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 areement 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 personal 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). 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.
• 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.
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
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 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. 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
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.
Formation of Stars and Forging of the Elements.
When neutral atoms formed with the creation of darkness, the matter began to clump and heat up as gravity pulled it together. Eventually the clumps heated up to millions of degrees. 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 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 filled the surrounding space with its debris.
Over time, this debris of supernovas formed second and higher generation stars, including the sun and the solar system.
This description in B2FH of how the elements form 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 publication, 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
The earth had to have many specific physical features in order to be a host for living species. [Give references to books describing some of these requirements].
(1) 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). The inner and outer limits of the habitable zone are roughly between Venus and Mars, with Earth situated about midway within this zone.In particular, the earth must remain within this zone throughout the entire time required to fit the earth to support advanced life. The geological record indicates that this time must be on the order of billions of years (for reasons that will be explained below). This 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) Within the habitable zone shields are needed to protect life on the surface of the earth. The basic difficulty is that the habitable zone is too close to the sun, and so is subject to sterilzing hard alpha (charged) and gamma (uncharged) rays and coronal mass ejections from the sun as well as from outer space.These shields are the specific subject of CNB, Day Two:
[HERE INSERT RMX ON DAY TWO FROM CNB AND Let there be light]
Creation of Life
The creation of microbial and plant life occurs next. The CNB implies but does not specifically mention this.
Creation of Dry Land
Provide Plant Food for Life on Land
|Timescale for star burning (From B2FH )|
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===
| And God said, Let there be light: and
there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God
divided the light from the darkness.
| 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.
| 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.
| Genesis 1:6-7 "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."
|Genesis 1:11 "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 it, upon the earth: and it was so."|