Essay:Rebuttal to Biblical scientific foreknowledge

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Isaac Newton, arguably the greatest mathematical physicist that ever lived, based his research in calculus, optics, mechanics, and gravitation, on careful mathematical and logical analysis of observational evidence. He was also, like virtually all scientists of his day and many modern scientists, a Christian.

This article is intended as a rebuttal to the points in the Biblical scientific foreknowledge (hereafter called BSF) article.

Unlike most essay pages, anyone is welcome to contribute. We ask that you abide by the usual guidelines—do not remove non-vandal, non-parody, non-libelous material without discussing it first on the talk page, or explaining after-the-fact for serious problems.

Unlike some other rebuttal pages, that are about verifiable scientific facts, theories, and observations, the points made in BSF are claims that various scientific and engineering achievements were foreseen or predicted in the Bible, and would have been made sooner if people had read the Bible more carefully. And that failure to read the Bible closely has obstructed the advancement of science by failing to see these scientific truths.

The items in BSF take a wide variety of forms (unlike the items in, say, Counterexamples to Relativity, which are about specific observations that can be evaluated objectively). Many of the BSF claims are of a nebulous nature and can't really be evaluated or refuted, and this article will not attempt to do so. This article will therefore address only a subset of the claims in BSF.

This article will maintain a very specific and narrow focus on the various claims of BSF. It will not address whether the various scientific and mathematical theories or advances are true, but simply on the issue of whether those advances could have been made, with the specificity with which they were eventually made, much sooner than they were had the Bible been studied more closely. This is what the BSF article claims.

Geology

Agriculture

History

Medicine and biology

The Bible and health practices

Anesthesia

That people sleep, and have diminished sensitivity to external stimuli while sleeping, has been known since the dawn of mankind. That any kind of surgery is both painful and dangerous has been known from the dawn of mankind until the 19th century. The danger arose because of infection, and it wasn't until the discoveries of Joseph Lister that this could be solved. The problem of the pain of having one's body tampered with was another problem. The realization of this problem did not require reading of Genesis. What was required was a way to force the patient to be asleep, even while being operated on. The account in Genesis gave no practical insight into how to accomplish this. The Genesis account indicates that the forced sleep was the result of divine intervention. It gives no hint of how mere mortals could do this. What was required was the discovery, around 1846, that diethyl ether does the trick. The Genesis account gives no hint of the efficacy of diethyl ether, or of any other method of forced sleep that mere humans could use. Chloroform, another anesthetic, was discovered at about the same time, and was used in the field hospitals of the American Civil War. There were other earlier forms of anesthesia such as laudanum, though it was too weak for surgery, back in the 1700's.

Eyesight

The cited article is about the restoration of sight to a blind person through the implantation of an "artificial silicon retina". It describes his ability to see, among other things, faces, tree leaves, flying geese, and streetlights. But there is absolutely no mention of the sensation of trees walking.
The actual test of an item in BSF is whether the information in the cited Bible passage could have guided scientists into making their discovery earlier. It is simply not credible that a description of "trees walking" could have informed the invention of the artificial retina.

Cosmology

Distance of Oldest Star to Earth

First of all, there is no relation between how far away a star is from the earth and how old it is. Since the speed of light is finite, objects further away appear to us as they were in the past. Stars exist further than 6000 light years, so the argument doesn't make sense. Also, the cited source says that the star formed over 13 billion years ago.

Planet formation

Extraterrestrial life

Evidence of absence fallacy, just because no life has been found doesn't mean no extraterrestrial life exists. Consider an alien checking whether life exists in the solar system. If he checks Mars and finds nothing, it would be wrong to conclude that the solar system was devoid of life.

Starlight Problem

I'm pretty sure that the expansion of spacetime explains this.

Number of stars

"Innumerable" suggests that the number of stars in the universe is infinite. Given that we can only observe a finite section of the universe, this claim becomes difficult to prove.

If the number of stars is infinite, the universe must be infinite in size. This means all events, however unlikely must happen, and happen an infinite number of times simultaneously across the universe. This has the consequence of undermining such notions as intelligent design. Given the example of a pocket watch, it may be unlikely for it to come into being by chance, but in an infinite universe it must happen. Hence something like evolution, which may have a trialling possibility of occurring can explain the development of life (assuming the earth is old enough).

Uniqueness of stars

Spherical Sun and Earth

The sun is not a perfect sphere. Searching the internet reveals many articles saying it is "the most perfect sphere ever observed in nature",[1] but crucially that it is not a perfect sphere.[2]

In a way, the part about the tent in its own could be seen to suggest the earth is flat.

Earth free floating in space

The vacuum is not just nothing, it is space that has no matter in it. The vacuum contains energy, time and the other 3 dimensions of space exist. Light can travel through a vacuum.

As a result of the vacuum containing energy, this energy can manifest itself as pairs of particles, meaning the vacuum is not empty but full of virtual particles.

Cosmic Background Radiation

"Ripples were discovered in cosmic background radiation, which can only be plausibly explained by recognizing that light was created first"? That makes no sense.

Meteoroids

Technically I believe it is describing a meteor or meteorite. Meteoroids are generally smaller than about 1 metre, and do not have any sort of fiery streak such as that of a meteor. This is a lot smaller than a typical mountain. It does not say anything about their composition, but I think that is just adding information into the article.

Stellar proper movement

Space flight

Expanding universe

Meteorology

Physics

Immense power within atoms alluded to in 2 Peter chapter 3

The verse from II Peter 3 is verse 10 (KJV):
"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
(The CBP uses "great heat" instead of "fervent heat".)
The referenced commentary, by Daniel Whyte III, says that Peter's prophecy "uses precise terminology that accurately describes a nuclear explosion." It is not precise at all. The words "dissolved" or "loosed" do not appear in the Bible passage. "Great noises" were well known in Biblical times, other than in the Bible. "Fervent heat", including heat from inanimate objects, and heat sufficient to melt things, was also well known, as from fire.
"Loosing" or "dissolving" that which is bound occurs in fire and conventional explosions—molecules are "loosed" or rearranged from their constituent atoms. Fission bombs also dissolve nuclei into their constituent nucleons. Furthermore, modern nuclear weapons use fusion rather than fission as their energy source. It did not take the development of nuclear weapons to produce "great noises" or "fervent heat". So the Biblical passage does not use "precise terminology" at all.

Impossibility of a Grand Unified Theory

The phrase "Grand Unified Theory" (GUT) in physics generally refers to the unification of the electric, magnetic, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear forces. This has already been achieved, if one ignores the obvious incompleteness of not unifying the gravitational force. (The theory that will do the latter is called a "Theory of Everything", or "TOE".) The GUT is properly called "Quantum Chromodynamics", or "QCD". For example, the prediction of the Higgs boson, and the subsequent experimental verification of it, were acheivements of QCD.
The notion that no theory unifies light and matter is preposterous. One only needs to strike a match to see the interactions of orbital electrons producing light. The details of this were worked out by Niels Bohr in 1913, though the fact that some kind of connection was present had been known long before that.
The item in BSF claims that the Bible asserts that light is "incapable of theoretical unification with matter." If scientists had accepted that, instead of advancing science, it would have obstructed the advancement of science. It would certainly have stopped Niels Bohr's work in 1913, and would have stopped physics at least as far back as the theory of electromagnetic radiation worked out by Larmor in 1897.

Light and color

The description in the synoptic Gospels, that the light of Jesus' transfiguration was intensely white—whiter than could be obtained by bleaching out dyes, is consistent with that light being composed from the various colors in the way that Isaac Newton described.

Action-at-a-distance

I think someone else has made exactly this point, but I'm not sure who: there's no suggestion in the Bible that it was in fact instantaneous, it could have just happened very quickly, in the same way it takes several nanoseconds for light to cross a room but appears instantaneous because it is such a small time.

Relativity denies faster than light communication. In qm, action at a distance does exist, but cannot be used for instantaneous communication.

Quantum mechanics

Observation of the wave function

This appears to be the same type of misunderstanding of quantum mechanics described in Essay:Rebuttal to the "Calming the Storm" essay, which see. Once an observation is made, the wave function can't collapse into a state inconsistent with that observation. The servants were told to fill the pots with water, and they did so. They must have known what they were doing—this is very different from the non-knowledge that occurs when one sends a photon toward a pair of slits in the double-slit experiment. So, when the host observed that the sample of liquid was wine instead of water, it could not have been because the wave-function was a water/wine superposition and collapsed into a different state.
The second paragraph, about "Whatever you make binding on earth will be binding in heaven, and whatever you set loose on earth will be set loose in heaven" refers to wave-function collapse, is ridiculously unspecific.

Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a very specific consequence of quantum mechanics. In this item, and other items in BSF that relate to quantum mechanics, the usual general claim is made that this was all foretold in the Bible, and that quantum mechanics could have been developed, from the Bible, long before (about 1900 years before) the actual development occurred.
The development of quantum mechanics required a lot of observational evidence, which required a lot of development of apparatus. In particular, it required the development of the spectroscope, both for analyzing the black-body radiation spectrum and for analyzing the Hydrogen emission spectrum.
Observations of the black-body radiation spectrum led to the Rayleigh–Jeans law, Planck's law, Wien's displacement law, and the Stefan–Boltzmann law, all around 1900. These were all crucial to the development of quantum mechanics, and the calculation of Planck's constant came from the experimental black-body data.
Bohr's quantization rules for electron orbits in Hydrogen also depended on spectroscopy. And it also involved Planck's constant. The connection between the two phenomena (and their common use of Planck's constant) led to the various theories about the photoelectric effect, wave-particle duality, and, eventually, the modern formulation of quantum mechanics.
None of this can be deduced from anything in the Bible. The Bible says nothing about spectroscopy or black-body radiation. That somehow all this experimental and theoretical work could have been obviated by a close reading of the Bible is preposterous.
Furthermore, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is not about "randomness" or general "uncertainty". It is a specific statement about the dispersion of the wave function under two measurements of conjugate quantum mechanical operators. The usual example of such operator pairs is position vs. momentum. The principal says that the product of the standard deviation for position and for momentum is related to Planck's constant. You can know one very accurately, with a trade-off of having very little accuracy in your knowledge of the other.
It has nothing to do with the Earth being in an "utterly formless and empty state". And the issue of "refusing to order the removal of the weeds sowed among the wheat because of the uncertainty in distinguishing between the two until later" has nothing to do with quantum mechanics. It is simply a case of not knowing something until you can get a good look at it, a phenomenon known well before the Bible was written.

Wave-particle duality

The wave-particle duality being referred to is actually two phenomena. The first, discovered by Planck and Einstein in 1900 and 1905, is that light, normally considered a wave, can also be viewed as a particle. The second, formulated by Louis DeBroglie in 1924 and confirmed by the Davisson-Germer experiment published in 1928, says that particles can also be viewed as waves. In either case, the duality is that, at small (quantum scale) distances, the same thing can be viewed as either a particle or a wave.
The first thing to note is that the entity itself does not change; it can simply be viewed in two different ways. This means that the claim in BSF that the entity is subject to gravity when it is a particle, but not subject to gravity when it is a wave, isn't true. If it were, we could conduct an experiment to determine which is the case. Gravity affects all things, whether being viewed as a particle or as a wave.
But, more importantly, there is nothing in the passage in Mark that would suggest that Jesus was displaying a particle-like nature and the Holy Spirit a wave-like nature. There was no mention of wavelength, or momentum, or energy, which play important roles in DeBroglie's formula. There is nothing that suggests anything about the all-important role of Planck's constant.

Quantum tunneling

The phenomenon of "quantum tunneling" refers to the dispersion of a particle's wave function into regions of space where one would not, classically, expect it to be, even traversing a classically forbidden energy barrier.
Tunneling is usually presented in terms of the time-independent Schrödinger equation, in a simplified one-dimensional form:
where E is the particle's energy (constant, due to conservation of energy), and V is the potential barrier that the particle might or might not breach. In a region of space where E is greater than V, and hence the particle is classically permitted to be found, the solutions are proportional to:
which are complex exponentials, that is, a combination of sines and cosines. So the particle's probability (complex magnitude) of being found in such a region is some constant—the particle is in free motion.
In a region of space where V is greater than E, and hence the particle is classically forbidden, the solution is proportional to
These are exponential functions. Once the boundary conditions are set in the usual way, the solution is an exponentially decaying probability across the barrier. Because Planck's constant is so small, the exponential decay is extremely rapid. The function is perceptible only at an extremely small distance on a subatomic scale.
Alpha particle decay is an example of this. An alpha particle can tunnel through an extremely low and extremely short barrier to escape from a nucleus. Even at that subatomic scale, such decays often have half-lives in the billions of years.
Quantum tunnelling is simply never observed beyond a subatomic scale, and, even then, it is extremely unlikely. While calculating the probability that a nucleon on Earth could find itself on Alpha Centauri is an exercise that is sometimes worked out in physics classes, it simply never happens beyond the atomic realm.
For even a single nucleon in Jesus' body to tunnel all the way through a wall and appear before the Apostles in a closed room, as indicated in John 20:26, is inconceivable. For all of the particles to tunnel is vastly more unlikely—the probability needs to be raised to the 1028 power. Transporting a person's atoms through space and reassembling them elsewhere is the stuff of science fiction. In particular, it is the stuff of the transporter beams in Star Trek.
As preposterous as it is that the event in John 20:26 was an instance of quantum tunneling, it is even more preposterous that the Apostles (or anyone else), seeing this, could have deduced the Schrödinger equation and all the underlying mathematics about differential equations and Hermitian operators.

Classical relativity

It's says that some things is life are relative and not absolute, which is true. It does not explain what an Inertial frame of reference is or talk about speeds. In short, it is too vague to say this. If anything, it talks about displacements, not velocities.

Modern relativity

Relativity says that no information can be sent faster than light, and this is true in quantum mechanics.

Second Law of Thermodynamics

The article contradicts itself (but does admit the contradiction). Also heat can flow from cold to hot, otherwise refrigerators would be impossible.

Nature of air

Conservative forces

The CBP translation seems to be saying that light and shadows don't "turn", that is, light advances in straight lines. This is true, if one ignores phenomena like reflection and refraction. But to say that the electric and magnetic fields don't "turn" is simply not true. The E and B fields in circularly polarized (but travelling in a straight line) light turn constantly.
More to the point, the statement that electromagnetic forces are conservative, such that their line integrals over a closed loop are zero, is simply not true. This condition is equivalent to the curl being zero. But Maxwell's Equations give very definite values for the curls:
Changing fields (as is always the case with light) lead to nonzero curls, that is, nonconservative fields. Furthermore, even in a static situation, an electric current leads to a nonconservative magnetic field.
It is fortunate that James Clerk Maxwell did not allow a reading of James 1:17 to deter him from his research.

Mathematics

Zero

There are a number of interpretations of what "discovering zero" means. There is a very simple interpretation of "There are no women in this room" (or "there are zero women in this room"). This idea has been known since the dawn of human thinking, well before the Bible. Then there is the more sophisticated mathematical knowledge of zero, and negative numbers, and how all the arithmetic operations work in the presence of zero and negative numbers. This latter awareness did not occur until approximately the second millennium. There are undoubtedly many references to the former interpretation—zero in the sense of "none"—in the Bible. But the BSF article doesn't suggest any of the more sophisticated interpretations of zero.

Banach-Tarski Paradox

This one is so preposterous that it is difficult to believe that anyone with a knowledge of even junior-high-school-level physics could have written it. That Banach-Tarski could have turned a fish into two fishes (for example) clearly violates the principle of conservation of mass, as well as conservation of the number of atoms, or of subatomic particles. It cannot be an example of Biblical scientific foreknowledge that the principle of conservation of mass is not valid.

The Banach-Tarski paradox cannot apply to real-world objects. It involves very esoteric concepts of set theory, somewhat akin to, but much more complex than, the seeming paradox that the set of positive integers can be partitioned into two sets (the even integers and the odd ones) that have the same "size" (cardinality) as the original set. They can be put into one-to-one correspondence with each other.

The subdivision in Banach-Tarski is infinitely fine. In fact, the microscopic branches of the subsets are uncountably infinite. The sets are infinitely "spongy". Banach-Tarski involves esoteric concepts of modern set theory, Lebesgue measure theory, and the axiom of choice. The spongy sets are not Lebesgue-measurable. If they were, it would be easy to see that the measures (that is, volumes) don't "add up"—their sum in one configuration would be the volume of one fish but in the other configuration would have to be twice that. Nonmeasurable sets are an esoteric aspect of set theory and measure theory, that has no applicability to actual material objects.

The two reassembled fishes cannot contain atoms or subatomic particles in any realizable configuration. That is, an uncountably infinite number of chunks of each proton in the original fish would be scattered among various locations in the resultant fishes.

It is simply not possible that any reading of the "loaves and fishes" miracle in the Gospels could have led anyone, in Biblical times or in modern times, to infer these concepts of set theory, or of measure theory, or of the axiom of choice.

Axiomatization of Arithmetic

The BSF item formerly had a dead link to a pdf file published by "Biblical Blueprints" of Omaha, Nebraska. That article was interesting but not at all convincing.

Proving the axioms of elementary arithmetic is not a trivial process. It was worked out in the 19th century by Dedekind and Peano. The cited passage: "... three against two, and two against three", is on the level of mathematical sophistication of "If I have 2 marbles in my left hand and 3 in my right hand, and you have 3 marbles in your left hand and 2 in your right hand, we have the same number of marbles." Yes, this true observation, along with the intuitive notion that the total number of marbles is the sum of the numbers of marbles in your two hands, could be considered to be a "proof" that 2+3=3+2. But that's utterly trivial, and on the level of a pre-schooler. The proof that addition is commutative for all integers is much harder, and is not given, or suggested, in the Bible.

Infinity

Set theory

It is puzzling how this ("the last shall be first, and the first shall be last") can be considered to be a statement about set theory. It is inconceivable that the axioms of modern set theory (axiom of extent, specification, pairing, union, etc.) could have been deduced from that.

Calculus

It's true that the statement that "there is no variation or shadow of turning" could be taken to mean that something stays constant. The idea that something is constant or unchanging has been well known since Biblical times, as in Ecclesiastes 1:9 "there is nothing new under the sun". And it's clear that if something is constant then, in the notation of calculus that would be invented 1600 or so years later, its 1st and 2nd (and indeed all) derivatives must be zero. But one can't conclude that a more careful reading of the Bible would have led to the discovery of calculus.

Arithmetic with Negative Numbers

Indeterminacy

Sociology

Trolls

Crime

Zoology

Giant Sea Creatures and Jonah

The items listed are non-living. The acids in stomachs are for breaking down organic (more specifically living) material. Minke whales contain several tracts and stomachs, and the pH of these tracts/stomachs varies from around 3.2 to 6.4.[3] Hence any long period of time is unlikely to be beneficial, especially as it will be difficult not to ingest any of this material. This material will not only contain stomach acids, but all sorts of bacteria, plankton, various salts and other chemicals in sea water. The human body can survive several days without water and a couple of weeks without food.

However, the maximum capacity of all tracts/stomachs combined for a Minke whale was around 500 litres when relaxed. Only a fraction of this will be air, so it is unlikely. Treating air as an ideal gas at 300 kelvin, pressure that of atmospheric pressure, volume as 500 litres, assuming the air to be around 20% oxygen, we find the total mass is approximately:

which corresponds to a mass of about 0.83 kg. NASA recommends that a human needs around 0.84 kg of air per day.[4] This is for an astronaut, so for us it will probably be slightly lower. However, this figure suggests that a human might only survive about a day, not 2.5 to 3. However, not all of this air is breathable, once it gets to around 6-8%, death is likely to follow in around 8 minutes.[5] This suggests maybe only 12 hours, a far cry from 2.5 to 3 days.

Note that this assumes maximum volume of stomachs/tracts and that stomachs/tracts only contain air, which of course they are likely to contain liquids. Hence it is not likely to be possible.

Vegetarian lion

The article says that, according to the book of Isaiah, the lion will lay [sic] down with the lamb, and so on. And that a lioness named "Little Tyke" (1946-1955) was vegetarian, confirming that verse. But the carnivorousness of lions and other "carnivores" is not a scientific principle. It, like other aspects of animal behavior, is simply a general observation. There are no scientific laws or theories on this, and it does not appear in any science textbook, or paper in a scientific journal, that we are aware of. Scientific progress was not held back by anyone not taking Isaiah 11:6-7 to heart.

Linguistics

Economics

Government and Politics

Engineering

References

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/aug/16/sun-perfect-sphere-nature
  2. http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/oblate_sun.html
  3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7998.1994.tb06056.x/abstract;jsessionid=1ACA648E60E75F3038F04B7D96572FB0.f01t01
  4. http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20040012725.pdf
  5. https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjTkqyG0KPPAhVrCMAKHbf-BU8QFgg7MAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.osha.gov%2Fdte%2Fgrant_materials%2Ffy07%2Fsh-16634-07%2Fmod_6_confined_space2.pptx&usg=AFQjCNEcj9J346Ki4r6yheGnh4IGaCy-VA