Monday, February 7, 2011
Michael Shermer - Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story
This is a short piece written by Dr. Michael Shermer. In this piece he exposes the great shortcomings of the Genesis creation account in view of all we know about the universe. He does this in a fun way by rewriting the Genesis account of creation to make it fit with what we know scientifically about the earth and the universe. One quickly sees how ridiculous the story in Genesis is if it is taken literally. The story is a myth, a valuable one yes but the fact that people still accept this myth as presenting historical facts and scientific information is just shameful and ultimately harmful to the pursuit of truth (scientific and moral).
I actually got to meet Dr. Shermer once. He came to one of my advanced philosophy classes at Fuller Theological Seminary and shared his personal story particularly of how he became an atheist and then allowed the students (me included) to ask him any questions we wanted. Now the class was tiny only about 10 of us so I felt like I really got to hear from him personally. Now at the time I was still a Christian and I had never read any of his books or his magazine (Skeptic) but I was certainly at a place were I was more openly questioning my faith and he provided a calm voice and a good sense of humor that encouraged me to keep learning and go wherever the evidence might take me.
He is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University.
See here for his website
Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story-by Michael Shermer
Originally published in Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition, selected and edited by Philip Appleman (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), 625-626
To convey the logical absurdity of trying to squeeze the round peg of science into the square hole of religion, I penned the following scientific revision of the Genesis creation story. It is not intended as a sacrilege of the poetic beauty of Genesis; rather, it is a mere extension of what the creationists have already done to Genesis in their insistence that it be read not as mythic saga but as scientific prose. If Genesis were written in the language of modern science, it would read something like this.
In the beginning—specifically on October 23, 4004 B.C., at noon—out of quantum foam fluctuation God created the Big Bang, followed by cosmological inflation and an expanding universe. And darkness was upon the face of the deep, so He commanded hydrogen atoms (which He created from Quarks) to fuse and become helium atoms and in the process release energy in the form of light. And the light maker he called the sun, and the process He called fusion. And He saw the light was good because now He could see what he was doing, so he created Earth. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be lots of fusion light makers in the sky. Some of these fusion makers He grouped into collections He called galaxies, and these appeared to be millions and even billions of light years from Earth, which would mean that they were created before the first creation in 4004 B.C. This was confusion, so God created tired light, and the creation story was preserved. And created He many wondrous splendors such as Red Giants, White Dwarfs, Quasars, Pulsars, Supernova, Worm Holes, and even Black Holes out of which nothing can escape. But since God cannot be constrained by nothing, He created Hawking radiation through which information can escape from Black Holes. This made God even more tired than tired light, and the evening and the morning were the second day.
And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the continents drift apart by plate tectonics. He caused subduction zones to build mountains and cause earthquakes. In weak points in the crust God created volcanic islands, where the next day He would place organisms that were similar to but different from their relatives on the continents, so that still later created creatures called humans would mistake them for evolved descendants created by adaptive radiation. And the evening and the morning were the third day.
And saw that the land was barren, so He created animals bearing their own kind, declaring Thou shalt not evolve into new species, and thy equilibrium shall not be punctuated. And God placed into the rocks, fossils that appeared older than 4004 B.C. that were similar to but different from living creatures. And the sequence resembled descent with modification. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, the fishes. And God created great whales whose skeletal structure and physiology were homologous with the land mammals he would create later that day. God then brought forth abundantly all creatures, great and small, declaring that microevolution was permitted, but not macroevolution. And God said, Natura non facit saltum—Nature shall not make leaps. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
And God created the pongidids and hominids with 98 percent genetic similarity, naming two of them Adam and Eve. In the book in which God explained how He did all this, in one chapter He said he created Adam and Eve together out of the dust at the same time, but in another chapter He said He created Adam first, then later created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. This caused confusion in the valley of the shadow of doubt, so God created theologians to sort it out.
And in the ground placed He in abundance teeth, jaws, skulls, and pelvises of transitional fossils from pre-Adamite creatures. One chosen as his special creation He named Lucy, who could walk upright like a human but had a small brain like an ape. And God realized this too was confusing, so he created paleoanthropologists to figure it out.
Just as He was finishing up the loose ends of the creation God realized that Adam’s immediate descendants would not understand inflationary cosmology, global general relativity, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, biochemistry, paleontology, and evolutionary biology, so he created creation myths. But there were so many creation stories throughout the world God realized this too was confusing, so created He anthropologists and mythologists.
By now the valley of the shadow of doubt was overrunneth with skepticism, so God became angry, so angry that God lost His temper and cursed the first humans, telling them to go forth and multiply themselves (but not in those words). But the humans took God literally and now there are six billion of them. And the evening and morning were the sixth day.
By now God was tired, so He proclaimed, “Thank me it’s Friday,” and He made the weekend. It was a good idea.