One of the earliest references to a controlled experiment is from Daniel 1: 1-16 in the Old Testament of the Bible. In this ‘experiment’ Daniel pits his nutrition regime of “pulse” to eat and water to drink versus the best cuts of meat and the most highly rated wine. Check out the experimental methods and results below:
1:1 In the third yearof the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
1:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
1:3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;
1:4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
1:5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
1:6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:
1:7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.
1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
1:9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
1:10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
1:11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
1:12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
1:13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
1:14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
1:15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.
1:16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
1:17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
1:18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
1:19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
1:20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
1:21 And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.
As you can see from the above graph Daniel’s children who ate pulse and drank water performed much better “in all matters of wisdom and understanding” than the best children in all the land who ate meat and drank wine.
I’m not so sure why Daniel was so favored by God, since he couldn’t come up with the greatest of experimental designs. There are so many problems with the design and interpretation of this study! The first and foremost of the problems involves the experimental groups. The children really should have been randomly assigned to the nutrition groups. Who knows, Daniel might have passed his “all matters of wisdom and understanding” gene onto his kids while none of the others were imbued with this wonderful gene. We’ll never know though, since there was no pre-test of “all matters of wisdom and understanding.”
Which leads us to another problem… “all matters of wisdom and understanding” is a very poorly defined construct. How does measure this? Were there IQ tests, feats of strength and bravery, or what?
Let us know in the comments what some of the many other problems with this study are.
I wonder whether Daniel’s children also gained a substantial amount of weight on this diet since they were eating so many carbs? Hmmm… maybe the carbs in the wine offset this difference – ohh and they could possibly have been very drunk the entire time. It’s impossible to know how much of these various food and drink sources each group consumed. I guess the peer review process for the bible wasn’t scientifically rigorous so we’ll never know. Of course if one considers the bible as an early version of the popular press or Wikipedia then we all know that Daniel could have taken care of all of these controls and problems and we’d never know it since it’s really the reporting to blame.
We here at Omni Brain (don’t forget the disclaimer) don’t advocate using this biblical diet for your children in order to increase their abilities “in all matters of wisdom and understanding,” instead we recommend a balanced diet of [edit – vegetables], meat, pulse, and wine. In addition, exercise 4-5 times a week for an hour will guarantee a great abundance of “wisdom and understanding” developing in your offspring.
-update Dec. 3 2007-
I’ve noticed a number of links coming from religious websites (which is pretty funny since this web site is anything but religious). Please take note – evidence that experimentation takes place in the bible does not mean that is the first time experimentation or science has ever occurred in human history. It’s probably not even the earliest recorded experiment – but I’m not a historian so what do I know? Furthermore this is a pretty horrific experiment and not a good example of science.