“The Bible is inerrant!” is something quite commonly said in debate. It’s part of the circular reasoning: “The Bible is the word of God, because it tells us so, God is perfect, therefore the Bible is infallible.”
We have a number of articles that address things like:
- Common Theistic Fallacies (e.g. Circular Reasoning)
- Confirmation Bias
- Contradictions in The Bible
- Morality in the Bible
- Fine Tuning
- Watch Maker
- Evidence for Jesus’s Existence
This article is not going to address any of those (although may reference them), and instead will look at any of the claims from a scientific and historical point of view to see if we can find any supporting evidence.
Obviously we can imagine that we will get answers like:
- Science is the Devil’s Work
- It can’t be true because that is not what the Bible says
- It’s just a metaphor
- History/Science got it wrong
And many other excuses. It is so common to hear people claim that the Bible is scientifically accurate that I felt it worth writing this article series. I’ll even provide some links to sources. There are multiple sites and research papers that will back these up rather than the few I give you. Some of the links I provide will be from Wikipedia as they are a simplified version of articles for ease, with references to the studies used in them if you are more scientifically literate.
You will only find a few sites like ICR and AIG if all you are searching for is confirmation bias.
One of the things I find puzzling about those who take the Biblical creation story literally, is that there is so much evidence to the contrary.
Order of creation
Ignoring the difference between Gen 1 & 2, as these could be said to be looking at things in a different way let us examine Gen 1:
Day 1: Sky, Earth, light
Day 2: Water, both in ocean basins and above the sky(!)
Day 3: Plants
Day 4: Sun, Moon, stars (as calendrical and navigational aids)
Day 5: Sea monsters (whales), fish, birds, land animals, creepy-crawlies (reptiles, insects, etc.)
Day 6: Humans (apparently both sexes at the same time)
Day 7: Nothing (the Gods took the first day off anyone ever did)
Initial issues with the order of creation
- Light was created before the Sun, then how was there light?
- The Sun is actually older than the Earth and not 3 days younger
- The Sun was claimed to be created on day 4, what’s a day again?
- Sea life came way before land life
- First sea life 3.5 billion years ago
- First plant life 470 million years ago
- Homo Sapiens (Modern humans) have been around about 200-300k years, and around 50k years in our current social state.
How long creation took
I’ve given examples above of how old things are, but just to recap and add to:
- Universe: 13.8 billion years
- Sun: 4.6 Billion years
- Earth: 4.54 Billion Years
- First life on earth: 3.5 billion years ago
- There are many dating methods: Article 1, Article 2, that back up the age of the earth/universe
- Evolution and the fossil records show us the correct order of life on this planet.
Yes, there is the common excuse that a “godly day” is not the same as a human or “solar” day, but this is both an excuse and even if there was millions of years between each of those days, they are still in the wrong order.
How old the earth is
Not all theists, or even Christians deny the science on this. however YEC’s (Young Earth Creationists) believe that God created the world 6000 years ago.
- There are many dating methods: Article 1, Article 2, that back up the age of the earth/universe
- Evolution and the fossil records show us the correct order & age of life on this planet.
Frankly this one doesn’t even warrant any more time.
Descended from Adam and Eve, and their 3 sons
- We are far too genetically diverse for this level of incest
- 1 woman shared by her partner and 3 sons?
A common excuse here is, “they went on to have other children, they just were not important enough to mention in detail”
Still, we are left by a huge amount of incest… not to mention the Biblical flood that allegedly happened a few thousand years ago. This means we would all then be descended from Noah’s family.
Made from dust/mud/dirt
“If we were made from dust, why is their still dust?”
I jest of course, but we hear the fallacious and common creationist misconception about “Why are there still monkeys” all the time.
- There is no evidence to support being made from dust/mud/dirt
- There is plenty of evidence to support our species evolving over millions of years.
- Perhaps you should consider the real reasons you reject evolution?
“If there is such a thing as Google, why do people ask such stupid questions?”
Another amusing point here is theist like to say “you think all life came from mud” – a really terrible understanding of abiogenesis… the irony being that’s what they think their God did too.
The Biblical Flood
- No Evidence of world wide flood as described in the bible
- Similar to other flood tales like the Epic of Gilgamesh – this predates the bible story
- Evidence of a Mediterranean flood 7.5k years ago (older than young earth creationists think the world is)
- Evidence of the ice sheets receding about 20k years ago causing the sea levels to rise
- We would all be inbred from Noah’s family – that’s 2 levels of incest if we include the Adam and Eve fable
The Shape Of the Earth
There are many verses in the Bible that seem to dictate the shape and position of the earth and also contradict each other:
1 Chronicles 16:30 Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
1 Samuel 2:8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honour. “For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world.
Isaiah 11:12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.
Isaiah 40:22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
Job 26:7 He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
Job 26:10 He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.
Job 28:24 for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.
Job 37:3 He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.
Job 37:18 can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?
Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
Proverbs 8:27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
Psalm 75:3 When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm.
Psalm 93:1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Psalm 104:5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.
Revelation 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
The above says many strange things..
- The earth is unmovable: Really? It moves both on its axis and on an orbit round the sun, which in turn is hurtling through space.
- The earth is a circle: except it is not a 2D flat object, in fact it isn’t even a proper sphere, it is an oblate spheroid.
- The four quarters/corners of the earth: it isn’t a flat square.
- Boundary between light and darkness: except the earth isn’t flat.
- Ends of the earth: the earth doesn’t have ends.
- Sees everything under the heavens: this implies only “up” is heaven, but the earth is not flat.
- Showing someone the whole world from a high mountain: could only happen if the world was flat, small, and the mountain was high.
Summary of Biblical Errors
We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the Bible’s errors. We have only just began with a few example from Genesis, mostly around creation and the dawn of man.
Over the next few months hopefully I will be able to expand on these, providing more examples – but please feel free to submit any errors or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the Bible is inerrant, why are there errors?
If the Bible has had a translation error, how do you know the parts you like are also not translated?
If one part is a “metaphor” how do you know other parts are not?
Why are you conflating your feelings and beliefs with credible evidence and knowledge?
The Good Book
I’m Joe. I write under the name Davidian, not only because it is a Machine Head song I enjoy but because it was a game character I used to role-play that was always looking to better himself.
This is one of many things I hope to do with Answers In Reason.
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Comments on “The Bible is Inerrant! – Biblical Errors – Volume 1: Genesis & Creation”
Well, sorry to say this, and apologies for doing so, but this post well summarizes much of what is lacking in atheist commentary on religion.
First, comparing science and religion is a common error. Science is about facts about reality, whereas religion is about our RELATIONSHIP with reality. What confuses the issue is that religions often make factual claims about reality as part of relationship management. It’s entirely fair to challenge such claims, but to do that without seeing the larger picture is to reveal the challenger has an unsophisticated understanding of religion.
Second, most people don’t take the Bible literally. Surely some do, but to focus on these simple folks seems too easy pickings, a bit of lazy targeting.
Given this is just a comment, I’ll focus on just one example to illustrate.
While I surely agree it’s very unlikely there was a guy named Adam, a gal named Eve, and a talking snake, the book of Genesis remains a brilliant foretelling of the modern era, and summary of the human condition.
In the story Adam and Eve ate the apple of knowledge and were thus expelled from the Garden of Eden. This is just what is happening today in the modern world. We are rapidly acquiring far more knowledge that we will be able to safely manage, and expulsion from the “garden of eden” is a very real possibility. It seems beyond remarkable that a 3,000 year old story could be so prophetic.
That’s just the beginning of the brilliance. The story also describes how the human psychological experience became increasingly dominated by thought, by the symbolic realm, thus diluting to the point of breaking a profound bond with nature which other animals, and earlier humans, have been blessed with. This might be of extreme interest to atheists who rightly focus on the “real world” because we are rarely actually focused on the real world, but rather our thoughts about the real world, something else entirely.
So, if we take the Genesis story literally, it’s a silly tale, agreed. Commentators on this story might wish to understand that there is far more to the story than a silly children’s fable, and that to not understand that renders commentators less than fully credible.
Finally, the book of Genesis is still being explored by many millions of people three thousand years after it was written. Please do tell us when science can match such an accomplishment.
Hi Jake, thanks so much for your response.
The article is directly in relation to folks that claim the bible is inerrant, that it is factual, that it is a science book.
So whilst I agree with you that it might be a small percentage of people that might make that claim, it is a response to that claim.
I understand your comments, but given the fact it is just a response to those making the inerrant claim, do you think that it suffices to answer those specific claims?
Perhaps this will help? Religion might be most usefully compared to art. Consider how an entirely fictional play on the stage can explore deep truths about the human condition.
Atheists can sometimes be a bit like the fellow who jumps up out of his seat in the middle of the play to shout, “This story is a fantasy and those characters on stage are just actors!!”
Technically true, but, um….
I agree with you there, I think there can be a lot to learn about culture, history and psychology when we look at religion and indeed the religious.
Especially if you look at a broad spectrum of religions.
But as explained this article is a direct response to those claiming biblical inerrancy.
Thanks for your replies Davidian. Ok, your point is taken, I’m getting ahead of myself. I do that, it’s true.
I think I’m replying more to a general pattern I so often see on atheist sites, and not this article in particular so much. Such fundie debunking articles seem much like debating Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on our door, an essentially irrational act. And there are not likely to be any fundies here anyway, but only people who already agree with the article. You know, preaching to the choir.
All that said I must admit I too often find myself getting in to debates with atheists SOME of whom will never change their mind about anything no matter what, which is of course no different than debating the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have met the enemy, and he is me. 🙂
Anyway, I should probably just butt out and wait patiently for you to address topics which are of more interest to me.
NP. I’ll be honest, I wrote this one largely to deal with the folks on twitter who claim the bible is inerrant as I get bored of the same conversation, so if they start down that path I can just link them to this article.
If they read it and provide something decent to talk about then I continue the conversation… if they go in to the loop of, science is wrong because it goes against the bible and the bible is inerrant I know no conversation is worth having there and save my time 😀
What interests me is that this very human desire to have some reliable authority that can be referenced is not limited to fundamentalist theists. I see it more as a property of the human condition than the theist condition specifically.
Many atheists have the same relationship with reason that theists have with their holy book. If something is seen to be illogical, it’s assumed to be automatically wrong, because reason is supposedly inerrant. This is especially strange when reason is being applied to the very largest of questions.
A better example is probably the relationship all of us have with what is normal, the group consensus. The craziest things can be widely accepted so long as they are normal.
My favorite example of this for the moment is that we are in the midst of a presidential campaign, we are electing one single person who can _on their own_ destroy civilization, and nobody is asking the candidates about nuclear weapons. Totally insane, but also completely normal, so nobody blinks an eye.
That is, we are assuming the group consensus is inerrant, when the simplest bit of logic can reveal it is not. But we really want to believe in something, so we willingly enter the illusion.
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