I’m taking time out of proposal writing to address something that’s been bothering me for a while– the perceived incongruence of science and religion.
I’ve seen people driving around with magnetic “Jesus fish” on the back of their car, and I’ve also seen people with the “fish with legs” that says Darwin in the middle. It seems to me that many people think you can’t believe in evolution and at the same time be religious, or vice versa. We’re seeing that with the new “Age of Reason” authors such as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins. Simply put, if you believe in religion, you’re a blight upon society until you change your foolish thinking. I’ve already addressed such thinking here, but I’m going to go in-depth into the idea in this series of posts.
Let’s start with the arguments. Atheist evolutionary biologists will claim that if the theory of evolution stands, then the Creation Story in the Bible is wrong, and if God’s Word is wrong, by science standards, then the entire premise upon which the religion is based is flawed, making the religious believers in a nonsensical fantasy. On the other hand, people who are strict Fundamentalists, believe that everything in the Bible is true, so, to them, the world was Created in 7 days and the Earth is only 6000 years old, tops.
Unfortunately both camps are completely misled, primarily because both viewpoints are viewpoints constructed by man, when instead, the viewpoint should be God-centered.
If God is the all-powerful Creator of the Universe, then to constrain his greatness to the writings of Man is folly. It’s also folly to state the Creator of the Universe is so uncreative that he had to create the Earth with a flash and a bang. If science is true, and I have no reason to think it’s not, then the universe is 10 billion years old. If God created the Universe, and I think there was a fantastic intelligence behind the construction of the Universe, then he not only created the Earth, but the Laws of Physics, Space and Time that govern how our Universe is constructed. Sure he could conjure up a planet from nothing. If someone can start the Big Bang, I’m sure the creation of matter isn’t outside his purview. But why pop something into existence when he’s spent so much time and effort to make a whole Universe?
But, say the Fundamentalists, the Bible is God’s word, and God’s word is perfect and infallible, so the Creation stories have to be true. There was an Adam, there was an Eve, and they were parents of everyone. (Regardless of the proof that inbreeding, which would have to be done if Humanity only had two parents, would produce a horribly deformed human within two generations. Just ask the Habsburgs.) If you’ve read the Genesis stories, you’ll notice that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel, one who murdered the other, which pretty much leaves one son, Cain. So that’s the end of humanity, right? With no female partner, Cain couldn’t procreate, so that’s where the story ends, right? Except that Cain finds a wife after being expelled from God’s presence (Genesis 4:15-17). Where did she come from? In the classic film “Inherit the Wind”, Spencer Tracy asks if “someone pulled another creation in a separate county?” There are contradictions and confusions, and we’re not more than 4 chapters into the Bible.
But the Fundamentalist believes it’s all true. But notice that each story told is not told from an historical significance, but from a moral significance. Genesis is full of such stories, stories about man, man’s free will, man’s nature to sin. Are these all true stories, or are they fables said with the intention to teach?
The Bible is book which lays the foundation of two of the prominent modern religions which permeate today’s culture, Judaism and Christianity (and Islam, although the Bible is less significant in Islam, which refers to the Bible as “The book”). The book is not meant to be a scientific document. Much of it is historical. It was recorded by priests and scholars, relating an oral history from a span of 5000-6000 years. And who were the stories directed to? Scientists? Doctors? The crowd of Reason? No, the book was directed towards farmers, shepherds, carpenters, fishermen– people of simple means and zero education.
It has been suggested that Moses wrote down Genesis and Exodus and possibly other books. Or he dictated them to a scribe. But in all of this oral tradition and transcribing, there’s one common factor– men are involved, and men are fallible. But if God was speaking to Moses, then he had to communicate to a man who was an educated Egyptian who then had to communicate to people who had no education whatsoever. So, if you’re God, do you give Moses the theory of the super-massive Big Bang from which superheated matter shot forth and coalesced into galaxies, globular clusters, quasars, and eventually our own solar system? Do you explain quarks, quantum theory, give him the Periodic Table of the elements? Do you explain about momentum, sine & cosine, wavelengths of light, the relationship between matter and energy? Or do you address things in truthful but simple terms?
Look at the Genesis story. “God created heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, darkness filled the deep, and God was hovering over the surface of the planet.” A formless planet? Sounds like the formation of the solar system. Because the next event is striking. “God said, ‘Let there be light!'” What’s the first event that forms a new solar system? The initial fusion at the core of the new star. The darkness and light were separated because the Sun was formed at that point.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse “sky.” What is the expanse that separates the water in the Air from the water in the ground? It’s called atmosphere. As the planet formed in its molten mass, atmosphere was certainly formed, filled with nitrogen gas, methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor.
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” What happens as the earth cools? The seas form. An atmosphere laden with water vapor hovered above the molten rock of the Earth’s crust until tha crust cooled, and then the planet itself cooled to a point where water started to condense. And the rain of water from the atmosphere collected in the low points, forming the oceans. Anything above that is the “land”.
Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. Now this is interesting. According to this progression, plant life formed on land, not the oceans, as we have come to expect. But it makes sense, and it’s something that will be addressed later. Plant life started on land, initially as a single-cell plant life, and probably as something that’s nitrogen fixing. Once the nitrogen (which started at 80% of the atmosphere) was available as hydrazine or ammonia, newer species could evolve.
In the meantime… And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. At this point, the cosmic “clutter” that filled the solar system began to die down, and the neighboring stars started twinkling through. Far-off light from newborn stars began to reach Earth. In addition, here is the moon. According to this time scale, the massive impact that struck the Earth to form the moon happened after plant life was present on the planet. A mass extinction? Possibly. Having such a cataclysmic event strike the Earth would certainly have a negative impact on the current inhabitants of the planet. But you have to remember that the plants are currently living in hot, near-volcanic conditions already. It is likely they survived the impact.
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. Life in the seas started and evolved into larger organisms. Those organisms turned into land-based creatures and eventually avians. Everything here falls directly in line with Genesis as it would be told to someone without access to the fossil record.
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. Finally, complex life moved from the seas to land, and the final piece of the puzzle was put into place. And what happens once you get animal evolution?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Everything evolution tells us can be found in Genesis. It only takes a congruence of science with the stories told of old, and your eyes can be opened.
God was telling Moses (or the author of Genesis) the creation story– the story of evolution, as it would be understood by someone from that era!
Evolution doesn’t disprove God’s existence. In fact, when aligned with what we perceive as the likely course of planetary and human evolution, the two parts mesh quite nicely.
In the next post I’ll discuss the problem with evolution and how it defines an intelligence behind the process.