Genesis and Science

Creation vs Evolution

There are two approaches that a Christian may take when confronted with the rather awkward fact that the creation story presented in the Bible doesn’t accord well with modern cosmology. On the one hand you have people who accept the findings of modern science; in order for Genesis to be compatible with it, it must be read metaphorically. On the other you have those who take the Bible literally and insist that cosmology is wrong.

I must admit I have very little sympathy for those who take the latter view. It totally flies in the face of virtually all established science, and leads the believer to the absurd conclusion that God deliberately designed the world to look nothing like the Biblical account suggests it should.

While I could talk at length about why this second viewpoint is so utterly ridiculous, and I probably will in later posts, what I’m interested in focusing on today is the more reasonable option of trying to marry science and Genesis. While the motivation behind this project is praiseworthy, I think that this marriage ultimately fails. Even if we don’t interpret Genesis as a literal account of creation, we still face the difficulty that parts of the account directly contradict science suggesting that, if science is correct, God lied to us about how he made the world.

Genesis vs Science

The key point that I’m going to raise is not about the language used in the Bible. I have no qualms with the assertion that the Bible is not a scientific textbook, so describing things metaphorically instead of using technical terms like “baryon” and “quarks” is not a problem. What I believe is a problem for the Biblical account is that it gets the order of creation wrong. With this in mind let’s recap chronologically the scientific picture of the universe’s history:

  1. Spacetime begins expanding rapidly
  2. The universe cools and becomes transparent; light can finally propagate through it
  3. Our Sun forms
  4. Debris around the Sun coalesces into planets; the Earth is formed
  5. The Earth develops oceans and an atmosphere
  6. Plants and vegetation appear
  7. Animals appear
  8. Humans appear

Now let’s look at Genesis:

  1. The Earth was formless and empty, and God hovered over the waters
  2. Light was created
  3. The atmosphere and oceans were created
  4. Land appears and vegetation begins to grow on it
  5. The Sun, Moon and Stars are created (but God identifies the stars as other Moons, not other Suns)
  6. Animals appear
  7. Humans appear
Image result for genesis bible
The Biblical Account of Creation

Why the Order Matters

The thing to notice is that the order of events in both of these accounts is similar in some respects, but wildly different in others. While it is completely understandable that God might choose to communicate Genesis in metaphor, it doesn’t make sense that God would deliberately choose to lie about the order of the events. The order of events is an objective fact, so why does the order in Genesis conflict with the order in our scientific account?  Genesis isn’t meant to be a scientific textbook – that’s the defence you hear most often about this – and I agree. If the Christian God does exist then I wouldn’t have expected him to tell people thousands of years ago about a solution to baryon asymmetry and the presence of the cosmic microwave background. But at the same time this account is supposed to be the word of God, so why is the order wrong?

At this point you may think I’m being far too fussy about this issue.  I was once asked why I was focusing on such a “minute detail” when discussing this question. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so picky, but you have to consider the context here and what Christians claim about this book and God. Their claim is that this book is the literal word of God. It may have been written and transcribed by humans, but the content is God-given. This means that the minute details of this book do matter very much. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, he would be able to get humans to write this book in whatever way he wanted. Whatever the content of the Bible, God essentially chose it to be that way. Getting ancient Jews to write it in a figurative way so that they would understand it seems a sensible choice, but it doesn’t make sense why God would choose to get the objective facts, the order of the account, wrong.

If God is this all-powerful entity that Christians claim he is, then if we accept the findings of modern science, we must conclude that he chose for the creation story to be wrong. At this point I think creationists reason correctly that it doesn’t make sense for God to have chosen to record creation falsely. The creationist’s subsequent mistake is to conclude that the Bible must be literal truth and science is waylaid.

Personally, I think the far more obvious conclusion is that the creation story presented in the Bible is exactly the kind of myth that ancient Jews would have made up. The myth isn’t too fantastical such that nobody would believe it, but it is also inaccurate- exactly what you’d expect from a made up account of creation that you want people to believe.

10 thoughts on “Genesis and Science

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  1. When discussing these things with Apologetics, I mention that “God” is either wrong, a liar, or a joker. They get extremely defensive.
    He put fossils in the ground in such a way as to make it seem that they are millions – Billions of years old. 😯
    Oh no, they are there to test our faith. 🙄 So, God’s a liar.
    I think they are there to test our intelligence.

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  2. I think people believe what they want to believe, then go about looking for evidence to support. I think, people have the ability to reason in any direction. The intellect can make up just about anything. That’s how you can explain Stephen King. You can reason that nothing truly exists. You can reason everything is a figment of one’s imagination. But I remember, also having thought this years before I read, that to the mind of reason, creation by God is obvious. For many people, however, their intellect gets in the way. And depending upon their bent, they will believe one way or another.
    For myself, I realized early on that I existed, then wondered how did I get here. Who made me? I didn’t create myself. Why is it me in this body? That told me, years later, of my Creator. I looked around: the marvels of the universe: how everything works in the same order, how all things are made of the same “stuff”. With time and research, I realized everything had to have had a beginning, also there has to be an original cause that caused everything else, but that original cause had to have always been. Also, everything begins with one thing, that one thing making everything else. You see, time is created. There is a place where there is no time, meaning all is now. That, as best as I understand in my infantile mind is where the beginning began. God, as best I can understand, has always existed, never created Himself, for He is the cause of everything. He created time, so He is. I think this is what is meant in the bible when God said “I Am” is my name. Not will be or was. Am Meaning He is (No reference to time.). All is now for Him. He sees everything.
    Cells could never have self evolved (We researched.). The likelihood of accidental life is basically nonexistent. It’s more likely, far more likely, that astronauts one day go to a distant, uncharted planet, walk into a cave, and find twenty folding chairs, with little rubber leg ends, and rivets, all in rows of five. One astronaut says to another, they could have self-evolved. The other says, no way. Those chairs have a greater chance of self-evolving than one cell ever becoming.
    I know I know very little. I’m thankful for that. For then there is He Who knows everything and can have the answers I seek. A little at a time.
    I think, for many people, until they’ve hit rock bottom, they never seek. Many people are amazed at their own intellect, but never stop to think where that intellect came from, that we can use our intellect for discovery and realizing creation. I think, for some people, we have to become disabused of our own selves, realizing death one day claims us, then what? What is after death? Nothing? Then we’re gone at the end. A future? Then, wouldn’t our Creator give us some evidence? Yes.

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    1. People do indeed believe what they want to believe, but that doesn’t mean that all the different possible beliefs about the world are equally valid or reasonable. Intellect can come up with all kinds of things – look at flat earthers – but only beliefs that actually correspond meaningfully to what we see around us and the data we’ve collected about it are ones we should take seriously.
      Having said that, it’s certainly not the case that there is a set list of beliefs that all must adhere to and that anyone who doesn’t is labelled irrational. There are basic facts for which this is the case – the earth being spherical, cosmology, evolutionary history, but for the latter two there are plenty of open questions to which experts and the public too may have a range of differing rational beliefs about. To these open questions, which are often of a profound nature: abiogenesis and the nature of the Big Bang, one must be flexible with one’s beliefs and keep the mind as open as possible while the evidence we have is inconclusive.
      Which leads me to a response to your comment. The questions that you asked that have led you to God are these deep and profound open questions to which a range of beliefs are possible, but not all equal. There are all sorts of rational explanations for the questions you posed – multiverses, abiogenesis, laws of nature as necessary mathematical statements, God too is a rational idea, but compared to others currently it accords very poorly with observable evidence and has far less explanatory power than naturalistic theories. In addition to this your close-mindedness and dismissal of all kinds of science and even basic logic means that your genuine enquiry into why the world is the way it is is biased and has led you to where you wanted it to go. There is no logic that demands the universe requires a beginning, your understanding of time is very limited, there is not evidence to suggest that cells could never self-evolve and your pronouncement that the likelihood of accidental life being non-existent seems much more like your personal wish than an evidence supported statement. I have no idea what the ultimate composition of the universe is, and I will stay true to this by never proclaiming anything about the universe which is not backed up by evidence, or if it is speculative I will make that clear. On the other hand you mirror my claim of knowing very little, but then go on to contradict this by claiming you have the ultimate answer to the universe already. This betrays the lack of open-‘mindedness and the leading of your intellect to the answer that you want – which you are worryingly not self-aware of even though you brought it up yourself at the beginning of your comment.


  3. I used to use a lot of technical language and sophisticated language, sounding quite the intellectual. I can do that too. However, with time and understanding, I realized the intellectual and wordy talks impressed some people, demonstrating intelligence, but it never really made the points of understanding in a way that supported awareness and understanding. It’s okay. I’ve listened to intellectual talks, some using much rhetoric, but have since learned to look for understanding. In college, I learned to really listen until I understood the professors’ points, then garnering good grades was easy, seriously reducing study time.
    Okay, now back to the point. I know, like others, we know very little in comparison to all that’s known. But what I do understand I do understand. It may not be a tremendous amount, but to the ears of reason, it helps. To those who believe in something bigger than themselves, it supports their understanding. I’ve been fortunate to have received words of wisdom from others, but always listened and pondered, looking to see if what I heard made sense. But, whatever arguments are made against what I’ve come to understand, I listen and consider, for if I’m incorrect, I want to know. But the explanations I shared have been held solid. What I’ve said, is still as true today as it was years ago, and will be so a century from now. Intellectualism, words, and rhetoric will not displace.

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    1. Technical language exists because it’s precise in a way that ordinary words are not. Wordy talks are good for a mere cursory comprehension of a topic, but proper understanding only comes once you study something to the point where all these technical terms matter, because at that kind of deep level of understanding you need to be accurate or what you say will be meaningless. If you’re so set in your beliefs that no words or rhetoric will change it then you’re completely contradicting your claim that you listen to professors and listen to people’s arguments. You have not yet actually offered any of these “solid explanations” up. All I’ve seen are extremely casual dismissals of scientific ideas that you don’t like because they conflict with your view.


  4. I’ve listened to people who are skilled at rhetoric and downplaying others views, even though those views hold true to the mind of reason (No amount of rhetoric, intellectual words, darts, or otherwise will alter understanding.). Earlier, I sought to utilize language, but with time, realized that was simply word play. With some professors and others who truly are seeking to understand, we can listen to the discussions and “hear” truly a voice of understanding. Recently, while continuing to learn about our nation’s history, moreso the revolutionary war and events leading, I was reading the founders’ words, but also other authors of history past that they gleaned much of their understanding, even the Constitution. Their level of thinking, but born of understanding (You see, intellect is only useful when it describes understanding. Understanding comes first, then the words flow in description. Not the reverse.), opened up ideas that no other words quite explained. It’s like a breath of fresh air when we hear people of authenticity. **With time, it became quite clear the difference. On one part, understanding and clarity comes through. You never tire from listening. I can only imagine what listening to Jesus Christ was hearing very heartful talk. He lived truth. When people seeking saw him, they instantly were drawn, and His words carried understanding. The pharasees, on the other hand, who like their own intellectual thinking didn’t like where He was coming from, becaused it challenged their own secret agendas). I also believe listening to Socrates was a breath of fresh air, which the intellectuals wanted to silence. I get it. **If I talk simply to hear myself speak, my words are empty and no one will hear anything of value, unless that’s what they’re looking for. If I have a view born of my own interests, but an not looking for understanding, just my own understanding, sometimes excuses, then I will find an audience with the same goals. It’s very easy and obvious. Listening to George Washington would be like listening to one living reality. Listening to a pure intellectual would be the reverse. The difficulty in these times is getting people to think for themselves. Now, I have to clarify what this means. We all think. We all have thoughts. We all have ideas. And often, when ideas support our egos and pride, they are very attractive. But to George Washington, who is one of the fathers of freedom, he would have seen right through. Thinking for one’s self is like holding onto what we’re born with (We’re all born with understanding. Even a child knows when he/she hears rhetoric. It’s deluding.). Thinking for one’s self also entails experience, time alone, playing, and being out in the world. I think that’s why, when I talk with farmers, they seem to know more, and I am grateful to hear their wisdom. **Now, to a intellectual seeking to revel in their own intelligence, you don’t hear that. To think for one’s self is to be patient, wait for understanding born of real life and not abstract thinking, then speak from that, no attempt to “win” any conversation. If I’m talking to someone, and I see they have a point which refutes or alters mine, I am grateful. I don’t need to prove anything. Understanding speaks for herself. **Now, this is something else. Between the two, one can’t hear the other. They’re coming from two different places. On one side, the person hears and can tell the difference. On the other is disdain and mockery, no respect for understanding born of real life. Pure intellects often hate the more simple (Simple is often akin to wisdom.), because understanding doesn’t suppport pride. I get it. But remember, this is to the readers and those who want to hear what their own understanding tells them. Like Johnny Appleseed. Of course, I have much to learn. Or should I say, understand. But it’s a lifelong road. **Often, what we see on television or even the internet is information empty of enriching conversation.

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    1. I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that, but I think you generalise too much. The virtues of understanding which you speak of are much more important than mere words spoken without understanding. But to say that intellectuals just like the sound of their own voices and that they lack understanding is very broad brush.
      There are people in the world who like the sound of their own voice, but the proportion of them who are scientific intellectuals is lower than in other areas. Science is full of people who learn for learning’s sake and seek to understand the world for themselves and not to sound clever to others. One of the obvious reasons why is that academia is not a well paid job. You have to be very dedicated to understanding the world to take up a career in academia.
      So I agree with you that understanding is by far more important, and that there are people in the world that don’t have that understanding filling their rhetoric, but to write off all “intellectuals” as being like this is an extremely incorrect generalisation. I am also not sure why you’re talking so at length on this subject.


  5. I read pretty much every word and realize each person has views. We understand what we seek to understand, and again that is for each person. To one person, they’re looking for absolute, scientific proofs, to another, something else. To another person, a beautiful sunset and all the beauties of the world tells them of a creator. I remember a quite popular media person meeting a homeless man on the street, asking him if he believed in God. The homeless man replied: Well, who do you think made you. To some, it’s that easy. I see that. Just being alive, as a kid, told me something was going on, even though I hadn’t yet been to any church or heard talk on the subject. To some people, that’s more than enough. It would be like two people wondering if the giraffe is really there. One person says, of course it’s there. I can see and smell it. Wouldn’t make sense for creatures not to exist. We eat meat. We don’t live just for ourselves. But just seeing it is enough, also telling me of a creator. The other person goes into talks about perceptions, light, the possibility we’re all living in little chambers like in the Matrix, living out imaginary lives, deep in sleep. In either case, you can’t absolutely prove. In either case, a belief or leap of faith is required. If we look at life, in one sense, none of it makes sense, but in another, everything makes sense. That I’m here still astounds me. That God loved me so much that He made me continually amazes me. Faults and all. Why we’re born in sin due to the first pair choosing to play God, I understand, but I’ve wondered why it had to be this way. But, I gathered, had we all had Adam and Eve’s choice, we all would have chosen to play god, choosing to know everything for ourselves rather than to trust in Him. But we see this today.

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