Did the Mosaic Covenant Prevent Science from Developing?

Creation.com’s Shaun Doyle has made the argument that the Mosaic covenant actually prevented science from developing.

Yes. You read that correctly. He commits this theological overreach in his zeal to force the Bible In an article entitled Aliens and the Bible: Should we leave room for the possibility of sentient aliens?, Doyle lays out his premise so that Gary Batescan keep selling his Alien Intrusion material:

“The closer we look at biblical theology, the clearer it becomes that the Bible conflicts with the existence of sentient aliens. Even the history of science is evidence against aliens.”

Now, I have an entire website, Exotheology.org, that consistently shows how these alleged theological objections to the existence of sentient aliens are always based on logical fallacies. I have also noted that this ill-advised anti-alien dogmatism actually implies that the Bible could be falsifiedby the discovery of sentient aliens. Arguing that the Mosaic covenant actually prevents science from developing actually undermines some of the premises of creation science itself.

I’ve answered the issues brought up in the rest of the article elsewhere, but here is what Doyle wrote on why he supposes the Mosaic covenant prevented the development of science:

“But, I don’t think interstellar travelling aliens is likely, even if physics were friendly to the idea. Why? There are good historical reasons why scientifically driven technological development only arose in the last 500 years or so. First, it began in Christian Western Europe. Belief in the biblical God was practically necessary for science to arise at all. And science only blossomed after God’s Messiah came. Why, when biblical faith (which grounds so much of science) had been around for a lot longer than Christianity? There are many reasons, but I suggest that the end of the ritual purity codes of the Mosaic covenant was a crucial factor.

In the Mosaic covenant, since people became unclean by touching certain animal carcasses (e.g. Leviticus 11:4–8), it would’ve discouraged them from studying their anatomy. Indeed, the whole ritual purity system oriented people toward a categorization of nature centred on social/religious order, rather than towards an investigation of the physical order God put into the cosmos. Why? To teach people about God’s holiness, our sin, and the divide that makes between us and God (Hebrews 9:6–10). Learning such a lesson is more important than learning about the physical structure of the world (Is God obscure and arbitrary in what He wants from us?). And the physical world was the most convenient tool available to teach us about our sin and God’s holiness. Thus, so long as physical objects were used to teach about God’s holiness, people were barred from accessing many objects of scientific inquiry.”

That was breathtakingly wrong.

Doyle mentions that science as we know it has only been around for about the past 500 years. That inconvenient fact makes his entire argument here a matter of spurious correlation (a logical fallacy).

Stated another way, about 1600 years of history that takes place between the end of the Mosaic covenant and the formulation of the Scientific Method in 1621 when Francis Bacon (1561-1626) proposed a new approach to scientific inquiry in his Novum Organum Scientarium. That’s over a millennium-and-a-half of history with no scientific method despite the fact that the Mosaic covenant was fulfilled in Christ.

Bacon built on the works of Copernicus (1473-1543) and Galileo (1564-1642). The two major inventions which preceded the formulation of the Baconian method were Gutenberg’s printing press in 1439 and Galileo’s telescope in 1610. The printing press in particular made it easier to disseminate information and share ideas. I think Christians sometimes suppose that its only use was in printing Bibles. Nevertheless, the printing press made ideas widely available to present and future generations. The invention of Galileo’s telescope ushered mankind into a world that was acutely aware of other worlds beyond itself. It made us intensely curious not only about space but about the world we live in,l The advent of High Scholasticism in the 13th and earky 14th centuries, resulting from the rediscovery of Greek philosophy, particularly Plato and Aristotle, led to the establishment of universities in major cities. All of these factors (and a few more I could name) led to the advent of science in Christian Western Europe.

To be fair to Doyle, he does contend that there were other historical factors necessary to bring about the advent of science.

“So, would alien cultures need a ritual purity system to relate to God before Christ came? If they’re sinners with any hope for redemption, surely they would. But if that’s true, that would block scientific access to physical objects for them just as it did for us. But since Christ was only incarnated once, and only died once (Romans 6:10, Colossians 1:20), their ritual purity system must have lasted as long as ours did. And for science to rise after that, we must allow time for the spread of Christianity, for it to take hold of the minds of the right sorts of people, and for those people to organize themselves appropriately (e.g. in ways like the university system of Europe in the middle ages) and work together to start investigating the world scientifically. The point? There are good historical reasons why it took so long for science to blossom, even after Christ came. This would likely apply to any alien race, as well. Indeed, it may even take longer for aliens, precisely because Jesus died here!”

The ritual purity codes of the Mosaic covenant weren’t the only special revelation God’s people had received. They had the Psalms, including the one (Psalm 8) where the psalmist considers the heavens and considers his place in God’s universe. They had Amos 5:8, which mentions constellations (as does Job) and the hydrologic cycle.

I could go on, but I don’t need to. Creationists have been pointing to these verses as examples of scientific knowledge contained in the Bible since the beginning. The idea that the ritual purity system created a dichotomy such as Doyle proposes is refuted by the Bible itself and basically the entirety of creationist thought on scientific truth contained in the Bible and our contention of the genius of ancient man.

Like Genesis, the Mosaic covenant is contained in the Pentateuch. The association between his argument that the Mosaic covenant suppressing the development of science and our opponents’ contention that creationism is anti-science is an easy rhetorical leap.

Science could have taken hold much sooner. In fact, Babel testifies against Doyle’s theological overreach. At the Tower of Babel, God confuses the languages because He noted that mankind could do basically anything we set our minds to if we were united. Much of civilization degenerated from that point. Technological innovation and scientific discovery aren’t high priorities when society is concerned with meeting basic needs, safety and welfare.

As we mentioned, the invention of printing press opened the door to a reversal of Babel and made the dissemination, preservation (both classic Greek works and the Bible were preserved by mass printings) an accumulation of scientific knowledge. What was required for scientific knowledge to increase was the right worldview combined with sufficient quality of life to invent a means to widely disseminate these ideas.

If this is the case, what prevents an alien species that has received special revelation of the Cursed Cosmos and God’s plan of redemption for it from inventing a printing press much sooner than we did? The history of different people groups on this planet should have clued Doyle in to the fact that scientific progress has not been uniform in all cultures. Why does he presume an alien culture would advance at the same rate as Western Europe?

Doyle’s attempt to use the history of Earth and in particular Christ’s fulfillment of the Mosaic covenant is an example of the theological overreach that one must resort to when trying to push dogmatic positions on things the Bible is silent upon. The Bible doesn’t mention aliens. To take a dogmatic position for or against their existence is not only foolish but presumptuous. The Bible doesn’t mention microbes, planets other than Earth as such, or nebulae either. The so-called theological objections to the existence of intelligent extraterestrial entities were answered in Medeival times.

In his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, it was the contention of Medeival theologian William Vorilong (1392-1463) that aliens would be sinless or else Christ’s sacrifice on Earth would be sufficient for their imputed sin:

“Now doubt arrives. By what means are we able to have knowledge of [another world]. I answer by angelic revelation or by divine means. If it be inquired whether men exist on that world, and whether they have sinned as Adam sinned, I answer no, for they would not exist in sin and did not spring from Adam. But it is shown that they would exist from the virtue of God, transported into that world as Enoch and Elias in this earthly paradise. As to the question whether Christ by dying on this earth could redeem the inhabitants of another world, I answer that he is able to do this even if the worlds were infinite, but it would not be fitting for Him, to go into another world that he must die again.”

[Emphasis mine

The existence of sentient aliens would in no way mean the death knell for Biblical truth. There are answers to the ill-advised anti-alien dogma Creation Ministries International is preaching these days. And the fact is: the Bible is silent on the subject and it’s too soon to call the matter. We simply don’t know whether an omnipotent, omnipresent Creator God created aliens elsewhere in the universe.

The question should remain open.


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