December 3, 2008
Quite a few apologists have written books and given speeches making various claims regarding scientific foreknowledge in the Bible. The scope and disparity of the claims varies from ultra-outlandish to fairly credible, but over-eager writers tend to exaggerate these claims, not only to their own embarrassment but also to that of anyone else who thinks there is legitimate scientific foreknowledge in the Bible.
I believe reasonable middle ground exists between the polarized positions that the Bible contains numerous examples of scientific foreknowledge, and that the Bible contains zero examples of scientific foreknowledge. I realize that by simply affirming my position, I risk being perceived with equal scorn as the incipient creationist whose sneaky techniques disrespect the basic rules of logic and reason. However, I think tactics like those prevalent in most creationist outfits actually show a lack of confidence in the Bible. If the Bible really is the word of God, should one have to contrive?
As with most Bible discussions, context is key. There is an obvious difference between something offered metaphorically and a direct truth claim. There are degrees of confirmation for scientific hypotheses, and regarding scientific foreknowledge in the Bible, there are at least four categories of evidence.
1) Verses that are in general agreement with some known fact of science whose knowledge was available at the time, or could have been reasonably guessed or inferred;
2) Verses that are in general agreement with some known fact of science whose knowledge was not available at the time, but still could have been reasonably guessed or inferred;
3) Verses that reference or indirectly imply specific principles of science whose knowledge was not available at the time, and could not have been reasonably guessed or inferred.
4) Verses that blatantly contradict a known statement of science.
Scriptures that fall in category 1, 2 or 4 cannot be considered reasonable evidence for divine revelation, and I think the vast majority of Bible verses alleged to be examples of scientific foreknowledge fall into categories 1 or 2.
For example, I think Genesis 1:1 falls into category 2. That the writer of Genesis said there was a beginning could have been guessed; however, that Genesis says there is a beginning is also corroborated by reality. To simply state such things is not to argue that the Big Bang proves Genesis.
I'll be expanding much more on these concepts in future pieces, but for now I will simply maintain that like all ontological arguments, the argument from scientific foreknowledge is nowhere near as strong as most of its proponents believe.