In the spring of 2014, the Associated Press published the results of a poll on American attitudes toward science. This poll found that most Americans doubt scientific discoveries if they concern subjects with which the public is unfamiliar, such as the creation of the universe. This is also the reason for an apparent conflict between science and Judeo-Christian faiths. The Bible reflects human knowledge as it existed thousands of years ago when the books of the Old and New Testaments were written. People understand this when it comes to familiar subjects. When the subject is familiar, people can distinguish between what the Bible intends to teach and the antiquated way in which it’s being taught. Here’s an example:
Lesson for Parents: Children should be well behaved and disciplined when they’re not.
Deuteronomy 21:18–21: An incorrigible child, who misbehaves and defies his parents, should be taken to the gates of the city and stoned to death.
Most Americans would agree with the above lesson for parents. Combined with love, it’s the essence of parenting. Experts tell us that without limit setting, children can become spoiled, antisocial, and anxious. But Americans don’t take Deuteronomy 21 literally. From time to time, for example, American mothers kill their children, or try to. These women usually plead not guilty by reason of insanity. They never invoke scripture to claim it was justifiable homicide because their children were unruly. Likewise, an armed man who lies in wait for the chance to murder some teenage thugs isn’t considered pious in America; rather, he risks being sentenced to a long prison term. Would he be found not guilty if he cited Deuteronomy 21 and said, “God made me do it”? Not a chance.
But Americans are at a loss when it comes to science. How many Americans realize that if Jesus had turned two lighter chemical elements into heavier ones as described in John 2, it would cast doubt on what makes the sun and stars shine? For the same reason, it would cast doubt on whether nuclear weapons can work, as explained in the next chapter.
The unpredictable government of North Korea knows that nuclear weapons work. So does the radical government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And the mullahs don’t seem deterred by the fact that nuclear weapons are a Jewish invention.1 Doubts about whether nuclear weapons can work could have devastating consequences for Western civilization. But how many Americans realize that a literal reading of John 2 raises such doubts?
1 Leo Szilard, a Jewish immigrant from Hungary, patented the atomic bomb in 1936. The first bombs were built in 1945 by a team of scientists (many of them Jewish) headed by Robert Oppenheimer, an American Jew. The underlying principle that makes these weapons possible was discovered in 1905 by Albert Einstein, a German Jew who, like Szilard, immigrated to the United States to escape the Nazis.
Scientific education and knowledge are not much better today than when the public thought deep space looked like our daytime sky. Consider the 1997 movie Starship Troopers. In contrast with its two horrible sequels, the original movie was popular because it was well crafted and entertaining. Its story centers on a war between humans and giant alien bugs. The chief offensive weapon used by these bugs is medium-sized, city-destroying asteroids that the bugs hurl at the Earth from their home worlds.
If the bugs lived on hidden planets near the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, then the asteroid belt would give them plenty of ammunition. Furthermore, at its closest approach, the asteroid belt is about 149,600,000 kilometers from Earth. Since asteroids travelling in space can have a speed of about 20 kilometers per second relative to Earth, any asteroids hurled at Earth from that location could arrive in just under three months.
Instead, the movie places the bugs on the opposite side of our galaxy. At that distance, it would take the asteroids 100,000 years to travel to Earth even if they could travel at the speed of light, which is faster than any material body can travel.1 This pointless and preposterous depiction of the size of our Milky Way galaxy means that people don’t have the foggiest idea of how far apart the stars are, a fact also revealed by the large number of people who believe we have been visited by extraterrestrials.
Note that this ridiculous depiction of our galaxy constitutes gratuitous ignorance and does not advance the plot of the movie or the development of its characters; it’s not asking the audience to suspend disbelief for the sake of being entertained. Indeed, we can contrast this gratuitous ignorance about our galaxy with another preposterous event in the same motion picture. Toward the end of the movie, a woman named Carmen (played by actress Denise Richards) is stabbed through her left lung by the giant talon of an alien bug. Moments later, when Carmen is rescued, she’s just fine and doesn’t even need a bandage, much less emergency surgery. In the case of this latter absurd scene, the filmmakers could argue that the story requires a bug to pin Carmen to the ground, and there was no other way for a bug to do it except by stabbing her through a lung. Besides, most people don’t know exactly where their lungs are, and Carmen had to be unharmed by the stab wound so she could participate in the movie’s triumphant happy ending. In other words, this unrealistic outcome can be justified as dramatic license made necessary by the plot.
1 This is another aspect of a discovery of Einstein’s that explains what makes the sun and stars shine. Massless particles such as particles of light or photons can travel at the speed of light. But if an object is travelling through space at the speed of light, then it’s travelling infinitely fast through time. According to the object’s own internal “clocks”—such as how much the object ages during its travel—it takes no time at all for the object to arrive at its destination no matter how far away it is. This makes Star Trek Voyager arguably the most ignorant television series ever produced. Its very premise depends upon not understanding the basic nature of space and time.
In other words, Revelation 13:16–18 tells us that the “mark” to be found on Satan’s servants is a desire to kill Jews.This desire has existed in many people from the time of Herod the Great right up to present-day Iranians and Palestinians.
During the 1960s, scientists began discovering something interesting about evil. A series of “obedience experiments” demonstrated that a majority of people will commit cruel and inhumane acts if instructed to do so by a credible authority. This series of experiments began in 1961 under the supervision of Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram. In Milgram’s experiments, subjects were asked to administer what they believed to be painful and potentially fatal electric shocks to an unseen student. The student was actually part of the research team and only pretended to be receiving painful electric shocks. But the research subjects didn’t know that, and 65 percent of them delivered what they believed to be the highest possible (and likely to be fatal) electric shock. In a post-experiment survey, 84 percent of the subjects who believed they were inflicting pain on another human being said they were glad to have participated in the study. Only 1 percent regretted the experience.
These experiments were not controlled for faith—scientific experiments rarely are. But they should have been. A subject who believed in a higher authority that forbids cruel behavior might have been less likely to engage in such behavior than a subject who held no such belief. The reader may ask whether we can’t just assume that some of the subjects must have been Christians even though only 1 percent regretted having participated in the experiment. But such an assumption is risky because university-based studies usually select subjects from a biased population, such as students or employees at a liberal, nonreligious educational institution. Furthermore, even subjects who would self-identify as Christians might not be that committed to the teachings of their faith. The only way to know the extent to which subjects were committed to faith would have been to ask them. In any event, by showing that obedience to human authority can make most people behave in evil ways, these experiments serve to emphasize society’s need for a belief in a higher authority that disapproves of evil behavior.