scientific observation

Scientific foreknowledge in sacred texts

Scientific foreknowledge in Sacred Texts is the belief that certain sacred texts document an awareness of the natural world that was later discovered by technology and science. This includes the belief that the sacred text grants a higher awareness of the natural world, like those views held by some Orthodox Jews about the Hebrew Bible (Tanach), by some Muslims regarding the Qur'an, by certain Christian fundamentalists regarding the Christian Bible, and by certain adherents of Hindu revivalism regarding the Vedas.

Scriptural literalism (specifically Creationism and some forms of Biblical archaeology) is a related ideology, but strictly the reverse process of aligning scientific observation with scriptural reading rather than aligning scriptural reading with scientific observation.


Supporters of biblical scientific foreknowledge believe that parts of the Bible contain observations regarding aspects of the natural world in line with modern scientific and medical research. This includes the view that such technology and knowledge would not have been discovered with the technology of the times and are therefore evidence of Biblical inspiration and of Biblical inerrancy.

Critics contend that these references either represent information that was common at the time, or even no real knowledge of the scientific reasons behind the phenomena described. (see Criticism section)

History and Advocacy

An early example of claimed Biblical scientific foresight was the interpretation of passages of the Bible as showing Copernican motion, suggested in 1584 by Spanish Theologian Diego de Zuñiga in his Commentary on Job:
"Therefore the present passage [Job 9:6], which we have been discussing, is easily reconciled with Copernicus' opinion. And in order to show the marvelous power and wisdom of God, who initiates and maintains the motion of the whole earth, which is enormous by nature, the text adds, 'and its pillars are shaken.' This teaching means that it is moved from its foundations."

William Harvey, the medical doctor who in the 1600s discovered the complete circulatory system, believed that this discovery was proof of Biblical foreknowledge. In his 1628 work De motu cordis, he supported this claim in On Generation by stating, "the life, therefore, resides in the blood (as we are informed in our sacred writing)," referring to .

David Macht, a pharmacologist and doctor of Hebrew Literature was a notable advocate of biblical health practices. In Dr. Macht's 1953 study entitled An Experimental Pharmacological Appreciation of Leviticus XI and Deuteronomy XIV, he suggested that the Levitical clean animals were less toxic than the Levitical unclean animals:

Every word of the Hebrew Scriptures is well chosen and carries valuable knowledge and deep significance

The Old Earth Creationist and astronomer, Hugh Ross, Ph.D., is a notable advocate of Bible scientific foreknowledge.

"Some of the latest discoveries about the universe, specifically about the hot big bang model, speak volumes about the predictive power of a Bible-based, science-affirming perspective on the cosmos."

Henry M. Morris, a hydraulics engineer, in 1951 published Science and the Bible which based on the work of George McCready Price. The first chapter of Science and the Bible dealt with Biblical scientific foreknowledge and set forth many of the arguments that are still in use by proponents today.

Harry Rimmer (1890 - 1952) was president of the "Science Research bureau" and published "Harmony of Science and Scripture" (1936), which attributed much scientific foresight to the Bible, including the wave nature and spectrographic analysis of light, stating "either Job knew this, or supernatural wisdom is revealed here!" Rimmer had no earned college degree, although he was awarded an honorary "Doctor of Science" degree from Wheaton College (Illinois), an evangelical religious institution.


A number of Muslims believe that the Qur'an contains scientific information that would be discovered by the world in modern times, centuries after their revelation. These are claimed to include scientific information pertaining to creation, astronomy, the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and human reproduction.

One such claim is based on an interpretation of the passage in the Qur'an which states: "Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them", as representing the Big bang. Another claim interprets the passage: "It is not for the sun to overtake the moon, nor doth the night outstrip the day. They float each in an orbit" as a reference to cosmic orbital motion.

The most famous proponent of this argument is perhaps Maurice Bucaille, a French physician and author of the popular book The Bible, The Quran and Science. Maurice Bucaille asserts in his book that "he could not find a single error in the Qur'an", and that the Qur'an does "not contain a single statement which is assailable from a modern scientific point of view", which led him to believe that no human author in the seventh century could have written "facts" which "today are shown to be keeping with modern scientific knowledge".

History and Advocacy

In the Muslim world, many believe that modern science was first developed in the Muslim world, that "all the wealth of knowledge in the world has actually emanated from Muslim civilization," and what people call "the scientific method", is actually "the Islamic method. It has been argued that it was the empirical attitude of the Qur'an and Sunnah which inspired medieval Muslim scientists, in particular Alhazen (965-1037), to develop the scientific method.

It is known that certain advances made by medieval Muslim astronomers and mathematicians was motivated by problems presented in the Qur'an, such as Al-Khwarizmi's (c. 780-850) development of algebra in order to solve the Islamic inheritance laws, and developments in astronomy, spherical geometry and spherical trigonometry in order to determine the direction of the Qibla, the times of Salah prayers, and the dates of the Islamic calendar.

Other such examples include Ibn al-Nafis (1213-1288), who discovered the pulmonary circulation in 1242 and used his discovery as evidence for the orthodox Islamic doctrine of bodily resurrection. Ibn al-Nafis also used the Qur'an as justification for his rejection of wine as self-medication. Ali Kuşçu's (1403-1474) support for the Earth's rotation and his rejection of Aristotelian cosmology (which advocates a stationery Earth) was also motivated by religious opposition to Aristotelianism by orthodox Islamic theologians such as Al-Ghazali. Criticisms against alchemy and astrology were also motivated by religion, such as the views of astrologers conflicting with orthodox Islam.


Critics of biblical scientific foreknowledge believe that parts of various sacred text may simply contain observations regarding aspects of the the technology of the times. Scientific and engineering knowledge have been documented in early cultures that claimed no divine guidance. For example, scientists of Ancient Egypt documented knowledge of engineering and anatomy that were unknown to medieval Europe thousands of years later, such as the existence of cerebrospinal fluid; see Ancient Egyptian medicine and Ancient Egyptian technology.

Farrell Till asserts that biblical passages with supposed foresight can be interpreted in a number of ways, and that believers "see prophecies and their fulfillments in passages so obscurely written that no one can really determine what the writers originally intended in the statements. Till is an author with master's degree in English (and a former pastor and missionary of the Church of Christ) who has had public debates with well-known Bible inerrantists such as Dr. Norman Geisler and Kent Hovind.

Richard Dawkins claims that religious proponents "cherry-pick" passages that fit a certain framework and disregard or even dismiss the vague rest, saying that those are meant to be figuratively and loosely interpreted.

Some historians also state that certain scriptures have been modified in their lifetime.

The nature of humans to seek connections is tempting but can lead to wrong conclusions and coincidental links - from scriptural statements to the scientific status-quo.

Individuals quoting sections from sacred scriptures often tend to modify words to make them more specific and to give them literal meaning to fit the interpretation.

Anthropologist Mary Douglas who wrote in her book "Purity and Danger" that the biblical cleanliness passages merely represent cultural concepts of symbolic boundary integrity.

A number of classical Muslim scientists and commentators did not believe in the scientific exegesis of the Qur'an; Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (973-1048), one of the most celebrated Muslim scientists of the classical period, assigned to the Qur'an a separate and autonomous realm of its own and held that the Qur'an "does not interfere in the business of science nor does it infringe on the realm of science." These scholars argued for the possibility of multiple scientific explanations of the natural phenomena, and refused to subordinate the Qur'an to an ever-changing science.

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