(This article started as a part of a previous post, Indoctrination, Brainwashing, and Deception in Everything from Santa Clause to Christianity Part 1.)
Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of what is falsely called knowledge; (1Ti 6:20 WEB)
The word “knowledge” in the above verse is the Greek word gnosis and it does mean knowledge. This word is translated as science in the King James version. I can understand the translation of this word into the word science as the product of good science is to produce reliable knowledge. And the verse above refers to false knowledge which has been a problem throughout the history of man. This topic is of concern to Christians because there is a history of interaction between Christianity and science, both good and bad.
Another term for false knowledge is pseudoscience. Because the job of science is to produce reliable knowledge, science that produces unreliable knowledge is called false science or pseudoscience. That makes it deceptive.
It may or may not surprise you to hear that I have a techie, nerdish side that is fascinated by science. Science has done some great things by my account. The very words that you are reading as well as some of the other parts of this article were put here by me talking into a microphone and a computer typing them out. Immediately, spell and grammar checkers started pointing out things to work on to improve the text. When done, this article is then published into a worldwide network where it can be accessed across the globe. We live in a world where we have watches and phones that are computers and see self-driving cars on the street.
Beyond that, I took biology, chemistry, and physics classes in high school and college. I studied higher-level mathematics. I worked as a computer programmer, network engineer, and computer trainer. Good science is amazing to me.
But I just don’t accept everything that comes my way that’s presented as science. The world has a history of accepting and implementing scientific theories in different sciences that were later proven to be false. These are all examples of pseudoscience.
And, concerning what we do here at originalchristianity.net, we want to be wary of comparing false science to the scriptures as well as the other side of the coin, interpreting scriptures to promote claims of scientific declarations in scripture. So it can go both ways, some have read into the Scriptures things that aren’t there and made statements that have proven to be false in the physical world.
For he looks to the ends of the earth, and sees under the whole sky.(Job 28:24 WEB)
This and verses like it are the basis of theologians declaring the earth is flat. This is a figure of speech, not a literal verse. There is no way to look under the whole sky at the same time. But that’s what this verse appears to say. In reality, it’s just a figure of speech talking about the Lord’s ability to see everything at once.
Reading into this verse to say that the earth is flat is twisting what it says. The earth has no corners in reality. Now, it may be understandable that until the globe was circumnavigated people didn’t know that for sure. So, maybe we didn’t know it then, but we certainly know now that in actuality there are no corners of the earth so this verse must be a figure of speech. And even then, I can’t find any ancient claims that people recognized any location as even one corner of the earth.
The above is an example of trying to extract scientific knowledge from Scripture, and it just doesn’t work here. However, there are other cases where scriptural knowledge, while not stating itself as a scientific principle, does prove scientifically insightful. For example:
“He who touches the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with water on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean; but if he doesn’t purify himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Whoever touches a dead person, the body of a man who has died, and doesn’t purify himself, defiles Yahweh’s tabernacle; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is yet on him. (Num 19:11-13 WEB)
Germs and other disease-causing pathogens are a relatively recent scientific discovery. There are stories of maternity wards in the 19th century where developing doctors would study and practice their techniques on corpses, and then use the same instruments, and dirty hands to help deliver babies. Surgeons in the Civil War went from one patient to another using the same dirty hands and instruments. This resulted in high mortality rates as doctors and surgeons were unwittingly spreading germs from corpses and other people around. The scriptural practice described above illuminates how cleansing practices in the Law were better than the unhygienic practices developed later on many fronts. When science discovered the importance of hygiene in healthcare the mortality rates in healthcare plummeted. The Law had hygiene built in. When people were sick the law had cleansing rituals. Basically, they included, washings of the person and their belongings as well as isolation to contain the infection.
So while it’s not stated as a scientific principle, we now know it the cleansing rituals in the Law were a better way to do things scientifically than in some other places of the world, even up until relatively recent times.
And, without getting too much further into it, look at Numbers 19:6.
The priest shall take cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the middle of the burning of the heifer. (Num 19:6 WEB)
A clean person shall take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle it on the tent, on all the vessels, on the persons who were there, and on him who touched the bone, or the slain, or the dead, or the grave. (Num 19:18 WEB)
These may look like Voodoo, but they actually have some good cleansing properties in these processes. One of the ways to make lye is to pour water through ashes. Hyssop contains antibacterial ingredients. Cedar is still used in places to repel insects and other organisms.
So, while the Scriptures are not scientific treatises, they do contain what we would recognize as scientifically sound practices.
A Brief History of Pseudoscience
There are many examples of false science. Some of these examples are concepts that people became enamored with to the point where they use them to make real-life decisions that affected people’s lives. Some people may have lived their entire lives believing in a “science” that later turned out to be a lie. They were deceived.
Phrenology was a scientific concept that was promoted in the 18th century and used by professionals in diagnosis and treatment into the 20th century. Its basic theory is that mental capabilities and character traits can be determined by looking at the bumps on the skull. This scientific theory enjoyed acceptance by other sciences for over a century before it was debunked.
Eugenics was an accepted scientific theory that ruled many a person’s thinking from the late 19th century into the first part of the 20th century. Eugenics is the study and practice of improving races on a large scale and human potential on a small scale by selective breeding. Scientists in this field maintained that you could predict both a person’s good qualities like intelligence and health as well as a person’s negative qualities such as disabilities and even traits of deviant behavior. The United States was a center for research in this area in the early 20th century.
But it is Nazi Germany that is most famous for applying theories of Eugenics to base their master race theory that resulted in the Holocaust and persecution and killing of Blacks, intellectuals, and other people with traits they deemed undesirable. But before that, there was considerable acceptance of Eugenics.
Another science, The Blank Slate theory, is a “science” that says that humans are blank slates upon birth, and everything must be learned. Modern science now challenges that theory.
The blank slate, the dominant theory of human nature in modern intellectual life stating that humans are shaped entirely by their experiences and not by any preexisting biological mechanisms, is being challenged and soundly trounced by the cognitive, neural, and genetic sciences, said Steven Pinker, Harvard University, in his Keynote Address.
Astronomical scientific theories have been debunked. If you watch a scientific show on, for example, the Big Bang Theory (the actual theory, not the TV show) they can be pretty impressive and convincing. But you need to remember there have been scientific theories in astronomy throughout the ages that have come and gone. The planet Vulcan is a planet that was accepted to be in between Mercury and the sun for a long time but just didn’t appear. There have been a number of planets that were projected to be in places that were never found.
Spontaneous generation is the theory that life can spring from inanimate matter. It was a scientific genesis theory. It had its period of acceptance but was later debunked.
These are not the only cases, but they point to the flaw of too early acceptance. They are examples of pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is a scientific theory that is accepted as true but later is found to be false. It was never proven reliable. Or it had faulty premises. The area of astrology is pseudoscience as it at one time was considered a science and academic discipline as was alchemy.
My point is that history has shown us that science regularly promotes theories that become popular and cause social change while later proving to be false, and possibly harmful or even dangerous. The scientific basis behind brainwashing theory and its treatment by deprogramming is too sketchy to accept. It appears to be another case of pseudoscience. And looking at the Scriptures to understand what does happen in these cases we have genuine scriptural concepts of deception, delusion, possession, and more. But brainwashing is neither a legitimate scientific term nor a scriptural one. Yet, many a person has been accused of being brainwashed and even legally kidnapped and subjected to deprogrammers who deploy the same kinds of techniques that they claim the brainwashers use. (See Indoctrination, Brainwashing, and Deception in Everything from Santa Clause to Christianity Part 1 for more)
The Claim to Believe in Science
I regularly run into people who say to me, “I believe in science”. The problem is, what does that mean?
I have been to different doctors that have advised me to take certain supplements. I’ve been advised to take Alpha lipoic acid, and fish oil for nerve pain. I’ve been advised to take extra vitamin C to help with respiratory ailments, and co-Q10 enzyme to help with my aging heart.
On the other hand, I’ve been to doctors who have said to me that they believe in science and just to stop taking supplements. In actuality, I have found that I’ve taken some supplements that helped for a while and then appeared not to need them anymore. On the other hand, I’ve tried to stop taking some supplements and could really tell the difference. I appear to be one of the people that glucosamine helps with their knees. I don’t have to take it all the time, but if my knee starts acting up, I start taking the glucosamine again, and my knees feel better.
So, I just don’t accept when doctors say not to do something because they believe in science. When I pressed one Doctor to more precisely define why he said that and told him that there were studies presented by vitamin companies backing the viable use of their products, his answer was less than purely scientific. What he said was the studies by vitamin companies are often not as rigorous as the studies then by labs using more rigorous scientific methods. He talked about the importance of a double-blind study whereby some people are ignorantly given placebos, and some are ignorantly given the actual ingredient, and how that is important to resolve the efficacy of the ingredient. He cited that pharmaceutical companies do much more rigorous scientific studies as a rule than supplement companies. And also, perhaps even more important, the manufacturers of supplements are nowhere nearly as regulated and carefully overseen as pharmaceutical manufacturers.
I said to him that he had not proven that supplements don’t work, only that he didn’t trust the process, and that people have been taking teas, tinctures, vitamins, and other natural cures for thousands of years with some degree of success. Especially people, who are not getting relief by traditional pharmaceutical means, should not be discouraged from trying other things that may provide them relief.
This Doctor finally conceded that that was true, but he was so concerned about the misinformation on the Internet and other places as well as even that promoted by the more unscrupulous manufacturers that his stance was not to encourage people to take anything that wasn’t of regulated pharmaceutical standards and sold by a pharmacy. He then made the statement that he himself did not need to take vitamins and has been able to keep in very good health as if his circumstances were the norm for all humankind. Nevertheless, he did walk back his “I believe in science” statement quite a bit.
The truth is, as we will see, that science doesn’t deal with absolutes. True scientists experiment and explore different concepts until they trust them, that is, they find reliable principles to be able to predict how things in nature work. But, and we will look at this a little more in the next section, science acknowledges that it cannot know all the variables in operation for different processes, so true science always admits the possibility that some future variable may change its understanding of how something works.
The Basics of Science
Scientists start out with a theory. The theory then needs to be tested. When a scientific theory is proven reliable, which means that it can be replicated as often as necessary, it becomes scientific law. That is Science 101. Gravity has been thus tested, and so it is called the law of gravity. Most of us are familiar with that law and other laws taught to many students in school science classes while growing up. Other popularly known laws include Newton’s laws of motion and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Of course, just because we’ve heard of something doesn’t mean that we fully understand it. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. That’s pretty heady stuff.
It is important to remember that even what are considered such simple things as gravity are often complex. The simple definition of what goes up must come down is not always true. You might perhaps have a helium balloon in your hand that you let go and it winds up halfway up the mountain that you’re next to. That illustrates that there are other things involved with even simple experiments sometimes. In the case above, the helium in the balloon is lighter than the air it is surrounded by. So, we know the helium balloon rises. In outer space, the further that you get away from Earth and other planets, the weaker the force of gravity is so that you float.
Still, scientists have worked out the law of gravity to the point where they understand how it works under numerous conditions.
Validity and Reliability
When scientists say that their theory works, they say it is reliable. That means that it has been tested to the point where they are confident that it will work time in and time out, again and again. In order for scientific results to be reliable, they also must have been run with validity. Validity refers to setting up control groups that are random, for example. It refers to all the groups getting exactly the same ingredients in the same measure and things like that.
Scientists Don’t Know What They Don’t Know
There is another issue in all scientific conclusions. That is whether or not they counted for all of the variables possible in their experiment. And there really is not any exact way to know that. Thousands of years ago the Greeks discussed atoms as the particles that things are made of. But they had no clue about protons, neutrons, and electrons. Those weren’t discovered until the 20th century. Thus, scientific theories are never really scientifically provable. As indicated above, they say that it is reliable. They say they trust the theory. But a true scientist will never say that his theory is proven.
Some scientific theories are not even able to be tested, at least now. For example, you may or may not have heard of string theory. It’s a very complicated theory that allows for a variety of incredible results, a couple of which are wormholes and parallel universes, the stuff of comic books, and mega-movie franchises.
String theory allows for the possibility that wormholes extend not only between distant regions of our own universe, but also between distant regions of parallel universes. Perhaps universes that have different physical laws could even be connected by wormholes.
I’m sure you’ve heard of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is the science of dealing with particles, atoms, and their constituent parts, that may be separated by vast spaces in the universe! Quantum mechanics says that these particles amazingly interact and their behavior can be predicted. This science is a century old or so. And it has been used in numerous areas including quantum computers, lasers, and even devices that you may have been exposed to like MRIs, and LEDs. What’s significant about quantum mechanics is that rather than saying you can use quantum mechanics to produce experiments that work each and every time, quantum mechanics produce results that are extremely reliable, rather than perfect. They are reliable enough that they are used in the calculations for creating the devices we just talked about. Rather than saying that the principles of quantum mechanics are right and wrong, what has happened is that there have been numerous interpretations of the principles of quantum mechanics, some say more than 20, that may be right or wrong. In other words, scientists have found systems of successfully working with subatomic particles, and they are not really sure why.
Evolution is a controversial topic, but even pro-evolutionary scientists will admit as Dr. William C. Robertson did:
Evolution isn’t a fact. Rather than claiming so, I think scientists would be better served to agree that evolution is a theory and then proceed to explain what a theory is – a coherent explanation that undergoes constant testing and often revision over a period of time
Evolution is not a fact. To a lot of people, it presents a very coherent theory that makes sense. But it is not a fact.
The point of all of this is that while science is a very powerful and wondrous tool, it is limited in a number of important ways. It is a lot of work to rigorously test a theory. And, even then, some theories, can’t really be tested at all. But they may still sound very good. So some people jump on the bandwagon of different theories way before they are proven to be reliable. And then some of them are proven to be unreliable. The first part of this article documented a number of them like phrenology, eugenics, the blank slate theory, spontaneous generation, astrology, and alchemy.
A century ago prohibitionists used scientific literature to “prove” that all alcohol use is dangerous. They then use that as part of their argument to set the doctrine in their churches against drinking any alcohol. (See T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches for more.)
The theory of evolution is overwhelmingly accepted at least in the scientific community. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t convincing arguments if you really consider articles written by creation scientists despite the rancor that they seem to get from their opposing contingent. Still, the fact that so many people describe evolution as a fact shows the willingness of some people to proclaim something as fact before it is established as such.
While there are certainly interesting theories and interesting early scientific results, the scientific basis for gender identity and sexual orientation is not there. They are far from being reliable scientific theories. And, like evolution, the acceptance of these theories point to the willingness of some people to promote their philosophy as having a scientific basis before the scientific basis is actually established.
The problem of all of this in relation to what this website, OriginalChristianity.net, is concerned with, is that not only unbelievers, but believers in Christianity use unproven scientific theories to not only challenge Scripture but to reinterpret it.
I would like to end this article as I started it with the charge to turn away from “oppositions” of false knowledge, pseudoscience.
Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of what is falsely called knowledge; (1Ti 6:20 WEB)
Good science can be amazing but don’t be deceived by pseudoscience.
 Empirical Science for the Spotless Mind, https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/empirical-science-for-the-spotless-mind
last revised 6/4/2023