Friday, October 30, 2015

Science vs. God: The First Creation Account

In the first post, I talked a little about the second account of creation and how that does not seem inconsistent with science (at least to me). In the second post, let's talk a bit about the first creation account- those infamous 7 days.

Okay, I've already told you that while I believe that there is truth in the creation account in that God created the world and that He did so in an orderly manner, I am in no way tied to the idea that the those so-called "7 days" were actually 24 hour periods, nor that there were literally 7 of them. It is teaching a certain point, not that it has to be literally true. For example, we need to understand that for the Hebrews, 7 was a sacred number of completion or perfection (please feel free to double check my understanding of that, I'm working from memory on that one, and may be a little off). In other words, there was an order to creation and it was done well or even perfectly done.

We're not going to start with the Bible today, we're going to start with wikipedia. I know, it's not very scientific of me, but I wanted to review the history of the earth and I don't have all year. (In other words, I'm not going for exact science here, but general ideas, so even though I'm trying to be correct, this is not meticulous.) The theory is that after the Big Bang, there was a formation of the solar system and the sun, followed by the formation of the earth 4.5 billion years ago. Initially the earth was basically hot magma, but as it began to cool and crust, it allowed for the condensation of water over the surface of that. There is a hypothesis that as the crust began to form, there was an impact with this photo-earth with another proto-planet that caused ejection of part of the earth's mantle that formed the moon. (Fascinating, no? I guess I never thought about exactly how the moon came to be.)

Anyway, to the best of my understanding, as the crust began to cool somewhat, it allowed for condensation and the oceans to form. Continents, though different than ours now, would have formed and eventually the change in the atmosphere would have allowed for the growth of bacteria, which led to greater oxygen in the atmosphere, and allowed for the formation of more life as we know it. Interestingly, the article referred to 3 atmospheres, the first being elements of helium and hydrogen from the solar nebula, the second caused by (as best as I can understand it) from a combination of the earth letting off gases and from anything coming into the earth's atmosphere at the time being vaporized. This led to an atmosphere of water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and smaller amounts of other gases. The article is not very clear on the 3rd atmosphere. (What? Wikipedia is an imperfect source?!) Anyway, I'm assuming that it can only be our current atmosphere. By the way, the article mentions that the oceans and atmosphere would have started to form as the earth formed. It also mentions that as the planet cooled, it allowed for the formation of clouds and rains created the oceans.  So, for an imperfect, but much more in depth history, here's where I was reading.

I also found a bit of a timeline for the formation of life:

(Source)
Origin of earth
First life (unicellular)
Multicellular life
Eukaryotes
Arthropods
Fish
Land plants
Forests
Amphibians
Reptiles
Dinosaurs
Mammals
Birds
Flowering plants
Bees
Humans

Now, lets talk about the Bible. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep."

Did you know that immediately after the Big Bang, apparently no light could get through? I think that it's funny that the Bible says that "the earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep" and the modern website says, "The early soup [the vast array of fundamental particles from the big bang] would have been impossible to look at because no light would have carried inside it." According to the website, about 380,000 years after the Big Bang, light would have been able to shine through.

Back to the Bible. Then God said, "Let there be light." As I understand the current theory of the universe, there would have been some formless light before the stars etc began to take more shape, but if we narrow it down to our own solar system, the sun came before the earth. It is interesting to me that at the very beginning of the earth is when the moon formed and we had the sun and the moon from early on. Sure, if you wanted the first creation account and science to line up perfectly, I suppose you would have to say that the moon formed before the earth, but that's not what current scientific thinking supports. The point of this exercise is not to force all the pieces to fit exactly perfectly, but to show that both science and religion support the idea of things having a certain order and that they are not wholly inconsistent with one another (even if they are not an exact match, which would be weird, actually, if you think of the way that knowledge develops).

I like that the next thing is that the firmament of the heavens and the waters began to form, both above and below. As discussed, the oceans and atmosphere would have started to form at the same time as the earth began to take greater shape. Then the land began to form. Again, this is not inconsistent with what science tells us.

The Bible then goes on to talk about the plants forming on dry land, then the arrangement of the stars and the seasons. Then there is the life in the oceans and the creatures of the earth that are formed.

Now, if these (scientific theory and the Bible) were to match up strictly, the creation of the lights of the heavens would be before the creation of life. Life in the oceans before the creation of land vegetation, etc. The authors of the Bible did not have access to current scientific theory. Nor were they trying to explain the science of what happened. To artificially try to make them fit exactly would do violence to both science and religion. My point is that there are periods of formation according to science that give us a deeper understanding of how it all came to be. Science gives us an opportunity to study each of those "days" that the Bible speaks of. Theories of science should be developed by scientific thought and experimentation. Deeper understanding of religion should come from religious studies. However, everything in life is interdependent. So while our religion should not determine our understanding of scientific information, it is just as artificial to separate the two unnecessarily.

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