Genesis vs the Big Bang … a blow by blow account …

Every so often, one or another of my groups gets into the discussion of science vs religion. And while history shows a great deal of conflict between the two schools of thought, its important to remember that both schools seek to answer the same questions. They do so from different angles … they frame the questions differently … but the essential questions asked are largely the same.

Take creation mythology. If you ask a Christian, Jew, or Muslim where we all came from, they will point "Then God said, "Let there be light"" as the fundamental starting point … Genesis forms the core story of creation from their religious perspective. Ask a scientist today, and you are still likely to get some version of the big bang theory as your answer, and while the specifics how it happens, and what happens when is constantly being updated and modified, the basic story text is roughly the same.

Below, I compare the two … Genesis vs the scientific theory. The fact is, they tell very much the same story … the story of order coming from chaos in an orderly series of events. They may differ in the fine details of how, and when, but the larger context is all the same. In the paragraphs below, I start with passages from Genesis, and then talk about the big bang science that corresponds. Human cognition comes in many forms, only some of which are rational. I think its worth looking at both sides of the question … see what you think below.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was[ a] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.

that, in a nutshell, is how science describes the Big Bang. First there was nothingness, or "without form and void" and then in a blinding flash of light (the big bang) day and night come into existence … or in scientific terms, the beginnings of space-time start to form.

9 Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Over the next few billion years, the cosmos seethed with formless energy and mass, as it coalesced into the sort of universe we see around us today.

14 Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; 15 and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth"; and it was so. 16 Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. 17 God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, 18 and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

Over the next few billion years, the stars and galaxies began to form and take shape, literally putting lights on the firmament of heaven.

24 Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

In the last few billion years, life has evolved, at least on our planet, literally sprung forth from the ground to hear evolution talk.

I don't see the two as incompatible in any way … I see them as addressing the same issue using different language, but in fact, giving precisely the same answer. Probably no one read this far … but to me, its all a matter of perspective.

16 Responses

  1. Thank you for putting this so clearly. I’ve gotten tired of trying to explain it to the rest of my religion class – I’m just going to hand out copies of your address instead.

  2. you are mistaking when you refer to the theory of the big bang, there is one key difference from what you state. The big bang theory doesnt say that everything came form nothing. How it works is that an extremly unimaginably dense chunk of matter exploded releasing the matter that forms all of the universe. In its molten and condensed form it could hold the whole universe in a ball the size of a marble (maybe an exageration but you get what i mean).

    What I’m saying is the concept of somehting from nothing does not exist. Nothing is created nothing is destroyed its the law of matter and a fundemental law of physics. The only discreptincy, the only tack that is unexplainable is that like in the theory of evolution the only thing that science can’t answer is the first one or the first thing.

    Religion always busts science on this for science cannot explain where that dense chunk of matter came from or where the first specie of evolution really clearly came from (there is a theory for evolution but not verified but thats not what we are talking baout right now). Basically I believe that eventually science will explain how this chunk of matter was created but some things might remain unsolved. But it doesn’t mean it isn’t how it happened. Saying something isn’t doesn’t make it not true, that would be a fallacie.

    Look I believe in a scientific reasoning to everything but unfortunatly there is no way to proove either. There are millions of debates I have had or am ready to take to show my point of view on many things but the big bang against the genesis is very big. But I hate how genesis makes everything so fast and precise, practically effortless like our universe, so vast, so important was the work of not even a week.

    I have a hard time coping with an omnipotent being. I have a hard time ot cope that in the end my actions and decisions don’t matter. That is why I believe in science because I believe in myself more then in an invisable omnipotent being. This is just what I think, do with it what u want.

  3. god is a load of shit i shot vishnu

    *Editor’s Note*
    I debated whether to approve this or not, but it is an example of one of the opinions out there on this issue. I also thought the wording was interesting … God is nothing but a load of shit (taken literally, a pile of excreted feces, or figuratively a figment of the imagination), but Vishnu is real and live enough to be killable. In a way, this harks back a bit to one of Dawkins’ best quotes … “99% of humanity are atheists about most every God humans have ever believed in … some of us just go one God farther.”

  4. Vincent,
    Did you ever consider that the reason you have a hard time coping with an omnipotent being is that you’re so indulged in your hedonist selfish ways?

    To comment on the above article.

    Elronsteele,

    I take it your obviously not a Christian based on your subtle “Christian Mythology” comment.

    And you clearly don’t understand the concept of the big band and or evolution… at least not as much as I expect a scientist in that field would.

    I’m sorry… what are your qualifications and or background?

    This article is just a slightly more subtle way of eliminating an omnipotent being and allowing you to continue in your own ways… in your own righteousness.

    Creation and Christianity are not supposed to make scientific sense. In fact it should be an absolute slap in the face. Yes! In comparison to God you are nothing… but He still loves you. That’s not something understood or proven… its something believed. So until you do… Creation and Christianity are always going to seem unfathomable and stupid.

    So I, as a bible believing Christian resent the notion that evolutionary theory and Christianity and/or Creation are the same story.

    Editor’s Note: Thanks for letting us know what you resent … but if you expect getting “slapped in the face” to convince me, we’ll always disagree here. I’m happy to stand by what I’ve said, and leave this as it is …

  5. And as a Christian, I resent the idea that Christianity poses some bizarre fantasy and claims it is “more true” that the reality presented by nature.

    In fact, since nature is, we Christians take on faith, from the hand of God, one can assume that anything nature demonstrates is accurate. If nature demonstrates evolution (and it does), then evolution it is. To day otherwise is either to call God a lying creator, or to suggest something else is behind creation, both of which are theologically unacceptable.

    And that’s the hard fact: Evolution is closer to Christianity than creationism. Get with the program, Jeff.

  6. I would have to say to many Christains through the Big Bang THEORY out the window due to the fact its is thrown in with evolution. And we all know people take evolution to mean we come from Apes. But the big bang THEORY has nothing to do with apes.

    think about this Jeff does God want us to understand how he work? And if you say NO, why then do we have David, Paul, and even Jesus talking about how God is and thinks. The only way to get close to anyone is to find out how they work.

    Now I am not saying the big bang THEORY is true, because its just that its a THEORY. Now I am studying this for a college paper as I’m writing this. And I’m a Christain, I’m actually studying to become a pastor.

    And all I have to say nothing we believe in matter God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    And He loves You

  7. How about this.

    Genesis (in the oral tradition) is an history of Big Bang Theory and Evolution. Where did all the matter come from in the Big Bang, simple. God. God is the universe. If God created the universe then he created it from himself. (apologies to any female readers for the obvious male bias in references to pronouns.)

    Editor’s Note: This is very much in line with my own philosophy. I don’t have any philosophical issues with the problem of where the matter came from … its always been here and always will be, but it goes through state changes as we proceed through the “development” of the universe. All that which we see today was and is contained within the kernel of the big bang. I do think that is we talk about God at all, the only way that concept makes any sense to me is to see God as the totality of all that is … essentially, we live within God, and God physically manifests as us and the world around us. Thanx for the comment … I always appreciate the feedback :)

  8. The traditional Jewish time count states that the age of the Universe is 5768 years from the time Adam was created “Plus Six Days” . That is counting the total time, in years, of the genealogy tree from Adam to Noah
    Each of these people live 900+ years, as we translate the Hebrew word “Shana”.

    So what is a Day in the time line of Creation? What is a Year in the time line of Evolution?

    Psalms 90:4, says in reference to God: “1000 years in Your sight are like a day that passes, a watch in the night.”, meaning that our earthly concept of time is meaningless in Celestial terms. The next line refers to man’s life time – which ”fades like grass which springs up with the morning and is parched by evening.” So 900 years may not necessarily imply the time of 900 revolutions of earth around the sun. It may, as well, imply – A Long Time.

    I suggest that the narrative in Genesis should be read on a continuum Time Line. Reading the Bible open minded does not deny God!

    If we do that, we find that there is no major conflict between the Biblical story of the creation of the Universe and Science, nor is there a conflict between the Biblical account of genealogy of Humanity and the general concept of the evolution of man.

    In the beginning there was darkness and chaos. And then there was light – the “Big Bang”, and that was One Day – Not the First Day. One Day – “Yom Ehad”, the creation of matter, the beginning of time.

    The Sky was created on the Second Day – “ Yom Sheni” That was Spacet -the Universe

    Planet earth is mentioned before the sun and the moon, not a serious discrepancy.
    Then the earth cooled, land and water appeared, then vegetation and trees- Third day
    Sun, Moon and Stars – Fourth day
    Animal life in the air and the seas – Fifth day
    More animals, sprung from the earth, and Man – Male and Female, on the Sixth Day.

    Let us discuss, briefly the time line of humanity –
    Adam and Eve were created in the Form of God. – “Zelem Elohim”. So they looked like the humans we know, but – they roamed around, surviving off the fruits of the trees. Were naked, and without Knowledge. We could say – rather primitive, (Primates?)

    Then humans acquired knowledge. They learned farming, raised animals. After some generations they developed art, learned to domesticate animals, and learned to work copper and iron. In short – a concise narrative of the evolution of humanity.

  9. i wud jus like to ask how does the steady state theory come in to this i know it is to do with matter still being present but i cannot seem to get my head around it!!

    Editor’s Note: This isn’t a full, scientific answer, and I should probably say that my version of a “solid state” theory might differ from strict scientific interpretations of it at the moment. Essentially, I see the universe as something that exists, will always exist, and always has existed. In fact, since time is a component of the universe, we can’t even speak of “beginnings” or “endings” in a coherent way … if time is an internal component of the universe, how can the universe itself have discreet temporal properties like beginnings or endings?

    Instead, similar to a quantum structure, the universe exists in a number of states. As with quantum structures, the TRUE nature of the universe isn’t any of the discrete images we ever get of it, including the discreet image of a beginning or an end, or of matter in specific arrangements … rather, the true nature is a “waveform” that includes all possible states at all “times.” The cat is both dead and alive, always, but we can only perceive it as one or the other … the big bang and the big crunch are happening right now, and exist as active components of the discrete “collapsed waveform” we see around us as the universe today. The big bang, the big crunch, even today, this moment, this second, aren’t discrete entities on a time line, but rather are different “quantum” states of the universe that we have no perceptual access to. For us, as we exist within the universe, the waveform collapses to certain specific states, and others are less available to us perceptually. But they make up the structure of the total waveform that we collapse … they aren’t things that “have happened” or “will happen” but rather things that are included in the very structure of what we see as the universe when we look. We just have limited perceptual access to them, in much the same way that once we collapse a quantum waveform, we limited perceptual access into any possible states other than what it collapses into.

  10. I’m sorry but i compltetely disagree with evolution they base their theories on nothing but the future… like they say well you may not see my theory now but in i don’t know a million years or so you will see… i am going to be dead in a million years… and second of all how come we can tell you how your religeon came about but you cannot tell me who created ours and you know what if you really didn’t believe in God you would not be so racial about it… and third of all evolutionist really dont know how life began and the earth did not just appear at the perfect distance from the sun if that were true… because if we were one inch closer to the sun we would burn up and if we were an inch farther we would freeze…and the earth could not be so beautiful if there were not some design of the earth as we know it today… therefore there had to be a creator involved… third of all… all the animals that we see today could not develop the features that we see today ok they could not have the instincts that we see…and fourth of all if man evolved or whatever you call from ape’s…we don’t come from ape’s ok! because when you see an who is pregnant you can see that this is completely where we came from not animals that have the brain of a peanut…and finally your religeon was created by Charles Darwin a past anti christ along with the other anti christs such as carl marx and the charles who created uniformitarianism… thats all i have to say!

  11. oh yeah and yall think things go from disorder to order which is com[pletely against the second law of thermodynamics…

  12. I think this is a great explanation.

  13. am very active in my youth church and i belive the big bang theory is so stupid god created the earth and that is all to it i will put it this way we were all young at one time and believed in santa well are parents didnt have to prove it to us we just believed that he was well thats like god you have to believe and have faith that god created the earth and there was no such thing as the earth expanding like a ballon

  14. (I understand the last comment was like a year ago but oh well.)

    Thank you. We kind of talked about this in class today and for a while I’ve believed in a few things. First of all, I am a christian. However, (as far into the topics as I know) I believe in both the Big Bang Theory as well as Evolution. I Believe that both Christianity and there explination of where we came from can easily coexist with the Big Bang Theory. In fact, they help to verify each other. To me, God seems like a very good explanation as to where that original incredibly dense piece of mass came from. He created it. As well I can easily agree with some of the above statements. What’s to say a day back then is the same as a day now? I appreciate the biblical citation from Ram Kossowsky:

    “Psalms 90:4, says in reference to God: “1000 years in Your sight are like a day that passes, a watch in the night.”,”

    That in itself helps to verify my belief. As well, on evolution, I can appreciate as well as side with Ram’s other statement.

    “Adam and Eve were created in the Form of God. – “Zelem Elohim”. So they looked like the humans we know, but – they roamed around, surviving off the fruits of the trees. Were naked, and without Knowledge. We could say – rather primitive, (Primates?)

    Then humans acquired knowledge. They learned farming, raised animals. After some generations they developed art, learned to domesticate animals, and learned to work copper and iron. In short – a concise narrative of the evolution of humanity.”

    It says we were created in his image, however I do not believe it says we remained in his image. Perhaps it is possible that God looks like a primate. One could argue at this point that God would not be so clueless as a primate. However, if we are to believe that he is in the same image as a modern day human, we still don’t believe he is as clueless as us. If you think about it, in comparison to the intelligence level that Christians believe God posesses, the difference between us and apes is about as unimaginable as that incredibly dense piece of matter if not, more.

    I appreciate this and encourage some people to go into things with a more open mind, keeping beliefs as a check and balance, not as a reason to listen or not.

  15. David,
    You have a really good point. I am also Christian and definitely do not believe in the Big Bang or evolution.

    1) It is totally true that days back then are not the same as days now, but God never says ‘There was a big explosion to create the universe…’ or that everything was made at the same time. He contradicts, in my opinion, the theory.

    2) To go off on evolution…I’m not too clear on it because I have my own beliefs and don’t really want to know because I already know what I believe in. Anyways, I don’t think that evolution exists. Yes, of course we don’t look like our great great ancestors, but every one still was human. They still had 2 eyes, a mouth, and legs. I don’t think it is a legit argument to say that we evolved from other animals. To back that up, if we did evolve from other things, why are they all still existent….except for dinosaurs. How did one thing create another but continue having the same species? If we were evolving, wouldn’t our babies not be humans, or have some kind of ability that we don’t have?

    3) Although there are some positives for the Big Bang, it is hard for me to accept that. Maybe the left over evidence is left over stuff that God put there to help people become closer to God. What if He did that just to make us stronger and closer in our walks with God. Although there is no visible evidence; besides the fact that history says Jesus was alive, it seems much easier for me to grasp than evidence that isn’t traced up into the first moment.

    4) In general just believing in God is a huge struggle sometimes. To have someone in your life that you don’t even ever see is something that I can’t comprehend. But then, you hear stories and see things that can’t scientifically be possible; it had to be someone bigger in control. For example, I was having difficulty getting along with someone I knew. I called my brother one night and was just talking to him and asking for advice. He told me EXACTLY what I needed to hear and the perfect advice. I don’t believe that is coincedence. I feel like it’s bigger than that; there had to be someone controlling their actions. My brother wouldn’t have just known right on what I was having a hard time with; he had to have someone guiding him through.

    5)This argument will probably never be solved by evidence. Each person will have to decide what he/she believes and no one can change that. Furthermore, I do respect and listen to the other view points, but I do not agree with them….

  16. I believe we are all looking for something to believe in. I also believe that God is in fact real. But honestly what is the truth? our beliefs and ideas have come from someone elses beleifs and ideas.Would we even believe them if someone wouldn’t have told them to us? We have always been told one thing or the other either there is a God or there isn’t. Why can’t we just let things go and let it be?

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