Monday, June 3, 2013

Does The Genesis Code Fudge the Bible to Make It Agree with Science?

I promised yesterday that I would write a blog post about the 2010 Christian movie, The Genesis Code, specifically the scene in which it claims that the sequence of creation in Genesis 1 matches what scientific consensus says about the order in which things appeared in the universe and on earth.  You can watch snippets from that scene here.

I've long been interested in this question, ever since I read biblical scholar Joel Rosenberg's statement in the HarperCollins Study Bible that "Remarkably, [Genesis 1's] order of life-forms resembles that of our modern theory of evolution: vegetation, swarming creatures, fish, birds, animals (mammals), and human beings."  Granted, as I talked about yesterday, The Genesis Code does not appear to agree with the existence of macro-evolution, but its scene in which science and believers in Genesis 1 dialogue about the order of natural events in the history of the universe and the earth was the sort of thing that I've long desired to see (in real life, though, with real scientists).

What I'll do in my post today is this: I will post Genesis 1 in the King James Version, which is in the public domain, and I will add comments about each day of creation.  When appropriate, I will mention how the pastor in the movie summarizes the content of the creation day under discussion.  More importantly, I will tell you what the scientist-characters in the movie say about what occurred at each stage of natural history.  My question will be this: Is there truly agreement between Genesis 1 and science regarding the order of events in natural history, or is the movie fudging one or both sides to artificially foster an agreement?  I'll be referring to sources, some of them pretty good, and some of them, well, I wish I could find better!  Moreover, please keep in mind that I am not a scientist----far from it!  But this post is not intended to be the last word on this subject, but rather my aim is to ask questions.  Please feel free to correct me, but I will not publish or interact with comments that say or imply that I or anyone else is stupid.

Here we go!

Genesis 1

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

Comments: The pastor said that the waters of v 2 represent all that was, and that the darkness in that verse is symbolic of chaos.  What happened on the first "day" of creation, which (according to the presenter on the movie) was 15.75-7.7 billion years ago?  A scientist-character said that there was the Big Bang, and with it came the raw material for all that would exist (i.e., protons, neutrons, electrons).  The earth was only in the form of stardust.  There was a ball of plasma from which light initially could not escape, due to gravity, but, with cooling, expansion, and the reduction of gravity, electromagnetic radiation finally managed to escape, meaning there was light.  Stars and galaxies were formed.

I thought that the pastor was fudging Genesis 1 here by not taking the waters of Genesis 1:2 at face value.  The waters, in my opinion, are significant, for it is on the issue of the waters that Genesis 1 overlaps with the ancient Babylonian creation story, Enuma Elish.  In Genesis 1, God separates the waters; in Enuma Elish, the god Marduk splits up the sea-goddess Tiamat.  The pastor near the end of the discussion says that Genesis 1 (whoever is its human author) must be divinely-inspired, for an ancient author on his own could not have been so accurate about the order in which things came to be, long before science found out about it.  But, by interpreting the waters in Genesis 1:2 as symbolic, the pastor is (intentionally or unintentionally, I do not know) obscuring where Genesis 1 overlaps with another ancient creation account.  Is Genesis 1 ahead of its time, or is it (in some manner) echoing or reflecting its ancient context?  In his push to prove the former, the pastor is interpreting the waters of Genesis 1:2 as symbolic, when they very well might be literal, which would mean that there is good reason to believe that the latter (that Genesis 1 is reflecting its own ancient context) is the case.
I was surprised, however, that a bigger deal was not made about the plasma.  I was expecting for someone to say that the plasma was the primordial waters of Genesis 1:2.  Plasma, according to this article, can have properties like those of a liquid.

I'll talk more about stardust and stars when I talk about Day 4.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
7 And God made the firmament, and divided 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 the evening and the morning were the second day.

Comments: The pastor said that, on Day 2, the heavens were created and chaos was separated out.  A scientist then said that the second period of time had the galaxy and the Milky Way, along with the sun and the earth.  I'll talk more about the sun when I get to Day 4.

I agree with the pastor that Genesis 1 is about God bringing order out of chaos, for the sea and the waters in the Hebrew Bible often relate to chaos.  And yet, as I said in my comments on Day 1, I think that the pastor is fudging Genesis 1 by not interpreting the waters as literal.  On Day 2, God divides the waters, putting some waters above the firmament and some waters beneath the firmament.  In my opinion, that's different from the galaxy and the Milky Way forming.

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

Comments: The pastor said that Day 3 had oceans, dry land, and the "first forms of plant-life."  A scientist said that, 3.75 billion to 1.75 billion years ago, the earth cooled, water formed, and there emerged early plant and animal life, bacteria, and photosynthetic algae.

I have a variety of points, which may come across as nit-picking, but you can do with my points what you will.  First of all, Genesis 1 does not say that liquid water came to exist on the third day of creation; rather, the waters already existed during the first and second days.  What is occurring on Day 3 is that God is organizing the waters beneath into seas.  Second, there's not supposed to be any animal life on Day 3, for God created the sea-creatures on Day 5, and the land-creatures on Day 6.  This is actually significant, for, according to this article, scientists generally maintain that fruit trees came to exist after there were fish, and that marine organisms existed prior to the development of land plants, whereas Genesis 1 appears to present the opposite (fruit trees and land plants preceded sea-creatures). 

There is a literary pattern going on in Genesis 1, as many observers have noted: On Days 1-3, God created places.  On Days 4-6, God created the inhabitants for those places.  God creates day and night on Day 1, and he populates day and night with heavenly bodies on Day 4.  Day 2 sees the division of the waters above (in the firmament) from the waters beneath, and, on Day 4, God creates the birds for the firmament and the sea-creatures for the waters beneath.  On Day 3, dry land and plants appear, and, on Day 6, God creates animals and human beings.  Genesis 1 has a neat pattern, but my impression is that most scientists do not believe that real life followed that neat pattern to a T (even though there may have been some overlap----sea creatures came before land creatures, for example).

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
16 And God made 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 heaven to give light upon the earth,
18 And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.
19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Comments: A scientists talked about what went on 1.75 billion to 750 million years ago.  Initially, the atmosphere was "opaque."  But, as oxygen became concentrated into the atmosphere, it became more translucent, and the sun, moon, and stars became visible.

I have two points.  First of all, this movie says that there were stars and galaxies on Day 1, and that the sun came to exist on Day 2.  But, as far as I can see, that is not what Genesis 1 is saying.  Rather, Genesis 1 appears to be saying that God created the sun and the stars on the fourth day, not that they merely became apparent after having already existed for a long time.  My second point is merely a question, not a dogmatic statement: How did the plants of Day 3 survive for so many years without sunlight?  This is a critique that I have heard of the Day-Age interpretation of Genesis 1----the view that each day in Genesis 1 represents long periods of time.  The movie tries to distance itself from the Day-Age interpretation, saying that it believes that God made the heavens and the earth in six days----but what were days to God amounted to longer periods of time from the standpoint of the universe and the earth.  Still, the same question can be asked of this movie's scenario (and maybe even of science, if science indeed believes that the sun became visible to the earth after plants had been around for a long time).

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
21 And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his 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 fowl multiply in the earth.
23 And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

Comments: The fifth day, for this movie, occurred 750 million to 250 million years ago.  During that time, sea life was dominant.  But, a scientist-character continues, 530 million years ago, the Cambrian explosion occurred, and every specie of land animal simultaneously appeared.

I have some points.  My first one will be rather nit-picky.  So is this movie saying that land animals came to exist on the fifth day?  Genesis 1 says that land animals came to exist on Day 6 of creation.  Second, referring again to the table in this article, most scientists believe that birds evolved from land animals, not that they existed before land animals (whereas Genesis 1 says that birds were created on the fifth day, and land animals on the sixth day).  See also this article, which discusses the debate about which land animals birds evolved from. 

Regarding the Cambrian explosion, this article aims to account for it from an evolutionary perspective.

24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

The sixth day, according to this movie, went from 250 million years ago to the time of Adam.  During that time, there were extinctions, and mammals and birds came to be dominant.  Then, human beings appeared.

I like this interpretation better than Young Earth creationism, for The Genesis Code simply places the dinosaurs in Day 6 of creation, rather than holding that they co-existed with human beings.  But I have some points.  First of all, to repeat what I said regarding Day 5, there is the bird problem: Genesis 1 says that birds existed before land animals, whereas science says that they evolved from certain land animals.  Second, this movie obviously believes that there was death before the Fall of Adam and Eve, whereas Romans 5:12 says that death entered the world by sin.  Granted, there are Christians who will argue that Romans 5:12 is talking about human death, not animal and plant death.  Fine, that would make a fine topic for discussion.  I'm just saying that the movie invites this sort of discussion.  Third, Genesis 1:30 says that God has given plants to the animals as food.  It's on the basis of passages like this that many interpreters maintain that, according to the Bible (or a voice within the Bible), people and animals were vegetarians until after the Flood.  Does The Genesis Code agree with this, or does it maintain that animals ate other animals prior to the Flood?  It seems to me that, if there were extinctions going on during the sixth day of creation, as the movie suggests, then animals eating other animals had to play some role in that.  But would acknowledging that animals ate other animals before the Flood go against Genesis 1, which appears to maintain that people and animals were originally vegetarian?

My conclusion: Genesis 1 and science may overlap in areas (i.e., sea creatures came before land creatures), but there are also differences between them.  In my opinion, The Genesis Code fudges the Bible to make it fit with science.

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