peoples, places, and events. If God inspired the text, it should be perfectly accurate in its discussion of all past events. When we apply the study of archaeology to the Bible, we find that it is the most historically accurate book ever penned, without a single error.21
The challenge is a simple one. If ancient humans authored the Bible, it would be filled with all the baggage and mistakes that come with being human. We would find some accurate information, but a noticeable amount of inaccurate information. Due to the rate at which scientific knowledge increases, a book as old as the Bible should be filled with scientific statements that are outdated and have been proven false. That is not what we find. Instead, we find a series of 66 books that are thousands of years old that contain a depth of scientific accuracy that has never been seen in any ancient writing. Not only are scientific mistakes completely absent from its pages, but the writers often exhibit an understanding of the world that was unavailable by human wisdom or understanding at the time. The ancient psalmist, speaking of God’s Word, once wrote: “The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of your righteous judgments endures forever” (119:160). His assessment was exactly right, from the largest ships to the tiniest germs.
1 For an extensive, in-depth discussion of this topic, see Jeff Miller’s 2017 book Science vs. Evolution (Montgomery: Apologetics Press), pp. 61-110.
2 Miller, pp. 19-39.
3 It is not to be understood that the words “countless” or “numberless” indicate an infinite number of stars. This is a hyperbolic expression used by the Bible writer to mean simply that humans could not count the number because it is so vast. The fact that many in the past attempted to count them shows the wisdom of the Bible writer’s statement. Furthermore, it seemed obvious to Abraham in his discussion with God that he could not count the stars. This example of science in the Bible may not necessarily be one of major foreknowledge as much as one of accurate knowledge that was ignored by many.
4 Kenny Barfield (1997), Why the Bible is Number 1 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock), chapter 12.
5 Walter W. Jaffee (1993), The Last Liberty: The Biography of the SS Jeremiah O’Brien (Palo Alto, CA: Glenncannon), pp. 2-3. Also Harry Butowsky (1985), SS Jeremiah O’Brien, “Warships Associated with World War II in the Pacific” National Park Service, http://npshistory.com/publications/nhl/world-war-ii-warships.pdf.
6 See S.I. McMillen and David Stern (2000), None of These Diseases (Grand Rapids, MI: Revell), third edition, p. 31.
7 While it is true that the ancient world could have easily understood the value of blood, it seems that many of them did not. As with other examples of biblical scientific accuracy, this instance may not necessarily be one of major foreknowledge as much as one of accurate knowledge that was ignored by many. Such examples validate the point that the Bible is not plagued with scientific mistakes that are so common among other books and writings.
8 McMillen and Stern, p. 19.
9 For an extensive, in-depth discussion of this topic see Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery: Apologetics Press), pp. 108-111. It is of further interest that the water of Purification discussed in Numbers 19 is composed of several germ killing agents and substances that would have further acted as disinfectants; pp.111-114.
10 S.E. Massengill (1943), A Sketch of Medicine and Pharmacy (Bristol, TN: S.E. Massengill Company), p. 252.
11 Roderick McGrew (1985), Encyclopedia of Medical History, (London: Macmillan Press), pp. 77-78.
12 The Old Testament has been replaced by the New Testament, and God now permits His followers to eat all kinds of animals (1 Timothy 4:1-5). The knowledge found in the Old Testament food laws, however, would still be valuable in places where proper preparation and sanitary practices are not understood or available.
13 For an extensive, in-depth discussion of this topic see Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery: Apologetics Press), pp. 115-126.
14 Margie Mason (2010), “1 Chinese Baby Born With Syphilis Every Hour,” http://www.nbcnews.com/id/36967341/ns/health-infectious_diseases/t/chinese-baby-born-syphilis-every-hour/#.W4BQbWRKgr8.
16 “Syphilis—CDC Fact Sheet” (2008), http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/STDFact-Syphilis.htm#protect, emp. added.
17 For an extensive, in-depth discussion of this topic see Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery: Apologetics Press), pp. 126-129.
18 L.E. Holt and R. McIntosh (1953), Holt Pediatrics (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts), twelfth edition, p. 126.
19 Andrew Snelling, “Transcontinental Rock Layers” (2008), https://assets.answersingenesis.org/doc/articles/pdf-versions/flood_evidence_3.pdf.
20 Snelling, “When Continents Collide” (2017), Answers Magazine, https://answersingenesis.org/geology/plate-tectonics/when-continents-collide/.
21 For an extensive, in-depth discussion of this topic see Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery: Apologetics Press), pp. 57-103.