The one true math

In the clip from the film Questioning Darwin, we saw how a creationist pastor said that if the Bible said that 2+2=5, he would believe that and work everything around that ‘truth’. He was speaking in hypothetical terms but he has a chance to prove his commitment because the Bible actually does say that the number pi is exactly 3. It would be interesting to see how he deals with that.

Tom the Dancing Bug


  1. raven says

    All xians are necessarily cafeteria xians anyway.

    According to the magic book, the earth is flat, orbited by the sun, the stars are just lights stuck on a dome, and the moon is a glow in the dark disk. The dome has gates so god can pour water on us and drown a few or almost all when he gets mildly annoyed.

    Almost all xians have abandoned the flat earth although there are a few around still. 20% of the US population are Geocentrists and the moon as a self glowing disk has a few believers. It is odd though that the lunar astronauts never noticed it.

  2. raven says

    According to the magic book, gays, adulterers, nonvirgin brides, heretics, atheists, apostates, false prophets, sabbath breakers, and disobedient children are all supposed to be stoned to death.

    True xians of course, believe they all should. Never mind that 99% of the US population would end up dead under a pile of rocks. On the bright side, so would almost all the fundie xians. It all works out.

    The more serious xians actually have discussions about just how disobedient your kids have to be before you have to kill them.

    And of course, they are all hypocrites. If they stoned all their false prophets to death, that would take care of our fundie problem. Their leaders would all be dead under piles of rocks.

  3. colnago80 says

    Re Physicalist @ #1

    According to Martin Gardner in his seminal book on pseudoscience, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, the bill introduced in Indiana would have set pi = 3.

  4. doublereed says

    I don’t understand. Just try it. Make a circle (easiest way is with a string and chalk). Measure the Diameter. Measure the Circumference. It’s not 3. You want to say that it’s 3.14 or something, fine. But it certainly ain’t 3. I’m pretty sure every vaguely successful civilization knew that.

  5. leskimopie says

    I’ve never really looked because it doesnt matter, but I’ve heard several atheists (Matt D. I believe is one) say that the bible doesn’t actually say that, and its probably not a good idea to use that as an argument against it (not like there aren’t a bazillion different pieces of stupidity you can use against it anyway)

    That said, I listened to a horror rpg where the theme was a priest used some evil magic to start to bring to life the bible, so there were plagues and stuff, and one of the moments had all the cans and bottles of soda and stuff explode around the player as reality warped and they conformed to pi=3, and that was a pretty good moment.

  6. Robert B. says

    The bible doesn’t literally say that pi is three. It says that some circular vessel was ten cubits across and thirty cubits around, which implies pi = 3… but the stated measurements only had one significant figure each, and at that level of precision, pi = 3 is correct. I’m not a big fan of “it wasn’t meant literally” as an excuse for the Bible, but the obvious intent of the passage was to convey “It was a really big jug!” not to discourse on analytic geometry. If someone described something as thirty feet across, you wouldn’t say they were lying or wrong because it measured out to 31′ 5″.

  7. Mano Singham says


    The book 1 Kings, chapter 7, verse 23 says: “He made the Sea of cast metal, circular in shape, measuring ten cubits from rim to rim and five cubits high. It took a line of thirty cubits[o] to measure around it.”

    So the diameter is 10 cubits and the circumference is 30 cubits. Hence the value of pi must be 3.

  8. raven says


    This is the bible here. God’s sacred word.

    If god says pi = 3, then he means pi = 3.

    God isn’t just some iron age sheepherder with a piece of string and a ruler. He is well, god. God is perfect and can measure anything to as many significant digits as he wants. God invented pi, circles, string, rulers, mathematics, and mathematicians.

    If god isn’t as competent as a kid with a piece of string and a ruler, then why call him god?

    Implicit in the argument that the bible was written by people who didn’t much care if pi = 3 or pi = 3.14159 is the claim that the bible was written by just plain old people, ancient ancestors of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. This is heresy!!! /End Snark

  9. Francisco Bacopa says

    I worked with someone who did not believe the moon could be seen in the daylight because the moon was described as the lesser light for the night in the Bible. So I looked at the moon phase chart in the paper (this was 20years ago) and figured out when a half moon should be visible out the window in the early afternoon.

    Complete shock on her part, but then she said God puts it there because He knows it will be dark in a few hours. I tried to explain moon phases and the fact that sometimes a crescent moon sometimes has its dark part illuminated with reddish light reflected from Earth. She just didn’t want to hear. Maybe my delivery was wrong.

  10. joeschoeler says

    I think the reasons some atheists say not to bring up pi is because the bible doesn’t explicitly mention pi and it’s easy to argue that maybe the “Sea” wasn’t completely circular, the diameter and circumference were measured in different ways, or the bible isn’t a math book so there’s no reason to expect that these were the exact numbers.

  11. mnb0 says

    “So the diameter is 10 cubits and the circumference is 30 cubits. Hence the value of pi must be 3.”
    Indeed. If the Bible had wanted it to be as precise as say the Babylonians it should have written 31 cubits, which would have been about as precise.
    Of course 20 cubits verses 63 cubits would have been even more impressive. But no atheist would see this as evidence for divine intervention, so it’s not fair to use it against christianity. The exceptions of course are stupid literalists like Ken Ham.

  12. OverlappingMagisteria says

    Like others said, the passage that suggests that pi = 3 wouldn’t bother the majority of Christians. It was not meant to be an exact measure (rounded measures can work with exact values of pi: 9.7 x pi = 30.47, round to 10 and 30). The basin may have been slightly oval… etc. It’s such a trivial part of the Bible anyway, just the measure of a basin in a temple.

    However to someone as strict as the “2 + 2 = 5” guy… maybe that would keep him up at night.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    Re 1 Kings: Rabbi Nehemiah, around 150 CE, said the diameter was measured from the outside brim, and the circumference around the inside rim, making the brim about a handbreadth wide, consistent with 1 Kings 7:26. Not sure if he had anything to say about the dodgy sums in Ezra.

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