November 18, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Using the Bible in Science

It’s safe to use the Bible in secular science as long as you don’t read it and endorse it.

The good book: Bible helps researchers perfect translation algorithms (Science Daily). Researchers in artificial intelligence at Dartmouth wanted to teach their algorithms about style in different languages. Aha, they thought: the Bible has lots of translations. Seeing how styles would compare from one translation to another, they got inspired:

In search of inspiration for improving computer-based text translators, researchers at Dartmouth College turned to the Bible for guidance. The result is an algorithm trained on various versions of the sacred texts that can convert written works into different styles for different audiences.

The wide availability of Bible translations worked out better than using Shakespeare or Wikipedia, they decided. Hopefully they stopped to read some passages from time to time.

Internet tools to translate text between languages like English and Spanish are widely available. Creating style translators — tools that keep text in the same language but transform the style — have been much slower to emerge. In part, efforts to develop the translators have been stymied by the difficulty of acquiring the enormous amount of data required. This is where the research team turned to the Bible.

In addition to being a source of spiritual guidance for many people around the globe, the Dartmouth-led team saw in the Bible “a large, previously untapped dataset of aligned parallel text.” Beyond providing infinite inspiration, each version of the Bible contains more than 31,000 verses that the researchers used to produce over 1.5 million unique pairings of source and target verses for machine-learning training sets.

If they use their algorithm to translate Darwin next, all this inspiration will have been for nought. How many ways can you translate “stuff happens” with style?

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments in Museum of the Bible Are Fake (Live Science). This is not about the Bible, but about the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC. The Museum has removed some Dead Sea Scroll fragments after researchers determined that seven of them were forgeries. The purchases required some trust in handlers that turned out to be untrustworthy, which is understandable; this was not a case of deliberate fraud, and it was corrected. Nevertheless, science news sites enjoy pointing out errors by Bible believers.

Rare ‘Lunar Bible’ That Visited the Moon Is Up for Auction (Space.com). A rare microfilm Bible that went to the moon on Apollo 14 was auctioned for $50,000. Reading it and gaining spiritual benefit, though, would require a microscope. The article mentions some interesting anecdotes about Bibles taken on Apollo missions.

The role of the Bible in the space program provides some relief from the constant secularism at NASA. Astronaut Edward White wanted to take a Bible to the moon, but died in the disastrous Apollo 1 fire. The Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis on Christmas Eve 50 years ago while orbiting the moon. Buzz Aldrin took communion as his first act after Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Several Apollo astronauts took Bibles on their missions. 300 of the microfilm Bibles were taken by Apollo 14, and only a few survive. Apollo 15 astronaut James Irwin quoted his favorite Bible verse (Psalm 121:1) on the moon, and Apollo 15 commander Dave Scott left a full-size Bible on the moon on the dashboard of the lunar module.

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