Timothy S. Morton
As stated at the start of the previous chapter, mankind has been curious from the beginning as to the actual process of human reproduction. They have wondered about issues like, is the entire person in the male seed? Does the woman supply anything of herself to the new individual? How does the seed form? How does it grow? etc., etc.
Edward Dolnick, in his excellent book, The Seeds Of Life, said,
"Cracking the code of human conception took centuries of wild theories, misogynist blunders, and ludicrous mistakes...Throughout most of human history, babies were surprises. People knew the basics: men and women had sex, and sometimes babies followed. But beyond that the origins of life were a colossal mystery."
His book details the "remarkable and rollicking story of how a series of blundering geniuses and brilliant amateurs struggled for two centuries to discover where, exactly, babies come from." And the Lord allowed them to figure it out, which can be easily proven today.
After two centuries of intense thought and struggle, doing sometimes silly experiment on frogs and other creatures, the first actual proof that the male and female both contributed to the formation of offspring did not occur until 1875. In that year German biologist Oskar Hertwig was studying the transparent eggs of sea urchins and "observed for the first time the journey of a sperm as it penetrates an egg to fuse with the nucleus within." Hertwig was an avowed evolutionist and made no claims to Christianity, but he was the first human being the Lord allowed to see this "miracle" of reproduction. Interesting.
Over the next decades scientists discovered more and more about the processes of reproduction and genetics, and midway through the 20th century they discovered DNA, the highly complex genetic code that holds all the information of and individual's physical human existence. Since 1955 scientists have extracted DNA sequences from the "human genome," along with its genes and chromosomes, with remarkable accuracy. Their analysis is so accurate that they can determine heritage and genealogy between individuals back many generations and they are gaining new knowledge rapidly.
The facts concerning the "birds and the bees" as know today are highly complex, but they can be reduced to the simple fact that BOTH the male and female provide genetic characteristics of themselves to a newly conceived child. Since genes are sections of DNA, chromosomes are groups of genes, and each parent of a child provides 23 of the 46 chromosomes needed to make a human being, each parent supplies a full 50% of a child's physical characteristics. Thus the "seeds of life" are not exclusive to the man, but are shared by both the father and mother. Furthermore, these facts answer one question the male seed propagation adherents could not adequately answer: why do daughters (and even sons) often look like their mothers?
These scientific facts about human reproduction and genetics make it hard on the Bible Believing brethren who are skeptical of science. A certain segment of believers claim more or less that modern science is part of a grand conspiracy to manipulate and deceive man into receiving the coming antichrist. Some of the most extreme of these brethren (such as flat-earthers and geocentrists) do not believe much of anything science claims. They often rail against NASA, vaccinations, and many other scientific achievements in general questioning everything they claim or even brand the claims outright as diabolical lies fueled by Satan himself.
What is ironic, however, is when it comes to human biology, genetics, and reproduction, science has undeniable proof of many of their claims. Even the most rabid science skeptic would be forced to concede that the discoveries concerning human genetics and DNA are true because they can be proven. All but the most ignorant skeptic realizes that if his family was placed in a room with 50 other random strangers, science could filter out and determine all the family relationships with a simple "swab" of saliva from each. Science could tell who the mothers and fathers are, which children belong to who, and which people are siblings, cousins, or aunts and uncles! All without actually seeing any of them!
Furthermore, concerning the male sperm and female egg both being required for an individual to conceive, medical science has been proving that fact for decades. They have been doing invetro fertilization for years: joining sperm and eggs together outside the body. Some of the skeptics may have even had this done themselves.
You author has often found it comical as well as ironic that nearly all of these brethren who are highly skeptical of science will readily seek treatment from "medical science" when they are ill. It seems much of their skepticism is put on pause while they are treated for their infirmities. They will refuse to take a vaccination when they are well because it supposedly contains "nefarious substances designed to control world population" which can be triggered to make people sick, give them cancer, or cause some other evil, but they will readily take other medications or undergo some procedure (even while they are unconscious...yikes!) from the same source when they are ill. Talk about duplicity and inconsistency.
Although the rants of the science skeptics "warning" people against vaccinations and promoting all kinds of outrageous conspiracy theories are silly to most rational people, they do have a negative side. Some people actually listen to them and refuse to vaccinate their children or themselves because they want to be "smart" and not duped by the conspirators. As a result people get sick, disease is spread, and sometime people die who wouldn't have died as soon otherwise. It seems many of these conspiracy promoters don't think through the implications of some of their statements, but they can lead to suffering and even death.
Believer, do you want that on your conscience or to face it at the Judgment Seat of Christ?
If one simply does a little research on the advancements of medical science since the year 1900 his mind should be settled concerning the progress of medical science. As this page states,
"The overall mortality rate in the United States declined markedly over the 20th century, resulting in large gains in life expectancy. In 1900, the average U.S. newborn could expect to live to 47.3 years of age. In 2010, they could expect more than 30 additional years of life, with a life expectancy at birth of 78.7."
That is the most significant improvement in human health known to man! A 30 year increase in life expectancy in a little over 100 years. That is a most remarkable accomplishment; probably one of the most remarkable natural man will ever have. What do the researchers attribute to this massive increase?
"Improvements in sanitation, public health (vaccination development and delivery), and medical treatments, such as antibiotics, led to dramatic declines in deaths from infectious diseases during the 20th century."
Vaccines and antibiotics are the key developments that led to the increase. Some diseases have been nearly eradicated because of these discoveries.
Your author is old enough to have received a smallpox vaccination when he was a child and is still "marked" with its characteristic scar on his upper arm. The vaccine was so effective that they quit administering it in the early 1970s because the horrendous disease had become essentially non-existent throughout the world by that time. Smallpox had plagued mankind for centuries.
Yes, medical science can and does make mistakes and there has been abuses, but their overall track record is phenomenal. If they are trying to reduce "world overpopulation" by slipping deadly substances into vaccines and other drugs, they are getting very poor results. What most repudiates the conspiracy theorists arguments is those in the medical field take the same vaccines and treatments themselves they provide to others. The conspiracy theorists, Bible Believers or not, are simply "willingly ignorant," and promoting deadly claims.
Another downside from the evangelistic perspective is the outrageous and unproven claims of these theorists taint the Bible in the eyes of many in the public. They reason if believing the Bible causes people to deny proven reality, they want no part of it.
Above we have presented two approaches as to how human beings are conceived.
(There are others. Some cultures held for a while that the woman provided the seed. One that still exists today insists that a man is not even required!).
One approach is the historical, time-honored belief which the Bible readily allows and appears to promote; the other is based on recent scientific discoveries which can be consistently proven. One says a person is not really "related" to his mother by "blood" at all, while the other says a full 50% of all his characteristics actually come from his mother. How does one reconcile these differences? Could the Bible be wrong? Is it out of date? Perish the thought!
Your author contends that with many of the scientific discoveries of the last 400 or so years He has allowed to occur, the Lord is showing believers how the Bible is to be understood in these latter days; how His words on these subjects are to be received. If one sticks to a hyper-literal approach to every word in the Scriptures, he will force the Bible to contradict known reality. It is that simple.
A key aspect of scriptural faith is the Bible NEVER asks a person to believe something that is not true. Of course, the Bible does ask people to believe things that they cannot see and cannot physically prove. That is what faith is, believing "...the evidence of things not seen" But just because something is not seen or not physical, that does not mean it does not exist or is not true. True Christians believe these unseen things are real and true.
That is entirely different from the Bible insisting one believe something doesn't exist when it is obvious to all that it does, even if the facts were unknown to mankind for thousands of years. Consider the moon, for instance. No where in the Bible does it say the moon has a rough, pock-marked surface. Every indication is the moon had a smooth, "un-cursed" surface covered with "seas," and this is what man believed for millennia. However, in 1608 the Lord allowed a scientist named Galileo to view the moon for the first time through a telescope and discover it had countless craters marring its surface, even within its alleged seas. This is an observation anyone can make today with a simple pair of binoculars. In the same vein, even though eggs, sperm, and chromosomes are too small for the naked eye, they are still physical objects which can now be observed and examined with a microscope.
Of course, the Bible presents miracles, which by nature defy the laws of the physical world, but they DID occur and are thus true. The fact remains that the Scriptures do not ask a reader to believe something that is not true.
With these sensible and sound observations we learn a simple yet profound lesson; if a person takes some of the Bible's words so literal that they force one to believe something to be true that can be objectively and observably proven not to be true, then the fault is not with the Bible but with the person's misunderstanding of its words. For instance, when the Bible says the sun "sets" or "is risen." that doesn't mean it literally sets any more than when it says earth has "four corners" and rests on pillars that it actually has those features. Moreover, the same can be said concerning Levi (and all Israel for that matter) literally being in Abraham's loins.
With what man now knows about human reproduction one can say with certainty Levi did not personally and literally pay tithes in Abraham at any time before he was born. How could he, the individual Levi did not yet exist! He was only in his ancestor's loins in a seminal manner: that is, because he subsequently became a descendant by being physically conceived and born. Obviously, if Levi had never been born (or conceived), it could never be legitimately said this nonexistent person ever existed in an ancestor's loins. Levi paid tithes in his ancestor only in the sense that he is his descendant. They have a "blood" connection.
As for the "male seed propagation" claim, the Scriptures clearly do allow this view, but more importantly they do not disallow other views. (Allowing or accommodating a view is not the same as verifying or confirming it as fact.) The Bible is often ambiguous, and it is purposely ambiguous in situations involving certain sciences such as human biology, cosmology, and other areas. The Bible does not specifically and dogmatically state HOW children are conceived, it does not state as a fact women are not considered an actual parent, nor does it absolutely say only the father provides the entire "person" of a child. It accommodates both the "historical view" as well as the modern scientific view.
At this point some may ask, "What about human evolution? Science claims it is a fact as well. Should one believe it for the same reasons?" The answer is obvious, of course not. First, the Bible specifically and dogmatically states that God created the heavens and earth. There is no ambiguity. Second, evolution is not a proven, operational science like physics, mathematics, or biology. It is only a theoretical hypothesis that fits the Bible's definition of "science falsely so called" perfectly. It is a biased position based upon the philosophical beliefs of certain scientists, and not one can prove their claims. They view the physical creation through the biased lens of their prejudices.
There is a huge difference between provable science with tenants that can be observed and replicated and theoretical "science" based only on subjective interpretations of the origins of existing objects.
The Bible's scientific accommodations are a strong indicator of its supernatural origin because it doesn't make dogmatic "scientific" statements that can later be proven wrong. With well placed and intentionally ambiguous statements it leaves itself enough "wiggle room" to speak truthfully to every generation using the same words. Moreover, the Bible doesn't reveal currently unknown scientific facts to any generation, plus it also does not use language that insists the now defunct beliefs of earlier generations were actually fact. The human authors of the Scriptures such as Moses and David may have very well believed in male seed propagation, the earth is the center of the universe, or even that the earth is flat, but the Holy Spirit was careful to not allow them to unequivocally state those beliefs were fact while they were penning the Scriptures. This allows the Scriptures to remain credible in the eyes of honest seekers in every age and generation.
This ambiguity contrasts with many other statements in the Bible which are not ambiguous but are clear and dogmatic. Doctrines like special creation, the virgin birth, incarnation of Christ, Christ's substitutionary and atoning death and resurrection, and His second coming are very clear. If one does not believe them it is because he does not want to believe the plain reading of the Scriptures. There are no ambiguous words or figurative language involved in defining these doctrines.
The facts about human reproduction that can be proven today show the great weaknesses of the trend of some towards Hyper-Literalism. If what the Bible says about human conception, inheritance, nature, and the "seed" is pushed to extreme, wooden literalism, the only conclusion one could arrive at is the male seed propagation claim. However, over the last couple centuries the Lord has allowed the natural man to discover the biological truths He created for human reproduction, and they do not contradict His written words one bit if the words are not pushed to the extreme. Some critics may try an force hyper-literalism on the words in an attempt to make the Bible look out of date and thus irrelevant, and some misguided believers may insist on extreme literalism for other reasons, but to a reasonable and balanced Bible believer who lets the Lord define how His words should be understood, modern science is no problem at all. Since its author knows the end from the beginning, the Bible's words accommodate true science easily.
The biological facts about human reproduction, probably more than any other science, reveals the fundamental error of Hyper-Literalism; it simply pushes the words of the Bible too far. Yes, one is to have a literal approach towards the words of Scripture as opposed to a liberal, allegorical approach, but he is not to force extreme literalism on words that are meant to be taken in a normal conversational sense.
Your author has heard many Bible Believers make statements like, "I take the words of the Bible literal unless it is absolutely impossible to do so." Words such as these sound bold, militant, and conservative, but as we have seen, they can lead to gross error. The simple fact is if one really believes in such literalism and reads the words of Scripture accordingly, then Levi as an individual must have actually been in the loins of Abraham. (Obviously, this would be entirely possible for the Lord to do. He could have made human reproduction work that way if He wished...and no one knew he didn't until the 19th century.) Likewise, all Israel must have actually been in Abraham, as all mankind was in Adam. Therefore, neither Levi or the hyper-literalist would be "blood related" to his mother any more than he would be blood related related to any other woman on earth! I wonder if he hyper-literalist will bring this contention up with his mother next Mother's Day?
No where in the Bible is a reader commanded to take every word as strictly literal. The term the Scriptures use to define itself is "truth." The believer is to receive all its words, taken literal or not, as truth (John 17:17). When the Lord "took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;" (Matt 26:27), he did not mean for them to literally drink the "cup," He wanted them to drink "of" the cup (Mark 14:23). Many times in the Scriptures the "truth" they are conveying is not found by literally applying its words but by simply receiving the truths the words express. When Bible readers understand this fact, more or the Bible's truths will be opened to them, and they will be less likely to be snared by the deceitful concept of hyper-literalism.