Friday, December 29, 2006

"Spirit And Mind" -> The Triumph of Genesis 1

The picture to the left shows supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. as captured by the Hubble telescope.

How would you describe this to a person that had no eyes and never had light described to them?

I want you to describe this in a complete fashion that will allow them to get a good solid grasp of the fundamental principles behind light, the formation of the star, and the physics of the supernova.

Oh, and by the way, I want you to limit your description to less than 600 words.

I firmly think that we miss the point of Genesis 1. By reading so much into Genesis 1, we miss that it simply does not have the capacity to carry the amount of information that we desire it to have.

By my quick copy and paste, I think that the first 26 verses (the key part of the creation account) has all of 588 words. I'll repeat that again: 588 words.

So, I want you, with all the advantages that you have as a 21st Century man, to be God's helper for a second.

1. Now, I want you to take be able to describe the creation of the universe, of man, and of the universe in 588 words.

2. Even more importantly, I want to describe that time began.

3. Now, I want you to place into this dialog the idea of "work and rest." I want you to place in the idea of a Sabbath.

4. I want you to describe this so that people will use it as a fundamental understanding of who God is and what he does, but I want you to remember that the people that will be reading with will have no idea of what a planet is, how big the universe is, what is the speed of light, who think that the sun somehow appears on one side of the horizon, and have no advantages of the modern knowledge that you have.

5. I want you to slip in a few ideas of geological formation and of life sciences.

I'll give you a clue. You can't. Any description is going to have the problem of the inadequacy of language to completely describe the situation as per nice scientific terminology.

You are going to start to run into a bunch of problems. The first issue is how to describe the earth.

Let's look at some of the pictures taken by the Hubble telescope. Do you describe it as somebody that is out in space in a space suit? The people that you are talking to aren't going to understand the term space. They aren't going to understand that there is anything but the physical nature in front of them. Perhaps, like the Greeks, they'll think there are only four building blocks: earth, sky, fire, and water. How do you describe the "water" of the heavens after the big bang? The hydrogen and the helium that was formed. How would you describe this to a people that no idea of what a gas is. They have no idea of what an atom is.

So perhaps you'll describe it from the perspective of standing on the earth. However, this does not allow us to fully describe what is going on.

I would submit to you, the Genesis creation account holds up very, very well.

Somehow, there has been a subculture in Christianity that has formed the thought that science is steadily chipping away at Christianity's roots. I admit that in certain places with certain people, this is the truth. However, need to recognize that the biggest battle of teh creation account is not the exact evolutionary vs creation steps for the universe to be made. The fundamental issue was one over time.

And this, is a battle that Christians won a number of decades ago a few years after I was born.

The whole of science leading into the mid-1900th century was that time did not begin. This seemed rather stupid to those of us under 50 years of age because we all know that time started with the "Big Bang." The lurching of the universe into motion. Genesis described the beginning of time very well.

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

From here, time began. We can debate if the days described in the Bible were 24 hours or of an indeterminate fashion. However, the scriptures points out clearly:

a. God created light
b. God created time

If you were an atheist, you absolutely hated this idea. As a matter of fact, Sir Fredrick Hoyle fought the idea of spontaneous creation of the universe. To quote Wikipedia:

An atheist, he found the idea that the universe had a beginning to be philosophically troubling, as many argue that a beginning implies a cause, and thus a creator.

The main thing about the Jewish creation account is how easy it is to reconcile to science.

The Jewish account is remarkable when compared to other accounts.

Let's compare the Jewish account to the Babylonian Enuma Elish, their story of the beginning of man? By the Enuma Elish, first we had matter, then the gods were formed. See here. So how was the earth formed? See below:

Marduk challenges Tiamat to combat and destroys her. He then rips her corpse into two halves with which he fashions the Earth and the heavens.

We could look at others as this site does.

The Greek creation account? The Universe Was empty except for a bird, we never have an answer to who created the bird.

In the beginning there was an empty darkness. The only thing in this void was Nyx, a bird with black wings. With the wind she laid a golden egg and for ages she sat upon this egg. Finally life began to stir in the egg and out of it rose Eros, the god of love. One half of the shell rose into the air and became the sky and the other became the Earth.

The Japanese? A little bit like the Babylonians. Matter first, then the gods are created out of this.

Long ago all the elements were mixed together with one germ of life. This germ began to mix things around and around until the heavier part sank and the lighter part rose. A muddy sea that covered the entire earth was created. From this ocean grew a green shoot. It grew and grew until it reached the clouds and there it was tranformed into a god. Soon this god grew lonely and it began to create other gods. The last two gods it made, Izanagi anf Izanami, were the most remarkable.

The Norse? The earth was made out of a giant call Ymir.

Odin, Vili, and Ve put Ymir's corpse into the middle of ginnungagap and created the earth and sky from it. They also created the stars, sun, and moon from sparks coming out of Muspelheim.

The Egyptians? God from an egg.

Only the ocean existed at first. Then Ra (the sun) came out of an egg that appeared on the surface of the water.

The more time that you spend in comparative literature, the more you will realize that the creation account in the Bible is unique and elegant. It is simple and complete. God is not formed. The God of the Bible is unlike any other God described.

So, let us wind our way back to the original thought: the Bible as science and as description.

The fact is that the creation account, as written, is so close to what we know of the creation of the universe that it stands apart from every other contemporary creation account. In the late 1800's and early 1900's, those that wish to ignore it were hoping that they could find refuge in the simple fact that the Bible indicated a beginning. The Bible indicated that God started the whole thing off with a simple "let there be light."

The idea that that universe started in this fashion smacked of religion. Science that rejected God couldn't see this idea ever happening, and could discount the Bible on this behalf. The universe, according to their thoughts, always was and always would be. The universe was infinite and eternal.

Georges Lemaître redefined this. The thing I find fascinating about Georges is that he was by all accounts a highly religious man, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. He was also a gifted mathematician and physicist. He had the crazy notion that the world sprang out an atom. This struck Fred Hoyle as so stupid that he labeled this the "Big Bang" theory.

The name stuck.

Einstein, who really disliked the whole idea of a Big Bang, dismissed Lemaître at first, and said he didn't do his physics correctly. However, as time wore on, he also understood that Lemaître was correct.

In 1965-1966, Bell labs found background radiation in the universe left by the Big Bang. This was considered the final proof of Lemaître's ideas.

According to Wikipedia, he heard about the discovery shortly before he died.

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