Evolutionnews.org is a web site that deals with evolution, neuroscience, bioethics, intelligent design and other science-related issues. It is a work of the Discovery Institute which promotes a Judeo-Christian worldview. Recently, they posted an article that is actually about archaeology and DNA studies, but the point of the article was not the science, but how the science was reported in the popular press.
The science of the story seems reliable. DNA was taken from ancient Canaanite remains dating some 3700 years ago. The study found a startling overlap with modern-day DNA among the Lebanese. So far, so good.
But how was this story reported in the popular press. Here is a sample of headlines as given by evolutionnews.org.
- “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” (The Telegraph)
- “Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon” (The Independent)
- “Bronze Age DNA disproves the Bible’s claim that the Canaanites were wiped out: Study says their genes live on in modern-day Lebanese people” (Daily Mail)
- “Scientists Find Evidence That Ancient Canaanites Survive Today: Was The Bible Wrong?” (Tech Times)
- “New DNA study casts doubt on Bible claim” (Mother Nature Network)
- “The Bible was WRONG: Civilisation God ordered to be KILLED still live and kicking” (Express)
- “Genetic evidence suggests the Canaanites weren’t destroyed after all” (Ars Technica)
What’s wrong with the headlines? The headlines fail basic Bible knowledge. First, although Israel was supposed to completely destroy the Canaanite people in the cities they captured (Deut. 7:2), this is also pictured as driving these people out of the land (Exo. 23:28-31). In other words, flight was an option open to the Canaanites. People who flee can pass on DNA to their descendants. Second, Judges makes clear that Israel failed in removing the Canaanites (Judges 1:27-36). So, the Bible does not claim that the Canaanites were completely annihilated.
Some retractions have occurred, but I wonder how many people see the original headline versus those who see the retraction. The Bible has been under extreme scrutiny since the beginning of the Enlightenment. In my opinion, the Bible has stood up under the testing. But knowing our Bibles well will help us defend against those who are slapping the Bible around.