The No. 2 edition of the 2016 Awake magazine was just recently released by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and its main theme is, “Is the Bible Just a Good Book?” Inside, the magazine made some highly suspect claims that border on downright deceit. They did this to discredit science and philosophy books, as a way of bolstering the bible’s credibility.
First note the quote itself:
“Despite its many enemies, the Bible became—and continues to be—the most widely distributed book of all time. In whole or in part, an estimated five billion copies have been printed in more than 2,800 languages. This is in sharp contrast with books on philosophy, science, and related fields, which may have a limited circulation and may quickly go out-of-date.”
I will agree that sometimes science textbooks get outdated; I personally would not want a doctor working on me based on information he or she read in a medical textbook from a hundred years ago. However, there are two things to consider about this statement made in the Awake magazine, and one is that science textbooks often build on what they’ve already established, rather than becoming outdated because of being proven wrong. Scientists are not constantly throwing away things they’ve already learned every time they make a new discovery.
Let me explain it this way. As telescopes and other instruments were developed, we discovered more details about the moon. For instance, we eventually learned that its phases are caused by how the moon is angled in relation to the position of the sun and the earth. As humans learned about gravity, we then realized that the moon stays with us because of the earth’s gravitational pull. We learned how the moon’s gravity affects the tide of the oceans. Once we could reach the moon’s surface with space explorers and actual astronauts, we learned more about the composition of that surface.
The point being, science told us more about the moon as humans learned more, but this doesn’t mean we needed to just throw away the “outdated” science that came before it. Humans didn’t find out that they were wrong about everything they had learned about the moon up until that point, but just learned more. Saying that science books go “out of date” is very misleading, as it seems to imply that older science is junk science, but in reality, it’s often just incomplete science.
The other issue with this statement is that it’s hypocritical to talk about science in the same conversation as the bible, since the bible itself is grossly out of date and downright incorrect in many areas of science. As one example, note a story done by National Public Radio in 2011 about all humans descending from one pair of offspring:
“Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”
Venema says there is no way we can be traced back to a single couple. He says with the mapping of the human genome, it’s clear that modern humans emerged from other primates as a large population — long before the Genesis time frame of a few thousand years ago. And given the genetic variation of people today, he says scientists can’t get that population size below 10,000 people at any time in our evolutionary history.
To get down to just two ancestors, Venema says, “You would have to postulate that there’s been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence.””
Here’s something else to consider about the bible’s outdated “science,” but I warn you, this section is for the grownups. We’re going to talk about what I like to call “lady bits.”
Many people know that in the bible, women in the nation of Israel had to prove their virginity with a sheet that was put under them during what was supposed to be their first sexual encounter, something reserved for their husbands on their wedding night. The teaching was that a woman was always going to bleed the first time she had sex. Today we know about the hymen, a part of the vagina, but we also know that this virginity test is pure bunk. How so?
Raise your hand if you think the hymen is a thin sheath of tissue that completely covers the opening of the vagina and that it “breaks” when a woman has sex for the first time. Everyone with their hand up has no understanding of basic anatomy. If the hymen covered the vagina, how would a young woman menstruate?
The hymen is actually a section or clump of tissue that goes in a semicircle at the bottom of the vagina. It doesn’t cover the vagina and doesn’t “break,” ever. It can get irritated or suffer slight tears due to friction and, because it’s skin, it may bleed from this irritation. This can happen during a woman’s first sexual encounter, but not always. Don’t take my word for it; read this website if you must know more.
Sorry for the discomfort, but the point is, the bible’s directive that a woman could actually be put to death for not bleeding on her wedding night is junk science. Not only that, it’s junk science that may have cost many women their lives and which still costs them their lives in some parts of the world, even to this day. If you’re going to toss out all the “outdated” science books which have been disproved by today’s modern research, you’ll need to put the bible right on top of that pile.
Saying that books on philosophy are outdated and not widely circulated is also very dubious and downright deceitful. I personally have been reading Tao Te Ching, a Chinese manuscript that is the fundamental text for Taoism and that is believed to have been written in the 6th century B.C., or some 600 years before Christ. Not only is it old, but it’s a Chinese text that was sent to me in America by a friend in Norway. I’d say it’s gotten around. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia, it’s the second most translated text in the world, right behind the bible.
Note some other names when it comes to ancient philosophy and even science and medicine. Aristotle, who was famous for his “causal factors” analysis and who, among other things, realized that the nervous system was connected to movement and senses and who discovered the difference between veins and arteries, was born around 384 B.C. His contemporaries from that time include Socrates and Plato, whose philosophies are still quoted and taught today.
Confucius, whose teachings on social and moral justice are still in circulation, was born in 551 B.C., or more than 500 years before Christ. “Meditations,” a text written by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius while on a military campaign between the years 170 and 180, or less than two hundred years after the bible was written, is still highly respected and circulated and considered something of a masterpiece in its genre.
The list of ancient philosophers whose teachings and writings have survived and that are still respected today could go on, but I think the point is made. The Awake magazine was very deceptive in trying to bulk up the credibility of the bible by discrediting these other works. Not only is this very deceptive but, in my mind at least, it can actually backfire. Shouldn’t the bible’s credibility be able to stand alone, on its own merit, without having to cut down other work? If the bible’s merit was sufficient in of itself, it wouldn’t need to insult other books. Trying to get a date by insulting the looks of everyone around you just makes you look bad, not them, and it reveals that maybe you’re not so confident about your own looks after all.
Perhaps the most important issue here to consider is that the writers of the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses always state that their information is completely accurate; note the following from the 2011 Yearbook:
Yet, their writing department did not make “accurate and truthful” statements about science and philosophy books; not only were the writers of this information deceitful but they were also degrading and insulting when it comes to the age, circulation, and value of books other than the bible. If their statement about always presenting material that is “accurate and truthful” is anything but truthful itself, it should make a person consider what other statements of theirs are also deceitful and downright deceptive.
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