Every once in a while, an obscure science journal somewhere just has to demolish their reputation by allowing their editors to publish garbage. Case in point: The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, the official journal of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine, has published an editorial titled, “Can modern biology interpret the mystery of the birth of Christ?” It’s five pages of embarrassingly goofy nonsense. Nonsense from the very first paragraph:
With the advent of Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that challenged principles and views grounded in tradition and faith and affirmed that knowledge should be advanced through a scientific method, science and religion began to drift apart and today, they are often considered irreconcilable. We believe that, since both aim at finding the same truth, whether by evaluating natural processes or through revelation, a positive dialogue can and should be established.
And this article is apparently intended to demonstrate that they aren’t just considered irreconcilable, but are irreconcilable. That last sentence is just plain wrong. Science attempts to determine verifiable truths that can be objectively and independently examined and tested. Religion claims to have the truth already, in their musty dusty old books, and attempts to manipulate the evidence to make it fit their preconceptions. Their goals are contradictory, and since religion will always attempt to corrupt the evidence to reconcile it to their dogma, we should not establish a dialog at all — we should simply dismiss this theological bullshit.
For example, this article assumes that there existed a person named Jesus who was born of a virgin and a god; despite the fact that its conclusion is that nothing in biology can explain this phenomenal claim, it doesn’t reject the hypothesis. It can’t; it’s taken as a given. It blithely cites the Bible as reasonable evidence throughout (Hint: any science article that includes the Holy Bible (4 times!), the Catholic Catechism, the Catholic Encyclopedia, and CARM.org in its reference list, alongside articles from Cell and Nature, ought not to be trusted), and takes for granted the most ridiculous articles of the Christian faith.
There is some entertainment value, though. The review of the literature attempting to explain the Virgin Birth is amusing.
Aiming high within the field of reproductive biology, we decided to attempt a scientific analysis of the first, most miraculous and fundamental of all events described in the New Testament, that defined by John at the beginning of his Gospel: “And the Word became flesh”. We are definitely not the first to address this complex topic. For instance, Edward Kessel and Robert Berry have amply discussed fundamental aspects of the Incarnation and mentioned several mechanisms by which the virgin birth of a male child might have occurred. Kessel, in particular, held the opinion that “Jesus was not only conceived as a female but remained chromosomally such throughout life. Through the natural process of sex reversal Jesus became male, not instead of female but as well as female, assuming the phenotype of a man while retaining the chromosomal badge of a woman. Thus Jesus was born and lived as the androgynous Christ”. Berry, on the other hand, believes that “Some form of distinctiveness like a Virgin Birth is theologically required if Jesus is to be divine as well as human, and there are several mechanisms by which the virgin birth of a male child could occur”. In his opinion, “The reason for recognising these is not to suggest that God necessarily used any of them, but simply to point out that apparent scientific difficulty should not determine the acceptability of a theological concept”.
You know, when you have to resort to increasingly twisted and complicated rationalizations to explain an undemonstrated event, wouldn’t it be easier to simply declare the event unlikely to have occurred, especially when there is absolutely no evidence for it, other than a word-of-mouth claim? At least, that’s what a scientist would do.
These authors, after going over some of the basic facts of sex determination, have another source to fall back on, though. When evidence fails, yank some hokum out of the Bible.
Even theists consider the birth of Jesus a “double miracle”, in the sense that, even if parthenogenesis could be possible in humans, the offspring of such an event would be a female, not a male. In this respect, there is a somewhat obscure prophecy by Jeremiah, a Jewish prophet almost a contemporary of Isaiah. He wrote: “The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: a woman shall compass a man”. This text has been interpreted in many opposing ways, but one intriguing option, put forward by Ewald is “a woman shall change into a man”. Although this interpretation has been considered hardly faithful to the original text, if correct, it would be a premonition of what might have occurred in the case of Jesus, a “parthenogenically” born man.
Yeah, try telling that to the Christians. Maybe they’d quit freaking out over transgender.
Really, the whole idea makes no biological sense at all. The only way this parthenogenesis thing could work is if Mary had a copy of SRY to pass along (but then she’d be male!), but then maybe she had androgen insensitivity syndrome too (but then she’d be sterile!) but then she’d pass that on to Jesus (who would be female!) unless he had a reversion mutation. It’s a long chain of malarkey.
To their credit, the authors also recognize that none of the explanations are worth a good god damn.
The reason we attempted a scientific analysis of this mystery was simply the hope that a review of present knowledge of parthenogenic mechanisms may stimulate a debate among theologians and advance the search for truth. Limiting ourselves to biology, the only conclusion we can reach is that – after reviewing present knowledge about parthenogenesis – we are unable to identify any known natural biological mechanism that can account for the virginal birth of Christ.
Very good. So why did you waste our time publishing this tedious codswallop?
Take the next step. Reject the hypothesis.
Benagiano G, Dallapiccola B (2014) Can modern biology interpret the mystery of the birth of Christ? J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. Apr 30. [Epub ahead of print]