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The point of this article is the suggestion that the cosmological events following the Big Bang together with Earth’s geophysical record reconcile to a surprising degree with the happenings described on each of the six days of Genesis. My previous article on the age of the universe (#3c “God, Are You There?” – Old Or Young Rocks?) drew from Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s work. It gives a reconciliation of the Bible/science difference in the age of the universe according to Einstein’s Law of Relativity and the expansion of space and time.[1] Similarly, this article leans heavily on Dr. Schroeder’s excellent work which, significantly, has been scientifically peer reviewed. Hopefully you, the reader, will find these thoughts sufficiently sensible that you might reconsider any previously held “proof” that science contradicts the Bible and vice-versa.

Perhaps Table 1 is familiar from my earlier article. It compares Earth time, from the present day looking backward, to biblical time looking forward to the time of Adam. After that the Bible always uses Earth time. Table 1 also shows, in present Earth time, the duration of each Genesis day – the events during which are the focus of this article.

Table 1[2]

The Duration of the Six Days of Genesis WWBlueshift, z+1

From the Bible’s per­spec­tive looking forward in time from the start of day one From Earth’s perspec­tive looking backward in time from the present From Bible’s perspective at the start of day one Approximate years before Adam at start of each day
Day one 24 hrs 8 billion yrs 1 15 ¾ billion yrs
Day two 24 hrs 4 billion yrs 2.0 x 1012 7 ¾ billion yrs
Day three 24 hrs 2 billion yrs 3.0 x 1012 3 ¾ billion yrs
Day four 24 hrs 1 billion yrs 3.5 x 1012 1 ¾ billion yrs
Day five 24 hrs ½ billion yrs 3.7 x 1012 ¾ billion yrs
Day six 24 hrs ¼ billion yrs 3.9 x 1012 ¼ billion yrs
Near end of day six 4.0 x 1012
Total: Six 24-hr days 15 ¾ billion yrs

Dr. Schroeder notes that “as the universe expanded, its size (scale) and temperature, and therefore its clock, were becoming ever more similar to that of our current universe. Because of this, the “duration” of each successive twenty-four-hour Genesis day encompassed a span of time ever more similar to time as reckoned from our Earth-based perspective. Each doubling in size “slowed” the cosmic clock by a factor of 2. Since the time required for the universe to double in size increased exponentially as its size increased, the fractional rate of change in the cosmic clock (relative to Earth time) decreased exponentially.”

He continues: “The opening chapter of Genesis acts like a zoom lens of a camera. Day by day it focuses with increasing detail on less and less time and space. The first day of Genesis encompasses the entire universe. By the third day, only Earth is discussed. After day six, only that line of humanity leading to the patriarch Abraham is in biblical view.”[3]

So let’s look at each successive day.

Biblically, “The First Day”

Genesis 1:1-5 tells us of the creation event – the big bang – followed by the separation of light from darkness. To those of us without a background in cosmology this idea of “darkness” might suggest a biblical contradiction with science; that is, on the first day — we might reason — our Sun and Earth must have existed so that there could be day and night as we know it. Verse 2 even mentions “earth,” “waters,” and “deep,” which adds to the misinterpretation. However, this is not the meaning. Science shows that the extreme temperatures of the big bang were so great that matter could not exist; that is, quark confinement could not occur, therefore, electrons and atom nuclei could neither exist nor bond, and photons – light – did not exist either! Only after the universe cooled could light exist, even though this initial cooling occurred very rapidly in a hundred-thousandth of a second or so. However, this is almost surely not the darkness the Bible is speaking of. Science speaks of the “Dark Ages” — that earliest period of about 400 million Earth years in which the first matter condensed, becoming hydrogen and helium. Gravitational forces pulled these gases into ever more dense clouds until conditions were right for the first stars to shine: the first light!

Galaxies began to form

Very quickly after the big bang, during a one-time phenomena science calls “inflation,” time, space, matter expanded almost instantaneously to roughly the size of our present day solar system. During “the first Day” (literal Hebrew, and significant because previously there had never been a “day”), a period extending from 15 ¾ billion years to 7 ¾ billion Earth years, stars continued to form and began to gather into what would become galaxies. As more time passed space-time expansion continued. Surprisingly, the rate of expansion accelerated and continues to accelerate as astronomers measure today. “Each doubling in the size of the universe “slowed” the cosmic clock by a factor of 2.”[4]

Day 2

Genesis 1:6-8 extends from 7 ¾ billion before present (B.P.) to 3 ¾ billion years B.P. Dr. Schroeder describes the happenings: “During that period most of the stars of the Milky Way’s spiral formed. The Sun, a main sequence star located in the spiral, formed 4.6 billion years ago.”[5] Gas and rocky matter not pulled into the Sun by its gravitational forces began to collide and accrete into planets, including Earth. And later: “From geophysical evidence of weathered rocks, we learn that Earth had cooled [from high temperatures caused by heavy bombardment of meteorsl]

The Late Heavy Bombardment

and liquid water appeared on it 3.8 billion years ago.”[6]

Verses 6 and 7 speak to ‘separation of the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth’ which has given rise to some speculation of a canopy of water surrounding the earth. This view was held for a short time some years ago in early concepts of “creation science.” Since there is no physical evidence of such a model of the earth, and with the wide variance of biblical commentary on these verses, I have to conclude that much remains to be understood about the original Hebrew meaning.

In verse 8, the Bible continues to describe events in our Milky Way galaxy – “the heavenly firmament took shape. From our vantage, the heavens we see are almost totally composed of stars of the Milky Way’s main spiral disk.”[7]

Day 3

Genesis 1:9-13 clearly describes the “land and seas” of Earth. The period is from 3 ¾ billion years ago to 1 ¾ billion years – a reasonable match with the 3.8 billion years concluded from geophysical findings for the first liquid water. This is followed by plant life (Gen 1:11). “Contrary to scientific opinion held until recently, fossil data have demonstrated the first simple plant life appeared immediately after liquid water and not billions of years later”.[8] New plant life continued, however, to appear across several of the succeeding Genesis days according to early Jewish kabalah scholars. This seems to be unique, since all other appearances of new life occur in a very short period of time. Understanding this apparent discrepancy in the arrival of plant life seems to dispel another supposed science/biblical contradiction.

Day 4

"…the greater light to rule the day…"

Genesis 1:14-19. These verses seem to describe the creation of the sun and the moon – apparently contradicting the time of formation of planet Earth and the rest of the Solar System in verses 6-8 (Day 2). Day 4 covers the period from 1¾ billion years B.P. to 750 million years B.P. Dr. Schroeder explains: “The earth sciences have revealed data indicating that during this period the atmospheric concentration of photosynthentically produced oxygen rose to concentrations comparable to today’s atmosphere. There are indications that with the further cooling of Earth and the rise of atmospheric oxygen, the atmosphere, formerly translucent, became transparent.”[9] This primitive, oxygen producing plant life must have received its photosynthesis enabling solar radiation through this early translucent atmosphere. Even before that the sun and moon would have been blocked from view (at Earth’s surface) by dense black clouds of dust remaining from Earth’s accretion disk and from volcanic ash.   Therefore, the sun and the moon, which came into existence during Day 2, would become distinctly visible for the first time during Day 4. This is confirmed in the Talmud.[10]

Day 5

Genesis 1:20-23. In these verses the Bible first describes sea life and birds. This Day began 750 million years ago and extends to 250 million years B.P. during which we have entered the Cambrian period. “Paleontology now becomes the dominant science related to biblical commentary. The fossil record reveals the sudden, explosive appearance of animal life as it flourished in the oceans, 530 million years ago, simultaneously bringing into being all basic body plans of modern life.[11],[12],[13] Then approximately 360 million years ago in rapid succession amphibian reptiles and winged (insect) life appeared.”[14]

Here the Bible uses emphatic language – swarms of swarms – of creatures in the waters, followed by the appearance of reptiles and winged animals (verses 20 and 21). The fossil record also confirms this sudden profusion of life.

Day 6

Genesis 1:24-31 covers the period from 250 million years ago to the time of Adam, about 6,000 years ago. These verses relate the appearance of “livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth.” Finally, verse 26 states God creates man (see my next article, #3g, Origin of Life, Evolution and Darwinism). I cannot find a way to summarize Dr. Schroeder’s writing here, and certainly I cannot improve on his work. From his book, he writes:

“Paleontology records that approximately 250 million years ago, there was a mass extinction of 90 percent of life followed by repopulation. Animal life then flourished on dry land, leading to mammals and culminating with hominids. … Thus ends the account of the six days, all of it packed into thirty-one verses.”

“The biblical choice for the timing of each Genesis day is in itself interesting. The opening of each day is heralded by a cosmic or global punctuation of major significance. The start of day one, some sixteen billion years ago, marks the creation of the universe, the big bang. Day two opens at approximately eight billion years B.P., one of the dates estimated for the shaping of the galactic disk of the Milky Way. (The date is speculative and not all cosmologists agree on it.) The third day begins 3.8 billion years ago. This date betokened the close of an era during which Earth was bombarded by a rain of meteors so intense as to have made the start or survival of life highly improbable. Immediately, at that date, the first liquid water and the first traces of life appear.”

“At 1.8 billion years ago, the start of day four marked the beginning of eukaryotic life—life forms having cells with an inner nucleus containing most of the cell’s genetic material (DNA). Prior to this time all life was prokaryotic—having cells without nuclei. All life forms larger than one-celled organisms such as bacteria are eukaryotic. Day five, starting 750 million years ago, timed the appearance of the first clearly multicellular organisms. Decimation, in the fullest meaning of the word, occurred at the start of day six, 250 million years B.P. Between 90 and 95 percent of all marine life disappeared from the fossil record at that date, setting the stage for the flourishing of animal life on dry land.”

All He had made was very good. (Gen 1:31)

“The Bible relates in thirty-one verses, in a few hundred words, events spanning sixteen billion years. These are events about which scientists have written literally millions of words. The entire development of animal life is summarized in eight biblical sentences. Considering the brevity of the biblical narrative, the match between the statements and timing of Genesis 1 and the discoveries of modern science is phenomenal, especially when we realize that all biblical interpretation used here was recorded centuries, even millennium, in the past and so was not in any way influenced by the discoveries of modern science. It is modern science that has come to match the account of our genesis.”[15]

The match between science and the biblical account is “truly phenomenal”! In studying for this article I have probably focused more intensely on these “phenomenal” details than you, the reader can possible take time to do. In that, surely I benefit more from this than you. I come away from the task more convinced than ever that both science and the Bible are eminently sensible, with neither precluding a truly sensible faith.

A summary chart may be useful at this point.

Table 2[16]

The Six Days of Genesis

Day number

Start of day

(years B.P.)

End of day

(years B.P.)

Bible’s description

Scientific description

One 15,750,000,000 7,750,000,000 The creation of the universe; light separates from dark(Gen 1:1-5) The big bang marks the crea­tion of the universe; light literally breaks free as electrons bond to atomic nuclei; galaxies start to form.
Two 7,750,000,000 3,750,000,000 The heavenly firmament forms (Gen 1:6-8) Disk of Milky Way galaxy forms; Sun, a main sequence star, forms
Three 3,750,000,000 1,750,000,000 Oceans and dry land appear; the first life, plants, appear (Gen 1:9-13); kabalah states this marked only the start of plant life, which then developed during the following days The earth has cooled and liquid water appears 3.8 billion years ago, followed almost immediately by the first forms of life: bacteria and photosynthetic algae.
Four 1,750,000,000 750,000,000 Sun, Moon and stars become visible in the heavens (Talmud Hagigah 12a) (Gen 1:14-19) Earth’s atmosphere becomes transparent; photosynthesis produces oxygen-rich atmosphere
Five 750,000,000 250,000,000 First animal life swarms abundantly in waters; followed by reptiles and winged animals (Gen 1:20-23) First multicellular animals; waters swarm with animal life having the basic body parts of all future animals; winged insects appear
Six 250,000,000 apprx 6,000 Land animals; mammals; humankind (Gen 1:24-31) Massive extinction destroys over 90 % of life. Land is repopulated; hominids and then humans

After using so much of Dr. Schroeder’s work in this article, I must defer to him for the closing thoughts:

“Though the Bible is eerily true and filled with wisdom that would not have been known widely, if at all, when it was written, nowhere does it claim to have all the answers [of the physical laws of science]. The Bible may be the primary source for claiming that a purpose underlies our existence. But understanding the cause of that purpose can only be found, as Maimonides stated so many centuries ago, in a knowledge of the physical world. For that knowledge, the theologian must turn to the scientist.”[17]

W

Next: article #3g “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” — Part I — THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

W

End Notes

[1] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (41-59), New York, NY, Double Dell Publishing.

[2] ibid, (60).

[3] ibid, (62)

[4] ibid, (62)

[5] ibid, (68)

[6] ibid, (68), from P. Cloud, (1988), Oasis in Space, (167), W. W. Norton, New York.

[7] ibid, (68)

[8] ibid, (68), from Weinberg, “Life in the Universe.”

[9] Ibid, (68)

[10] Talmud Hagigah 12A; Rashi

[11] S. Gould, (1994), “The Evolution of Life on Earth,” Scientific American, October 1994.

[12] J. Levinton, (1992), “The Big Bang of Animal Evolution,” Scientific American, November 1992.

[13] M. Nash, (1995), “When Life Exploded,” Time, 4 December 1995.

[14] Ibid, Schroeder, (69)

[15] ibid, (70)

[16] ibid, (67)

[17] ibid, (70)

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Among the top issues which challenge assertions for the existence of God is the disputed age of the universe. So if atheists, skeptics and Christians can possibly be “on the same page” in reading future articles here, we have to try to clear up this disparity.

Without question, scientific findings firmly establish the age of the universe at some 15 ¾ billion years. Yet the book claiming to be God’s Word (see future posting #4, AUTHENTICITY OF THE BIBLE) sets that age at about 6,000 years. However, it’s the first six days of those 6,000 years, “the six days of creation,” that seem the hardest to accept in view of solid scientific evidence.

Future posting #3f, THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS, is going to address the events contained in those six days as well as the conflicting science. This posting discusses the timing disparity – six 24-hour days or 15+ billion years?

Most of the content of this posting is my understanding of the excellent work, The Science of God, (1997), by Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder, Ph.D. My apologies to him for any unintended misrepresentations I have inflicted on his work. Dr. Schroeder received both undergraduate and doctorate degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter in Nuclear Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences. Pursuing his orthodox Jewish faith, he emigrated to Israel in 1971 after serving on the faculty of M.I.T.  for some years. As a researcher and applied theologian, he does work at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Volcani Research Institute, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Wikipedia).

What is so remarkable about Dr. Schroeder’s work I will discuss here is that he has reconciled the Genesis and science perspectives of the age of the universe by showing that the perceived flow of time for a given event in an expanding universe varies with the observer’s perspective. Applying Einstein’s Law (no longer a theory) of Relativity leads one inexorably to the conclusion that the six 24-hour days of Genesis and science’s 15 billion years are exactly the same! Indeed, Dr. Schroeder verifies this with a convincing numerical calculation (see below) based upon the scientifically accepted Expansion Coefficient, that is, the rate at which the universe expanded following the big bang, 1 X 1012 or a million-million (It is significant to point out that Dr. Schroeder’s work on this subject has been formally peer reviewed for accuracy by members of the relevant fields of science).

All too briefly, here is my understanding of what this means: When the universe – and time – was rapidly expanding from the big bang, the unit of time defined today as a “year”, if applied then, would contain many, many more events than today’s year could hold. So a “year” then had a greatly different meaning than it does today. If, from today’s perspective, we could look backward from here and watch those events occur we would feel things were moving really, really fast, that is, “time” was moving much, much faster then than it is now. Science records that period of rapid time expansion in terms of how many of those events would “fit” into today’s year. The result: science greatly increases the number of today’s years in the early universe so we can understand it with a unit of time with which we are familiar.

Another way of looking at this effect is to imagine we could actually be there at the big bang. Let’s say we could remain in one place right at the point of the big bang and watch everything expand into stars, galaxies, and space. If we could do this, our conception of a unit of time wouldn’t change, that is, an “hour” before the Big Bang would remain an hour, a day would continue to have 24 of these constant hours in it and all events would appear to be moving at a normal rate. If we wanted to write down everything we saw happening in one of these pre-big bang 24 hour days we would have a diary of all the events that today – looking backwards in today’s time – we see occurring in billions of years.

This imaginary diary is not so imaginary – it’s called the Bible. The account is in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1.

I think many, perhaps most, seminaries haven’t yet found and incorporated Dr. Schroeder’s reconcilia­tion into their curriculum. Consequently, the popular Christian explanation of this glaring disparity in the accounts of time is to translate the word “day” in Genesis 1 as an undefined epoch – a rendering that conflicts with the original Hebrew. Interestingly, the Bible’s time reference shifts from pre-big bang time to today’s Earth time when mankind came on the scene late in the 6th day of the Genesis account.

Dr. Schroeder confirmed this time dilation as it’s called with a numerical calculation summarized in the following table:

From the Bible’s perspec­tive looking forward in time from start of day one Time in each day from Earth’s perspective looking backward in time from the present Approximate Earth years before Adam at the start of each Biblical day looking backward from present
Day one 8 billion years 15 ¾ billion years
Day two 4 billion years 7 ¾ billion years
Day three 2 billion years 3 ¾  billion years
Day four 1 billion years 1 ¾ billion years
Day five ½ billion years ¾ billion years
Day six ¼ billion years ¼  billion years
Total: six 24-hour days 15 ¾ billion years

As if to provide a simple proof calculation, Dr. Schroeder concludes with:

“In terms of days and years and millennia, … stretching of the cosmic perception of time by [the Expansion Coefficient     1 X 1012], the division of fifteen billion years by a million-million reduces those fifteen billion years to six days!

Genesis and science are both correct. When one asks if six days or fifteen billion years passed before the appearance of humankind, the correct answer is “yes!”” (emphasis added)

For the next article in this series click here: #3d  NARROW SAFE ZONES FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

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Is there a God? Many think ‘no, there isn’t.’ And many think ‘there certainly is!’ How can we come to appreciate each of these age-old opposing views? For a layman to undertake a reasonable explanation is a very tall order. But since the topics envisaged for the future of this blog depend on a sound treatment of the question, I have to give it a shot. Through this and the next seven postings I hope to build an acceptable understanding on which we can proceed. Most of these eight postings is about origins and whether they are the result of natural processes or do they point to a transcendent Designer.

“The big three questions about origins — of the universe, of life, and of humans — have … divided the secular from the religious. Until the 1960s, most scientists came to believe that the universe had no beginning. Most believers insisted it did.”  — from The Science of God, p 20, Gerald L. Schroeder, applied theologian with undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Did a Big Bang really happen? Was that the beginning of everything? And what or Who caused it?

From Aristotle to the 1960s the accepted understanding was that the universe was infinite and eternal. The stars and galaxies were unmoving, static. There was no beginning. No need to wonder about its cause.

However, Christians (and a surprising number of other religions and cultures) have long insisted that there was a beginning, caused by a creator. Aside from Biblical statements, substantiating evidence for this view was missing. To the Christian assertion that divine creation is “accepted on faith,” scientists and skeptics responded that to accept this was not sensible faith.

Surprisingly, it has been science itself that has substantiated the religious claims, mostly in the last 30 years. Cracks in the eternal universe model began in 1929 when Edwin Hubble found that the galaxies were not fixed in space but were all moving away from each other. But moving away from where? Was there a starting point?

In 1965, using data from a specialized satellite telescope, two scientists discovered the universe’s background faint residual heat from a primordial “explosion.” The temperature was only about 3.7 degrees above absolute zero, but matched the mathematical predictions from the Big Bang model. This finding together with Hubble’s and other’s work have firmly established the Big Bang as fact. Stephen Hawking, the renown cosmologist has said, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” (The Nature of Space and Time, Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose, 1996, pg 20)

“Wait a minute,” exclaims the Christian, “This Big Bang thing isn’t Biblical creation. It’s just more science mumbo-jumbo.” My personal guess is that this is a problem for many Christians because they see creation in a sort of mental picture in which the earth and all its vegetation and creatures appeared instantaneously like an action scene on TV emerging full blown out of a black screen following a commercial. Such an impression indeed would not match what is known about the Big Bang, but then it doesn’t match the creation account in Genesis either. We’ll get into the Big Bang sequence of events, the age of the universe as well as the six days of creation in Genesis in the coming few postings.

Now just because everything in the universe, including space and time itself, came from nothing (that is, the Big Bang) doesn’t establish that there was/is a Creator God Who caused it all. Against the Christians’ continuing professions that “of course there’s a Creator,” a number of alternatives to the standard Big Bang model continue to be proposed. The theological implications of the Big Bang is irritating, repugnant, and distasteful to the scientific mind say luminaries like Einstein, British astronomer Arthur Eddington, Robert Jastrow, and MIT’s Phillip Morrison (The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel, pg 112).

Astronomer Carl Sagan in his popular TV series Cosmos suggested an Oscillating Model of the universe in which the universe expands, slows and then collapses and expands again, cycling in this fashion indefinitely, thus avoiding the need for a beginning and a creator. Steven Hawking has been working on his Theory of Everything. Other models try to avoid the need for a cause (creator) of the Big Bang by relying on behaviors found in quantum mechanics where, indeed, particles can appear out of nowhere. As fatal flaws are found in each hypothesis new proposals grow more and more imaginative to the point that more faith is required to believe in some kind of a universe without a creator than to look to the Biblical account as the most sensible faith.

In Strobel’s book referenced above, William L. Craig, PHD, THD, and author of many scientific articles and books including the coauthor of the foundational book Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, says: “The situation is reversed from say, a hundred years ago. Back then, Christians had to maintain by faith in the Bible that despite all appearances to the contrary, the universe was not eternal but was created out of nothing a finite time ago. Now the situation is exactly the opposite. It is the atheist who has to maintain by faith, despite all the evidence to contrary, that the universe did not have a beginning a finite time ago but is in some inexplicable way eternal after all. So the shoe is on the other foot. The Christian can stand confidently within Biblical truth, knowing it’s in line with mainstream astrophysics and cosmology. It’s the atheist who feels very uncomfortable and marginalized today.” (pgs 120-121)

Next, #3c A YOUNG OR OLD UNIVERSE? (click here)

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