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Eddie Botha
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Can Genesis be reconciled with modern day Science?

13 May 2014, 15:15

I recently read an article published in The Huffington Post in 2010, written by the deceased David L. Wolper. It dealt with the fact that, according to the writer, modern day Science and the Genesis account reconcile much closer than most people would have us believe, or do they? I obviously have expressed views earlier on this particular forum which underlies my personal beliefs and therefor I would like to attempt, as best I can, to be as objective as possible. The article will contain paraphrases as well as excerpts from the news article, thus I would like to make it clear that although most of my article may be paraphrased, I obviously would attempt to make it as much my article and not be viewed as being plagiarized.

Well, here goes:

There has been much talk (and there will be plenty more for years to come) about the possible fallacy of the Genesis account and if it was written either as a scientific paper, historical paper or compilation of myths. As everyone is allowed their own views and opinions (some more vociferous than others) I believe that this particular topic may not die out soon, if at all.

According to Historical Scholars, the Genesis account should be read and interpreted hermeneutically, in other words, in the style and language it was originally written. That would require the reader to be either conversant in the Hebrew language, or that he understands the context in which the disputed author wrote the account. That means that the Genesis account cannot be read purely as a fantastical story, nor can it be read in the traditional literal fashion. One has to delve into the mind of a 3rd – 2nd Millennium CE/BC (CE – Contemporary Era/BC – Before Christ (trying to be apolitical here!)) Hebrew writer and imagine which audience he is attempting to reach and for what reason he is writing the account. Many scholars have determined that the Genesis account have been written in a language style which reflects a story telling style, the style which one uses to regale accounts and narratives which the audience have already heard told many times over. So, not only does the author have to keep the account contemporary to his generation, keeping to the stories which they have been told, but also understandable and believable for generations to come. Keep in mind, this account was written over 4 000 years ago!

Now, with that out of the way, the objective observer may move forward and reread the account, with an open mind, and compare what has been proven today by science. Oh, and on that point, let us also remember that science 4 millennia ago are much different than the science we know today. Socrates, Aristotle and Plato (the ‘Fathers’ of science and philosophy) would not be born for another 1 500 years! Although the author of Genesis uses the word ‘yom’, the author does not insist or either 24-hour days as we know it nor does he expound on the length of the periods. All he does is use the word which, at the time of writing, suited the account.  

We start with Genesis 1:1 – ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…’

Genesis:              Okay, just did that, God created the heavens and the earth. In other words, the universe has been brought forth out of nothing and it started to exist.

Science:               13.7 billion to 4.5 billion years ago

The majority of scientists have concluded (or believed, whichever way you wish to lean!) that the universe started approximately 13.798 +/- 0.037 billion years ago via the process which we colloquially call ‘The Big Bang’ today. The theory behind ‘The Big Bang’ suggests that before time, space and everything which exists today, there was absolutely nothing! Now let our insignificant minds attempt to absorb that, nothing. And nothing does not mean or represent space as we know it or even the quantum vacuum which existed before the expansion. It literally means nothing. Then, due to reasons which modern science as yet cannot explain, quantum vacuum energy formed which gave rise to the singularity which in turn gave rise to the expansion of space which finally formed the current universe which we are able to observe. All of this occurred in a matter of milli-seconds.

Through the continued expansion of the universe, our sun, Sol, and consequently the earth, was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

To use an excerpt from the article, Stephen Hawking has stated: Anyone who chooses to believe in a Universal Creator is standing on ground as solid as a scientist who denies Creative Purpose as First Cause. Because of the laws these same scientists have discovered, there is absolutely no way to tell what made it happen. Whatever you choose is an act of pure faith.’ (Disclaimer: I did not add this in to strengthen the case for a Creator, I only added this in order to provide an objective point of view. Dr. Hawking is not, has not been and will not be the only scientist who states that science does not know everything and that sometimes science is at a loss of words for certain occurrences. Therefore, even scientists would have to have a little bit of faith in their conclusions). Science and Genesis concur on this point.

Genesis:              (First ‘day’) ‘…and God said “Let there be light”…’

Science:               According to the author, pockets of electrons flung throughout the universe, caused the universe to ‘glow’. Now these electrons caused a number of different forms of light to ‘appear’ and irradiate the universe from x-ray and microwave through to visible wavelengths of light. By the way, background microwave radiation is still detectable today throughout the universe.

Thus, the universe had a ‘glow’ to it and by this time the sun was already formed, providing the earth with light. Science and Genesis concur on this point.

Genesis:              (Second ‘day’) ‘…and God said “Let there be firmament in the midst of the waters and let it separate the waters from the waters”…’

Science:               4.5 billion years to 3.75 billion years ago

Asteroids and comets which were laden with water collide with the earth, dispersing the water into the earth’s early atmosphere and into the ground. (The article mentions protoplanets, but I am unable to verify if this is correct, although I am aware of the asteroid and comet theory) As the earth cooled, the water trapped in the early atmosphere formed clouds which brought forth rain and water trapped in the ground escaped into the atmosphere. The water cycle as we know it begins. Science and Genesis concur on this point.

Genesis:              (Third ‘day’) ‘…and God said “Let the water under the Heaven be gathered together in one place and let dry land appear.”…’

Science:               3.75 billion years ago

The oceans are formed and the land masses appear on earth. Science and Genesis concur on this point.

Genesis:              (Third ‘day’) ‘…and God said “Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit”…’

Science:               This is where the author and I may have our first disagreement. According to the article, Science and Genesis do not concur here as there is no evidence of plant formations at this point. I see it thus that the first organisms which do appear are single celled and could, possibly, be classified as plants rather than animals as the earliest forms of photosynthesis takes place with these organisms. Granted, many of these primitive organisms gave rise to fauna, but so did they to flora. My conclusion is that the consensus is split here and has not been ‘empirically verified’. I may very well be wrong, but hey, that is why we ask questions and learn!

Genesis:              (Fourth ‘day’) ‘…and God said “Let there be light in the firmament of Heaven to separate the day from the night’…”

Science:               Okay, some controversy here. I know that a number of sceptics raise this point and states “There! You see? Science does not support the Bible. Day and night already occurs and the earth is already rotating on its own axis…” Well, yes, this is true, but here I wish to bring forth only one hypothesis which the article has and this is one put forth by Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder, Ph.D (Alma Mater MIT, MIT staff member for 5 years and currently at Aish Ha Torah College of Jewish Studies.

Dr. Schroeder states that at this time the earth’s atmosphere would have appeared opaque due to the lack of high oxygen concentration, and that as the oxygen concentration increased, so did the transparency of the atmosphere, thereby revealing the sun, stars and moon. I would take it a step further in stating that the atmosphere may indeed also have been permeated with dust particles and impurities, significantly increasing the opacity of the atmosphere. No concurrence, but interesting none the less.

Genesis:              (Fifth ‘day’) ‘…and God said “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas…”…’

Science:               3.5 billion years to 635 million years ago

This is it, this is where it all began (and started to go wrong, if you know what I mean!) All life started in the waters of the earth. The first ‘living’ organisms, the first multi-celled organisms, the first fish, the first fish-with-feet… From the waters came life, and evolved into the life which we know today, are aware that existed in the past. Science and Genesis concur on this point.

Genesis:              (Fifth ‘day’) ‘…”…and let the birds fly above the earth…”…’

Science:               This is my second point of contention with the article. Hermeneutics people and the understanding of ancient Hebrew! According to some Ancient Hebrew scholars, the word used in Genesis 1:22 is ‘op’ or ‘ofe’ which translates into a ‘winged insect’ or ‘winged animal’. Due to the fact that 4 000 years ago, written languages were still under development, they were in their infancy, the Hebrew language, in particular, only had 3 000 words from which they would be able to select from in order to write anything down. Compare that the approximately 15 000 words an average English speaker has command over today. So one can start to understand the difficulty in translating, especially from ancient Hebrew to English. Therefore, I would suggest, as from my interpretation, that this would, in fact, coincide with science. But I may be wrong on this one.

Genesis:              (Sixth ‘day’) ‘…And God said “Let the earth bring forth living creature according to their kind; cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kind.”…’

Science:               250 million years ago to about 6 000 years

Yet again, as science has found it to be, first the dinosaurs, then the mammals and finally most of the fauna which is thriving on earth presently. Science and Genesis concur on this point.

Genesis:              (Sixth ‘day’) ‘…Then God created man in his own image…Male and female he created them…And God formed man of the dust of the ground…He took one of Adam’s ribs and made a woman…’

Science:               Admittedly, this one may be a bit of a stretch, as the literal reading of Genesis would lead one to believe that Adam and Eve were special creations of God, in his image, and that they were the first human beings created. This is up for discussion though, as according to science, there were tens of thousands of human beings (possibly homo-sapiens) from whom the human race have inherited their current genetic code. But it was recently discovered that the human race can trace their ancestry back to a single mitochondrial female (ironically this human was named Eve by the scientific community) and male. Although, according to the studies, these two individuals lived some 100 000 years apart, we do come from a single male and female ancestor.

Also, there may be clues in the names given to the first humans in Genesis, ‘Adam’ means ‘Man’ and ‘Eve’ means ‘Life’ or ‘Mother of Life’.  So this could suggest that they may be figurative in the account, but it would still come down to what the author of Genesis intended when he wrote the account.  Even amongst the current crop of brilliant scientists and geneticists, there remains speculative room for discussion and they are not by all means unanimous about their current findings.

So, I would say that science and Genesis concur half-heartedly on this one, with still plenty to be discovered and confirmed. At least the sequence is correct.

Genesis:              (Seventh ‘day’) ‘So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it because on it, God rested from all the work he had done’

Science:               So, nothing scientific to be proven here or to be rebutted. But the relevance would be in the way the nation of Israel adhered to this ‘week structure’. The Jews have a rest day on a Friday, and, admittedly, the Christians may have it wrong, as we say it is on Sunday. Ironically, neither God, nor the author of Genesis specified which day the seventh day was. All that it states in the Bible is ‘the seventh day’. For all we know, that may very well fall on a Wednesday!

I think that the way we should actually read this would be that God set an example for all humans to labour for six days and rest on the seventh. Not only to worship God on this particular day, but to allow humans to physically and mentally rest at least one day a week. In actual fact, should you be a Believer/Christian, you should not only worship God on the seventh day, but on each and every day, through your labours! Also, God didn’t rest from the work he performed because he had to, rather, as stated above, it was as an example for the human race, for he knew that us humans are lazy and that we could only perform physical labour for six days a week, and take a break on the seventh. (So we should be mighty grateful to international labour unions who insist on a two day weekend!)

This essay may be slightly long winded, but I feel that since plenty of us disagree on the subject as well as plenty Christians disagree as to if evolution is factual; this may provide some of us with a different perspective. It does show that the Genesis account could be brought into line with current scientific data and concur on most (if not all) the steps of creation (used in the broad sense of the word).  Should one critically, sincerely and objectively think about what I have laid out, I think one would be amazed by the accuracy of the sequence of the Genesis account when laid down concurrently to current scientific evidences. You just have to ask the question: ‘How did a 3rd – 2nd millennium Jewish author get the sequence so accurate that it may be almost perfect with modern day scientific evidence?’

Well, I know that for some, I have yet again opened up a hornets nest, and for other this would yet again be that boring Sunday School Myth, therefore I have posted this essay, not to enter into argument with the commentators, but rather just to voice my opinion on the matter. I am not saying that the Bible is right and that science is wrong, nor am I saying that science got it right and the Bible is wrong. All I am saying is; Wow! What a coincidence!

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