Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Asimov on 1 Kings 7:23

As we discussed in this blog entry, 1 Kings 7:23, taken on its face, implies that pi equals three.

Just out of curiousity, I thumbed through my copy of Asimov's Guide to the Bible, by Isaac Asimov, just to see what he had to say on the subject. I reproduce his brief analysis in full:


The exact function of the “molten sea” is not stated, though it seems most likely that it was a container for water used in the various rituals. The interesting point is that its upper rim seems to be circular in shape with a diameter of ten cubits and a circumference of thirty cubits. This is impossible, for the ratio of the circumference to the diameter (a ratio called “pi” by mathematicians) is given here as 30/10=3, whereas the real value of pi is an unending decimal which begins 3.14159... If the molten sea were really ten cubits in diameter it would have to be just under thirty-one and a half cubits in circumference.

The explanation is, of course, that the Biblical writers were not mathematicians or even interested in mathematics and were merely giving approximate figures. Still, to those who are obsessed with the notion that every word in the Bible is infallible (and who know a little mathematics) it is bound to come as a shock to be told that the Bible says that the value of pi is 3.


Exactly right, and, as I recall, almost exactly what I said.

27 Comments:

At 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how many (re-)interpretations of the Christian Bible are done in light of evidence discovered through the scientific process.

We know at least some inerrantist Christian Bible believers once believed in a flat earth based on passages in their holy book. And I believe more than a few brave souls paid a price to go against that "wisdom"/Truth.

The question is: Would Christianity - all by itself - have finally arrived at the more accurate understanding of our physical world if left to its own devices? Or, do Christian Bible passages only find "correct" interpretations when the old interpretations conflict with known modern data discovered by science?

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger amstar said...

"I wonder how many (re-)interpretations of the Christian Bible are done in light of evidence discovered through the scientific process."

The flip side of this question is interesting as well. How many times has our scientific understanding of the world improved by reinterpreting scientific evidence in the light of biblical teachings?

 
At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

Amstar -

I can answer your question. The answer is....

precisely 0 times.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Pope Zach 64 said...

It was amusing to read Heddle's hemming and hawing in the last post about pi.

C'mon, Heddle (and all Biblical lieteralists). Either the Bible is absolutely inerrant or it isn't. If it IS inerrant, there should be no need for "interpretation" and jumping through hoops to make pi = 3.14159... etc. Wall thickness and manufacturing imperfections of the "molten sea" be damned.

The verse says diameter IS 10 and circumference IS 30. Not "approximately", not "roughly", not "about." No, it says "IS".

Of course, I guess that depends on what God's meaning of "is" is.....

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger monado said...

As I recall, Asimov also proved that, according to the Bible, Heaven is hotter than Hell. He used the ignition temperature of burning sulphur for Hell--I forget what for Heaven. But it was cute.

Oh, and I'm reading the Bible right now. I just go to the part where it reports that the Flood is 30 cubits deep. That is, generously, about 45 feet (13 metres), which probably explains why in the 1600s people believed that high mountains had been suddenly thrown up after the flood.

 
At 3:59 PM, Anonymous J. J. Ramsey said...

"Still, to those who are obsessed with the notion that every word in the Bible is infallible (and who know a little mathematics) it is bound to come as a shock to be told that the Bible says that the value of pi is 3."

Asimov obviously was unfamiliar with the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Article XIII of it reads:

"WE DENY that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations."

Given this, I think their reaction to Asimov's statement,

"the Biblical writers were not mathematicians or even interested in mathematics and were merely giving approximate figures."

is not shock but rather, "Well, duh!"

 
At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Fred said...

I'd still like to know exactly what IS correct in the Bible and how do we know that? It seems like every time someone finds something which is clearly factually wrong we are told that "of course they didn't mean THAT part to be exact, you idiot!"

I wish I knew of that fool-proof excuse back when I was in school. "I did NOT get that answer wrong, you idiot! Don't you understand the context???"

What else is not exactly right in the Bible? Jesus wasn't really the song of God? Jesus didn't really die for our sins?

 
At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For pope zach; The word IS is not in the orginal text.

What is Inerrancy

“ Inerrancy is the view that when all the facts become known they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs when correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all that it affirms whether that relates to doctrines or ethics or in the social, physical or life sciences.” -Fienberg

 
At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd still like to know exactly what IS correct in the Bible and how do we know that? It seems like every time someone finds something which is clearly factually wrong we are told that "of course they didn't mean THAT part to be exact, you idiot!"

The Chicago statement is a farce because the fact is - literalist (i.e. those who worship the xtian bible) - interpret the "unchanging word of God" in light of evidence external to the "Good Book."

Once those damanable humanists (both religious and non-religious) had their way in the realm of medicine, science, and social progress, suddenly literalists re-discovered that, "well, no, former believers were misguided. The Bible does not condone slavery. Nor does it say that women cannot receive pain medication during childbirth. Or that women cannot own land. Etc."

They haven't quite figured out a way to reconcile evolution with the Jewish Creation Myth, but give it another 100 years. People will be looking back at today's Christian reactionaries as "not real Christians" because they were misinterpreting "God's Word" re: Genesis.

And so, the cycle repeats. Apparently, there is no end to this madness.

 
At 3:48 PM, Anonymous J. J. Ramsey said...

fred: "I'd still like to know exactly what IS correct in the Bible and how do we know that? It seems like every time someone finds something which is clearly factually wrong we are told that 'of course they didn't mean THAT part to be exact, you idiot!'"

It's simply in theory, though tricky in practice. Read the Bible with the intent of the (earthly) author(s) in mind. That's a fair way to read any ancient text. Of course, if you do that, some things will still turn out to be in error, such as the creation and flood stories. Still, that's a good way to avoid eye rolls from the non-fundie Christians.

 
At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I once confronted a creationist with this passage showing that the Bible says that pi is exactly 3, and the creationist answered by saying that the diameter was measured on the inside of the “molten sea” and the circumference was measured on the outside of the container. There would be a difference in the exact value for pi because you would have to factor in the thickness of the container.

It sort of makes sense until you realize that such measurements would make the diameter smaller and the circumference larger meaning that the Bible was even more incorrect than we previously thought!

 
At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took measurements of a scietific beaker (not including the spout) the brim measure 7.5cm, the outside diameter was 22.5 cm???? science says
pi = 3???, no! it the freakin flaired edge on the container.

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooops, diameter of brim 7.5cm ...outside "measured round" was 22.5cm

gots to be more careful typing!!!!

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, can anyone tell me what the value of pi really is? If someone can print the true answer (no approximations since this is clearly not allowed) on this page, I will renounce my faith in Christianity.

-Heath

 
At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I once confronted a creationist with this passage showing that the Bible says that pi is exactly 3, and the creationist answered by saying that the diameter was measured on the inside of the “molten sea” and the circumference was measured on the outside of the container. There would be a difference in the exact value for pi because you would have to factor in the thickness of the container."

Actually, either the creationist said it backwards, or you heard him wrong and you might've restated what he said as backwards. What he probably meant was that the diameter was measured on the outside and the circumference was measured on the inside. (This makes a whole lot more sense than the other way around). See here for a nice explanation of that:

http://ad2004.com/prophecytruths/Articles/mathmystery.html

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah shoot it looks like it didn't capture the entire link:
http://ad2004.com/prophecytruths/Articles/mathmystery.html

Hopefully that will work

 
At 10:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry everyone, ok the end of that link is supposed to say mystery.html

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger nano said...

Nothing but a slightly irregular circle is needed to explain this. With a slightly oval shape, and the longest diameter, or major axis as the one read then the curvature deviates minimally from a perfect circle, yet the circumference/major axis ratio is 3:1.

This is overly complex though, all we need is a little rounding error:
Circumference equation: Diameter * pi

Diameter= 9.65 multiplied by pi= 3.1415 equals circumference= 30.315475.

Rounding D and C to nearest, we have D=10, C=30. Pi is still 3.1415.

This works for all higher approximations of pi.

Looks like Asimov is right, the odds of perfect measurement were small, if they rounded to the closest integer the results can be consistent with the true value of pi.

Though arguing about numbers in poetry is fairly silly. The bible is a work of man, NOT the word of God, ergo it is erroneous. Second hand personal revelations are the best you will get in an ancient epic. Get over it people.

 
At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>>>At 2:56 PM, amstar said...
"I wonder how many (re-)interpretations of the Christian Bible are done in light of evidence discovered through the scientific process."

The flip side of this question is interesting as well. How many times has our scientific understanding of the world improved by reinterpreting scientific evidence in the light of biblical teachings?


At 2:58 PM, Pope Zach 64 said...
Amstar -

I can answer your question. The answer is....

precisely 0 times.
<<<<

LMAO. You obviously have not visited the sceptical institution the British Museum, wherein numerous artefacts have been informed by passages from the Bible. I just spent an entire week there with a number of historians looking at just this issue, and filming a documentary on same.

Typical. sceptic who bases his assertions on conjecture. Go read a little.

 
At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In hebrew the regular word for "line" in "a line of 30 cubits" is spelled with two letters, the first with a numeric value of 100 the second with a value of 6. In 1Kings7:23 it is spelled with three letters, the third with a value of 5. 111/106x30cubits= 31.41509 which differs from true pi about .015" on about 45', less than the thermal expansion due to a cloud passing between the brass and sun.

 
At 8:36 AM, Anonymous David said...

that is ridiculous.
God is greater than mathematics, for He was the first Mathematician. God is greater than science, for He was the first Scientist.
You think the Bible is disproven because it gives a general description and was off by 1 1/2 cubits?
Your justifications and explanations are cute, and they might make you feel better about yourself, and they may help you sleep at night. But they will not hold on the last day before the living God.

"Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?" Romans 9:20-21

 
At 2:23 AM, Anonymous www.valencia-3d.com said...

Wow, there is a great deal of useful information in this post!

 
At 5:49 AM, Blogger Chém chết xấu trai said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 10:18 AM, Blogger blogcar said...

M-Audio Studiophile AV30 MkII Powered Monitor Speakers: Musical Instruments

Homes Direct 365 Discount CodesFind a Sugar Daddie

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger blogcar said...

Though we're delighted to have our own online toystore up this holiday season, there are a thousand things we could recommend from elsewhere. Cutting it down to a couple of hundred, for our...

kuala lumpur hotel ratesBiomarker analysis

 
At 1:20 AM, Blogger blogcar said...

Khan Academy has some amazing resources for students and teachers.
etobicoke condosQuail West Naples Florida

 
At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Daniel said...

It is impossible to understand Scripture unless you read it in its original language, the Hebrew language. There are certain things which do not come across in translations, because they are coded in the Hebrew text.

One such example is '1st Kings 7:23'. The casual observer would conclude that the ancient Israelites were fools because they said that the circumference was 45-feet of a 15-foot diameter bowl. However when you examine the text closer, you see very clearly that they were not writing the circumference to be 45-feet, but actually 47.12264150943398 feet, an error of less than 15 thousandths of an inch! (This error is 15 times better than the 22/7 estimate commonly taught in schools.)

Please view this website to see a more in-depth explanation of the Hidden Truth in that verse of Scripture. http://www.khedwat.org/advancedmath.html

 

Post a Comment

<< Home