π = 3?
Occasionally you will hear an anti-theist mock the doctrine of the inspiration of scripture by arguing that the Bible says that π = 3. They cite 1 Kings 7:23:
Now he made the sea of cast metal ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits, and thirty cubits in circumference.
or 2 Chronicles 4:2:
Also he made the cast metal sea, ten cubits from brim to brim, circular in form, and its height was five cubits and its circumference thirty cubits.
Now let’s leave aside that this is a) a description of a real physical bowl and not a treatise on abstract Euclidean circles (so perhaps the object wasn’t a perfect circle), and b) the point of these passages is to describe physical objects in terms that the people of the time would have understood. So if they didn’t know π or that every circle has the same ratio of circumference to diameter, they would have had an incomplete description without being informed of rough approximations of both. I think the best response to this “Bible contradiction” is this:
I don’t really take such an objection seriously. I think it betrays some basic ignorance about what the doctrine of inspiration means and what we should expect an inspired text to look like. For the anti-theist who cites this, the expectation is that God should have handed down a math treatise and a few books on general relativity and quantum mechanics (assuming those theories are not overturned by some new paradigm in physics). But why would God do that? Why would God spend pages explaining geometric and arithmetic relations when he gave us the intelligence to do these things ourselves? This only reinforces the pet-hamster view of humanity’s relationship to God. His role is just to satisfy out every need so that we don’t have to stretch ourselves in any way. I’m sorry, but I disbelieve in that sort of God too.
File “π = 3 in the Bible” under really really bad arguments against Biblical inspiration.
Oh, and in case you don’t get the joke, Lawrence Krauss once tried to refute William Lane Craig in a debate by arguing that 2 + 2 can equal 5: here.