A Conversation for The 'Genesis' Creation Account
A long, point by point criticism of this entry
Apollyon - Grammar Fascist Started conversation Mar 1, 2006
A recent hobby of mine has been to disect Creationist writings, so please forgive me if this as already been done before.
Nothing particularly wrong with the first section - it's just a summary of the creation account found in the Bible.
"Genesis, though, is unique because it has none of the mythical elements of the other stories, and is therefore more trustworthy."
what? Seriously, what is meant here by 'more trustworthy?' It would appear that the author starts from the point of view that the universe was spontaneously created in a few days, and merely has to choose the right story to account for it. Granted, the author is indeed a creationist, but still...
I also find it curious that he says Genesis has much in common with other stories, but is also totally unlike them due to 'lack of mythic qualities.' It might help to explain what some of those 'mythic qualities' are.
I have not read to Sumerian of Babylonian stories, but I do know with the Egyptian narrative. It begins with a vast expanse of water. Ra creates a lotus flower in the middle, and then uses that flower to create himself. He then creates several other gods for company, and two of these (Nuit and Geb) form our planet; Geb being the earth, Nuit being the sky. At first, Nuit lies on top of Geb, but he pushes her above him. Then, Sebek creates lots of dry land around Geb.
Geb pushing up Nuit somewhat resembles God raising the 'firmament' above the earth in Genesis. It's also interesting that Genesis beigns with God saying "Let *us* create," implying that there was somebody else involved - which we do find in the Egyptian creation accound.
It is implied that a 'mythic element' is one which is symbolic of somehting deeper. Genesis is discounted as a myth because it is supposedly mean to be taken literally. However, the Egyptian story also seems to contain little that is metaphorical, so by this logic, it is also not a myth. Somebody seems to be missing something here...
As an aside, the consensus is not that the universe was made by God, but that Earth was made by *a* god. In many creation stories, the gods inhabit a universe not dissimilar to our own before they get around to making our little planet.
On to the science...
For one thing, the Big Bang is indeed incompatible with Genesis. The Big Bang is estimated to have occurred about 15 billion Earth years ago (give or take a billion), while reading the Bible indicates that Adam was created about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, just five days after Earth and the Universe were born. So the timing is totally out - unless, of course, one happens to be an old-Earth creationist. So while the Big Bang perhaps does not completely defeat Genesis, it should definitely not be taken as evidence for literal creationism.
Evidence for the Big Bang is evidence against young-Earth creationism, as it requires the universe to be billions of years old.
Josh doesn't seem to quite grasp the Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law does not say anything about decay, it merely says that in an isolated system (eg, the universe), the total entropy must increase. Entropy, contrary to popular belief, is not a measure of chaos; chaos, by its very nature, cannot be measured. Rather, entropy is a measure of how close a system (whether open, closed, or isolated) is to the most stable energy arrangement.
To illustrate this, consider a molecule of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is used to shuttle energy around our cells. The important part of ATP is a chain of three phosphate groups attached to one of its carbon atoms. When energy is needed at some point, one of the phosphate groups breaks off, releasing energy and changing ATP to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and an inorganic phosphate. ADP is more stable than ATP, and so by this reaction, the overall entropy of the cell increases.
The Third Law gives another insight into this. This Law states that at absolute zero, the entropy of a perfect crystal is zero. However, add just a tiny bit of heat energy (and, hence, temperature) and the atoms in the crystal start to move around a bit, becoming less stable - entropy has increased.
Now for the First Law. This Law says nothing about matter - it does, however, say that *energy* cannot be created or destroyed. Matter does seem to be basically a form of energy, and matter can certainly be created and destroyed - this fact is exploited in nuclear reactors, when uranium splits into two other atoms, I forget which; however, some of the mass of the uranium nucleus is lost as energy, which is used in reactors to drive turbines.
Josh says that after several explosions, the universe would run out of energy. There are two errors here. First of all, the Big Bang is not an explosion - it is a period of incredibly rapid expansion in the first few minutes of the universe's lifespan. What sets the Big Bang apart from explosions is the fact that it is the universe itself that is expanding, not a fast outrush of rapidly burning gas, which is what an explosion is.
The second error is of losing energy. As has already been stated, the universe is an isolated system - this means that it cannot exchange matter or energy with anything outside it. Hence, any energy used up in the Big Bang would stay in the universe, and after the Big Crunch, would still be available for another Big Bang.
However, this does not explain where the original universe, the one that underwent the first Big Bang, came from. (If there were no universes prior to this, then the question is applicable to our own universe.) There are in fact many theories as to its origin, none entirely satisfactory, but all plausible. There's an entry on this matter somewhere which I'll try and dig up.
Ideas about science being reduced 'to ridiculous magic' are totally unfounded. Science is an effort to explain the universe we live in. To reject the whole lot as a load of hocus pocus based meraly on lack of knowledge as to how the universe began is ridiculous. Whether the universe came from nothing, by nothig, for nothing, or it was created last Tuesday by a Flying Spaghetti Monster, does notchange anything about the strength of gravity, how atoms interact to make up matter, or organisms interact to make up ecosystems.
Josh next mentions the Anthropic Principle - the idea that, since the universe seems very finely tuned to allow life, it must have been set that way by God(s). However, I am somewhat weary of such notions, as it is basically an argument from incredulity - "I can't understand why this is so, therefore gods must have been responsible." Modern research into string theory and loop quantum gravity (as an aside, DAMN that's a cool phrase!) Is hoping to find some reason that the Big Bang (or whatever), despite seeming so fine tuned to life, could not really have happened any other way. This idea does not really prove whether gods were involved one way or the other, but it does show that lack of supernatural involvement is a viable alternative.
Now for the Flood. There is a possible explanation for the rising sea levels - melting ice.
I happen to know that the Mesozoic era, or the Age of Dinosaurs, lasted from about 248 million to 65 million years ago. The Paeleozoic era came before this, though I'm not sure how long it lasted. The Paeleozoic was characterised by the emergence of many modern phyla and classes of animals.
According to one of my dinosaur books, when the Mesozoic era began, the continents were all joined together as one, called Pangaea (Greek for 'all Earth'). At this point, most of the southern part was covered with ice. For some reason, this melted. A great amount of melting ice would cause sea levels to rise.
(I don't know why it melted, though it may have been global warming due to volcanism. This is merely a guess, however.)
I know little about geology, so I can't come up with an explanation for the sediment wedge; however, I also feel to see why this should be expected in the event of a worldwide flood.
While I'm on the subject, a global flood would be pretty unlikely. For a start, if all the water bodies merge due to rain, the water would be too salty for freshwater life, but not enough for marine life. It would also drown and kill any and all plants on Earth, leaving the herbivores of the Ark with nothing to eat. They would die quickly, and the carnivores would then be doomed. Also, fish eaters (icthyovores?) Would be unable to feed, because as already mentioned, all the fish were dead.
In order to explain the age of Earth, Josh invokes omphalos (the 'apparent age' argument; 'omphalos' is Greek for 'belly button,' and refers to the fact that in te case of apparent age, Adam would ave had a belly button). This argument is simply nonsense, an ad hoc explanation intended to shoehorn uncomfortable facts into a literal reading of the Bible. No real evidence is provided; the best that any creationist can come up with is a flawed analogy.
The analogy is made of Jesus turning water in the best wine, and thinking that the best must seem to be the oldest. This is not necessarily true. For one thing, Jesus is believed by most Christians to have been basically omnipotent. If he was indeed omnipotent, then it would have been a simple matter for him to create some wine that was so fantabulously delicious it was superior to the best of the best, despite having been made five minutes ago. Hence, the anaology fails.
Ah, I do enjoy the intellectual pursuit of shooting down creationism.
A long, point by point criticism of this entry
Apollyon - Grammar Fascist Posted Mar 1, 2006
Here's that entry I mentioned on the Big Bang and such: A2986365
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