A CRUSADE OF ARROGANCE
By Mark Perakh
First posted on December 12, 1999. Updated on May 6, 2001
ROSS AS A SCIENTIST
ROSS AND NON-CHRISTIANS
WAR ON TWO FRONTS
ROSS INTERPRETS HEBREW
SOME SPECIFIC INCORRECT STATEMENTS IN ROSS’S BOOKS
A CRUSADE OF ARROGANCE
Hugh Ross is a prolific author of books, web postings, etc., all dedicated to but one goal – to prove the complete compatibility of modern science with the word of the Bible, and, more specifically, with his particular brand of the Christian faith. In this article I will discuss some features of Ross’s books to see if he has accomplished his goal in a way sufficiently convincing for skeptics.
ROSS AS A SCIENTIST
We learn from the information provided in Ross’s books that he is the head of an organization named Reasons to Believe. This organization adheres to the “doctrinal statements of the National Association of Evangelicals and of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.” Ross has also served as a minister of evangelism. Hence Ross’s credentials as a proponent and defender of the Christian faith (in its non-Catholic and non-Mormonic version) are obvious.
On the other hand, the readers of Ross’ books are advised that he has a Ph.D. degree in astronomy from the University of Toronto and that he had been a post-doctoral fellow at Caltech, studying quasars and galaxies. Indeed, in his Curriculum Vitae1 we find a list of five published papers on certain astrophysical matters in which Ross is either the author (in two of them) or a co-author (the last such publication dated 1977). However, in order to judge Ross's competence as a scientist we do not need to study these five old short papers with their rather narrow topics. We can gain a rather good understanding of Ross the scientist by relying on what we can read in his books on the "Bible vs. science" subject.
Let us look, for example, at Ross’s book titled The Fingerprint of God2. In that book Ross reviews various cosmological theories, thus showing his familiarity with the relevant literature. It is hard, though, to figure out who are meant to be the readers of that book. On the one hand, Ross seems to explain the cosmological theories briefly and in a simplified manner, such as would be natural if the book were written for laymen. On the other hand, Ross’s presentation is full of references to rather sophisticated scientific concepts which can only confuse a layman. For example, on pages 42 and especially 44, Ross provides mathematical equations of the general theory of relativity which obviously would be incomprehensible for laymen; more so since they are not explained in the text and do not actually add any useful information.
The overall style of Ross’ presentation of scientific theories, in which he, on the one hand, mentions dozens of scientific terms hardly familiar to non-experts, but which, on the other hand, is often lacking in clarity, makes one wonder how well he himself understands those theories. It is hard to avoid the feeling that the above equations and terms are presented for the sole reason of impressing the readers with Ross’s scientific qualifications and knowledge.
On page 66 of his book Creation and Time3 there is a box titled “Decay and Work,” where Ross offers a simplified explanation of the laws of thermodynamics. While some imprecision inherent in that explanation can be forgiven if we assume that it is addressed to laymen, there is one item in it which stands out as a sign of Ross’s own possible insufficient understanding of the subject. Let us quote Ross, “Because of the principle of pervasive decay, heat energy can be transformed into mechanical energy (or work)… The maximum amount of heat energy that can be transformed into work is proportional to the difference between the temperature of the hot body and the temperature of the cold body divided by the temperature of the hot body.”
We see in that quotation the assertion, repeated twice, that heat energy can be transformed into work. Such a statement makes a physicist pause because, if accepted literally, it is contrary to basic concepts of thermodynamics. One such basic concept holds that energy can be transformed from any specific form into any other form. For example, chemical energy can be transformed into electric energy; mechanical energy can be transformed into thermal energy, etc. However, the quantity named work is not considered in thermodynamics as a form of energy, which a body can possess, but rather as a quantity which measures the amount of energy transformed from one form into another form or transferred from one body to another body. While a body can possess a certain amount of energy in any specific form, it cannot “possess work.” Work can be performed in a process, wherein a transformation (or transfer) of energy occurs, but as soon as the process is completed the work is nowhere to be found. If some energy were “transformed into work” it would mean this amount of energy has disappeared. Actually the fact that some work was indeed performed can only be established by comparing the total amounts of energy in its various forms before and after the process. Therefore the statement by Ross about “heat energy transforming into work” in its literal interpretation is meaningless.
Still, we might consider the above statement by Ross as a display of a sloppy style rather than of misunderstanding. However, such a charitable interpretation falls apart when we continue reading the book in question.
On page 135 of that book we read: “As the universe expands from the creation event, it cools, like any other system obeying the laws of thermodynamics. When the heat energy of a system fills a greater volume, there is less energy per unit volume to go around.”
The quoted statement by Ross confirms the suspicion that he has an insufficient understanding of some fundamentals of physics4.
In order to clarify our statement, we have to talk about some concepts of thermodynamics. Necessarily, this discussion must be somewhat technical, even though still omitting, for the sake of simplification, some subtle points of thermodynamics.
The fundamentals of thermodynamics are expressed as the four “Laws of Thermodynamics,” which are postulates based on the generalization of the observed behavior of macroscopic bodies. They describe the behavior of systems which contain a very large number of constituent elements (molecules, atoms, ions, etc). The real meaning of the four laws is revealed in another part of physics, statistical physics, which shows that the laws of thermodynamics are not absolute but only express the most probable way the systems behave.
The law of thermodynamics that is relevant to the above quotation from Ross, is the First Law. The First Law of thermodynamics is actually the law of energy conservation for macroscopic systems. It deals with three quantities, named internal energy, heat, and work. It states that in a thermodynamic process the change of a system’s internal energy equals the algebraic sum of work and heat. The “heat” in that law, like work, is not considered a form of energy per se, which a body can possess. It is a measure of such energy transfer to or from the system which occurs via random interactions of the system’s constituent particles with particles in the system’s surrounding.
If a system expands (for example, a piston in a cylinder moves up, lifting some load) the system (in this example the gas in the cylinder) performs certain work. If a work is done, the internal energy of the gas decreases (it transforms into the increased gravitational potential energy of the lifted load). The decrease of the internal energy may be, either partially or fully, compensated for by a heat influx from the surrounding medium into the system. If the compensation is only partial, or is completely absent, the internal energy of the system decreases.
The part of the internal energy which is relevant to the problem in question is the thermal energy. Essentially it is the kinetic energy of the randomly moving constituent particles of the system. The measure of that thermal energy is called temperature. Hence, if the decrease of the thermal energy which was caused by the work done by the system is not fully compensated for by the heat influx, temperature of the system drops.
The important point here is that it is not the expansion itself which is the reason for the temperature drop. There are at least two situations when expansion is not accompanied by a temperature drop. One is the situation when the heat influx from the surrounding medium completely compensates for the decrease of internal energy caused by performing work (such as lifting a load). Moreover, if the heat influx from the surrounding medium exceeds the amount of work, the temperature of the system increases, despite the system’s expansion. One more situation where expansion does not result in a temperature drop is an expansion in which no work is done. A well known example of the latter is the expansion into vacuum. Imagine a box divided by a partition into two compartments, one compartment containing gas at some pressure and temperature and the other being empty. If we remove the partition, the gas will rapidly expand into the empty compartment. Since gas expands into vacuum, i.e., without resistance, no work is done in this expansion.
If we believed Ross, the temperature of the expanding gas would drop because, as he said, “when the heat energy of the system fills the larger volume, there is less energy per unit volume to go around.” This expression is meaningless. In reality, as has been established, both theoretically and experimentally, in thermodynamics, the described expansion into vacuum is an isothermal process in which the temperature of the gas remains constant.
The concept of heat as a substance which is diluted when the volume increases, has been abandoned by physics, as incorrect, since Rumford (1796). Ross seems not to know that. His explanation assumes that temperature drop is caused by the expansion itself, which is contrary to thermodynamics.
In another Ross’s book,2 we find again a similar explanation of the universe’s cooling at expansion. On page 103 of that book we read, “In the standard big bang model, the universe expands smoothly and adiabatically from the beginning onward.” Ross provides a following footnote to the quoted sentence: “Under adiabatic expansion the temperature will drop due to the expansion alone without loss of heat from the system.”
The term “adiabatic” denotes a process in which there is no exchange of thermal energy between the system and its surrounding. The situation we discussed earlier, in which a gas expanded into an empty compartment, was both adiabatic and isothermal, so there was no temperature drop, contrary to Ross’s assertion. Ross, again, seems not to know that the temperature drop occurs only if the expansion is accompanied by work done by the system against external forces, while “expansion alone” causes no temperature drop.
In regard to the reason for the universe’s cooling in the process of its expansion, thermodynamics, contrary to Ross’s assertion, can’t provide a direct explanation. The main problem is the uncertainty as to how thermodynamics can be applied to the behavior of the universe as a whole, as the expansion of the universe occurs into “nothing,” i.e., the universe is not surrounded by another medium as the adiabatic systems studied in thermodynamics are. If we accept the theory of big bang, we have to realize that thermodynamics is not applicable to the big bang itself (actually to anything that occurred within the so-called Planck time which is 10-43 sec). The laws of physics may though be legitimately applied to anything that occurred after the Planck time. This includes the four laws of thermodynamics, in particular the First and the Second Laws.
According to the First Law the total energy of the universe remains constant regardless of any processes taking place in the course of the universe’s expansion. (There are good reasons to believe that the net energy of the universe is zero.) According to the Second Law, the entropy of the universe increases along with the latter’s expansion. The rate of expansion exceeds the rate of the creation of order (i.e. of stars and galaxies, etc.), so despite the emergence of gradually increasing order, which is accompanied by the local decrease of entropy, the overall entropy of the universe increases in agreement with the Second law of thermodynamics (see, for example books5,6).
The temperature drop occurs because the initial thermal energy of the universe gradually converts into, first, the rest mass of the emerging stars, and, second, into the kinetic energy of the motion of those clumps of emerging matter moving away from the initial seed of the university. Judging from Ross’s preposterous statement about the temperature drop being the result of energy diluted in ever increasing volume, he has a rather nebulous understanding of elementary concepts of physics and cosmology.
Having thus established Ross’s actual level of scientific competence, we can judge all of his ideas in regard to the compatibility of the Bible with science with that knowledge in mind.
ROSS AND NON-CHRISTIANS
As mentioned before, Ross’s discussion is always from the viewpoint of a believing Christian. There are many books treating the same problem as Ross does, offering arguments in favor of compatibility of the Bible with science, but written from different standpoints. Some such books have been written from the vantage point of Judaism, for example, books by Gerald L. Schroeder7 and by Nathan Aviezer8 (both reviewed in this site). It is interesting to note that Ross and the mentioned other authors often use identical arguments and sometimes share the same errors.
For example, Schroeder and Ross discuss the nature of pre-Adam “hominids” in very similar terms. Both assert that the humanlike creatures who roamed the earth for many thousand years before the date, when, according to the Bible, Adam was created by God from dust, were really not human since they did not possess “soul.”
Both Ross and Schroeder show very similar misunderstanding of some basic concepts of thermodynamics. Both suggest the same incorrect explanation of the universe’s cooling after the big bang as being due to “heat dilution in ever increasing volumes” (Schroeder’s term) or, in Ross’s terms, saying that “when the heat energy of a system fills a greater volume, there is less energy per unit volume to go around.”
Since books by Ross and Schroeder appeared during the same period of time, it is hard to judge whether Ross borrowed his incorrect statement from Schroeder, or Schroeder borrowed his absurd explanation from Ross, or whether they both came up with the same naďve idea independently from each other by a sheer chance. What is of interest, though, is that neither Schroeder nor Aviezer make any reference to Ross, and Ross never mentions Schroeder or Aviezer. Of course this can be understood in view of different agendas of Ross on the one hand, and Schroeder or Aviezer, on the other. As we will see, though, Ross goes much further than Schroeder or Aviezer in his obvious aversion to acknowledging the contribution of writers who do not share his religious beliefs.
While Schroeder and Aviezer ignore the books by Christian writers even though they share the same attitude to the question of compatibility of the Bible and science, they, however, do not denigrate non-Jewish writers of such books. As to Ross’s attitude, it can be determined if we look at some quotations from his writings.
On page 129 of Ross’s book Creation and Time3 we read, “The beginning occurred only a few billion years ago and places the cause of the universe outside, that is, independent of, matter, energy, space, and time. Theologically this means that the Cause of the universe is independent of and transcendent to the universe. The Christian faith is the only one religion among the belief systems of humankind that teaches such a doctrine about the Creator. (Several religions like Judaism, Islam, and Mormonism accept as valid at least portions of the Old and New Testaments but every one of them, outside of Christianity, denies, at least in part, God’s transcendence and extra-dimensional attributes.)”
It is easy to imagine the possible reaction of, say, adherents of Judaism to the above statement which alleges that faithful Jews accept only parts of their own Scriptures.
There is little doubt that Moslems, Jews, or Mormons, listed by Ross as inadequately interpreting the notion of the Creator, would just shrug off his remarks about their beliefs, as ranting of a religious bigot. I offer the readers a choice between two interpretations of the above statement. One is that Ross’s knowledge of religions other than Christianity is not much better than his understanding of thermodynamics. The other is that Ross’s religious arrogance blinds him to anything beyond his extremely narrow field of vision.
Ross’s contempt of beliefs other than of his own narrowly-interpreted Christianity is evident also from some lines on page 144 in that book. On that page, Ross described how he read the Bible for the first time and how he was impressed by it. He compares the biblical story with stories accepted in other religions in the following words: “In my study of the history of astronomy, I had read dozens of creation stories from the world religions, and I wondered if this one would be like the rest. The others were good for a few laughs, with their ludicrous descriptions and inventive disordering of events.”
Of course, each religion claims the monopoly on the ultimate truth. It is easy to imagine an adherent, say, of Buddhism or of Hinduism who finds the Biblical story being good for a few laughs. However gaily they or Ross laugh at each other, somebody else who will as gaily laugh at both can always be found.
Ross’s narrow-mindedness makes one suspect that all his arguments are so subordinated to his agenda that they should be viewed with the utmost caution in regard to their veracity.
WAR ON TWO FRONTS
As becomes immediately evident when reading Ross’s books, he is in an unenviable position of fighting on two fronts. Ross adheres to the position of the Bible’s inerrancy, according to which everything in the Bible is consistent and absolutely true. In promoting and defending this position, Ross fights against skeptics who see many contradictions between various parts of the Bible, as well as between the Bible and science. In particular, Ross and his fellow “old earth creationists” assert that the biblical story as told in the Book of Genesis is absolutely true, and its apparent incompatibility with scientific data is only due to misinterpretation of the Bible’s text. On the other front, Ross also fights against the so-called “young earth creationists” who reject any attempt to interpret the Bible in any manner other than literally.
The “young earth creationists” maintain that every word of the Bible must be accepted in its simple literal meaning, and if it contradicts science, that is just too bad for science. For example, the modern astronomical data, together with the facts established by physics (such as the value of the speed of light) indicate the enormous dimensions of the universe and correspondingly give its age as about twelve to fifteen billion years. This does not deter the young earth creationists who shrug off the scientific data and claim that the large size of the universe is just an illusion. Likewise, according to the young earth creationists, the fossils found in various strata of the Earth crust have been deposited by God to create an illusion of billions of years of the earth’s history. Of course, the young earth creationists are not in the least baffled by the question as to why God would indulge in the deception of scientists. The ways of God are unfathomable, and the word of the Bible is not to be doubted in any manner – that is the unshakable conviction of the young earth creationists.
Of course, the denial of the scientific data by the young earth creationists means the extreme obscurantism, but their position, however absurd, is fully consistent and hence logically unassailable.
Ross is of the opinion that sticking to the position of the young earth creationists can only discredit the Bible and make it susceptible to ridicule. Therefore he fights against young earth creationists in order to redeem the creationism in general by proving that this viewpoint can be reconciled with the scientific data.
In doing so, Ross resorts to semantic acrobatics, attempting to interpret this or that expression in the Bible in a way allegedly proving the compatibility between the Bible and science. In doing so, he steps out from the pit of the extreme (but logically consistent) obscurantism only to fall into a pit of arbitrary assertions running contrary to common sense, and thus promotes merely another version of obscurantism, one which is, moreover, utterly inconsistent and void of reason.
In particular, Ross’s book Creation and Time3 contains many sections devoted to debunking young earth creationism. Paradoxically, in his rejection of the young earth creationism Ross assumes the position of a defender of science, borrowing his arguments from scientific theories.
In chapters 9 and 10 of his book Creation and Time Ross discusses arguments forwarded by those young earth creationists who suggest the so-called “creation science” which purports to substantiate the young earth thesis via scientific discourse, and he correctly concludes that the young earth creationists failed miserably to debunk the data on the universe’s age. In particular, Ross indicates (page 103) that the argumentation of the young earth creationists involves the following fallacies: 1) Faulty assumptions; 2) Faulty data; 3) Misapplication of principles, laws, and equations, and 4) failure to consider opposing evidence.
Very good, Dr. Ross.
In this dispute, facts are on Ross’s side. He should have, however, likewise adhered strictly to facts when interpreting the text of the Bible. Unfortunately, in that latter endeavor, based only on his religious beliefs rather than on an objective consideration of facts, Ross resorts to methods also involving the above four fallacies.
ROSS INTERPRETS HEBREW
A considerable part of Ross’s argumentation is based on his interpretation of various phrases in the Hebrew text of the Bible. For example, on page 46 of his book Creation and Time Ross discusses the Hebrew words for day, evening and morning in order to prove that in the Biblical story about the creation of the world in six days the above three words had been used metaphorically rather than literally. The Hebrew word for “day” is “yom” (which Ross for unexplained reasons transliterates with a caret (^) over o - yôm). The Hebrew word for “evening” which is “erev,” Ross, also for unknown reasons, transliterates as “ereb.” In his earlier book, The Fingerprint of God2, Ross for unfathomable reasons used another equally odd transliteration of the Hebrew words. Ross converted the word “yom” (in Hebrew three letters, yud, vav, mem) into the four letter word “yowm” with a letter “w” mysteriously appearing out of thin air. The word “adam” (in Hebrew three letters, alef, dalet, mem) meaning “man,” in Ross’s creative transliteration becomes, oddly, “adham.”
Of course, the mentioned odd transliterations are not very important in themselves, but they give rise to a suspicion that Ross’s cognizance of the Hebrew language is not much better than his understanding of thermodynamics. This suspicion becomes even stronger when the reader encounters a statement Ross repeats more than once, asserting that the Hebrew language has only three grammatical forms corresponding to English tenses. This assertion is made, for example, in the footnote on page 165 of The Fingerprint of God and repeated elsewhere. Ross seems not to know about the seven forms of the Hebrew verbs, such as Paal, Piel, Hitpael, etc., each having variations for expressing past, present and future, serving for completed as well as for incomplete actions, in the transitive as well as in the intransitive form, in the active as well as in the passive form, etc. While the readers not familiar with Hebrew grammar and vocabulary may be impressed by Ross’s use of several Hebrew words, any average Hebrew speaker would immediately recognize that Ross possesses, at best, a very rudimentary knowledge of that language.
With such dubious expertise in Hebrew, Ross does not seem to be equipped for those convoluted interpretations of Hebrew words to which he resorts to convince readers in the validity of his thesis about the agreement between the Bible and science.
One example of Ross’s less than convincing attempt to reconcile the story about the six days of creation with modern scientific estimates of the age of the universe is found on pages 145-146 of his book Creation and Time. He writes, “I was beginning to discern that the original language of the Old Testament (Hebrew) had fewer nouns than English.” Ross’s opinion, expressed on that page, is that the word “yom” in the Book of Genesis was used to mean different time intervals in different verses because the Hebrew language, unlike English, lacks words describing such different time intervals.
Any Israeli second grader would be able to tell Ross that the Hebrew language has enough words to denote any time interval, and even sometimes more than one word to express subtle differences in regard to the same time interval. In particular, the word epoch has more than one synonym in Hebrew. The most common Hebrew word for epoch is tkufa. The less common synonyms for this word are sfira and idan (the later is of the Aramaic origin but was used in the biblical Hebrew as well). There also other expressions in Hebrew which can be used for epoch. Since the author of the Book of Genesis had all those and many other words at his disposal, the notion of the shortage of Hebrew words for denoting various time intervals is simply ludicrous. (Note that according to Christian beliefs the real author of the Book of Genesis was God Himself. Does Ross’s explanation mean that God knew fewer Hebrew words than an average Hebrew-speaking kid does?)
In his desire to prove his point regardless of the means Ross goes to such length as to bluntly distort the meaning of some Hebrew words. For example, on page 152 of his book Creation and Time Ross attempts to explain away one of the inconsistencies in the Book of Genesis according to which invertebrates were created by God after mammals and just before the creation of man. To do so, Ross provides his own translation of the word remes (in Hebrew three letters, resh, mem, sin). He writes, “The Hebrew word in question is remes, and its broad definition encompasses rapidly moving vertebrates, such as rodents, hares and lizards.”
That whole quotation is pure fantasy. The Hebrew word remes is a noun derived from the root meaning “to crawl.” Hence it has nothing to do with “rapidly moving” animals. Moreover, the correct translation of remes is invertebrate, as can easily be verified by looking this word up in any good Hebrew dictionary (for example in the authoritative “Hamilon Haivri Hamerukaz” by A. Even-Shoshan9 ).
Equally unsubstantiated are Ross’s attempts (also on page 152) to suggest his own interpretation of some other Hebrew words such as zera (zayin, resh, ayin) meaning seed, etz peri (ayin, tzade - pey, resh, yud) meaning fruit tree and other.
Here is what Ross wrote, “The Hebrew phrase translated as ‘seeds, trees, and fruit’ (Genesis 1:11-12) has been taken by some as a reference to deciduous plants. However, the respective Hebrew nouns, zera, ets, and periy are generic terms that easily can be applied to plant species as primitive as those that appeared at the beginning of the Cambrian era.”
To start with, there is no phrase “seeds, trees, and fruit” in Genesis 1:11-12. The actual text of Genesis 1:11 is in Hebrew as follows, “Veyomar elohim tadshe haaretz deshe eshev mazriah zera etz peri ose pri lemino asher zaro bo.” There are several translations of that verse into English. For example, the King James version translates the above passage as follows, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself.” A slightly different translation is found in “The Holy Scriptures”11 published by the Menora Press of Chicago, “And God said, ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and tree bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after its kind.”
Despite the slight difference between the two quoted translations, both are reasonably close to the Hebrew original which, as can be seen, provides quite specific definitions of the plants in question and leaves no room for any arbitrary interpretation like that by Ross.
In continuation of his alleged explanation of the meaning of some Hebrew words, Ross asserts, on page 147 of Creation and Time that if any person “with a scientific or analytical bent … gets through the first chapter of Genesis, … that person will become a believer.”
While Ross obviously wants the readers to believe that he himself is a person of a “scientific and analytical bent,” the impression gained from his writings is actually of somebody who is either a very gullible person lacking analytical faculty, and prone to interpreting facts in any way which would supposedly confirm his preconceived notions, or just a person driven by something other than the pursuit of truth. There are scores of people of “scientific and analytical bent” whose skepticism emerged unscathed from reading and re-reading the Book of Genesis and who continue viewing it just as a beautiful piece of literature reflecting a naďve effort by our distant ancestors who, at the dawn of history, tried to answer the questions which have been and will continue to puzzle the humans and which will probably never be answered with certainty.
Ross’s book titled The Genesis Question10 is his more recent publication. It contains many detailed discussions of the controversy between the Book of Genesis and scientific data. Unlike the two books we discussed until now, in which Ross usually tried to prove the compatibility of this or that statement in the Bible with the facts established by science, in this new book his presentation assumes that the compatibility in question has already been firmly established, the Bible story is accepted as unerringly true and his task is only to clarify how to properly understand the biblical text.
It is in vain that a reader would look for any proofs of Ross’s categorical statements in this book. In fact, all those statements are unsubstantiated and arbitrary.
In particular, Ross continues in that book his misinterpretations of Hebrew words. Ross repeats the same assertion that Hebrew has a very limited vocabulary. On page 65 Ross writes: “Hebrew, however, with its tiny vocabulary (more than thousand times smaller than English) must manifest more flexibility.”
The full unabridged edition of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1987) comprises 315,000 entries. The largest multi-volume Oxford Dictionary of the English language comprises about 700,000 entries. Hence, if we believe Ross, the vocabulary of Hebrew must comprise not more than about 700 words. In fact, even the abridged one-volume version of the Hebrew dictionary “HaMilon Haivri Hamerukaz” by Even-Shoshan9 contains over 70,000 entries. Its full seven-volume version is of course much larger. As to the vocabulary of the Hebrew Bible, the vocabulary of the Torah (Pentateuch) alone comprises 14,961 different words, among them 7,361 nouns. (The computerized counts were performed by Dr. James Price and by Dr. Brendan McKay, whose private communications on that subject are appreciated).
On the same page Ross asserts that Hebrew, unlike English, has no words for epoch, era, and age. He maintains that in Hebrew “no other word besides yom carries the meaning of a long period of time.” As we discussed earlier, such statements amply demonstrate Ross’s ignorance of Hebrew coupled with his arrogance in counting on the equal or even larger ignorance of his readers.
In that book we see again odd transliterations of Hebrew words, testifying to Ross very limited knowledge of that language. For example, the Hebrew word gavoah (meaning “high”) in Ross’s version becomes gaboah, and the expression hagvohim (meaning “the high” in plural) becomes almost unrecognizable “hugebohim” (page 145).
Here is one telltale example of Ross’ ignorance of Hebrew (and of some general facts of grammar as well). On page 48 Ross tells the readers that the word behema is a plural form for the word behemoth. This statement would cause a fit of laughs in the first grade of any school in Israel. Apparently, Ross does not know the difference between the plural form of a noun and collective nouns. Behema (in Hebrew four letters, bet, hey, mem, hey, which also can be transliterated as b’hemah) means cattle, and exactly like in English, it is a collective noun in the singular form. Behema is not a plural form of behemoth (as Ross suggests) but, on the contrary, the Hebrew word behemot (bet, hey, mem, vav, tav) is the intensive plural of behemah. This word also serves as a noun in the singular form denoting the hippopotamus. Hebrew nouns in the plural form end either with “im” (if they are masculine) of with “ot” (feminine). In particular, the correct plural form for behemot is b’hemotim and for behemah (or b’hemah) it is b’hemot (in the contemporary colloquial Hebrew b’hemot is often used as a generic word to denote animals).
Likewise, Ross pretends to clarify the meaning of a number of other Hebrew words, such as sheres (a cumulative name for many small animals whose correct transliteration should be sheretz), op (meaning fowl; the correct transliteration should be either of or ohf), nefesh and others, in his habitually arbitrary manner, twisting the alleged translation of those words to fit his thesis.
Of course, Ross is not under obligation to be fluent in Hebrew. However, pretending to be an expert in that language while hardly being familiar with even its simplest features is one of the most appalling peculiarities of Ross’s publications.
Like many other writers of books in that genre, Ross is selective in his interpretation of the controversies in the Genesis story. For example, he discusses at length the story of the creation of living creatures according to Genesis 1, trying to show that the seemingly odd order of creation (insects created after mammals, etc.) stems simply from an incorrect translation of Hebrew words. At the same time, he seems not to notice, for example, some glaring contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2, in regard to that order of creation. For example, in Genesis 1 we are told that man (adam) was created after all the plants and animals. However, in Genesis 2 the creation of animals is reported to have happened after that of adam. Indeed, the creation of adam is reported in Genesis 2.7. In the next few verses the creation of the Garden of Eden is described (which appears to have possibly been created after Adam). Only after that does Genesis 2 report on the creation of animals. Here are the corresponding lines in Genesis 2.18 –2.19 in English translation (quoted from9), “And the Lord God said: ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.’ And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air, and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them.”
Apparently, even with all his creative interpretation of Hebrew words, in this case Ross was not able to come up with such an alleged translation of the Hebrew text which would make the controversy seem to disappear. Hence, he chose not to notice it.
SOME SPECIFIC INCORRECT STATEMENTS IN ROSS’S BOOKS
In this section I will discuss a few assorted examples of unsubstantiated statements in Ross’s books.
1. On page 141 of his book Creation and Time3 Ross wrote, “Bipedal, tool-using, large-brained primates (called hominids by anthropologists) may have roamed the earth as long ago as one million years, but religious relics and altars date back only 8,000 to 24,000 years. Thus, the secular archeological date for the first spirit creature is in complete agreement with the biblical date.”
Indeed, Dr. Ross? What, then, about the biblical chronology which tells us that Adam was created from dust only about 6,000 years ago? Are in your view 6,000 and 24,000 the same number?
2. On page 133 of the same book we read, “What astronomers and physicists are discovering in these new measurements is that the Being who brought the universe into existence is not only personal, creative, powerful, and intelligent to an unimaginable degree, but He is also aware of and sensitive to the needs of humanity.”
The quoted paragraph demonstrates Ross’s arrogance. Have astronomers and physicists voted to authorize Ross to speak for them? While the discoveries by astronomers and physicists do not exclude the possible existence of a Creator of the universe, they also provide no direct indications whatsoever for such Creator’s existence. To believe or not to believe in the supernatural Being mentioned by Ross is a matter of personal choice. Both views are equally legitimate but neither of them has any direct connection to any scientific discoveries. As to Ross’s assertion attributing to the possible supernatural Being such qualities as caring about the needs of humanity, based on discoveries in astronomy and physics, the obvious lack of any substantiation for that notion is just another evidence of Ross’s propensity to substitute the desired for the actual.
Moreover, Ross asserts that the work of secular scientists not only provides evidence in favor of his beliefs in the Creator, but also specifically supports his particular version of Christian faith. For example, on page 131 of Creation and Time he writes, “…even some atheists are more able to acknowledge that the big bang implies Jesus Christ than are our young-universe creationist friends.” For atheists and believers alike, the big bang theory implies Jesus Christ not more than a sunset implies that some sorcerer has grabbed the sun and pulled it down from the sky. Ross does not provide a shred of evidence which would show how any scientific discoveries support his specific belief in Jesus the Savior. The reason for that is quite simple. There is no such evidence either for or against Ross’s thesis anywhere in physics and/or astronomy.
3. On page 102 of The Genesis Question Ross suggests an interpretation of those few lines in the Genesis which describe the murder of Abel by Cain and the subsequent dialog between Cain and God. In that interpretation, which is not based on any specific information given in the Genesis, Ross appears to think that he can read God’s mind. Of course, if Ross knows the unspoken thoughts of God, there is no wonder he so confidently elsewhere judges the ideas and motivations of regular mortals. From a skeptic’s viewpoint, however, all those discussions by Ross appear to be just “obscurum perobscuribus” if we take the liberty of using that ancient Latin expression.
4. In his book The Genesis Question Ross allocates several sections to the discussion of the Flood and Noah’s activities. In these sections, true to form, Ross provides a number of dubious considerations in order to rationalize the obvious implausibility of the story about a wooden ark accommodating pairs of all living creatures, etc. Without discussing these pseudo-explanations, let us point out just one odd contradiction in Ross treatment of that subject. On page 173 Ross tells us that, according to some astronomical data (such as the Vela supernova explosion) the Flood occurred between thirty thousand and fourteen thousand years ago. Look, however, at the biblical chronology according to which there were ten generations between Adam and Noah. The duration of life of every one of those generations as well as the ages when Adam and each of his descendants had their first-born sons, are explicitly listed in the Genesis. Accounting for the biblical assertion that Adam was created about 6,000 years ago, it is easy to calculate that the biblical date for the flood is about 4,000 years ago. Ross does not say a word about the contradiction between the biblical data and his calculation based on the Vela supernova. What, then, about the Bible’s inerrancy, which Ross claims to believe in?
A CRUSADE OF ARROGANCE
As we read Ross’s books, we encounter time and time again endless categorical assertions that this or that conclusion of science indicates the existence of the Creator. Each time he makes such an assertion, Ross provides no logical grounds for it. Whatever this or that scientific theory concludes, it never points either to or against the hypothesis of a Creator at work.
For example, the theory of the inflationary big bang, which Ross favors as allegedly leading to the inevitable conclusion that there must be a Creator of the universe, actually has nothing to do with such a proposition. The theory in question may be correct or wrong, but in either case the existence of a Creator may be either hypothesized or denied, the grounds for both propositions being beyond scientific consideration.
As a believer Ross is entitled to interpret this or any other theory as confirming his beliefs, as much as a skeptic is entitled to doubt it. Nothing in the scientific theory itself provides any arguments in favor of any of those competing interpretations.
If a scientific theory were to assert that the universe is eternal, it would not in any way contradict the hypothesis that there is God who is transcendental, who has established the laws of physics and who rules the universe. Equally, it would not contradict the hypothesis that there is no transcendent entity beyond the universe, or that there is a transcendent supernatural entity which does not care at all about the universe. Science is not equipped to solve that problem and is not supposed to.
If science asserts that the universe had a beginning, it does not either prove or disprove the existence of a Creator, or any views as to what kind of a Creator it could be. Ross’s assertions to the contrary are arbitrary and lack any logical or factual foundation.
The question of whether or not scientific theories confirm the particular image of God, for example God as referred to in the Bible, is another story. It is rather obvious that even if we accept the assertion that there is a Creator of the universe, an assertion which neither contradicts nor agrees with science, it does not mean that the Creator necessarily meets the description given in the Bible. Ross, while asserting time and time again that science proves the existence of a Creator, also each time asserts that this Creator is exactly He who is presented in the Bible, meeting, moreover, the tenets of Ross’s specific brand of faith. These assertions are forwarded without the slightest attempt to logically justify them.
Ross is entitled to his beliefs. Everybody else is entitled to either share or reject his beliefs. His persistent head-hammering with unsubstantiated conclusions has no chance to convince a skeptic or an adherent of some religion other than Ross’s brand of Christianity.
Religious beliefs by and large are not based on rational arguments. It seems rather obvious that religious faith most often is due to indoctrination at an early age. Indeed, children of Moslems are overwhelmingly Moslems. Children of Buddhists are overwhelmingly Buddhists. As the experience of the Soviet Union has shown, if the parents are atheists, children generally grow up as atheists.
Another factor affecting a person’s religion is the social pressure. There are almost no so-called “Jews for Jesus” in Israel, but this denomination has a measure of success in the USA where the overwhelmingly Christian surrounding creates a strong social pressure conducive to Jews’ adoption of a faith which is closer to the majority.
Whatever the reasons for one’s religious beliefs are, they have little to do with rational arguments and scientific proofs.
Ross’s persistent assertions of science being in full agreement with his particular beliefs, without any factual evidence, reveals that his books are propaganda tools having little to do with either science or the question of the existence of God.
(1) Hugh Ross, [online],
accessed on November 22, 2001
(2) Hugh Ross, The Fingerprint of God (Orange, CA: Promise Publishing Company, 1989).
(3) Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994).
(4) David Halliday and Robert Resnick, Fundamentals of Physics (New York: Wiley, 1988).
(5) Victor Stenger, The Unconscious Quantum, Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1995)
(6) Victor J. Stenger, Not By Design. The Origin of the Universe. (Amherst, NY: Prometheus: 1988)
(7) Gerald L. Scroeder, Genesis and the Big Bang. The Discovery of Harmony Between Modern Science And the Bible (New York: Bantam Books, 1990).
(8) Nathan Aviezer, In the Beginning. Biblical Creation and Science (Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1990)
(9) Avraham Even-Shoshan, Hamilon Haivri Hamerukaz, (“The Abridged Hebrew Dictionary”) (Jerusalem: Kriyat Sefer publishers, 1974).
(10) Hugh Ross, The Genesis Question (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998).
(11) The Holy Scriptures (Chicago, Ill: The Menora Press, 1973).