tormod (tormod) wrote in neurotheology,

connections between Genesis and science

Just the week before I saw this community featured on the main page and started posting, I had given the speech under the cut below to Toastmasters.  It was one of those Jungian coincidences, which may qualify as a neurotheological phenomenon in its own right.

I don't post this to restart the argument about validity of connections between creation myths and science, but merely because I finally got around to typing that speech and thought some here might be interested.


Fellow Toastmasters, Honored Guests.


There is a dangerous movement in this country.  There are people who want to subvert the Truth for political gain, and have no respect for the Constitution.  They have manufactured a conflict between science and religion, between Creationism and evolution, merely to distract Christian voters from real issues, like fighting poverty and protecting the environment.  They want us to forget that science and religion exist to answer different questions, and that our understanding is incomplete without both.


Religion asks “Why?”  Science asks “How?”


For example, the entire Bible is devoted to answering why we are here, but only the first 1/10 of 1%, the first two pages, mention anything about how we got here.  Such a brief and vague account is clearly not meant to compete with the logical conclusions drawn from systematic and careful observation of the universe.  The strangest thing about the Biblical creation story is that, even passed down by word of mouth for hundreds of years by prehistoric people before being written, and then repeatedly transcribed and translated, it remains remarkably close to the story pieced together by science.  In fact, it reads like an outline of the most important steps science says were necessary for the evolution of life as we know it.


According to Genesis, "In the beginning... the earth was formless and void" until God said, "Let there be light," and separated light from darkness.


According to physics, there was nothing at all in the universe until 13.73 billion years ago, when a massive explosion caused huge amounts of matter and antimatter to come into existence.  Normally, there are equal amounts of each when this happens. But mysteriously, there was more matter than antimatter, just enough to form our universe, when the two canceled each other out again.


On the second day, God said, “Let there be an expanse” called “Heaven” or “sky.”


Physics says space continued expanding after the Big Bang, faster than anyone can explain.


On the fourth day (I think the days were mixed up at some point), God created the Sun (4.59 billion years ago), the Moon (4.53 billion years ago), and the stars (between 1 and 13.2 billion years ago).


On the third day, God "let dry ground appear," "gathered the water to one place," and "let the land produce vegetation.”


The Earth formed 4.54 billion years ago.  Volcanoes and asteroids brought water to the surface, initially covering most of the earth.  Gradually, landmasses formed.  Photosynthetic lifeforms developed about 3 billion years ago, making the atmosphere more suitable for larger organisms.


On the fifth day, the waters teemed with living creatures, and birds flew through the sky.


Life began in the oceans.  396 million years ago, insects colonized the land ("bird" perhaps means "flying thing"?), allowing flowering plants to exist.


On the sixth day, the land produced all the living creatures.


365 million years ago vertebrates came to land.


Also on the sixth day, God created man to rule over the Earth. 


About 250,000 years ago, our ancestors became Homo sapiens, and developed agriculture soon after.


Genesis leaves out many details of how, but says repeatedly why: "God saw it was good."


So, assuming the accidental transposition of days three and four, and that the ancient Jews had no good words for photosynthetic algae or insects, science and religion give us the same story.


Creationists should be happy that the universe confirms their faith.  They should allow biology teachers to teach biology, and teach religion in Sunday school.  If we try to mix the two, our children will get a flawed understanding of both science and religion.  Worse, we will be giving the State control over what children learn about religion, a clear violation of the Constitution.  State control over religion and willful misunderstanding of science sounds like a recipe for a return to the Dark Ages.

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sure, it sounds like the scientific explanation... if you transpose days 3 and 4, assume 'birds' meant 'insects', and ignore the vast stretches of time between 'days'. C'mon, that's like saying that if you rewrite Romeo and Juliet, it sounds like Macbeth. <<
It is more like the difference between a chimpanzee and you than the difference between Romeo+Juliet and Macbeth. Small changes in words or codons over long stretches of time... "eon" to "day", "flying creature" to "bird", etc.

If a deity tried to explain briefly in terms a prehistoric human could already understand how the universe came to exist, don't you think it would be a bit simplistic? And then if the story went through a telephone game over millenia, when average lifespan was under 30 years for most of the time, wouldn't many errors accumulate?

No more of a stretch than to suggest a chimpanzee gradually acquired mutations causing upright posture, larger brain, more complex larynx, less hair, etc. necessary to produce us.

Of course, that is not evidence that the creation myth is true, simply that it cannot be proven false by the best scientific data.
yeah...i like this stance and have heard it before. Without the sun, who knows how long a day lasts?
I'm tired of fear tactics.
When you keep things very general and loose as you have done, it is possible to kind-of fit the two together. When you start looking at the nitty-gritty details, such as how Genesis itself contains two conflicting accounts of creation, or how many other questions of "why" -- some of them pretty disturbing, and which the Bible doesn't answer -- do rear their heads as science nails down the details of "how," then reconciling the two becomes a lot more difficult.
P.S. Nice to meet a fellow Toastmaster here!
*Performs secret TM handshake*
My point is that Genesis does not get into the nitty-gritty details that are Science's purview. I gave as much detail as it does about how the universe came to be, and none of it conflicts with current knowledge about what actually happened.

The second "conflicting creation story" is really a different perspective on the same story, focusing on the humans. It says humans began in northern Africa, which meshes with anthropological theory. What in the "second account" conflicts with the "first account"?

As far as what disturbs you about "why", have you checked for the answers in the four Gospels? Science cannot ask any meaningful questions about "why", no matter how deep its answers get about "how".


November 24 2008, 03:32:44 UTC 8 years ago Edited:  November 24 2008, 03:36:12 UTC

i know you didn't want to debate here so i apologize but i just HAD to state at least one comment - i studied American Consiututional Law and can tell you 100% without a doubt that the Constitution does not forbid the co-mingling of church and state. it doesn't even MENTION the phrase "separation of church and state" anywhere in its paragraphs or Amendments. The First Amendment serves to protect all speech, not prevent religious speech. The Constitution provides American's the right to make relgious speech and reject religious speech. It does NOT prohibit it.

please see:

the Constitution does state, however, that there will be no offical NATIONAL religion nor will someone be refused the right to worship as they see fit. therefore, the Constitution actually protects the school board's right TO teach Creationism AS WELL AS supports the student's right to believe in evolution. To make things "even" a state or territory may choose to teach BOTH points of view very much like other areas of science teach of opposing theories and theorists.

But again, I do NOT wish to debate this topic, but instead simply wish to remind those who may be uncertain about what the Constitution says and what it doesn't say. if people wish to argue that Creationism should not be taught in schools, they may do so but should be careful not to quote the Constitution incorrectly. remember, this comment seeks to address ONLY the issue of the Constitution NOT the benefits or drawbacks of teaching Creationism or Evolution.

whether i agree or not, i like your speech very much. well written, clear, truly interesting and definitly thought provoking!! thanks for sharing!

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I respectfully disagree. I'm not saying it should be taught in schools. 2 be honest, tho I'm christian, I prefer it be taught in sunday school/church. But the constitution does not prohibit a school from teaching it. The constitution has been misquoted. A town has the right under the constitution 2 not teach it for there shall be no forced religion but again, the constitution does not prohibit it. If a town chose 2 teach it it would not be in violation of the constitution. Perhaps I have failed 2 express my position properly.... And that's why I posted a link for reference.

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It also should be noted that this very debate continues 2 happen among scholars. Neither one of us could be proven 2 be completely wrong or right as judicical opinions on this differ widly.

And tho u believe my personal commentary 2 be immaterial, I still feel it nec 2 say that ur one eloquent writer and I've enjoyed reading ur point of view.

It also should be noted that this very debate continues 2 happen among scholars.

Well, not by serious law scholars firmly grounded in real history.

What is happening is that some fundamentalist groups with an agenda of re-interpreting U.S. history and law are widely disseminating their own preferred historical and legal interpretations, which quite conveniently ignore any history or legal precedents they don't agree with. There are a couple other LJ communities (as well as nonprofit orgs) that track and discuss these incidents. Here are a few sites that describe this:

PBS special called “Wall of Separation” is designed not to educate but to promote an inaccurate view of the historical origins of church-state separation.

"... encouraged by their popular following on radio and television, there has been a plethora of politically and religiously motivated individuals challenging America’s well-researched and articulated constitutional history. Since the late 1980’s, beginning with the widely sold video and DVD productions by David Barton of Wallbuilders, Inc.—and advocated by very powerful and persuasive spin doctors like Newt Gingrich, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Judge Roy Moore, and Attorney Jay Sekulow—there has been an enormous amount of money, time, and energy put into blurring the distinction between the Puritan and Constitutional founding periods. This has caused many unwary American citizens to believe that the United States Government was specifically intended by our nation’s Founders to be constituted on the basis of Christianity and literal Scriptural commands."

Liars for Jesus: The Religious Right's Alternative Version of American History

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The Supreme Court disagrees with you, as this issue was decided in 1948.

To wit:
"The foregoing facts, without reference to others that appear in the record, show the use of tax-supported property for religious instruction and the close cooperation between the school authorities and the religious council in promoting religious education. The operation of the state's compulsory education system thus assists and is integrated with the program of religious instruction carried on by separate religious sects. Pupils compelled by law to go to school for secular education are released in part from their legal duty upon the condition that they attend the religious classes. This is beyond all question a utilization of the tax- established and tax-supported public school system to aid religious groups to spread their faith. And it falls squarely under the ban of the First Amendment (made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth) as we interpreted it in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 . There we said: 'Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force or influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or nonattendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups, and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State." Id., at pages 15, 16 of 330 U.S., at page 511 of 67 S.Ct. The majority in the Everson case, and the minority as shown by quotations from the dissenting views in our notes 6 and 7, agreed that the First Amendment's language, properly interpreted, had erected a wall of separation between Church and State. They disagreed as to the facts shown by the record and as to the proper application of the First Amendment's language to those facts."

" To hold that a state cannot consistently with the First and Fourteenth Amendments utilize its public school system to aid any or all religious faiths or sects in the dissemination of their doctrines and ideals does not, as counsel urge, manifest a governmental hostility to religion or religious teachings. A manifestation of such hostility would be at war with our national tradition as embodied in the First Amendment's guaranty of the free [333 U.S. 203 , 212] exercise of religion. For the First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere. Or, as we said in the Everson case, the First Amendment had erected a wall between Church and State which must be kept high and impregnable.

"Here not only are the state's taxsupported public school buildings used for the dissemination of religious doctrines. The State also affords sectarian groups an invaluable aid in that it helps to provide pupils for their religious classes through use of the state's compulsory public school machinery. This is not separation of Church and State."
Both stories go, more or less, from simple to complex. No surprise they jibe, in many ways. It's cute, perhaps inspirational, but not very informative.

The point is not to be informative to scientists, but to convince creationists that they are wrong to try to argue against science using their simplistic interpretations of vague passages in a book whose purpose is moral, not scientific.
i must admit that those of you who have responded to my comments are much more versed than i in these matters but let me say this just one more time for the record: even TODAY, the original intent and meaning of both the First Amendment and the Establishment Cause REMAINS a matter of debate. Just like most matters in legal discourse, both sides can be argued. We all can cite case law until the cows come home and still not be any further along than we are now. so far no one has been able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt what the Founding Fathers meant or intended. All we are good at is speculation. You are no more correct OR wrong than I.... (though as i stated above, you DO aruge your side much more thoroughly and intelligently).

i DID write that i didn't want to debate and i still don't, but i DID want to post a few links just in case anyone besides the three of us is reading this and would like to hear intelligent, well formed arguments supporting 'my side'. ultimately, what i wanted to say is that if the citizens of a state all wanted creationism taught in their schools, the federal govt has no right to prohibit it just as it has no right to force creationism to be taught instead of or in addition to evolution in any state/area where it is not wanted by its citizens.

"In summary, the First Amendment says more about federalism than religious freedom. In other words, the purpose of the First Amendment was to declare that the federal government had absolutely no jurisdiction in matters of religion. It could neither establish a religion, nor prohibit the free exercise of religion. The First Amendment clearly erected a barrier between the federal government and religion on a state level. If a state chose to have no religion, or to have an established religion, the federal government had no jurisdiction one way or the other. This is what Thomas Jefferson meant by the "wall of separation." In context, the word "state" really referred to the federal government. The First Amendment did not apply to the states. It was only applicable as a restraint against the federal government. The problem arose in 1940 (19) and then again in 1947 (20) when the Supreme Court applied the First Amendment to the states. This turned the First Amendment on its head, and completely inverted its meaning. (21) The First Amendment was never meant to be a restraint on state government. It was only applicable to the federal government. When the Supreme Court turned the First Amendment around 180 degrees and used Jefferson's comment in the process, it not only perverted the First Amendment, but misconstrued the intent of Jefferson's letter." (see first web address below)

AND REMEMBER, i am not posting these sites to continue any kind of debate. i instead wish for readers to hear my point of view intelligently explained since i believe i have failed to do so myself. i do not seek to change your mind or to be found "right".