Do You Believe Everything You Read?
“ALL I know is what I read in the papers.” That was the byword of the American cowboy philosopher and humorist Will Rogers.
How do you feel about it? Do you think it is wise to believe everything you read?
No doubt much of the public press tries to stay as close to the facts as possible. And one can learn a great deal of factual and valuable information from what is printed.
But it must be kept in mind that nearly all of this world’s publications are business enterprises. Thus some writers, editors and publishers may cater to certain interests, fearing to offend readers or advertisers. Or they may tend toward the sensational and bizarre to attract readers, even if it means distorting the truth.
Also, an item may be written in good faith; but where did the reporter get the information? What was his original source? Was it reliable, or was the information based on hearsay? And did either the source or the report reflect personal prejudices rather than unbiased facts?
Then there is the tendency on the part of many readers to believe what they want to believe instead of weighing the evidence. Thus, if facts are slanted, prejudiced, even wrong, those who prefer to believe that viewpoint may eagerly accept it. But do you think that is the wise and safe course, working for the person’s good?
On the other hand, a person may believe that a certain thing is right, and it may indeed be right. But if, to support that belief, he grasps hold of evidence that has a weak foundation and that later is discredited, the result could be a weakening of his confidence in something that may be actually true.
When something is credible, it is believable. In recent years, more and more people are aware of what is often called a “credibility gap” as to the information they are getting. They may read one thing, but later find out that this was not true at all. Thus, a “gap” exists between what was reported and what eventually turned out to be the truth.
A famous instance of this took place in 1960. The government of American president Dwight Eisenhower was caught in a flagrant falsehood about an American U-2 aircraft lost over the Soviet Union. Spokesmen for the administration claimed that the plane was a weather craft that had accidentally strayed over the Soviet Union.
However, it turned out that the plane was shot down deep inside Russia and the pilot captured. Administration officials then acknowledged that it was indeed a “spy plane,” and that such flights had been going on with their full knowledge for about four years. The claim that this was a strayed plane was exposed as a deliberate falsehood.
In the book Anything but the Truth, by William McGaffin and Erwin Knoll, it is stated: “J. R. Wiggins, the editor of the Washington Post, has observed that ‘a government that too readily rationalizes its right to lie in a crisis will never lack for either lies or crises.’”
Thus it is the course of wisdom to exercise care when reading about the political affairs of this world. But this care is also needed when reading about other things. This even includes claims that certain discoveries verify the Bible’s authenticity.
“Missing Day” Verified?
An example of this is the case of the “Missing Day.” Some months ago a Mr. Harold Hill of Baltimore, Maryland, circulated copies of a story that was then widely reprinted in newspapers throughout the United States.
Mr. Hill stated that at the Greenbelt, Maryland, space center scientists were checking by computer the position of the sun, moon and planets to determine where these bodies would be in the future. Scanning centuries back and forth, computer calculations reportedly revealed that in the past there was a 24-hour day missing. One of the scientists was said to have remembered the Bible account of Joshua, chapter 10, which says that the ‘sun stood still’ for about a whole day. The computer was allegedly put back to work and found the missing time of Joshua’s account to be 23 hours and 20 minutes.
However, the story continued, what of the other 40 minutes? The same scientist reportedly then remembered the Bible account of Second Kings, chapter 20, which tells that King Hezekiah was given a sign as proof that he would recover from illness. The sign was that the shadow of a sundial would go backward “ten degrees” (Authorized Version), which is 40 minutes of time. Hence, put together, the two Bible accounts make up the 24 hours, the “Missing Day” that the computer is said to have found.
Was this published report true? A letter of inquiry was sent to Mr. Hill asking for further details concerning his account. In his reply he stated: “I am sorry I have misplaced the documentation relative to the names and places connected with the ‘Missing Day’ account, but will be glad to forward it to you when I come across it.” That was many months ago. To this date no documentation has been forthcoming.
In addition, Awake! magazine sent a letter of inquiry to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center at Greenbelt, Maryland. It asked officials there for verification of the story. Chief of the center’s Office of Public Affairs, Edward Mason, replied by letter: “We know nothing of Mr. Harold Hill and in no way can corroborate the ‘lost day’ reference in the article.” Mr. Mason added: “Although we make use of planetary positions as necessary in the determination of spacecraft orbits on our computers, I have not found that any ‘astronauts and space scientists at Greenbelt’ were involved in the ‘lost day’ story attributed to Mr. Hill.”
Does verification of this report of computer findings exist? It would be good not to say it does unless solid documentation comes along, particularly in view of the fact that Mr. Hill claims to have ‘personally seen the Lord Jesus Christ.’
Also, it must be regarded as very strange, to say the least, that an almost identical story is related in the book The Harmony of Science and Scripture by Harry Rimmer. But that book was first published in 1936! In a chapter entitled “Modern Science and the Long Day of Joshua” Rimmer refers to a book written in 1890 by a Professor C. A. Totten of Yale and claims that it “establishes the case beyond the shadow of a doubt.”
In Rimmer’s version of Totten’s account, it is an “accomplished astronomer” who is said to have discovered that the earth was 24 hours out of schedule. In trying to prove it, the astronomer reportedly found by his astronomical calculations that the time of the “Missing Day” was only 23 hours and 20 minutes long. But then Professor Totten reportedly called the astronomer’s attention to the fact that Joshua did not say it was an entire day, but “about” the space of a day. He then is said to have found that the account of King Hezekiah filled in the other 40 minutes.
These two accounts are almost identical. However, the modern one, of 1970, attributes the discovery to space scientists and computers at Greenbelt (who in turn deny it); the older account of 1936 attributes it to an “accomplished astronomer” mentioned in a book written by someone else in 1890!
However, the lack of verification for such claims does not alter the truthfulness of the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word. It speaks the truth, for God cannot lie. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; John 17:17; Titus 1:2) Christians have an abundance of evidence showing that the Bible is what it claims to be, the Word of God. They do not need, nor would it be wise to try to build faith on anything that cannot be proved to have a solid foundation.
Noah’s Ark Found?
In the past year there has also been much publicity regarding an expedition sent to find Noah’s ark on Mt. Ararat. Much of this publicity centers around the claims of Fernand Navarra.
Science News of June 13, 1970, stated: “In 1955, Fernand Navarra, a French industrialist and amateur explorer, found on Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey an estimated 50 tons of wood buried in the finger of a glacial ice pack. The site of the find is 14,000 feet high, several thousand feet above the tree line and over 300 miles from the nearest trees of any size. . . . Navarra has claimed that the artifact is a piece of the Biblical Ark of Noah.”
Some estimated that the wood was about 4,000 to 5,000 years old. However, other findings using radiocarbon measurement yielded more recent figures, although these could have been influenced by contamination of the wood with carbon-14 more recently formed in the upper atmosphere and brought down in rain and snow.
Then, in 1969, more wood was found near the 1955 site. Further excavation was to have taken place in the summer of 1970 under the direction of Search Foundation, Inc. However, Turkey barred the expedition from access to Mt. Ararat, citing “security reasons.” Attempts were made to reverse this decision.
This is not the first claim of a possible finding of the Ark. There have been many sensational reports in past centuries. Some claim to have seen a ship. Others, the prow of a ship. Another report says that an investigating team found and examined several rooms in a boatlike structure. But it was not possible to follow up on those claims and establish them beyond doubt.
About ten years ago, a shape was seen on Mt. Ararat that did look boatlike. Pictures of it were published in magazines. But investigators went to the spot and found that it was only an unusual earth formation. True, the current interest does not center on that place, but elsewhere on the mountain.
Yet, it would be wise to exercise caution. Even if the wood were pre-Flood, was the Ark the only hand-hewn structure of that time? Is it not possible that structures destroyed by the Flood could have had their remains carried by the floodwaters to different places, including Mt. Ararat? Is it not possible, too, that a wooden structure could have been built on Mt. Ararat long after the flood of Noah’s day?
Some may want to believe that what is up there is Noah’s ark and so may dogmatically claim that it is, before conclusive evidence is obtained. But what if later evidence proves that this was not the Ark? Will that weaken their belief in the Flood and in the Bible account of Noah’s ark? It would not be the first time that the faith of people had been damaged by believing evidence that was unfounded while the event itself was the truth.
Hence, until there is far more evidence than at present, it would not be the course of wisdom to pin one’s hopes on such a find to verify a Bible account. Really, Christians do not need it. They have the record of God’s own Word on the matter. He was an eyewitness to the entire event. So, too, we have the record of Noah, who was an eyewitness to it on earth. And we have the record that Jesus Christ himself accepted the global flood as historical fact.—Gen. 6:1-8:22; Luke 17:26, 27.
Also, there are the flood accounts common to almost every race or culture. So widespread an account is not likely to have been coincidental. Too, it is a well-established fact that a sudden watery death, and in many cases a quick freezing, overtook millions of living things in the past. Remains of these have been found in enormous quantities in places such as Alaska and Siberia. Some animals were so quickly frozen that vegetation was still in their mouths and stomachs.
Yet, even if the remains of Noah’s ark were found and definitely identified, would critics be any more convinced about the Bible’s accuracy? Would they then put their trust in it and its Author? Well, have the Dead Sea Scrolls of Isaiah convinced critics to put any more faith in the Bible and its Author than they had before? No, instead they have spent years bickering about details of spelling, letter shapes, Essene doctrine, and so on. They have missed the real point regarding the preservation of God’s Word, and the putting of one’s trust in it and its Author.
Would critics of the global flood even “be persuaded if someone [say Noah himself] rises from the dead” and leads them to the Ark? (Luke 16:31) It is not likely. Jesus raised persons from the dead and that did not convince his critics. Why, when Jesus resurrected a man named Lazarus, the religious critics wanted to put Jesus to death! And not only that, but they “took counsel to kill Lazarus also”!—John 11:45-53; 12:9-11.
No, it is not the facts about the Bible’s truthfulness that are missing. These are in abundance and solidly testify to the Bible’s being the Word of God. What is missing where critics are concerned is the right heart condition. They do not want to believe. Nor do they want to subject themselves to Jehovah God’s arrangements or moral laws.
Closing Eyes at Baptism?
Another example of how misleading and downright false an item can be was an article reported by the Associated Press from Mufulira, Zambia.
The Associated Press dispatch said: “Members of the Watchtower sect are supposed to keep their eyes tightly closed when co-religionists undergo their baptismal rites. Fortunately, someone had his eyes open when Davison Kapysa was dipped in the Kafue River in the presence of 200 Watchtower members. A crocodile grabbed Kapysa’s leg but the solitary peeper gave the alarm before the reptile could drag its victim off.”
From this report, an uninformed reader could conclude that when Jehovah’s witnesses are present at a baptism, they must close their eyes when someone is being baptized. Yet, if the Associated Press had checked with any representative of Jehovah’s witnesses it would have found the information in error, for the truth is exactly to the contrary. Jehovah’s witnesses who are present at baptisms are there to be observers and eyewitnesses. They could hardly be that if they kept their eyes closed when others were being baptized!
Weigh What You Read
With so much propaganda in the world today, it is good to exercise caution. When reading about important matters, analyze the available facts. Ask yourself, Is there a solid foundation for what is being said, or is it merely hearsay? Is the source reliable? If the evidence is flimsy, wait for further verification.
Another consideration: who is more likely to print the truth—those devoted to the God of truth, Jehovah, and not doing their work for commercial profit? or those who seek to make a profit, who have advertisers and other vested interests with which they must be concerned? The answer is obvious.
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Have scientists really confirmed a Bible account by means of a computer?
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Has a part of Noah’s ark been found?