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Sunday, February 12, 2012

One more slice of Solomon's Sea Pi, with responses included.

Those who try to find mistakes and contradictions in the Bible usually fall into a few main categories:
  1. People who do not know the Bible very well and bring out old, tired arguments that have been answered and answered again over the years.
  2. People who have devoted themselves to studying the Bible in order to find some way to find flaws in the book itself or assert that the authorship of the book is in question.
  3. People who actually want to figure out if the Bible is accurate or not.
In the case of Solomon's Sea in the Temple built by Solomon, the vast majority of those who seek to complain that God does not know the value of pi are from category 1.  Those in group 3 almost immediately understand there is no problem with the descriptions of the Sea in the Bible, while a few determined and dishonest members of group 2 seek to keep the numbers of group 1 from dwindling.   

It seemed necessary to address the issue with a blog post made in April and I will give you the link and the opening statements of that post:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Debunking the fallacy of Solomon's Sea and other good stuff - Pi served up ala carte


There are many commenters who blithely dismiss the Bible because of the verse in I Kings 7:23 & 24 that states the following:

"He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits to measure around it.  Below the rim, gourds encircled it—ten to a cubit. The gourds were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea."

Now there are portions of the Old Testament in which God gave the people a plan to carry out, such as when He told Noah to build the Ark.  The general sizes given in Genesis produce a massive ship that is built to specifications that modern shipbuilders use today for large ocean-going vessels.   How could Noah have known what design could withstand a world-wide flood?  But God knew.   We do not get the blueprint that Noah received in whatever form from God, but we know it worked and we know the general descriptive dimensions of the Ark are perfect for the job.

Later in the Pentateuch we see God giving Moses specific instructions concerning the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and all aspects of the Tabernacle, beginning in Exodus 25.   Instructions from God are PRESCRIPTIVE in nature.  They are telling the receiver precisely what to do.  Whatever God ordered, they matched it exactly as they could.

Once we get to I Kings, the scripture is DESCRIPTIVE in nature.   The entire passage is describing the Temple and portions thereof.   As I have mentioned previously, we do not know what effect the rim of the sea has on the dimensions and, as the sea was not a cylinder, the measurements would vary depending upon where they were made.   We cannot be sure exactly which "cubit" was being used or which "bath" describing volume is in use here  (but I include an article farther down that speculates intelligently upon that).  Both terms have long fallen from use and both terms had slightly differing measurements depending on several factors.  Unlike today, measurements were often standardized according to individual builder or individual culture and time.   If you think that is being evasive, well, consider the English language.   Daniel Webster undertook the job of making a dictionary in part to standardize meanings of words but especially to standardize spelling.   People used to spell words as they saw fit and that did not work well in a world in which being precise was becoming more important.  The common man had become literate due to the widespread printing and reading of the Bible and so Webster saw the need to define words and spellings to aid in the process of communication in the "modern" age...(this was an excerpt, one must go to the link to read the entire post).


So I thought that post would do the trick, but an amazing amount of people would not and could not accept the math and the premises, so I made a follow-up post that included conclusions gleaned from several additional sources, including the Gracely brothers:

Back in April I devoted a post that largely concentrated on debunking the claims of Atheists about the "Sea" in Solomon's Temple.

It isn't hard to do.   More often than not Atheists are pretty ignorant of the Bible and make very simplistic claims.  Kind of like not knowing much about money and being given the choice between a nickel and a dime and choosing the nickel because it is bigger?   There are many explanations for the measurements given in the Bible.   Here is an excerpt:


"When I worked in the automotive industry, we had differing requirements for various parts depending upon their purpose.   Some measurements were critical and some were not.  We had variations built in to the requirements for padding and sound deadening parts that allowed for a good bit of variation, as they were not critical parts of the automobile.   But some parts had to be made exactly right, enough so that they would fit precisely on a "buck" and their dimensions and the spacing of punched holes or added pieces of metal all hit the exact mark.   The same was true in the steel industry.   There were many items that had to be measured by a caliper to fit within a very narrow band of acceptable readings.   In all of these scenarios, I was part of the production team and was following specific instructions.

In I Kings, however, the Temple is being described.   Therefore I can assert that no matter how they described the measurements of the sea, it does not tell us precisely how, where, and with what requirements such measurement were made.   Since it is descriptive of a building and features, precision would hardly be expected.   The scribes would not write that the sea was 9.82 cubits across, for instance.   In fact, in descriptive mode it would be highly unlikely that a general description of such an object would be particularly precise.   So those who claim that the Bible is wrong here are over-reaching terribly.   Now, if God had instructed someone to make a precise sea of thirty whatevers around and ten whatevers across and demanded precision, then the builders would have had a problem.  But this is not a blueprint, it is a kind of feature story of the unveiling of the new temple...(again, there is much more at the post itself).


Comments on this second post devolved into a back-and-forth between Daniel and David Gracely and Jon Woolf as to whether the brothers were making logical, scientific arguments or were resorting to numerology.   The Gracely men then asked me if they could post a thorough response.   So now...Jon's last comment and the Gracely responses, which are in a different font and also included html code that I am leaving in just because it reminds the reader that it is a Gracely who is writing the material.  Blue was used when Jon quoted Daniel within Jon's last comment and will be used where direct quotes are included, below:

Jon Woolf said...

What makes an argument 'numerology' is not whether or not it's mathematically valid. Even among crackpots, few are so stupid as to base a claim on equations that anyone can prove are wrong with a pencil and paper. No, what makes an argument numerology is the free introduction of unprovable yet "unchallengeable" sources for its numbers, and the derivation of some mystical Truth from it. Case in point:

"We are taking the definition of the sacred cubit to be 1/10,000,000th of the earth's polar radius."


Historically, the cubit is one of the many anthropological measurements. It's based on the length of the average man's forearm. The fraction 1/10,000,000 comes from the original metric system: the meter was originally defined as 1/10,000,000 of the Earth's quadrant length -- the distance along a line of longitude from the pole to the Equator, assuming Earth is a perfect sphere.

On top of that, no one knows the actual length of a sacred cubit, or indeed if there was a measurement called "the sacred cubit." The Hebrew "cubit" is properly called the amah or ell, a unit of length that seems to have been equal to the Egyptian cubit. On the other hand, the Egyptians had two different units called the "cubit," a regular cubit and the larger royal cubit, and no one can be sure which cubit the amah matches. Some clues suggest that the Hebrews originally used the royal cubit, then replaced it later with the regular cubit. Oh, and neither Egyptian cubit is 25 inches long; the regular cubit is about 17.5 inches and the royal cubit is about 20.6 inches.

Your argument is numerology.



Daniel Gracely writes:


Did you actually read or just skim my first paragraph? For your remarks give no indication you bothered to look up the work of the scholars I mentioned. Or why else would you complain about my brother and me citing the fraction 1/10,000,000 and suppose we had derived it from the metric system? As men like John Taylor, Piazzi Smyth, and David Davison proved, this fraction is implicit in the design of the Great Pyramid, which predates the metric system by—oh, let’s see, some 4,000+ years. Smyth even cites 7 independent lines of evidence Newton used to arrive at his 25” cubit, all of which obviously had nothing to do with the metric system. The problem is that Newton’s investigations of the number of steps in a Sabbath day’s journey and Josephus’ description of the circumference around the Temple’s pillars, etc., leading to Newton’s conclusion of a 25” sacred cubit, and from there to the observation by Smyth et al of its implicit use as the basic measuring unit in the Great Pyramid, whose height in relation to its perimeter length (when made into a circumference of a circle) is alone among pyramids in Egypt demonstrating an analogy to the polar radius of the earth in relation to the earth’s equator, simply do not accord with your atheist (I assume you’re an atheist?) presuppositions, and so are jettisoned on the assumption they are sheer coincidences. What is left is your revisionist history, absent all the facts you find inconvenient.

Such a don’t-confuse-me-with-the-facts attitude is why it’s amusing to see you slap us with the accusation of “numerology,” while presumably you’re swallowing the evolutionary party-line that has been forced to embrace Science’s own god of the Gaps in the form of silly theories proposing multiple (infinite?) universes and ‘dark matter,’ in desperate attempts to explain away the mathematical impossibilities of evolution on the one hand, and anomalies in the motion of galaxy arms that gravity can’t explain on the other. And yet you speak of “unprovable yet “unchallengeable” sources for its numbers, and the derivation of some mystical Truth from it.” Yeah, right.

Maybe you should review Ben Stein’s interview of Richard Dawkins, and the latter’s repeated “No, I don’t know” response to the question how evolution ever got started in the first place, to remind you how faith-based your own presuppositions are. 

This is why consistency of argument is never itself a proof of any particular viewpoint. For whose is better—your faith or mine? Or that of the man who claims everything is an illusion—the ‘world’, ‘’you’, ‘him’, etc.? For it is not that he is right. It is that no argument can prove his consistency false to him. This is why it is necessary to go beyond mere consistency of argument to superior lines of evidences, such as we have given here, but also including the fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy in 9:25-26a about when the Messiah would die. This prophecy was given 550+ years before its fulfillment, and specifies an interval of time after which the Messiah (lit. Anointed/ Governor) would die. Christ fulfilled this prophecy during Passion Week, even unto specific Old Testament symbolism pertaining to the 10th, 14th, and 16th days of Nisan. 

Compare this to the ‘superior’ line of evidence to which Dawkins appeals—No, I don’t know how evolution happened. It just happened.” It reminds me of a host’s remark at a symposium on evolution years ago. Attended by evolutionary-minded scientists and mathematicians, the latter nevertheless candidly pointed out that current evolutionary models simply didn’t allow enough time for the mathematics to work. To which the host assured all present, “Well, we know that evolution happened, because we’re here.” Such a remark and Dawkins’ ‘explanation’ makes me wonder if there could be any connection in timing between such blind faith and the simultaneous rise of increasingly bizarre evolutionary ‘explanations’. Oh, but I forgot. This, too, the evolutionary apologist can assign to coincidence

So that was Daniel's response to the tenor and substance of Jon's argument.  David Gracely also wanted to respond, below: 
Hello Jon,

You seem to be under the impression we got the number 1/10,000,000 from the metric system, which, of course, holds the meter to be 1/10,000,000 of the meridian from the North Pole to the equator. This is actually not the case, so I’m going to give some of the history behind where we got this fraction.

Sir Isaac Newton was the first scientist in modern times to make an estimate of the cubit. He did so because his initial calculations on gravity were not working out right, and he suspected that the radius of the earth he was using as estimated by the ancient Greek, Eratosthenes, was incorrect. Eratosthenes, along with his estimate of the earth's radius, also made the statement that 210,000 Egyptian cubits was equal to a degree of arc along a great circle of the earth. Newton believed he might derive a more accurate value for the radius of the earth by finding out the true length of the Egyptian cubit, through a study of the dimensions of the Great Pyramid. 

After a careful study, he concluded that the Great Pyramid had been built on the basis of two different cubits; one which he called a profane cubit, and the other a sacred cubit. He published his findings under a monograph entitled, “A Dissertation upon the Sacred Cubit of the Jews and the Cubits of several Nations: in which, from the Dimensions of the Greatest Pyramid, as taken by Mr. John Greaves, the ancient Cubit of Memphis is determined. ” (This monograph is available online.)

Piazzi Smyth in his book, The Great Pyramid - Its Secrets and Mysteries Revealed, gives a brief description of how Newton estimated the length of the sacred cubit. 

1.By notions from Talmudists and Josephus in terms of Greek cubits, which on calculation give as limits something between 31.24 and 24.30 British inches.
2. From Talmudists by proportion of the human body, giving as limits, from 27.94 and 23.28 British inches.

3. From Josephus's description of the pillars of the Temple, between 27.16 and 23.28 British inches.
4. By Talmudists and 'all Jews' idea of a Sabbath day's journey, between 27.16 and 23.28 British inches.
5. By Talmudists' and Josephus's accounts of the steps to the Inner Court, between 26.19 and 23.28 British inches.
6. By many Chaldaic and Hebrew proportions to the cubit of Memphis, giving 24.83 British inches.
7. From a statement by Mersennus, as to the length of a supposed copy of the sacred cubit of the Hebrews, secretly preserved amongst them, and concluded equals 24.91 British inches.

Newton thought the sacred cubit ranged from 24.80 to 25.02 inches, and was the same cubit used in the Biblical Tabernacle and Solomon's Temple. This range for the sacred cubit is reported by Peter Thompkins in his book, Secrets of the Great Pyramid. Smyth further reports that Newton finally settled on a value of 24.88 inches for his estimate. But Smyth also reports that Newton said he was not certain of the precise length of the sacred cubit, and so he (Newton) cautioned his readers it must be left up to future measurers to settle the matter. 

Many years later in 1859, John Taylor, a member of the Royal Society of London, submitted a thesis to his colleagues that the Great Pyramid had been built by Divine decree, much like the Bible says Noah’s ark was, and had been built on the basis of a cubit of 25.025 inches. This he believed was the sacred Biblical cubit. Taylor also declared from his study of the Great Pyramid that this 25.025 inch cubit had a scientific value equal to 1/10,000,000th of the earth’s polar radius. Says Tompkins:

“To Taylor, the creation of Adam had occurred in 4000 BC and the Flood in 2400 BC. As might be expected, Taylor, who had been known as a benign and dignified old gentleman, had a hard time convincing his quiet Victorian contemporaries of such wild and revolutionary theories, especially as they were just then being rocked by Darwin's theory of the descent of man. A paper on the Pyramid which he presented to the prestigious Royal Society was rejected with the suggestion that such a paper might be more appropriate for the Society of Antiquarians.” 

There was only one member of the Royal Society who took Taylor’s study seriously—Piazzi Smyth, the Astronomer Royal of Scotland. He petitioned the Society for funds to go to Egypt to check out Taylor’s ideas. The Society not only refused his request, but even returned part of their government grant with the explanation that there was no project in need of it.

Undaunted, Smyth and his wife used their own funds and went to Egypt anyway. There he made very careful internal and external measurements of the Great Pyramid, and came to the conclusion that Taylor had been right. 

Upon his return he informed the Royal Society of his findings. But by then, Taylor had died, and Smyth found no sympathetic ear when he tried to convince his colleagues of his conclusions. At the time, Smyth noted (emphasis mine):

“...The Council of the Royal Society absolutely refused to let my paper appear before an open meeting of the Society...I then sent in a conditional resignation of my fellowship, to be read in public together with the reasons why I so resigned...the Council held back those reasons, and merely announced that I had resigned... I therefore printed a pamphlet giving the whole case, and sent a copy to every member of the Society... The next annual general meeting of all the Fellows was held, and no more was made by anyone (so far as I have yet heard) to question the Council's proceedings, or vindicate the true size of the ancient Great Pyramid... In fact, the whole of the members have homologated everything done by the council in supporting one side, and suppressing the other side, of the Great Pyramid measures...”

Checking the internet shows that the controversy over the length of the cubit still survives. However, because the history of the 25” cubit is not generally known, I have included some of that information for you here. In short, plainly, I did not derive the fraction 1/10,000,000 from the metric system. Indeed, IF one system were historically derivative in some way of the other, obviously the latter would have come from the former.


For some of you, this discussion is of no consequence.   I believed that the Gracely brothers had a good and reasonable reason to take the time to express very carefully a thoughtful response to the casually lobbed-in hand grenade of "numerology" that Jon meant to put an end to the discussion.   Obviously their arguments are not numerology at all.  

The next post will likely be a bit more provocative...


Jon Woolf said...

Radar, apparently neither you nor the Gracely brothers read that comment-thread very closely. I posted only two comments on it, one a short reply to Chaos Engineer and the other a brief explanation of why the Gracelys' argument is numerology. To that comment, they never replied. Their "exchange" was with others.

They also misunderstood my point. If I recall right, the line about the fraction 1/10,000,000 was intended as a throwaway: the wording of the post made it sound like this was David's own assumption, unfounded in any source. I thought that he had confused whatever Newton was doing with the original definition of the metric system. On this, apparently, I was mistaken.

On the other hand, the Gracelys definitely missed my primary point, which is that as far as I can tell this 'sacred cubit' has no backing in any primary source. Newton seems to have simply made it up, and then the Gracely brothers applied further finagling to connect this 'sacred cubit' to Avogadro's number and other units of measurement. That is what makes the argument numerology.

Incidentally, Daniel, your blithe assumption that I am an atheist is quite wrong, and displays your own inability to think beyond the fundamentalist box you've constructed around your mind. I'm a mu-theist and a lay brother in Ishap's Abbey at Sarth. If there is anything beyond the mundane Out There, I suspect it's best described by the Anti-God Heresy of the Kencyrath.

Jon Woolf said...

Oh, one other thing. I'm always amused when fundamentalists hold up Newton as some kind of role-model for True Scientists. Truth is, Sir Isaac was as fallible as any other scientist, and more so than some. He was a grand master of motion physics and mathematics, and somewhat less adept at the physics of light. He spent a lot of time trying to discover the secrets of alchemy and ancient magic. In religious matters he was a flagrant heretic, a Christian who didn't believe in the Trinity or in Christ's divine nature. He was a workaholic who never married, had few close friends, and several times used his enormous influence to ruin people who dared to question his pronouncements. A paragon of "Christian science" he definitely was not.

radar said...

Jon, Newton had a debilitating disease late in life, during which time he said some things that did not match his Christian viewpoints upon which he wrote more than he did on science. We do not think his tail-off at the end is meaningful because a Christian becomes a new creature and unable to "change back" even if disease or a stroke causes his brain to go sideways.

Alchemy was actually a starting point for many scientists back in the day. It is unsurprising that Newton investigated that possibility. What IS surprising is that you are describing arguably one of the top ten scientists of all time and perhaps the number one scientist of all time and are so critical of the guy. You have a spin for everything, apparently!

Jon Woolf said...

"Newton had a debilitating disease late in life, during which time he said some things that did not match his Christian viewpoints"

And you know this because...?

Jon Woolf said...

One more thing about Newton: I have a great deal of respect for what he accomplished. He was undoubtedly one of the best scientific/mathematical minds in recorded history. But he wasn't perfect, and he wasn't a god. he was just a man, with the same flaws and foibles that all men are subject to. He made plenty of mistakes. To hold him up as some kind of infallible authority is laughable.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jon, you have an ego problem. You see yourself as more authoritative than Newton? The father of physics deserves a bit more respect. Unlike Darwin, he produced testable, repeatable and useful science that became a basis for scientific accomplishments up to and including landing men on the Moon. Darwin has done little but muck up science with nonsense and wasted countless lives and hours trying to prove the impossible.

You do realize that naturalists now depend upon the spontaneous generation of the Universe, physical laws, life and information with no good explanation for any of them? Stepping back and looking at the big picture, naturalists are sounding like ancient pagans and primitive Greek philosophers.

No Darwinist will go to court to try to prove Darwinism because they know it cannot be done. In fact, I believe that John C. Sanford and Michael Behe have led a movement to pull the rug out from under Darwinism. Genetics and ID will reveal the religion of Darwinism for what it is...a belief system designed to avoid a Designer and therefore responsibility to said Designer. That is really all there is to Darwnism.


Reading about the life of Newton might do you some good, as you obviously do not know much about that life?

Jon Woolf said...

You reject most of modern science based only on your own prejudices, and you say I'm the one with an ego problem?


"Stepping back and looking at the big picture, naturalists are sounding like ancient pagans and primitive Greek philosophers."

Some of whom were right smart folks, such as Thales, Aristotle, Euclid, Hippocrates, Eratosthenes, Pythagoras, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger...

"No Darwinist will go to court to try to prove Darwinism because they know it cannot be done."

On the contrary, it can be and it has been. Twice. Didn't make any difference, because creationists don't pay any attention to results they don't like.

"In fact, I believe that John C. Sanford and Michael Behe have led a movement to pull the rug out from under Darwinism."

Behe? You mean the poor schmuck who made a fool of himself on the witness stand in the Dover Panda Trial?