[The Leaven – exploring the relationship between science and religion (cont)]
Leaven, the term commonly found in the English translation of the Bible, is often used to describe fermented dough or sourdough. It’s called sourdough because, along with yeast cells, it contained acidifying bacteria that produce lactic and acetic acid, giving the bread a unique tangy flavour. It’s believed natural microbial contaminants of milled grains and fruit were probably used for alcohol production and leavening in the Biblical era. This microbial flora would have included wild yeasts that were associated with cultivated crops. In just 100 grams of flour there are 1 to 10 billion microbes of these about 30,000 are natural yeast.
The historical steps taken to elucidate the metabolic processes and characteristics associated with yeast and fermentation follow an intriguing journey of scientific discovery that spanned nearly four centuries. A journey that commenced with the discovery of microscopy in the 17th century to the 21st century and in to the complex science of molecular biology. This chapter looks at the history of Science in relation to the discovery of yeast, exploring how Biblical text has influenced the principles and directions of the scientific investigation. For instance, the Biblical version of Creation greatly differs from scientific theories of evolution. The ensuing debate this creates typically illustrates divides that exist between religious and scientific theory.
It’s generally accepted that for an enquiry to be viewed as scientific it must involve the gathering of observable, empirical and measurable evidence. The Scientific Method involves the collection of this data to formulate and test hypotheses. A number of proven hypotheses, from various published and recorded sources, can then be strung together in a wider context to form theories. The practice of distributing and therefore sharing data is often referred to as full disclosure; it permits evidence to be scrutinised by others thereby allowing the interpretation of results to be challenged.
The Bible suggests that a divine being must have in some way directed the creation of Life in order to account for its complexity. An understandable viewpoint as even a simple single-celled microscopic organism such as yeast is an intricate living structure encoded by over 6000 genes. It’s difficult to visualise that this could have happened gradually over time. The 21st century scientific method would not defend the concept of human origin as presented in the Bible as it’s largely based on theories without being supported by any tangible evidence. Though it may have been defended when it was written, given the lack of scientific research at the time.
Ultimately, it is impossible for anyone living in the 21st century to know, with any certainty, how the World was created without use of a time-machine. Therefore, various scientific and theological arguments must be considered before determinate conclusions are reached.