Value of Pi in the Bible

Value of Pi in the Bible
It may not appear that the passage below would cause a major question of biblical infallibility. However, atheists and skeptics try to make an issue of the value of pi in the Bible.

Also he made a molten sea of ten cubits from brim to brim, round in compass, and five cubits the height thereof; and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about. 2 Chronicles 4:2

In several lectureships recently, I have been challenged to explain why the passage is not in error. The point is that it gives the diameter of the top of the circular bowl and its circumference. If the bowl’s diameter is known, one can calculate the circumference by the formula we all learned in elementary school, which says that C=2πr (the circumference is equal to two times pi times the radius). If we know the circumference, we can calculate the value of π, which would be C divided by 2r. In this case that gives the value of π as 3.00000. We all know that π is twenty-two sevenths or 3.142857142. Obviously, according to the skeptics, the value of pi in the Bible is in error.

My first reaction to hearing this challenge was that it was nit-picking in the first degree. I have seen it repeated so many times by so many recently that I need to answer it again. It may also be that this passage is actually a positive proof of the integrity and accuracy of the biblical narrative.

The first point that I need to make is that one must observe significant figures when making any measurement. In my physics laboratory, the balances measure things to a tenth of a gram. If you wish to measure the mass of something to a hundredth or thousandth of a gram, you have to use another balance. Every year, I have a student who wants to record a mass accurate to a millionth of a gram. On their lab sheet, they will give me a number like 28.6581432 grams—on a balance that has no marks or calibrations beyond a tenth of a gram!

In the case of the biblical record, the unit is the cubit. A cubit is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the finger. It should be evident that the length of the cubit depends upon the size of the person whose forearm you measure. My wife’s cubit is about three inches shorter than mine. This is no factor in the kind of measurements that the cubit was used for, but it does mean that the cubit was only accurate to the nearest whole number—three. Obviously, the value of pi in the Bible is accurate to the number of significant figures to which the cubit can be measured.

It is also possible that the 30-cubit measurement was around the inside circumference of the bowl since that is what held the liquid. The 10 cubits may be the outside diameter since that would be what the bowl was forged from and the space it occupied. In that case, the outside circumference would be 31.43. If we assume the same man made both measurements and was accurate to two decimal places (which is unlikely), we can calculate the thickness of the material of which the bowl was made. Since C=2πr, then:

r(outside) – r(inside) = C(out) – C(in) =.18 cubits

That is about 3 inches which would mean the thickness of the bowl would be 1.5 inches, which is very reasonable. I made this point at a lecture recently and had an atheist respond with, “I don’t care what’s reasonable, the fact is, the Bible says pi is 3.00 and that’s wrong!” The idea she was advancing was that if there was any possible way she could interpret a biblical passage that would make it look ridiculous, that is the way she would interpret it. No amount of discussion about significant figures or possible measurement parameters would change her mind. She insisted the value of pi in the Bible is 3.000 and that is wrong!

The same person became incensed when I would not accept the dubious possibility that volcanoes produced the layers of iridium found in the dinosaur remains. This idea, which deals with evolution, has a mountain of other evidence which indicates that volcanoes did not produce these layers, but that they came from an astronomical catastrophe.

I have had the same kind of experience with religious people when their pet religious tradition was called into question by the available evidence. Certainly, this discussion points out some questions about approaches. Perhaps we have to get to the realization that putting pearls before swine is an exercise in futility. (See Matthew 7:6.)
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Ham-Nye Walking Debate

Ham-Nye Walking Debate
You are probably aware of Bill Nye and Ken Ham and their debate which took place in 2014. As if that debate wasn’t embarrassing enough (for both sides), Ham and Nye followed it in 2016 with a walking debate at Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter in Kentucky. The Ham-Nye walking debate was more of the two men talking past each other.

Bill Nye, you will recall, calls himself “the science guy.” Ken Ham, the producer of the Creationist Museum and Ark Encounter, is the CEO of Answers in Genesis. Nye takes a naturalist position on everything. While he avoids admitting to being an atheist, atheists hold him in high esteem, and he is heavily backed by atheist publications such as Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer, and American Atheist. Ham takes an extreme young-earth position and promotes the ideas that dinosaurs lived with humans, that the flood explains all of geology, and that dispensationalism is the proper understanding of biblical history.

What happens in the “walking debate” is that Nye walks through the Ark Encounter exhibits challenging what Ham and AIG have put together as bad science. At the same time, Ham attempts to denigrate Nye’s scientific material with religious views of young-earth creationism. The Ham-Nye walking debate doesn’t resolve anything and only serves to bring the two sides farther apart.

The “Does God Exist? program maintains that science and faith are compatible and that science supports belief in God and the Bible as His word. Over the years we have pointed out that what the Bible actually says is not what either of these gentlemen is presenting. Nye is correct in showing some very bad science in Ham’s exhibits. Ham correctly points out Nye’s tendency to use unproven scientific guesses and assumptions to attack those who believe in God. It is evident that Ham knows little about science and Nye knows even less about the Bible.

Our courses, books, booklets, DVDs, and websites go into a more in-depth discussion of science and faith. If you want to hear two extremes that both oppose our position, you can watch the first debate or the second debate on YouTube.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Future of Faith in America

Future of Faith in America
If you read any survey of what Americans believe, you have to understand that faith in God and the validity of New Testament Christianity is in decline. We have pointed out before, that when pollsters ask people about their religious faith, almost one-fourth of all Americans respond with “none.” When we separate those numbers by age group, the picture is even more dismal with young adults largely rejecting Jesus as the son of God. We should be concerned about the future of faith in America.

The two primary sources of the decline in church membership are pluralism and the complete rejection of the Bible as God’s one authoritative guide. Most churches have not taught the evidence for God and the validity of the Bible. Most young people have not seen an example of Christian living in the lives of their parents or religious leaders. We can either sit back and watch congregations die with the older people of faith, or we can roll up our sleeves and do something.

This situation is not new. When the people of Jesus day saw that following Jesus required some commitment, most of them left. In John 6:35-69 people rejected Jesus as having come down from heaven. Later in the Temple, they wondered at the wisdom of Christ’s teaching. In John 7:16-18 Jesus told the people, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” He then referred to the evidence seen in what people do: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” We must find some method of answering people’s doubts about God and showing them that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). That is what the future of faith in America must be about.

We can no longer rely on inherited faith to build faith-filled adults. Young people being dragged to church three times a week is not going to do the job. There has been too much hypocrisy, bickering, and inconsistency in churches for young people to blindly accept what their parents and grandparents believed. We can no longer rely on talented speakers and youth leaders to emotionally stampede young people into becoming active, dynamic Christians. There are too many speakers with conflicting views for modern adults to respond to emotional pleas at worship services, youth rallies, camps, or lectureships.

The war for the minds of 21st-century adults is going to be won or lost on the battlefield of evidence. That was true in the days of Jesus and the church in the first century. We have a tremendous advantage over those who lived in the first century. Quantum mechanics has opened the door for us to understand how gravity, electric charge, and matter/energy were created. The complexity, wisdom, and design of the formation of electric charge and the wave nature of gravity show that the cause of these things must be outside the realm of the physical world. Quantum mechanics leads us to dimensions beyond our own, which is the concept the Bible has always given us about God.

In today’s world, we see the results of following systems other than the biblical pattern. When people follow other guidelines as to how to live their lives, the result is inevitably disastrous. When people who call themselves Christians fail to follow what Jesus taught, the result is also disastrous. If we study the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and compare it to all other ways of life, we see the truthfulness of Jesus statement, “By their fruit ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). The future of America depends on the future of faith in America.

Scientific knowledge of the world around us continues to amaze us. Rather than presenting God as a magician who zaps things into existence by tricks and illusions beyond our understanding, we must show people that what God does make sense and many of God’s methods are within our ability to understand. People have had enough of mystic explanations and magic tricks. If they are going to commit themselves to discipleship, it must be clear and logical both in purpose and in methodology.

The church has the capacity to present this message. Young people respond to evidence that doesn’t depend on tradition or blind, mystic faith. When 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason of the faith that is within you” it includes not just the ancient shepherd in the hills of Judea, but also the educated engineer living in 2018. Today, the fields are ripe unto harvest (John 4:35), but our outreach must change with changing needs. The future of faith in America depends on it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Ancient Science of Moving Huge Rocks

Ancient Science of Moving Huge Rocks
One of the long-term arguments among those who study ancient history is how people thousands of years ago moved huge stones from place to place and set them up as idols or monuments. As examples, they point to the huge rocks in the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge in England, and Rapa Nui or Easter Island. On that island, ancient people moved or set up nearly 1000 human statues made of rocks weighing up to 784 metric tons. The quest is for the ancient science of moving huge rocks.

Those who promote ancient alien visitation to the Earth argue that these huge rocks provide proof that aliens have been here and have done some fantastic high tech things. Some suggest that those aliens also created us for some great event in the distant future. Sometimes those tabloid writers even misrepresent the Bible to “prove” their false theories.

Science News magazine (July 7, 2018, page 15) published an interesting report by archaeologists. Fifteen people were able to move rocks weighing 12 metric tons 45 meters down a dirt road. Then with a ramp, they lifted they lifted the stones 8 meters to the tops of human statues where they placed them as hats crowning the figures. Other archaeologists have given similar explanations involving a small number of workers.

Those who assume that ancient humans lacked intelligence and had no knowledge of science grossly underestimate the abilities of our ancestors. The Egyptian creations can easily be explained by simple engineering principles and the labor pool that was available to them. There is no need to suppose that huge populations were needed or that some outside force such as ancient astronauts were players in constructing those ancient monuments. The ancient science of moving huge rocks should not be a mystery.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Sex Addiction – Medical or Moral?

Sex AddictionThe World Health Organization has just released its new International Classification of Diseases. The new classification of sex addiction presents a question. Is it a medical issue or a moral issue?

The WHO identifies compulsive sexual health disorder as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” The lead “expert” on this change is Robert Weiss who says that classifying sexual addiction as a medical issue and not a moral issue “takes it out of religion.”

Weiss and his supporters make comparisons between sexual addiction and gambling, drug, and alcohol addictions. They hope that therapy sessions will solve sexual addiction. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are undergoing treatment at a facility for the sexually addicted. It would seem that this change in classification will create a whole new industry.

We would suggest that these comparisons are invalid and that this new system will be used to excuse the sexual abuse that we see on the front page of our newspapers. Sexual abuse involves how we view members of the opposite sex. It has been known for a long time that rape has very little to do with sexual satisfaction. We do not find the most satisfying sexual relationships in abusive sex, premarital sex, or any other sexual conduct outside of marriage to one committed partner. The media and the “experts” are missing the purpose of sex and the beautiful relationship it nurtures between two individuals.

The New Testament trumpets the heart as the central player in relationships, personal conduct, and values. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:21. “..those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart: and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts… fornications..” Matthew 15:18-19. Sexual conduct IS a moral choice. We are not robots or puppets. Alcohol and drugs can alter the mind and have a very negative impact on the making of right decisions, but how we use our money and our bodies is a different issue.

People who sexually abuse children and members of the opposite sex will be delighted to blame their sex addiction on psychological baggage that others forced upon them. How we conduct our lives and the choices we make are under our control, and while people may excuse aberrant sexual behavior on medical issues, God will not.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: USA Today, July 13, 2018, page A-1.

Tools and Intelligence

Tools and Intelligence
We tend to equate the use of tools and intelligence, but do they necessarily go together? Many kinds of animals use twigs, stones, or other objects as tools to gather food, to groom or defend themselves, or sometimes just to play. We are very familiar with how dogs can be taught to play with a ball or stick. Intelligent animals such as primates, mammals, and birds use or even create tools from materials around them.

Sometimes animals learn tool-use by watching other animals or humans. At other times tool-use seems to be instinctive. An internet search for “animals using tools” brings up many interesting videos. Ever since animal researcher Jane Goodall discovered chimpanzees using leaves and twigs as tools to obtain food in 1960, some people have suggested that tool-use is proof that humans are not unique from other animals—we have just evolved greater intelligence.

But the question is, “Does it take intelligence to use tools?” The short answer is “No.” Decorator crabs camouflage themselves with objects and plants, and they may pick up a sea anemone and use it to sweep across the sea floor picking up food. The assassin bug takes material from a termite’s nest to camouflage itself while waiting to grab a termite emerging from the nest. It then kills the termite and uses it as bait to coax other termites out of the nest. The larva of the green lacewing camouflages itself with objects such as sand grains to hide from and capture aphids.

Crabs, assassin bugs, and insect larvae have no “thinking” brain. They are not capable of being taught or learning by observation. How can they use objects as tools? In some cases, if the first of their kind could not use these tools, the species would have become extinct. We suggest that the Creator has “programmed” these unintelligent animals with the instincts they need to survive.

So as we consider tools and intelligence, we see unintelligent creatures using tools by instinct, and more intelligent creatures learning to use tools. Obviously, no animals can create and use the highly sophisticated tools that humans have, including computers, robots, and cars. But it’s the spiritual nature of humans that makes us different, and not our tools. Only humans worship God because He created us in His image.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Retiring Early – Good Idea or Not

Retiring Early – Good Idea or Not
Some people dream of retiring early and spending the rest of their lives in pleasure-filled relaxation. That may not be a good idea.

Relaxing for a few days is a good thing, but studies show that when we stop doing anything constructive and challenging, both our mental and physical health decline. The Washington Post reported that studies “have shown a strong correlation between early retirement age and diminished cognitive function.”

Not only can too much leisure be bad for our physical and mental health, it even has an adverse effect on our happiness. Humans were designed to be productive and creative. Without physical stimulation, our bones and muscles become weak. Without mental stimulation, our brains lose their sharpness. The saying, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” contains a lot of truth.

All this doesn’t mean that we have to keep working at an occupation for our entire lives. Retiring early can open the door to new opportunities of service. For those who retire from a paying job, volunteering for some service which is mentally, and even physically challenging can be rewarding in many ways. It can keep us physically stronger and more mentally alert. It can give us enjoyment and even help us to live longer. It can also be rewarding for those we are able to serve.

God created us to work. Even in the paradise of the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve work to do. (See Genesis 2:15.) If you want to live a long, healthy, and happy life, find a way to be productively stimulated while serving others. It’s what God designed us to do.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Nitrogen Mystery Answered

Nitrogen Mystery Answered
One of the great mysteries of the past 1000 years of soil studies has apparently been answered. The great nitrogen mystery is how nitrogen gets into the soil. Plants need nitrogen, and they need it in the form of nitrates and other compounds essential to plant growth.

Most of us put fertilizer on our plants to make them healthy and don’t think about the fact that while our atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, plants can’t absorb the nitrogen directly from the air. In high school, we learned about “nitrogen fixation” and were told about nitrogen-fixing bacteria and the role of lightning in transforming atmospheric nitrogen into forms that could be used by plants.

Plant scientists have known that this model was not complete. The nitrogen cycle clearly had some missing parts, and our knowledge of how nitrogen gets into the soil was obviously lacking. Scientists have now discovered that a significant portion of getting nitrogen to plants involves seeping through bedrock. Nitrogen becomes trapped in sedimentary rocks in the oceans. When tectonic activity lifts the sedimentary rocks, so they are at the surface of the Earth, they begin to release their nitrogen to the soils above them, Studies in California show that soils above sedimentary rocks contain 50% more nitrogen than soils above volcanic rocks.

This discovery is a breakthrough in soil chemistry and has strong implications for how we can accelerate plant growth. Choosing places suitable for agriculture can be made more accurate with this new understanding. The complexity of Earth’s various cycles to allow for plant growth and to provide for human needs is astounding. Even such a fundamental question as the nitrogen mystery is still revealing God’s wisdom and planning in providing a life-supporting planet for us to live.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: Scientific American, July 2018, page 15-17.

Why We Have Fingerprints

Why We Have Fingerprints
Fingerprints are often associated with identification because the police use them in criminal investigations. Nobody else has your fingerprints, so finger touch-pads are sometimes used instead of passwords to access computers or to allow entrance to secure sites. Fingerprints are used for those purposes, but have you ever wondered why we have fingerprints?

Long before anyone thought of those identification uses, fingerprints served a primary purpose in our sense of touch. The raised ridges are actually friction ridges that increase the sensitivity of our fingers to touch. Each fingertip has thousands of touch receptors, and with the aid of the friction ridges, we can feel a particle many times smaller than a human hair.

Run your fingertip lightly over a surface and notice how those fingerprint ridges detect even the smallest surface imperfection, right down to a speck of dust. Look closely, and you will see that those ridges are also present on the entire surface of the palm-side of your hand, and they are on your feet as well.

What about the case of identical twins? Do they have the same fingerprints? The answer is “No.” They are similar, but not the same. Your fingerprints are the product of genetics plus environment within the womb. Fingerprints form between six and thirteen weeks after conception. Factors that influence the formation of the prints may be blood pressure, nutrition, or the position of the hand in the womb. A finger pressing against the amniotic sac, another part of the body, or the body of a twin can cause the print to form with subtle differences. If only genetics determined the fingerprint pattern, the fingers on your left and right hands would be identical. They are not, and that’s why the police will take all ten of your fingerprints.

Your fingerprints formed as you developed in the womb long before you were born, and they will remain the same for your entire life. Fingerprints show that you are unique while at the same time helping you to explore and interact with the world around you. That’s why we have fingerprints. The psalmist David wrote, “…(God), you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:13, 14).
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Mormon Racial Prejudice

Mormon Racial Prejudice
The Bible makes it clear that there is no justification for racism for those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. When men make up their own religions, there is always prejudice and division involved. The classic example has been Mormon racial prejudice in the original teachings of the Latter Day Saints Church.

The original leaders of the Mormon church denigrated black people. John Taylor who was the president of the church wrote in 1845 “The descendants of Ham, besides a black skin which has ever been a curse that has followed an apostate of the holy priesthood, as well as a black heart, have been servants to both Shem and Japeth…”

In 1852, Mormon leader Brigham Young wrote, “If there never was a prophet or apostle of Jesus Christ spoke it before, I tell you, this people that are commonly called negroes are the children of old Cain…I know that they cannot bear rule in the priesthood, for the curse on them was to remain upon them…”

In 1859, Brigham Young wrote, “Cain slew his brother… and the Lord put a mark upon him, which is the flat nose and black skin … How long is that race (blacks) to endure the dreadful curse that is on them? That curse will remain on them …”

Modern day followers of these men have repudiated the Mormon racial prejudice statements, but it is evident that the founders of the Mormon Church were men who were driven by the prejudice of their day. The ignorance of these statements is typical of humans when they establish their own religion instead of following what Jesus taught.

The main prejudice that existed in Jesus day was the conflict between the Jews and the Samaritans. In John 4:7-9 Jesus shatters that prejudice as well as the denigration of women by talking with a Samaritan woman. John’s gospel points out the existing prejudice by commenting “For the Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9). In Luke 10:30-37 the hero of the parable of “The Good Samaritan” is a hated Samaritan. Galatians 3:28 tells us that if we are Christ’s “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Racial prejudice is not justified by the Bible, and it is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Quotes from Salt Lake City Messenger, Sandra Tanner, June 2018, page 3.