Summation: Creation of the
To this point the creation narrative concerns the physical
universe: the world of radiation, matter and space. This is truly a
The marvelous thing is that CNS doesn't just agree with CNB, but it
also enriches CNB with new insights and clears up a number of questions
about how to understand certain statements. Specifically, through the
CNS we learn that:
universe itself including space itself had a definite beginning.
CNB is not just limited to the earth itself, but applies to the whole
universe. The idea that the universe—that is time and space and
everything in it—had a beginning is something that is a radically new
departure from what most scientists and many theologians once
understood. In the new CNS cosmology the universe doesn't expand into
existing empty space, because space itself is part of the universe and
is part of the Big Bang beginning.
This universe is all that we can investigate in science. For one thing,
scientists cannot investigate anything farther than the visible
universe that the speed of light defines. What is beyond the universe?
Of course, CNB says that God is eternally existent, and so clearly He
exists beyond the limitations of the universe. But there is no
objective way for science to say, except by way of pure, unverifiable
speculation. Does nothingness surround the universe? Who can say? I
think we can argue that the Rig Veda hints, rather elliptically, at
such a conclusion and yet hedges by implying that (perhaps) there is
But we do know that the universe we occupy, began about 13.77 billion
years ago, and that this universe has a radius of something less than
13.77 billion light years (the exact radius depending on how much the
gravitational mass of the universe retards its expansion).
This is a wonderful extension of our understanding that CNS contributes
to the CNB—and at the same time it is completely compatible with CNB's
expression of Day One.
• No matter existed at the very
beginning. It was the inverse of what St. Peter said in II Peter
3:10, "The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also ...
shall be burned up." The temperature at the very beginning of the
universe was so high that no matter could hold together—no physical
force could bind it—so everything was radiation, that is, light. As the
universe expanded and cooled in the first few minutes, the primordial
elements formed—the nuclei of hydrogen and helium. These would
eventually fuse in star interiors to form the other elements . And much
later—8 billion years later—the sun would form and light up. But the
light of the actual, physical Day One was not sunlight! It was much
more primordial than that!
• The earth began as a molten body.
CNS asserts that the solar system condensed out of a vast cloud of
matter. The sun and planets formed, pummelled with the debris that
surrounded this primordial sun. The primitive earth melted, and after
the debris surrounding the sun clarified, the earth cooled from its
molten state and formed a fairly smooth crust under a global ocean.
• Gradually the continents formed
to make dry land, and immaterial shields built up to surround the earth
and divide inner space around the earth from outer space.
This describes the material world, and sets the stage for the
beginnings of life.
Summation: The Geological Record
of Life on Earth.
The CNS does not explain how life began, but it shows its presence and
progression in the geological record from very early times. This
geological record marks out a number of stages in the creation of life:
Establish the Central Dogma.
b. Form Simple cells (bacteria)
c. Prepare the earth for advanced cells
d. Form Advanced cells (eukaryotes)
e. Form visible plants and animals
(more-or-less in tandem)
plants and animals
f. Humans appear as the most
advanced life (30-50,000 years ago).
(2) Land plants and animals
This is the sequence traced out by CNS through the geological record.
The Bible is silent on the beginning of life, but plant life on land
shows up in Day Three. So it is a great and welcome contribution of CNS
to provide this level of detail, which in no way contradicts the CNB.
As is true of all conclusions of science, they are always subject to
change, and you may of course quibble about some details, but I believe
this is a pretty definite and fairly assured sequence laid out in the
geological records. Subject of course to further discoveries and
developments in geology and in science in general. We'll say something
about each step in sequence.
Establish the Central Dogma.
Sorry if that sounds anthropic.
But all forms of life share the same basic collection of features
usually called "The Central Dogma". It involves hundreds of choices
which appear to be contingent, as far as one can determine. By
"contingent" I mean that a feature is chosen out of what seem to be a
number of possibilities. There seems to be no particular physical or
chemical reason that compels that choice. Hopefully, as science
progresses, some of these contingencies will be seen to be not
arbitrary at all; but at present they seem a bit arbitrary. That's one
reason why most scientists who really know what they are talking about,
say that life could only have arisen once—otherwise one would see
different sorts of life with different sequence of choices. It is
impossible to think that an independent generation of such a complex
sequence of steps could have come together exactly the same way.
Biological life is fiercely digital. That's a surprise because the
natural world seems to be analytical rather than digital. Every species
of life is determined by a blueprint consisting of literally hundreds
of digital genes of varying length, mostly hundreds of digital "codons"
in length. All life, however simple or complex is determined the same
way from these genes which reside in one or more chains of DNA. All
life forms carry this genetic information within a regulatory apparatus
that is itself determined by these same genes. If that sounds a bit
circular, well ... it is.
The central dogma dictates how the information for these carbon chains
is recorded in the DNA and transcribed to form the proteins which carry
out the various cellular functions. Everything in a cell, every
specialized molecule or tissue, is formed in this same say, starting
with DNA, transcribed into proteins, which then produce the miniature
"factories" that produce the final product.
And all of life from the simplest to the most complex is programmed in
essentially the same exceedingly complex way. This complex procedure
appears to have been put together one time only, and then copied in all
other living species.
The components of all known life from the simplest to the most complex,
involve at least hundreds of the same (essentially) complex
inter-relationships that must exist simultaneously and work together in
exquisitely delicate ways. Colloquially that goes by the name
In 1998 there was a colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences that
tried to define the features of the simplest possible living cell—of
any sort, not just the kind found on earth. The conclusion was that the
simplest possible cell is exceedingly complex.
b. Form simple cells (bacteria).
It's fair to ask, "How can
something like the central dogma be 'established' before a single
living cell exists?" I can't answer that for a secular interpretation
of CNS, but for CNB it is easy: God did it. That's not a cop out,
because scientists are invited, even encouraged to answer the
question—and many have attempted, resulting in many interesting
insights, but no fundamental success in answering the basic question—so
The geological record shows that the first living species were
bacteria, or bacteria-like. Their basic task in life was to reproduce
themselves and die. You might think this is a pointless objective for
life, but it is not, because the carcasses of these early cells provide
food for more advanced cells in the form of molecules that contain
fixed carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients.
One question is, where did these early cells get the focused energy
needed to carry on life? The answer, as far as we know, is
photosynthesis, which captures energy from the sun and converts that
energy into simple sugars which then fuel the basic cell processes.
Photosynthesis is a very complex process.
LIfe's most urgent task on the early earth was to fix carbon and
nitrogen to build the molecules that carry out the cell's tasks. Carbon
must be released from its natural oxidized state, CO2, and made part of
a simple sugar; nitrogen must be converted from its natural binary
state, the nitrogen gas N2, to form nitrates or other single-N
molecules. Once "fixed", then C and N can go on to participate in the
many molecular chains that carry out the cellular functions.
A waste product of carbon fixing is oxygen, which will be essential
later in the metabolism of more advanced cells. But for these cells it
is an unwanted waste product.
And of course these conversions must occur under natural ambient
conditions of temperature and pressure. That's the catch. There
to be only one natural way to fix carbon (the RuBisCo molecule) and one
way to fix nitrogen (Nitrogenase). These molecules are exceedingly
Nitrogen-fixing is particularly hard to do because of the energy needed
to split apart the nitrogen gas molecule. The nitrogenase is also
poisoned by oxygen, so it requires special cells that have to be
elaborately isolated to concentrate on that one task. These specialized
cells have to get their food from other nearby cells because they can't
make it themselves.
Evidence of life appears in the geological record almost as soon as the
earth had cooled from a molten state, formed a global ocean, and then
cooled further to something just below or at the pasteurization
temperature (perhaps 140-110°f).
This is the very first appearance of life on earth, probably the first
in the universe. This rapid appearance challenges the assertion that
life formed naturally by random chance. Where was the time for this
random chance to work? That's of course a problem for CNS but not for
c. Prepare the earth for advanced
Unlike the simple cells which
appear as soon as the earth had cooled enough that they could survive
the heat, the geological record shows a 2 billion year gap between the
first simple life and the first advanced cells. During this time, the
simple cells were busy preparing the earth with food (their own dead
bodies!) and atmospheric oxygen, both of which must be in place before
advanced cells can thrive. The food consisted of fixed carbon, fixed
nitrogen and atmospheric oxygen . Other nutrients of course, but
d. Design Advanced cells (eukaryotes)
Again I use an anthropic term. The
advanced cells are called "eukaryotes" because they have a nucleus,
generally easily visible under a microscope. That's just one of many
features that come in a vastly complex package: many other organelles
in addition to the nucleus (these perform specialized tasks that are
used by the cell as a whole); a cytoskeleton, which gives structure to
the cell (among other things), and many other specialized capabilities.
It is a vast jump from the bacterial cell. I won't say that a eukaryote
is to a bacterium as a bacterium is to a rock, but that's not far off.
The eukaryote is so complex compared to bacteria that it almost (not
quite!) amounts to a new creation of life. Not quite because many of
the individual things that make up the eukaryotic cell can be found in
certain bacteria. We'll say more about the nature of these advanced
cells in some of the questions below. The central dogma is the same,
just a bit more complex.
For about a billion years, the eukaryotes did their thing as single
celled species. Then...
e. Form visible plants and animals
(more-or-less in tandem)
Marine plants and animals
(2) Land plants and animals
All visible plants and animals are
made up of eukaryotic cells; and in addition there is a large
collection of single-celled eukaryotes, such as the amoeba, paramecium,
and other such microscopic animalcules that are familiar in the
In the geological record, visible plants and animals appear around
500-600 million years ago, most famously in the Cambrian explosion
around 530 Mya. Perhaps plants in the form of algae are a bit earlier.
Some algae are eukaryotes and some are bacteria living in colonies so
large that they become visible to the eye.
f. Animals (marine)
The CNB asserts that animals have
a "spirit" created by God. There is a huge gap between plants and
Essentially all the basic body plans for animals—the animal
phyla—appear within a very short period of time during the Cambrian
explosion, including all of the modern-day phyla and a few others that
apparently didn't survive the weeding-out.
All of the early animals were marine; that is, they lived in the global
g. Land animals
Land and air plants and animals
did not appear until around 450-400 mya, the late-Silurian and
Devonian eras. There is a basic reason for this: the air and dry land
were washed with harsh cosmic and solar rays, and this persisted until
the ozone shield built up as an adequate shield at about this time.
Meanwhile the dry land was gradually emerging from the oceans—see the
first part of Day Three—with thousands of feet of luscious sedimentary
rocks prepared with the necessary nutrients. So when the shield was in
place, land plants started "greening" the land, and they were
accompanied by insects which were necessary for pollination.
As the plant food proliferated, land animals appeared and
prospered—both the plant-eating and carnivorous types.
Last but not least came the
humans. Again with a marked advance over all other animals. They are
correctly called the crown of creation (and some other things too).
This is how life began and flourished. The story is mostly told in CNS.
The CNB passes over it except to imply the existence of plants in the
second part of Day Three.