There have been many attempts by Christians to shoe-horn modern day cosmology and the especially misnamed term "Intelligent Design Creationism" together. More to the point, proponents of this view, such as author Fred Heeren and "Answers In Genesis" assert that the Genesis creation story comes the closest to the Big Bang than all the other ancient stories of creations. As such, goes the thinking, the Genesis God is the God of the Big Bang.
Below is an excerpt from an interview between Fred Heeren and Robert Wilson. Wilson and Arno Penzias co-discovered the background radiation in 1965 which evinced Big Bang cosmology. They are the co-winners of the 1978 Nobel prize for physics. Wilson is the astronomer for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.
Heeren: But that is a very big difference between Genesis and the other creation stories. I'm probably a better student of history than I am of science. If you go back into comparative religions, in primitive religions, you find that the Hebrews alone had a concept of a creation event, whereas all the other religions seemed to have this amorphous blob that always was, this watery mass that everything then came out of, including the gods, after that. So there's a very big difference there.
Wilson:There is a big difference there, isn't there? Well, it [the big bang] certainly fits with that.
I don't know Wilson's background in comparative religions, but I think he may want to stick to what he knows.
In a nutshell here we have the entire argument. Heeren asserts (along with Wilson's argument from authority) that there are very big differences between the Genesis account and those of other creation stories. Therefore, the Genesis account is the most correct, since it most closely resembles Big Bang Cosmology.
Are there great differences separating the Genesis creation and other creation myths, and is the Genesis account really the closest to the Big Bang?
First the differences. Why would we expect all ancient cultures to have the same creation myths? They all had a uniqueness to them, which expressed their relationship with their environment and various gods as they saw them and without the advantage of modern biology and physics. Yet, as unique as they all were, they had some similarities that Creationists either don't mention, ignore, or set up as a strawman as Heeren did here.
In the examples below almost all ancient cosmological creation accounts enlisted a god that lived outside of what he created, and this god used his mind to create things. Every one of the following, save Bumba's creation, predates the biblical creation story, and not one of the creation accounts has it right when compared to modern science. It also must be painfully evident and certainly contrary to Heeren's assertion, but many do have a creation event and Genesis does involve a watery mass and amorphous blob.
These are only a few examples of creation myths from various cultures. While the Hebrew story may be more compact than other creation myths, it nonetheless follows the style of the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish, which begins with gods of water, or that of ancient Egypt with the waters of Nu and Atum who willed himself into being or the Indian creation epic. To be sure, one reason that we have come to believe the Hebrew creation is more succinct or "believable" than the others is because it is the one we were raised with and have been told since we were children that it was not and did not belong along with the other "mythic" stories.
Egyptian (circa 3000 B.C.E. excerpt from fragments):I am the Eternal Spirit,
I am the sun that rose from the Primeval Waters.
My Soul is God,
I am the creator of the word.
I am the Creator of the Order wherein I live,
I am the word, which will never be annihilated in this my name of "Soul."
Mesopotamian, Enuma Elish (circa 1300 B.C.E):When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu, their begetter,
(And) Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,
Their waters commingling as a single body,
No reed hut had been matted, no marsh land had appeared...
Indian, The Rig Veda (circa 2000-1700 B.C.E.):Then (in the beginning) even nothingness was not, nor existence.
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?
Was there then cosmic water, in depths unfathomed?
Then there were neither death nor immortality,
nor was there then the torch of night and day....
In the beginning desire descended on it....
Bantu, Bumba's Creation (date unknown):In the beginning, in the dark there was nothing but water.
And Bumba was alone.
One day Bumba was in terrible pain.
He retched and strained and vomited up the sun.
After that the light spread over everything.
The heat of the sun dried up the water until the black edges of the world began to show.
Black sandbanks and reefs could be seen.
But there were no living things.
Bumba vomited up the moon and then the stars,
And after that the night had its light also.
Mayan, The Popol-Vuh (circa 1500 BCE):In the every beginning, there was only the still sky and still sea.
Nothing moved and there was no sound because there were no living creatures.
There was no earth and no sun or moon to give light.
Only God was surrounded with His own light,
And He was in the heart of the still, dark sky and in the heart of the still, dark sea.
First He said: "Let the emptiness be fulled! Let the earth appear!"
Hebrew, (circa 950 C.E.):Genesis 1:1 KJV) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 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.
Clearly from the examples above, we see that the Hebrew creation story is no more and no less than other creation stories. It falls under the fallacy of special pleading to keep insisting that the Hebrew story has some special elements to it.
The second question: Is the Genesis account really describing the Big Bang singularity?
Again looking at Genesis 1:
Genesis 1:1 (KJV) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 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. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
If this is where the Big Bang happened in biblical cosmology then how is it that the earth and stars were created before light considering that stars are the only place we get light from? Additionally, we know for a scientific fact that the earth was not created at the time of the Big Bang, but 10 billion years later. So in the beginning, there was energy space and time. Light, from stars and galaxies, came much later as did planet building. It is not the universe that is nonexistent but the earth that is without form. Here alone the Genesis account fails.
The big bang theory states that at some time in the distant past there was nothing. A process known as vacuum fluctuation created what astrophysicists call a singularity. From that singularity, which was about the size of a dime, our Universe was born. It is hard to imagine the very beginning of the Universe. Physical laws as we know them did not exist due to the presence of incredibly large amounts of energy, in the form of photons. Some of the photons became quarks, and then the quarks formed neutrons and protons. Eventually huge numbers of Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium nuclei formed. The process of forming all these nuclei is called big bang nucleosynthesis. Theoretical predictions about the amounts and types of elements formed during the big bang have been made and seem to agree with observation. Furthermore, the cosmic microwave background, a theoretical prediction about photons left over from the big bang, was discovered in the 1960's and mapped out by a team at Berkeley in the early 1990's.
After some period of time (approximately 300,000 years) following the big bang, gravity condensed clumps of matter together. The clumps were gravitationally pulled towards other clumps and eventually formed galaxies. Light from the galaxies first started from 300,000 years after the singularity.
Again, light was not the first thing created out of the Big Bang; space, energy, and the basic elements were the first things created. If Genesis 1:3 is describing the Big Bang by virtue of the "Let there be light" declarations, and that God divided the light from darkness, how does this explain the fact that light comes from stars and stars were not created until the fourth day?
Genesis 1:6 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.... 19 And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And, to be sure, the difference between light and darkness is not stars turning on and off but the planets revolving. A more scientifically accurate statement would be, "And God divided the light from darkness by setting the earth turning on its axis."
Simply stated, the Genesis account in no way, shape, or form can be reconciled with what modern science tells us. It's as backwards as any other mythic account and should be treated as such.
If the Genesis account really reflected the Big Bang, it would have read something like this:
1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
In the beginning, God set forth a singularity anomaly that created an explosion that, in turn, created space, time and the elements. Stars and galaxies were eventually created by the process of combining elements and gravity.
2 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.
And the earth was formed from remnants of the star building process and was never a void. Free water eventually was formed from environmental processes and primitive oceans.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
There was already light and no need to divide the light itself since a star that produces the light is totally light and darkness is only a result of the rotation of the planets.
6 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. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.
The firmament was already created on the first day.
9 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. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.
The waters gathered are not all in one place. There are great inland seas and lakes.
Could the ancient Hebrews have "got it right"?
Why would we think that an ancient culture, whose entire universe was not much more than 250 miles in diameter, unlocked the mysteries of the universe? That somehow they were given an intuitive gift by their tribal god that would reveal the big bang cosmology? Certainly if this was the case there should be clear evidence in other places in the Bible where this gift was apparent. Unfortunately there is not. In the story of Joshua, we see proof that the Hebrews had their cosmology backwards. Joshua commanded the sun to stop, but the sun is not moving relative to the earth. It is the earth that moves around the sun. In order for the sun to remain at station, Joshua would have had to command the earth to stop. But the ancient Hebrews knew only of a geocentric solar system. They had no idea that the earth both rotated and revolved around the sun. Clearly they thought the earth stood still while the sun made its daily passes.
And now we are asked to believe and accept that the ancient Hebrews knew the secret to the origin of the universe when they couldn't even figure out the true movements of the earth and sun.
As I was looking for some examples of the differences between the two accounts, I thought of making a list showing how estranged the accounts really are. In this process, I ran into an article by Eugene Y.C. HO called, "Is a Liberal Interpretation of the Creation Story Compatible with Science?" I could not have come up with a better list myself, which, it appears Mr. Ho adapted from Tim Berra's Evolution and the Myth of Creation. I asked the folks at Internet Infidels, who had published the short article, for permission to reprint it but did not receive a response. However, under the "fair-use doctrine," I am going to liberally use some of Ho's excellent article to show how the Genesis story just cannot be reconciled with what science shows us.
Contradictions with Science Despite New Definition: The table below highlights some of the more important astronomical and paleontological events pertinent to our current study. (From: Tim M. Berra, Evolution and the Myth of Creationism, (1990), pp. 35 and 78.)
Big Bang 15,000 Million Years Ago Birth of the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon 4600 Million Years Ago Emergence of Life (Pre-cellular Life) 3800 Million Years Ago Inorganic Release of Trace Amount of Oxygen 3700 Million Years Ago Origin of Photo-synthetic Bacteria 3200 Million Years Ago Advent of Oxygen-rich Atmosphere 2000 Million Years Ago Development of Sexual Reproduction 1100 Million Years Ago Spread of Jawless Fishes 505 Million Years Ago First Amphibians 408 Million Years Ago First Reptiles 360 Million Years Ago First Dinosaurs, Mammallike Reptiles, and Mammals 248 Million Years Ago First Birds 213 Million Years Ago Australopithecus 4 Million Years Ago Homo Habilis 2.5 Million Years Ago Homo Erectus 1.5 Million Years Ago Homo Sapiens 200 Thousand Years Ago Modern Humans 35 Thousand Years Ago
On the other hand, if we now construct a table on the Creation of the Universe and of life on Earth, based on Genesis 1:1 to 2:3 and the Liberal Interpretation thereof, then it would display the following results:
Creation of Day and Night "Epoch" 1 Creation of Heaven "Epoch" 2 Creation of the Earth, the Seas, and the Plants "Epoch" 3 Creation of the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars "Epoch" 4 Creation of Fish and Birds and Hence the Beginning of Sexual Reproduction "Epoch" 5 Creation of Land Animals (Cattle, Insects, Reptiles, Beasts of the Earth, and Man "Epoch" 6 No Further Emergence of Life Forms on Earth "Epoch" 7
Ho continued to state:
What do the two tables tell us? They tell us that the order and time of appearance of things in one table is incompatible with that in the other. And since the tables mutually disagree, either one or even both of them must be false. But the adherents of the Liberal Interpretation do not regard as false the revelations of astronomy, geology, and evolution; they merely redefine, as a concession, the Scriptural "day" so that the Creation narrative does not clash with science. This, then, plainly means that their new definition is wrong! In other words, if they accept the scientific results as summarized in our first table, they must then, by logical necessity, renounce the religious conclusions as outlined in the second table. There is no way for the Genesis account of Creation to fit in with what we know from science.
Every time science makes a new discovery concerning the creation of the universe, theologians bend the Bible to make it fit the new discoveries, but never has a modern scientific discovery regarding creation of our universe fit the biblical model. It is a simplistic reading of Genesis (or any other creation account for that matter) and an uninformed look at the natural processes around us to believe that the ancient Hebrews had some privileged look into the heart of the cosmos. Of course, when faced with this eventual dismantling of their creation account, believers will simple fall back on the old canard and overblown claim that the entire process was a miracle.
Since the instance of creation (and the nature of the universe before creation) remains unexplained, theologians have latched on to this as the place to put God: taking the unknown and making it God's Providence, the argument from ignorance not withstanding. There is not a single event described in Genesis but a number of events of creation when in reality, there was only one creation event and the advent of stars, galaxies, planets, and life are simply a consequence of that first event.
Whether creationists insist on a literal, inerrant reading of Genesis, or the liberal interpretation, neither can compare or be reconciled to what we know about the universe, which once again, leaves Bible believers grasping for straws in order to protect their precious inerrancy doctrine at any price... including intellectual integrity.
Works CitedAn Interview with Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson.
David Adams Leeming, The World of Myth (Oxford, 1990, pp. 17-19, 29-39).
W. Wayt Gibbs, "Profile: George F. R. Ellis," Scientific American, October 1995, Vol. 273, No.4, p. 55.
Eugene Y. C. Ho, "Is a Liberal Interpretation of the Creation Story Compatible with Science?" copyright © 1997 by Eugene Y. C. Ho. All rights reserved. The electronic version is copyright © 1997 by Internet Infidels with the written permission of Eugene Y.C. Ho. All rights reserved.