Hell

If one were to identify the doctrine that deters would-be Christians most, it would be that of hell: usually described as a pit of fire in which souls (dead people) who did not quite measure up are eternally and incessantly tormented in a fire that never consumes them. I don’t think anybody has any doubt that this doctrine practically prevents us (Christians) from ever truly loving God: we can only be scared of him; thus, our so-called religion is, in fact, irreligion because religion is supposed to be conducive to our loving God. How did this bizarre concept creep into our religion?

Religious institutions have no police force to keep their followers in check; not to mention that the afterlife is somewhat remote, and most people naturally tend to ignore anything that is not imminent. So, how do religious leaders make believers behave in this life? They first tell them that God knows everything and keeps records of all wrongs, and then they threaten them with a horrendous punishment in the afterlife. This might work to some extent in practice, but it has the great disadvantage of distancing us from God who, indeed, loves us unconditionally: like the best of parents love their children. They figure that if people are not threatened by punishment, they go out of control. In fact, I hate to imagine what would happen in our cities if there were no police force to keep control: we would probably experience murder, rape, and looting in every street corner. But God is not like that: he is best portrayed as the father in the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11–32)

Hell in the Bible

Now, where do we find this concept of eternal punishment in a fiery pit? Not surprisingly, we find it in the Bible—the assumed source of all our supernatural revelation. Although the vast majority of Christian denominations deem the Bible inerrant, in my book Is the Bible Infallible?, I show, beyond any reasonable doubt, that this is not the case. It is not the scope of this article to prove it anew: it is enough for the reader to have a quick look at my article “Science in the Bible” to see that it is only about 50% right scientifically. Indeed, in this article I shall not even question whatever is written in the Bible and still show how and why we have been misled by our church to believe in the Christian hell.

Old Testament

It might come as a complete surprise to most Christians that the Hebrews, who were the authors of the Bible’s Old Testament, did not even believe in an afterlife almost until the time of Jesus (the New Testament). It’s not that the concept did not occur to them because their next-door neighbors, the Egyptians, buried their kings in pyramids together with their belongings so they could be comfortable in the afterlife: no, the Hebrews simply believed that immortality belongs to God alone. In his book The Hell Jesus Never Intended, Presbyterian pastor Keith Wright affirms,

“Not until the period beginning 300 years before the birth of Jesus [c. 300 BCE] did the Jews begin to develop a concept of an afterlife that included both punishment and reward.” (p. 45)

The turning point was around the harsh religious persecution the Jews experienced from the Hellenistic king Antiochus IV Epiphanes of the Seleucid Empire, which occurred between 175 and 164 BCE. The Jews realized that those who obeyed God’s laws (the Mosaic Law) meticulously ended up dead, while those who disobeyed them (apostatized) got to live another day. God’s justice, therefore, demanded some other form of ‘life’ after death in which everyone is rewarded or punished according to one’s actions in life. Hence, in the book of Daniel, written between 167 and 164 BCE, (NAB, p. 1065; Wright p. 46) we read,

“Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth [died] shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (KJV, Daniel 12:2)

This is probably the one and only reference to an afterlife of some sort, we find in the Christian (i.e., Protestant) Old Testament.

The question of the afterlife was still unsettled in Jesus’s time. In fact, in his book The Antiquities of the Jews, first-century-CE historian Flavius Titus Josephus reports a contemporaneous difference in opinion between three Jewish, religious groups: the Pharisees and Essenes on one side and the Sadducees on the other. (Josephus, bk. 18 ch.1 §§ 2–5; Wright, p. 46) Josephus tells us that the Sadducees still did not believe in the immortality of the soul; we are also told the same thing about the Sadducees in three Gospels (Mark 12:18; Matthew 22:23; Luke 20:27) and in the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 23:8)

New Testament

Matthew’s gospel portrays Jesus speaking about the Last Judgement, (Matthew 25:31–46) in which he ends by saying,

“Then shall he [the Son of Man] say also unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.’ … And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.” (KJV, Matthew 25:41–43, 46, emphasis mine)

Luke’s gospel portrays Jesus telling the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, (Luke 16:19–31) in which the rich man is depicted ending up in ‘hell’ and Lazarus in ‘heaven.’

“And he [the rich man] cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.’” (KJV, Luke 16:24–26, emphasis mine)

And again Matthew portrays Jesus telling his disciples,

“If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt [lame] or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.” (KJV, Matthew 18:8, emphasis mine)

At first blush, it really does seem that there is enough evidence in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, that damned souls are punished eternally and in fire. Moreover, the Gospels portray Jesus (of all people) saying these words: which obviously gives them more weight. However, one must keep in mind that Jesus never wrote a word in our Scriptures: these are the words of the evangelists; and, unfortunately, we don’t even know who these evangelists were (NAB, pp. 10, 69, 96, 143). So, let us have a quick look at some history of the Gospels. (I shall keep calling the evangelists by their traditional names to avoid confusion.)

The Gospels

There were many so called gospels written, but Christianity only recognized four as canonical (i.e., official), and they were written at different times and locations. In his book The Historical Jesus, biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan tells us that Mark’s gospel was written between 70 and 79 CE, Matthew’s gospel was written around 90 CE, Luke’s gospel was written between 90 and 99 CE, and John’s gospel was written between 101 and 125 CE. (Crossan, pp. 429–32) The New American Bible agrees with him to a great extent: it dates Mark’s gospel around 70 CE, Matthew’s gospel after 80 CE, Luke’s gospel between 80 and 90 CE, and John’s gospel between 90 and 100 CE. (NAB, pp. 10, 69, 96, 144) In short, the easiest way to remember when the four canonical Gospels were written is: Mark’s around 70 CE, Matthew’s around 80 CE, Luke’s around 90 CE, and John’s around 100 CE.

It also helps to keep in mind that sympathetic authors tend to mythologize their heroes over time, making them larger than they really were (like Robin Hood or Zorro), especially when there are no more eyewitnesses around to contest what is written because they all died by then. Consequently, generally, the earlier writings tend to be the more accurate, authentic, and reliable.

The three gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke are very similar and the three together are therefore termed the synoptic Gospels. The word synoptic is a combination of two Greek words: syn meaning ‘together,’ and opsis meaning ‘sight’ or ‘view.’ This means that these three gospels saw the life of Jesus from a single point of view. (NAB, p. [22]) Matthew and Luke seem to have used Mark (which is the shortest gospel) as a skeleton account for theirs.

Bible Translations

Needless to mention, not all translations of the Bible are the same. A translation of any literary work loses a lot of its original meaning and forcefulness, simply through the process of translating it—albeit faithfully—even if done at the same time when and in the same place where the original was written; let alone if it’s done centuries later and in a different culture. (In fact, the translation of the Koran from its original language, Arabic, is discouraged because of this phenomenon.) Indeed, any translation of the Bible has been compared to a lion in a cage: it is still a lion but its magnificence is far from that in the wild. Naturally, therefore, the best translations are those made directly from the original languages: not translations of translations of the original text—because some of the meaning is lost every time it is translated. It stands to reason that, in translating (and reading) the Gospels, it is also of primary importance to know the background knowledge and paradigms assumed by the evangelists when they wrote them in order to produce an accurate and faithful translation. Moreover, as far as possible, and as long as the idiomatic meaning is not compromised, it is best to stick to a literal translation of the biblical text. For this reason I have chosen the Berean Literal Bible in most of what follows rather than the King James Bible, which was significantly influenced by prior arguable translations.

Hell in the First Century CE

In his book Why I am a Catholic, Roman Catholic historian Garry Wills opines that the essence of the Apostles’ Creed can be traced back to a first-century declaration of Christian faith. (p. 300) In the Apostles Creed, Christians declare,

“I believe … in Jesus Christ … who … was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead.” (Catholic Online, “Prayers”)

Now, it is ludicrous to conclude from this statement that Jesus entered and stayed in the fires of hell for three partial days between his death and resurrection. Admittedly, some might object that the Apostles’ Creed is not part of the Bible and is therefore not necessarily a source of the so-called Christian revelation. However, it is based on a passage from the First letter of Peter where we read,

“Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring you to God, having been put to death indeed in the flesh, but having been made alive in the spirit, in which also having gone, He preached to the spirits in prison [who] at one time having disobeyed, when the longsuffering of God was waiting in the days of Noah, of the ark being prepared, in which a few—that is, eight souls—were saved through [from] water.” (BLB, 1 Peter 3:18–20, emphasis mine)

So, what exactly did first-century-CE Jews understand by the word ‘hell’? As mentioned above, it is important to read the Bible in the context it was written, not through our modern concept of hell, because the evangelists took certain paradigms of their time for granted when they wrote the gospels.

The Underworld

The underworld, or the netherworld, is another word for what was thought to be the ‘place of the dead’: that is, where dead disembodied souls were believed to keep on existing like zombies; it was also known as Hades in Greek mythology. Greek was the language in which practically all of the New Testament was originally written; it stands to reason that its authors were highly influenced by Greek culture. Hades was technically the god of the underworld, but the underworld later took his name. (Wikipedia, “Hades”) This is probably where the concept of hell being underground on this earth originated from. The underworld, the netherworld, and Hades were, and still are, often mistranslated as ‘hell’ in our Bibles.

Another name for Hades or the underworld is the Hebrew Sheol; the word Sheol also was, and still is, often mistranslated as ‘hell’ in our Bibles: yet, it is just another name for the place of the dead. The souls in there supposedly experienced no feelings of joy or pain, and everybody, good or bad, went there after death. The word Sheol was also used synonymously for the grave or metaphorically for despair. For example, in Psalms we read,

“For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those descending to the Pit. I am like a man without strength. I am forsaken among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom You [God] remember no more, who are cut off from Your care [influence (NAB)].” (BSB, Psalms 88:3–5, emphasis mine)

Notice that in this quote “Sheol” is synonymous to the “grave” or the “pit.” It is important to realize then that, in the Sheol of the Bible, people were supposedly totally disconnected from and forgotten by God. (Wright, p. 43) Recall also that prior to 300 BCE, in Jewish scriptures we find no concept of punishment or reward after death.

However, the Douay-Rheims Version (which is based on the official Roman Catholic Bible—The Latin Vulgate) renders the original word “Sheol” as “hell.” For example the above passage is rendered as,

“For my soul is filled with evils: and my life hath drawn nigh to hell. I am counted among them that go down to the pit: I am become as a man without help, free among the dead. Like the slain sleeping in the sepulchres [tombs], whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cast off from thy hand.” (DRC, Psalms 87:4–6, emphasis mine)

This is where Jesus allegedly went to, according to the Apostles’ Creed and First Peter, for the three partial days between his death and resurrection. In actual fact, therefore, Jesus was simply dead before his Father resurrected him: just like Jesus’s friend Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, was dead for four days. (John 11:1–44) In fact, for several years right after the Second Vatican Council, Catholics changed the above verse from the Apostles’ Creed slightly to “He descended to the dead” instead of “He descended into hell.” (I think “He descended to the dead” renders the original concept better, but for some strange reason it was lately changed back.)

Gehenna

The word ‘Gehenna’ is the English rendering of the Hebrew phrase Ge-Hinnom, meaning ‘valley of Hinnom,’ which was a small valley west and south of Jerusalem where all of the city’s garbage was burnt. Prior to its becoming a garbage dump, child sacrifices to the Ammonite god Moloch and the Canaanite god Baal were performed at that location in the time of the Hebrew king Solomon in the tenth century BCE and Judah’s kings Ahaz and Manasseh between 700 and 600 BCE; (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online & Wikipedia, “Gehenna”) thus prompting Jeremiah to portray God cursing that valley. (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:2–6)

Now, let us examine some gospel quotes involving Gehenna. (I shall use the Berean Literal Bible translations in this section for better accuracy and fidelity.) Matthew portrays Jesus saying,

“I say to you that everyone being angry with his brother will be liable to the [local (NAB note)] judgment, and whoever shall say to his brother ‘Raca’ [Imbecile/Blockhead (NAB note)], will be liable to the Sanhedrin [highest Jewish religious court]. But whoever shall say, ‘Fool!’ will be liable to the Gehenna of fire.” (BLB, Matthew 5:22)

Notice the progression of culpability in the above quote: Gehenna seems to be the ultimate punishment for Jesus. (NAB, Matthew 5:22n) But then, one might ask, why would a valley near Jerusalem be a place of ultimate punishment? The same chapter, of the same gospel, portrays Jesus adding,

“If your right eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and cast it from you. For it is better for you that one of your members should perish and not that your whole body should be cast into Gehenna. … If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and cast it from you, for it is better for you that one of your members should perish and not that your whole body should depart into Gehenna.” (BLB, Matthew 5:29–30, emphasis mine)

Later, the same gospel portrays Jesus making threats that are almost identical to the above quote, but try to detect the most significant difference in the following quote.

“If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; it is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. … If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and cast it from you; it is better for you to enter into life one-eyed, than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire.” (BLB, Matthew 18:8–9, emphasis mine)

These last two quotes express practically the same concept, but notice how the first “Gehenna” of the first quote changed to “eternal fire” in the second quote: they are used synonymously by the author (Matthew). Now, recall and keep in mind that according to biblical scholar John Crossan, these passages were written around 90 CE. (p. 430) No doubt, this last quote was paraphrased from the following passage in Mark, which was written a decade or two earlier according to Crossan: recall that Mark’s gospel was written between 70 and 79 CE. (Crossan, pp. 429–30)

“If your hand should cause you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than having two hands to go away into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. … If your foot should cause you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than having the two feet, to be cast into Gehenna. … If your eye should cause you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into Gehenna, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’” (BLB, Mark 9:43–48, emphasis mine)

Notice how the phrase “unquenchable fire” in Mark’s earlier gospel was subsequently upgraded to “eternal fire” in Matthew’s gospel a decade or so later. “Unquenchable” means it does not stop burning until it burns itself out; “eternal” means it never ends. This is a big difference in interpretation, especially if a book is promoted to ‘divine’ status later. My question to the Bible-inerrancy believer is: which gospel would constitute the infallible Word of God, the former or the latter?

Moreover, the embedded quote at the end of Mark’s passage originally comes from the book of Isaiah, where we read,

“As they go forth, they will see the corpses of the men who have rebelled against Me [God]; for their worm will never die [cease], their fire will never be quenched, and they will be a horror to all mankind.” (BSB, Isaiah 66:24)

The embedded quote from Isaiah is repeated three times (for measure) in some manuscripts of Mark’s gospel: that is, in verses 44, 46, and 48. The New American Bible comments that verses 44 and 46 are “lacking in some important early manuscripts.” (NAB, Mark 9:44, 46n) Talk about trying to shove one’s opinion down everyone else’s throat!

However, all that Isaiah’s original verse means is that the corpses of God’s enemies shall lie dead outside the city walls in a filthy rubbish dump, where maggots and worms decomposed them, and where huge fires that were constantly burning eventually consumed them. Isaiah was talking about corpses, not disembodied souls. According to the Got Questions website Isaiah’s passage was written prior to 680 BCE: (“Summary of the Book of Isaiah”) at which time the Jews still did not believe in an afterlife. At that time, the worst thing that could happen to a person was not to be duly buried: that one’s corpse would be thrown among the city’s garbage, say, where it is eaten by scavenging animals or birds, slowly decomposed by worms, or burnt by fire. There was no end to worms and fires there—this was the Jews’ concept of hell back then.

Interestingly enough, although the synoptic Gospels normally repeat what Mark had said because they are based on Mark as skeleton, Luke totally omits this passage: which makes one think that, for some reason, he did not agree with it.

Confirming what I am saying here, recall what Pastor Wright affirms in his book ,

“Not until the period beginning 300 years before the birth of Jesus [c. 300 BCE] did the Jews begin to develop a concept of afterlife that included both punishment and reward. (p. 45)

Now, it does not look like the concept of hell in the first century CE (i.e., in the 70s CE—Mark’s gospel—or around 90 CE—Matthew’s gospel) was much different either. Recall that first-century-CE historian Flavius Josephus reported a contemporaneous disagreement between three Jewish, religious groups: the Pharisees and Essenes on one side and the Sadducees on the other. We are told that the Sadducees still did not believe in the immortality of the soul; (Wright, p. 46) we are also told the same thing about the Sadducees in the synoptic Gospels (Mark 12:18; Matthew 22:23; Luke 20:27) and Acts. (Acts 23:8)

The word “Gehenna” was, and still is, often mistranslated as “hell” in our Bibles. However, it was simply a valley south and west of Jerusalem where the city’s garbage was dumped and where the fires that burnt the garbage never went out: there was always enough garbage being added on to keep it burning. This is probably how the concept of “unquenchable fire”, and subsequently “everlasting fire”, entered our modern concept of hell! Confirm what I am saying, the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online states,

“The imagery of the burning of humans supplied the concept of ‘hellfire’ to Jewish and Christian eschatology [last things] … a place in which fire will destroy the wicked.” (“Gehenna”)

Pastor Wright makes it even clearer in his book; he writes,

“In … these passages, the word Jesus uses for Hell is ‘Gehenna’—an area just outside Jerusalem where garbage was dumped and where the fires that burned that garbage never went out. This is possibly how the idea of eternal fires entered the concept of Hell.” (p. 28)

This is the kind of thing that happens over time: one loses the key connection with the culture of the place where and time when certain things were said or written. Then the church, centuries later, autonomously declares the Bible infallible: probably because it has no real source of divine revelation for a template to follow; finally one comes to believe in the literal faulty translation of that particular passage.

It is clear then, that in the above passages, Jesus is not talking about our present understanding of hell; he is just using a contemporaneous concept hyperbolically to accentuate importance. That is, if he ever uttered these words: I mean, assuming they are not just scare tactics orchestrated by the evangelists to keep their congregation in check.

Interpretation of Scriptures

In his book The Hell Jesus Never Intended, Presbyterian pastor Keith Wright opines,

“Jesus used the promise of Heaven and the threat of Hell just as the prophets of Israel and the Jewish leaders in the 1st and 2nd century BC had used them.” (p. 48)

He is not the only one who thinks so, of course. Commenting on the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) in its e-book An Introduction to Bible Prophecy, the Evangelical Christian denomination Grace Communion International has,

“It is not there to paint us a portrait of heaven and hell. It is a parable of judgement against the unbelieving Israelite leadership and the unkind rich, using common Jewish imagery of the afterlife (Hades and ‘being with Abraham’) as a literary backdrop to make the point. In other words, Jesus is not commenting on the validity of Jewish imagery of the afterlife; he was simply using that imagery as scenery for his story. Jesus was not satisfying our itching curiosities about what heaven and hell must be like.” (p. 104/154)

Moreover, in his book Eternal Life? Catholic theologian Hans Küng writes,

“The New Testament statements about Hell are not meant to supply information about a hereafter to satisfy curiosity or fantasy. They are meant to bring vividly before us here and now the absolute seriousness of God’s claim and the urgency of conversion in the present life.” (p. 141)

Although they strongly believe in the same Bible, marginal Christian churches like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the United Church of God do not believe in the Christian hell, either. Across the board, therefore, Christianity agrees that we cannot tell anything about the afterlife from what we find written in the New Testament: in other words, we cannot take it literally.

Eternity

Now, let me give the reader just a rough idea of what eternity is. Imagine all the sands of the earth, from every conceivable place, gathered in one place. Imagine a bird picking a grain of sand every thousand years and placing it on the moon. When all the sands of the earth are thus transported to the moon, the first second of eternity has not passed yet! One may substitute a million, a billion, a trillion years, or any other time interval, for the thousand-year interval between any two sand grains being transported to the moon; the conclusion will always be the same: the first second of eternity has not passed yet.

Meanwhile, if a soul happens to be in hell, it is allegedly suffering unbearable pain in fire—every single second. Can we, as humans, fully understand and commit a sin that deserves such a punishment? Not to mention that some of the sins deemed grave by the church seem so trivial (e.g., masturbation, non-abortive contraception, and missing Sunday Mass). Obviously, the punishment does not fit the crime. Do you think God could be so cruel? Or, maybe, we are more compassionate and merciful than God? In his book, Pastor Write asks whether we don’t honestly feel, deep inside our being, that something is wrong with this kind of reasoning—that we might be more compassionate than God. (p. 14) The idea that God is capable of punishing people forever is a serious obstacle to the concept of a loving God and is inconsistent with many Bible passages that describe God as all-merciful, for example,

“Then the LORD passed in front of Moses and called out: ‘The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and faithfulness, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.’” (BSB, Exodus 34:6–7)

Moreover, we have corroborating evidence of God’s kindness in our everyday life too. Pain is necessary to force us to protect our bodies from harm, but isn’t it strange that when someone is extremely hurt physically, one goes unconscious and doesn’t feel anything anymore? This seems to me a sign of kindness on God’s part: it seems he cannot stomach seeing us suffer excessively. By the same token, I contend God cannot take seeing us suffer burning in hell for all eternity if he cannot take it for more than a few minutes. So, even the evidence from life makes me seriously question the reality of the Christian hell.

Marginal Christianity

In order to find the truth about hell, we cannot refer to mainstream Christianity: I think it’s a good idea to use reason in evaluating the beliefs of marginal Christian denominations. The United Church of God, for example, is a marginal Christian Church that does not believe in the eternity of hell. Although, like most of Christianity, the United Church of God believes in the infallibility of the Bible, it still rightly asks whether the concept of a loving God could be reconciled with the concept of a God punishing many eternally in a fiery hell.

In its booklet Heaven & Hell, it asks us to imagine lighting a match and try holding a finger on the little flame for just five seconds. The pain will be unbearable, not to mention the physical damage it will cause—which (strangely enough) supposedly is not the case in hell. Then it asks us to imagine ourselves being trapped in a fire and feeling such pain all over our body for a minute, a year, a lifetime, and eternity. It is horrible to imagine that God, whom we adore and respect, could do something like that to any human being, let alone to a multitude of people who die every day: people who probably tried their best to obey his commandments for most of their life but failed sometimes. How then, it asks, some of us can reconcile such behavior with the infinitely loving God described in the Bible? It concludes that something must be amiss. (Heaven & Hell, p. 15) Naturally, the United Church of God’s answers to these questions are far from what mainstream Christianity teaches; Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with the United Church of God’s doctrine, and so do I.

However, at the same time, the United Church of God is quick to point out that, still, it does not mean that God’s justice will allow the wicked to go unpunished, and it quotes the book of Revelation to this effect.

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” (KJV, Revelation 21:8, emphasis mine)

The ‘first’ death is the death we are familiar with; the “second death” supposedly corresponds to God’s total annihilation of the person, byburning the wicked person in fire after a temporary resurrection. After this “second death” one cannot be resurrected again: one is annihilated. As the United Church of God goes on to explain in its booklet,

“This verse and others like it show that the doctrine of universal salvation is false. Not everyone will be saved. Some will, in the end, refuse to repent—and they will suffer punishment. But that punishment is not to burn in fire without ending. Rather, it is to die a death from which there is no resurrection.” (Heaven & Hell, p. 26)

I think this makes much more sense than what mainstream Christianity teaches. In his book The God of Hope and the End of the World, theoretical physicist, theologian, and Anglican priest John Polkinghorne writes,

“If hell is the place where the divine life has been deliberately excluded, then some have thought that its inhabitants will eventually fade away into nothingness, because the divine Spirit [‘the giver of life’ (Nicene Creed)] has habitually been denied its sustaining work in their lives. There is some persuasiveness in this notion of annihilation … though it would also represent the final creaturely defeat of the divine purpose of love. It is hard to know what to think.” (Polkinghorne, p. 137, emphasis mine)

In other words, annihilation of the damned soul makes some theological sense. If hell is a place where the Holy Spirit, who is also described as the Spirit of Life, is deliberately denied its sustaining work, then the inhabitants of hell will eventually fade away into nothingness: they are annihilated. This would be the creature’s final defeat of Divine Love, so to speak—which does not make much sense either. So, like Pastor Wright, I believe that God’s love will always be victorious in the end: consequently, hell will eventually be empty (p. 115).

For decades I used to think that God, in his kindness, might give sinners a choice between existence and non-existence; but, in fact, we are given no choice in being born. Some Christians, trying to defend God and their church’s doctrine, maintain it is better to exist in a fiery hell for all eternity than not to exist at all: so, they argue, people (or souls, rather) would prefer to suffer eternal punishment than be annihilated. Nobody can deny that defiance and hatred are strange motivators for choosing existence to annihilation; but personally, I must totally disagree with such a hypothetical choice: I think it is simply nonsense—in the long run (eternity) one will have to give up.

Vengeful Wishful Thinking

Christians who suffered harsh persecution for their faith often consoled themselves that God would even things out in the afterlife: so, the concept of an eternal fiery hell as punishment for these unbelievers resonated with them. Christians who were tortured and killed must have thought: “We suffer now, but your turn will come in the next life when God will even things out, and he will pay you tenfold, hundredfold, thousandfold … no, eternally.” Thus, the concept of eternal punishment in a fiery hell sprung from the vengeful wishful thinking of persecuted Christians. And what manner of punishment will God use? The most painful and scary to both humans and animals—fire. Thus, a fiery hell in which sinners and unbelievers are punished eternally was created: clearly, however, the concept existed only in their minds—Christianity is not a truth factory.

Some readers might think this is only my fantasy running away with me. Lest the reader think so, let me quote from the United Church of God’s booklet again.

“Other aspects of the traditional teaching of hell simply offend the senses. One such belief is that righteous people, who are saved, will be able to witness the torments of the wicked. As one author [Walker] explains the view some hold, (Heaven & Hell, p. 18)

“Part of the happiness of the blessed consists in contemplating the torments of the damned. This sight gives them joy because it is a manifestation of God’s justice and hatred of sin, but chiefly because it provides a contrast which heightens their awareness of their own bliss.” (Walker, p. 29)

“This scenario is especially revolting for several reasons. According to such twisted reasoning, parents would inevitably witness the suffering of their own children and vice versa, relishing in it. Husbands and wives would feel joy in seeing unbelieving spouses tortured forever. Worst of all, the doctrine paints God as sadistic, cruel and merciless.” (Heaven & Hell, pp. 18–19)

The concept of evil people suffering may fly high in our imagination when we think of extremely evil people, people who persecute us because of our religion, or even our enemies, but not for our family and friends. Keep in mind, however, that God loves everyone, good and bad: he lets the sun shine and the rain pour on everyone, good and bad; (Matthew 5:45) not to mention that evil people were once innocent children, toddlers, and babies. God loves them like their mother loves them. (Isaiah 49:15; 66:13) He hates the evil they do, but he still loves them: like a parent hates a disease oppressing a child, but still loves the child.

The sad fact is that the concept of eternal punishment in a fiery hell has turned Christianity into a religion of fear, and I intend to fight the concept of the Christian hell until I die. Had Christianity stuck to an equitable punishment for one’s lifetime evil deeds by a just and impartial God, it would have cut a much better figure since, deep down, most people (if not all) are willing to pay a fair price for their shortcomings. It would also have been much more attractive for outsiders to join in, but that is the way we want our God to be—violent and vindictive like us.

It seems that little does Christianity care that by teaching an eternal fiery hell, it is distancing believers from having a personal relationship with God; which is probably what we are here on earth for—the whole meaning of our life on earth—as I argue in my book, Is God a Reality? (pp. 361–68) Believers become so intimidated by God that it is impossible for them to love him freely. Yet the Catechism of the Catholic Church insists, “We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him.” (p. 221 ¶ 1033) How can one “freely choose to love” a God capable of creating a fiery hell to punish people eternally? One can only fear him, but fear and love do not mix well: love cannot be forced. If hell truly existed, one would practically be forced to comply: there would be no freedom of action. It is similar to torturing someone during an interrogation or a trial: one cannot be sure of the truth.

Consequently, I believe the only punishment in hell is separation from God: simply because it cannot be helped if one decides to make such a choice; it is the nature of the beast: “One cannot have a cake and eat it too.” Jesus never intended to preach a violent, vindictive God to us. One thing we know he taught us, for sure, is that God is a loving Father: a loving father would not punish his children eternally; his anger would eventually subside. One would know this instinctively if one happens to be a good, loving parent. Not surprisingly, the United Church of God agrees with what I have been saying above: its booklet says,

“The idea that God sentences people to eternal punishment is so repulsive that it has turned some away from belief in God and Christianity.” (Heaven & Hell, p. 18)

I do not think anybody could question this statement. It adds that Charles Darwin was one of those who chose this route. I would say it is many people, not just some, that were and are being turned away from Christianity because of this repulsive doctrine—especially intelligent people. The sad consequence has been that, unlike the past, nowadays, most scientists do not even believe in God. And, if we keep this up, soon there will hardly be anybody left in our pews!

Separation from God

Separation from God is probably similar to the feeling of losing a loved one, being separated from a loved one, or being rejected by a loved one. The problem is that not everybody has had such an experience, and therefore not everyone can understand how awful it can feel. I suggest reading A Grief Observed, by C. S. Lewis, to get some idea.

According to Christian doctrine, God is the only one who can ultimately really make us happy and satisfy all our emotional needs. Separation from God may be described as a continuous, gradual consumption or depletion of our very being. Perhaps, ‘burning inside by a non-consuming fire’ is the best imagery to describe separation from God: consisting of an interior and exterior consumption by despair and almost physical pain. It is probably the best description that approximates the reality and seriousness of the situation in hell—possibly one that some of us might understand.

Pastor Wright describes how religious affairs commentator Karen Armstrong, while she was a nun, struggled within herself to dispense with the love of and attachment to other people but was unsuccessful. Wright tells us, “She remembered that the theologians had said that Hell is not really a pit filled with fire.” (Wright, p. 88) He then quotes from Armstrong’s book Through the Narrow Gate:

“It is far more terrible than that [fire]. It is the endurance of oneself forever and ever with no alleviation at all. You’ve chosen yourself instead of God, so God gives you yourself. But this time without anything or anyone to distract you. Just you on your own.” (p. 137)

No doubt, it is a terrible situation to be in; but the ‘non-consuming fire’ is still symbolic, and I think most people would prefer it to the physical pain of burning in fire. Whatever it is, the church should be honest and straightforward about things—not try to scare believers—and it should revise and correct old misconceptions from time to time (quit being dogmatic). Of course, it is not wrong for the church to try to explain the intense psychological pain we might experience being separated from God; but at least its teaching would be consistent with the evidence we have from the grave: the body remains there, and so no physical pain is possible. Besides, it does not portray God as a merciless tormentor.

In conclusion, apart from the absence of physical fire in hell, another key difference between my concept of hell and the church’s teaching is that it is a voluntary separation, and therefore it does not necessarily have to be eternal. The soul decides, for some reason or other, to remain separated from God: God does not send it there because he judges it unworthy of his presence, but I do not preclude the possibility that a soul might judge itself to be unworthy to join God for a while, or simply refusing to join him. Recall the parable of the prodigal son: the father in the parable was always waiting for his spendthrift son to come back to him; in fact, he spots him at a distance. (Luke 15:20) Frankly, I concede I don’t know why it would take a soul so long, but then how can a spirit be reconciled with the concept of time? A spirit seems to exist in a fourth dimension, where time is another (fourth) variable (not fixed)—like the space we move around in: just as we can move around from one place to another, a spirit can move around in time (I surmise without changing things considerably). So, like Pastor Wright, I believe that hell will eventually be empty. (Wright, p. 115)

References

Armstrong, Karen. Through the Narrow Gate. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.

Attard, Carmel Paul. Is God a Reality?—A Scientific Investigation. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2017. (ISBN: 9781532012228.)

Attard, Carmel Paul. Is the Bible Infallible?—A Rational, Scientific, and Historical Evaluation. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2019. (ISBN: 9781532078446.)

Berean Study Bible. (BSB) Glassport, PA: Bible Hub, 2016.

Catholic Online, “Prayers: The Apostles’ Creed,” accessed January 6, 2021, https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=220.

Catholic Online, “Prayers: The Nicene Creed,” accessed January 11, 2021, https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=495.

Crossan, John Dominic. The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. New York, NY: HarperOne, 1992. (ISBN: 9780060616298.)

Enclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Gehenna,” last updated April 25, 2013, accessed January 8, 2021, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Gehenna.

Got Questions, “Summary of the Book of Isaiah,” last updated May 2, 2020, accessed January 9, 2021, https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Isaiah.html.

Grace Communion International. An Introduction to Bible Prophecy. Charlotte, NC: Grace Communion International, 2016. (E-book)

Jerome of Stridon. The Vulgate. 405 CE.

Josephus, Flavius Titus. The Antiquities of the Jews. C. 93 CE. Translated by William Whiston in October 2001. Produced by David Reed in a Project Gutenberg e-book, posted January 4, 2009.

Küng, Hans. Eternal Life? Life After Death as a Medical, Philosophical, and Theological Problem. Translated by Edward Quinn. New York, NY: Image Books, 1984.

Lewis, Clive Staples (C. S.). A Grief Observed. London, UK: Faber and Faber, 1961.

Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Translated by Concacan Inc. Ottawa, ON: Publications Service, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1994. (ISBN: 0889972818)

New American Bible: Revised Edition (NAB). Translated from the original languages, authorized by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and approved by the United States Confraternity of Catholic Bishops. Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2010. (ISBN: 9780899429519.)

Polkinghorne, John. The God of Hope and the End of the World. New Haven, CT & London, UK: Yale University Press, 2002.

The Holy Bible: Berean Literal Bible. (BLB) Bible Hub, 2016. https://literalbible.com/.

The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version. Revised by Richard Challoner (DRC). Douay & Rheims, France, 1752.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. (KJV) Oxford, UK, 1769.

The Latin Vulgate. The Bible translated into Latin by Jerome of Stridon in 405 CE.

United Church of God. Heaven & Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? Milford, OH: United Church of God, 2009.

Walker, Daniel Pickering. The Decline of Hell: Seventeenth-Century Discussions of Eternal Torment. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1964.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Gehenna,” last edited January 7, 2021, accessed January 8, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gehenna.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Hades,” last edited January 2, 2021, accessed January 8, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hades.

Wills, Garry. Why I Am a Catholic. New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2003. (ISBN: 0618380485.)

Wright, Keith. The Hell Jesus Never Intended. Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing, 2004. (ISBN: 1896836658)

Noah’s Ark

“Noah’s Ark”—Image by Hany Alashkar from Pixabay

This article investigates whether all the animals (including those extinct) could have fitted in the size of Noah’s ark as given in the biblical text. It also deals with whether it is plausible that Noah and his family performed all the tasks God gave him within the time allotted in the biblical text.

For the benefit of the reader who is unfamiliar with the biblical account of the Noah’s Ark and the Flood, I quote below the salient passages in the Bible’s (first) book of Genesis. Should the reader want to read the entire account prior to this discussion, it can be found in Genesis 6:5–9:17. I do not think it is necessary, but it might be a good idea if the reader never read the biblical text.

Discrepancy

According to Genesis, because of the excessive wickedness that ensued on earth after nine human generations, God decides to destroy all of humanity by means of a global flood—except for righteous Noah and his family. So God instructs Noah to construct an ark and to take with him into this ark his family and a male-female pair of every kind of land and flying animal.

Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” (KJV, Genesis 6:19–20, emphasis mine)

However, we soon seem to encounter a discrepancy, if not a contradiction, in the biblical account: just four verses later God gives Noah a different instruction.

“Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.” (KJV, Genesis 7:2–3, emphasis mine)

Here, it looks like God has changed his mind because he now wants Noah to rescue seven pairs of every kind of “clean” and flying animal; whereas, previously, he only requested one pair of every land and flying animal. Note also that God fails to mention the “creeping” animals this time. So, which one would be the ‘Word’ of God: the first instruction or the second?

Now, focus on the phrase “clean beast” in the last quote: it needs to be addressed before I proceed with my discussion. The word “clean” is an anachronism here: it had no meaning at the time of Noah. In other words, God could not have just given Noah such an instruction: Noah would not have understood what “clean beast” meant; God would have had to explain its meaning.

According to the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 8:3, 11:3 & Deuteronomy 14:6), “clean” animals have their hoof cloven in two and chew the cud (partly digested food of animals with a dual stomach): examples of clean animals are cattle, sheep, and deer; examples of unclean animals are pigs, camels, and hares. “Clean” birds or “fowl” are not defined exactly in the Mosaic Law (see Leviticus 11:13–19 & Deuteronomy 14:11–18), but roughly, they seem to be birds that can be domesticated: examples of clean birds are chickens, ducks, and pigeons; examples of unclean birds are crows, owls, and vultures (i.e., birds of prey)—including the bat.

It might come as a complete surprise to many Christians and Jews that Moses was not really the author of Genesis: like practically all Bible books, we do not know who its author was; in actual fact, there were several authors putting in their two cents’ worth into it. According to the biblical scholars of the New American Bible, for example, the above discrepancy in God’s instructions shows a difference of opinion between biblical authors commonly referred to as Priestly and Yahwist, respectively. The latter thought additional inventory of clean animals and birds was necessary for kosher food and sacrifices.

“For the Priestly source (P), there is no distinction between clean and unclean animals until Sinai (Leviticus 11), no altars or sacrifice until Sinai, and all diet is vegetarian (Genesis 1:29–30); even after the flood P has no distinction between clean and unclean, since ‘any living creature that moves about’ may be eaten (Genesis 9:3). Thus P has Noah take the minimum to preserve all species, one pair of each, without distinction between clean and unclean, but he must also take on provisions for food (Genesis 6:21). The Yahwist source (J), which assumes the clean-unclean distinction always existed but knows no other restriction on eating meat (Abel was a shepherd and offered meat as a sacrifice [Genesis 4:4]), requires additional clean animals (‘seven pairs’) for food and sacrifice (Genesis 7:2–3; 8:20).” (New American Bible, Genesis 6:19–21n)

So, they both inserted their opinion in Genesis: clearly showing the Bible is a human rather than a divine book. The Douay-Rheims Bible, tries to justify this anachronism by commenting on this verse,

“The distinction of clean and unclean beasts appears to have been made before the law of Moses, which was not promulgated till the year of the world 2514.” (Douay-Rheims Bible, Genesis 7:2n)

This is nonsense, of course. According to the Answers in Genesis website, the Flood allegedly occurred in the “year of the world” 1656 (Wright & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_flood_narrative): that is, more than 850 years earlier. To say that people knew the difference between clean and unclean animals and birds more than eight centuries prior to the Mosaic Law (as the Douay-Rheims Bible contends) is hardly convincing. Anyway, the modern (2010) New American Bible scholars disagree with the much older Douay Rheims Bible scholars (1752).

Naturally, both the discrepancy in God’s command in the Genesis text itself and the anachronistic slip not only undermine the veracity Noah’s Flood account but also of the Bible’s being God’s infallible Word.

Ark Size

A question often asked by most Christians is: could all the different land and flying animals, including extinct species (such as dinosaurs and pterosaurs) have fitted into Noah’s ark? How big was his ark? Luckily, we are told the size, the exact dimensions in fact, of the ark in Genesis. God instructs Noah,

“This is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.” (KJV, Genesis 6:15–16).

According to both the Douay-Rheims Bible and the New American Bible, a cubit, literally ‘forearm’ in Hebrew, is almost a foot and a half long.

“[The] Hebrew ‘cubit,’ literally ‘forearm,’ is the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, about eighteen inches (a foot and a half). The dimensions of Noah’s ark were approximately 440x73x44 feet.” (New American Bible, Genesis 6:15n.)

Now, the size of an American football pitch is 360 feet long and 160 feet wide. So Noah’s ark, although somewhat longer than a football pitch, was much narrower and had a total area of just over half (c. 55.8%) of it. However, the ark had three stories: still the total floor area would have been about one and two-thirds (c. 1.67) times that of an American football pitch or slightly more than (c. 1.19 times) that of a soccer field (360×225 ft.). Imagine someone trying to fit all the various pairs of land and flying animals (both living and extinct), not to mention another six pairs of every clean animal and domestic bird, in less than two American football pitches (or in just over the size of a soccer field): Noah’s ark would have been quite crowded.

Enough Room?

Still, some readers might not be convinced yet: I concede it might not be that easy to tell, off hand, whether it was possible or not; and it has been the subject of much controversy. However, as I shall show presently, most books one reads about the subject admit that Noah’s ark would have become impossibly crowded were it to house all animal and bird species, let alone their numerous varieties: there does not seem to be any disagreement in this respect even among Bible inerrantists.

Since Bible inerrantists do not believe in macroevolution (I don’t, either—you may want to read my article on “Evolution”), a second related question they are often asked is: did Noah take into his ark all the animal species including varieties? So, Bible inerrantists came up with the concept of “kind” of animals: which is the word Genesis uses, for example, in a verse we already encountered.

“Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” (KJV, Genesis 6: 20, emphasis mine)

According to Bible inerrantists, the word “kind” needs some explanation: they contend it is somewhat like the classification of the term family in modern taxonomy. Dogs and wolves, for example, belong to the canine (dog) family; lions and tigers belong to the feline (cat) family, and so on. In other words, although dogs and wolves are not of the same species, they can still mate and breed with one another: mating and breeding seems to be, roughly, the dividing line in the biblical term kind. The same argument, of course, applies to the feline (cat) family (lions, tigers, leopards, domestic cats, etc.) as well as a whole bunch of other animal families we may not be so familiar with. Besides species, of course, there are varieties: all dogs, for example, are of the same species, but there are countless varieties of dogs; likewise, domestic cats, pigeons, finches, and so on. Consequently, the Ark Encounter website tries to explain what happened on Noah’s ark as follows:

“Was every species on the Ark? No. Species is a term used in the modern classification system. The Bible uses the term ‘kind.’ The created kind was a much broader category than the modern term of classification, species. The biblical concept of created ‘kind’ probably most closely corresponds to the family level in current taxonomy. A good rule of thumb is that if two things can breed together, then they are of the same created kind. It is a bit more complicated, but this is a good quick measure of a kind. There can be a tremendous amount of variation within a created kind. For example, various types of dogs, such as wolves, dingoes, coyotes, jackals, and domestic dogs, can often breed with one another.” (Ark Encounter)

So, it seems that, as I already pointed out above, also this apologetic website agrees that Noah’s ark could not even contain all the various species of animals, never mind varieties. The very fact that Bible inerrantists resort to this kind of explanation, I take as their admission (and enough proof) that Noah’s ark would have been too crowded had he taken into the ark a pair of all the different species.

Of course, I cannot see who or what gives this website, or anyone else, the right to define or interpret an ordinary word like “kind” this way: as opposed to species or even varieties for that matter: personally, I do not buy it. Interpretation is not really what the Bible says: nothing beats the written word. To me, a cat is a different “kind” of animal from a tiger, so is a dog a different “kind” of animal from a wolf, and so is a Chihuahua a different “kind” of animal from a Great Dane. If I were Noah, forgive my ignorance, I would not know any better; nor do I think this proposal holds water for the honest reader. The concept of “kind” as defined here is a stretched meaning resorted to by Bible inerrantists: as is usually the case with apologists trying to hold on to biblical inerrancy. Rather than admitting to what, deep down, they would think is the case (the truth) in a discussion unrelated to the Bible, they propose bizarre explanations in defending it.

So basically, without special so-called interpretations of the biblical text, we have another contradiction in the biblical text itself: namely, that Noah could not possibly carry out God’s command in the space allotted to him by the biblical text itself. I wonder why God could not foresee such a dilemma and make things a bit clearer for us, so it could be more easily believable. Possibly, all he had to do was add the ‘breeding’ requirement the Ark Encounter website proposes—that is, if the reader buys into its explanation. Or maybe, the Bible is not a divine book at all, but only a human book, like all the rest. Anyway, let me go along with the Ark Encounter’s concept of ‘kind’ for the time being.

Controversy

Not surprisingly, many biologists object, one way or another, to this concept of ‘kind.’ For example, professional biologist Richard A. Meiss, PhD, from Speedway, Indiana, USA, objected vehemently to an aired program in June 2001 in which creationists claimed that all the canine species (wolves, jackals, foxes, dogs, etc.) evolved, in some four thousand years, from only one (male-female) pair of animals. So, he wrote to them,

“As I understand it, you are contending that the whole array of canine species, from wolves to jackals to foxes to canis familiaris arose in approximately 4,000 years from the genetic potential in just two animals [Noah’s ark pair of animals]. As a professional biologist, I can tell you that this is preposterous and points up the superficiality of your arguments. Since you deny the role of mutation in adding information to the genome, how do you account for the wide range of present-day traits arising from two individual genomes which could have had only two copies of each gene between them? Such silliness will certainly not give you any credibility to those who are unconvinced (and are competent scientists), and most of your true believers lack the scientific background to assess the validity of your spurious claims.” (Batten)

In other words, a professional biologist rates the whole concept as incredulous nonsense that knowledgeable scientists would never buy into: he contends that they are simply fooling non-scientifically-oriented believers with outrageous hypotheses. Another professional biologist Don Batten, PhD, of the Creation Ministries International in Australia responded to the above letter,

“Two genomes (male and female) could have four different alleles [gene varieties] between them for each gene locus [location], not two. … There are probably some 30,000 genes in a wolf/dog …. Let’s be [ultra-conservative and] assume (as you claimed) that there were only two types of allele per locus, and that there was no codominance [i.e., an either-or inheritance] so only two phenotypes [visible traits] per locus, and there was only 1% heterozygosity [different alleles] in wolves/dogs (… [it’s] 6.7% in humans …), the number of possible varieties would be [230000/100 =] 2300 = 10300(log2) = 1090. … This number … makes the number of atoms in the universe [1080] seem … tiny … 1090/1080 = 1010 (10 billion) times larger!” (Batten)

Numbers never lie, of course. The above might be theoretically correct, as far as it goes, but is it true in practice? We have a difference of opinion between experts here which is usually tough to resolve.

From a scientist’s point of view, however, what I see lacking in Batten’s reply, is how long, in his estimate, it would take for a pair of dogs/wolves to produce all the canine (dog) family species and varieties we see today—he seems capable enough dealing with numbers. I mean, although the above might not be a big deal in the mindset of evolutionary theorists, I find that Bible inerrantists try to have it both ways here. According to them, only about 4,400 years (Wright) have elapsed since the alleged Flood—not millions or billions of years. Is their hypothesis above consistent with this limitation? Can all these dog species and varieties have evolved in less than 4,400 years? Assuming a gestation (pregnancy) period of about two months for dogs, allows six generations per year: giving only about 4,400×6 = 26,400 generations since the alleged flood.

Now, evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski’s Escherichia coli bacteria long-term experiment, involving twelve groups/tribes, has been running since February 1988 under ideal conditions for Darwinian evolution to kick in, namely, daily cycles of bonanza followed by starvation. It has reached 73,500 generations in early 2020, but there was no significant change in the genome except for one of the twelve groups—which happened after more than 31,000 generations. All twelve groups showed improvement in fitness: they grew larger in size, became more efficient at assimilating food and reproduction, but nothing else to write home about. That is, except for the one group, of course, which developed the ability to assimilate citrate (C6H8O7-3) in the presence of oxygen—something never experienced before with E. coli (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment).

Admittedly, bacteria reproduction, unlike that of dogs, is asexual, which will presumably decrease variability in reproduction and hence the probability of change (evolution). However, unlike Noah’s alleged single couple, twelve groups were used in Lenski’s bacteria experiment, and, according to calculations I show in my book Is God a Reality? (pp. 163–65), in every group the daily bacteria population started the day at around one million (106) and ended the day at around one hundred million (108). Thus the odds for random change have been increased significantly in the bacteria experiment: enough to more than compensate for its being an asexual reproduction, I would say. Recall that genome change can only twiddle its thumbs until random mutation kicks in and produces something preferable, or at least viable; moreover, the odds for random mutation to occur depend on both the total population and the number of generations involved. So, the scientific evidence we have, so far at least, does not support Batten’s hypothesis of change across the board—the like we see currently in dog species and varieties. The same argument, of course, holds for the feline (cat) family (the gestation period is roughly the same) and presumably any other animal family we may not be so familiar with.

Evolution

Rather than give the reader only my opinion, I shall now give the opinion of some other experts in in the field. In his book The Edge of Evolution, biochemist and Intelligent Design advocate Michael J. Behe contends that waiting times for a biological trait to arise by various evolutionary processes can be very long. For us to understand, he compares evolution to winning some prize (small or large) in a lottery because most mutations to a protein jeopardize its previous function. He argues that knowing the probability of drawing a winning ticket in a lottery is not enough; he explains,

“If the odds of winning [the jackpot] are one in a hundred million, and if a million people play every time, then it will take on average about a hundred drawings for someone to win. [With a hundred such drawings per year,] then it would take about a year before someone won. But if there were only one drawing per year, on average it would take a century to hit the jackpot.” (Behe, p. 54)

Likewise, the waiting time for evolutionary change depends on the total population (equivalent to the number of people playing) and the number of generations (equivalent to the number of draws). In his book Darwin’s Doubt, philosopher of science, Intelligent Design advocate, and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture Stephen C. Meyer aptly comments on this scenario,

“Neo-Darwinists have long assumed that biological evolution works something like matching one number in [a lottery]. In their view, natural selection acts to reward or preserve small but relatively probable changes in gene sequences—like winning the small but more likely … prize in [the lottery] over and over again. They assume the mutation and selection mechanism doesn’t depend on winning extremely unlikely ‘prizes’ (like the whole … jackpot) all at once.” (Meyer, p. 244, emphasis in original)

Meyer then argues that if biological change were to involve several coordinated changes at the molecular level (like guessing all the numbers in a lottery) the waiting time would be prohibitively long. In peer-reviewed 2004 paper, Behe coauthored with physicist David W. Snoke, they argue that in generating a new protein, most of the time, requires the combinations of several improbable mutations at once: like guessing several numbers in a lottery. The question they tackled was then how long it would take and what population size is required to make such occurrences plausible. Their conclusion was that the “numbers were prohibitive.” (Behe & Snoke, p. 2661) Meyer summarizes their results,

“If coordinated mutations were necessary, then evolution at the genetic level faced a catch-22: for the standard neo-Darwinian mechanism to generate just two coordinated mutations, it typically either needed unreasonably long times [number of generations], times that exceeded the duration of life on earth [c. 3.5 billion years], or it needed unreasonably large population sizes, populations that exceed the number of multicellular organisms that have ever lived.” (Meyer, p. 245) According to Behe and Snoke,

“For example, consider a case where three nucleotide changes must be made to generate a novel feature such as a disulfide bond. In that instance, … a population size of approximately 1011 [hundred billion] organisms on average would be required to give rise to the feature over the course of 108 [hundred million] generations …. To produce the feature in one million [106] generations would, on average, require an enormous population of about 1017 [hundred million billion] organisms ….” (Behe & Snoke, p. 2660, emphasis mine)

According to Meyer, even for just two coordinated mutations, one million (106) generations would require a population of one trillion (1012), which exceeds the breeding population of any animal species at any given time; while a reasonable breeding population of one million (106) would require ten billion (1010) generations, which computes to ten billion (1010) years (i.e., close to three times the duration of life on earth), assuming only an average of only one-year life span for multicellular organisms (dogs live more than ten years). (Meyer, pp. 245–46) Meyer concludes,

“This is clearly an unreasonable length of time to wait for the emergence of a single gene, let alone more significant evolutionary innovations.” (Meyer, p. 245–46)

Please note that Meyer is here talking about billions of years—not thousands of years as creationists contend the earth and life has existed for. From the above argument, therefore, expecting significant evolutionary changes in just 4,400 years sounds unlikely.

In my opinion, however, Behe and Snoke’s calculations seem to be out to some degree because we actually have evidence of a significant, rare mutation in Lenski’s bacteria experiment after 31,000 generations. In fact, they do admit it to some extent.

“Because the [peer paper] simulation looks for the production of a particular MR [multi-residue] feature in a particular gene, the values will be overestimates of the time necessary to produce some MR feature in some duplicated gene.” (Behe & Snoke, p. 2661, emphasis in original)

At the same time, from the above, it seems ludicrous to expect species and variety outpours, across the board in all taxonomic families, from single pairs of animals in 4,400 years.

Note

Intelligent Design is often labelled as pseudoscience—even by a serious online encyclopedia like Wikipedia (but not by the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: https://www.britannica.com/topic/intelligent-design). However, unlike Creationism, Intelligent Design does not base its theories on the Bible and accepts all the scientific results except those where it believes scientists jumped the gun—like macroevolution. In his book The God Delusion, evolutionary biologist and self-declared atheist Richard Dawkins states,

“The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question, even if it is not in practice—or not yet—a decided one.” (Dawkins, p. 82)

I must admit I agree with Dawkins in this. So, I think Wikipedia is wrong in calling invoking God’s action a pseudoscience (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design) where there is clear evidence of super-intelligence and design. For more detail on this concept, one might want to read my article “God of the Gaps?”

Regarding Lenski’s bacteria experiment, for example, the bottom line is that E. coli bacteria remained E. coli bacteria: they did not evolve into a different species, say, from a prokaryote (i.e., cells without a DNA nucleus) to a eukaryote (i.e., cells with a DNA nucleus). Thus it seems to have even ruled out presumably the first step in macroevolution (i.e., large-scale evolution), as opposed to microevolution (i.e., small-scale evolution).

Number of Animals

Despite this interpretation of the word “kind,” many scientists still question whether there was enough room to fit all the land- and flying-animal families, including those that are now extinct. Keep in mind that biologists say about 99.9% of species have become extinct. In defense of the biblical account, the Ark Encounter website, for example, states that there was ample room. It argues,

“Noah’s cargo … excludes fish and other sea creatures, and it probably excludes the insects and other invertebrates. Recent studies estimate the total number of living and extinct kinds of land animals and flying creatures to be about 1,500. With our ‘worst-case’ scenario approach to calculating the number of animals on the Ark, this would mean that Noah cared for approximately 7,000 animals. Without getting into all the math, all of the animals, food, storage, and supplies would have fit comfortably on the Ark.” (Ark Encounter)

I am not sure whether the reader would buy into such a sweeping statement without any calculations; not to mention the necessity of separation between predators and prey, although, in all fairness, the Genesis account does state that the ark had to be compartmentalized. Genesis portrays God telling Noah,

“Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.” (KJV, Genesis 6:14, emphasis mine).

Available Time

Now, how much time did Noah’s family have to gather these 7,000 animals, say? Just one week, according to the Yahwist biblical author. Admittedly, one might argue that, according to the first (or Priestly) biblical author, Noah might have had a previous instruction to gather one pair of every kind of land and flying animal.

Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” (KJV, Genesis 6:19–20, emphasis mine)

However, from the context of the following passage, God seems to have made only one order—not two.

“Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth. For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.” (KJV, Genesis 7:2–4, emphasis mine)

Observe that the phrase “of beasts that are not clean by two” is repeated here; clearly, the second (or Yahwist) biblical author intended God to have made a single order to Noah—not two different orders some time apart. Note also that the time God allotted Noah to accomplish all this was only “seven days.”

Insects

Now, why does the Ark Encounter website think that insects should be excluded? According to Genesis, God’s instructions were clear.

Of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” (KJV, Genesis 6:19–20, emphasis mine)

Thus, according to Genesis, all “creeping” animals were to be rescued from the Flood; does that not include insects? Statements like “it probably excludes the insects” undermine a website’s credibility. Just because it adds the word “probably,” it doesn’t get its author/s off the hook: it is still misleading.

Let me try to show why the website says this. Most, about 97% of, insects are strictly land animals, and they would drown if separated from land by water for an extended period, that is, more than a couple of weeks, and, according to Genesis, the waters covered the earth for about 318 days (see Genesis 7:11 & 8:13). Currently, we know of close to 1,000,000 species and more than 1,000 families of insects; we have not identified all the insects yet: the problem is we keep discovering new ones—close to 10,000 species every year (One Zoo Tree & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insect). Noah and his family would have had quite a job collecting them from across the whole world—from the desert sands to the snowy mountains. It begs the question then: how did Noah manage to gather all the insect species including the ones we have not yet discovered in only one week? Not to mention those that are now extinct.

Provisions

Genesis then concludes God’s instructions to Noah as follows:

“Take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (KJV, Genesis 6:21–22, emphasis mine)

On top of all the work implied above: that is, cutting and transporting all the material required for a gigantic ark, building the ark itself, gathering all the land animals, birds, and insects; we must not forget that Noah and his family also had to collect food supplies for more than a year (see Genesis 7:11 & 8:14) both for his family and all the animals. Probably, I presume, they also required water supplies (at least empty vessels); because after forty days the rain stopped (see Genesis 7:12), and the flood waters were probably too polluted, with dead bodies, to drink. So, Noah and his family had to collect food and water provisions not only for themselves but also for, let us say, 7,000 animals, large and small, for a whole year. Have you ever done groceries for just your family for a month? God gave Noah quite a tall order to perform in just one week, but allegedly he performed it all.

Does not the whole narrative of Noah’s Ark seem somewhat implausible to you? Does it not have the earmarks of a myth rather than fact? All the above practical objections seem to present overwhelming corroborating evidence, confirming the hypothesis that the Flood account was only a myth. Moreover, as I have shown in my article on “The Flood,” the parallelisms of the Noah’s biblical account to Utnapishtim’s account in The Epic of Gilgamesh (which was engraved on clay tablets dating a thousand-odd years prior to the first book of the bible) drives another nail in the coffin of its being a myth.

The Rainbow

According to Genesis, after the Flood was over, Noah offers a sacrifice to God; on seeing this, God regrets what he had done (see Genesis 8:21): so he makes a covenant with Noah and humanity as a whole. As a sign of this covenant he allegedly sets a rainbow in the sky every time it rains: as a reminder to him not to go overboard again.

“God said, ‘This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you [Noah] and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.’” (KJV, Genesis 9:12–15, emphasis mine)

Focus on the word “bow” as in ‘bow and arrow’—a symbol of war and aggression. However, if you happen to go at the top of the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Canada, on a rainy day, you do not see just a “bow” of a rainbow, as we normally do, but a whole circle above and below your position on the tower. Of course this phenomenon is observable on rainy days on any tower that is high enough (>158 m) to allow a complete circle to form—or even on an airplane. So, it is not really a “bow” but a whole circle; however, the biblical author was not aware of this. (Neither was I, for that matter, until I experienced it in Niagara Falls.) He proposes, therefore, that rainbows did not exist prior to Noah’s Flood, and that God set it up in the sky on rainy days to show us and to remind himself that he will never again use a flood to destroy all of humanity, as he had just done. However, as physicists know well enough, it is the water droplets in the air that split the white light from the sun into its component colors—as a prism does. In other words, the rainbow is a physical phenomenon that was always observable ever since the earth existed: consequently there was never such sign of an agreement between God and humanity introduced after the alleged Flood, as the Bible contends. So again, here the Bible contradicts science.

No Ark Fossils

Finally, as I also mentioned in my article “The Flood,” we come to the fact that, although many people have looked for Noah’s ark for more than a century, despite many false claims, nobody has ever found a splinter of it on the mountains of Ararat where it allegedly lodged. Albeit, in his book In the Minds of Men, creationist Ian Taylor gives as probable reason the fact that there is a whole range of dangerous, snowcapped mountains to be searched, not to mention its political oversensitivity (Taylor, In the Minds of Men, pp. 388–89). I guess he still hopes we shall find it.

References

Ark Encounter. “How Many Animals Were on Noah’s Ark?” Accessed November 13, 2020, https://arkencounter.com/animals/how-many/.

Attard, Carmel Paul. Is God a Reality?—A Scientific Investigation. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2017. (ISBN: 9781532012228.)

Batten, Don. “A Pair of Dogs/Wolves on Noah’s Ark Couldn’t Have Produced All Dog Varieties Today?” In Creation Ministries International. Accessed November 13, 2020.

https://creation.com/a-pair-of-dogswolves-on-noahs-ark-couldnt-have-produced-all-dog-varieties-today.

Behe, Michael J. The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. New York, NY: Free press, 2007.

Behe, Michael J. and David W. Snoke. “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues.” In Protein Science, volume 13, issue 10, 2004 October, pp. 2651–64.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2008. (ISBN: 139780618918249.)

Glick, Thomas F. In Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Intelligent Design.” Last updated February 28, 2017, accessed November 20, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/intelligent-design.

Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. New York, NY: Harper One, 2013. (ISBN: 9780062071484.)

New American Bible: Revised Edition. Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2010. (ISBN 9780899429519.)

One Zoo Tree. “Insects.” Accessed November 13, 2020. https://1zootree.weebly.com/insects.html.

Sandars, N. K. trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Classics ISBN 0 14 044.100X pp. 61-125.

Taylor, Ian T. In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. Toronto, ON: TFE Publishing/Creation Moments Inc., 1991. (ISBN: 0969178840.)

The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version (Challoner Revision). Douay and Rheims, France, 1752.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Oxford, UK, 1769 (KJV).

Wikipedia, s.v. “E. coli Long-term Evolution Experiment.” Last edited November 2, 2020; accessed November 13, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Genesis Flood Narrative.” Last edited October 31, 2020; accessed November 13, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_flood_narrative.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Insect.” Last edited November 11, 2020; accessed November 13, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insect.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Intelligent Design.” Last edited October 30, 2020; accessed November 19, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design.

Wright, David. “Timeline for the Flood.” In Answers in Genesis, Posted March 9, 2012; accessed November 13, 2020. https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/.

The Flood

The Deluge (by Leon Comerre—Musee de Beaux Arts de Nantes)

Almost all Christian denominations, including the marginal ones like the Mormons (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), believe the Bible to be the Word of God. The far greater majority of these denominations, again also marginal ones like Jehovah’s Witnesses, even believe every verse of the Bible to be infallible. Moreover, the greater majority of these denominations (like Catholics—at least officially), believe the Bible is also scientifically accurate. For example, in his 1893 encyclical (universal letter), Pope Leo XIII states,

“Let them [scholars] loyally hold that God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures—and that therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures.” (Providentissimus Deus, 23)

Moreover, fundamentalist Christians, like Creationists, base all their so-called science mainly on the Flood, which supposedly happened in Noah’s time, as well as all other biblical accounts.

Very many Christians, therefore, believe a global flood actually happened close to 4,400 years ago (c. 2350 BCE). However, there happens to be an epic poem, commonly known as The Epic of Gilgamesh, found carved on twelve stone tablets dating back to between 2150 and 2000 BCE (a thousand-odd years prior to the writing of any Bible book) that seems to undermine this hypothesis: that is, suggesting the flood account was only a myth based on this poem. Please note my emphases (in italics) in what follows: they show the parallelisms between this epic poem and the biblical account of Noah’s Flood.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Sandars)

I shall continue my account of Gilgamesh’s tale where I left it off in my previous blog, “Adam and Eve—Original Sin.” Gilgamesh had just lost his closest friend, Enkidu, and realized that he too must die and his body will decay like Enkidu’s: he is totally devastated by this realization. He recalls that his ancestor Utnapishtim, who had survived the global flood, was granted immortality by the gods; so Gilgamesh goes searching for him hoping to discover the secret of immortality as well. So, when Gilgamesh finds Utnapishtim, he asks him for an account of how he acquired immortality.

Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that it all happened in Shuruppak (modern Tell Fa’rah, Iraq). As the world population increased, the earth became so noisy that the gods could not sleep any longer; “so the gods agreed to exterminate mankind.” Enlil, the executive of the chief god Anu, decided to cause a global flood. But Ea (the god of fresh water, craft, and wisdom) secretly warned Utnapishtim of the coming flood. His advice was,

“Tear down your house and build a boat, abandon possessions and look for life, despise worldly goods and save your soul alive. … Let her deck be roofed like the vault that covers the abyss; then take up into the boat the seed of all living creatures.”

He built a seven-deck boat and roofed it; he then caulked the roofed boat (or ark) with pitch and asphalt and painted it with oil. Utnapishtim continues his narrative,

“I loaded into her all that I had of gold and of living things, my family, my kin, the beast of the field both wild and tame, and all the craftsmen.”

When the flooding started, all life outside the ark was drowning; so “the great gods of heaven and of hell wept, they covered their mouths” at seeing the carnage. It rained for a whole week and all the land was covered with water: it covered even the mountain tops.

I looked for land in vain, but fourteen leagues distant there appeared a mountain, and there the boat grounded; on the mountain of Nisir the boat held fast, she held fast and did not budge.”

After spending another week on the mountaintop, Utnapishtim let out a dove from a hatch in the ark, but it came back because it found no food and nowhere to perch. Likewise, he let out a swallow, but it also came back for the same reason. Finally he let out a raven; it did not come back because it could perch and feed on floating dead bodies. When he realized the waters had subsided, he let the people and the animals out, and he “made a sacrifice and poured a libation on the mountain top.” The gods relished the sacrifice: “When the gods smelled the sweet savour, they gathered like flies over the sacrifice.”

Now when Enlil realized that some humans had survived his flooding of the earth, he was furious, but after Ea managed to calm him down, Enlil took Utnapishtim and his wife by the hand onto the boat and blessed them saying,

“In time past Utnapishtim was a mortal man; henceforth he and his wife shall live in the distance at the mouth of the rivers.”

The Biblical Account

For the benefit of the reader who might not be familiar with the biblical account of Noah’s Flood in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, following are the salient points. Note how similar it is to Utnapishtim’s account: clearly the biblical author plagiarized it from The Epic of Gilgamesh.

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. … And the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. … And God said unto Noah, ‘The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. … A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.’” (KJV Genesis 6:5, 7–8, 13–14, 16–17)

So God, like Enlil, decides to exterminate humanity by means of a global flood because it became unbearable; however, like Ea, he decides to save one household from all of humanity by advising the family head to build an ark. Notice how close the biblical account is to the epic poem: it even mentions that the ark had to have a hatch, a ceiling, stories, and finally to be caulked with pitch. God continues instructing Noah,

“‘Thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.’” (KJV Genesis 6:18–20)

Like Ea, God’s main concern is to save life on earth: making sure it reestablishes itself in the aftermath of the flood. The rain poured for forty days and every form of life outside the ark drowned.

“And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man.” (KJV Genesis 7:19–21)

As the flood waters started to subside and dry up, the boat lodged on the mountains of Ararat. Noah then sends out a raven and a dove to reconnoiter whether the land was dry again.

“And the waters returned from off the earth continually …. And the ark rested … upon the mountains of Ararat. … And it came to pass … that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth.” (KJV Genesis 8:3–9)

After he sent the dove out a couple more times, Noah concluded that the land was dry again. So, he lets everything out, and, like Utnapishtim, he immediately offers a sacrifice to God.

“And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, ‘I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.’” (KJV, Genesis 8:20–21)

Notice that, like the gods in Gilgamesh’s tale, God enjoys the aroma of the sacrifice and also regrets what he had done. If the biblical account of Noah’s Flood followed a prior myth so closely, what are the odds that it really happened—that it is not a myth too? Moreover, The Epic of Gilgamesh comes from the same territory Abraham emigrated—Mesopotamia. According to the Bible, Abraham came from Ur in Mesopotamia, which is only about 107 km (c. 66 mi) south-east of Shuruppak.

“Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan.” (KJV, Genesis 11:31)

I propose that Abraham’s family carried the epic poem by word of mouth, and it was later adapted to a monotheistic setting in the Hebrew Bible.

Scientific Evidence

Now is there any scientific evidence of a great flood? In Mesopotamia, being surrounded by the two great rivers Euphrates and Tigris, extensive floods were very common. However, we have no evidence whatsoever of a global flood. According to Wikipedia,

“Excavations in Iraq have revealed evidence of localized flooding at Shuruppak (modern Tell Fara, Iraq) and various other Sumerian cities. A layer of riverine sediments, radiocarbon dated to about 2900 BC, interrupts the continuity of settlement, extending as far north [northwest] as the city of Kish, which took over hegemony [leadership] after the flood. Polychrome pottery from the Jemdet Nasr period (3000–2900 BC) was discovered immediately below the Shuruppak flood stratum. Other sites, such as Ur, Kish, Uruk, Lagash, and Ninevah, all present evidence of flooding. However, this evidence comes from different time periods. The Shuruppak flood seems to have been a localised event caused through the damming of the Karun River through the spread of dunes, flooding into the Tigris, and simultaneous heavy rainfall in the Nineveh region, spilling across into the Euphrates. In Israel, there is no such evidence of a widespread flood. Given the similarities in the Mesopotamian flood story and the Biblical account, it would seem that they have a common origin in the memories of the Shuruppak account.” (Wikipedia, “Flood Myth,” emphasis mine)

Now the distance between Shuruppak and Kish is only about 73 km (c. 118 mi.): so it was far from a global flood. And Israel (Jerusalem), where there is no evidence of extensive flooding, is only about 971 km (c. 604 mi.) away: this is less than 5% of the distance between opposite sides of the globe, which is more than 20, 000 km (c. 12, 400 mi.). Still, 73 km (c. 118 mi.) of just water in sight would leave quite an impression on humanity so as to be remembered for a very long time.

In their book The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s?, Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that scientists have failed to report any evidence of a global flood because they misread the evidence. As an example, they quote from an article in the Scientific American periodical. It is a fact, they write, that, in the past, scientists have misinterpreted water action for glacial activity, leading them to believe there was a multitude of ice ages; on reexamination, however, they found the real causes (Fairbridge, “The Changing Level of the Sea,” p. 71). They suggest, therefore, that some of the evidence scientists might be assigning to glacial action in ice ages could, in fact, be evidence for the occurrence of a global flood, and it is being misinterpreted because of some bias the scientists might have (Watch Tower, The Bible, pp. 113–14). Perhaps! Mentioning that scientists made mistakes in the past does not necessarily prove that they are wrong today. There is no question that science was wrong in the past: in fact, scientists once thought that the earth was flat, the sun revolved around the earth, and the universe was eternal. The question is: are they wrong now, and if so, can Jehovah’s Witnesses prove it: science requires more specificity than just wild hypotheses.

Numbers Never Lie

The highest peak in the “mountains of Ararat” is about 5,165 m (c. 16,946 ft.); according to the Bible, this peak was covered by “15 cubits” (c. 22.5 ft. or 7 m). Thus the floodwaters covered all the earth by about 5,172 m (c. 16,969 ft.) above sea level. The volume of water required to cause a flood of such magnitude is 4πR3/3- 4π r3/3 = 4π(R3-r3)/3 = 4π[(r+h)3-r3]/3 = 4π[(r3+3r2h+3rh2+h3)-r3]/3 = 4π[r2h+rh2+h3/3] = where ‘r’ is the earth’s radius (c. 6,371 km) and ‘h’ is the height of the floodwater (c. 5,172m). So the total volume of water required in Noah’s Flood was 4×3.141593x [63712x5.172+6371×5.1722 +5.17233/3] = 12.566371x [209.929623+0.170422+0.000046]x106 = 2.640×109 km3 above sea level.

But, according to Wikipedia, the total volume of water worldwide is only about 1.386×109 km3, and that includes oceans, seas, lakes, swamps, rivers, streams, icebergs, snow, and glaciers (Wikipedia, “Earth”). So God would have required 4.026×109 km3 of water, very close to three (c. 2.905) times the water available on our planet, to achieve this. Unless, of course, he made a double miracle: God would have had to, temporarily, create almost double (c. 1.905) the volume of water on earth out of nothingness, and annihilate it again after the flooding since it had nowhere to go afterwards.

Let us now look as some pseudoscience concerning the Flood.

(1) Plate Tectonics

For this reason, Creationists and Bible-inerrancy believers, refer to the plate tectonics theory, arguing that at that time, the mountains were not as high: that the world was much flatter. For example, in their book The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s? (pp. 111–12), Jehovah’s Witnesses quote scientist Herbert W. Franke’s coauthored book Wonders of Nature:

“Where the mountains of the world now tower to dizzy heights, oceans and plains once, millions of years ago, stretched out in flat monotony.” (Franke & Frank, Wonders of Nature, p.87, emphasis mine)

However, notice the phrase “millions of years ago.” Jehovah’s Witnesses misquote Franke and Frank because the Flood allegedly happened only 4,400 years ago: 4,400 years ago, in terms of geologic time, is like one hour ago in a human’s lifetime: a human does not get much older in just one hour.

Jehovah’s Witnesses also try to answer the question of where the floodwaters subsided after the Flood. They contend that these waters went into ocean basins; they argue that scientists believe that continents rest on large movable plates (the plate tectonics theory) and that movement of these plates can cause changes in the ocean level and land elevation. However, they should also know that these plate tectonic processes take millions, if not billions, of years: not just four-thousand-odd years.

So, they throw in a smokescreen; saying that such continental plate movement might have been triggered by the Flood itself, but they provide no real scientific evidence to support their claim: showing it is just conjecture. They add a note from science correspondent Ronald Bailey’s book Glacier (Planet Earth Series), that if the ice on Greenland were removed, the island would rise; he writes,

“If the Greenland ice were to disappear, the island would eventually rebound some 2,000 feet [c. 610 m].” (Bailey, Glacier, p. 7)

Presumably, Jehovah’s Witnesses mean that if the floodwaters were to recede, the land will rise slowly allowing more water to disappear underground (Watch Tower, The Bible, p. 113n). But let me remind the reader that in my calculation above, I included all the water on earth: there simply is not enough water to cause a flood of such magnitude as described in the Bible.

(2) Volcanic Action

There is also a significant amount of speculative literature as to what these floodwaters might have caused to the earth’s crust, but nothing substantial to write home about. Personally, I do not see any reason why the shape of the ocean floor or the shape of the mountains would change significantly because of a flood; but anyway, in the interest of fairness, following is such a proposal by Creationist metallurgist Ian Taylor. In his book In the Minds of Men, Taylor, realizing that it is difficult to conceive where all those floodwaters could have come from, expresses a similar view to that of Jehovah’s Witnesses above: namely, that the mountains were shallower in the time of the Flood. Taylor asserts that many of the mountains we see today have increased in height since that time, hypothesizing that the Flood triggered many volcanoes all around the earth to erupt. He argues that the ash they emitted would have formed a cement-like mixture that hardened under the floodwaters, thus driving mountain peaks higher (Taylor, In the Minds of Men, p. 111). Taylor does not explain how or why floodwaters would trigger volcanic eruptions, he just assumes they do; but, possibly, I guess, floodwaters could wear off loose dirt from cracks or weaknesses in the earth’s crust: thus, allowing magma (molten rock) to eject from them much more easily. However, this is only speculation. There is some evidence in the National Geographic website that heavy downpours can trigger earthquakes (not volcanoes) through their erosion a few months or years later, (Lovett, “Heavy Rainfall Can Cause Huge Earthquakes”),  but most scientists seem to limit volcanic eruptions to internal pressure in the earth’s crust.

(3) Fossils

Jehovah’s Witnesses then turn to fossils in support of the reality of the Flood. They claim that all around the earth many species suddenly became extinct, apparently from a sudden climate change worldwide. For example, they claim that many thousands, if not millions, of mammoths were found quick-frozen in Siberia. They add that, according to naturalist Alfred Wallace, quoted in Winsor Chorlton’s book Ice Ages (Planet Earth Series), opined that the cause of this climate change must have been worldwide and of exceptional magnitude (Chorlton, Ice Ages, pp. 54, 55, 57): they suspect it was the Flood (Watch Tower, The Bible, pp. 114–15). To achieve this, according to calculations by the Birds Eye Frozen Foods Company, a temperature of one hundred degrees below zero Celsius (-100°C/-148°F) is required (Oard, “Frozen Mammoth Carcasses in Siberia,”). Unfortunately, Jehovah’s Witnesses give no age estimate for this fossil record: whether it corresponds to 4,400 years ago, when the Flood allegedly occurred; nor do they provide a specific mechanism as to how or why this happened. As I demonstrate next, it is so easy to be misled by incomplete or inaccurate information.

John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research, graciously gives the following details concerning this claim, thereby shedding much light to the outsider; he writes,

“We’ve all heard the stories of how ‘millions of frozen mammoths are found preserved in Siberia, frozen so quickly their flesh could still be eaten today, complete with sub-tropical vegetation in their mouths.’ Temperatures two hundred degrees below zero [-200°F (c. -129°C)] are needed to quick-freeze an animal of such large bulk, it is claimed, requiring extraordinary catastrophism, the likes of which creationists feel could only be associated with Noah’s Flood. The specific scenario proposed might be a temperature drop due to the precipitation of the pre-Flood canopy [explained presently] or a cometary ice dump. What is the truth, what is the solution? To answer these questions, we must first establish the facts, checking the original sources. And when we do, we find that no more than several dozen mammoths have been found frozen or partially frozen. It is true that tens of thousands of mammoth bones are found, and mammoth ivory has been mined commercially in some places, but those were not quick-frozen. … The frozen parts, are, with few exceptions, found in the frozen banks of modern rivers, usually in small lenses within the larger tundra layer. Some specimens seem to have drowned after breaking through ice covering a river. Furthermore, the stomach contents and unswallowed food (actually caught between the teeth) are that of a mountain meadow, not unlike that of alpine regions today. The frozen meat itself, while wolves and sled dogs have been known to sample it on occasion, is usually somewhat rancid, not quick frozen and ready to be sold. I think we can reasonably say that the ‘elephant kind’ … were filling the recently devastated earth, adapting to various areas as they went. They flourished initially, but some varieties were eventually overwhelmed in major storms during the Ice Age” (Morris, “Did the Frozen Mammoths Die in the Flood or in the Ice Age,” emphasis in original).

So, most of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ fossil evidence is turned to smoke by a Creationist, nonetheless. Notice that both Jehovah’s Witnesses and John Morris refer to the ice age. According to scientists, the last ice age ended about 11,700 years ago (Zimmermann, “Pleistocene Epoch,”): more than two and one-half (c. 2.7) times the estimated time elapsed from Noah’s Flood. Such dates can normally be determined very accurately by dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) and radiocarbon (carbon-14/C-14/14C) dating.

(4) Pre-Flood Canopy

Now, by “the precipitation of the pre-Flood canopy” quoted above, Creationists mean the fusion (melting) of an ice canopy (allegedly, the biblical ‘firmament’—the sky) into water and falling as rain. This would require, they contend, a great amount of heat from the surroundings (i.e., earth) to provide the latent heat of fusion necessary for the ice to melt into water. Creationists believe that this led to an ice age following the Flood (Got Questions, “What Is the Canopy Theory?”). Scientists disagree both regarding the timing of the ice age being about 4,400 years ago and any past existence of an ice canopy in the sky. I have also shown, in my article “Science in the Bible,” that the ‘firmament,’ in ancient cultures, was allegedly a solid dome made of metal with floodgates—not made of ice. For example, even in Gilgamesh’s tale above we have, “Let her deck be roofed like the vault that covers the abyss.” I do not think the god Ea was telling Utnapishtim to cover his boat with ice.

Moreover, if anything, floodwaters (once fallen during Noah’s Flood) would keep the earth’s temperature rather constant, given the high specific heat of water. It is common knowledge that land masses near oceans, seas, or lakes sustain milder (less fluctuating) temperatures.

(5) Global Centrifuge

As happens in everyday tides, the gravitational attraction of the moon would supposedly lift a huge amount of the floodwaters: raising it up into a bulge (wave crest) protruding over the normal level of the floodwaters. However, according to Taylor, whereas this energy is dissipated regularly by splashing against beaches in everyday tides, presumably it could not do so if all dry land were below the floodwaters—a worldwide ocean. Now, the earth spins on its axis once a day, while the moon orbits the earth once every twenty-seven-odd days. Thus, as the earth rotates faster than the moon’s orbit, an undercurrent is created relative to this crest, which the moon is trying to hold back. Meanwhile, since the moon has lagged the earth’s surface, it creates another huge bulge but at a different location, which again does not get splashed against beaches, and this process keeps building up energy in the form of deeper and deeper undercurrents (Taylor, In the Minds of Men, p. 111).

Now, according to Genesis, this process continued for almost a year (343 days) before the mountaintops started to show (See Genesis 7:24; 8:3–5). Taylor suggests that the speed of these currents could have reached hundreds of miles per hour right under the bulge, tapering off to practically stationary near the earth’s axis of rotation (i.e., near the poles). Such a process would result in significant mixing of suspended matter and, subsequently, in depositing a complex, yet somewhat organized, multiple sediments of a similar nature across the whole earth (Taylor, In the Minds of Men, p. 111). In their book The Genesis Flood, creationist theologian John Whitcomb and engineer Henry Morris propose a hydraulic sorting mechanism for the deposition of fossils following the Flood. In fast-moving waters, suspended objects tend to be deposited in an orderly fashion: the denser material (such as clams) is deposited first, while the voluminous material (such as feathered birds) tends to be deposited last (Whitcomb & Morris, The Genesis Flood, p. 273). They argue that such stratification (layering) may give the impression of macroevolution, or descent from a common ancestor, as is claimed by the theory of evolution (Taylor, In the Minds of Men, p. 111). This might sound reasonable enough, and it would explain, to some extent the geological column quite nicely. However, had dinosaurs lived contemporaneously with humans, as creationists claim, why did the dinosaurs end up buried in much lower levels? They should end up buried, roughly, together with humans: I presume their densities are roughly the same; and if they had feathers, like the Archaeopteryx, they should end up at a higher (or more recent) level, no?

Noah’s Ark

Finally, we come to the fact that, although many people have looked for Noah’s ark for more than a century, despite many false claims, nobody has ever found a splinter of it on the mountains of Ararat where it allegedly lodged; although Taylor gives, as probable reason, the fact that there is a whole range of dangerous, snowcapped mountains to be searched, not to mention it is a politically very sensitive area (Taylor, In the Minds of Men, pp. 388–89).

Summary

We have no physical or scientific evidence whatsoever supporting the occurrence of a global flood some four and one-half thousand years ago. We also have a myth written on stone tablets a thousand-odd years before the first book of the Bible was written, which the author of Genesis seems to have plagiarized. Moreover, the myth seems to have moved with Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrews, who wrote the Bible. All the evidence points to Noah’s Flood being a myth tailored on a prior Sumerian myth as a template.

Before I end this article, have a closer look at the picture in this blog, and keep in mind that, according to the Bible, practically all of humanity (including innocent children)—not to mention practically all land animals—was allegedly exterminated this way. So the Bible portrays God as a violent Judge while, in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus taught us he is a loving, merciful, and forgiving “Father” (See Luke 15:11–32). Indeed, Jesus never used any violence, and he is presumably the “Word” of God (See John 1:1, 14) who thinks and acts like his Father (See John 10:30). I believe the Bible portrays God with a dual character—a Jekyll-Hyde personality—and that God therefore conceived Jesus to set the Scriptures and our concept of God straight. In other words, we must read the Bible discriminately, not blindly as an inerrant book: that is, not cherry-picking what we like from it and discarding what we don’t, but accepting what our innermost being tells us is the truth—as we would read any other good human book.

References

Bailey, Ronald H. Glacier (Planet Earth Series). Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books Inc., 1982.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Flood Myth (mythology)” accessed November 1, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/topic/flood-myth.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, s.v. “Shuruppak (ancient city, Iraq)” accessed November 1, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/place/Shuruppak.

Fairbridge, Rhodes W. “The Changing Level of the Sea.” In Scientific American vol. 202, no. 5 (May 1960): pp. 70–79.

Franke, Herbert W. and Claus Jürgen Frank. Wonders of Nature. Edited by Claus Jürgen Frank. London, UK: Macmillan, 1980.

Got Questions. “What Is the Canopy Theory?” Last updated January 2, 2020; accessed November 3, 2020. https://www.gotquestions.org/canopy-theory.html .

Leo XIII, Pope. Providentissimus Deus (Latin for ‘The Most Provident God’): 1893. Translated by Libreria Editrice Vaticana: Vatican, Italy.

Lovett, Richard A. “Heavy Rainfall Can Cause Huge Earthquakes.” In National Geographic. Posted December 15, 2011; accessed November 3, 2020. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/12/111215-rainfall-hurricanes-typhoons-earthquakes-science-earth/.

Morris, John David. “Did the Frozen Mammoths Die in the Flood or in the Ice Age.” Posted November 1, 1993; accessed November 3, 2020. In the Institute for Creation Research. https://www.icr.org/article/did-frozen-mammoths-die-flood-or-ice-age/ .

Oard, Michael J. “Frozen Mammoth Carcasses in Siberia.” Posted October 1, 2004; accessed November 3, 2020. In Answers in Genesis. https://answersingenesis.org/extinct-animals/ice-age/frozen-mammoth-carcasses-in-siberia/ .

Sandars, N. K. trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Classics ISBN 0 14 044.100X pp. 61-125.

The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version. Revised by Richard Challoner. Douay & Rheims, France, 1752 (DRC).

Taylor Ian T. In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. Toronto, ON: TFE Publishing/Creation Moments Inc., 1991. (ISBN: 0969178840.)

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Oxford, UK, 1769 (KJV).

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s? Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. International Bible Students Association, 1989.

Whitcomb, John Clement and Henry Madison Morris. The Genesis Flood. Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1961.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Earth,” last edited October 31, 2020; accessed November 3, 2020: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_radius.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Flood Myth,” last edited November 2, 2020; accessed November 2, 2020: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_myth.

Zimmermann, Kim Ann. “Pleistocene Epoch: Facts about the Last Ice Age.” Last updated August 29, 2017; accessed November 3, 2020. In Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/40311-pleistocene-epoch.html.

Adam and Eve—Original Sin

Is the biblical story of Adam and Eve truth or fiction? Most Christian denominations believe that it really happened; in fact they base Christ’s redemption of humanity on our so-called first parents’ once committing this first sin of disobedience to God’s commands. However, there happens to be an epic poem, commonly known as The Epic of Gilgamesh, found carved on twelve stone tablets dating back to between 2150 BCE and 2000 BCE—a thousand-odd years prior to the writing of any Bible book—that seems to undermine this hypothesis. Please note my emphases (in italics) in what follows, as they show the parallelisms between this epic poem and the biblical account of Adam and Eve.

The Epic of Gilgamesh (Sandars)

Gilgamesh was “created from heaven and divinity downwards” (Crossan p. 56): he was created “two-thirds god … and one-third man.” He was the king of the city of Uruk in Mesopotamia—that fertile territory between the two rivers Euphrates and Tigris, which join and drain into the Persian Gulf. Since no human could match Gilgamesh in arms, “he rules Uruk with injustice, violence, and rape.” (Crossan p. 56) Unlike our modern concept of God, gods and demi-gods in ancient literature could be evil. The gods heard the citizens’ lamenting of Gilgamesh’s awful behavior, so they complained to the father of the gods, Anu, in order to do something about it. The gods, therefore, asked the goddess of creation, Aruru, to make a counterpart of Gilgamesh, so the two would fight and neutralize each other, thus Uruk could enjoy peace once again. Aruru “conceived an image in her mind … of Anu.” Keep in mind that Anu was the father of the gods—the chief god. The Bible has, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (KJV Genesis 1:27)

Aruru then proceeded to create Gilgamesh’s counterpart, Enkidu, “from earth and animality upwards.” (Crossan p. 56) According to the poem, “She dipped her hands in water and pinched off clay, she let it fall in the wilderness, and noble Enkidu was created.” Notice that, in Genesis, also God uses moist dirt from the ground to first make the form of a man during Adam’s creation. “The Lord God formed man of the dust [slime (DRC)] of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man [Adam] became a living soul.” (KJV Genesis 2:7) So, like Adam (& Eve), Enkidu had no parents.

Again, like Adam and Eve, Enkidu was created practically naked: “His body was covered with matted hair like Samuqan’s, the god of cattle.” [Apparently, Samuqan wore a small piece of animal skin. (Sinleqqiunninni)] After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, the Bible tells us that they were naked: “The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew [perceived (DRC)] that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” (KJV Genesis 3:7)

Enkidu knew nothing of cultivating the land, he ate grass and ran with the gazelles, and he jostled and played with the wild animals at the water-holes. One day, he crossed paths with a trapper in the neighborhood and started filling his pits, destroying his traps, and helping entrapped wild animals free themselves. Consequently, the trapper went to the city, Uruk, and asked the king, Gilgamesh, for a harlot so that she might distract Enkidu from compromising the trapper’s living.

The harlot, Shamsat, stripped herself naked in Enkidu’s presence, who was so aroused as to have intercourse with her for an entire week. As a result his strength was diminished, it took a toll on his running ability, and he could not catch up with the wild animals any longer. As the poem puts it, “Enkidu was grown weak, for wisdom was in him, and the thoughts of a man were in his heart. So he returned and sat down at the woman’s feet, and listened intently to what she said.” Like Eve in the biblical narrative we have a female protagonist, Shamsat, who is intent on bettering herself and her mate, so she “seduces Enkidu from nature into culture.” (Crossan p. 56) A little while afterward, Shamsat noticed that Enkidu had become quite cultured, so she told him, “When I look at you, you have become like a god.” On the other hand, Eve, in the Genesis narrative, resonated with what the serpent told her when it belied God saying, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” She believed the serpent, rather than God, and even risked instant death. Like Shamsat, Eve then made her mate follow her in her enterprise.

Shamsat then induced Enkidu to clothe himself (as Adam and Eve did above), to eat bread and drink wine rather than animals’ milk, and, in turn, he began grooming himself. Now cultured, Enkidu was disgusted at the way Gilgamesh ran Uruk and challenged him to a fight: intending to change the current social order of the city. They started fighting each other but soon became great friends. They embarked on adventures, first outside then inside the city, that happened to upset both the father of the gods, Anu, and the god of the earth, Enlil—the executive of Anu. Consequently, Anu ordered Enlil to eliminate either Gilgamesh or Enkidu. Following a dream of his own death, Enkidu gets mysteriously ill and eventually dies. The death and bodily decay of his friend hit Gilgamesh like a thunderbolt, as he realized his own mortality; so he went on a search for the secret of immortality.

He had heard of Utnapishtim who survived the global flood and was granted immortality, thus joining the assembly of the gods. He searched for Utnapishtim, and when he found him, Gilgamesh asked him what he could do to attain immortality. He replied, “There is a plant that grows under the water, it has a prickle like a thorn, like a rose; it will wound your hands, but if you succeed in taking it, then your hands will hold that which restores his lost youth to a man.” Of course, “the plant which restores lost youth” is the equivalent of “the tree of life” in the Genesis account. “Out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (KJV Genesis 2:9) Gilgamesh managed to procure the plant of youth, but while he was bathing, a serpent sneaks by and steals it from him. Naturally the serpent in the poem is equivalent to the biblical serpent who cunningly (stealthily) manages to rob humanity of immortality. The Bible has, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, ‘Yea, hath God said, “Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”’” (KJV Genesis 3:1) Eventually the serpent convinces Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, and she in turn makes Adam eat of it as well.

Evidence

(1) A definite give-away that the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve is only a myth is the talking serpent: animals only speak in fables, no?

(2) The names ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’ are not proper names: they are generic names, so they never really existed. According to the New American Bible, “The Hebrew word ’adam is a generic term meaning ‘human being.’” (NAB Genesis 2:5n) The Bible itself tells us what ‘Eve’ means. “And Adam called his wife’s name ‘Eve’; because she was the mother of all living.” (KJV Genesis 3:20)

(3) The Epic of Gilgamesh comes from the same territory Abraham emigrated, Mesopotamia. According to the Bible, Abraham came from Ur in Mesopotamia, which is only about 50 miles (c. 80 km) south-east of Uruk. “Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan.” (KJV Genesis 11:31) I propose that Abraham’s family carried the epic poem by word of mouth, and it was later adapted to a monotheistic setting in Hebrew literature, the Bible.

(4) The use of the word “us” and “our” in Genesis refers to the assembly of the gods in Gilgamesh’s tale. “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ … The Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” (KJV Genesis 1:26; 3:22) Admittedly the Douay-Rheims Bible, argues that the “us” and “our” in these two verses refer to the Trinity. “God speaketh here in the plural number, to insinuate the plurality of persons in the Deity.” (DRC Genesis 1:26n) I too used to think this was a fantastic prophecy of the Trinity in the Old Testament, that is, until I read The Epic of Gilgamesh. The Jews, to whom the Old Testament belongs, do not believe in the Trinity; they strongly believe in one God. Strangely enough though, linguistically the Hebrew word for ‘God,’ Elohim, is plural, possibly showing his majesty, that is, more than just a simple person: which might explain why the author of Genesis decided to follow Gilgamesh’s tale more closely.

(5) In my next blog on “Noah’s Flood,” I shall show that the correlation between Utnapishtim’s global flood account in the same Epic of Gilgamesh and Noah’s Flood biblical account is much more obvious.

Philosophy

Notice, in what follows, that Adam and Eve were allowed to eat of the “tree of life” to sustain their immortality, so to speak; it was only after they ate of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” that they were prevented from eating of the tree of life. As we saw above, first Genesis introduces two special trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden: the tree of life, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “Out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (KJV Genesis 2:9) Next it tells us God only forbade Adam’s (and subsequently Eve’s) eating from one tree, the tree of moral knowledge. “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’” (KJV Genesis 2: 16–17) Finally, after Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the tree of moral knowledge, it was then that God prevented them from also eating of the tree of life, which allegedly allowed them to become identical to God. “The Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man [Adam] is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever.’ … [So] he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:22, 24) Notice also the word “us,” in the last quote, which refers to the assembly of the gods in the poem: a slip, I suppose, by the biblical author in converting from a polytheistic to a monotheistic myth.

So God was not concerned about humans being immortal, he was concerned about humans being knowledgeable as well as being immortal: because, according to Genesis’s author, they would be identical to God himself. For some reason the Genesis author believed that we cannot have both eternal life and moral knowledge, otherwise we would be exactly like God, but this is nonsense because the angels seem to have both and yet they are not identical to God.

In his book God and Empire, biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan writes, “Shamsat persuades Enkidu to choose culture over nature, civilization over wilderness, knowledge over ignorance, and human-mortality over animal-immortality.” (Crossan p. 58) Of course, animals do not possess immortality: probably, they are only unaware of their mortality: animals simply live! Admittedly, on the other hand, the foreknowledge of our mortality, our self-consciousness, makes our life a kind of living death: we know we are dying—slowly. But that is the nature of this beast called human: to our demise, perhaps, but an animal’s lack of knowledge of its mortality is a far cry from actual immortality: it is a fool’s paradise. So the biblical author seems to be somewhat confused philosophically.

Original Sin

Before I end this blog I would like to show that it is not just my opinion that the story of Adam and Eve is only a myth, and that original sin never happened. In his book The Hell Jesus Never Intended, Presbyterian pastor Keith Wright has, “Adam and Eve were not a literal couple who lived approximately 6,000 years ago and from whom all of humanity originated. The biblical storyteller makes that evident by using the name ‘Adam’ for the man in this story. ‘Adam’ in the Hebrew means human being or humankind. It is not the name of one person. Rather, it indicates that the person in this story represents all human beings. Through the myth of Adam and Eve, the ancient storyteller tried to define the divine origins of the human race and the difficulties, burdens, strife, alienation, and discord that exist between human beings and their Creator. Since there was never a couple named Adam and Eve, there can be no original sin.” (Wright p. 60)

Conclusion

As one can easily see from the above, the author of Genesis plagiarized The Epic of Gilgamesh; in other words, the so-called Fall of our alleged first parents is only a myth: meaning, it never actually happened; so there was never an original sin! Naturally, if there was no original sin, Jesus had nothing to redeem us from. So then why did God conceive Jesus? God conceived his Son, Jesus, to give us a living example of how best to love God and our neighbor: not to save us from hell!

References

Crossan, John Dominic. God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2008. (ISBN: 9780060858315.)

New American Bible: Revised Edition. Translated from the original languages, authorized by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and approved by the United States Confraternity of Catholic Bishops. Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2010 (NAB). (ISBN: 9780899429519.)

Sandars, N. K. trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Penguin Classics ISBN 0 14 044.100X pp. 61-125.

Sinleqqiunninni, “The Epic of Gilgamesh: Character Clues” in Shmoop, accessed September 28, 2020, https://www.shmoop.com/gilgamesh/characterization.html.

The Holy Bible: Douay-Rheims Version. Revised by Richard Challoner. Douay & Rheims, France, 1752 (DRC).

The Holy Bible: King James Version. Oxford, UK, 1769 (KJV).

Wright, Keith. The Hell Jesus Never Intended. Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing, 2004. (ISBN: 1896836658.)

Evolution

Chimpanzee

Science

In an Encyclopaedia Britannica Online article concerning the theory of evolution, evolutionary biologist and philosopher Francisco Jose Ayala writes,

“The evolutionary origin of organisms is today a scientific conclusion established with the kind of certainty attributable to such scientific concepts as the roundness [sphericity] of Earth, the motions of the planets [orbiting the sun], and the molecular composition of matter.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory/The-cultural-impact-of-evolutionary-theory)

Elsewhere he writes, “Molecular evolution has shown all living organisms, from bacteria to humans, to be related by descent from common ancestors.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory/Biogeography)

He adds, “Scientists can reconstruct any detail of the evolutionary history of life by investing sufficient time and laboratory resources.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory)

In other words, science claims that life on earth (a replicator) happened to emerge (once?) from inanimate matter, by chance, and all the diversity of life on earth descended from this (one?) universal common ancestor. This theory, science says, is cast in stone—like the sphericity of the earth.

Now, in my blog “God of the Gaps?,” I have shown that it is practically impossible for life (an error-free replicator) to emerge from inanimate matter by chance alone, but let us suppose, for the sake of argument in this article, that a living cell (a primitive universal common ancestor) somehow emerged on earth. There is no doubt there is life on earth, and life only comes from other living organisms; so, there must have been a first life, somehow.

The Bible

The Bible (which Christians claim to be God’s revelation), on the other hand, says that God created (practically simultaneously) various sophisticated life forms—not just one primitive life form—as science claims. In the book of Genesis, we read that during the Creation, God created all vegetation (both plants and trees) on the third day, all kinds of animals that live in water and fly in the air on the fifth day, and all kinds of insects, land animals (both tame and wild), and humans on the sixth day. In this article, I shall practically disregard the detail that God, according to Genesis, created all life in four days since I have addressed this biblical claim in my blog “Science in the Bible.” I shall mainly confine myself to what the evidence says regarding evolution: namely, whether, from the scientific evidence we have, God seems to have created many life forms directly or just one primitive organism that eventually evolved into all the species we see on earth—as science claims.

So, the question this article tries to answer is whether, despite what scientists say, it seems possible or even probable, from a scientific point of view, for all the diversity of life on earth to have evolved from a single universal ancestor, or whether many life forms necessarily had to exist in the first place. I shall also limit my discussion to the animal kingdom, rather than to vegetation, since most people can relate better to differences in animals than to differences in plants or trees.

Microevolution

There is absolutely no doubt that living organisms change minutely, and perhaps over time, significantly through selective breeding, say. Humans have imposed selective (rather than random) mating to have cows that produce more milk, chickens that produce more eggs, horses that run faster, more exotic pigeons, and so forth. Moreover, animals are known to adapt to their environment or else die: for example, sheep in colder countries grow a thicker coat of wool to protect themselves from inclement weather. This kind of evolution is termed microevolution, or small-scale evolution. Charles Darwin, who first conceptualized the theory of evolution, also observed finches adapt their beaks to take advantage of the various kinds of food sources on the isolated Galapagos Islands (which are situated about 1,000 km west of Ecuador, South America.

There are also modern biological experiments that show such variation beyond the shadow of a doubt. For example, there is an ongoing bacteria experiment, led by evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski, which he started in February 1988. In this experiment, Lenski monitored twelve identical populations of Escherichia coli (E-coli) bacteria under ideal Darwinian evolutionary conditions: namely, daily cycles of bonanza followed by starvation. They all grew in size and improved their ability to assimilate food compared to common E-coli. Moreover, after about 31,000 generations, one of these groups developed the ability to assimilate citrate (C6H5O7-3) in the presence of oxygen: something bacteria were never observed to be capable of doing. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment)

However, the problem with microevolution is that bacteria remain bacteria, finches remain finches, sheep remain sheep, horses remain horses, and so on. It’s somewhat like painting the exterior or renewing the interior tapestry of a car: the structure and operation of the car is not affected by such modifications. The crucial question, therefore, is whether there is any evidence of large scale evolution—termed macroevolution; a living organism evolving into another species: from a pig to a monkey, say, or from a bacterium (whose cell has no nucleus—termed prokaryote) to an amoeba (whose cell has a nucleus—termed eukaryote). Interestingly, presently approaching 80,000 generations under ideal Darwinian conditions, Lekski’s bacteria have not changed their genome toward a higher life form—like a eukaryote or a small worm, say.

Darwin

Darwin had two doubts about his theory of evolution through random mutation and natural selection (or survival of the fittest). His first doubt, which he did not publish in his books because he did not have enough evidence, was whether life could possibly have emerged from inanimate (non-living) matter—termed abiogenesis. In fact, in an 1871 letter to botanist and explorer Joseph Dalton Hooker, Darwin wrote,

“It is often said that all the conditions for the first production of a living organism are now present, which could ever have been present. But if (and oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity, &c., present, that a proteine compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.”

As a scientist, Darwin was aware that even if one observes a perfect straight-line relationship between two parameters, one cannot extrapolate that straight line backward or forward indefinitely: conditions change at its extremes. Darwin hoped that his theory (his baby) could be extended even further backward to abiogenesis, however, as I mentioned above, it is practically impossible for the first life to have evolved from inanimate matter. So, it seems to have been only wishful thinking or better a dream on Darwin’s part.

The crucial question in this article is whether the analogous straight-line relationship of microevolution could be extended to macroevolution, at least—as Darwin’s theory proposes. In fact, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,

“It is reasonable to assume that the continuation of microevolutionary genetic changes over very long periods of time can give rise to new major taxonomic [classification] groups, the process of macroevolution.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/heredity-genetics/Random-genetic-drift, emphasis mine.)

Is this a fact, as science claims, or is it an assumption? What does the scientific evidence say?

Fossil Record

The nature of the fossil record happens to be very discontinuous: the normal pattern observed is that species appear suddenly, thrive and adapt for a while, and then disappear. They are subsequently followed by other species, and the same pattern is repeated. In fact, that’s where the names for geologic periods came from: from the fossils the various deposited layers contained. Indeed, even according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,

“The fossil forms that occur in the rocks … provide the chief means of establishing a geologic time scale, with the timing of the emergence and disappearance of widespread species from the fossil record being used to delineate the beginnings and endings of ages, epochs, periods, and other intervals.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/geologic-time, emphasis mine.)

To be able to tell when the “emergence and disappearance” of species took place, there cannot be too many intermediate forms: they would cloud the issue. Yet, Darwin himself, in his book The Origin of Species, writes,

“The number of intermediate and transitional links, between all living and extinct species, must have been inconceivably great.” (p. 408)

Why? Because random mutation is erratic: it goes astray many times before it hits on a superior organism which takes over the lead. However, in reality, intermediate and transitional forms like the bat (a mammal with wings), the penguin (a bird with flippers), and the lungfish (which can also breathe in air) are extremely rare. Because of the randomness of biological mutation, according to Darwin himself, they should be the norm, not the exception. So, why isn’t it so in the fossil record? Because, I presume, the initial assumption (the “axiom”) is wrong: I propose that macroevolution is another Darwinian dream wish: he still extended the straight-line relationship he discovered in microevolution too far backward. Not to mention that the fossil record lacks that “down-up” quality, that is, from less sophisticated to more sophisticated organisms, which Darwinian evolution necessarily implies.

Darwin knew about this disconnection in the fossil record; so, how did he explain it? In his book, he replies, “The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record.” (p. 406) Had evolutionary theory predicted that intermediate and transitional forms were the exception not the rule, I could see how Darwin would have come up with such an explanation; but when they should vastly outnumber the fixed species, I don’t see how his argument could hold any water: only if we had no fossil record at all, I would say.

Cambrian Explosion

As if this were not bad enough for the theory of evolution, it seems that God wanted to have a say: he wanted to show us clearly that he was the one who diversified life personally (the same way he did show us in creating the first life and the universe, as I have argued in my blog “God of the Gaps?”). This happened during what is commonly known as the Cambrian explosion, which is dated between around 540 million and 530 million years ago. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica,

“The event was characterized by the appearance of many of the major phyla (between 20 and 35) that make up modern animal life.” https://www.britannica.com/science/Cambrian-explosion.

Darwin knew about this Cambrian explosion as well, and he argued,

“If the theory [of evolution] be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited long periods elapsed, as long as, or probably far longer than, the whole interval from the Cambrian age to the present day.” (p. 438)

In fact, he seriously doubted whether the earth was old enough for this to happen because of physicist William Thomson’s calculation of the earth’s age to be between 20 million and 400 million years from the time it takes a red-hot ball the size of the earth to cool down. (p. 438) Thomson was wrong, of course; there was ample time: some three billion years of life prior to the Cambrian explosion. Yet, there are no fossils corresponding to any of these phyla (i.e., body plans) in the Precambrian Period. Biologists try to explain away this unexpected phenomenon by arguing that organisms were too soft in the Precambrian. In its article on the “Cambrian Explosion” the Encyclopedia Britannica has,

“The beginning of the Cambrian Period is marked by the evolution of hard body parts such as calcium carbonate shells. These body parts fossilize more easily than soft tissues, and thus the fossil record becomes much more complete after their appearance. Many lineages of animals independently evolved hard parts at about the same time. The reasons for this are still debated.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/Cambrian-explosion, emphasis mine)

So, although so many animals evolved through independent paths, we still have no fossils, at all. Yet, in his encyclopedia article on evolution, Ayala states,

“The oldest known animal fossils, about 700 million years old, come from the so-called Ediacara fauna, small wormlike creatures with soft bodies.” (https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory/The-fossil-record, emphasis mine)

700 million years ago is Precambrian time. Wouldn’t you think there must have been some intermediate organisms with semi-hard shells in the Precambrian Period? And if “soft bodies” managed to fossilize, wouldn’t the semi-hard shells have fossilized too? Maybe the organisms Darwin expected to have lived prior to the Cambrian, in fact, never existed. Now, what was Darwin’s opinion if this were truly to be the case?

 “If numerous species belonging to the same genera or families have really started into life at once, the fact would be fatal to the theory of evolution through natural selection.” (p. 432, emphasis mine)

What this means is that Darwin himself admits that if it could be proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that a number of different body plans of animals appeared suddenly in the fossil record, it would be “fatal to the theory of evolution.” And what was Darwin’s explanation for the Cambrian explosion? He graciously admits,

“To the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer. … The difficulty of assigning any good reason for the absence of vast piles of strata [rock layers] rich in fossils beneath the Cambrian system is very great. … The case must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained.” (pp. 439–40)

This was Darwin’s second doubt—the most detrimental to his theory. He tries to argue that the fossil record might still be too young (i.e., it was too early to tell) and sporadic. He warns, “We should not forget that only a small portion of the world is known with accuracy.” (p.439) He suggests that the land could have been submerged in the Precambrian Period and therefore could not fossilize anything, but there are no such indications: in fact, Precambrian fossils do exist.

The Cambrian fossils were first found in Wales, UK (Cambria is Latin for Wales) and later also on large land masses like Canada (in British Columbia), China (in Chengjiang), Russia (in Siberia), and the United States of America (in California, Nevada & Utah)—practically all over the world, one might say. Some 160 years (after Darwin’s book) of intensive searches for reasons trying to justify the theory of evolution yielded nothing.

In short, therefore, in his book, Darwin himself admits the downfall of his theory of a universal common ancestor if no fossils for the Cambrian explosion were to be found. And, as I also mentioned above, Darwin never claimed that life emerged abiotically: that is, from inanimate matter. In fact, he declares, “I have nothing to do with the origin of mental powers [the mind], any more than I have with that of life itself.” (p. 317, emphasis mine.) Interestingly enough, however, scientists nowadays do claim that life emerged abiotically in an effort to exclude God from science altogether.

In support of the above discussion, science philosopher Stephen Meyer (who is also a graduate in physics and earth science) summarizes the Cambrian explosion in the epilogue of his book Darwin’s Doubt as follows.

Darwin’s Doubt makes its case for the reality of the Cambrian explosion chiefly, but not entirely, on the basis of the fossil record. Representatives of twenty-three of the roughly twenty-seven fossilized animal phyla (and of the roughly thirty-six total animal phyla) are present in the Cambrian fossil record. Twenty of these twenty-three major groups of animals make their first appearance in the Cambrian period with no discernable ancestral forms present in either earlier Cambrian or Precambrian strata.” (pp. 417–18)

Meyer wrote a whole book of over five hundred pages based on the above paragraph; so I would like the reader to appreciate the full significance of this quote. Again limiting our discussion to animals alone, we know of only 36 different phyla (body plans) that have ever existed over the entire history of the earth. Of these 36 body plans, 23 were found in the Cambrian explosion strata. In all the strata prior to the Cambrian Period, only 3 of these 23 animal body plans were found. This means that 20, or more than half of a total of the 36 different body plans in the entire history of the world, appear suddenly in a relatively short interval of time with no Darwinian predecessors in sight. These 20 new body plans found in the Cambrian Period seem to have just been placed there: they do not seem to have evolved from other organisms. Also, there are only 27 animal phyla that are found fossilized (9 are not found fossilized) of which 23 were all found in a period of a few million years. Is it just me, or do you get the feeling that somebody is trying to tell us something?

Personally, I cannot see how a body plan could have evolved gradually into a completely different one: an endoskeleton (i.e., having an inside skeleton—like a fish) to an exoskeleton (hard on the outside—like a lobster), say, or vice versa given that there were no ancestral fossils in the Precambrian worldwide. I hate to admit it as a scientist, but it seems that God intervened in our history not just once but several times: depositing various life forms on earth at different times. Maybe he wants to show us that life is the connection between the natural (matter) and the supernatural (spirit).

I know this sounds like I’m plugging a scientific gap with God, but in my blog “God of the Gaps?,” I have shown clearly, beyond any reasonable doubt, that from scientific evidence, God is a reality out there too, and, therefore, I contend that it is possible that, occasionally, he constitutes a part of our science as well. The more we delve into science, and the harder we try to leave him out of science, paradoxically, the more he seems to come to the forefront.

Human Evolution

A very controversial subject is whether humans evolved from apes and monkeys. I must say, upfront, that I have no problem with this concept because our body plan is very close to that of apes and monkeys, like them we are bipedal animals (as opposed to birds), and many of our mannerisms resemble theirs—see the picture at the top of this article. Besides, we have a vestigial (useless) tail, which we probably inherited from monkeys: I seriously doubt that God would have created something as useless as a tailbone in the first place; this is probably the main reason why I believe we descended from apes and monkeys.

Likewise, I don’t think God would have designed the horse with four vestigial digits [fingers or toes] surrounding the horse’s hoof—which happens to be the middle digit. And I also think, for example, that the mouse and the rat are related because their body plans are so close : so, probably one has evolved from the other. I believe microevolution can achieve something like that.

Indeed, in an article on genetic “Heredity,” the Encyclopaedia Britannica has, “At the DNA sequence level, the genomes of humans and chimpanzees are 99 percent identical.” https://www.britannica.com/science/heredity-genetics/Random-genetic-drift.

However, even scientifically, there are serious difficulties concerning the hypothesis of human evolution from apes and monkeys. In the first place, when it comes to intelligence, I doubt whether chimpanzees possess 1% of our intelligence, despite every effort having been made to give them the opportunity to improve their intelligence in laboratories. They do not write books, they do not solve mathematical problems, they cannot play chess, they cannot think abstractly, they cannot speak, they do not design anything sophisticated, and on and on. Although far more intelligent than other animals, their intelligence pales compared to that of humans. Scientists know hardly anything about the mind (as opposed to the brain): namely, how electrical impulses in the brain are converted to feelings of joy or pain, self-awareness, reason, intelligence, color, and so on.  Therefore, they are jumping to conclusions when they assume that intelligence is automatically linked to evolution. As we saw above, Darwin wouldn’t even touch “mental powers” with a ten foot pole.

Modern evolutionary biologists argue that the cranial size of our ancestors enlarged gradually, and so did our intelligence soar accordingly. I do not deny there might be some correlation between brain size and intelligence; however, there seems to be no direct correlation between intelligence and brain size in us humans: I don’t believe cranial size is everything in human evolution. In fact, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the African elephant’s brain is more than three times that of the human brain, but it’s intelligence comes nowhere close to ours. Apparently, it is the total number of neurons (brain connections )in the cerebral cortex that is the determining factor. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4053853/). Naturally, one cannot determine this from fossils since the cerebral cortex constitutes only a portion of the brain, nor can its neuron density be ascertained from them. The fossils we have of alleged human progenitors are incomplete specimens, the majority of which are just partial skulls, jaws, bones, or teeth. Couldn’t they be fossils of deformed or extinct apes, say? I think there is a lot of imagination and very little science in paleoanthropologists’ coming to such conclusions, not to mention monetary interests.

As mentioned, according to Darwin’s evolutionary theory there should be a multitude of such variations in human evolution. In his book The Greatest Show on Earth, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins insists that we do have a multitude of variant forms supporting human evolution from primates, and I tend to agree with him; he writes,

“In the case of humans, since Darwin’s time there’s now an enormous amount of evidence about intermediates in human fossils and you’ve got various species of Australopithecus for example, and … then you’ve got Homo habilis—these are intermediates between Australopithecus which was an older species and Homo sapiens which is a younger species.” (p. 199)

The Encyclopaedia Britannica shows 16 intermediate fossils (15 skulls & 1 jaw) of hominids that lived over a 4-million-year span. It’s no wonder that, in the article, anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Russel Tuttle describes human evolution as a “family bush” rather than a tree. https://www.britannica.com/science/human-evolution. In fact, he admits,

“The relationships among Australopithecus, Kenyanthropus platyopsParanthropus, and the direct ancestors of Homo are unknown. … Our ancestry becomes no clearer as the candidates are narrowed to Homo species exclusively.” https://www.britannica.com/science/human-evolution/The-emergence-of-Homo-sapiens.

I think this is exactly what one would expect in genuine Darwinian evolution. I am totally neutral in this respect; in fact, personally, I do believe that our body evolved from that of apes or monkeys, mainly because there is some evidence to this effect: namely, our coccyx (or tailbone) and our superfluous intestinal appendix. But when it comes to our intelligence, it seems to me that the step is too great between us and chimpanzees. I believe God intervened again in this respect and made us—unlike other animals—“in his own image and likeness”; that is, reasonable creatures with some sense of right and wrong: in other words, to treat other humans the same way we would like to be treated by them ourselves.

Indeed, mathematical physicist and cosmologist Frank Tipler, in his book The Physics of Immortality, identifies the Holy Spirit with a physical field that enables all life. In his introduction to the book, he writes,

“[As others have] suggested, there may exist a previously undiscovered universal physical field … which can be regarded as the source of all life, and which can be identified with the Holy Spirit. … I shall argue … that the universal wave function … is a universal field with the essential features of … [a] new “energy” field. … The relation between God and Being suggest[s] identifying the personalized wave function with the Holy Spirit. If this identification is made, it becomes reasonable as a matter of physics, to say God is in the world, everywhere, and is with us, standing beside us at all times. … Such Presence is a key property of the Christian God. (This does not mean, however, that God intervenes in human history in a supernatural way.)” (pp. 13–14, emphasis in original)

I propose that the Holy Spirit is the source of our mental powers: it is our reasoning power that most convincingly makes us “like” God. Interestingly enough, in the Nicene Creed, Christians pray, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” (emphasis mine)

Now, what is a field? It is a condition (usually invisible) that causes some other observation to occur. It’s a gravitational field that causes everything to fall to the ground rather than to float in air. It’s a magnetic field that causes your magnetic calendar or notebook to be pulled toward and stick to your refrigerator door. It’s a nuclear field that holds atoms together as a solid. There are no strings in between causing any of these phenomena.

Irreducible Complexity

Irreducible Complexity is a rather intuitive notion conceptualized and elucidated by biochemist Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box. In it, for simplicity and to convey the basic idea, he describes a mousetrap, which consists of a base, a hammer, a spring, a bar, a catch, and (binding) staples. If any of these items is missing, it cannot operate as a mousetrap. Moreover, any of these items on its own is useless. So, if there is no design foresight, as is the case with random (blind) mutation, it will never happen because the addition of any of these items to the machinery (organism) is going to encumber it, not help it; so, natural selection will discard it immediately: it will not wait for the other items to come together because it has no foresight. In his book, Darwin himself admits,

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” (p. 232)

Now, I have been in engineering for fifty-odd years; Indeed, I even possess a Canadian and US patent. From an engineering viewpoint, therefore, I would say that for a new feature (subsystem) to work, it needs at least three things: a sensor (or detector), a receptor, and means of communication between them. It also requires a feedback or error-detecting means, and some means of correction or locomotion: otherwise the new sensor will be useless.

Both Darwin and Ayala try to explain how the eye developed from a single (or several) photo-sensitive (light-sensitive) cells on the outer layer of the skin of an organism’s body. Strangely enough, in his book, Darwin writes,

“How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated; but I may remark that, as some of the lowest organisms, in which nerves cannot be detected, are capable of perceiving light, it does not seem impossible that certain sensitive elements in their sarcode [gelatinous material] should become aggregated and developed into nerves, endowed with this special sensitivity.” (p. 228)

Of course, I disagree with Darwin that a sensitive nerve is not that important. (Incidentally, Ayala hardly talks about the nerve/nerves in between.) Just because an organism develops a photo-sensitive cell, on its epithelium (outer skin layer), it does not mean that it will hold on to it just in case while it tries to develop a photo-sensitive, communicating nerve; nor will it have the capability of sensing (a receptor) the light inside its body: unless it is designed to do so in the first place, of course—not to mention the feedback loop (brain) and locomotion (muscles, legs, fins, wings, etc.) required to react to the light. Once it detects the light, what is it going to do with it? It needs intelligence. Moreover, biologists claim, that this has happened separately many times in different organisms. According to Ayala, for example, “Eyes have evolved independently at least 40 times.” https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory. Was it a random (chance) process? Or was it a common design: as we find the wheel being incorporated in various transportation vehicles. What are the odds? As I argued in my blog “God of the Gaps?,” the odds of finding a new useful protein are very slim. The odds of coordinating three or more proteins is astronomically improbable.

Now, developing a photo-sensitive cell might not be so detrimental to an organism, but imagine developing one limb out of the four limbs, would the organism hold on to it until it collects another three? Or would it discard it as cumbersome? Remember, it doesn’t know how to use it yet. Every engineer knows that unless there is foresight, design is impossible: things will not coordinate together by chance alone. So, there is always some level of irreducible complexity in any design.

Genetic Engineering

In his book, Meyer points out that in 1979, two Nobel-Prize-winning geneticists, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus, generated thousands of mutations in the small subset of genes that regulate embryonic development in fruit flies. These genes, known as regulatory genes, control numerous other genes that are responsible for the subsequent subdivision of the embryo into various anatomical parts constituting the body of the fly: its head, thorax, abdomen, legs, wings, eyes, and so on. Regulatory genes tell other genes when to start and when to stop, and so they indirectly control the growth and freeze the size of the various anatomical parts in the adult organism. These two geneticists mutated, one by one, all the genes of the fly’s genome including the regulatory genes, and they figured out how and which gene controls, directly or indirectly, the growth of which part of the fly’s body—termed reverse engineering.

In 1982, following his writing a paper on the mutations he and his associate had induced in fruit flies, Weischaus made a presentation on the processes of macroevolution. In this presentation, he declared that, without exception, all the fruit fly mutants they had studied were deformed and died as larvae (small, wormlike, early stage of animal development); that is, long before achieving reproductive age: thus, they did not even have a chance to reproduce an organism with a novel body plan (for better or for worse). When asked by the audience about the implications of their findings on evolutionary theory, he replied,

“The problem is, we think we’ve hit all the genes required to specify the body plan of Drosophila [the fruit fly], and yet these results are obviously not promising as raw materials for macroevolution. The next question then, I guess, is what are—or what would be—the right mutations for major evolutionary change? And we don’t know the answer to that.” (emphasis in original)

Meyer adds, “Thirty [-eight] years later, developmental and evolutionary biologists still don’t know the answer to that question. … If mutating the genes that regulate body plan construction destroy animal forms as they develop from an embryonic state, then how do mutations and selection build animal body plans in the first place. … To build a new animal and establish its body plan, proteins need to be organised into higher-level structures. In other words, once new proteins arise, something must arrange them to play their parts in distinctive cell types. These distinctive cell types must, in turn, be organized to form distinctive tissues, organs, and body plans. This process of organization occurs during embryological development.” (p. 257)

When a gene is changed, its associated protein probably also changes: it’s like changing a building block in a construction site. If a brick is replaced by a slightly bigger or smaller one or of a different material, the structure might not remain solid any more, depending on where the brick happens to be. But if a brick is replaced by a wooden beam, say, something has to tell it where to place that wooden beam. But only the brick has changed by random mutation: there is no accompanying instruction of where to place it; so, it places the beam in the place of the brick with catastrophic results. If, on the other hand, only the instruction has changed, the building block in question is placed in the wrong place.

It’s all a matter of design; every engineer knows that as soon as you change as small item in a complex coordinated system, it’s back to the drawing board again: a whole slew of other things must be changed as well—one might as well start redesigning it from scratch.

Embryology

When Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, he collected all sorts of evidence in support of his theory of evolution from several fields of knowledge: comparative anatomy, paleontology (fossil study), embryology, and biogeography. There is hardly a more convincing evidence for a common ancestor than the similarity of the embryos of different animal classes (major biological categories, e.g., birds, mammals & vertebrates). In his book, Darwin writes,

“Various parts in the same individual, which are exactly alike during an early embryonic period, become widely different and serve for widely different purposes in the adult state. … It has been shown that generally the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar. A better proof of this latter fact cannot be given than the statement by [naturalist] Von Baer that ‘the embryos of mammalia [mammals], of birds, lizards, and snakes, probably also of chelonia [tortoises and turtles] are in their earliest states exceedingly like one another, both as a whole and in the mode of development of their parts; so much so, in fact, that we can often distinguish the embryos only by their size.’” (p. 587)

If you visit an automobile factory, and see all kinds of chasses of different sizes, would you think that the larger chassis developed automatically from the smaller one, or would you conclude that the designer used the same basic design? Moreover, if you see a flywheel or a cogwheel, would you say it is a mutation of the external four wheels because it looks somewhat like them? It’s a different design: the material is drastically different, yes, but it spins on an axis—the same basic principle as the wheel.

Furthermore, all embryos start from a single fertilized egg, but they all have a widely different program in their DNA: just like all computer-program discs or USB sticks look alike. But they do completely different jobs: documents, drafting, games, pictures, presentations, spreadsheets, and so on. All zygotes (fertilized eggs) start by doubling the number of cells in order to increase in size. So, if one goes back far enough, one is going to interpret it as a similarity. But is that an indication of one organism developing from another, or is it an indication of a common design?

Any two body plans are like diverging straight lines: the greater the difference the greater the angle between them. They are very close initially, but once you are on one of the straight lines, there is no going back; you can’t zigzag between them: if you do so, it will not be a straight line any longer. Likewise, neither can a body plan change to another spontaneously: following its own program, it will require building materials that are not there, which had been called up earlier in the other organism. That’s why the genetic engineering experiments described above all ended up in disaster.

Molecular Clock

In his article on evolution Ayala opines that,

“there should be a ‘molecular clock’ of evolution; that is, the degree to which amino acid or nucleotide [DNA] sequences diverge between species should provide a reliable estimate of the time since the species diverged.” https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory/Modern-conceptions.

I was so excited about this concept in my younger days when I still believed in macroevolution. There is nothing wrong with the concept except that it happens to give widely divergent ages for a particular alleged or assumed progenitor. The basic problem lies mainly in which protein molecule one would select to calculate the mutation rate? In actual fact, they all give different rates: leading to inconsistent histories—of course, there should only be one true history. So which history does one choose: the one with preconceived notions based on apparent similarities? This goes directly against the grain of all scientific principles: that is, following wherever the data and the evidence leads and letting the dice fall whichever way they will. Picking results that fit preconceived notions is not science but a belief—a religion!

For example, Meyer points out that molecular clock studies on the age of the common ancestor for the Cambrian phyla by two teams of biologists came up with 800 million and 1,200 million years ago: that’s a difference of 400 million years. (Meanwhile there is not a shred of evidence in Precambrian fossils for the prior 300 million or 700 million years, respectively.) He continues,

“Many other studies have thrown their own widely varying numbers into the ring, placing the common ancestor of animals anywhere between 100 million and 1.5 billion years before the Cambrian explosion (some molecular studies, oddly, even place the common ancestor of animals after the Cambrian explosion). … Different studies of different molecules generate widely divergent dates. … Sometimes contradictory divergence times are reported in the same (refreshingly forthright) article. … Two different molecules … [analysed were found] to yield individual gene-based divergence dates that differed by as much as 1 billion years. … One study for certain animal groups falls within a 14.2 billion-year range—more than three times the age of the earth and clearly a meaningless result.”  (p. 106–7, emphasis in original)

Need I say more concerning the molecular clock? In his article on evolution, Ayala admits that the molecular clock is not accurate, but he understates its inaccuracy; he writes,

“During the 1970s and ’80s it gradually became clear that the molecular clock is not exact; nevertheless, into the early 21st century it continued to provide the most reliable evidence for reconstructing evolutionary history.” https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory/Modern-conceptions.

Such statements are misleading, to say the least. Well, if one allows oneself to be guided by preconceived notions, results are going to confirm those preconceived notions.

Creationism

As I explained in my article “Science in the Bible,” creationists insist that God created all life forms in four days around six thousand years ago. Therefore, they contend that all animals cohabited earth at some time; consequently, dinosaurs and humans, for example, should be found in the same fossil strata.

They also contend that all the fossils were the result of Noah’s Flood. The normal tidal actions caused by the moon’s gravitational pull on bodies of water around the globe could not be dissipated on the seashores (as normally happens) since the global flood resulted in a global ocean—with no land above the water. The cumulative effect of this tidal action produced something resembling a global centrifuge: baring the loose earth, depositing the animals’ dead bodies, hydraulically, in a semi-organized fashion (the denser animals below), and finally burying them under the disturbed sediment.

However, under these conditions, feathered animals (unless stripped of feathers) should have been buried last: which is not the case with the archaeopteryx fossils, for example. Moreover, radiogenic dating sets dinosaurs and humans (Homo sapiens) around 65 million years apart.

Conclusion

It seems, therefore, that the scientists’ claims regarding macroevolution are empty claims: science seems to be becoming more of a religion than a science in this respect. Nowadays, scientists seem to pick a “party line” and try to shove it down the throat of everyone who cannot compete with them. They even come up with theories that cannot possibly be verified—the multiverse theory, for example, in an effort to keep God out of the picture. I hate to say it because I consider myself a scientist too, but I think they have become too arrogant: their superior intelligence has gone to their head.

It also seems that, regarding macroevolution, oddly enough, the Bible is basically right and science is wrong, but not regarding the timing, of course: so we can’t really say that the Bible trumps science. Nor can we say, therefore, that the Bible is God’s word: some things it got right, others it got wrong: like any other good human book, I suppose.

References

Ayala, Francisco Jose. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online s.v. “Evolution (scientific theory).” https://www.britannica.com/science/evolution-scientific-theory. (Last update May 21, 2020.)

Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York, NY: Free Press, 2006. (ISBN: 9780743290319.)

Darwin, Charles to Joseph Dalton Hooker. February 1, 1871.

Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. New York, NY: Modern Library. (ISBN: 9780375751462.)

Dawkins, Richard. The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. New York, NY: Free Press, 2010. (ISBN: 9781416594796.)

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online s.v. “Geologic Time.” https://www.britannica.com/science/geologic-time (Last update June 2, 2020.)

Flannery, Timothy Fridtjof. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online s.v. “Cambrian Explosion (paleontology).” https://www.britannica.com/science/Cambrian-explosion. (Last update August 8, 2019.)

Griffiths, Anthony J.F., Arthur Robinson, and Theodosius Dobzhansky. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online s.v. “Heredity (genetic).” https://www.britannica.com/science/heredity-genetics. (Last update October 11, 2019.)

Herculano-Houzel, Suzana, Kamilla Avelino-de-Souza, Kleber Neves, Jairo Porfírio, Débora Messeder, Larissa Mattos Feijó, José Maldonado, and Paul R. Manger. “The Elephant Brain in nymbers.” National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), PubMed Central Identification (PMCID): PMC4053853, (Published online 2014 Jun 12, pre-published online 2014 Apr 30.) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4053853/.

Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014. (ISBN: 9780062071484.)

Tipler, Frank Jennings. The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 1995. (ISBN: 0385467990.)

Tuttle, Russel Howard. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online s.v. “Human Evolution.” https://www.britannica.com/science/human-evolution. (Last update February 3, 2020.)

Wikipedia s.v. “E-coli Long Term Evolution Experiment.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment.

Science in the Bible

Biblical Cosmology

In his 1893 encyclical (world-wide letter) Providentissimus Deus (Latin for “The Most Provident God”), Pope Leo XIII proclaimed,

“All the books which the Church receives as sacred and canonical [official], are written wholly and entirely, with all their parts, at the dictation of the Holy Ghost [Spirit]. … By supernatural power, He [God/the Holy Spirit] so moved and impelled them [the biblical authors] to write—He was so present to them—that the things which He ordered, and those only, they, first, rightly understood, then willed faithfully to write down, and finally expressed in apt words and with infallible truth.” (Para. 20)

Probably all Christian denominations endorse such doctrine. The pope then continues,

“Let them [scholars] loyally hold that God, the Creator and Ruler of all things, is also the Author of the Scriptures—and that therefore nothing can be proved either by physical science or archaeology which can really contradict the Scriptures.” (Para. 23, emphasis mine)

Moreover, in their book The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses also contend,

“In essential features, the Bible is in harmony with modern science. Where there is a conflict between the two, the scientists’ evidence is questionable. Where they agree, the Bible is often so accurate that we have to believe it got its information from a superhuman [divine] intelligence.” (p. 116)

Creationists’ belief in the Bible is even more radical than the above. In his article “Science at the Bar—Causes for Concern” science philosopher Larry Laudan describes Creationism as follows:

“The creationists say that the earth is of very recent origin (say 6,000 … years old); they argue that most of the geological features of the earth’s surface are diluvial in character (i.e., products of the postulated Noachian deluge [flood]); they are committed to a large number of factual historical claims with which the Old Testament is replete; they assert the limited variability of species. They are committed to the view that, since [according to the Bible] animals and man were created at the same time, the human fossil record must be paleontologically co-extensive with the record of lower animals.”

More specifically, creationists believe that the universe and the earth have only existed around 6,000 years, because that’s what it adds up to in the biblical accounts of past human generations in the book of Genesis and Luke’s gospel (3:23–38). They argue that most of the earth’s geological features are the result of a great flood, as described in Genesis, which allegedly happened around 4,500 years ago. For example, they believe that dinosaurs and people lived together at some time, because Genesis says that all animals and man were created within days of each other. They therefore conclude that the human fossil record must overlap that of all the other animals, since they also deny large scale evolution—termed macroevolution.

This article discusses the validity or otherwise of several of the above religious claims.

For the benefit of the reader who might not be familiar with the Bible, the Genesis account of the Creation, of the earth and the universe, may be summarized as follows. Day 1: God created light: separating night and day. Day 2: God created a dome (the Hebrews thought the sky was a shiny, metal dome) to separate the rain water from the sea waters. Day 3: God gathered the sea waters together into one place, a sort-of basin, so that dry land could appear. He then endowed the land with vegetation: both plants and trees. Day 4: God created the sun, moon, and stars: he placed them inside the dome he had created on the second day to give light to the earth. Day 5: God created fish, sea animals, sea crawlers, birds, and other flying animals. Day 6: God created tame and wild land animals, land crawlers, insects, and finally humans. (Genesis 1:3–26)

The Sky Dome

Now, most Bible-inerrancy believers question the creation of a solid dome (vault or canopy) on the second day. The Roman Catholic New American Bible (NAB) clearly states, “God said: ‘Let there be a dome in the middle of the waters, to separate one body of water from the other.’ God made the dome and it separated the water below the dome from the water above the dome.” [Genesis 1:6–7 (NAB), emphasis mine] Moreover, in a footnote, it has, “Dome: the [original] Hebrew word suggests a gigantic metal dome.” [Genesis 1:7n (NAB)]

In the interest of fairness, however, in their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT), Jehovah’s Witnesses have, “God said: ‘Let there be an expanse [a space] between the waters, and let there be a division between the waters and the waters.’ Then God went on to make the expanse and divided the waters beneath the expanse from the waters above the expanse.” [Genesis 1:6–7 (NWT), emphasis mine]

However, when this Bible version comes to Noah’s Flood, it has no problem rendering the text: “on that day all the springs of the vast watery deep burst open and the floodgates of the heavens [sky] were opened.” [Genesis 7:11 (NWT), emphasis mine] And again, after the flood ended, it has, “The springs of the watery deep and the floodgates of the heavens were stopped up, so the rain from the heavens [sky] stopped falling.” [Genesis 8:2 (NWT), emphasis mine] Needless to mention, an expanse or a space has no floodgates to open and shut: so, it is an imagined solid construction, which, in reality, does not exist in the sky. Are these floodgates metaphorical? No. Why not? How could an expanse or space hold water above it? It was not clouds but water that was allegedly above the dome: the clouds, as well as the celestial bodies, were allegedly below the dome. And, water would fall to the ground unless it was held up by something solid.

Besides, in the book of Job, one of Job’s friends, Elihu, asks him, “Can you, with him [God], spread out (or ‘beat out’) the skies as solid as a metal mirror?” [Job 37:18 (NWT), emphasis mine] Please note, here, that this is Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own translation. In other words, the ancient Hebrews thought that the sky was something like a solid, shiny, metal mirror. Until one realizes this, many biblical passages will simply not make much sense: see, for example, Daniel 4:11, quoted below.

Moreover, in the story of the tower of Babel, people wanted to build a tower reaching up to heaven. The King James Version (KJV) has,

“They [the people] said, ‘Go to [Come], let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven.’” [Genesis 11:4 (KJV), emphasis mine] How is this conceivably possible unless “heaven” was something like a dome? (Please refer to the “Biblical Cosmology” picture at the beginning of this article.)

So, right off the bat, it does not seem that the Bible is very scientific, right? There is nothing in the sky but a layer of air. Bible-inerrancy believers render the original Hebrew word for ‘the sky’ in Genesis as an “expanse” or a “space” only in hindsight because they know it is scientific nonsense. As I cited above, “the Hebrew word suggests a gigantic metal dome.”

I once heard a televangelist quote the above verse from Job: “Can you, with him [God], spread out the skies?” [Job 37:18 (NWT)] (it could have been a similar passage: e.g., Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, 42:22, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12, 51:15; Job 26:7; Psalms 104:2; Zechariah 12:1), arguing that the Bible knew about the big bang theory. The phrase “spread out,” or “stretch out,” he claimed, referred to the expansion of space. But this is quoting the verse out of context: in fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses give an alternate phrase here, “beat out,” which is more in line with the concept of its being made of metal. This is the kind of danger we fall into when we try to read things in the Bible that are not there. Keep in mind that God is always on the side of truth, and truth does not rely on falsehood for support. God does not need us to manipulate the truth for his sake: he can take care of his own interests.

Creation of the Earth and the Universe

According to Genesis, the earth (the land and the seas) was created first and then the sun, moon, and stars: which the biblical author visualized stuck to the inside of a solid, metal dome covering the earth, like lamps to a ceiling, to give light to the earth. These celestial bodies were also thought to be much smaller than the earth, especially the stars, which were thought to be the size of figs, say: biblical authors thought they could all fall on earth and still the earth would survive. For example, in the King James Version, Matthew’s gospel portrays Jesus saying,

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” [Matthew 24:29–30 (KJV), emphasis mine]

Jehovah’s Witnesses have practically the same translation here; so, it makes things simpler. The stars are like our sun, but they are very far away, and so they appear very small. If only a single star were to fall on earth, there would be no “tribes” left “mourn” on earth. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States of America, the sun’s diameter is more than one hundred times that of the earth, which means that more than a million earths can fit into our sun; moreover, our sun is an average-sized star: there are stars even up to a hundred times larger.

Unlike what the Bible says, a starry universe first came into existence, the sun was then formed, and finally the planets—including the earth and the moon. According to the Bible, it was the other way around: the earth was formed first, then the sun and the moon, and finally the stars. I hope the reader can appreciate the scientific shortcomings in the Bible by now. Still, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that where there is disagreement between science and the Bible, the Bible trumps science, while Catholics also insist that there cannot be contradictions between the sciences and the Bible. With such an attitude towards science, religion will soon be ruled out of our schools by the state because it confuses children: we would not even be able to teach our children the existence of God!

Some people might perceive a textual contradiction in Genesis chapter 1 because it says that light was created in the first day while the sun, moon, and stars were created on the fourth day. They argue it is impossible because all our light comes from the sun (and possibly the stars). This might be true to some extent, but what actually happened first, in the big bang, is that the entire universe was filled with electromagnetic waves, and I think the best way to describe them to ordinary people is by the word “light,” which is the form of electromagnetic waves we are most familiar with and most descriptive. Was the big bang revealed in the bible before the scientists knew about it then? I think it is more of a coincidence that the Bible turned out to be so right. It might have been amazing if everything else in the Bible were somehow always found to be correct, but, as we shall see in the course of this article, this is most probably not the case.

Now, light, as opposed to darkness, was considered a divine or semi-divine substance. So, it is natural for the Bible to portray God creating light first. In fact, in the Nicene Creed (381 CE) we profess that Jesus is “God from God, [and] Light from Light,” which is nonsense because light, like all other forms of energy, is strictly a physical quantity—not a divine or supernatural.

Age of the Earth and the Universe

According to the biblical account in Genesis, God created the earth (the land and the seas) on the third day, and he created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day. This means that the universe and the earth were created within a day of each other: so, one might say that they are practically the same age according to the Bible. This implies that if we can find the age of the earth, we have practically found the age of the universe as well. Luckily, in chapter 3 of Luke’s gospel we have the complete genealogy of Jesus back to Adam (the first human created). Genesis also tells us how long most of these ancestors lived and how old their parents were when they were born. This way, one can laboriously find out how long before Jesus Adam was created, and since Adam was created on the sixth day of the Creation, if we add to this amount of time the two-thousand-odd years from Jesus to the present time, we can find roughly the age of the earth and the universe.

This calculation was done by an archbishop of the Church of Ireland, James Ussher, in 1654: he determined that the earth was created in 4004 BCE. There were others who did similar calculations: all came up to around 4,000 years from the Creation to the birth of Jesus. This is why creationists believe that the earth and the universe are only around 6,000 years old. Strangely enough, in their brochure “Was Life Created?,” Jehovah’s Witnesses disagree with creationists in this respect. They try to conform to modern science by contending that the Creation days were not 24-hour days; they were thousands, millions, possibly even billions of years long. Meanwhile, Genesis mentions “evening and morning,” after every “day” of the Creation, that is, not just once but six times. (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) I don’t know how Jehovah’s Witnesses could possibly be so blind! Such an attitude undermines their credibility. Outlandish interpretations of the Scriptures are not what the Bible actually says.

Now, what does science say concerning the age of the universe? Scientists have discovered that the universe has been expanding ever since it came into existence. The distance between galaxies is increasing in every direction you look: all the galaxies in the universe are receding from one another. Suppose you partially blow up a balloon, and paint dots all over its surface. If you then keep blowing up the balloon, relative to any dot you like, all the other dots will separate from it proportionally to their original distance. This is what is happening to all the galaxies around us—in every direction. This means that space in the universe is expanding all around us: just like the balloon surface was expanding on blowing it up further. But how do scientists measure the receding rate of these galaxies? They use equipment similar to what traffic police use to determine your driving speed. It is a little bit more complicated, but the concept is the same—termed Doppler shift. This way scientists know at what rate space in the universe is expanding. If one were to reverse this expansion rate, one would find that the universe started from a very small size around 14 billion years ago. A far cry from 6 thousand years ago, as allegedly “revealed” in the Bible! To put this in perspective, this is analogous to science saying that a year is about 365 days long while the Bible says it is less than 14 seconds long. There is no way science could be that far out: scientists claim only an error of far less than 1% in their measurement.

Is it possible that the scientists are wrong and the Bible right? Well, there are other phenomena supporting the big bang theory, like the microwave background radiation, but I don’t wish the reader to be confused with too much information. Moreover, supernovas (explosions of stars at the end of their life cycle) are very bright, outshining an entire galaxy, so they enable us to measure the actual distance to the oldest galaxies: dividing their distance by the speed of light tells us how old those galaxies are. Suffice it here to say that the big bang theory is practically cast in stone, like the heliocentric theory—the fact that the earth and the planets orbit the sun.

Admittedly, there are some scientific theories that are very shaky, in my opinion, like string theory and the multiverse theory, and others that are continuously debated, like the theory of evolution, but not the heliocentric theory or the big bang theory. I would even dare say that all scientists agree with both of them: they are pretty much cast in stone. Besides, the big bang theory is a theory which supports a “moment of creation”: in other words, if Bible believers contest it, they would effectively be shooting themselves in the foot. It is probably the only scientific theory that, in some way, really supports something of what the Bible says. Albeit, as I showed in my article “God of the Gaps?,” the Bible does not endorse creation from nothingness.

Now, when it comes to the age of the earth, unlike trying to determine the age of the universe, we have an advantage: we are on earth. Luckily, we still happen to have some naturally-occurring radioactive elements on earth. These are unstable chemical elements that change into other elements spontaneously: like uranium-238, thorium-232, potassium-40, and uranium-235. Now, by “changing,” I do not mean forming compounds, but literally changing from one element to another: from uranium to lead, say. Chemical compounds are formed by various ways of sharing the electrons orbiting the nuclei of atoms. Radioactivity consists of a decay of the nucleus of atoms; that is, a change in the number of protons and/or neutrons in the nucleus take place: normally the chemical element changes. Imagine if we could change lead into gold—no such luck—but you get the point.

What is wonderful about radioactive elements is that their decay rate is not affected by the physical conditions surrounding them, not even temperature—their half-life remains practically constant. The half-life is the time it takes for half the quantity of a radioactive element to change to another element (or isotope). Now if a radioactive element is trapped in a rock of lava, say, when it solidifies, that rock behaves like an hourglass: where the top flask represents the parent element and the bottom flask represents the daughter element. If we can measure the relative amounts of parent element to daughter element in various small samples taken from that rock we can determine the time when that rock solidified. Science believes the earth was molten initially, so we cannot really measure the age of the earth, as such, but we can tell that it is older than the age determined by radiogenic measurements. Now, admittedly, contamination by daughter, or even parent, element after solidification is a pain in the neck in these measurements, but with care they can be worked around: usually by comparing two radioactive elements, with different half-lives, that happen to be in the same rock. The ages obtained from the two radiogenic measurements must verify one another, of course. Such a scenario practically rules out contamination.

Anyway, to make a long story short, the earth’s age, as determined by radiogenic measurements seems to be more than 4.5 billion years. To put this in perspective, this is analogous to science saying the year is about 365 days long and the Bible saying that it is only about 42 seconds long. (Or, if you like, the distance half-way round the globe along the equator is about 20,000 kilometers—about a 22-hour continuous flight on a commercial airplane—but creationists insist it is only about 27 meters long—that’s less than a third of the length of an American football pitch.) Again, the error in measurement of the earth’s age by the radiogenic method is minimal—of the order of 1%. Indeed, in his article, Laudan continues, “It is fair to say that no one has shown how to reconcile such [creationists’] claims with the available evidence—evidence which speaks persuasively to a long earth history, among other things.”

So, how do creationists work around this huge discrepancy between the scientists’ estimates and the biblical estimates for the universe’s age and the earth’s age? They resort to a huge reduction in the speed of light at the beginning of the universe, starting almost infinite: thus making us think that the universe is very old while it is, in fact, very young. Of course, there is no scientific support for such a hypothesis. Besides, from Einstein’s most famous formula, E=mc2 (where ‘E’ stands for energy, ‘m’ stands for mass—analogous to weight—and ‘c’ stands for the velocity of light in a vacuum) were the speed of light to decrease spontaneously, all created matter would lose energy spontaneously. But this contradicts one of the most basic principles of physics, that “energy cannot be created or destroyed” in our universe—it can only change form: from electricity to light and from light to heat, say. Were this to be the case, then matter and energy could disappear into nothingness and appear from nothingness: God would not be the only creator from nothingness.

And concerning radioactive-decay rates, creationists contend there was a similar huge reduction in radioactive activity. However, strangely enough the radioactive-decay rate of any substance is also related to the speed of light; in other words, if the radioactive-decay rates changed, the speed of light must also have changed proportionally: which we have just ruled out. In his book, In the Minds of Men, creationist, metallurgist Ian Taylor writes,

“The mechanics of radioactive decay are dealt with at length and in mathematical detail by specialist books on the subject, and it would not be appropriate to attempt to cover this topic here. Suffice it to say that radioactive decay depends on the probability of escape of certain particles from their orbit in the unstable atom. The decay rate is directly proportional to the speed of travel of the particles in their atomic orbit, and this speed is, in turn, directly proportional to the speed of light. It may seem odd that the speed of light is related to atomic phenomena, but it does turn up in a number of unlikely places as one of the universal constants. For instance, in the familiar expression E=mc2, we find the velocity of light, c, related to the mass, m, and the energy, E.”

Because of such outlandish creationist claims, ‘Creationism’ is a derogatory term in scientific circles because creationists’ only, so called, scientific evidence is practically limited to quoting the Bible. Consequently, Creationism has also been called a ‘pseudoscience.’

Earth’s Shape and Motion

In conclusion, let us now have a quick look at what the Bible says regarding the shape of the earth, what causes day and night, and the relative movement of earth and sun. Science says the earth is spherical; day and night happen because the earth spins on its axis once daily, and the seasons happen because the earth orbits the sun once yearly—termed heliocentric theory—in a tilted fashion relative to its orbit. On the other hand, the Bible says the earth is flat; it contends that the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and repositions itself through some underground path overnight; finally it argues that the sun moves round the earth in the sky (relative to the zodiac constellations) once a year—termed geocentric hypothesis. In other words, according to the Bible, the earth constitutes the center of the universe: it is fixed, and everything else moves around it. Although the Bible was written by several authors, luckily, its ‘cosmology’ happens to be consistent and similar to contemporaneous beliefs of nearby nations. In the heliocentric theory, the earth orbits the sun while, in the geocentric hypothesis, the sun moves around the earth. So, basically, in the former case the sun is fixed while, in the latter case, the earth is fixed. Now, have a look at the following biblical quotes.

(1) “Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.” [1 Chronicles 16:30 (KJV), emphasis mine]

(2) “The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” [Psalms 93:1 (KJV), emphasis mine.]

(3) “Say among the heathen that the LORD reigneth: the world also shall be established that it shall not be moved.” [Psalms 96:10 (KJV), emphasis mine]

As mentioned, the heliocentric theory is practically cast in stone as a scientific theory. There are also verses that say the earth has foundations so it does not move:

(4) “Who [God] laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.” [Psalms 104:5 (KJV), emphasis mine]

(5) “Where wast thou [Job] when I [God] laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof?” [Job 38:4–6 (KJV), emphasis mine] Note that the Bible has no clue how these imaginary foundations were anchored in the deep.

(6) “The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which [who] stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.” [Zechariah 12:1 (KJV), emphasis mine]

I think Shadewald clinches the argument regarding the shape of the earth here by commenting, “If one views the earth as an architectural structure with floor, curtain walls, and a roof, it is natural to assume it has foundations (and, I might add, a cornerstone). Why a sphere would have foundations escapes me.” (See the “Biblical Cosmology” picture at the beginning of this article.) And there are also biblical verses that say the sun moves rather than the earth spins about its axis:

(7) “Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? ‘So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day.’”[Joshua 10:12–13 (KJV), emphasis mine.]

(8) Also the Catholic canonical book The Wisdom of Ben Sira (or Ecclesiasticus) has, “Was it not by that same [Joshua’s] hand the sun stopped, and one day became two?” [Ben Sira 46:4 (NAB)]

Incidentally, this is the reason why Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) was condemned for heresy by the Catholic Church’s Inquisition and forced to recant his heliocentric theory.

Now, Bible-inerrancy believers naturally argue that the Bible does not say that the earth is flat because we have pictures of the earth from space missions showing it is definitely spherical. Besides scientists, this is a fact no sane person could possibly deny. Yet, the Bible does say that the earth is flat! In his article “The Flat-Earth Bible,” pseudoscience expert Robert Schadewald simply states, “The Bible is, from Genesis [the first book] to Revelation [the last book], a flat-earth book.” Have a look at the following passages.

(1) In the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar describes his dream as follows: “Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst [middle/center (NAB)] of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto [the dome of] heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.” [Daniel 4:10–11 (KJV), emphasis mine] Of course, the surface of a sphere has no “middle”.

(2) In the last of Jesus’s temptations in the desert, “Again, the devil took Him [Jesus] up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” [Matthew 4:8 (KJV), emphasis mine]

(3) “Behold, He [Jesus] is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.” [Revelation 1:7 (KJV), emphasis mine] People on the opposite side of the globe could not possibly see Jesus.

(4) “After these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.” [Revelation 7:1 (KJV), emphasis mine] Needless to mention, a sphere has no corners.

(5) “When he uttereth his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens; and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: he maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures.” [Jeremiah 51:16 (KJV), emphasis mine] Again, a sphere has no ends, either.

(6) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” [Psalms 104:12 (KJV)] The east is only far from the west on a flat earth: on a spherical earth they actually meet each other, but this could be interpreted metaphorically.

(7) In the Genesis account of the Creation, on the third day of the Creation, “God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens [dome (NAB)] be gathered together into one place [basin (NAB)], and let the dry land appear.’” [Genesis 1:9 (KJV)] This is not exactly what our earth looks like: this looks more like a flat piece of land with mountains on the sides and a pool of water in the middle. (See the “Biblical Cosmology” picture at the beginning of this article.)

How can all these verses make any sense unless the biblical authors considered the earth flat? However, in the interest of fairness, Bible-inerrancy believers point to the fact that the first quote is only a dream and the second is a vision: therefore, they do not have to bear any connection to reality. Still, regarding the second quote, I must disagree because the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain to be able to see the whole world from up there; he could have given him a slide show, say. I think the context implies a flat earth. Regarding the third quote, some televangelists believe that it predicts that Jesus’s return to earth will be televised globally: thus, every nation will see him coming. In the fourth quote, some Bible translations render “corners” as “quarters,” but there is not much one can say for the fifth quote. Consequently, if one looks at the Bible as a whole, as pseudoscience expert Schadewald concludes, “The Bible is, from Genesis to Revelation, a flat-earth book.” It explains all the verses above naturally.

In conclusion, one must admit that science hardly ever supports what the Bible says. This is why science and religion are skeptical of each other and practically always at odds with each other. So much, therefore, for the Bible’s infallibility claimed by the various religious institutions mentioned at the beginning of this article. Trying to defend the “science” in the Bible feels like clutching at straws: totally ineffective.

P.S. I’m afraid this article got too long: I had too much to say. I shall therefore address the theory of evolution and the fossil record in my next article. I must also postpone a discussion of the creationist hypotheses concerning Noah’s Flood to a separate article.

References

Laudan, Larry. “Science at the Bar—Causes for Concern.” In But Is It Sceince? Edited by Michael Ruse, pp. 351–55. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1988.

Leo XIII, “Providentissimus Deus.” Vatican, Italy, 1893. Translated by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

NASA: Space Place. https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/sun-compare/en/.

New American Bible: Revised Edition (NAB). Totowa, NJ: Catholic Book Publishing Corp., 2011. Translated and annotated by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Inc.: Washington, DC, 2010. (ISBN: 9780899429519.)

Nicene Creed, 381 CE. https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=495.

Schadewald, Robert J. “The Flat-Earth Bible.” Lock Haven University: https://lockhaven.edu/~dsimanek/febible.htm.

Taylor, Ian. In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order. Toronto, ON: TFE Publishing, 1991. (ISBN: 0969178840.)

The Holy Bible: King James Version (KJV). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1769.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania: Patterson, NY. New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT). Wallkill, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., 2013.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. The Bible: God’s Word or Man’s? Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1989. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. “Was Life Created?” Wallkill, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., 2010.

God of the Gaps?

Supernova

One of the most basic principles of physics is that “energy cannot be created or destroyed.” This means that all the energy in the universe can only change form: for example, from falling water to electricity, from electricity to heat, from heat to light. Nothing can come out of ‘nothingness’: we need something to ‘create’ something else. This is what science says, so far.

Now, from Einstein’s theory of relativity, we get his most famous formula, E=mc2, where ‘E’ stands for energy, ‘m’ stands for mass (or quantity of matter—analogous to weight) and ‘c’ stands for the velocity of light in a vacuum. What this formula boils down to is that all matter in the universe is a form of trapped energy: like motion, electricity, heat, light, and so on. So, according to the above most basic principle of physics, it could not possibly have just popped up out of nothingness.

So, “why is there something rather than nothing?” Because of this dilemma, there was a time when scientists thought that matter was always there. However, unlike nowadays, most scientists, in the past, believed in some form of supreme being, so they did not have much of a problem postulating a created universe. But modern scientists ask, “where did God come from?” This is a perfectly valid question, analogous to “where did the universe come from?” What is false is to come to the conclusion that such a question leads to an eternal regress and, consequently, that there must be no God.

It is practically impossible for our mind to admit a first cause—something that exists but was not caused by something prior. Would you accept, for example, matter as a first cause, or would it be energy, or would it be electromagnetic radiation, or would it be quantum space, or would it be the big bang? Would you accept the big bang as a first cause? Wouldn’t you ask how and why it happened? Do you see the eternal regress also here? Yet, we exist, nobody can deny that: so, there must have been some first cause! So it’s natural to ask, “why is there something rather than nothing?” Creation from nothing is not something that science accepts; nor is it something the Bible reveals, despite what many believers think. It is the only thing that makes sense to our reason; nothing else makes sense: everything else leads to an eternal regress.

We don’t know where God came from, that’s true, but it doesn’t follow that he does not exist. Although we have no clue where the universe came from, we certainly cannot say that it does not exist. In other words, whether God exists or not is indeed a scientific question: the reality out there. Did God create us or did we create him because we cannot explain so many things in our universe—a ‘god of the gaps’?

Some might retort, “How can science tell whether God exists or not if he is invisible and intangible? Science only deals with the natural while God is supernatural.” However, science also makes conclusions from the evidence it collects. It does not only arrive at conclusions by what we see and feel. Science didn’t see atoms when chemistry first postulated them, but we can see them now: we are now sure they truly exist.

Let us suppose you were given an extract from any book: you don’t know who its author might be, but you know there is intelligence behind it. Someone must have written it: it never even enters your mind that it could possibly just have come about by chance. In other words, you might not know how that extract came to be but you know, for sure, that someone with intelligence is or was behind it. Even more so if you are given a book of a thousand pages, say.

Now, from the big bang theory, we can conclude that our universe is about fourteen billion (1.4 x 1010) years old. Most people think that anything can happen by chance, at least once, in such a length of time. However, do you think that a book of a thousand pages, say, could be written by inserting random characters (letters, spaces, and punctuation signs) in that amount of time. I see you are thinking about it. But take the completed book and start changing letters, spaces, and punctuation signs at random: at the throw of six dice, say (the sum of the six dice representing a previously defined character). Do you think it will ever make more sense than what the author wrote originally? Why not? Because you know very well that every inanimate thing in nature deteriorates and runs down: it gets worse not better. It is only intelligence—life—that can improve things: the universe, as a whole, is running down continuously: indeed it is our real indication of time. So again, how did the universe start ‘wound up’?

One must admit that the big bang theory strongly suggests a moment of creation by God. Indeed, most Bible believers think that it was revealed in its first verse: “In the beginning God created heaven, and earth.” But does it really? If so, why did God create them again bit by bit from the third verse onward: light, sky, seas, land, vegetation, sun, moon, stars, sea animals, birds, land animals, and humans (Genesis 1:3–26). So, the first verse in Genesis is only a title or a summary of what the author was going to detail in what follows. Now, how did God create all these things, according to the Bible? Does the Bible say that God created everything out of nothingness? No, because in its second verse, before any of the above was created, it has, “And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.” Where did the “earth” and the “waters” come from? The “seas” and the “land” were created later, in the third day, no? According to the author of Genesis, the “void and empty” earth together with the waters of the “deep” were the raw materials out of which God “created” heaven and earth: the same way a sculptor uses a raw piece of marble, say. You don’t agree? Here is what former nun and religious affairs author and commentator Karen Armstrong writes in her book A History of God.

“In Babylonian myth—as later in the Bible—there was no creation out of nothing, an idea that was alien to the ancient world. Before either the gods or human beings existed, this sacred raw material had existed from all eternity. When the Babylonians tried to imagine this primordial divine stuff, they thought that it must have been similar to the swampy wasteland of Mesopotamia, where floods constantly threatened to wipe out the frail works of men.” (p. 7, emphasis mine.)

In other words, even according to the Bible, God did not create the universe out of nothingness: in fact, the Bible implies that matter was eternal, like God. Still, Christians quote its first verse out of context: professing that the Bible knew before the scientists that the universe was created out of nothingness. In reality, the context does not say so. Now, were science to tell us, unequivocally, that matter is eternal, I think everyone, deep down, would still ask how it got there. It makes me wonder, therefore, how Christians could possibly still consider the Bible infallible since it implies that matter is eternal—unless they never understood it.

Now, in his book A Universe from Nothing, physicist Lawrence Krauss claims that there is no such thing as ‘nothingness’: that our quantum space automatically creates matter and antimatter (such that the average energy of the universe remains zero) continuously. Although I find the concept intriguing, I still think it is unconvincing: keep in mind that there was no quantum space prior to the big bang. Moreover, it begs the question as to how and why the big bang started from literal nothingness, and thereby creating such a quantum space. I think the book fails to deliver the essence of what it claims.

There are two things that could have happened after the big bang: (1) it could have produced a starry universe (like ours), or (2) it could have ended up entirely in black holes. Stars consist mainly of hydrogen (their fuel) and helium (the by-product of two fused hydrogen atoms). For life to exist, it is absolutely necessary that a starry universe be formed first. All the other hundred-odd chemical elements (including carbon—the basic element of life) are formed during a star’s explosion at the end of its life cycle—termed supernova. We are indeed literally stardust! Black holes, on the other hand, are a gravitational self-crunching of a large quantity of matter resulting from its massive size. The gravity inside these regions becomes so great that practically nothing can come out of them—not even light.

In his book Other Worlds, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and astrobiologist Paul Davies states that the odds for a starry universe (rather than a black-hole universe) happening after the big bang, assuming the current laws of physics, are 1:101021 (i.e., 1 followed by 1021 zeros: pp. 160–61, 168–69). Moreover, in a coauthored book, Quantum Gravity 2, mathematical physicist Roger Penrose states that the odds against a life-sustaining universe occurring after the big bang are 1:1010123 (i.e., 1 followed by 10123 zeros: pp. 248–49). Note that there aren’t enough stable particles (i.e., protons, neutrons, and electrons) in the visible universe (estimated at 1080, i.e., 1 followed by 80 zeros) to represent just the zeros of this number.

What this means, in practice, is that our universe would never have formed the way it did unless it was coaxed to—possibly by a powerful supreme intelligence. If we think that invoking God as an explanation for our universe is simply filling up our ‘scientific gaps,’ then only a prohibitively minute incidence of chance is left. And if we were to believe such miracles by chance, then we have no need for science at all: chance will explain everything for us. But science, as you probably know, is supposed to rely on probability not chance. Consequently, from string theory, science postulates a multiverse of some 10500 universes, most of which are failed universes. Besides our inability to prove their existence or to know anything about these alleged universes, this number is nowhere close to 1010123.

As if this were not conclusive enough for the existence of God, we come to the question of life. The simplest living cell is that of a bacterium. In his book Signature in the Cell, science philosopher Stephen Meyer shows that the odds against a minimally complex functional living cell (having only 250 proteins of a mere 150 amino acids each) arising by chance alone are about 1:1041000 (i.e., 1 followed by 41,000 zeros). On the other hand, in his book The Design Inference, mathematician William Dembski calculates the total probabilistic resources of the entire universe, since its very beginning fourteen billion (1.4 x 1010) years ago, to be only about 10140 (i.e., 1 followed by 140 zeros) opportunities. This leaves the minute probability of 1:1040860 (i.e., 1 followed by 40,860 zeros) for the simplest living cell to pop into existence strictly by chance; and that is in the entire time the universe has existed. It is no wonder that, in his book The God Delusion, self-declared atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins graciously admits,

“No indeed, chance is not the likely designer. That is one thing on which we can all agree. The statistical improbability of [living] phenomena … is the central problem that any theory of life must solve. The greater the statistical improbability, the less plausible is chance as a solution: that is what improbable means. But the candidate solutions to the riddle of improbability are not, as is falsely implied, design and chance. They are design and natural selection. Chance is not a solution, given the high levels of improbability we see in living organisms, and no sane biologist ever suggested that it was.” (p. 145.)

Now, in his book The Selfish Gene, Dawkins also admits that a replicator is required for life to start evolving from inanimate matter into a living cell; he also admits that a replicator can only happen by pure chance. He writes, “At some point a particularly remarkable molecule was formed by accident. We will call it the Replicator.” (p. 15, emphasis mine.)

Dawkins imagines a “simple” molecular replicator occurring, by chance, that eventually evolves chemically from inanimate matter to a living cell. The problem I find with this hypothesis is that the odds against an efficient replicator occurring by chance alone are also astronomically high. For a replicator to reproduce itself efficiently (i.e., without making any errors), it must be very sophisticated. If not, errors will accumulate in a very short time until it stops functioning as a replicator—termed error catastrophe. In other words, it will not have enough time to evolve into something better before it actually disappears. Normally things get worse with time, not better: very rarely do they get better by chance: it is only exceptionally that something gets better. As Meyer puts it,

“If, on the one hand, [one] invoked natural selection early in the process of chemical evolution (i.e., before functional specificity in amino acids or nucleotide strings had arisen), accurate replication would have been impossible. But in the absence of such replication, differential reproduction cannot proceed and the concept of natural selection is incoherent. On the other hand, if [one] invoked natural selection late in the scenario, he would need to rely on chance alone to produce the sequence specific molecules necessary for accurate self-replication.” (pp. 275–76.)

In actual fact, the simplest replicator that exists is a bacterium cell, and, as we saw above, the odds of its happening by chance alone is practically nil. All we know for certain, so far, is that life only comes from previous life. Would we be filling another ‘science gap’ if we propose God as the source of life, or shall we resort to chance again?

Finally, although in 1953, biochemists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey managed to produce amino acids in a semi-random manner, they produced no sequence specificity. Moreover, nothing impressive has happened since then: modern biology books still refer to their experiment in trying to mislead our children into believing that life emerged spontaneously from inanimate matter—termed abiogenesis. The result of their experiment is equivalent to producing some (not all) of the letters for a book. So, if humans will ever be able to produce a living cell in the lab, it will most probably only prove that human intelligence is required to produce it—like writing a book—not just chance.

References:

Armstrong, Karen. A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1994. (ISBN: 0345384563.)

Davies, Paul Charles William. Other Worlds: Space, Superspace, and the Quantum Universe. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1980.

Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2008. (ISBN: 9780618918249.)

Dawkins, Richard. The Selfish Gene. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2006. (ISBN: 9780199291151.)

Dembski, William Albert. The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Distefano, Matthew. Homework Helpers: Biology. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career Press, 2004. (ISBN: 1564147207.)

Isham, Christopher J., Roger Penrose, and Dennis William Sciama, editors. Quantum Gravity 2: A Second Oxford Symposium. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1981.

Krauss, Lawrence M. A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing. Simon and Schuster, 2012.

Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2009. (ISBN: 9780061472794.)

The Holy Bible: Douay Rheims Version (Challoner Revision), 1752.

Science or Faith?

Galaxy
The Bible

In an 1822 letter to theologian James Smith, American founding father, third president of the United States, and principal author of its Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, wrote,

“Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.” (emphasis mine)

Had Jesus made no miracles in his lifetime, do you think his apostles would still have followed him? Had he not been truly resurrected by God, do you think that Christianity could have possibly taken root in the Roman Empire? Remember that he was crucified as a revolutionary and given the death penalty (like the modern electric chair) by the state. So, you see, your faith too must be based on facts and reason.

We, Christians, have a tendency of quoting a verse from the Bible assuming it is the truth. We believe the Bible to be infallible because we assume it is God’s Word. Fine, but what evidence do we have that it was indeed written by God himself? What if it was not? Then, our faith would be built on sand, no? We do not even know who wrote about 97% of the Protestant Bible. Catholics and Protestants cannot even agree on the number of books that constitute the Bible, not to mention the Jews who are the original authors of the Bible (the Old Testament). Doesn’t that tell you something? We only know for certain that Paul of Tarsus (better known as Saint Paul) wrote only 7 of the 13 letters attributed to him. The other 6 letters were written in his name posthumously, and their doctrine contradicts that of the previous 7 because times had changed by then.

We know, from his own account in these seven authentic letters, that Paul was a staunch Pharisee who persecuted Christians: by “persecuting,” I mean he used to kill them. But then, suddenly, something happened to Paul (we don’t know exactly what): he tells us that God “revealed his Son,” Jesus, to him. Paul even tells us that he knew Jesus died crucified, and yet, he personally saw the resurrected Jesus. So, thank God, we have a skeptic who turned believer in the blink of an eye. We thus have solid evidence by a skeptical eyewitness that Jesus died and was indeed resurrected. There is hardly any doubt that Jesus died crucified: we even have testimony of it outside the New Testament scriptures. Besides it passes the criterion of dissimilarity: it is not something a follower of Christ would invent out of the blue, unless it was true, because it would be detrimental to a Christian’s cause; so it has the ring of truth. But had it not been for Paul’s writings and his emphatic testimony in those writings, Jesus’s resurrection would have sounded like an old wives’ tale to us twenty-first Christians.

Yet the account of Paul’s own conversion does not jibe with that given by the evangelist we refer to as “Luke” who also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. I wish I had enough space to show this clearly here, but you can check it out yourself: compare the details of Paul’s conversion in Galatians 1:13–20 with that in Acts 9:1–22, and see if you can possibly reconcile them. Paul says he did not see or consult any Christians for three years while Luke says he was taken care of by Christians while he was blinded for three days; meanwhile, Paul doesn’t even mention anything about his being blinded.

Paul swears, before God, that he is telling the truth in Galatians, but it does not really matter for biblical inerrancy believers who is telling the truth, one of the two accounts is false (if not both). So now, I pose this question to you: If one of the two accounts of Paul’s conversion is false, how can we still believe that the Bible is God’s Word? Is all the Bible false? Certainly not! But we need to be careful when quoting from the Bible. The Bible authors, like every one of us I presume, tried to find God, but they did not always get things right.

I am positive biblical inerrancy believers think I am talking nonsense here: maintaining that there are no apparent biblical contradictions that cannot be reconciled. So, I shall quote from New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman’s book Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible. (For starters, notice the subtitle of his book.) Now Ehrman was initially a staunch biblical inerrancy believer, but he changed his mind after going to a seminary and obtained a doctorate in biblical studies. In his Jesus, Interrupted, Ehrman writes,

“We have seen lots of discrepancies in the New Testament in this chapter, some small and relatively inconsequential, others important for understanding what the different authors wanted to say. Some of the discrepancies could probably be reconciled if sufficient interpretive ingenuity were brought to bear; others appear to be flat-out contradictions. … The discrepancies are significant because they show that the view of the Bible as completely inerrant appears not to be true.” (p. 59 emphasis mine)

If you’re not yet convinced that there are contradictions in the Bible, consider this. The Old Testament in Isaiah states that there is only one God: “I am the Lord, and there is none else: there is no God, besides me.” (Isaiah 45:5) While the New Testament, in John’s gospel states that “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) So, according to the Bible (the Christian Bible rather) there is more than one God. These are two statements that go diametrically opposite our reason.

It is of significance to note that it is only John’s gospel that claims Jesus is divine. In fact, Mark’s gospel portrays Jesus telling a rich man, “Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God.” (Mark 10:18) Note that this meets the criterion of dissimilarity; it is not something a follower of Jesus would write out of the blue unless it really happened: it means he probably did say it—it has the ring of truth. Indeed, even John’s gospel concedes that Jesus is not exactly divine for he also portrays Jesus saying, ” The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28) If Jesus were truly God, no one could possibly be greater than him. The Son of God par excellence, yes, but God, no.

So, why did the evangelist we refer to as “John” claim that Jesus was divine? Because he wanted to make him greater than the Roman Emperor, who was considered divine and was even worshiped. The Romans’ reasoning regarding the emperor’s divinity was axiomatically simple. In his book God and Empire, biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan writes, “Their logic was flawlessly simple. Gods run the world. Caesar runs the world. Therefore, Caesar is a god.” (p. 20) John’s gospel, written around 100 CE, was the last of the four gospels written; it is therefore the least reliable: because writers tend to mythologize their heroes (like Robin Hood or Zorro) later in time when there are no eyewitnesses left to challenge what they wrote.

Assuming every verse in the Bible to be God’s revelation (and therefore infallible) is one of the factors that led the church to declare the “mystery” of the Trinity. However, in his book AD 381, ancient Greece and Rome historian Charles Freeman shows that, in an effort to unite the Roman Empire in its religion, the emperor Theodosius forced the church to declare what he personally believed regarding the nature of God. In his introduction to the book, Freeman writes,

“The story, as this book hopes to show, is well documented, but an alternative narrative, that the Church itself came to a consensus on the nature of the Godhead, is still the dominant one in histories of Christianity. The ‘consensus’ approach glosses over the violent antagonisms the debates over doctrine aroused and the pre-eminent role the [Roman] emperors played in their resolution.” (p. 2, emphasis mine)

The mystery of the Trinity would be no mystery at all if one were to let go of the untenable “axiom” that the Bible is infallible. In fact, although Jehovah’s Witnesses also believe in the infallibility of the Protestant Bible, they do not believe that Jesus is also God. In their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, they work around this biblical contradiction by rendering the first verse of John’s gospel as, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god (or ‘was divine‘).” (John 1:1, emphasis mine) However, according to the Bible Hub: Interlinear website, the Greek original uses the same word (except for the ‘case’: i.e., subject, object, etc.) for both “God” and “a god” (or “divine”). (See: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/1-1.htm.)

Consequently, we can only hold on to what is tenable in the Bible. So then, do we pick and choose what we like from the Bible? That is very dangerous if not irresponsible. But if you follow your reason: what your inner self tells you is true or false in the Bible, then the Bible becomes a source of inspiration to you—but in the ordinary sense. If we were truly made “in the image of God,” (Genesis 1:26) that would not be in our bodies but in our intellect. Deuteronomy tells us that God’s law is not far from us, in the sky or across the sea, that it might be difficult to obtain and know about; no, it is hardwired to our inner being—it is God’s signature in every one of us:

“This commandment, that I command thee this day is not above thee, nor far off from thee: Nor is it in heaven, that thou shouldst say: ‘Which of us can go up to heaven to bring it unto us, and we may hear and fulfill it in work?’ Nor is it beyond the sea: that thou mayst excuse thyself, and say: ‘Which of us can cross the sea, and bring it unto us: that we may hear, and do that which is commanded?’ But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayst do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11–14)

References:

Bible Hub: Interlinear. https://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/1-1.htm.

Crossan, John Dominic. God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now. New York, NY: HarperOne, 2008. (ISBN: 9780060858315.)

Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them). New York, NY: HarperOne, 2009. (ISBN: 9780061173936.)

Freeman, Charles. AD 381. London, UK: Pimlico, 2009. (ISBN: 9781845950071.)

Jefferson, Thomas to James Smith, 1822.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. New York, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., 2013.

The Holy Bible: Douay Rheims Version. Challoner Revision, 1752.

Author Introduction

My name is Carmel Paul Attard. I was educated by Jesuits, and I also became a Jesuit for over six years. I have a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics and taught the subjects at advanced/college level for over five years. I am also a Bible enthusiast, and my main interest is how God, the Bible, and Christianity relate to science and reason.

I self-published three books: Is God a Reality?—A Scientific Investigation, Is the Bible Infallible?—A Rational, Scientific, and Historical Evaluation, and Faith and Reason: Disturbing Christian Doctrines.

Is God a Reality? Full Cover

Is God a Reality? was published in February 2017.

Is the Bible Infallible? Full Cover

Is the Bible Infallible? was published in September 2019.

Faith and Reason. Full Cover

Faith and Reason was published in December 2020.

More detail regarding my blogged articles may usually be found in my books.

Comments and insights are always welcome, even if in disagreement. I shall do my best to discuss them cordially. You can contact me personally at carmel0547@hotmail.com.