Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Clinton Chisholm | The Bible and indictable ignorance

Published:Tuesday | July 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Clinton Chisholm
Michael Abrahams
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So, my friend, Dr Michael Abrahams, regards the Bible as a dangerous book. Well, well. When I was a young Christian growing up in Montego Bay, there was a very popular song at once about Jesus and encouraging Christians to seek to make people know about Jesus. The song was Everybody Ought To Know. It was sometimes sung in a quasi-call and response fashion with the thrice-repeated call "everybody ought to know" and the sotto voce (subdued voice) response each time being, "Some people don't know". Then came "Everybody ought to know who Jesus is".

Every natural scientist (like Michael) ought to know that modern science's experimental tap roots owe a debt to the Bible's notion of a carefully crafted orderly universe (Gen. 1).

I go further: Modern science not only had its experimental tap roots in the biblical worldview of a purposive, orderly, created world, but as careful historians of science ought to know, virtually all scientists from the Middle Ages to the mid-18th century - many of whom were seminal thinkers - not only were sincere Christians, but were often inspired by biblical postulates and premises in their theories that sought to explain and predict natural phenomena.

The names include Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in human physiology; Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) in genetics; Nicolaus Copernicus (1475-1543), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) in astronomy. In physics: Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), Georg Simon Ohm (1787-1854), Andre Ampere (1775-1836), and Michael Faraday (1791-1867).

In chemistry, Robert Boyle (1627-1691), Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794), George Washington Carver (c.1864-1943) and in medicine, Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and Joseph Lister (1827-1912).

Not to know this is indictable ignorance.

 

Alternative to biblical doctrine

 

The most abiding alternative to the biblical doctrine of a universe created in time by God has been the scientific notion that the universe is eternal, has no beginning, and, therefore, needs no beginner.

In 1913, astronomer Vesto Slipher discovered that a dozen galaxies near earth were moving away from the Earth at very high speeds, ranging up to two million miles per hour. This discovery led to the realisation that the universe was expanding, which also meant that the universe had a beginning.

The reaction to Slipher's discovery and the implications of that discovery for the origin of the universe provoked some odd reactions from scientists.

Albert Einstein, in a letter to one of his colleagues, said, "This circumstance [of an expanding universe] irritates me."

Arthur Eddington, in 1931, said, "... The notion of a beginning is repugnant to me ... ; the expanding universe is preposterous ... incredible ... it leaves me cold."

Allan Sandage, another astronomer, said concerning the evidence that the universe had a beginning. "It is such a strange conclusion ... it cannot really be true."

The Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, in 1992, provided additional confirming information on the nature of the origin of the universe. The findings of the satellite attracted the attention of major newspapers and TV programmes across the world. George Smoot, project leader for the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, declared: "What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe ... . It's like looking at God."

Mikey, my esteemed friend, not to know these things is indictable ignorance, and this is only in your field of the natural sciences. If I was a contracted columnist (assured of being published), I could go on to detail the Bible's influence on many things that Western civilisation prizes, like the value of humankind and of life, sexual morality, charity and compassion, law, and the arts.

Everybody ought to know these things but some people don't know because of indictable ignorance!

Rispeck, mi bredrin.

- The Rev Clinton Chisholm is academic dean of the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and clintchis@yahoo.com.