Scientists for the space program, you may have read, proved stories from the Bible they'd previously dismissed as myth.

If you've seen the story, supposedly penned by one Harold Hill, president of the Curtis Engine Company in Baltimore, MD, and a "consultant" in the space program, you may know the gist. (I'm sure it's a Chick tract too).

Essentially, scientists checking orbits over the life of an artificial satellite -- hundreds or thousands of years, Hill says -- found a missing day years in the past.

They were stumped. Until, that is, a gentleman among them remembered Joshua 10 and 2 Kings 20, and found various miracles that took a day out of the history of the world. The whole story is at, among many other places. But is it true?

Well, there really is a space program. And Baltimore. In fact, Cecil Adams says there's even a Curtis Engine Company1 that was at the time in the presumably capable hands of Harold Hill2, although he was not in any real sense a "consultant" at NASA.

The resemblances to reality stop there, however. The story isn't true -- from one angle, folklorists have traced the central concept back to the 19th century; from another, the details of the story are simply impossible.

For one thing, NASA has no need to calculate orbits across the millennia. Satellites only last about 12 years, and few interact with much of the cosmos during that timespan. Even if these calculations were necessary, there's no need to determine the positions of any celestial bodies in the past until we find a way to launch satellites in the past.

In fact, future positions of things are determined by applying orbital speed to their current positions. Past positions have nothing to do with it, and so events in the past are irrelevant.

Furthermore, despite references in the tale to "standards," there's no frame of reference against which a missing day would show up. Time is a human construct; there's no "universe calendar" with which there'd be a discrepancy if a day were missing.

The fundamental problem with the missing day story is that it's inappropriate. The Bible is not a scientific document, despite the insistence of some. Science doesn't address matters of faith, and statements of faith shouldn't require scientific support. The trouble with applying science to religion is that scientific conclusions are subject to refutation. If I had become a believer on first hearing this story, learning that it's apocryphal would be a serious blow.

1 -- the Web site says the company has "no information" about the story.
2Mr. Hill passed away sometime prior to June 1998.

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