The Purpose of this website
This website concerns the Creation Narrative of modern science and of the Bible. A creation narrative describes how the universe and the earth came to be in their present state.
A full Creation Narrative begins with the creation of the universe, and ends with the Creation of Man. What this website attempts to show is that there is an astounding agreement between the Bible's Creation Narrative (CNB) and the Creation Narrative of Science (CNS). Both narratives, if properly understood, are full narratives in this sense. Each narrative, of course, emphasizes the aspects appropriate to itself: thus CNB emphasizes the activities of the Creator God, and CNS emphasizes the discoveries of science. Each aspect has its proper place.
The full Creation Narrative of Science is quite new, developed only within the past 50 years—and of course continually advances to provide fuller detail. Until the 20th century few scientists thought that a factual scientific narrative was even possible: cosmology was viewed as something beyond the reach of objective science. But scientists today know that a full, scientific narrative is possible, and many (not all) of its parts are now in hand.
The Bible's Creation Narrative has existed for over 3,000 years—but one's understanding of the basic facts of science affects how one understands the Biblical Narrative. Even if you disagree with a particular contemporary scientific view, your understanding of the Bible depends on how you view science. And since science has evolved over time, then naturally and inevitably the interpretation and understanding of the Biblical account has also evolved over time. Even yours has: you no longer think (I trust) that the sun goes around the earth, although that is the superficial appearance of observations, and many very sincere Bible scholars and scientists thought that the Bible took that view.
Science would be impossible if the Divine Creator had not embedded into creation an extensive and detailed narrative line written in a language01 that can, with effort, be understood by the persistent investigator. This is a basic theme of the 19thpsalm.org website. The Psalmist explains this in the immortal line, "The heavens declare the Glory of God, and the firmament sheweth His handiwork." That glorious statement is followed by an assertion that the Creator has embedded a "line gone out through all the earth" into the natural world, a silent voice that makes this proclamation. This line can be understood with persistent and determined effort: that is the essence of science and it is not given to us without effort!02
Within the past century science has interpreted that line with the result that the world today is blessed with a fairly comprehensive description of that Creation Narrative of Science, from the very beginning of the universe through the creation of the elements, of earth, and of life on earth. This narrative has vast gaps which time may fill, but the main outline is now known with some confidence.
A major purpose of this website is to explain how the two narratives—of Science and of the Bible—compare, a comparison that has been possible only within recent decades. They agree quite well, if one lays aside old misconceptions in the true spirit of a search for truth wherever it can be found.
The approach used here is to construct a consistent narrative using a number of short presentations. The intent is that these presentations give the essential development in a fairly accessible way, and then point to further resources with various excursions on the general theme.
Other websites that I have developed or helped develop (and which you, of course, are welcome to visit), are:
- The HMS Challenger Library and the Golden Age of Geology Library.
These libraries are part of my 19thcenturyscience.org website;
- The 19thpsalm.org website which gives a more comprehensive discussion of the various stages of the Genesis creation narrative; and
- The website of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, IBRI.org.
See that site for a statement of IBRI's purpose and membership.
These sites record, for the most part, the thoughts and views of many people with expertise in science and theology (although my own views appear on occasion), but this website gives my own views, for which I alone am responsible.
Synopsis: Creation Narratives of Science and of the Bible
The creation texts of the Bible have been established unchanged for almost 3,500 years. This text has led to many diverse narratives, as Bible scholars and theologians attempted to interpret the text. My own interpretation (CNB) is based on a valid interpretation of the Bible's text.
Over history scientists and philosophers have also given many narratives based on their best understanding of the science of their day. The latest generally accepted creation narrative of science (CNS), the Standard Cosmological Model was developed within the past century.
This website argues that the two narratives agree on the essential points. This agreement has been possible only within the past 50 years or so.
Here are Synopses of the Creation Narratives:
Creation Narrative of Science (CNS): CNS Synopsis .pdf .doc
Creation Narrative of the Bible (CNB): CNB Synopsis .pdf .doc
This website gives some of the details that provide additional support to these synopses.
It is astonishing that science can determine what happened in the earliest seconds and minutes of creation. This discovery has only been made in the past few decades. Prior to this, many scientists questioned the very notion that it would be possible to study these early moments with rigorous scientific precision, or even that the universe had a definite beginning. Cosmology—the physics of the universe and its beginnings—was relegated to the realm of religion or superstition, declared to be beyond the methods of rigorous science. Today, the science of cosmology is universally recognized as among the exact sciences and capable of fully rigorous mathematical treatment.
In contrast with the former view, there is now a general understanding and agreement as to the fact of the Big Bang, and how the early universe grew from the Big Bang over the first few minutes. The precise age of the universe is 13.799 billion years old with an error of 21 million years, about 0.1%, based on measurements of the cosmic background radiation. This background radiation is a remarkable example of the Silent Speech of Psalm 19 preserved by God since the very beginning of time to reveal his glory and handiwork.
I. Before the BeginningOne astounding conclusion of CNS is that there was a definite beginning to the entire universe. The observable universe—all of space that scientists can view and measure—is 13.799 billion years old with an error of 21 million years, about 0.1%. This beginning is broadly called the Big Bang. At this beginning, the entire universe began as an intense point of light that has expanded and cooled since that time to the present.
The early seconds and minutes of the universe have two physical explanations at present: Einstein's General Relativity concerns science in the large; and Quantum mechanics concerns science in the small. Richard Feynman (one of my favorite role models in science) developed Quantum electrodynamics which explains how quantum particles interact. Both of these theories have an outstanding record of confirmation, but there is no theory at present that combines these two extremes of science in the large and science in the small. The widely accepted overall Standard Model description of the early universe uses insights from both of these theories.
What (if anything) existed before this beginning? Experimental science is unable to say what came before the beginning, because it is limited to the observable universe. In fact, our understanding of quantum theory appears to break down for times less than the Planck Time, 5.39 × 10−44s: an extremely short (but not zero!) time after the Big Bang. At present, experimental science can replicate the temperature of the universe at less than 10−12s after the Big Bang, so many of the events in the early universe can be confirmed by actual experiment.03a
How do you describe the sitz before the beginning???
A Multiverse? Some scientists speculate that our own universe is just part of a vast (if nothing can be "vast"!) multiverse in which countless universes spawned since eternity past.
There are basically two reasons to postulate a multiverse:
(1) Philosophy appears to demand that any effect must have a cause. Since many scientists reject the existence of God, the multiverse provides a natural "explanation" for what cause resulted in the observable universe. Another way to state this philosophical view is that anything with a finite existence implies something else with an infinite existence—a view that can be satisfied by having a God as prime mover, or by having eternal physical constructs and processes—a multiverse—that spawned the finite thing;03
(2) Our universe appears to be exquisitely fine-tuned to support the existence of intelligent life04. The multiverse "explains" this fact without a Creator (and of course without fine-tuning!), provided each universe involves an accidental, random selection of laws and constants. Our own universe accidentally has the particular selections in which all of the requirements for life just happen to exist: if it didn't then we would not be around to observe it! When one looks at the figures, this means that there must be vastly many more universes than there are atoms in our own universe—a truly staggering number. If I am struggling to describe the truly staggering number of universes, it's only because the concept itself is staggering—but necessary if one does not accept the concept of a Prime Mover.I suspect that scientists generally believe that there is some grand unified theory to explain it all, that would not require all of these futile universes. But we just don't know what it is.
What does the Big Bang universe expand into? Creation Narrative descriptions.
By necessity, a creation narrative must say something about the situation before the beginning. Perhaps nothing exists outside of our universe, and after the Big Bang the universe expands into nothing? But frankly that sounds like nonsense: what is "nothing"? From the viewpoint of science, the closest that one can come is to say that before the Big Bang there was no matter, no radiation, no space or time.
There appear to be two early (roughly contemporaneous) religious descriptions of this indescribable state: The Genesis creation narrative, and the Hindu Rig Veda Hymn Nasadiya Sukta.03b
• Genesis 1:2 states:
St. Augustine of Hippo, about 400AD, understood "without form and void" as "formless and empty", meaning the earth did not yet exist. In his view, it had been created "formless" and later made concrete. Eventually, about 900 years later, St. Thomas Aquinas developed this into a theological view in Question 66 of his masterpiece Summa Theologica, Whether formlessness of created matter preceded in time its formation?
St. Augustine extended this concept of formless creation not just to the earth, but to all aspects of creation. I do not agree with this understanding. For me, "without form and void" simply means the earth did not yet exist, without extending the concept to mean "virtual" creation precedes all steps of creation. I do not agree that the intent to create is equivalent to actual creation.05
• The Nasadiya Sukta states that before the beginning:
The words used in these descriptions are figurative, by necessity (after all, there is nothing in the universe to match it!). The Nasadiya Sukta says this very nicely: "even nothingness was not, nor existence" and "darkness wrapped in darkness", "enclosed in nothing" (meaning there were no limits or bounds, no structure). The "Spirit of God" is "The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining."06
The Genesis account says the same thing in a minimum of words. Personally, I appreciate the expanded description that this gives.
• One other Bible passage is also set before the beginning. Proverbs 8 is a poem about Wisdom that participated with God in the creation, before the earth existed:
Even the darkness before the beginning was different. Physics would say that the darkness of "nothingness" is absolute zero. This temperature is unattainable anywhere in the universe, because there is always the cosmic background radiation, about 2.7°K, left over from the Big Bang, or more precisely, left over from the onset of darkness when neutral atoms formed about 379,000 years after the Big Bang. See below.
[*fn]^n03 Before the demonstration that the universe is finite and had a definite beginning, many scientists assumed that our universe was infinite in space and time. So the multiverse concept applies that assumption one step earlier: the multiverse—infinite in space and time—spawned our finite universe and perhaps an infinity of other universes, each perhaps with a different selection of physical laws and constants. Of course, scientists are not entirely happy with this. It would be preferable to have a grand unified theory that would explain how such universes begin, how they chose laws and constants, etc. But, alas, such a (generally accepted) grand theory does not (yet) exist.
[*fn]^n03a See Introduction to Astronomy(pdf).
[*fn]^n03b The Rig Veda was an Early Sanskrit document composed 1400-900 BC (roughly contemporary with the Genesis composition). Hymn 129 "Nasadiya Sukta" concerns Creation. Translation by Ralph T. H. Griffith. Translated by A. L. Basham. It was a long oral tradition until finally put into writing (it is thought) around 900 BC. The name means "not the nonexistent" and its composition is possibly contemporary with Genesis (but I'm not ready to go to the stake over this!). Or, more probably, both the Genesis account and the Rig Veda accounts reflect an older oral tradition passed down from the distant past. Genesis and other Old Testament books frequently cite sources for the information, which no longer are extant.
[*fn]^n04 A number of recent books have been written about this. See Geraint F. Lewis & Luke A. Barnes,A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos(2017). This book is a comprehensive discussion of the topic, and also lists many other recent books.
On the physical events that occurred in connection with the Big Bang, see, for example, Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe (1988) and Jonathan Allday, Quarks Leptons and the Big Bang (1998).
[*fn]^n05 St. Augustine of Hippo (13 November 354—28 August 430), The Literal Interpretation of Genesis,ca. 415 AD. His view was that Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" is the instantaneous creation of everything, including the earth and all the events of the Creation Days. He couldn't understand why God would create over time, since He is timeless.
My own view is that God created using natural processes when they would achieve the needed result, and created by fiat (instantaneously?) when natural processes were unable to achieve the desired result. The task of the scientist is to find out what can be done naturally, to explore the limits of natural development, but without making the assumption that everything we see must be a natural development (as a scientist who rejects a creator God must necessarily assume). Much of the activity described in the creation Days can be done naturally, and thus, was done naturally and the task therefore took as long as natural processes would require (for example, the development of the shields ("firmament") on Day Two, and the creation of dry land on Day Three).
In my view this verse, together with Genesis 2:4 are the "bookends" of the creation narrative, which take place in the intervening verses. St. Augustine says, in Book I, §8, "Are we to understand that by the expression, heaven and earth all that God made is to be included and brought to mind first in a general way, and that then the manner of creation is to be worked out in detail, as for each object the words God said occur? For whatever God made, he made through His Word." My short answer is "yes". However he went on to give this verse a deeper meaning (which I do not agree with).
Augustine concluded that (because God is timeless) the creation of everything was instantaneous (omnia simul), but that they were created in potential, with the realization occurring in time. At one place [V.5.13] he said that God "Created potentially, for time would bring them into view in the ages to come." Henry Woods, Augustine and Evolution (1924) p. 14, remarks on omnia simul: "He conceived creation as proceeding from the Creator, a unit including all things whatsoever that are to exist to the end of time, and corresponding to the single creative mandate. ... [H]e places the analogue of all things, as yet without individual existence, existing in elementary matter as forms in potency, forms decreed to exist, therefore no figments of the mind... distinguishing objectively the things that are to be, from mere possibilities never to be actuated."; p. 16 "St. Augustine takes unformed matter in the scriptural sense for matter without definite external form." As noted earlier, St. Thomas Aquinas formalized his view in Question 66 of Summa Theologica. see http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1066.htm - article1. The answer of Aquinas states that "holy men differ in opinion." He then cites the views of various Church Fathers. This view also provides an understanding of "without form and void" in verse 2. Clearly he did not consider adherence to a particular view as essential to the Faith.
[*fn]^n06 The Bible uses the same root word for "spirit", "wind" and "breathing" (in both the Old and New Testaments). An illustration of this is found in John 3:8, "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." In this verse the same Greek word pneuma is translated "wind" and "Spirit".
Where did these Creation Narrative descriptions originate? Of course nobody knows, but my guess is that both of these narratives came from a common oral or written tradition (see 01). The Bible frequently notes that other sources—now lost—were consulted in its composition.
II. Creation of Light in the Big Bang
Creation Day One
I think it is fair to say that—reading between the lines—St. Augustine was not himself completely satisfied with his analysis of Day One.
These are really interesting questions, and many theologians other than St. Augustine have suggested answers. But still these answers seem to require making special assumptions or adding something to the text rather than taking the words with their natural meaning. For example, the Scofield Reference Bible notes on Day One are typical of a line of exegesis that is still strong today. The Scofield Bible was very influential during the first half of the 20th century. He stated,13"The 'light' here of course came from the sun." To reinforce this conclusion, he had to conclude that the sun was obscured by a heavy cloud cover until Day Four. This led to a whole speculative view that involved a prior ruined earth and other features developed in his notes, but that are not contained in the passage. In fact, the light of Day One did not come from the Sun, answering St. Augustine's puzzlement (note 07).
This situation all changed with the discovery—only since the mid-20th century—of experimental evidence for the Big Bang and the subsequent evolution of the universe since that event. The true facts revealed by the Standard Cosmological Model give a natural explanation that does not require all of this added speculation.
First and most important, this discovery showed that Day One is not just the creation (or some say, the renewal) of the earth, but it records the creation of the universe itself. From nothing, as far as science can determine.
Why is the creation of light mentioned as the very first act of creation? Because at the Big Bang instant, the entire universe began as a point of light, and has expanded into nothingness at (nearly) the speed of light from that time to the present. Space and time were created at that instant.
Should we understand "light" to be taken literally or figuratively? The light of the Big Bang is physical light, so the light of verse 3 could be interpreted as literal light. It is so concrete an event that its time can be precisely determined (see above remarks). Whether it is also the creation of "spiritual" light is something that the theologians can discuss, but at least the Big Bang was physical, literal light, albeit at such high temperature that no light or heat on earth or in today's universe can compare with it.
So Day One marks the beginning of the universe, of space, and of time. As we remarked above, the setting for Genesis 1:2 is before the beginning.
How is it possible that light was created apart from darkness? There is no contradiction here, since the light is quite physical. Within a small fraction of a second after the Big Bang, the universe expanded and cooled to the point where some of the elementary particles could hang together: electrons, and the quarks that combine to form protons and neutrons.
About a second after the Big Bang the nuclei of hydrogen and helium began to form. These are the primordial elements from which all of the elements formed much later. [For a very readable description of this see the book First Three Minutes] This continued for about 20 minutes, and then the universe cooled to the point that further fusion ceased for the time being. There was no darkness in this new universe; it was all light created in the original Big Bang.
So, Doesn't light imply the existence of darkness? Answer, No.
How is it possible that darkness was created later?Darkness entered into the universe when the temperature dropped to the point that neutral atoms could form (i.e. Hydrogen and Helium nuclei could hold onto orbiting electrons to produce neutral atoms). This occurred about 379,000 years after the Big Bang, when the background temperature of the universe dropped to about 3,000°K. When this happened, photons of background radiation would not be sucked up by nuclei, and could travel (on average) undisturbed to the edges of the universe.The background sky then darkened and darkness entered the universe. [Something analogous explains why days are bright and nights are dark and show the stars].
Was this darkness a different sort of thing from the darkness of verse 2? Very interesting question. And I think the scientific answer is (as far as we can determine), Yes. Because the temperature of "nothing" is 0°K (absolute zero) which is a temperature that cannot be reached in the entire universe because of the residual echoes of the Big Bang (about 2.7°K).
... Now I suppose someone could maintain that these verses do not describe the Big Bang. But identifying the Big Bang with these verses provides very nice and scientifically accurate answers to St. Augustine's questions. And if that identity is denied, then they are left with the same puzzles that St. Augustine faced.
Was the sun itself not created until Day Four? This question has nothing to do with the interpretation of Day One, so it is not necessary to answer it here.
Further Thoughts: From the viewpoint of both theology and of science, these verses of Day One are the most profound and most unexpected statements of the entire creation account, perhaps in the entire Bible. Who would have thought that the proper way to begin a creation account is with the creation of light? And yet, with the insight of modern science, this is exactly the correct way to begin the creation account.08 In truth, the universe did begin with the creation of light—pure radiant energy at intense heat: so hot that no elements, not even protons and neutrons, or the quarks that form them, could exist. This beginning is the Big Bang.
Who would have thought that light is the most important thing to begin the creation account? Isn't the most important thing something material? Or objects: the Earth and Sky (as the Egyptian myths have it)? Or perhaps that elusive thing life? Or even the Sun and Moon—names that do not appear in the entire Genesis account—and stars? Some people imagine that "light" in this verse is a stand-in for the Sun, and that this verse refers to the light from the Sun (that's Scofield's view09). All of this misses the point—forgivably, because the full truth of the matter was not even known until the mid-1900s. Even Albert Einstein didn't know.
III. Creation of Darkness
Creation Day One
St. Augustine was puzzled about the separate creation of darkness. He thought that light and darkness naturally came together: darkness being the absence of light. His (understandable) error was that he did not realize that light is an actual physical object.10
About 379,000 years after the Big Bang, when the background temperature of the universe dropped to about 3,000°K,the universe had cooled down enough so that neutral atoms and molecules could form by capturing and holding electrons. Before this time, atoms could only form briefly before the electrons would be stripped away by the energetic ambient heat. Before stable atoms could form, the sky was always bright because photons were constantly being absorbed and scattered from everywhere at once. When stable atoms could form, light photons could travel long distances without being scattered, and hence the sky could appear dark, for the first time since the creation. There was darkness, separate from the light—of course nobody but God was around at this time to witness it.
This creation of darkness was not just an incidental action. It changed the universe from one dominated by strong electrical forces to one dominated by the much weaker force of gravity. The electrical forces were neatly captured into neutral atoms of hydrogen and helium. Over time the gravity caused matter to come together to form stars and galaxies which formed the other elements by nuclear fusion (see IV. below).
IV.By 20 minutes after the Big Bang, essentially all of the matter in the universe was forged by nuclear fusion, into hydrogen and Helium (with small amounts of beryllium and boron). After 20 minutes the universe was too cool to support further fusion. See Steven Weinberg,First Three Minutes for details.
Formation of Stars and Forging of the Elements.11
When neutral atoms formed with the creation of darkness, the matter began to clump and heat up as gravity pulled it together. After about a billion years, the clumps heated up to millions of degrees and ignited into nuclear fusion. The hydrogen and helium fuzed to form heavier elements, beginning with the elements carbon, nitrogen and oxygen that are essential for life. The processes of element formation in the stars were first fully described in 1956 in a famous paper called B2FH14 after its authors' names. This paper described how each element is formed in star-burning (forming elements up to iron, nickel and copper) as well as in the cataclysmic supernova deaths of stars which caused a tremendous flux of radiation that forged all of the heavier elements through uranium, and filled the surrounding space with its debris.
Over time, this debris of supernovas again coalesced under the force of gravity and formed second and higher generation stars, including the sun and the solar system, which formed about 4.65 billion years ago.12
This description in B2FH of how the elements form in star interiors and in supernovas is a remarkable feat, because, of course, it is impossible to directly disect a star to see how it is constructed. But the conclusions of this paper have been confirmed repeatedly in high-energy experiments over the 60+ years since the first publicationIV.03, and there would be few genuine scientists that question its main conclusions (although there is a constant effort to test the validity of the claimed results).
Preparation of a Haven For Life
Creation Day Two
The solar system had to have many specific physical features in order to be a host for living species. Here are the first requirements.
(1) The solar system is near the co-rotation radiusV.01 of the Milky Way galaxy. At this distance from the center of the Milky Way, the Solar System is protected from collisions with nearby stars. This placement avoids passing the solar system through the dense arms of the solar system for the billions of years needed to prepare the earth to host higher forms of life.In particular, the earth must remain within this zone throughout the entire time required to fit the earth to support advanced life. This time must be on the order of billions of years (for reasons that will be explained below), which is such a long time that there is no mathematical way to ensure or demonstrate such a high level of stability (See the following sharp point).
(2) The earth's orbit must remain in the habitable zone of the sun. The habitable zone is defined as the distance from the sun that will have liquid water temperatures—the ambient surface temperature must be between freezing (0°C) and boiling (100°C), roughly between Venus and Mars, with Earth situated about midway within this zone.
These shields are the specific subject of CNB, Day Two:
(3) Within the habitable zone shields are needed to protect life on the surface of the earth. The habitable zone places the earth too close to the sun. As a result the earth is subject to sterilzing hard alpha (charged) and gamma (uncharged) rays and coronal mass ejections from the sun as well as from outer space. The only solution is to place shields around the earth to protect it from this bombardment.
The "firmament" in Day Two is a shield or fence between inner space and outer space. It is a protection of the Earth from the rest of the universe, so that the project of life can proceed. Proverbs 8:27 describes it as "he drew a circle" (ESV) or "he set a compass" (KJV) on the face of the deep – literally "encircling" or "encompassing"; i.e. placing a fence: the same Hebrew word chuwg can be a noun or verb.
No life could exist without an effective protection from outer space: a shield is an absolute necessity. In Hebrew, this shield is called the raqia, a word derived from an ancient meaning of "expanse" or "covering"—i.e. a shield. The word does not include the concept of solidity. That is an ancient addition that was inserted when the Hebrew was translated into the Greek Septuagint by the most advanced scientists of the ancient world. The best science of the day recognized the need for a separation of inner and outer space. They figured this must mean a something solid. So the translation of the Hebrew raqia into the Greek stereoma, and the Latin firmamentum seemed to these early scholars as simply expressing the obvious fact that the raqia had to be a concrete, solid entity to shield the earth.
However the Hebrews made no such presumption of solidity—as is evident in the fact that later in the same creation account, Genesis 1:20 says that fowl fly above the earth in the open firmament, using the same word raqia.V.03
A shield is absolutely necessary to protect inner space, but this shield is not solid; in fact multiple shields exist, each essential to the existence of advanced life on earth: Examples: a magnetic shield to deflect high-energy charged rays and solar mass ejections of plasma (see the box below)
In the case of any "habitable zone" surrounding a star, these shields against high energy particles (charged and neutral) are needed because this zone is necessarily too close to the star: all life exposed to these rays would be killed without the shield. This need for a shield is why animal life began in water, before the shields were fully built: the water itself provides an effective shield a Life on land and in the air had to wait until the ozone shield was in place some 100 million years later (around 400 Million years ago).
Note that the ozone shield is neither solid nor visible, so early man, however "scientific" could not know about it.
|Timescale for star burning (From B2FH)|
VI. The Creation of Life ItselfVI.01
The creation of microbial and plant life occurs next. The CNB implies but does not specifically mention the creation of life itself, and CNS typically ignores the philosophical implications of the overwhelming difficulties. Lawrence J. Henderson remarked on the attitude of science in the early 1900s, a remark that is still relevant today.
The first mention of living matter in CNB is plants that grow on the dry land on Day Three (see below). However the natural world—the silent voice of Psalm 19—speaks volumes on this subject. So this is one place where the proclamation of "God's glory and handiwork" in nature forms an indispensible part of the creation narrative. The story that nature tells about the beginnings of life is extensive, deep and detailed—and growing: it will continue to give abundant fruit for many years to come. The account of life's beginnings is an amazing tale of tenacity and fitness. And it leads to the inevitable conclusion by a rational person, hinted at in these quotations, that a rational intelligence is an indispensible part of the unfolding narrative. This is the reason why scientists "prefer to let the riddle rest," as these quotes imply. This is an indictment against the way that science is practiced, because it implies an attitude that is exactly the opposite of rational inquiry that science should presuppose.
There is so much fascinating and incredible detail to the beginnings of life that it would be easy to lose sight of the overarching story. To avoid this, we will mention just some of the major points, and leave further details to appendices, so the overall flow can be got at without getting bogged down.
Perhaps sensing the complexity of the question, Darwin was quite careful to avoid speculation on the origin of life, contenting himself only to assert that once life existed, it evolved its many species by natural means according to Darwinian principles.VI.03
Darwin's acolytes, such as Ernst Haeckel, tried to argue at first that life was, at root, simple. But the more the question was studied, the more complex life appeared to be, leading by the early 1900s to Henderson's comment above: it is so complex that scientists do not "really look forward to its scientific explanation."
As time passed from that remark in the early 1900s to the present time, things have just become more and more complex, with a seismic event in mid-century as the details of its digital basis in DNA came to light. Today, many scientists acknowledge that the phenomenon of life is exceedingly improbable, quite possibly unique on earth in the entire universe. Even the most polemical atheists acknowledge this—their only sense of self-correctness maintained by claiming that the "probability of God" is even smaller ("so's yours!").
So here are the facts, gleaned from the multiple lines of evidence that the natural world offers.
When did life first appear on earth? The answer is startling: evidence of life appears almost as soon as conditions allow it to occur. Basically this means as soon as the earth had cooled from a molten state, and a (hot) global ocean had formed. Ancient rocks on Akilia Island just off GreenlandVI.04, dated to 3.8 billion years ago show traces of organic carbon [a carbon isotope mix that is characteristic of life]. The "biological carbon" is the result of carbon fixing by the RuBisCO molecule that is part of the sugar-making process of photosynthesis VI.05. RuBisCO is the only known natural catalyst for converting CO2 to make biologically useful carbon. It preferrentially fixes carbon-12 which results in a slightly higher ratio of 12C to 13C, the two stable forms of Carbon.
Recently (2017) some actual carbon fossils have been discovered in this same vicinityVI.06.
Creation of Dry Land
Creation Day Three
As a scientist, these words stand out from the Genesis account with a clarity (perhaps perplexing clarity!VII.01a) and profundity that is second only to the creation of light in Day One. The mental image is exactly right: out of water, dry land arose.VII.01 And again, as with Day One, the accuracy of these words was only understood by geological scientists within the past century, when the concept of tectonic plate movement was accepted as true based on overwhelming evidence, after many years of sometimes disparaging opposition to the lone scientist who first suggested it.VII.02 It even appears to be true that the present continents began in "one place"VII.03(called Pangaea) although that may be reading too much into a short statement.
The setting at the start of Day Three is this—both CNS and CNB agree. The primordial earth was covered in a global ocean, with no permanent land to break the ocean surface. A smooth crust had recently (in geological terms) formed on the hot, molten earth. There was a gaseous atmosphere, mostly nitrogen (as today), with a lot of water vapor, some carbon dioxide, but almost no oxygenVII.04. As the earth slowly cooled over millions of years, the water vapor precipitated out of the atmosphere and formed a global ocean that covered the smooth crust to a depth of over 1000 feet.
I say "smooth": the nearby orbiting moon constantly wrenched the Earth's thin crust with strong tidal forces, daily distorting its shape. Ocean tides were sometimes hundreds of feet high -- tidal forces a hundred times more powerful than is experienced today.VII.05 Violent volcanic activity accompanied the wrenching of the crust. Volcanic cones frequently broke the ocean surface, but the exposed cones quickly washed back into the sea because of the monstrous tides, mocking the "dry land" that had briefly been exposed.
Nonetheless, over time regions of focused volcanic activity resulted in a slight distortion of the smooth crust, and led to extensive tidal shallows, formed from the washed debris of the volcanoes. Here is where the first life began, as described above.
Still, there was no permanent dry land. Over time, massive, slowly moving currents developed in the mantle -- the viscous rock below the crust.VII.06These currents dragged the crust, which broke into a number of large plates. The plates collided or separated under the tug of the mantle currents. Lines of volcanic activity today trace out these plate boundaries.VII.09 At the collision points, one plate thrusts under the other, and melts as it plunges into the molten upper mantle. The lighter molten material crystallizesVII.10, forming granites. This process forms permanent dry land because the granites that form the base of the continents float over the denser magma that forms the ocean floors and upper portion of the mantle.
The process of continent formation has always been very slow, and it continues today. When the "greening of the land" commenced, dry land had been forming for over 3 billion years.VII.11
Plant Food for Life on Land: The Greening of the Land
This is the first mention of life in the Genesis account and celebrates the creation of land plants. After forming dry land, the next step is to fill it with food. This is appropriately called the "greening of the land". Three words in this verse imply greening. One might (loosely) translate the Hebrew to read "Let the earth green (dasha) green (deshe) greens (eseb)."
The "greening" is essential for the advanced plants and animals, because the more complex life becomes the more it depends on pre-packaged nourishment. It simply can't take the time or energy to prepare its own food in addition to all of its other tasks. Plants (but not animals) can fix carbon using sunlight, but neither plants nor animals can fix nitrogen. Every advanced species needs millions of fixed carbon and nitrogen atoms. As we saw earlier, fixing is a very slow process. So the task of this part of Day Three is to fill the dry land with food.
The Earth's fossil record beautifully complements this brief account in Genesis with an extensive description of how this greening of the land was doneVIII.01, a story whose full details are by no means yet known; it will continue to reveal fascinating insights for many years to come.
The particular plants mentioned in these verses come at the end of a long process. They are the flowering seed plants that are the staples of agricultural life: grasses, grains and fruits. Without them, civilization could not exist.
Before the greening of the land could occur, two things had to happen:
• The dry land had to have organic nutrients in place before plants could grow (particularly fixed carbon and nitrogen). This meant that the movement into the continental interior progressed slowly as the biomass accumulated; and
• Harsh cosmic rays had to be filtered so that plants could survive. This was accomplished by the Ozone shield which began to form after the atmospheric oxygen content stabilized at about 25%. It took over a billion years from this point for the shield to reach adequate levels.VIII.02
The fossil record shows this advance of plant growth onto land.VIII.03 It reveals a long progression of plant growth on land, from pithy plants that lived along shorelines, in marshes and swamps to the movement inland to higher elevations, first forests of pine-like species and finally the broadleafed plants and trees (the flowering plants).
• Devonian Age (410-360 Ma = Million years ago)—low plants, mostly fern-like at the start to tall jungle-like pith-centered trees (lycopods).
• Carboniferous Age (360-295 Ma)—Continued growth of jungle-like pith-centered trees in marshes and low areas; early pine-like gymnosperms in higher elevations. Major coal formations come from this age.
• Permian, Triassic, Jurassic (295-135 Ma)—woody trunked gymnosperms (conifers) generally take over from pithy trunks. Ancestors of many present-day conifer families. Source of oil and gas.
• Cretaceous Age (136-65 Ma)—Angiosperms (the flowering seed plants) take over from gymnosperms. Explosion of angiosperms about 115 Ma. Source of oil and gas.
• Cenozoic Age (65 Ma to Present)—Diversification of angiosperms; Grasses (Family Poaceae—monocots) "the most important of all plant families to human economies" (Wikipedia). The "greening" of Day Three.
The early geologists often noted that a major task of the earlier ages was to prepare the great deposits of ores and fuels without which the industrial revolution could never have occurred.VIII.04 The recent fracking revolution retrieves gas and oil from the Cambrian age and onward.VIII.05
The geological fossil record preserves a marvelous and detailed record of how this greening of the land began. The record begins with a cameo showing land plants in 3-dimensional microscopic detail. This is the Rhynie ChertVIII.06which has marvelously preserved fossils of small land plants from the early Devonian age (about 410 Ma), in 3-dimensional "forests", placed in their natural growth positions and showing soft-body parts in exquisite microscopic detail, preserving all stages of growth.
Rhynie Chert (ca. 410 Ma)
Early Land Plants
University of Münster
Palaeobotanical Research Group
The preservation in the Rhynie Chert is so detailed and complete that it is as if the plants had been photographed in three-dimensional form, in an instant of time, including "live" action shots such as the ejection of sperm cells from sporangia. The preservation includes all growth stages of these vascular plants, and so are ideal for a deep scientific understanding of these, the first plants to migrate to land.
Seed after his kind. The final creative act mentioned in Day Three is the creation of seeds that reproduce "after his kind". This opens up a new dimension in the creation narrative, and new possibilities for misinterpretation of what the Genesis account actually says.
The phrase is a celebration rather than a command. The emphasis is on "kind" as a celebration of the fact that living species can reproduce new living species like themselves. The emphasis is not on the restriction of the amount of variation.VIII.07 It is a celebration of the ability of a radish to pass on its own blueprint (DNA) so that its "seed" will produce similar offspring. The seed of a radish is the start of another radish, not a cabbage (though the seeds in fact look very much alike!).VIII.08 The phrase is not a command that puts the Bible in a position that rules out evolution. It is a celebration of a marvelous provision in God's creation of all "kinds" of plants and animals—that they pass on their blueprints. In fact, sexual reproduction exists precisely so that offspring can vary from the parents—they are not exact clones. The wonder is not just that God created life and created living plants to populate the land and provide food for future plants and animals, but that he created them able to make spore and seeds—that look nothing like the parents—but which reproduce multiple living copies of the parents, to "fill the land".
Early geologists misread the fossil evidence to conclude that the creation of animals preceded plants.VIII.09 That is not strictly true: vast mats of algae, kelp and other water plants existed far longer than animals. The earliest plants show their presence in microscopic pollen, spores and seeds, the science of Palynology —literally, the "study of dust". Spores and pollen appear from the early Ordovician (ca. 500 Ma). The following figure shows spores from the Ordovician/Silurian boundary (430 Ma),
IX. The First Science: Astronomy
Timepieces in the Heavens
Creation Day Four
X. Creation of Marine Animal Life
Creation Day Five
Table of Questions
Other questions to tease your mind:
• When did the first smelting occur? (See Gen. )
• Earliest clock mechanisms?
• Are Humans and Neanderthals related?
• When was the Flood? Coincident with the annihilation of neanderthals?
===That's enough for now===