Genesis 1
SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE

By Bruce Gerig

Introduction
Chapter 1: The Hebrew Text and the First Creation Account
Chapter 2: The Evolutionary View and Genesis 1
Chapter 3: Five Approaches to Reconciling Science and Genesis 1
Footnotes, References and Translations

CHAPTER 2: THE EVOLUTIONARY VIEW AND GENESIS 1

The cosmic Big Bang – Physicist Steven Weinberg explains how at the start of the universe there was an explosion “filling all space from the beginning with every particle of matter rushing apart from every other particle.” Within the tiniest split second, the temperature hit a hundred thousand million degrees Centigrade. There were electrons, positrons, neutrinos – and photons: the universe was filled with light! Bill Bryson notes that 98% of all of the matter that there is or will ever be was then produced.124 The Big Bang was first detected by the astronomer George Smoot at the University of California at Berkeley, who in 1992 with the NASA satellite COBE noted faint irregularities in the bath of microwaves that pervade space, which he identified as radiation from the original cosmic fireball, before this explosion eventually cooled into giant clusters of galaxies.125 The Bing Bang theory is also supported by the observation that, outside our local group of galaxies, all galaxies appear to be moving away from us, in an expanding universe.126

The cosmic Big Bang and the Bible – The Big Bang readily brings to mind Gen 1:1, where God creates the whole cosmos out of nothing. One also recalls Ps 104:2, with its description of Creation where God “wraps himself in light as with a garment: / he stretches out the heavens like a tent…” (NIV) – which suggests both the brilliance of that first moment and the expanding nature of the resulting universe. However, some scientists counter that this universe simply sprang from one of many other universes. They argue that if the probability of life cropping up on Earth by accident is only one chance in a billion, if you’ve got 300 billion universes, then why not?127 Yet, astrophysicist C.J. Isham notes, “Perhaps the best argument … that the Big Bang supports theism [belief in a Creator] is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists” who instead advance other ideas “with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his or her theory.”128

The Earth’s early geological formation – Scientists theorize that as our solar system condensed from a dust cloud the Earth and other planets were formed, about 4.6 bya.129 The Earth’s early atmosphere, mostly hydrogen, dissipated as heat from radioactive decay and gravitational compression melted the earth’s interior. Then gasses escaping from the hot interior produced an atmosphere of nitrogen, ammonia, water vapor, and carbon forms (but no oxygen yet). Slowly, water vapor condensed into seas. Sea-floor volcanic vents releasing high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide provided the initial conditions where certain pre-biological chemical interactions could take place.130 About 3.8 bya, oxygen (O2) first appeared in the Earth’s atmosphere; and then about 2.5 bya, oxygen levels in the atmosphere began to increase markedly, as certain bacteria began using water in photosynthesis, which in turn released more and more O2 into the air. Only with the Cambrian period (543-490 mya) did O2 levels approach the current level. Volcanic eruptions, meteorite collisions, and continental drift continued to change the earth’s surface over time. Also in the Cambrian period continental plates came together to form several dry land masses.131 Yet, “uncertainties make it difficult to determine the conditions of earth at the time it was evolving. As a result, scientists today are considering a wider variety of possible theories for the origin of life than they did only a few years ago.”132

The Earth’s early geological formation and the Bible – Scientists theorize how impact events (meteorites) occurring for over 500 million years during the earliest Hadean eon (4.5–3.8 bya) would have produced enough energy to vaporize the earth’s surface, which at the time was mainly molten liquid. As these bombardments ceased and the planet cooled, lighter elements surfaced and hardened to form the Earth’s outer crust. Eventually, the atmosphere cooled to the point where water began to condense, and heavy rains poured down.133 It would seem that it is here in the scientific scenario that Gen 1:2 points. One can only speculate, from a scientific point of view, of course, if the whole earth was or was not at one point completely covered with water. Yet, rain falling over millions of years certainly could have produced a global aqueous ocean that completely covered the Earth’s surface, which probably lacked the large elevation differences that we see today. It is also likely that this watery Earth was enshrouded with a thick cloud cover (Gen 1:3). Then, several hundred million years later, perhaps through plate tectonics (pressures from the shifting of vast underground plates, one against another, that normally forms continents and mountains), land rose up from the surface of the massive ocean, to appear as islands and continents (day 3a, Gen 1:9).134 So, the Earth first experienced a fiery and violent origin; but then it eventually became a quieter place, dark and desolate, awaiting its destiny. It is certainly significant that Earth had plenty of water; but still to make it into a habitable place for life, it also needed increased sunlight penetration and thinning and oxygenation of the atmosphere. In the end, the Biblical account appears plausible and reasonable, when viewed next to the scientific hypothesized scenario for early Earth’s development.

The development of life on earth – Science theorizes that somehow about 3.8 bya interacting systems of molecules came to be enclosed in “cells,” where “control was exerted over the entrance, retention and exit of molecules, as well as over the other chemical reactions taking place” – and this “marked the beginning of biological evolution.”135 For 2 billion years, there were only prokaryotes (single-celled organisms without a nucleus), confined to the oceans where they were shielded from the Sun’s lethal ultraviolet light (there was no ozone shield yet). Then, about 2.5 bya ago, a major event occurred: photosynthesis, that process which produces living tissue from water and sugars using carbon dioxide in presence of sunlight, along with other metabolic changes.136 Then about 1.5 bya eukaryotes (single-celled organisms with a nucleus) appeared, as did several animal phyla (major groups) as well. It took this long for photosynthesis to occur because it took millions of years for the Earth to develop an oxygenated atmosphere, which then made possible larger cells and more complex organisms than the earlier forms which lived off of other, varied energy sources.137 Scientists now speak of a common “ancestor” of life on earth, from which then came: bacteria (organisms with chromosomes but not contained in a nuclear envelope138); other early prokaryotes called archaea (which lived on salty, hot, acidic ocean beds); and then eukarya (all other living things).139 By the Cambrian period (543-490 mya), both plant and animal forms were present. Scientists call these earliest eukaryotes protists, because these one-celled organisms don’t seem to fit neatly into the Plant, Animal or Fungus Kingdoms even though they display various related characteristics. For example, some use photosynthesis, while others live off organic material on the sea floor; most are single-celled, but others form massive multicellular masses.140

Biological form, containing DNA, is clearly different from inorganic material. Experiments by the French microbiologist Louis Pasteur (1822-95) convinced most scientists in his time that cells could only come from other cells, not from inorganic matter.141 Then, in the 1950s, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago set up an experimental ‘primitive’ Earth atmosphere – containing hydrogen gas, ammonia, methane gas, and water vapor – and then through this they passed a spark to simulate lightning. After cooling, the mixture displayed certain complex molecules, including amino acids, purines, and pyrimidines – some building blocks of life. Later experiments, using carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide in a revised chemical ‘soup’ produced other organic molecules. Yet, Purves and his colleagues acknowledge, “[H]ow life began on Earth sometime during the 600 million years of the Hadean [eon, 4.5–3.8 bya] is impossible for us to know for certain, given the vast amount of time that has passed.”142

In the Cambrian period (543–490 mya) – the first of six periods of the PALEOZOIC ERA (543–248 mya143) – there appeared amazingly all (or a great many) of the major groups of animals that have species living today and with a diversification so rapid that this is referred to as the “Cambrian explosion.” Arthropods (like crabs, shrimp, and other invertebrates with jointed legs) appeared, some of them large carnivores (flesh-eating).144 During the Ordovician period (490–443 mya), although the continents lacked multicellular plants, marine organisms diversified spectacularly. These animals, including brachiopods (with two clam-like shells145) and mollusks (with a shell and a ‘foot,’ like a snail146), lived on the seafloor. During the Silurian period (443–417 mya), animals swam and fed above the seafloor for the first time. On land, the first tracheophytes appeared (plants with vascular tissue, used to transport water and mineral nutrients throughout the plant);147 and land arthropods (like scorpions and mullipeds with many feet) appeared.148 During the Devonian period (417–354 mya), a great diversification of corals occurred, and fishes with jaws replaced jawless fishes. Club mosses, horsetails, and tree ferns became common on land; and centipedes, spiders, mites and insects appeared. Fishlike amphibians began to occupy the land. During the Carboniferous period (354–290 mya), extensive swamp forests on land were dominated by giant tree-ferns and horsetails.149 Insects became more abundant, and some, with wings, began to fly. Amphibians (water and land vertebrates) became larger, and the first reptiles evolved (including turtles).150 By the end of the Permian period (290–248 mya), there were representatives of most modern insects, and ray-fanned fishes diversified. A large meteorite brought this period to a close, with 96% of all the species becoming extinct.151

In the comparatively emptied world at the beginning of the MESOZOIC ERA (248–65 mya), the climate warmed, glaciers melted, and life again proliferated and diversified, but with different lineages dominating. The landscape now filled with new seed plants – and the earth’s plant and animal life became increasingly provincialized, distinctive on each continent. By the end of this era, the world and its plants and animals would appear quite modern. The Mesozoic era is divided into three periods: During the Triassic period (248–206 mya), conifers (plants, mostly evergreens, that bear seed cones152) and seed ferns became the dominate trees; and a great diversification of reptiles occurred, resulting in crocodilians (crocodiles, alligators, etc.), dinosaurs, and birds.153 Dinosaurs appeared about 215 mya and dominated the landscape for about 150 million years, some weighing up to 100 tons. Small mammals lived alongside the dinosaurs. (A mammal is a creature covered with hair, whose females provide breast milk).154 The oldest known bird fossil (of a creature with wings and feathers) is believed to have lived about 150 mya, although it also had teeth.155 At the end of this period, a large meteorite eliminated about 65% of the Earth’s species.156 During the Jurassic period (206–144 mya), salamanders and lizards developed. Flying reptiles (pterosaurs) appeared, and dinosaur lines evolved into both four-legged herbivores (plant-eaters) and predators (flesh-hunters). Several new groups of mammals appeared, and flowering plants like we see today evolved. During the Cretaceous period (144–65 mya), life proliferated both on land and in water. Marine invertebrates diversified, as did dinosaurs. Flowering plants began to dominate dry land and many groups of mammals evolved, although generally small in size. Then, a meteorite wiped out all vertebrates weighing more than 55 pounds.157

The development of life on Earth and the Bible – Days 3, 5 and 6 focus, respectively, on the appearance of (1) plant life, which will become a basic food source; (2) animals to fill the sea and birds to fill the air with life; and then (3) mammals and other modern animals, and finally humankind. What one finds throughout Gen 1 is an interest in mentioning life forms which the Israelite audience would recognize and appreciate; and so Gen 1 is filled with familiar images and common language, not modern scientific terminology.158 Still, day 3 may be said to elude back to, or take for granted, the beginning of life about 3.8 bya and the beginning of photosynthesis about 2.5 bya – the latter being, as Purves and his colleagues note, a momentous event that “changed the course of evolution.”159 The Christian is likely to visualize the Creator stepping in, not only at points to move early geology along in a certain directions, but to create life, initiate photosynthesis, and unfold evolution as a whole according to his plan, finally ending up with the modern animal forms which he desired to inhabit the human world. It is only later that seed plants appear, about 400 mya, and modern trees (angiosperms, along with their pollinators), about 140 mya. Also, only in the Cenozoic era (65–1.8 mya) did flowering plants spread and diversify so that grasslands and fruit trees covered much of the land.160

Jonathan Wells (Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology, Berkeley; now at the Discovery Institute), notes relating to the Miller-Urey experiment that, if you replay their experiment using the chemicals that experts now think made up the early Earth’s atmosphere (including carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor), you do not get amino acids (which form proteins). What you do get are formaldehyde and cyanide – and you wouldn’t even want an uncapped bottle of these chemicals in your room, they are so toxic!161 A scientist may take a sterile, balanced salt solution in a test tube and put in a single living cell and then poke a hole in it so that the contents leak out. Yet, even though you now have all of the components needed for life, these will never turn into a new living cell. Wells notes, “[T]he problem of assembling the right parts in the right way at the right time and at the right place, while keeping out the wrong material, is simply insurmountable.” The problem with Darwinism is that you have “materialistic philosophy masquerading as empirical science.”162 Bernard Ramm notes that of the so-called scientific explanations for life that have so far been offered (e.g. through spontaneous generation, received from outer space, arising from enzymes or viruses) are unconvincing; and, in fact, one simply substitutes one mystery with another.163 R.E.D. Clark noted that to say that nature operates on the grounds of random activity and human intelligence on the principle of organization and control brings one finally to an unacceptable dualism in which a theistic (divine) explanation for the origin of life is the only possible explanation.164 As L. du Nouy wrote, “The simplest protein molecules are so complex that there is no possibility that they could have their atoms lined up in the correct order and number.” Assuming that a protein molecule with two thousand atoms came together just by chance is impossible. In fact, even with 500 trillion shakings per second, the possibility of a protein molecule appearing by chance would be once in 10243 billion years.165 Still, what if life someday could be made in the lab? Sometimes man is able to follow in the footsteps of God.166

Stephen Meyer (Ph.D. in biology, Cambridge) explains, relating to the appearance of Cambrian explosion about 530 mya, that paleontologists now believe that during a 5 million year period (or even shorter) at least 20 or perhaps up to 35 or more of the world’s 40 phyla sprang forth with unique body forms.167 Before then life on earth was simple, consisting of one-celled bacteria, blue-green algae, and later some sponges, primitive worms and mollusks (animals with a mantle covering and a protruding ‘foot’)168 However, then, without any ancestors in the fossil record, in ‘a blink of the eye,’ geologically speaking, a stunning variety of complex creatures appear. For example, the trilobite169 (a small now-extinct creature with a spine, armored covering, a three-part body and jointed legs), with its complicated nervous system and compound eyes, suddenly shows up fully formed at the beginning of the Cambrian period – and then this is followed by stasis, that is, its basic body plan remained distinct and unchanged over millions of years. This totally contradicts Darwin’s theory of slow mutation; and in fact Darwin even admitted that the Cambrian explosion was ‘inexplicable’ (unexplainable) and “a valid argument” against his theory. Where did all of the information come from to build all of these new proteins, cells, and body plans? There seems only one good rational explanation, says Meyer: an intelligent designer.170 Several years ago Stephen Jay Gould at Harvard and a colleague proposed a hypothesis called “punctuated equilibrium,” in order to explain away such fossil gaps. They suggested that from time to time radically new species managed to develop so rapidly among isolated populations that they left behind no fossil record – but this raised more questions than it answered, and the idea has been roundly criticized by other scientists.171 Wells notes that nobody denies that descent from a common ancestor is true at some levels, e.g. the greatly-varying fruit fly can be traced through generations to a common ancestor. It is also possible that all cats (tigers, lions, and the like) are descended from a common ancestor; such may be inferred from their interbreeding. Also, if Noah was instructed to take pairs of all living land animals and birds with him into the Ark (Gen 7:2-3), there were certainly a great fewer ‘kinds’ than today. However, when you get to the level of phyla, the idea of these changing entirely into another kind of phylum becomes a very, very shaky hypothesis – and there is no real evidence to support this major kind of change.172

On a non-mythical level, the “great sea monsters” mentioned in Gen 1:21 may be read as referring to large sea mammals, like the whale (so translated in the KJV and Peterson; and cf. Whitefield and Moore173) and to large reptiles, like the crocodile (Hamilton).174 The crocodile probably appeared during the Triassic period (248–206 mya) and the whale during the Eocene epoch (55–38 mya).175 Again, modern examples of life would have been envisioned in the Biblical writer’s mind. The oldest bird fossil has been dated about 150 mya (Jurassic period), when evolutionists believe that some reptiles developed the capacity for sustained flight. Birds then diversified and become more widespread during the Tertiary period (65–1.8 mya).176 So, actually, the development of biological life on earth (botanical and zoological) now appears to have continued for 2.5 billion years, as God’s natural world has diversified and unfolded, in unimaginably varied and stunning display. Wells notes the intense effort of paleontologists to find the “missing link” between reptiles and birds, and he also points to what Phillip Johnson called “Berra’s Blunder.” In a book written in 1990, biologist Tim Berra compared the fossil record to different car models, noting that it is clear that there has been descent with modification. The blunder here, of course, is that cars start out with engineering design. The problem with linking fossil creatures by homology is that similar structures and features tell you nothing about whether a certain form came from common descent or Divine design.177 Followers of Darwin were excited when scientists in 1861 unearthed the archaeopteryx, which was hailed as the missing link between reptiles and birds. The archaeopteryx is definitely a bird, but is it also part reptile? Reptile fossils have been found that might be an ancestor of a bird, but these fossils date tens of millions of years later than the archaeopteryx. In fact, Larry Martin, a paleontologist at the University of Kansas, wrote later that the archaeopteryx is no ancestor of any modern bird, but rather simply a member of an early, now-extinct group of birds.178 Then, there is the problem of frauds. The National Geographic magazine published an article in 1999 extolling “the missing link between terrestrial dinosaurs and birds that could actually fly.” They named it the archaeoraptor, and it clearly looked like it had the tale of a dinosaur and the forelimbs of a bird. However, then a Chinese paleontologist showed how someone had glued the bones from a dinosaur tail onto those of a primitive bird! In fact, Alan Feduccia, an evolutionary biologist at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) has noted that archaeoraptor is just the tip of the iceberg. “There are scores of fake fossils out there, and they have cast a dark shadow over the whole field.” There are even fake-fossil factories turning these things out! Another transitional dinosaur-bird creature, described in an article in Science magazine, was later found by scientists to contain DNA that was 100% turkey!179 Unfortunately, introduction to biology textbooks leave out such drama behind the scenes. Intermediate forms have remained as elusive as ever in the fossil record, remaining a major challenge to the notion of mechanistic organic evolution.180

Day 6a, focusing on modern land animals, specifically mentions “cattle,” “[wild] animals,” and “creeping things” (Gen 1:24-25). “Cattle” or domesticated animals in ancient times would have brought to mind oxen, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels; and common wild animals would have included deer, ibexes, gazelles, foxes, hyenas, jackals, wolves, leopards, lions and bears. Creatures that skitter or slitter across the ground would have included reptiles and very small animals like rodents, lizards and weasels. Day 6a, then, most noticeably points to the Tertiary period (65–1.6 mya) – the first part of the last geological period, the CENOZOIC ERA (65–present). This Tertiary period is divided into five epochs: In the Paleocene epoch (65–55 mya) there was a great development of birds and placental mammals, and rodents and rabbits flourished. During the Eocene epoch (55–38 mya) the first deer, small horses, bats, whales, cats and camels appeared. During the Oligocene epoch (38–24 mya) there was a great development of modern mammals, especially cats, dogs, rodents, and horses; also monkeys, apes, elephants and pigs first appeared. During the Miocene epoch (24–5 mya) there was further development of mammals; and modern horses, bears, and humanlike apes first appeared. During the Pliocene epoch (5–1.6 mya) there was further development of mammals, and apes with more humanlike characteristics made their appearance in Africa. Finally, the Quaternary period (1.6 mya – present) contains the Pleistocene epoch (1.6 mya – 10,000 years), during which mastodons, mammoths and saber-toothed tigers lived and then became extinct. In the Holocene epoch (10,000 years – present) there was the spread of hardwood forests and modern human culture and civilization.181 We see here many modern animal forms that filled the world and would have been familiar to the ancient Israelites, including grazing animals, wild beasts, and other smaller creatures.

Three theological questions – Theologians have raised certain questions here, for example: (1) Didn’t the sin of Adam and Eve bring death into the world? God later announces to Adam, after the Fall: “By the sweat of your face / you shall eat bread / until you return to the ground, / for out of it you were taken; / you are dust, / and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19, NRSV). It should be noted, however, that Adam and Eve originally were not given inherent, inevitable immortal life, for a “tree of life” was placed in the Garden (2:9) for their benefit. Paul does write that “sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because they have sinned” (Rom 5:12, NRSV); yet since he contrasts this “death” through Adam with “life through … Jesus Christ” (5:17), the former must refer to spiritual death (a separation from God), and not to physical death – although physical death came to Adam and Eve and their descendents also, after the Tree of Life was taken away (Gen 3:22-24). Just as Adam and Eve were mortal from the beginning, so have been all living forms on earth: they would be begin life and they would die, either from old age or other causes.182

(2) Wouldn’t death, sickness, and extinction in the pre-Adamic world render God’s creation less than perfect? Nowhere does the Biblical text say that the created natural world was “perfect” – only that it was “good” and “very good.” Moreover, these latter expressions must be related to its ultimate purpose, which was to provide a suitable home for humankind.183 Interestingly, at the end of the Book of Job God parades before Job special examples of his creative power, which include the prey-hungry lion, (38:39), young eagles who suck up blood (39:30), and the crocodile (Leviathan), with whom you would not want to “play” (41:1,5). We might wonder why also the universe needed the foolish ostrich (39:13-17) or the fat hippo, so heavy that he simply likes to lie in the marsh (40:15,21) – but God was proud of all these creatures (40:19), perhaps even displaying a sense of humor and whimsy. On a more serious note, struggle, suffering and sorrow are not realities that we would have placed in the universe; but they provide powerful motivators for human beings to learn and mature. As Johnston writes, “[T]here is no such thing as created perfection.” Humans are made perfect (complete) through their suffering (James 1:4). We even read that Christ was “made perfect” through his obedience and suffering (Heb 5:8).184

(3) What about God’s statement in Gen 1:29-30 giving humans and every living thing on earth “every green plant for food”? After the Flood, it is clear that God instructed Noah that he and his descendents could henceforth eat meat, “just as I gave you the green plants” (Gen 9:3, NRSV). Still, Gen 1:29-30 may be more of a general statement and an ideal wish than a strict command, since God had given humankind and many animals certain powers to think and choose. Some interpreters believe that after Abel sacrificed a sheep to the Lord from his flock (Gen 4:2-4), the meat would have been eaten and not just wasted or thrown away. In fact, the command given to Noah to take seven pairs of “clean” animals and birds to every pair of “unclean” creatures into the Ark (Gen 7:2-3) suggests that the former had already become food sources, since “clean” and “unclean” are terms that are later used to designate appropriate and inappropriate foods (cf. Lev 11, esp. v. 46-47). Perhaps all animals early on were capable of living on a vegetarian diet (as some carnivores are today); however, facing food shortages or other stressful situations they turned to eating meat and developed a taste for it. For how long Adam and Eve and their descendents pursued a strict vegetarian diet, if they ever did, is not made clear in the Genesis text.185

Ancestors of the human race – A Smithsonian Institution publication titled Human (2006) says that some 6 mya Africa’s forests were home to an early ape; but then about 5 mya there occurred a split between one group that stayed in the forest and developed into the modern chimpanzee, while the other group (now called hominids) moved onto the savanna (grasslands, with few or no trees) and began walking upright on two feet.186 Other scientists speculate, however, that these early hominids settled instead along Africa’s many lakes, since they would have needed to eat a lot of fish and mollusks to obtain sufficient omega fatty acids for their brains to enlarge.187 The first distinct Homo (“man”) genus, or species group, is believed to have appeared about 2.5–2 mya, with a noticeable increase in brain size, humanlike changes in anatomy, and the beginning of tool-making. The first tools, of Homo habilis (“handyman”), were sharp pieces of rock that could be used for cutting hides or butchering animals. Homo erectus (“upright man”) appeared about 1.8 mya and was the first hominid to leave East Africa; by 1.6 mya this species had reached Georgia (southwestern USSR) and Java (an island of Indonesia). Much of what is known about Homo erectus comes from the Turkana boy, a nearly complete skeleton that was found near Lake Turkana in Kenya.188 Homo groups appear to have reached Spain some 800,000 years ago and populated Europe by 600,000 years ago, and they were skilled hunters. The Homo neanderthalensis (name comes from the Neander valley in western Germany, where the first such bones were found; and thal in German means “valley”189) were able to survive the cold Ice Age winters in Europe between 250,000–30,000 years ago. How and why the Neanderthals finally disappeared (as well as earlier species) is unknown, although some think that the Neanderthals died out as the first modern ‘humans’ reached Europe about 40,000 years ago.190

After Homo sapiens (“wise man”) appeared between 200,000–150,000 years ago in Africa, about 60,000 years ago they crossed out of Africa in waves, to replace and succeed all the other hominids on earth.191 Homo sapiens reached China about 60,000 years ago. Cro-Magnons (named after the cave in southwestern France where their bones were first discovered) appeared in Europe about 40,000 years ago.192 These hominids pioneered the making of complex shelters, became more inventive tool-makers, and later created the famous cave paintings at Lascaux in France (14,000 years B.C.) and at Altamira in Spain (12,500 B.C.), which appear strikingly modern and show even a use of perspective.193 These modern Homo sapiens, primarily found in Europe but also in Africa and Australia, produced tens of thousands of works of art between 40,000-10,000 B.C., in the Upper (later) Paleolithic Period, many of which have survived and are “breathtakingly accomplished.”194 There is no clue as to what would trigger such a dramatic emergence of culture.195 Cave paintings of pregnant animals and statuettes of pregnant women may suggest a desire to stimulate fertility, although the exact meanings of these representations are still debated.196 It has been suggested that the Cro-Magnons may have believed in an afterlife, since one tomb at Sungir, Russia, contained an elderly man with two children, evidently important people, who had been buried in rich clothing; and some have interpreted this as revealing a desire to protect, entertain or placate (appease) in the afterlife.197 Yet, this is all speculation; they may just as well have been buried in their ‘best,’ to honor them. Then came settled society. The first known use of pottery appeared about 10,000 B.C., settled agriculture about 9000 B.C., domesticated animals about 8000 B.C., the world’s first walled town (Jericho) about 7500 B.C., and the first use of copper in Mesopotamia about 5000 B.C.198 By at least 5000 B.C., humans were growing crops and domesticating animals along the Nile in Egypt.199 The first written symbols (writing) appeared in Sumeria about 3400 B.C., and the great pyramid building in Egypt began around 2750 B.C.200

Mitochondrial Eve and Nuclear Adam – Besides using carbon-14 dating on ancient bone, scientists have calculated mitochondrial mutation rates to try to trace back genetically to an original male and female. Mitochondria are energy-producing structures within every human cell (but outside of the nucleus) which carry DNA received only from the mother.201 This mtDNA has become an essential tool used in both forensic (legal) investigation as well as evolutionary dating, since this DNA sequence was unraveled in 1981. The most widely-used mutation rate for human mtDNA, derived from estimates on the date when humans and chimpanzees shared a common ancestor about 5 mya, is one mutation every 12,000-6000 years, using a generation span of 20 years. Then, in 1987, Rebecca Cann, along with two colleagues, announced in Nature magazine that they had looked at the mtDNA of 147 people from continents around the world and had developed a computerized mtDNA ‘tree’ which traced back to a common ancestor for all humans living today – a woman who lived in Africa some 200,000 years ago. This does not mean that she was only woman living at the time, they wrote; but they named her “Mitochondrial Eve.”202 Later, her estimated date was lowered to around 150,000 years ago.203

However, questions about this dating arose after the Russians in 1991 exhumed a Siberian grave containing the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and they discovered that he and his brother had two types of mtDNA, instead of the expected one type. Later studies have suggested that heteroplasmy (the possession of two types of mtDNA) may not be an infrequent event, occurring probably in 20% of all humans. More interesting is the fact that heteroplasmy, which is caused by mutation, displays a much more rapid mutation rate – in fact, as much as 20-fold faster than what is held by evolutionists to be the general rate of mtDNA mutation.204 Thomas Parsons, a molecular geneticist at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, MD, was so surprised to find heteroplasmy popping up so frequently in families of missing soldiers that he, along with colleagues in the U.S. and England, began a study which sequenced 610 base pairs of mtDNA in 327 individuals from 134 different families. Whereas evolutionary estimates would lead one to expect to find one mtDNA mutation about every 600 generations, or every 12,000 years, they were “stunned” to find a rate of one mutation every 40 generations, or every 800 years (Nature Genetics, 1997) – a 15% times faster rate. This rate held up as the number of the sample was doubled205 – and this actually would move the date for Mitochondrial Eve forward from around 148,000 B.C. (or 150,000 years ago) to around 9,800 B.C. (using a 15% increased mutation rate) or 7,400 B.C. (using a 20% increased rate).

Neil Howell, a geneticist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, and his team a year earlier (than Parsons) had arrived independently at a similar conclusion, in a study of 40 members of an Australian family affected with Leber hereditary optic neuropathy, a disease caused by mtDNA gene mutation. In fact, they found one individual with triplasmy (three different mtDNA sequences) in his cells, where they estimated that one mtDNA mutation had occurred every 25–40 generations (American Journal of Human Genetics, 1996). Still, two other similar studies, one of related families on Tristan da Cunha (an island in the mid-south Atlantic) and the other group in Sweden, found slower mutation rates. Pooling data with a few other studies showing heteroplasmy, Parsons and his colleagues came up with a rate of about one mutation every 1200 years – a rate of change still much higher than once every 12,000 years. Some scientists have suggested that the more rapid mutation rates simply represent “hot spots” in the DNA mutation (atypical, while the long-term mutation rate remains much slower), but Parsons doubts that this could explain all of the mutations that he has observed.206

Meanwhile, geneticist Spencer Wells, using DNA from the Y chromosome in the nucleus (which comes only from the father), reported in The Journey of Man: a Genetic Odyssey (2003) that similar genetic studies on men had traced back to a “Nuclear Adam,” a male ancestor for the human race, who probably lived in Africa 60,000 years ago (or some 2,000 generations ago).207 Using Parsons’ revised mutation rate, however, would move Nuclear Adam forward from around 58,000 B.C. to around 3,866 B.C. (15% increased mutation rate) or 2,900 B.C. (20% increased rate) – actually falling in the range of around 4000 B.C., the date most often assigned by Biblical scholars to Adam’s creation. Gibbons noted in Science (1998) that “evolutionists are most concerned about the effect of a faster mutation rate” as suggested by Thomas Parsons and others – since using this new time ‘clock’ would date Mitochondrial Eve only about 6000 years ago – instead of 200,000–100,000 years ago.208

Ancestors of the human race, Mitochondrial Eve and Nucular Adam, and the Bible – Of course, it is only conjecture that modern humans derived from ancient apes. As Henry Gee, a chief science writer for Nature, wrote: “The intervals of time that separate [hominid] fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connection through ancestry and descent.” Therefore, he concluded that the conventional picture of human evolution is “a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices.” Anthropologist Ian Tattersall also noted that this process is “both political and subjective.”209 As Gleason Archer (Ph.D., Harvard, and professor emeritus at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL) writes, “It seems best to regard these [early hominid] races as all prior to Adam’s time, and not involved in the Adamic covenant.” What is clear from Gen 1:26 is that God intended to create Adam and Eve as qualitatively different beings – whom he fashioned more in his image than any other physical creature before and to whom he gave a spiritual capacity (and even a need) to fellowship with the Almighty, along with other special qualities. It cannot be held, from the Biblical standpoint, that there was a genetic relationship or lineage between Adam and Eve and any ape-descended hominid creatures who preceded them, who seem even an archaeological point of view to have gone extinct anyway.210

Relating to dating, Archer notes that the genealogies in Gen 5 and 10 suggest a time span of 1946 years from Adam to Abraham;211 and if Abraham was born 2166 B.C.,212 this would locate Adam’s creation around 4112 B.C. However, Luke 3:35-36 speaks of “Shelah, son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah” (NRSV), while Gen 10:24 notes only that “Arpachshad [son of Shem] became the father of Shelah” (NRSV), omitting Cainan’s name.213 In the drunken Noah story, as well, it makes more sense to read “his youngest son” (Gen 9:24, NRSV, italics added) not as referring to Ham, Noah’s son, but to Canaan, Noah’s grandson and Ham’ son – since ben can carry a wide range of meanings, including “son” and “grandson,” etc.214 We can see in Hebrew chronologies how grandparents were sometimes said to have “begotten” their grandchildren. Archer also thinks that it may have been possible in early ancient Biblical genealogies that only the most prominent members of a clan or society were sometimes listed. How frequently such practices occurred cannot be determined, but Archer suggests that there might have been added another 5,000-6,000 years to the period between the births of Adam and Abraham,215 extending the date of Adam’s creation back to 9,000–10,000 B.C. Therefore, while exact dating (scientific and Biblical) is impossible, it seems reasonable that a connection could be made between the Nuclear Adam and Mitochondrial Eve and the Adam and Eve in the Genesis.

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CHAPTER 3: FIVE APPROACHES TO RECONCILING SCIENCE AND GENESIS 1

 

© 2007 Bruce Gerig

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