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The Bible’s answer

Yes, for although the Bible is not a science textbook, it is accurate when it mentions matters of science. Consider some examples showing that science and the Bible agree and that the Bible contains scientific facts that differed greatly from the beliefs of many people living at the time it was written.

  • The universe had a beginning. (Genesis 1:1) In contrast, many ancient myths describe the universe, not as being created, but as being organized from existing chaos. The Babylonians believed that the gods that gave birth to the universe came from two oceans. Other legends say that the universe came from a giant egg.

  • The universe is governed day-to-day by rational natural laws, not by the whims of deities. (Job 38:33; Jeremiah 33:25) Myths from around the world teach that humans are helpless before the unpredictable and sometimes merciless acts of the gods.

  • The earth is suspended in empty space. (Job 26:7) Many ancient peoples believed that the world was a flat disk supported by a giant or an animal, such as a buffalo or a turtle.

  • Rivers and springs are fed by water that has evaporated from the oceans and other sources and then has fallen back to earth as rain, snow, or hail. (Job 36:27, 28; Ecclesiastes 1:7;Isaiah 55:10; Amos 9:6) The ancient Greeks thought that rivers were fed by underground ocean water, and this idea persisted into the 18th century.

  • The mountains rise and fall, and today’s mountains were once under the ocean. (Psalm 104:6, 8) In contrast, several myths say that the mountains were created in their current form by the gods.

  • Sanitary practices protect health. The Law given to the nation of Israel included regulations for washing after touching a dead body, quarantining those with infectious disease, and disposing of human waste safely. (Leviticus 11:28; 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 23:13) By contrast, one of the Egyptian remedies in use when these commands were given called for applying to an open wound a mixture that included human excrement.

Are there scientific errors in the Bible?

A reasonable examination of the Bible shows the answer to be no. Here are some common misconceptions about the scientific accuracy of the Bible:

Myth: The Bible says that the universe was created in six 24-hour days.

Fact: According to the Bible, God created the universe in the indefinite past. (Genesis 1:1) Also, the days of creation described in chapter 1 of Genesis were epochs whose length is not specified. In fact, the entire period during which earth and heaven were made is also called a “day.”—Genesis 2:4.

Myth: The Bible says that vegetation was created before the sun existed to support photosynthesis.—Genesis 1:11, 16.

Fact: The Bible shows that the sun, one of the stars that make up “the heavens,” was created before vegetation. (Genesis 1:1) Diffused light from the sun reached the earth’s surface during the first “day,” or epoch, of creation. As the atmosphere cleared, by the third “day” of creation, the light was strong enough to support photosynthesis. (Genesis 1:3-5, 12, 13) Only later did the sun become distinctly visible from the surface of the earth.—Genesis 1:16.

Myth: The Bible says that the sun revolves around the earth.

Fact: Ecclesiastes 1:5 says: “The sun rises, and the sun sets; then it hurries back to the place where it rises again.” However, this statement merely describes the apparent motion of the sun as viewed from the earth. Even today, a person can use the words “sunrise” and “sunset,” yet he knows that the earth revolves around the sun.

Myth: The Bible says that the earth is flat.

Fact: The Bible uses the phrase “the ends of the earth” to mean “the most distant part of the earth”; this does not imply that the earth is flat or that it has an edge. (Acts 1:8; footnote) Likewise, the expression “the four corners of the earth” is a figure of speech referring to the entire surface of the earth; today a person might use the four points of the compass as a similar metaphor.—Isaiah 11:12; Luke 13:29.

Myth: The Bible says that the circumference of a circle is exactly three times its diameter, but the correct value is pi (π), or about 3.1416.

Fact: The measurements of “the Sea of cast metal” given at 1 Kings 7:23 and 2 Chronicles 4:2indicate that it had a diameter of 10 cubits and that “it took a measuring line 30 cubits long to encircle it.” These dimensions might have been merely the nearest round numbers. It is also possible that the circumference and diameter represented inner and outer measurements of the basin respectively.


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INTERVIEW | IRÈNE HOF LAURENCEAU

Dr. Irène Hof Laurenceau practices orthopedic surgery in Switzerland. At one time she doubted God’s existence. But some years later she came to the conclusion that God exists and that he is the Creator of life. Awake! asked her about her work and her faith.

What aroused your interest in science?

As a child, I was fascinated by nature. I grew up in Richterswil, a beautiful Swiss village on the shore of Lake Zurich. My parents and older siblings would take me for walks and tell me about the creatures and plants we saw along the way.

Why did you study orthopedic surgery?

For a short time, my father worked as an attendant in an operating room at a local hospital. What he saw moved him to speak enthusiastically about surgery. His enthusiasm excited me so much that I later chose surgery as a profession. I specialized in orthopedic surgery because I like the mechanical aspects of it. Orthopedic surgeons have to think like an engineer in order to repair the bones, muscles, and tendons that enable us to move about.

Most of all, I enjoy seeing my patients’ health improve. I really like working closely with people.

Why did you doubt God’s existence?

My doubts began in my youth, and two factors in particular influenced me. First, I discovered that certain religious instructors at church were immoral, and this disturbed me considerably. Second, at school, some of my biology teachers believed in evolution—a teaching I came to accept, especially when I went to a university.

Why did you accept evolution?

I believed my professors. Additionally, I thought that the similarity in anatomy between  certain kinds of animals pointed to a common ancestry and supported the notion that genetic mutations lead to new species.

Yet, in time you changed your mind. Why?

A friend invited me to a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was impressed by the friendly congregation and the informative talks. Later, a pleasant lady from the congregation visited me, and I asked her, “How can I be sure that the Bible is true?”

She showed me Bible prophecies about many events that characterize our times. An example is Jesus’ prophecy that the last days of the present world would be marked by international warfare, “great earthquakes,” and rampant “pestilences and food shortages.” * She also pointed out prophecies that foretold the social breakdown and increase in greed and other badness that we see so much of today. * Before long, I began to study the Bible in earnest and soon realized that its predictions always come true. I also began to reexamine my views on the origin of life.

Did your medical research help you to reason on the origin of life?

Yes. When I started studying the Bible, I was researching knee surgery. Beginning in the late 1960’s, scientists began to understand the knee’s intricate mechanism more clearly. They found that our knee does not only bend on a single axis like a hinge. Rather, it both rolls and glides—an ingenious combination that gives the knee a greater range of movement, enabling us to walk, dance, skate, and do a host of other things.

For some 40 years, researchers have tried to design an artificial knee. But the complexity of the human knee makes it difficult to duplicate. Moreover, compared with our knee, artificial products have a relatively short life span. Even with improved materials at their disposal, those designers are pleased if their products last 20 years. Our knee, of course, is made of living cells that are constantly renewed. To me, the knee testifies, not to the blind processes of evolution, but to the wisdom of God.

What about mutations and the similarity in anatomy between certain species?

That similarity points to the same Designer. Moreover, mutations do not improve the designs in living organisms by elevating them to a higher kind. Rather, mutations tend to damage genes. Of course, it is possible that an accident can serve a beneficial purpose—such as when, say, a train crashes into a bridge and wrecks it, thus protecting the city from an invading army. But that accident did not improve the city. Likewise, mutations do not improve organisms. And they could never produce something so brilliantly designed as the human knee—not to mention other parts of the human body.

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Mutations could never produce something so brilliantly designed as the human knee

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Why did you become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

When I began to apply Bible principles, the quality of my life improved markedly. Additionally, in 2003, I went to an international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses and saw extraordinary family-like unity there, even among delegates who had never met one another before. That was love in action, and I wanted to be a part of it.


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Brett Schenck is a retired environmental consultant in the United States. He studied the interdependency of plants, animals, and the environment. Why does he believe in a Creator? Awake! asked him about his science and his faith.

What is your background?

My father was a mechanical engineer. He often talked enthusiastically to me about math and science. As a boy, I was fascinated by the plants and animals in the creeks and pools near my home in New Paris, Ohio, U.S.A. So when I went to Purdue University, I chose to study ecology.

Did religion interest you?

Yes, it did. Dad encouraged me to study our Lutheran religion. I studied Koine (common) Greek, one of the languages in which the Bible was first written. I developed deep respect for the Bible.

How did you view the theory of evolution?

My church accepted it. My colleagues believed it. So I never questioned it. But I also believed in God. I had a foggy notion that the two beliefs were compatible. Although I respected the Bible, I didn’t think it came from God.

What made you change your view of the Bible?

Two of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Steve and Sandy, visited my wife, Debbie, and me. They showed us that the Bible, though not a science textbook, is scientifically accurate. For example, it says of God: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) It also says: “He is . . . hanging the earth upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) At that time, I was using satellite photographs to study ecology, so these scriptures impressed me. They were written long before anyone photographed the circle of  the earth hanging on nothing. As my wife and I studied the Bible with Steve and Sandy, I learned of prophecies that had come true, advice that works, and explanations that satisfied me. Gradually, I became convinced that the Bible is the Word of God.

When did you change your mind about the origin of life?

Eventually, Steve showed me the Bible’s clear statement: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground.” (Genesis 2:7) The first man has a documented life history. This raised the question: Is the Bible in harmony with scientific facts? Steve encouraged me to research the matter, so I did.

What did you learn about evolution?

Many things. To mention just one, the evolution theory attempts to explain the origin of species. Living things are made up of efficient organs, such as the heart, lungs, and eyes. Also, at the microscopic level, we see marvelously designed ‘machines’ within cells. Where do the designs for those come from? Evolutionists claim that the best mechanisms are automatically selected because the living things that have them survive better. But that idea does not answer the question: Where do the mechanisms come from? I learned that many scientists do not believe that the evolution theory answers that question. A professor of zoology confided to me that he did not believe any of the theories of evolution. However, he did not air his views for fear of losing his job.

Does your knowledge of ecology strengthen your faith?

Yes, it does. My work involved studying how living things depend on each other. On earth, all living things depend on something else. Consider flowers and bees, for example. The color, fragrance, nectar, and structure of flowers are designed to attract bees and to sprinkle them with pollen. Bees are designed to extract nectar and to take one flower’s pollen to another plant for fertilization. Clearly, the flowers and bees are designed to supply what the other needs.

‘The resilience of the entire system of life on earth convinces me that life was designed by God’

In an ecosystem, we see interdependence on a vast scale. An ecosystem is an environment with a community of perhaps thousands of types of animals, plants, bacteria, and fungi. All animals depend on plants for food and oxygen, and most flowering plants depend on animals. Although ecosystems are exceedingly complex and the organisms in them are fragile, they may continue surviving for millennia. Even after damage by pollution, once the source of pollution is gone, a complex ecosystem soon develops again. When I think about the resilience of the entire system of life on earth, I am convinced that life was designed by God.

Why did you become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

I was deeply concerned about the way human society is ruining the environment. I knew that although ecosystems are resilient, they are not indestructible. I learned from Jehovah’s Witnesses that, according to the Scriptures, God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) Those words were important to me. As I continued studying the Bible, I gradually realized that the hope that the Bible presents is sure.

I enjoy sharing my beliefs with others, and I have studied the Bible with some scientists. At age 55, I took early retirement to spend more time helping people to understand the Creator of life and his purpose for our magnificent earth.


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Professor Massimo Tistarelli is a scientist at the University of Sassari in Italy. He is an associate editor of three international science magazines and has coauthored more than a hundred scientific papers. He studies how humans recognize faces and do such seemingly simple things as catching a ball. He then designs visual systems for robots—systems that imitate what we do. Awake! asked him about his faith and his work as a scientist.

What is your religious background?

My parents were nonpracticing Catholics. As a young man, I leaned toward atheism. I was taught that life originated by means of evolution, and I accepted that as fact. Yet, even though I did not believe in a personal Creator, I felt that there must be something higher than us. In order to find out what, I explored Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism, but I found their teachings to be unsatisfactory.

What led to your interest in science?

From childhood, I was fascinated with machines. I even used to take my electric toys apart and reassemble them. And I would ply my father, a telecommunications engineer, with endless questions about how radios and telephones work.

What has your career as a scientist involved?

I studied electronic engineering at the University of Genoa, and then I did doctoral research in robot design. I specialized in studying the human visual system and in devising ways to imitate it for the design of robots.

Why did our visual system interest you?

It is incredibly sophisticated, encompassing much more than the eyes—it even includes  the means to interpret what we see. For example, consider what happens when you catch a ball. As you run to make the catch, the lens of your eye focuses an image of the ball onto your retina. That image will move across your retina in a way that depends on the movement of both the ball and your eye. Normally, of course, you keep your eye fixed on the ball. Its image then becomes stationary on your retina while the background “moves.”

At the same time, your visual system calculates the speed of the ball and its trajectory. Amazingly, the calculations start right there in the retina as your eye estimates the movement of the ball in relation to its background. Your optic nerve then transmits the impulses formed by the retina to your brain, which further analyzes the information and directs you to intercept the ball. The whole process is breathtaking in its complexity.

What persuaded you to believe in a Creator?

In 1990, I spent a few months in Dublin, Ireland, doing research at Trinity College. As I was traveling home with my wife, Barbara, we considered the future of our children. We also decided to visit my sister who was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. My sister gave me a copy of the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? published by the Witnesses. The careful research that had gone into this work impressed me. It then dawned on me that I had accepted evolution without really questioning it. For example, I had assumed that evolution was well supported by the fossil record. But it is not. Indeed, the more I examined evolution, the more I became convinced that the theory is more bluster than fact.

I thought about my work with robots. Whose designs was I imitating?

Then I thought about my work with robots. Whose designs was I imitating? I could never design a robot capable of catching a ball as we can. A robot can be programmed to catch a ball, but only in precisely controlled conditions. It cannot do so in circumstances for which it has not been programmed. Our ability to learn is vastly superior to that of a machine—and mere machines have makers! This fact is just one of many that led me to conclude that we must have had a Designer.

Why did you become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses?

In part, it was because Barbara and I liked their thorough study methods. I was especially impressed with the research that goes into their publications. Solid research appeals to people like me, who want to probe into the details of things. For example, I became deeply interested in the many prophecies, or predictions, in the Bible. My study of those convinced me that the Bible really is from God. In 1992, Barbara and I were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Has your study of science weakened your faith?

On the contrary, science has strengthened my faith. For example, consider how we recognize faces. A baby can do this within hours after birth. You and I can instantly recognize someone we know, even if he is in a crowd. We may even discern his emotional state. Yet, we may be completely unaware that this recognition involves the processing of a phenomenal amount of information at an incredible speed.

Yes, I am fully convinced that our visual system is a precious gift from Jehovah God. His gifts, which include the Bible, move me to thank him and to talk about him to others. After all, my sense of justice tells me that he should get the credit for his productions.


Planet Earthwww.jw.org

Science has made great strides in modern times. As a result, old theories have given way to new ones. What was once accepted as fact may now be seen as myth. Science textbooks often need revision.

 

THE Bible is not a science textbook. Yet, when it comes to scientific matters, the Bible is noteworthy not only for what it says but also for what it does not say.

 

Free of unscientific views.

Many mistaken beliefs gained wide acceptance in ancient times. Views about the earth ranged from the idea that it was flat to the notion that tangible substances or objects held it aloft. Long before science learned about the spread and prevention of disease, physicians employed some practices that were ineffective at best, lethal at worst. But not once in its more than 1,100 chapters does the Bible endorse any unscientific views or harmful practices.

Far ahead of its time, the Bible correctly stated that the earth is circular and hangs “upon nothing”

 

Scientifically sound statements.

 

Some 3,500 years ago, the Bible stated that the earth is hanging “upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) In the eighth century B.C.E., Isaiah clearly referred to “the circle [or, sphere] of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) A spherical earth held in empty space without any visible or physical means of support​—does not that description sound remarkably modern?

 

Written about 1500 B.C.E., the Mosaic Law (found in the first five books of the Bible) contained sound laws regarding quarantining of the sick, treatment of dead bodies, and disposal of waste.​—Leviticus 13:1-5; Numbers 19:1-13; Deuteronomy 23:13, 14.

 

Partly as a result of turning powerful telescopes toward the heavens, scientists have concluded that the universe had a sudden “birth.” Not all scientists like the implications of this explanation. One professor noted: “A universe that began seems to demand a first cause; for who could imagine such an effect without a sufficient cause?” Yet, long before telescopes, the very first verse of the Bible plainly stated: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”​—Genesis 1:1.

Even though it is an ancient book and touches on many subjects, the Bible contains no scientific inaccuracies. Does not such a book merit, at the very least, our consideration?