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Pi, The Bible, and The Singularity

A week or so ago, the hardsf yahoo group discovered the Bible’s miscalculation of pi. I had never heard of this before. Neither had a number of the other members. We scrambled to find the truth concerning this mistake in the Infallible Document. The answer can be found in I Kings 7:23 which states in King James lingo: “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about.” Meaning the diameter is 10 and the circumference is 30. Plugging numbers into the circle equation, C = 2πr, gives us 30 = 2π5. Solving for π(pi) gives us 3. We all know pi is actually 3 and change, not just plain naked 3.

In the middle of patting ourselves on the back for discovering this chink in The Good Book’s armor, one of the more sober members dispatched a missive to the group with this Bible commentary. This webpage lucidly disagrees with the apparent imperfection. In a nutshell, it points out that a cubit is malleable. It’s only an approximation based on the length of a man’s arm. Depending on the handiest man available when building the ark, or the ark of the covenant, or Tower of Babel, the cubit will change. It’s a more or less type unit. Back in the day, there was no IUPAC system, no National Bureau of Standards, no “Paris clean-room that is kept at precisely 20 degrees Celsius,” i.e. the cubit was not standardized. Of course if you use the same man for both measurements, 10 cubits should relate to 30 cubits exactly and then the Bible would still be wrong, however, the the page also states “pi lies” and has “no relationship to reality.”

It goes on to prove it and winds up with this:

The solution of the Biblical pi-conundrum reflects perhaps the oldest conflict of all. In the heart of the garden of Eden there were two trees: the Tree Of Life from which Adam and Eve could eat freely, and the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good and Evil. Contrary to common understanding, this latter tree was as perfect as the rest of Paradise and its function was firmly fixed within the large scheme of things. What that function exactly was we don’t know, but its fruits were not suited for consumption, lethal when attempted. But before Eve ate, before the fall, hence with her truthful observations in tact, she noted that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was desirable to make wise. How this tree was to do this is unknown, but certainly not by having its fruits depended on for food and sustenance.

It’s a big step (too big a step) to say that scientists are the harvesters of the Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil, but even if science will achieve her coveted Theory Of Everything, or rather Grand Overall Description, there will always be holes in the story, and science is too leaky a vessel for any Truth-seeker to put much hope in.

My response: I don’t think science is interested in the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowledge, yes; good and evil, no. In fact man’s fall from grace doesn’t have much to do with knowing things. Knowing things is not wrong. Making a judgment, i.e. deciding what is good or evil, that is the wrong. Once humanity brought morality into the equation, we lost our garden privileges. Regardless of what I think about the integrity of the Bible as a guidebook for humanity, the Eden story proves to me that there is little difference between the Judeo-Christian mythology and Buddhism. So whether or not science will find a theory of everything, there is perhaps a theory of everything spiritual.

Interesting though: If science will never know everything, intelligence will never be absolute; the Singularity is unattainable. Obviously the book on the Singularity ain’t written yet. Unless the Good Book turns out to be The Book after all. But then, the Bible is only infallible because the length of a man’s arm is not absolute. The absolute truth, then, is unattainable, unmeasurable, so we’re right back where we started: there can be no Singularity.

Sue Lange
Sue Lange’s bookshelf at BookViewCafe.com

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