|As scientifically minded readers first peruse The Urantia Book, it
soon occurs to them that many of its statements on the natural sciences
conflict with currently held data and theories. In the minds of many this
gives rise to doubts about the truthfulness of those statements. Wisdom
would lead us to realize that nothing short of perfection is perfect, and
anything touched by human hands has fingerprints. This should be our guiding
thoughts as we contemplate the accuracy of the scientific content of the
Several years ago, at the first Scientific Symposium, it was implied by one of the speakers that the revelation contains errors. This implication is alarming. More recently, at the second symposium held in Oklahoma, an interesting publication named "The Science Content in The Urantia Book," was made available (this document is obtainable from the Brotherhood of Man Library). In this publication is an article entitled "Time Bombs," in which the author suggests that the revelators planted certain inaccurate scientific statements in the book in order to prevent it from becoming a fetish. He states, "...the Revelators incorporated safeguards in the papers that would form The Urantia Book to diminish the tendency to regard it as an object of worship. What safeguards did they use? Suppose they decided to make sure that mortals reading it understood that some cosmological statements in the book would be found to be inaccurate."
After many years of detailed study in The Urantia Book, I can't honestly recall anytime when any of its concepts contradicted themselves, nor did I feel that I was being told something that was untrue. It's one thing to foolishly claim absolute perfection for the book, but it's quite another to lead other readers to believe that by divine mandate the revelators were forced to use erroneous data, or even worse yet, to intentionally plant inaccurate information for any reason, so called "time bombs."
In my own experience and that of others, I'd say that the problem with the scientific inaccuracies we think we find in the book might really be our own preconceived notion that modern science is infallible; or our hang-ups about literature claiming to have divine origins; or even something as simple as not reading the text carefully.
We all know there have been a few typographical errors and minor word changes or corrections (fingerprints), and we are also informed in several places that the revelator's concepts are subject to distortion by the limitations of human language and by the comprehension level of the mortal mind.
The typos and word changes don't affect the soundness of the revelation and are almost expected with such a voluminous literary work. The distortions referred to are to be found in sections of the book regarding very high spiritual concepts and in areas discussing aspects of the spiritual realm about which humans know nothing, such as the activities of the celestial artisans. Although unfortunately distorted, these concepts are very helpful in enabling us to catch a glimpse of the magnitude of our Father's eternal realities.
But we are not talking now about typos and distortions. These are not the problem. The source of the controversy is in the discussion of the natural sciences, in areas where The Urantia Book and modern scientific theories diverge.
In becoming aware of the differences between current science and the revelation, we are forced to come to the conclusion that both can't be right, and somehow we must make a decision between them. At once we grapple with the idea of facing the possibility that something is fishy somewhere. How can we test the two sources? What test would be adequate to resolve this horribly annoying problem? How about using our common sense and the track records of The Urantia Book and of science.
As gullible children growing up in the new scientific age of discovery, we naturally accepted the no-nonsense authority of what we were told. Who were we to question these great minds who were probing all the nooks and crannies of known reality? It has always been easier to accept their information as gospel rather than go looking for it ourselves. I generally still do, but with a grain of salt. We are told in The UB: "...faith does not maintain an unreasoning prejudice toward the discoveries of scientific investigation." So let us be reasonable.
Only recently have I become aware that this thing called science is an extremely imperfect process conducted by extremely imperfect individuals. The word "process" is the key word here. Universal reality is a constant, and science is that hit-or-miss process whereby we attempt to understand that reality. How do we know if we have a hit or miss? Only time will tell, and the art of scientific discovery is still very young.
Our contention with some scientists should be that their theories are spun and cast in gold before all the data is in or regardless of contrary data. Yes, there is usually contrary data opposing any theory, but it is usually ignored during publication, which makes the theory appear, to the casual reader, to be unanimously accepted by the world of science. Two current examples of this are the Big Bang theory, which is now losing support, and a rather new theory that claims that the dinosaurs became extinct due to a meteor hitting the earth. I predict that this idea itself will become extinct in a few years. Neither of these theories jibe with The Urantia Book. Which do you believe?
How could someone come to the conclusion, when The Urantia Book and science don't agree, that the book is the one in error? This is particularly interesting due to the fact that the history of science is plagued with contradictory theories, incompleteness and even deception. Part of the answer may be this: We've been conditioned in this century to judge so-called sacred writings of the past by their physical absurdities and lack of factual accuracies in light of current information. This is because much of their science content is metaphysically based. Metaphysics is that method of explaining reality by means of our mental observations as opposed to the more accurate method of discovery and testing. It is very interesting that modem science does both, many times conjecturing (conjuring up) elaborate theories based on one small shred of flimsy evidence. In my astronomy book the author even admits that the measuring of distant galaxies is based on the assumption of the uniformity of nature. He also admits that present errors in measuring distances may be fifty percent or larger. Amazing, isn't it?
We should have a healthy respect for science but not be afraid to scrutinize its findings, either. We are all aware of the great contributions the scientific community has made to our world. For one thing, it has reduced superstition to a point where religionists have had to re-evaluate their beliefs and purge themselves of false teachings. This is still in process. Without modern science and its repercussions, we wouldn't have The Urantia Book in our midst today. In fact, it was the book that really made me aware of our silly superstitious nature. We can have a genuine love for science but still be concerned with its inaccuracies when used as a ruler to measure the revelation.
Now, if people insist that current scientific opinion is right, and The Urantia Book is in error, then they must justify in their minds why this is the case. Here is where the trouble starts. They begin searching for an explanation in the book itself. They search a supposedly inaccurate book for a statement to prove its own inaccuracies. Once they find an explanation, they can relax, having found a mental loophole to slip through when confronted with controversial information.
In all my years of study, I've never come across anyone with a Urantia Book fetish.
Time and again it is stated that the revelators were mandated to use the science of the times, to give preference to the highest existing human concepts. And now that new discoveries have been made, the revelation appears to be in error. The acknowledgment in the beginning of the book seems to be one of the sources for this idea. It says that in coordinating essential knowledge the authors must give preference to the highest concepts pertaining to the subjects to be presented (p. 16). No matter how I read that line, I never get the impression that in coordinating essential knowledge there was the need to purposefully include inaccuracies. (In carefully reading the acknowledgment it seems that it is talking mainly about things of spiritual value.)
We've already determined that with high spiritual concepts there is some distortion, but when concerned with the mechanical simplicity of the physical sciences this hardly seems sensible. There are too many instances in the book where the science of the time was not used, or in fact was corrected. Continental drift is one example (p. 668), and the calculations for the sun's mass is another (p. 459).
On page 1109, the so called "disclaimer," the authors also claim that their statements regarding the physical sciences will stand in need of revision because of new discoveries and developments, and that they were forbidden to include these undiscovered facts in these records. Once again, there is no implication that they had to use untrue statements. Limited, yes, but not untrue. Because men and angels alike must search and discover the physical nature of the universe (it's not inspired), it would be unfair for angels to reveal information to us that we have yet to discover.
The thing that will catch the attention of future students of this revelation will be the noticeable omissions of scientific data. These errors of omission will make certain statements outdated and stand in need of revision as the scientific process rolls on. Does this mean we are actually going to receive a revision at some future date? Not necessarily. During the expansion of the United States, maps contained only those states that belonged to the Union. The first maps had only thirteen, and as additional states joined the Federation, the maps were revised to include these new states. Now that we have maps with fifty states, does it make those early maps untrue? No. They are "in need of revision" and are erroneous only in comparison to current data due to omissions, but they are accurate in context.
Even opponents of the book recognize its commanding use of English.
It has been suggested that the revelators purposefully planted erroneous information in the book, "time bombs" that would explode on the page, flawing the content of the book, thus making it tainted and unattractive to those readers who would make it a fetish. In all my years of study, I've never come across anyone with a Urantia Book fetish. In fact, just the contrary. We mark it up, spill things on it, and leave it lying around on the floor. This is like saying Adam and Eve purposely stumbled and fell constantly so they wouldn't be worshipped as Gods. This is an insult to the intelligence of those individuals who are at a level capable of accepting high truth. We do have a healthy reverence for the book, though, because it is a beautiful work of literary art. Even opponents of the book recognize its commanding use of English.
One such so-called "time bomb" is contained in a complicated paragraph on page 657. It states:
"The planets nearest the sun were the first to have their revolutions slowed down by tidal friction. Such gravitational influences also contribute to the stabilization of planetary obits while acting as a brake on the rate of planetary-axial revolution, causing a planet to revolve ever slower until axial revolution ceases, leaving one hemisphere of the planet always turned toward the sun or larger body, as is illustrated by the planet Mercury and by the moon, which always turns the same face toward Urantia." At the time of the revelation the scientific community believed that Mercury showed the same side toward the sun. In 1965 it was proved to the contrary. A casual reading makes it seem as if the writers were expressing the science of the time. It has been suggested that because the revelators knew this, they must have used erroneous material to create flaws in an otherwise near perfect book to prevent fetishism.
The real problem seems to be a misreading of this complicated paragraph. It expresses two ideas in two interrelated sentences. The first sentence introduces the main topic which is planets slowing down by tidal friction. The second is a compound-complex one of parallel construction with several dependent clauses explaining what eventually happens to a planet affected by tidal friction. In it we have two ideas and two examples of those ideas; planets revolving ever slower (Mercury) until axial revolution ceases (the moon). It is easy to see how confusion comes from a sentence so structured with multiple dependent clauses.
I'd like to address one other suggested "time bomb" that has been addressed in the past without resolution. The Urantia Book says that those mortals achieving the third psychic circle acquire their own personal pair of guardian angels who, upon the death of their ward, proceed to the mansion worlds there to await the resurrection. For these individuals this resurrection takes place "on the third day" or less frequently stated "on the third period." What is a "period," by the way?
Because some readers insist on interpreting "on the third day/period" as only meaning a three-day time period, such as occurred with the resurrection of Jesus, they are confronted with the problem of how seraphim, who can proceed at no more than three times the speed of light, are able to arrive on the mansion worlds several light years away within a three-day time period. This is a very perplexing problem, but must we resort to distorting time and bending space to make it work out? In my opinion the revelation makes it seem clear that transportation through space is a fairly simple go-from-this place-to-that-place procedure, except for certain personalities like the Gravity Messengers who seem to be unconditioned by time and space. There are some readers who feel that there might be a manner of transportation yet unrevealed to us for some reason that would account for this problem of seraphic travel over great distances in a relatively short period of time.
The best explanation I have heard for this problem is that "on the third day/period" refers to an indefinite time period that is of a short duration rather than a long one. Something similar to the common Jewish expression of Jesus' time, "on the third day," which signified "presently" or "soon thereafter" (p. 1872). This is similar to the way we use "a hop, skip, and a jump" to signify a short distance as opposed to a long one.
It doesn't stand to reason that the mandates encouraged the placing of inaccurate science and cosmology in a revelation that was designed to "reduce confusion by authoritative elimination of error" (p. 1109). The idea of divine deception is repugnant, and I hardly think the Ancients of Days would authorize such mandates.
The mandates concerning the physical sciences could have been something as simple as this: (1) If any human mind has conceived anything remotely related to the fact, then the authors could restate it with more clarity. It didn't have to be a common or published idea. This could give rise to many apparently predictive statements; (2) If a certain line of scientific investigation is proceeding toward a definite discovery in the very near future, then the authors could reveal that discovery before its time, knowing that scientists wouldn't be reading the revelation, thus not revealing undiscovered facts. This too would produce predictive statements; (3) If current data is incorrect in any known theory, then it can be corrected complying with the first two mandates. This is just a suggestion as to what some of the mandates may have been.
If there are verifiable flaws to be found in the revelation, then, in my opinion, they must be due to recording errors, printing errors or some aspect involving the production of the book itself.
But how do we really determine what is in error, if anything? Whose ruler do we use? This is my great concern. I'm only confident that we are not being deceived, pampered, or "time bombed" here, for the only thing we can know for certain is that the truth will prevail. We are currently laying the foundation for the future students of the fifth epochal revelation. But if our foundation becomes attached to the authority of a fallible modern science, then this movement will be just as crippled as Christianity is today, which is dragging around Western civilization like a ball and chain.
In order to proceed safely into the truth of this revelation and of today's science, we now need the aid of Spirit-led investigators with no other motive than to just discover the truth, beauty, and goodness of our fascinating cosmic home, a home filled with so many wonders yet to be uncovered.
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship