Saturday, November 3, 2018

Adam and Eve and the Cultural Big Bang

In my investigation of what science has to tell us about the existence of Adam and Eve, I am intrigued by a question that is widely disputed among the scientists who study this subject. The question is when and how modern human behavior developed. One idea that has been proposed is particularly controversial with both scientific proponents and scientific critics. The idea goes by different names including "the cultural big bang," "the late Paleolithic revolution," and "the great leap forward." The proposal is that modern human behavior began suddenly about 50,000 or so years ago. This idea was particularly popular about 15 years ago with many proponents still, though some scientists say that more recent archeological discoveries give hints of modern human behavior that began about 100,000 years ago and developed slowly not suddenly.

I am a non-expert as I try to investigate this question since I am an experimental particle physicist and not an archeologist. But as an outsider, it does seem to me that there seems to be some kind of explosion of modern behavior about 50,000 years ago. It seems that at about that time humans began to develop a way of thinking that invented new tools and developed new ideas and began to shape the environment around them.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Adam and Eve: Genetic Evidence

When I was growing up my mother would often say to me, "All your life you'll have to do things you don't want to do." This post may fall into that category of doing something I don't really want to do but I probably should do. One of my readers asked if I could comment on the genetic evidence from DNA analysis supporting an historical Adam and Eve. I think that is a great question and a very important question since the story of Adam and Eve is central to the biblical narrative. Many of my readers have affirmed that my writings and videos have made a strong case that God used the big bang as his method of creation and that both the record of nature and the biblical record support a 14 billion year old universe. My readers have indicated to me that I seem to be able to explain complex subjects in simple terms, and so I have been asked to explain the scientific evidence about human origins in simple terms. I'm certainly willing to discuss what I know about this subject, but as a particle physicist and not a geneticist I am far from an expert on understanding and critiquing genetic evidence. When I write about physics I'm confident that I can separate good arguments and good scientific analysis from poor arguments and analysis. When I write about genetics, I'm not sure I can always separate the good signal from the background noise. Nevertheless, in response to the wishes of my readers I will delve into the subject of Adam and Eve. In this post I'll talk about some of the scientific and genetic evidence regarding human origins and in the next posts I'll discuss some other options that may reconcile the scientific evidence with the biblical record and also examine some of the theological issues dealing with Adam and Eve.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Genesis and Science Reconciled

There seems to be a common belief by both Christians and non-Christians that modern scientific discoveries about the origin and development of the universe contradict the biblical account of creation in Genesis. Many people from both groups claim that any attempt to reconcile science and the Bible is a forced alliance that compromises the integrity of the Bible, science, or both. In the last few blog posts I have presented a coherent narrative that naturally reconciles the Bible and science without distorting either. I first cautioned us as Christians against using poor science to try to support the Bible. I then warned against making the same kind of biblical interpretive errors that led to the trial and persecution of Galileo. Third, I pointed out that the proper interpretation of any literature requires an examination of the language, culture, and literary context of the text. Finally, I showed from the Bible itself that the story of creation must be understood from the reference frame that is presented in Genesis 1:2, on the surface of the primordial earth. From that perspective both scientific findings and the biblical narrative agree that the environment was formless, empty, dark, and watery.

Most of the supposed discrepancies between the biblical account of creation and the scientific observations about the origin and development of the universe and our solar system are reconciled once it has been established that the creation story is told from a perspective on the surface of the earth. As such, Genesis 1:1, the creation of the heavens and the earth, takes a little over nine billion years from the big bang origin of the universe to the forming of the primordial earth. Starting in Genesis 1:2 and throughout the rest of the chapter, the story of earth's 4.5 billion year history is conveyed. In the brief description given here, we'll simply touch on how some of the alleged discrepancies are resolved by affirming that the perspective of the story is on the surface of the earth.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Unlocking Genesis One

In order to understand the meaning of any piece of literature we must consider the cultural and linguistic context of the text. By taking these important factors into consideration, it becomes clear that a straightforward reading of the account of creation in Genesis leads to creation days that are long periods of time, not 24 hours each. That realization is a critical principle for understanding the creation story in Genesis 1. But perhaps the most important key for unlocking everything in the story, from the order to the timing of creation, is to look in the passage for the proper perspective, or point of view, from which the story is being told. As discussed in a previous post, the church of the seventeenth century made a fundamental mistake by not considering the point of view of the writer in the many biblical passages that discuss the movement of the earth, sun, and moon. In each of those passages the point of view is that of an observer on the earth. From a perspective on the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, do move across the sky which is why we still say that we observe a "sunrise" or "sunset." The biblical description of the motion of the astronomical objects is accurate from the perspective of the observer.

To properly understand the creation account in Genesis 1, we must also adopt the proper point of view. That is the key to unlocking the story. Fortunately, the text itself tells us the needed perspective. It is stated in Genesis 1:2; "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." My young earth creationist friends have pointed out that there were no humans around to observe the creation of the universe so we must rely on what God says to know what happened at the beginning. I do agree that God's word will give us an accurate and truthful description of how he created the universe. Since no one was around to observe the creation, it would make sense that God's account should be given from God's perspective. Genesis 1:2 tells us where God is and, therefore, the proper vantage point from which to view the story of creation as it unfolds in the rest of the chapter: "the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." God's Spirit is hovering over the waters that cover the surface of the earth. The rest of the story of creation as told in Genesis 1 is not told from a perspective outside of the universe or from somewhere in outer space looking at the earth, sun, moon, and stars, but is told from where God is on the surface of the earth. The key to unlocking the mysteries of the rest of the creation account is a proper understanding that the story is told from God's perspective on the surface of the earth.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

A Shared Characteristic Between Atheists and Young Earth Creationists

Some atheists and some young earth creationists (people who believe the universe is only about 6000 years old) share a common characteristic: they base their understanding of what the Bible says about creation by interpreting the text simplistically without taking context, language, or culture into account.

The Christian may claim they are simply taking the Bible "literally" and may assume that a literal interpretation is the correct and best interpretation. Of course, that is often not the case. As Tim LaHaye points out in his book How to Study the Bible for Yourself, if you are watching a baseball game and the announcer says that the base runner is hugging the base, then you will be completely wrong about what the announcer means if you take him literally.1 In that case, a literal interpretation of the statement leads to an incorrect understanding of the meaning because you did not consider the context or the culture in which the statement was made. Taking a passage literally does not necessarily mean you are interpreting the text more accurately or being more true to the author's intended meaning. It may mean that you are completely wrong because you have not considered culture, language, and context.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Didn't We Learn Anything from the Galileo Trial?

Do Christians who believe that the story of creation in the Bible is compatible with the big bang twist, distort, and compromise scripture to hold that view? If you read the writings of those who think the universe is only thousands of years old (a "young earth" position), you might conclude that any other belief is heresy. One organization that holds to a young earth writes on their web site, "One must be an exegetical contortionist to stretch the six days of Genesis into millions and billions of years. Such a twisted hermeneutic undermines the authority of the entire Bible by placing what the interpreter wants the text to say above God's Word." A popular book that tries to refute the idea that the big bang coincides with the biblical record (an "old earth" position) is called Refuting Compromise, implying that anyone who holds to an old earth viewpoint must be compromising what the scripture says.

These statements about a proper understanding of Genesis are not only false, but they are making the same mistakes that were made about 400 year ago when the Catholic Church accused Galileo of also distorting the scripture. Although the reasons for the trial of Galileo were varied and complex, the church definitely accused Galileo of not accepting the plain words of scripture. Multiple times the Bible seems to be saying that the earth is immovable and that the sun and moon move around the earth. In fact, the Bible seems to be much more clear on the motion of the heavenly bodies than it is on the age of the universe. Consider these passages of scripture (showing my emphasis):