The Genesis writer tells the story of Labanís agreement to give Jacob all light-streaked goats and dark-streaked lambs born while the flocks were in Jacob's care.† To increase the birth rate of streaked animals, Jacob made white stripes on brown tree branches by peeling away dark strips of bark to expose the blond wood underneath, and put these branches in the animalsí drinking troughs, where they came to drink when they were in heat.† When the animals mated after drinking the water and looking at the branches, they bore young that were streaked; the normally brown goats were streaked white, and the normally white lambs were streaked brown.† How could it have been that this wondrous secret of genetics was known three thousand years ago to the goat herder Jacob, while it remains unknown even today?†
Itís hard to believe that this story can actually be found in the Bible, but it can.† Here it is:
Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches.† Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. Genesis 30:37-39
We cannot prove that this did not happen, of course,
but who would ever believe it?† But, if itís
true that streaked goats and lambs were born, it certainly couldnít have
happened because their parents were looking at streaked tree branches as they
mated.† The editors of the New American
Bible seem to be admitting that.†
Hereís what they say in a footnote:
Jacob's stratagem was based on the widespread notion among simple people that visual stimuli can have prenatal effects on the offspring of breeding animals.
The Genesis writerís explanation of the birth of streaked goats and lambs may have made perfect sense to him, for he could not have known anything about the science of genetics.† However, if the writer was inspired by a god to record and explain this event, that god evidently either didnít understand genetics, or else it didnít care whether generations of Bible readers would have a childish notion of pre-natal influences.† Either way, the Bible contains blatantly false teaching.
See also, Jacob's Branches.