Note, before anyone on either side of this debate runs up and tries to rip things apart poke holes with this reading or that theory or this discovery, STOP – step back and breathe. Clear your mind of everything you think. This is not an argument for or against either the validity of science or the existence/non-existence of God. All this does is take the current debate about creationism vs. science and show that with an open mind you can see the correlation between them. Again, I make no argument for either side.
OK, for those who have never taken this ride before please fasten your seatbelts and get ready.
The basic argument going back and forth here is the difference between the Bible (religion in general) and fundamental scientific proof. What I contend is that while the Bible ( I will use this document since it is one of the better known religious doctrines) is a static document in the form of its text. My contention or opinion is the interpretations laid out by various scholars throughout the thousands of years since its original translation from ancient Aramaic has allowed it to not be refuted but rather supported by the current scientific theory of the time of which it is being interpreted.
True, the bible lacks what is deemed as scientific proof via peer review and references to other scientifically accepted documents. But one needs to remember that text of the bible was written thousands of years ago before we had the scientific knowledge that we have at our fingertips today. And while various scholars and scientists have proposed theories and had those theories widely accepted by their peers of the time, most of the theories were shot down and disproved by the next generation of scientist. Does this mean in any way that the scientists who were disproved were irrational for thinking something so obviously wrong was true, no. What it means is that the human intellect had advanced to the next level and further understanding was derived once it reached that level.
For further observations on the human intellect and the theory of enlightenment, turn to Plato and his Allegory of the Cave in “The Republic”(19). In short he describes how man starts out his vision of the world and the universe is limited by what he comprehends, but as he is exposed to various experiences his understanding of those same things expands so that with the same intellect he had previously he is able to better comprehend the meaning of the things that make up his universe. This is essentially what has been happening with Science since the time that the first caveman left his cave fire in favor of a microscope and they have not stopped since. Thanks to that ever expanding intellect we live with all of the understanding and knowledge we have today (1).
Let’s get back to the Bible and its remarkable resilience to change from its original text. I say resilience to change as that is what best fits in this case. When reviewed with an open mind the bible has been able to fit into any scientific advancement in the human rise of enlightenment through the centuries. And along with science, a lot of those theories have needed to be revised but the underlying pinning is that the bible itself did not change, nor did the facts discovered by science. Rather it was human enlightenment that did. That is what I find as remarkable. This brings us around to our current situation and debate. How do you take something that is so remarkably off base and diametrically opposed to scientific theory and stand by it being correct.
The fact is it is not so different after all. I just purports a belief in that there was someone (or in the theory of some – something) that created the environment which fostered or allowed the beginning of the universe.
So what do the two sides agree upon; that there was a beginning.
In the Bible it begins by saying: “In the Beginning” declaring immediately that there was a beginning of some sort (by the way this was documented thousands of years ago and that claim has not deviated).
Science has had varied theories throughout history the most recent of which was that there was no beginning and that the Universe was eternal. Finally Albert Einstein develops his theory of relativity which leads Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, to derive the Friedmann-Lemaître-Robertson-Walker equations using Albert Einstein's equations of general relativity in 1927; these were proposed, on the basis of the recession of spiral nebulae, that the universe began as a simple "primeval atom" now known as the Big Bang(1). This was later verified and then supported by observations of Dr. Edwin Hubble and he came up with Hubble’s Law(2) which is the current scientifically accepted method(3) for measuring the speed at which the universe is expanding enabling science to concur with the theory of the Big Bang(4).
So now we both agree that there was a beginning and so the only remaining question is what was the cause of that beginning. I don’t think we will come to any agreement on this but from here we will work on an understanding as to why the Bible can in fact be logically interpreted to allow the first chapter of Genesis to in fact allow for the Billions of years in creation of the universe in the span of “six” days.
The first thing to justify this is the fact that Genesis covers all of this in 31 sentences, but Science uses thousands and thousands of books, papers, lectures and the like. There is nothing wrong with that, but just keep that in mind. 31 sentences that have remained virtually unchanged for thousands of years and were written thousands of years before science developed it current set of theories. Now why would someone try to explain the creation of the universe in the context of 31 sentences and not use thousands of books? Remember that when the Bible was first recorded, there were very few humans that could read or write and there was no way to effectively reproduce the work. They didn’t have Elliquiy to debate the cosmos, heck they didn’t even have Zork I, II or III. Thus you write a concise statement that takes as little effort to reproduce as possible and covers the main points, kind of like notes on an index card.
This is why Genesis is written in parable form, a poem with a text and a subtext. Another point of note is that the time in Genesis Chapter 1 is referred to differently than the time after Genesis Chapter 1. The time in Chapter 1 is only referred to as “Morning” and “Evening”. But time from Chapter 2 onward is referred to in more concrete human terms such as Adam and Eve live 130 years before having children. Seth lives 105 years before having children, etc. After Adam, totally human concept - prior to Adam, time is abstract: "Evening and morning." This is an important fact because following the genealogical time line from the time of Adam and eve we can derive approximately 6,000 years. But the time before that (the time before man) time is abstract.
Now there are entries in the Bible that indicate that celestial or divine time is different than human perceptions of time: such as psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night”. This seems to indicate that the early recorders of the Bible knew of this difference, but that is not the only indication. There are several other interpretations that justify this besides the actual text as written(6). So you can see that it wasn't because Dawg was talking to his 13-year-old son who said, "Baba, you wouldn’t believe this. I just picked up a copy of Scientific American at the library, and learned all about a billions-of-years-old universe," and Dawg says, "Oh, I better run out change the Bible, let's keep the six days separate."
The idea of looking for a deeper meaning in Genesis is no different than looking for deeper meaning in science. If you get up early enough and look over, there comes the Sun rising in the east. Wait a few hours and the Sun sets in the west. The simple "reading" is "The Sun is going around the Earth". But there's much more to it. We all agree that the earth is what is actually rotating around the sun and that is what causes the sun to be perceived as going around the earth, so we are actually moving around a giant carnival spinning globe ride at about 1,000mph(7). Now we also know that the Earth rotates around the Sun, at about 8,766mph(8 ). I can’t feel it, can you? Don’t worry because most scientists of just a few hundred years ago couldn’t either and that is why both cosmology and religion of that time thought the earth was the center of the universe. But we know better now and there are hundreds of books on the subject describing the motion in excruciating detail complete with all the accompanying mathematical calculations to confirm it.
Now go back 3,300 years ago and think about all of those book publishers running around. There weren’t any so most of the written text of the time was cryptic in nature to save time in copying written text, a parable. "The Sun is going around the Earth" or “In the Beginning God Created Heaven and Earth”. Just as we look for the deeper readings in science, we need to look for the deeper readings in text. Thousands of years ago we learned that there are meanings in the text that expand the meaning way beyond what is written.
Now there are varied theories of the big bang that have been introduced and I am not qualified to argue in favor of one theory over another. They go into great depth and are beyond the scope of my intent here. I think it is safe to say though that the argument of a creator is not really something that is in the realm of exclusively theology, philosophy or physics.
If you want to hear that argument then you can refer to Dr. Quentin Smith, Professor of Philosophy at Western Michigan University(9) on the no god exists side – and - William Lane Craig, Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California on the God exist side(10). You can also go one step further and read the transcript of the debate that the two of them held face to face “On March 22, 1996 on the campus of Southern Methodist University, Dr. William Lane Craig and Professor Quentin Smith debated on the topic, ‘Does God Exist?’"(11). Very interesting read.
Now let’s wrap this up. Without getting into a big scientific dissertation explaining the timeline of the universe and its correlation to the Big Bang (I admit that I would lose that argument anyway), let us instead look at things that the Bible states in Genesis and what science declares happened during that time frame. Now remember that my interpretation laid out so far is that the six days of creation are described in abstract time frames. So they can fit any time period but what we are looking for is do they logically line up with what Science has proven so far.
Here is the Timeline:Day One: t0 through ~ 4.5 billion years agoBible
1 First God made heaven & earth 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, day one. Science
Formation of the Universe, our Sun and Solar System(12)Second day: ~4.5 billion years ago to ~3.9 billion years agoBible
6 And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." 7 And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. 9 Science
The Hadaeon geological eon when the earth cooled and lead to the formation of land masses and the first rocks began to appear near the end of this time. (13)Third day: ~3.9 billion to ~2.5 billion years agoBible
And God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." And it was so. 10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth." And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. Science
The Archean geological eon when the earth’s crust finished forming and the beginning of life on earth. Bacteria and other simple life forms form and begin to populate the shallow seas (14).Fourth day: ~2.5 billion to ~65 Million years agoBible
14 And God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth." And it was so. 16 And made the two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. 17 And God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, 18 to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day. Science
The Proterozoic geological eon. Oxygen forms in the atmosphere and water vapor in the air begins to condense clearing the cloud cover in the atmosphere and filling the oceans (15).Now there is a special note here since some argue the difference between day one and day four.
The events of the fourth day are controversial to some theist and are used by many to “poke holes” in Genesis. The claim by some others who don’t look deeper is verses 14 and 15 simply repeat what God said in verses 3 and 4. However, note the difference:
~ "Let there be light"; and there was light. (verse 3)
~ "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. (verses 14-15)
In verse 3, Genesis describes the creation of light.
In verse 14, Genesis is being specific about certain "lights" that became visible from the surface of the earth. These specific lights were created to serve "for signs and seasons, and for days and years."
So, on the fourth day, Genesis claims that God made visual observation of the sun, moon and stars possible. We just read that before this time, the earth was in the geological time frame referred to as the Archean Eon(20) and was covered in thick clouds of (to the best of my understanding) methane, water vapor, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, chlorine, nitrogen, and hydrogen and did not permit ready observation of things outside of the atmosphere. Around the end of the Achaean period (about 2.5 billion years ago) as the earth continued to cool the water vapor started condensing filling the shallow seas and forming the oceans and the cloud cover diminished; thus allowing clear days and would for the first time allow for the direct observation of things outside of our atmosphere, the sun, the moon, the stars.
Many people also find verses 16-18 difficult. They appear to say that God created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation. The New King James translation compounds the problem by incorrectly beginning verse 16 with "Then God made," implying continuity of action. Most other versions all start this verse with "And."
Further, the Hebrew asah from the original translation into the Torah, translated "made" in verse 16, is in verb form and denotes completed action. This means the sun, moon and stars could have been created at that time or any previous time. I know, simple semantics, but this means that verses 16 through 18 most likely indicate that the sun, moon and stars had been made sometime in the past.Fifth day: ~560 Million years ago to ~ 250 million years agoBible
20 And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." 21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 And God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth." 23 And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day. Science
The Paleozoic Era in which live began to form in abundance and almost all forms of plants and animals came into being (16). Also during this time period was the Mesozoic Era which saw the rise and fall of dinosaurs (17).Sixth Day: ~65 million years ago to about 6,000 years ago (Adam and Eve)Bible
24 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 29 And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Science
The Cenzoic period which encompasses time from the extinction of the dinosaurs and the rise of the mammals (18).
Now does this Prove the existence of God, absolutely not, we all agree that can’t be done, but I hope that you can see that you can still have faith and respect the advances of scientific discoveries.
Furthermore, does it pass the scientific proof test, no – but I think you can see the conclusion that there is a reasonable correlation between them.
(1) Timeline of cosmology
* The Big Bang.
* Big bang theory is introduced
- (Copyright) 1995 - 2007 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All rights reserved
* Lemaitre, Georges. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 12, 2007, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9047718
* Big bang theory is introduced
- (Copyright) 1995 - 2007 Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). All rights reserved
* THE HUBBLE CONSTANT
* “Matter and Spirit in the Universe: Scientific and Religious Preludes to Modern Cosmology” - London: Imperial College Press, 2004 (Chapter four)
* Hubble's Law
* The Hubble Law
* The Hubble Expansion
* TWO THEORIES OF THE UNIVERSE
* Modern cosmology - The British National Space Centre
* The Ancient Versions of Scripture
* GENESIS 1 SPEAKS ABOUT THE CREATION
* (in Print) Midrash Rabbah: Genesis. Translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon, Vols. 1–2. London: Soncino Press, 1939
(7) Speed of the Earth's Rotation
(8 ) The Rotation & Revolution of the Earth
(9) The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe
(10) God and the Initial Cosmological Singularity: A Reply to Quentin Smith
(11) Does God Exist?
* Our Solar System
* Formation of the Solar System
* Hadean Eon
* Hadean Eon
* Archaean Eon
* Archaean Eon
* Proterozoic Eon
* Proterozoic Eon
* Paleozoic Era
* Paleozoic Era
* Mesozoic Era
* Mesozoic Era
* Cenozoic Era
* Cenozoic Era
(19) Plato: The Allegory of the Cave, from The Republic
* Archean eon - Archean eon. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 12, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9009269
* PRECAMBRIAN HISTORY; THE ARCHEAN EON - WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY