Thursday, August 9, 2012

Why the Bible is not a good source of scientific information

An Appeal to Authority is a fallacy in which one argues that something must be true because some authority said it. This fallacy often arises when the authority in question doesn't really have any expertise on the topic in questions (that is, the "authority" isn't really one). We can see a very nice example of this in a recent post on Answers in Genesis titled "The Origin of the Universe" by Dr. Werner Gitt. In the post, Dr. Gitt argues that evolution and the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe must be wrong because the Bible says so:
The earth and all the stars in the universe did not originate in a big bang; they were created independently and on different days. On the first day, God created the universe containing no stars, but only the earth. Only on the fourth day—when plants already existed—the stars and other planets were created. Thus, all stars are of the same age, excluding the three creation days. This differs completely, conceptually, and fundamentally, from the evolutionary model. The earth did not start its career as a glowing ball of fire, but it originally had water on its surface (Gen. 1:2). It is not the accidental by-product of a cosmic explosion, but—as is the case for the entire universe—it was made for a purpose: “In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Ps. 102:25). During a conversation with Job, God clearly explained to him the conceptual (the foundation of all astronomical and physical data) and the geometrical dimensions of the establishment of the earth: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? [or: drew up its constructional plans] Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:4). In the light of the biblical revelations, the evolutionary view of the origin of the earth and the universe is proved to be a series of false statements. [Emphasis added]
This is an excellent example of an appeal to authority. Dr. Gitt is arguing that because the Bible contradicts evolution and the Big Bang Theory, therefore evolution and the Big Bang Theory must be wrong. The only evidence for this claim is some passage written down several thousand years ago, before people had even a basic understanding of the nature of reality and science. These biblical passage were written by people who did not understand that germs cause disease, had no ideas about electricity or magnetism, didn't have calculus, didn't know about dinosaurs, etc. That the writings of these individuals (and yes, they were people, God did not write or publish the Bible, this was done by people) should be taken as authoritative simply boggles the mind, especially in light of the abundance of evidence provided by science on these topics.

In addition to this appeal to authority, Dr. Gitt also commits an interesting Inconsistency when he writes:
The physical law of the conservation of energy states that in our universe energy cannot be created out of nothing, neither can it be destroyed. Now what was the origin of the energy in the universe? The only possibility is an act of creation.
The inconsistency here is that Dr. Gitt is trying to use scientific discoveries to attack science. He relies on a scientific principle (a principle, I might add, that appears nowhere in the Bible) to attack other scientific principles. You really can't do this. Either you endorse science and the scientific method and follow its conclusions wherever they lead, or you reject it in favor of a life of ignorance. You can't selectively choose which science to believe and which science to ignore. You either buy it all or reject it all, and to selectively pick bits of science to support your position while rejecting others is a clear example of inconsistency.

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