Proverbs 6:6-8 says that an ant has no ruler. Is this a scientific inaccuracy? Would the conclusion be different if God were to say this instead of the wise man? Would it be a biblical error when Jesus asks "Why are you thinking these things in your heart?" Would it not be more accurate to say brain rather than heart but Jesus was speaking using the scientific belief of his time? Would this take away other religion’s scientific inaccuracy if it was not a fallacy?


Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings. The writers of the proverbs use many common expressions and idioms, as these are particularly well suited to expressing every-day wisdom. Obviously, Solomon (or whoever wrote this particular proverb) knew that he was not speaking literally when he said that the ant has no ruler. "Rulers" apply only to human beings. The technical term for the literary device being used by the writer is anthropomorphism. This is a common literary device, used by all of us in our every-day speaking. An anthropomorphism is when we apply an obviously human attribute to something which clearly does not have this attribute.  We say that Italy told Greece to balance their budget.  I am sure you use anthropomorphisms all the time, as do I. No one would charge you with a scientific error if you said that the ant "wants" to find food. We all know that wanting is a human emotion and assume that ants do not feel such emotions. The purpose of the writer is to get his hearer to consider the lowly ants. They do not struggle with "laziness" They are always working. The point is to shame the lazy, shiftless person into changing their behavior–it is to encourage all of us to work hard and to live an organized and productive life. To turn this into a scientific error is to miss the entire point of the writer.

When Jesus asks people what are they thinking in their hearts, he is using "heart" in one of many of its meanings. The word heart means the organ inside our chest which beats and moves blood through our body. It also means the seat of emotion. Heart also means center. For example we want to get to the "heart" of the matter. I just looked in my Webster’s dictionary. The first definition is the physical organ. The second is "the seat of affections and emotions." My guess is that in the Aramaic language and custom in the days of Jesus the principle meaning of the word was the center of emotions and affections rather than the physical organ. It is silliness to accuse Jesus of a scientific error. Obviously he knew that the physical heart is not the seat of thought and emotion.

Would it be more accurate for Jesus to say you are thinking these things in your brain? I think not. The normal use of the word brain is for the physical organ and the nerve impulses and chemicals which move around in the brain. Perhaps he could have said "mind" rather than heart.  Whether the human mind has a non-physical component is an interesting philosophical question. I believe it would have been rather strange if Jesus had said, "Why are you thinking this in your brain?" This would have detracted from what he was trying to say.

Whether or not some other religion has scientific accuracy or inaccuracy should be judged on exactly the same basis we would judge the scientific accuracy or inaccuracy of the Bible. My answer to your question is that it would be equally bogus to charge a scientific inaccuracy against the Koran or the Buddhist or Hindu scripture because they spoke of the human heart as an emotional "organ" or if they used an anthropomorphism to compare an ant to a human as it would be to do so with the Bible. I suppose some people do try to find such weak arguments against the Koran or the Vedas as others try to make such weak charges against the Bible. Hopefully, we will not be guilty of such poor arguments.

John Oakes

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