The academy cries foul and asks "where is your evidence religious person" and lo and behold here comes this little discovery which validates the very first claim the Bible makes. So with this in mind would such a substantial claim being verified not give credence to a claim that a holy book is indeed the word of God.

The accidental discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation is a major development in modern physical cosmology. Although predicted by earlier theories, it was first found accidentally by Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson as they experimented with the Holmdel Horn Antenna. The discovery was evidence for an expanding universe, (big bang theory) and was evidence against the steady state model. In 1978, Penzias and Wilson were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their joint discovery.


Genesis 1 v1

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

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    Related question. Also, I'm rather skeptical that the very first claim in the Bible is all that substantial: either the Universe was created or it wasn't, and the Bible happens to take the former position. It doesn't seem particularly profound a claim to me; it seems like one of the intuitive assumptions to make, the other main ones being that the universe is cyclic or simply eternal.
    – commando
    Apr 9 '14 at 15:53
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    It would take a serious stretch of the imagination to see that second quote as having predicted the background radiation of the universe... Apr 9 '14 at 22:01
  • @Neil Meyer, are you saying that the phrase "in the beginning" somehow "predicts" the discovery that the universe is expanding? I see nothing in the phrase to indicate that the writer even suspects that the universe is expanding, let alone that there exists any circumstantial evidence (i.e. cosmic background radiation) for this fact. Apr 9 '14 at 23:17
  • The question is about credence (the probability assigned by a perfectly rational agent ~= Bayesian) so the answer is - yes it would: it's quite possible that we will make discoveries that could make the bible seem more credible, but the track record's not very good, and the example given certainly isn't one. Considering just the first 3 words, there is a really, really, really small positive change in credence then completely outweighed by the the loss in credence when you compare the remaining part of the sentence with the research (where the big bang was 14BYA and earth formed 4.5BYA).
    – Lucas
    Apr 10 '14 at 0:54
  • It is an interesting aside that the man who formulated the idea of the Big Bang was a Catholic priest (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Lema%C3%AEtre). He was fiercely opposed by Fred Hoyle, who happened to be atheist (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hoyle), who continued to profess a steady-state model of the universe until his passing in 2001. Apr 10 '14 at 20:30

In order to prove that a book is inspired by God, it would have to be the only possible explanation. And prediction of scientific discoveries could be potentially achieved by a time traveller of some sort, or another entity from the past able to predict the future.

Let's consider a prediction as accurate as possible:

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, provoking cosmic microwave background which would be accurately discovered in 1978 by Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson.

This would be amazing, but can have been written by either an entity from the past knowing the future, or an entity from the future having travelled in the past. While it would definitely be an argument in favor of the book being the word of God, it would not be a proof.

  • Yes, this is on the right track. But "giving credence" (question) and "proving" (your answer) are two different things. Perhaps you might speak to why this shouldn't count as offering much credence, either. Apr 10 '14 at 14:29
  • @ChristopherE Well, I understood "giving credence" as "Acceptance of a belief or claim as true, especially on the basis of evidence." (Not a native English speaker, I always check a dictionary before answering ;)) So giving credence would mean "accepting an accurate prediction as evidence of God". Or do "evidence" and "proof" mean different things? Apr 10 '14 at 15:24
  • Credence has a special meaning in philosophy and refers to subjective probability. Linguistically, "gives credence" can be quite difficult: "I give X credence" means "I think X is quite probable", where as "Y gives credence to X" can mean either "Y makes X seem more likely to a perfectly rational probabilistic agent" or, depending on context, "evidence Y is the reason why a perfectly rational probabilistic agent should think X is quite likely". With credence, all data is (almost surely) either for or against a hypothesis and giving credence to hypotheses does not exclude giving it to others.
    – Lucas
    Apr 10 '14 at 17:32
  • @Lucas Oh I see, thanks a lot. Then, I'm worried this answer is actually completely off-topic, and I don't see how to make it about credence without changing the whole meaning of the answer Apr 10 '14 at 18:09
  • Leave it. Technical meanings of terms aside, it's not an unreasonable response. Whilst reading the question as referring to credence in the technical sense is probably the most charitable (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_charity), it's by no means certain that this what the OP intended. The community likes it too.
    – Lucas
    Apr 10 '14 at 18:35

The question of whether the universe is eternal, cyclical which is, in some sense, also saying that it is eternal, or created. Any of these positions are profound which is why thinkers have struggled with them. Kant uses this difficulty to rule the question out as being amenable to critical discussion. One might say he doesn't want to discuss it.

I think it is a mistake to think that the Bible or Quran, or other originary myth, whether invented for that purpose say by Plato in the Timaeus or by the Hopi Indians should be understood empirically or scientifically. What one can do is discuss the positions that they take, even when one is committed to a certain position.

Empirically, that is within the context of our universe right now, and without going into detailed scientific justifications, it seems that time must have had a beginning - otherwise how can eternity pass to reach now? This is at least good grounds for thinking that the universe had a beginning. For if time had a beginning, the so did space and matter. This is one-half of an Antinomy of Kant.

If God created the universe, then God is Eternal, not in the sense of existing in a time that is infinite, but in being outside of time. In some sense, we've traded the eternal universe for the eternity of God.

One could ask, if the universe is in fact eternal, can a God have created it? Of course, neither the Quran or the Bible endorses this position.

As for the role of inspiration, prophecy - those are difficult questions, which have superficially easy answers. Al-Ghazali endorsed occasionalism for the universe to even occur, that is for causality to happen. Recall here that Hume had the same thought several centuries later. Spinoza, had both thought and extension, the two Descartian substances as two modes of God; further back Plotinus took the universe as an emanation from God, which is also the thought of school of Illumination in Islamic Philosophy. If Spinoza has thought in God, then can we say that our thoughts are our own? Or perhaps that God is within the secret interstices of thought that give it operation? In Platos dialogue, Ion, he has Socrates assert that Rhapsody is inspiration, and inspiration comes from the Gods - the divine spark blown into divine fire by divine wind. It also what inspires Rumis metaphor of the reed in his Masnavi.


A few points

1) In general, an ancient book that makes scientific statements that we know today that would have been unknown or surprising adds to the credibility. A non-Biblical example of this is Herodotus's mentioning of the motion of the Sun during the Phoenician circumnavigation of Africa (can't find the verse). Herodotus had a habit of reporting whatever stories he heard as he heard them, even if they seemed unbelievable. In this case, because we know the Sun's motion would be different below the equator, we have reason to believe the report of circumnavigation. That, however, doesn't mean that we believe in flying snakes in Ethiopia.

2) The Bible was written by several human authors over several millenia. I'd imagine that for someone skeptical of the Bible, the Bible predicting scientific phenomena in one section written by one author wouldn't make the author authors more believable.

3) The point of the Bible isn't scientific. Let's say the Bible made predictions about quantum mechanics or electromagnetism. What impact would that have on how Christians worship? What impact would that have on the theological messages delivered by Christ? Would that have any impact on the understanding of the Old Testament covenant by either Jews or Christians? Certainly not.

There are non-theological statements of fact that would have an effect on the above theological questions. The best example of these (for Christians, anyway) is "Jesus was resurrected." I once heard a priest give a homily about this topic. Before becoming a priest, he was with someone about what it would mean if it was scientifically proven that there was no Resurrection. He took the stance (and this seems to be the right stance) that the story of Christianity is the Resurrection, and without the Resurrection everything else is rendered meaningless.


Read Iain M. Banks, "The Hydrogen Sonata", describing a quite sinister possibility.

And that line from genesis is so vague, it could be anything. You're putting the bible on the same level as Nostradamus.


Your unverifiable and unrealistic association of a Big Bang event with the thrice-translated (at least!) Genesis is, among other things, not even vaguely philosophical. I fail to see how anyone would agree this is appropriate to this QA topic.

Take a look at your second quoted sentence, and you'll see it has absolutely nothing in common with the cosmological theories. So why do you see one sentence as evidence of a god yet refuse to see the other sentence as evidence against a god?

  • Responding to "We're looking for long answers..." Well, that's philosophy for you :-) . I'll try to stay out of the fray. Apr 10 '14 at 11:08

That the universe has a beginning is consistent with the the phrase 'In the beginning'. The claim, however is a very weak one which is also consistent with other competing theories, such as that primitive people made up a story which sounded plausible to them at the time.

In order for one theory to have credence over the other, you would need a prediction on which they differ.

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