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.
(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.
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.
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)
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!
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.
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 (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.
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 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,
Is this a fact, as science claims, or is it an assumption? What does the scientific evidence say?
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
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,
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 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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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? was published in February 2017.
Is the Bible Infallible? was published in September 2019.
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 email@example.com.