Biblical Inerrancy vs. Science

There are people who believe that the bible is the inerrant word of their god. Also, there are people who try to understand how the universe works, and they do science to it.

And then there’s people who try to do both. While the two aren’t mutually exclusive, I kinda wonder how that works. Because, how I see it, religion isn’t particularly interested in how the universe works, because it already knows. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with knowing your god did it, such a statement of faith adds nothing to the scientific understanding of anything.

I bring this up because I read an article about Ruben Jorritsma in today’s RefDag. He is a evolutionary biology and biodiversity student, and an apologist—you know, one of those people who try to justify religious doctrine through reasoning. Jorritsma is concerned about religious students losing their faith during their study, so he’s constructing a biblical foundation for science, to strengthen their faith.

Why science needs a biblical foundation is beyond me. As I said, what actually happened in the universe is completely irrelevant to religion, which knows how everything came to be. Science can argue that the universe most likely happened when nothing exploded into everything until it sees fifty shades of blue in the face, but in the end, the bible says it isn’t so, so there.

These attempts to reconcile religion with science lead to bizarre fits of logic. Like: if you accept the theory of evolution, the biblical fact of the Great Confusion of Tongues needs to be reconsidered.

According to the conventional theory, humanity spread out from Africa over the world at least 60,000 years ago. The tower of Babel should have existed then, along with cities and agriculture. This poses a scientific problem: archaeologists date the earliest remains of cities to less then 10,000 year ago.

Well, Science, how do you explain that? You say that the first humanoids walked out of Africa 60,000 years ago. According to what the bible says, this happened after they tried to build a tower in Babylon. Therefore, Babylon (and a pretty advanced civilization) should have existed back then. But you guys also says that the earliest cities formed less then 10,000 years ago. Both cannot be true at the same time, can they?

Arguments based on biblical inerrancy usually tend to forget one minor detail: there is precious little compelling evidence that supports the claim that the bible is, in fact, inerrant. So why not work from the assumption that story about the tower of Babel—or anything in the bible, for that matter—is nothing but a myth, and forget all about it?

Which is basically naturalism—the scientific philosophy that states that everything in existence can be explained through the laws of nature. The supernatural, like the god-did-it-hypothesis, cannot be tested, and is therefore irrelevant. And this is where I suspect that religious scientists go all wobbly. Unsurprisingly, Jorritsma is critical of naturalism:

Scientists have to accept a series of axioms or basic principles to even be able to do science. And they have no evidence that these assumptions are valid. Think of the reliability of the senses and of logic.

Please excuse me while I clean up the mess my irony meter made. Here you have someone who argues that naturalism is problematic, because that means you have to work from the assumption that there is nothing beyond the natural realm, but who fails to see that biblical inerrancy requires an even greater leap of faith.

The moral of the story? Well, let’s say that the ability of otherwise intelligent people to throw logic in front of the train when religion comes into play is endlessly fascinating and amusing to me.