|LECTURES ON THE CREATION NARRATIVE|
A. THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR THE CREATION NARRATIVE
(See also contents of the audio lectures)
Part I Genesis 1: Creation of the Universe (HTM - Slides and Text) Audio PPTSupplementary Lecture: A Sky Map at Lascaux Cave (HTM - Slides and Text) PPT
Part IIA Genesis 2: Creation of Bacteria (HTM - Slides and Text) Audio-A Audio-B Audio-C PPT
B. THE BIBLICAL ACCOUNT OF THE CREATION NARRATIVE
Do you know the ordinances of the heavens?
Can you establish their rule on the earth?
Job 38:33 [ESV]
"...the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of its Creator. I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science."
Wernher Von Braun†
on the Creation Narrative
Narrative, Lecture 1 (January 16, 2012) Slides 1-37
Narrative, Lecture 2 (January 20, 2012) Slides 38-59
|The Above Audio Divided into Subjects:
First Genesis Slides 1-19
The Big Bang: "Let there be light" 7
The First Fifteen Minutes: Creation of Primordial Matter 9
Creation of the Elements 11
Creation of the Milky Way Galaxy, Solar System and Earth 14
Creation of a Hospitable Environment 15
Genesis: Bacteria, Slides 20-29
Creation of Life Itself 20
The Central Dogma 23
Handout on the Central Dogma (Word Doc, 45 Kb)
the Creation of Life Slides 31-37
Combinatoric Paradox: "Random" Creation of de nova genes and gene packages 32
Eigen Paradox: Error Correction in Gene Expression 36
Levinthau Paradox: Protein Folding 37
Inventions of the First Living Species Slides 38-42
The Central Dogma (Covered Earlier)
Carbon Fixing -- The RuBisCo Molecule 39
Photosynthesis -- Chlorophyll II and Chlorophyll I 40
ATP Synthase 41
Nitrogen Fixing -- Heterocysts and the Nitrogenase Molecule 42
Genesis: Eukaryotes, Slides 43-59
Handout on "The Magnates Walk First" (Word Doc, 45 Kb)
Question 11: Entropy (Follow-up of Question 4)
Handout on Entropy (Follow-up of Question 4) (Word Doc, 49 Kb)Question 12: Remark on "The Magnates Walk First"
Question 13: Aside on the H.M.S. Challenger Expedition (1873-1876)
Question 14: The Rhynie Chert
Question 15: The Genesis Account (Follow-up of Question 7)
The Purpose of this website
This website is my personal reconstruction of the Creation Narrative: how God created the Universe and Life, based primarily on the findings of Science. This narrative is a direct gift from God, the "Silent Speech" in Psalm 19, a miraculous record of his handiwork in creation, woven into the fabric of the natural world.
As science has advanced in recent decades, it has revealed astonishing and totally unexpected insights into the actual ways that God carried out his creative work. This insight -- this speech -- was woven into the creation from the very beginning of time, and has been lovingly nurtured by God as a special witness to his glory and handiwork, a record preserved for its unfolding in these modern times.
Who would have had the arrogance to expect that such a witness is possible? Or that God would grant special favor to the modern times in this way? Indeed, as this witness has unfolded over the decades and centuries, it has always been met with initial doubt and disbelief until its truth becomes overwhelmingly evident. Because of the totally unexpected and astonishing depth of understanding that it yields, I see this witness as a firm indication of God's intense desire to share his glory with humanity in these rudderless days.
The remarkable scientific discoveries of the past 50 years -- especially in genetics and astrophysics -- have revealed more "signs and wonders" about God's handiwork in creation than has any comparable time in history, except when Jesus walked the earth. It makes me wonder what God has in store for humanity, why this unfolding of natural revelation at this time?
Other websites that I have developed (and which you, of course, are welcome to visit), are:
- The HMS Challenger Library and the Golden Age of Geology Library.
These libraries are part of my 19thcenturyscience.org website; and
- The website of the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, IBRI.org.
See that site for a statement of IBRI's purpose and membership.
Those sites record, for the most part, the thoughts and views of others with expertise in science and theology (although my own views appear on occasion), but this website gives my own views, for which I alone am responsible.
This site has two names: ps-19.org contains draft material, and 19thpsalm.org contains the smooth material as it is developed.
Scattered throughout are some theme boxes, explained here:
Nobody -- including me -- can have an expert understanding of all aspects of God's Creation. Even the most knowledgeable person has to rely on the integrity and clarity of others outside of his own particular area of expertise. Fortunately, there are lucid treatments readily available of many aspects of the relevant science: that is one continuing and gratifying result of the sincere efforts of many scientists to reach out to the person who seeks understanding.
This website is a celebration of Psalm 19, a celebration of God's glory and handiwork as displayed in the natural world -- not just displayed, but codified in a "Silent Speech" that God intentionally wove into the fabric of his creation to proclaim his glory and handiwork.
My plan is to describe my understanding of how God went about creating the natural world, listening to what that silent speech says, as best I can interpret it by heeding what scientists say. Perhaps I have in some cases gone out on a limb and re-stated some matters. There is no intent to deceive or to pretend particular expertise on my own part, but simply to clarify the narrative.
The best teachers try to develop an intuitive sense, and some authors try to express things in a way that gives one an intuitive feel for how things proceed. I hope that the comments made in this website follow that model of intuition -- even at the risk of an occasional mis-statement.
One thing that will, I hope, be clear as you read on: I firmly believe in the God as presented in the Bible, and that the Bible, correctly understood, does not contradict true facts about the natural world -- also correctly understood. I also believe that the Bible's God is not a hands-off God, and that he did and does guide the affairs of nature and of mankind according to his plan and will. I do not believe that God -- as some claim a "fair-minded" God must -- lets nature evolve by itself without any interference.
All scientists operate under a set of metaphysical assumptions -- which they may or may not express explicitly. For example, many scientists believe that everything we see in the natural world has come about by purely natural processes. This is more than just saying -- as a sort of definition -- that science deals only with nature as it exists and with natural processes (which is my own view). It is an assertion that nothing else is needed to account for the world as we see it (which is not my view). It is an assertion that there must be natural processes that account for everything we see; that the universe that now exists and its underlying physical laws and constants are the products of purely natural forces, even though we have no idea of what they are; that the first life must have evolved from non-living material by purely natural processes, even though we cannot describe or demonstrate how this might have happened; that advanced life must have evolved from primitive life by purely natural processes.
The important thing to realise is that these are metaphysical assumptions, and that one can hold very different assumptions and still be completely scientific. Science is different from metascience. Science deals with things that can be demonstrated or falsified by another competent scientist who may have entirely different metaphysical views: that is the beauty of science.
A true scientist always tries to find natural explanations for observed facts (such as the fact that life exists on the earth and that at one time life did not exist on the earth) -- or at least explanations of pieces of these facts. But it is not "proof" to simply assert that we are here and therefore it must be possible to get here by natural processes, although that may be a consequence of one's metaphysical assumptions.
This website operates under some basic beliefs, which amount to my metaphysical assumptions about science and the natural world. I assert that these beliefs do not compromise my ability to work and reason as a true scientist. In the following chapters, I will elaborate on these beliefs.
1. God created the natural world.
• All of the natural world, including the natural laws by which it operates, including space and time itself, are creations of God. In his creative work, God sometimes created immediately -- directly, by fiat -- and sometimes created mediately -- indirectly, using natural processes. Both means are legitimately called creative acts.
• The natural world has a purpose: to proclaim God's glory, and to provide a suitable place for humans, his supreme creation. Every aspect of nature contributes to this purpose; there is no "wasted" effort in creation. Everything in creation occurred in the fullness of time and for this specific purpose.
-- One might imagine a better way to do things -- for example, Stephen Gould imagined that a good engineer would not have engineered the Panda's thumb; Richard Dawkins imagined that the human optic nerve is poorly engineered01. Firstly, I assure you that neither one knows how to arrange the genetic code to make a better design. Secondly, a good engineer doesn't necessarily make the perfect widget: he uses available processes, materials and energy budget to make a widget that is good enough for its purpose; both the Panda and the human perform that requirement quite well.
• Everything in nature is created (ultimately) for the benefit of the human creation.
-- This sidesteps the question of evil in the world: are some aspects of creation formed with evil intent? I will not address this issue here.
2. God himself exists outside of the natural world. It is wrong to think of God as made up of anything that is part of the natural world. God is timeless -- time itself is created02. God is not energy -- energy is also created. God does not exist in space and is not subject to space restrictions; he is dimensionless and at the same time infinitely dimensional. I don't pretend to know how to explain these things, because they are beyond anyone's comprehension.
3. God uses natural processes to carry out his creative work, whenever such processes can achieve a needed result. In my mind this assumption makes good sense, given what I observe in nature.
• The main task of science is to seek out the natural laws and processes, and to explore their limits.
• God did not create by fiat anything that could be created using natural processes. This is a self-limitation that God imposed so that scientific discoveries relating to the creation process would accurately reflect what in fact occurred. God did not create "holes in my socks" to give a false appearance of age (As Bertrand Russell suggested)03.
4. God intentionally designed his creative work so that it would reveal his methods and handiwork to the skillful observer.
This is the silent speech in Psalm 19.
5. God is a "meddling" God. He meddles with his creation. This is how the God of the Bible is described, supremely exemplified by the central Biblical message of redemption culminating in his provision of salvation through the Lamb of God: "He himself will provide the lamb." That promise was fulfilled in terrible poetry: Jesus, the Lamb of God was crucified and died at 3 PM, April 3, 33 AD, at the exact time the Passover Lamb was slaughtered in preparation for the Passover celebration on that year04.
Since this is true of the Bible's central message of salvation, it is reasonable to expect that God would also meddle in his creation activity. This is what makes the main task of science non-trivial: there is no reason for the Bible-believer to assume that the present state of nature is exclusively achieved by natural methods. The task of science is to determine the limits of what can be done naturally, but not to assume that everything can be done by purely natural processes -- that assumption leads to lazy science. We view our subject positively -- demonstrating what can be done by natural processes -- rather than negatively -- what cannot be done naturally. In the process, of course, the (presently) unexplainable is highlighted. That is the essence of the sharp points.
6. God loves the inquiring person, whom he rewards with insight and wisdom.
• He is an honest God: he will not intentionally deceive, but he is subtle (as Einstein once said), and rewards the seeker in proportion to the honesty and dedication devoted to understanding his creation05.
• He is a communicating God, and he has communicated through special and natural revelation.
• He is a consistent God.
• He is a loving God.
The Bible describes God as actively involved in his Creation. Indeed, the central theme of the Bible is God's activity in history on behalf of mankind to bring about redemption and healing.
Given the fact that this is the God of the Bible, one would naturally expect that God was actively involved in creating the natural world. A totally hands-off God, who allowed the physical and biological world to evolve by purely natural processes is not recognizable as the God that one sees described in the Bible.
On the other hand, there are broad aspects of the natural world that do appear to proceed according to fixed laws and principles, without the apparent need for intervention. Confidence in these laws makes it possible to form a firm understanding of physics, chemistry and biology. A stellar (!) example is the behavior of the stars: God ordained them to be the timekeepers -- "Let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years." (Genesis 1:14b). The stars are exemplars of natural works which operate with eternal precision and attention to the natural laws -- so precise that it is possible to determine the future or past appearance of the skies from any vantage point, and at any time within thousands of years of the present, and with an accuracy of a few seconds in position and time06.
I conclude, based on a lifetime of observation, that God appears to use natural processes whenever they suffice to achieve a desired end. When the desired end cannot be had by natural processes, however protracted they may be, then God intervenes.
Based on this conviction, I see that the role of a scientist is to determine the limits of what can be done by natural means. There is no pre-determined limit of investigation here -- but on the other hand there is also no presumption that every natural phenomenon must be the result of purely natural means.
The universe began with the creation of light (radiant energy) in the Big Bang. An instant later a once-in-a-universe cosmic hyper-expansion separated light from darkness, and then began a precision-tuned gradual expansion that continues to today, some 13.73 ± 0.12 billion years later.
At the start the primordial elements formed: primarily hydrogen and helium, which today amount to 99% of the ordinary matter in the universe. Galaxies and stars formed in the first 9 billion years after the Big Bang, and all of the other elements of the Solar System and the Earth formed during the life and death of these early stars.
The earth began about 4.55 billion years ago as a molten mass. It cooled and became completely covered by a global ocean and a reducing (oxygen-deficient) atmosphere. The ocean was salty, and saturated with soluble oxygen-starved minerals, particularly compounds of uranium, iron and silicon. Oxygen was bound up primarily in water and in some oxidized minerals.
Almost immediately as soon as the earth cooled sufficiently, the first anoxic bacterial life appeared, about 4.8 billion years ago. The early bacteria -- similar to modern cyanobacteria -- used photosynthesis to form sugars for food and energy to propel the cellular processes, and formed oxygen as a waste product. For the next two billion years, this process continued. The oxygen-starved minerals in the oceans gradually absorbed the excess oxygen, forming insoluble oxides that precipitated to form the great uranium (pitchblende) and iron-ore deposits, and silicates (sand). Towards the end of this period, after most of the dissolved minerals and the outer crust surface had oxidized, the atmosphere gradually built up oxygen to a stable 20-23%, which it maintains to the present time.
During this time dry land -- the future continents -- began to appear. Being less dense than the ocean floor, the dry land floated on top of the crust and had a degree of permanence. The existing bacteria began to populate the dry land, which was at the time bombarded by severe cosmic and solar radiation, partially sterilizing the exposed surfaces. Gradually an ozone layer built up in the upper atmosphere, shielding the dry land from the worst effects of these cosmic rays. This layer achieved stability about 350-400 million years ago.
As soon as oxygen became a reliably stable component of the atmosphere, the first eukaryotic cells (cells with nuclei) appeared, and these in turn formed oxygen-breathing multi-cellular, and eventually visible animal and plant life, beginning the phanerozoic era of life on earth around 550 million years ago. Both plants and animals first lived in the oceans. Essentially all of the animal body plans (phyla) began in a (relatively) brief period of time around 520 million years ago. Plant phyla appeared about 100 million years later, with the full range of phyla coming only after plants moved to dry land once the ozone layer was in place. After this, both animals and plants begin to diversify and flourish on the land.
The general plan for increased complexity and specialization of both plants and animals is that new species appeared as soon as the environment -- primarily food and water -- built up to support them. Humans appeared last in this progression, apparently around 40,000-30,000 years ago.
This overview is fleshed out in the Lectures on the Creation Narrative:
Does Science Prove that God is superfluous?
We will get to Laplace in Chapter 5 when we discuss the creation of the solar system. In a word, it is Laplace who was wrong, not Newton, who is the one that Laplace implies here "needed" the hypothesis. The subject was the stability of the earth's orbit -- more generally, the stability of the orbits of the planets in the solar system. Ironically this quote has been a rallying cry of atheists, despite its blatant inaccuracy.
Throughout the creation narrative, which is the main subject of this website, one ongoing theme is the fact that at many points there is no plausible explanation for the profound harmony and fitess of the universe as a host for life. Repeatedly scientists must acknowledge profound exigencies for which there is no rational explanation: the very existence of life itself, just to note one.
It seems that the requirements that disbelieving scientists would place on revealed religion are exactly the same ones that are so blithely disregarded as it concerns their own work.
No, science does not and cannot prove that God is superfluous. Indeed a rational and dispassionate review of the evidence would show that the weight of evidence leans profoundly in favor of a transcendent God. You are invited to review the facts as given in the Creation Narrative lectures listed at the top of this page, and developed more fully throughout this website, and form your own conclusions.
|DRAFT MATERIAL (to be incorporated
Chapters (Outline Subject to Change)
|Entry Page: 19thpsalm.org
||Entry Page: ps-19.org
|THE CREATION NARRATIVE -- SUMMARY|
|Chapter 01: Comments
||Comments on Psalm 19:1-4||First Revision January, 2011
|Astronomy as a Prototype of God's Silent Speech||First Revision January, 2011|
Introduction to the
||Introduction to the Creation Narrative||First Revision January, 2011|
03: The First Genesis:
Creation of the Universe
||Creation of the Universe: The First Fifteen Minutes||First Revision February, 2011
04: Creation of the
in the Stars
||First Revision February, 2011
05: Creation of the
Solar System and Earth
||Creation of the Cosmos, the Solar System and the Earth||First Revision March, 2011|
06: The Second Genesis:
The Creation of Bacterial Life
Physical Setting for Life
Creation of the First Life.
|First Revision April, 2011
07: A Fit Place For Life: Preparation
of the Earth for Advanced Life (3.9-1.8 Ga)
||Preparation of the Ecosystem and Formation of the Dry Land||First Revision June, 2011|
08: The Third Genesis:
Creation of the Proper Cell
||Creation of the Proper Cell||First Revision Dec. 2011|
09: The Fourth Genesis:
Creation of Early
Body Plans: Beginnings of the Eukaryotic Phyla
Algorithmic and Topological Body Plans
Creation of the Phyla
10: Creation of Early
||Creation of the Plants||First Revision Dec. 2011|
|Chapter 11: Creation of
Habitable Dry Land
||Preparation of the Ecosystem and Formation of the Dry Land|
|Chapter 12: Creation of the Animal Classes||Posted March, 2012
|Chapter 13: Creation of the Plant Classes||Posted June, 2012
|Chapter 14: The Fifth Genesis:
Creation of Humans
|Chapter 15: Special Topics: The
The Physical and Chemical Prerequisited for Life
|Physical and Chemical Prerequisites for Life|
Remarks on Evolution
|Remarks on Evolution|
The Dynamics of Cellular Processes
[Other topics as Required]
|Some of these are scattered
among the above draft sections
|Biographies of prominent 19th Century
|IBRI Lectures and Research Reports by
Physicist Looks at Creation Day One Related Audio.
A physicist looking at the Bible's description of Creation Day One can see a remarkable agreement with the modern physicistâs story of how matter was created. This report describes that story, why physicists believe their creation story is close to correct, and where some secular physicists may differ from the Bible's statements about creation.
Chemical Building Blocks of Life Related Audio.
The laws of physics and chemistry are so right that they seem to be designed to support life. Water, carbon, nitrogen and other elements have just the right properties. Subtle electronic forces are able to carry out the life functions spontaneously, given rightly configured molecules. The temperature is right. Creation is fit to support a living cell. Now on to the actual building of life. In this talk, we look at the construction plan for all living cells to see how it is done. Why is it done this way? Is another way possible (yes!)? How hard would it be to build another kind of life? By considering these matters, we can gain an appreciation of how complex the task of creating life is, and begin to face the problems inherent in the view that life is a random product of undirected natural causes.
Fit Place to Live: Creation of the Biosphere Related Audio.
The universe was designed to make a place for humans to live. In an earlier talk we saw that it took about 10 billion years after the creation of the universe to prepare the ingredients to form the sun and the earth, and that in this process there are many indications of careful design that anticipate human habitation. This talk picks up at that point and looks at the next 4 billion years, and how the earth was made ready for the arrival of complex life - plants and animals - about 600 million years ago. We will see how microbial life figured in this preparation, and discuss the problems that the fossil record of this early life pose to natural evolution
|------||Abundant life: The
diversity of life in the biosphere. Slides. Related Audio.
Pdf version: Text Slides. Word version: Text Slides.
The amazing diversity of life began to show up in the fossil record during the Cambrian Explosion, a brief period of intense creative activity about 550 to 600 million years ago. It took place as soon as the earth was able to support complex, multi-cellular life. This talk takes up the creation story at that point and considers some of the complex innovations that occurred then and during the subsequent creation of land-based plants and animals, innovations that are so focussed that they reveal purposeful creative activity by God. The great diversity of life in GodÕs creation suggests a Principle of Plentitude (recently noted by Michael Denton) to guide his creative work. The talk includes a number of examples to illustrate this principle.
Before Darwin: The Struggle to Find and Defend the Truth about
the Earth's Past Related
The Golden age of geology bloomed in the decades just prior to Darwinâs 1859 Origin of the Species. Geologists could read for the first time the details of how God created a place for mankind. Opposition came both from religious leaders and from secular opponents who saw their cherished notions challenged. The opposition was answered by painstakingly careful argument, which by the time of Darwin was seen by some prominent geologists to give strong evidence of Godâs hand at work. After Darwin, though, this evidence in favor of a creator largely vanished from mainstream geology. In this talk we will discuss the state of geology just prior to Darwin and then ask whether the conclusions reached at that time were valid and why they disappeared from the literature after 1859.
|55.||The Rise and Fall of Scientific
Naturalism Related Audio.
Scientific naturalism is the view that our world is wholly a result of natural processes that can be explained by ordinary science, without the need to postulate intervention by a Creator. There have always been those who held this view, but with Copernicus and the rise of modern science, it came to be the common view among scientists, and was dominant by 1900. However in recent years, science has uncovered ever stronger evidence of design embedded in the very fabric of the natural universe, in the geological record of Earth’s history, and in the nature of life itself. This talk summarizes the evidence that led to the rise of scientific naturalism, and how discoveries of science have challenged that view in recent years and decades.
Out: How Early Christian Geologists Enlarged their Understanding
of the Creation Account.
The development of modern geology in the early 1800s challenged traditional Biblical interpretation in a way that no other advance in science had. Over the centuries, there had been many philosophical challenges to Biblical revelation -- the nascent higher criticism of the Biblical text, and many Christian and secular world views as (then) recent examples -- but these are all based on philosophical particulars that cannot be refuted objectively. Never before had such an extensive, sustained and comprehensive assault on tradition been fortified with such an abundance of irrefutable factual data, which could be tested and affirmed by all, even those with radically clashing world views. How, then, did devout Christians process this challenge? This paper describes the responses of a number of contemporary writers who held firmly to the divine inspiration of the Biblical text -- including prominent British and American geologists and theologians of the period.