“God is dead. We do not need him. It’s time to give up childish things and think as adults. Become scientifically literate. Become informed. Grow out of religious belief just as you did with the belief in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.” John W. Loftus, Author and Atheist (Debunking Christianity Blog)
John Loftus is well known for his ‘conversion’ from Christianity to atheism. Is he right about God? Loftus claims that science is a better explanation of existing phenomena than the Bible. He also believes that Christians are ‘not’ scientifically literate and need to ‘become informed.’ Is he right about that?
Let’s take a closer look.
Atheist: “Science disproves God and the Bible.”
Christian: “Which science?”
That’s one way to respond to atheists who make a statement about ‘science’ disproving God and the Bible. The intention in such a response is not to be disrespectful or push aside the argument. It is meant to lead to a robust conversation about the Bible and various sciences that are addressed in its pages. Rather than dodge the ‘science vs Bible’ debate, the purpose is to elevate it to a real discussion that’s based on evidence, reason and logic.
One of my favorite attacks toward Christians on talk radio more than 45 years ago was about science disproving God and the Bible. Scores of Christians called my radio show every week to argue about it, but none of them could answer my questions about science and the Bible. It wasn’t that there were no answers, but the Christians who called didn’t know the answers or were not able to articulate what they knew. It wasn’t until I interviewed a Christian who was a professor of science that I began to see another side to the debate.
What Is Science?
Let’s begin by defining a primary term used in the argument.
The word ‘science’ comes from the Greek word episteme, which translates into the English word ‘knowledge.’ Merriam-Webster defines ‘science’ as —
- knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation
- a particular area of scientific study (such as biology, physics, or chemistry)
- a particular branch of science
- a subject that is formally studied in a college, university, etc.
- the state of knowing
- knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding
- a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study <the science of theology>
- knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method
The ‘scientific method‘ is defined as “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses” (Merriam-Webster).
The New Testament uses a similar word, epistemon, in James 3:13 where James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” The word “understanding” is a translation of epistemon, which originates from epistamai (I know, understand) and carries the idea of ‘being intelligent and experienced as one having the knowledge of an expert.’ (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, Zondervan Publishing, 1978, p 243)
Plato used the word episteme in the sense of ‘justified true belief’ (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Analysis of Knowledge, 2001). Aristotle viewed episteme as being ‘an exact form of knowledge concerned with unchanging truths.” He believed that this form of knowledge was arrived at “through the use of reason and tested by coherence or correspondence.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, The Correspondence Theory of Truth, 2002)
Science is not knowledge or a system of knowledge about just ‘one thing,’ as in the atheist’s statement that “science disproves God and the Bible.” Science is a method of learning about ‘many things’ (e.g. scientific method).
Let’s look in on the conversation between the atheist and Christian to see what comes next.
Atheist: “Science disproves God and the Bible.”
Christian: “Which science?”
Atheist: “What do you mean ‘which science’?
Christian: “There are many scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines. Which one do you believe disproves God and the Bible?
Atheist: “All of them.”
Christian: “Okay. Choose one and we’ll start there.”
The claims I made as an atheist about science disproving God and the Bible were broad and sweeping. I had some specific things in mind when I said that to Christians, but expressed my thoughts in a general format by using the term ‘science’ to cover all of my arguments. It wasn’t until a Christian narrowed the terminology in our discussion that I began to think about God and the Bible in specific terms. Discussions Christians have with atheists should be narrow and specific so the Bible is viewed in its correct context to statements it makes that relate to various aspects of ‘knowledge’ (science).
Science and the Bible
The Bible is not specifically a science ‘textbook,’ but many scientists have found the Bible to be scientifically accurate in statements recorded in its pages. That, I believe, should be the discussion Christians have with atheists.
Let’s take the first verse in the Bible as an example of how science and the Bible work together.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
What science or sciences (particular areas of scientific study) would be involved in determining the truthfulness of Genesis 1:1? Here are some of the possibilities:
- Astronomy – study of outer space
- Astrophysics – branch of astronomy that deals with physics of stellar phenomena
- Chemistry – science of composition, structure, properties, and reactions of matter, especially of atomic and molecular systems
- Cosmology – study of physical universe considered as a totality of phenomena in time and space
- Geochemistry – chemistry of composition and alterations of solid matter of the earth or celestial body
- Geodesy – geologic science of size and shape of the earth
- Geology – scientific study of origin, history, and structure of the earth
- Physics – science of matter and energy and interactions between the two
- Planetary sciences – scientific study of planets (including earth) and moons and processes that form planetary systems
- Theology – study of God and God’s relation to the universe
That is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a starting point for a discussion about science and the Bible.
Imagine building a list of sciences that could be used in a discussion about every verse in the Bible. With more than 31,000 verses in the Bible and hundreds of scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines, theists and atheists have their work cut out for them to investigate science and the Bible thoroughly.
Back to our example of the first verse in the Bible. The Bible claims there was a beginning – “In the beginning.” What say the sciences?
“The most popular theory of our universe’s origin centers on a cosmic cataclysm unmatched in all of history—the big bang. This theory was born of the observation that other galaxies are moving away from our own at great speed, in all directions, as if they had all been propelled by an ancient explosive force.” National Geographic, Origins of the Universe: An Expanding World
A Belgian priest named Georges Lamaitre developed the theory of the ‘big bang’ in the 1920s. Astronomers Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason conducted research during the ’20s into the spectral shifts of galaxies that led to a conclusion that galaxies are moving away from each other at great speeds. Another support of the ‘big bang theory’ was the observation of ‘cosmic microwave radiation.’
“The existence of the CMB radiation was first predicted by Ralph Alpherin 1948 in connection with his research on Big Bang Nucleosynthesis undertaken together with Robert Herman and George Gamow. It was first observed inadvertently in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. The radiation was acting as a source of excess noise in a radio receiver they were building. Coincidentally, researchers at nearby Princeton University, led by Robert Dicke and including Dave Wilkinson of the WMAP science team, were devising an experiment to find the CMB. When they heard about the Bell Labs result they immediately realized that the CMB had been found.” National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Universe 101 – Tests of Big Bang: The CMB
Keep in mind that Moses wrote the words “In the beginning” during the 15th century BC. That was almost 3,500 years before modern science developed a theory of a ‘big bang’ beginning.
The Bible claims that ‘God’ created the heavens and the earth ‘in the beginning.’ What say the sciences?
“The big bang theory leaves several major questions unanswered. One is the original cause of the big bang itself. Several answers have been proposed to address this fundamental question, but none has been proven—and even adequately testing them has proven to be a formidable challenge.” National Geographic, Origins of the Universe: An Expanding World
I might add that ‘theology’ (study of God) is also one of the ‘sciences.’ In fact, theology was once known as “queen of the sciences” and was highly revered in universities around the world. The Bible was viewed as the ‘source’ of all truth and the foundation of an accurate worldview. Many of the great scientific discoveries of the natural world were made by scientists who believed in God, the Bible and the supernatural world.
So, has ‘science’ disproven the first verse of the Bible? It has not. In fact, the scientific disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics agree with the Bible that the universe had a ‘beginning.’ That’s a good place to start the discussion about science and the Bible.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The fact that Moses wrote, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gn 1:1), as this article points out, “almost 3,500 years before modern science developed a theory of a ‘big bang’ beginning” is classic example of the supra-reasonable aspect of biblical faith and the importance of trusting God and the word of God. A most exhaustive study of exactly how and why science and biblical faith are harmonized may be found in my recently published book, “Eternal Harmony, Volume 1: The Unity of Truth in God” (Rickards 2016), available at Amazon and other booksellers. For more information, visit http://EternalHarmonyMusic.com. God Bless.
Hi, Kia. Our thread ran out of room, so I’ll pick it up here.
You wrote: “science doesn’t seem to have the same ‘open endedness’ for the question of the age of the earth as you seem to. science has certainly proven that the earth is not thousands of years old. man and animals have existed here in some cases billions of years, and in modern human’s case millions of years.”
You used the general term ‘science’ in the context of the age of the earth. Which science(s)? Which branch of the ‘study of’ do you mean when you use the word ‘science’? We can look at each of the scientific branches to see what they say about the age of the earth – what they have ‘proved’ and what they have not ‘proved.’
You wrote: “the science actually and repeatedly contradicts the bible.”
That’s similar to what you wrote earlier – “although science does repeatedly disprove the bible” – which is why I thought at first that you might be an atheist. I rarely hear from theists who believe that science ‘repeatedly disprove the bible.’ That’s another reason I asked what you believe about God. I understand you don’t want to answer that question at this time and will respect that by not asking you again. I enjoy getting to know people, so my questions were not intended to distract from my ‘burden.’
Which branch or branches of science do you believe ‘actually and repeatedly’ contradict the Bible? That will be helpful as we move forward in our discussion. Thousands of verses in the Bible and hundreds of scientific disciplines.
You wrote: ‘appearance of age’ and what God ‘could do’ aren’t really scientific because they presuppose something you can neither prove or even demonstrate. it’s a ‘working theory’ in order to fit what we want to believe and what the bible clearly says into a scientific sounding argument.”
I can’t speak for others who believe the Bible to be God’s Word, but I am not proposing a theory ‘in order to fit’ what I want to believe and what the Bible ‘clearly says into a scientific sounding argument.’ I have been involved with journalism for 50 years, so the journalistic process is deeply ingrained into the way I approach life, information and truth. I’m not interested in theories to fit something I want to be. I’m interested in truth. If evolution is the truth, it will be clear on its own merits that it is true. It is not clear. Too many problems with the theory from geological, biological, astronomical, radiometric dating and human historical evidence.
You wrote – “I don’t want to sound rude but your post posits a false equivalency between science and faith in God and what the bible says about reality. we believe what we believe about God and the Bible by Faith alone.”
False equivalence is a logical fallacy, so that certainly is a concern if I have done that. Here is what I wrote in this post – “The Bible is not specifically a science ‘textbook,’ but many scientists have found the Bible to be scientifically accurate in statements recorded in its pages. That, I believe, should be the discussion Christians have with atheists.” I don’t see that statement as establishing an ‘equivalence’ between science and God and His Word. The Bible contains tens of thousands of statements that can be ‘studied’ to determine whether they are true or false. I will need more information from you to understand why you think my ‘post posit a false equivalency between science and faith in God and what the bible says about reality.’
As for your statement that ‘we believe what we believe about God and the Bible by Faith alone’ … what is your definition of the word ‘faith’? The Greek word translated ‘faith’ in the New Testament is πίστις and comes from a root word which means ‘to persuade, be persuaded.’ The word πίστις was used for a position of trust based on persuasion that came with a guarantee or warranty. It was a ‘conviction’ of the truth based on presented evidence. Faith is the ‘substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) The word substance is ὑπόστασις and carries with it the idea of ‘confidence, assurance, reality, a guaranteeing.’ The word ‘evidence’ is ἔλεγχος and carries the idea of ‘a proof, persuasion, conviction.’ Greeks viewed it as ‘that by which a thing is proved or tested.’ If that is what you mean when you use the word faith, I am in agreement with you.
You wrote – “your steady holding on to thousands of years rather than millions or billions of years for life on the planet, and the apparent freedom with which you would accuse God of lying to us about the True age of the earth by making it only ‘appear’ to be older seems to make the point clear.”
My beliefs are based on evidence. I hold to what is evidentially true. The case for life on earth being thousands rather than millions or billions of years is a strong case. We will see how that case holds up in coming years of scientific investigation.
As for me accusing ‘God of lying to us about the True age of the earth by making it only ‘appear’ to be older’ is not true. I would ‘accuse’ God of nothing, especially lying. The biblical account of creation in Genesis 1 and a closer look at human creation in Genesis 2 is worded in such a way as to present beings as fully formed at creation.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
A clear reading of the text demonstrates that God created man and woman as mature to the point of being able to relate to each other as husband and wife. That has both the ‘appearance’ and ‘reality’ of age beyond actual chronological ‘time’ from creation. God ‘could have’ done the same with animals, birds, fish, planets and stars. I am not accusing God of anything; I am agreeing with Him. He created the heavens and the earth ‘in the beginning.’
You wrote – “if I’ve offended with my directness and bluntness, I apologize in advance.”
You are my guest here. I am not offended with your directness and bluntness. We can be direct, blunt and civil at the same time. I appreciate your time in responding. Thanks!
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
‘straw man’ anyone?
I’m reasonably sure that you have your burden of proof in the wrong place. most atheists do not say “There is no God” or that science disproves God (although science does repeatedly disprove the bible). atheists broadly dis-believe the evidence for God offered by theists of many stripes, not just Judeo-Christian believers.
the burden of proof lies with the person making the ‘positive claim’ that there is a God in the first place. not with those who cannot and have no obligation to prove a negative. -KIA
Hi, Kia. Don’t see a ‘straw man.’ Most atheists I’ve known during the last 50 years (including you) have said ‘there is no god’ and ‘science disproves God and the Bible.’ Atheist professor (UTC) and researcher Christopher Silver found 6 types of atheists in his 2013 research. Some ‘types’ of atheists wouldn’t word their arguments concerning science and the Bible in the same ways I’ve described, but most have to me.
I agree that atheists ‘dis-believe the evidence for God offered by theists of many stripes, not just Judeo-Christian believers.’ I’m assuming you believe that is true, so you have made a ‘truth claim.’ Theists and atheists both make truth claims. We have some responsibility for defending our truth claims.
You stated that “science does repeatedly disprove the bible.” That is a truth claim. I gave one example of how science and the Bible are in agreement with the first three words of the Bible. Do you disagree? If so, what scientific evidence do you propose? I look forward to discussing it with you.
sorry to disagree and by the way… I’m sooo not an atheist. it’s nice to ask rather than assume. have a great day.
You are correct. I made an assumption and apologize for that. Most of the people who contact me identify as atheists or agnostics. I am interested in why you believe ‘science does repeatedly disprove the bible’ and specifically which branches of science and which parts of the Bible. Thanks!
apology accepted. for starters, are you a believer in the YEC 6days/6000yrs model of the genesis account?
Hi, Kia. I believe that what the Bible appears to present is a 6-day creation event. The length of time since that event is not recorded directly in the Bible, though adding the ages of people and generations in the biblical record would appear to be in the thousands of years rather than millions of years. I follow the evidence from a variety of scientific researchers to see what studies of the heavens and earth show us.
So, to be clear, you yourself believe that the earth is thousands of years old rather than millions or for that matter 4 billion years old?
Hi, Kia. The actual ‘age’ of the earth is still being investigated in the science community. God could have created the earth long ago and created life on it more recently. God could have created the earth more recently with the appearance of great age. What scientists do is ‘study’ what God has done.
I was a product of the public school system of the 1950s and 60s, so evolution was the origin system that was taught exclusively. When I began investigating the claims as an adult, I discovered several problems that I outlined here – https://gracelifethoughts.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/convince-me-there_s-ac2a0god-part-one.pdf . That was 1971 and I’ve continued to discover problems with evolution since then. The scientific case for creation seems strong.
What do you believe about God, earth age and origins? Thanks!
so, my question was… do you personally believe that the earth is thousands not millions or billions of years old? you didn’t seem to answer.
Hi, Kia. I believe life forms on earth are most likely thousands rather than millions or billions of years old. That may be true of the earth itself. As a journalist, I observe and ask questions. There are many scientific disciplines to study in search for information about the earth’s age, so there are many observations to be made and questions asked.
While the discussion of earth’s age has some interest for me, a greater interest lies in our relationship to the God who created us. I believe God will one day answer all of the questions we cannot answer now. He will judge us on the answers we do have now and what we’ve done with those answers.
You mentioned earlier that you are not an atheist. What do you believe about God? Thanks!
science doesn’t seem to have the same ‘open endedness’ for the question of the age of the earth as you seem to. science has certainly proven that the earth is not thousands of years old. man and animals have existed here in some cases billions of years, and in modern human’s case millions of years.
‘appearance of age’ and what God ‘could do’ aren’t really scientific because they presuppose something you can neither prove or even demonstrate. it’s a ‘working theory’ in order to fit what we want to believe and what the bible clearly says into a scientific sounding argument.
the science actually and repeatedly contradicts the bible.
I think i’m going to sidestep your question about what i believe. what I believe about God is not the issue or point of your post and I’m not sure I want to be the distraction from your burden that you seem to want me to be. I don’t want to sound rude but your post posits a false equivalency between science and faith in God and what the bible says about reality.
we believe what we believe about God and the Bible by Faith alone. your steady holding on to thousands of years rather than millions or billions of years for life on the planet, and the apparent freedom with which you would accuse God of lying to us about the True age of the earth by making it only ‘appear’ to be older seems to make the point clear.
if I’ve offended with my directness and bluntness, I apologize in advance. -KIA
It seems that you are arguing from the perspective of an atheist so I don’t think it is very unreasonable to assume that you are one. One look at your blog, especially the very atheist friendly blogroll, would suggest to anyone who reads that, at the very least, your loyalties are with those who lack belief.
Regardless, can you cite specific examples of where science has “repeatedly disproved the bible”?
These are your words, it’s only fair that you back them up.
Sorry, not an atheist as I said. And I would politely decline the offer to debate or argue with you on another person’s blog.
I am actually a believer, but allow me to play devil’s advocate and advance the only “scientific” argument that an atheist could make since it seems KIA is not going to do so. “The bible teaches that God created all life on earth in 6 days about 6000 years ago, but evolution proofs that species evolved over millions of years, thereby disproving the bible.” How would you react?
A second common one I have heard is: “Medical science proves that a corpse cannot be raised from the dead after 3 days (or even 36 hours). Therefore Jesus cannot have risen from death.” Now, I cannot take this last argument seriously, since the very point of the resurrection of Jesus as proof of His Messiahship and of God’s intervention (and thus also His existence) hinges on the fact that dead men do not naturally rise from death! While science can establish the laws of nature, the natural course of events, it is not equipped with the tools to investigate an once-off miraculous occurrence (unless it a priori dismiss the possibility of God’s existence… which is not science). History (also a science?) or crime scene investigation are better suited to this question (and/or epistemology, meta-physics and other branches of philosophy – would these be considered as science as well?).
I am interested in seeing where you are taking this.
Hi, koosvannermerwe. Thank you for your questions. Where I am taking this is that Christians can have civil and educated/informed discussions about science and the Bible with non-Christians. The Bible is an extremely large volume of material with tens of thousands of words. The many branches of science also contain extremely large volumes of material. We have much to discuss without either side (Christian and non-Christian) making general/sweeping announcements concerning their beliefs (e.g. science disproves the Bible, Christians are stupid, atheists don’t know what they are talking about).
Christians are not all in agreement about the length of time God used to create the heavens and the earth, but we should agree that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” As for ‘evolution proofs that species evolved over millions of years, thereby disproving the bible,’ I think there is much to discuss about that. There is evidence for us to consider from different scientific perspectives: creationism, intelligent design and evolution, to name three. What do each of the groups present as evidence concerning origins? How does their evidence hold up under investigation? As I quoted in the article from National Geographic – “The big bang theory leaves several major questions unanswered. One is the original cause of the big bang itself. Several answers have been proposed to address this fundamental question, but none has been proven—and even adequately testing them has proven to be a formidable challenge.” Testing theories of origins is a great challenge, but one we should embrace and discuss using evidence, logic and reason. I would argue that evolution has not ‘proven’ that species evolved over millions of years and that the best thing we can do is look at the evidence together to come to the best conclusion.
Has medical science ‘proven’ that a corpse cannot be raised from the dead after 3 days or even 36 hours? The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an event of history. Can medical science ‘prove’ that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead almost 2,000 years ago? I would argue that medical science has not and cannot prove that. Medical science, in addition to the common observation of the population at large around the world at this time, can make a verifiable statement that the vast majority of people who die remain physically dead. The Bible would also be in agreement with that statement. In fact, God predicted the deaths of humans in Genesis 2 and most people born on earth have died and remained dead. However, God also predicted that some people would not die and that some people would rise from the dead soon after their death. God has also predicted that all humans will rise from the dead at a future time to appear before Him. Can medical science prove that those predictions were or are untrue? I would argue that medical science cannot prove it.
Thank you again for your questions and I hope this is helpful. Mark