Tuesday, November 25, 2008

An Anthropologist Looks at the Bible

This hilarious spoof shows that, if nothing else, FARMS scholars still have a sense of humor.


(From http://www.shields-research.org/Humor/TK_spoof.html)

Dr. Key, a biologist, has written a book entitled, A Biologist Looks at the Book of Mormon, the 15th edition (revised and enlarged) of which has been renamed The Book Of Mormon InThe Light Of Science.  It is sold by Utah Missions, Inc. (UMI).  John A. Tvedtnes (FARMS) has written a spoof on Dr. Key's booklet.

Disclaimer:  This is a spoof I wrote in March 1996 and sent to Tom Key, after he had sent me a copy of the 14th edition of his A Biologist Looks at the Book of Mormon.  Because my BA is in anthropology, I used the term "anthropologist" in the title instead of "biologist."  Neither term is relevant to either Key's work (most of which does not deal with biological issues) or mine.  Tom and I get on quite well and he enjoyed the laugh.  He wrote brief responses to each item on the following list, and guess what.  Many of those responses were very much like the kinds of responses "Mormons" give to criticisms of the Book of Mormon.  For some reason, it never occurred to him that responses he considered valid for the Bible could also be valid for the Book of Mormon(e.g., miraculous events).  As you read through the spoof, you will consider many, if not all, of the criticisms to be ridiculous, because of your faith in the Bible.  Those are the same feelings we have when reading the kinds of criticisms found in Tom Key's booklet.  Neither list of criticisms is to be taken seriously.

The following is Mr. Tvedtnes' spoof.

An Anthropologist Looks at the Bible
by B. Ware Kee

For centuries, people have gullibly believed that the Bible was divine in origin.  Some have even believed it to be inerrant.  But does the Bible stand up under the scrutiny of modern science?

The Bible speaks of mythological creatures that never existed, such as the satyr (Isaiah 13:21; 34:14), the cockatrice (Isaiah 11:8; 14:29; 59:5; Jeremiah 8:17), and the dragon (Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 30:29; Psalms 44:19; 74:13; 91:13; 148:7; Isaiah 13:22; 27:1; 34:13; 35:7; 43:20; 51:9; Jeremiah 9:11; 10:22; 14:6; 49:33; 51:34, 37; Ezekiel 29:3; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3).  In ancient mythology, the satyr is a creature that is half man (the upper half) and half goat, with horns on the head.  The laws of genetics make this combination of two species impossible.  The cockatrice was believed in medieval Europe to be a serpent hatched from a cock's egg.  It impossible for the egg of one species to produce an animal of a different species.  Besides, cocks don't lay eggs; hens do.  Dragons, of course, have never existed except in the imagination of primitive peoples.  Not a single dragon skeleton has ever been excavated by archaeologists.

The Bible speaks of a bowel disorder that causes the bowels to fall out (2 Chronicles 21:15, 19).  There is no known disease that could cause the bowels to simply fall out of the body.

According to the Bible, king Hezekiah was healed of a boil by placing a lump of figs on it (2 Kings 20:7).  There are no curative powers in figs such as that described here.

According to 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, illness is caused by partaking unworthily of the sacrament of the Lord's supper. But we know that illness results from infection of microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.

The Bible says that people can be healed by laying hands on them (Matthew 8:14; Mark 16:18; Luke 4:40; Acts 28:8) or simply by speaking a word (Matthew 8:6-13; 9:2-7; Luke 5:24-25).  Sometimes, people were healed merely by touching Jesus' garment (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 6:55-56).  Acts 19:12 indicates that sick people are possessed by evil spirits and that they can be healed by being touched with handkerchiefs or aprons touched by someone who has healing powers.  Even more fantastic is the story in Acts 5:15, where we read that people were healed when the shadow of Peter fell on them.  It is naive to believe that one could cure illness by magical gestures such as these.  Many illnesses must be treated with strong antibiotics, which were not available two thousand years ago.

The Bible claims that a man could be cured "of whatsoever disease he had" by going into a pool of water "at a certain season" (John 5:4).  While water can prevent disease by washing away germs found on the skin, it is foolish to believe that any and all diseases can be healed simply by taking a bath.

The Bible indicates that the sins of parents can cause blindness in their children (John 9:2).  While the causes of blindness can be either pathological or psychological, it is illogical to assume that the sins of parents could bring the curse of blindness on their offspring.  In another Bible story, a child died because of its parents' sin (2 Samuel 12:14-18).  Such superstitious beliefs have no basis in scientific fact.

The Bible speaks of a boy whose "sickness was so sore, that there was no breath left in him" (1 Kings 17:17).  If he could no longer breathe, the boy was not simply sick, but dead!

A number of Bible passages speak of the "shadow of death" (Job 3:5; 10:21-22; 12:22; 16:16; 24:17; 28:3; 34:22; 38:17; Psalms 23:4; 44:19; 107:10, 14; 139:23; Isaiah 9:2; Jeremiah 2:6; 13:16; Amos 5:8; Matthew 4:16; Luke 1:79).  This, of course, is sheer fantasy.  Since death is not a substantive thing, it cannot possibly cast a shadow.

The Bible says that the heart is the center of thought (Genesis 6:5; Deuteronomy 15:9; Judges 5:15; 1 Samuel 1:13; 2 Samuel 13:33; 1 Chronicles 28:9; 19:18; Job 17:11; Esther 6:6; Psalms 33:11; Proverbs 23:7; Isaiah 10:7; Jeremiah 23:20; Daniel 2:30; Matthew 9:4; 15:19; Mark 7:21; Luke 2:35; 5:22; 9:47; 24:38; Acts 8:22; Hebrews 4:12), while, in fact, we know that thoughts result from the functions of the brain.  The Biblealso sees the bowels as the seat of emotion (Genesis 43:30; 1 Kings 3:26; Song of Solomon 5:4; Isaiah 63:15; Jeremiah 31:20; Lamentations 1:20; 2:11; Philippians 1:8; 2:1; Colossians 3:12; Philemon 1:20; 1 John 3:17).  The bowels are, in fact, for digestion and elimination of waste.  In Psalms 16:7, we read that the reins (kidneys) instruct a man at night, which is obviously too fantastic for comment.

The Bible indicates that the semen that produces children comes from the bowels of men (Genesis 15:4; 2 Samuel 7:12; 16:11; 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 48:19).  This is not true; semen originates in the testes.  But the Bible goes even farther by stating that the fetus is carried in the bowels of the woman (Genesis 25:23; Psalms 71:6; Isaiah 49:1) when, in fact, it is in the uterus.

The Bible says that if a man's wife cheats on him, the priest should mingle dust from the floor of the tabernacle with holy water and make her drink it, causing her belly to swell and her thigh to rot (Numbers 5:12-27).  The only "rot" is the story itself, which cannot possibly be true.  While the woman might become ill because of microorganisms in the dust from the floor, there is no known disease that would make both her belly swell and her thigh rot.

The Bible has a very unrealistic view of death. In one case, a dead man is brought back to life simply by coming into contact with the bones of the dead prophet Elijah (2 Kings 13:21).  In another case, Lazarus rises from the dead after four days, when decomposition had already set in (John 11:39-44).  While recovery from the state of death is known to happen on rare occasions, it is impossible for a decomposing corpse to be revived.  Moreover, if the dead person is not revived within a short period of time, the lack of blood circulation deprives the brain of oxygen, resulting in severe brain damage.

In one Bible story, fire consumes not only the sacrifice and the wood, but also the stones, the dust, and the water surrounding the altar (1 Kings 18:38).  This is totally contrary to the laws of physics.  Stones, dust, and especially water cannot be burned by fire.

The concept of seasoning one's speech with salt, found in Colossians 4:6, makes absolutely no sense.

Salt does not lose its savour (Matthew 5:13; Luke 14:34) or its saltiness (Mark 9:50).

The Bible speaks of "rivers in the desert" (Isaiah 43:19-20).  By its very definition, a desert is a place that has no waters.

The Bible says that a flood of water covered the entire earth, including the mountains, drowning every living creature except those on Noah's ark (Genesis 6:17; 7:19-22).  But there is no evidence of such a universal flood and, in any event, there is not enough water on the earth to cause a flood that would cover all the mountains.

The Bible claims that the walls of Jericho were made to fall down flat after the Israelites had walked around them for a week and then shouted and blew ram's horns (Joshua 6:1-20).  The resonance of sound may cause a champagne glass to shatter, but it is physically impossible for mere shouting and blowing of trumpets to make a thick defensive wall fall down.

Genesis 41:3-4 speaks of kine (cattle) eating other cattle.  Since cattle are herbivores, this is, naturally, an impossible situation.  But it is no more impossible than what we find in the next few verses (Genesis 41:5-7), where we read of corn eating corn!

The Bible tells us that Samson's great strength derived from his long hair and that when the hair was cut, he immediately became weak, but regained his strength again after his hair grew back (Judges 16:6-30).  This story describes an impossible situation.  We know that physical strength depends on such factors as proper nutrition, exercise, and rest, and that one's hair length plays absolutely no role.  If long hair makes men strong, why did so many circus strong men shave their heads?

The Bible talks about a virgin conceiving and bearing a child (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).  This is, of course, utter folly.  Unless impregnated by male sperm, the female ovum cannot produce a child any more than you can build a house without materials and construction workers.