Can the Biblical Account of Creation Be Reconciled with Scientific Evidence? – Program 2

By: Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Fuz Rana, Ken Samples; ©2002
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s what the Bible claims. Is there any evidence from science that would support that position, or must we abandon creation in favor of some form of evolution?

“The Biblical Account of Creation: Does It Square with Science?” (Day 1 and Day 2)

Announcer: Today on the John Ankerberg Show why are astronomers talking about God? Does the big bang theory prove that a transcendent causal agent brought all matter, energy, space and time into existence? Our concept of the universe and how it originated shapes our entire worldview. If the universe has always existed and is nothing more than an accident then human life has no meaning. But, if the universe had a beginning and is created than the creator is the source of life who establishes purpose and meaning. What does the scientific evidence reveal? Do the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” accurately describe what science has discovered? My guests today are astrophysicist and astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross who received his PH.D in astronomy from the University of Toronto and did post doctoral research at Cal-Tech on Quasars, Mr. Fazale Rana who received his PH.D in chemistry at Ohio University, and Philosopher and Theologian Kenneth Samples of Biola University. We invite you to join us.
Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. Did you ever have a Bible study with three Joe Geniuses? Well, we’re going to do that today. We’ve got Dr. Hugh Ross, who received his Ph.D. in astronomy in Toronto, did post-doctoral research at Caltech on quasars, is an astrophysicist as well. We’ve got Dr. Fazale “Fuz” Rana, who received his Ph.D. in chemistry at Ohio University, did post-doctoral work at Virginia and University of Georgia – crawling with degrees here. I mean, you need two masters and a doctorate just to read your stuff. And then we’ve got theologian/philosopher Ken Samples, who is teaching at Biola.
Guys, we’re going to take the biblical record and we’re going to compare it with science. Okay? Because very few people do this and the non-Christians who characterize what the Bible is saying usually characterize it wrong. So we’re going to try to straighten out the record. What does the Bible say? What’s happening there? And then what does science say? We’re going to compare the two.
And to start us off, Hugh, you’ve always said that God, when He is speaking through science or speaking through the Bible, does not speak wrong in either area. Why is it that we’ve got it screwed up, then?
Ross: Well, science is man’s attempt to interpret the record of nature. Theology is man’s attempt to interpret the words of the Bible. God inspired the words of the Bible. He’s a God that can’t lie or deceive. It’s totally truthful in all respects. Likewise, that God speaks through the record of nature. Psalm 19:1, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” His words are written upon the heavens for all of us to read. Where you do get into problems is when human beings try to interpret either the words of the Bible or the record of nature. So when we see an apparent conflict between science and theology, we should look for a faulty human interpretation.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s take the account. And, guys, let’s comment, starting with Genesis 1:1-2: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, [the NIV would say, “was formless and empty”] and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved [or ‘hovered’] upon the face of the waters.” Ken, what’s being described here?
Samples: Well, we know from this verse and a variety of other passages, because Genesis is not the only discussion of creation in Scripture, but immediately we identify God as the transcendental Creator. This is the beginning of the universe. God creates the universe ex nihilo. That means there’s nothing but God. And merely by means of His incredible wisdom and awesome power brings the universe into existence. Now, the Bible appears there to be defining this void, the initial conditions of the earth. And this seems to fit well with what we know from a study of nature.
Ankerberg: Hugh, from science how does science square with what the Bible just said?
Ross: Well, Ken is right. The Scriptures here give you four initial conditions for the primordial earth: it’s empty of life; it’s unfit for life; the water encompasses the whole surface of the planet; and it’s dark upon the surface of the waters. And scientists have been able to confirm that all four biblically stated initial conditions are correct. Those are the starting conditions before life existed here on planet earth.
Ankerberg: When it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” [Gen. 1:1] is it talking about 13.7 billion years ago?
Ross: Yeah, I think Genesis 1:1 is speaking about God bringing into existence the entire physical universe – matter, energy, space and time – 13.7 billion years ago. The perspective is the entire universe. Genesis 1:2 brings us down to the surface of the earth. That’s a clue that we’re to understand by that statement, “the Spirit of God was brooding or hovering over the surface of the waters,” that from there on we’re to understand what God tells us from the perspective of an observer on the surface of the waters. For example, light would have been created in the beginning when God created matter, energy, space and time. But it was dark on the surface of the waters, and the scientists would tell us that the atmosphere of the earth and the interplanetary debris of the early solar system would have prevented the passage of sunlight and starlight to the surface of the earth; hence, darkness.
Ankerberg: Fuz, is the Bible then giving an accurate, scientific summary when it says the earth was void, was empty, and then it was dark, and then the Spirit of God hovered over the waters?
Rana: Yeah. I think that this is one of the most remarkable passages in Genesis 1 in terms of Moses being able to get these initial conditions of the early earth correct. You know, the phrase “formless and empty” comes from this Hebrew expression, tohu wa bohu, which carries with it a kind of a negative connotation or a connotation of wasteness and desolation. It’s something that is kind of lost in the translation. You can’t fully capture the meaning of that word. But as we look back at the early earth’s history, the first few hundred million years of the early earth was essentially, the earth was a place of desolation. Asteroidal impacts, cometary impacts would have rendered the earth unsuitable for life. It’s called the Hadean era after the Greek word Hades. So, this is a remarkable description as well.
Ankerberg: Hugh, is there any other religious book that follows the same “A, B, C, D’s” that the Bible lays out?
Ross: Well, there are other holy writings in different religions that try to lay out a sequence of creation events, but none of them get the initial conditions accurate like the Bible does, and none of them puts it in a correct chronological record with respect to the record of nature.
Ankerberg: Fuz, I wanted to ask you a question: How do you think of Genesis 1:2 in the origin of life?
Rana: Well, I think that Genesis 1:2 may be implying the origin of life. Now, clearly, when you look at the Genesis 1 account, it’s on the third day of creation where there’s a specific direct reference to God creating life. This would be plant life on the land. But in Genesis 1:2 we see this expression, “God hovering over the surface of the deep.” In the King James it talks about God “brooding over the surface of the deep.” And there’s only one other time, to my knowledge, where that Hebrew word that’s translated as “brooding” is used, and this is in Deuteronomy 32, the song of Moses. And in Deuteronomy 32:9-12, Moses is describing the burgeoning nation of Israel as being the apple of God’s eye and that God is “hovering over” this nation, He is “brooding over” the nation of Israel jealously like a mother eagle over her young. And if you take that imagery – and interestingly enough, God’s protecting this nation under conditions that are tohu wa bohu, desolation and wasteness, is implied – if you take that imagery, bring it to Genesis 1:2, God is clearly protecting something that is very precious to Him…
Ross: Under hostile conditions.
Rana: …under hostile conditions of the early earth. And we can infer from that that perhaps indeed this is speaking about the origin of life or the very first appearance of life on earth or the seeds of life on earth.
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s skip to Day 1 here because we’ve got to move on. There is so much you guys could say about this. Here’s the verse: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” [Gen. 1:3-5] Theologian, what’s going on here? What did God make?
Samples: Again, you have a discussion of the creation. God is the Creator. He’s not only the transcendental Creator, but the sustainer of this beginning of this work. And so we again see God in His work of creation and this discussion of “light” and this beginning of a progression of days that brings us this depiction of God’s work in creation.
Ankerberg: Scientist, if the sun was already created in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, what do the words, “Let there be light,” mean here in Day 1?
Ross: Well, you’re perceptive! It says, “Let there be light.” The text does not say that God “created the light” or that God “made the light.” It’s “let the light be.” Light would have been there in the beginning. When God created the heavens and the earth, there would be light everywhere through the heavens. It was dark on the surface of the waters because of earth’s primordial opaque atmosphere. I believe what God did on the first creation day is He miraculously transformed earth’s atmosphere in the interplanetary medium so that light from the sun and the stars could penetrate through that atmosphere to the surface of the earth. But it’s light coming through in a defused fashion. The observer on the surface of the earth, if an observer was there, would not be able to see the sun, moon and stars, but would be able to see the light defusing through the atmosphere. An overcast sky would be a good image.
Ankerberg: Alright, do you think this is the day that the moon was created?
Ross: Well, the moon was either created before the first creation day or coincident with the first creation day, in my opinion.
Ankerberg: Because the moon is younger than the earth.
Ross: The moon is slightly younger than the earth. If Fuz is right that Genesis 1:2 is a reference to God creating life on planet earth, then the moon would be created before the first creation day. There are two episodes where we know for sure that the earth had this opaque condition blocking out light from the sun, moon and stars. One, of course, would be the event that formed the moon where this Mars-size planet collided with the earth and that would have thrown a huge amount of debris into orbit around the earth.
A second clear episode is something called “the late heavy bombardment,” all these asteroids and comets that pelted the inner solar system immediately previous to the origin of life. And since this is the account of God creating different life forms leading to human beings, it could well be that the first creation day is in reference to the events immediately after the late heavy bombardment. There are chemical things going on in the atmosphere as well, but for sure there would be this debris cloud.
Ankerberg: Photosynthesis was able to take place when the sunlight actually got to the earth. What does that mean?
Rana: Well, that means that life could now sustain itself on the surface of the planet. And we know from the fossil record that very early in earth’s history – between 3.8 to 3.5 billion years ago – we have the first photosynthetic life forms that appear and these life forms were critical in terms of transforming the earth’s atmosphere and introducing oxygen that would allow for advanced life to be created on Day 5 and Day 6.
Ankerberg: We’re also saying they didn’t evolve, because these little critters are so complex that those babies just couldn’t come about by random chance.
Rana: That’s right. What we see when we look at the geo-chemical record and the fossil record is the sudden appearance of complex life forms. Even though they were bacteria and single-celled, biochemically and metabolically, you’re looking at very complex organisms.
Ankerberg: Okay, so, Hugh, but the fact is, then, God created stuff in stages. Why did God create this simple life? You’ve got building blocks actually, but God’s creating; we know it’s so complex that God had to create every stage. But why did He do it in stages?
Ross: Well, the primordial earth wouldn’t have had the oxygen necessary for advanced life, so He creates life forms that will make that oxygen. He’s also concerned about the physics of the sun. The sun is getting, first, dimmer, and then it gets brighter. You want to create just the right life forms at just the right time to compensate for the changes in the sun’s luminosity.
A third thing He is trying to do is prepare the chemistry of the planet for advanced life. When God created these first bacterial life forms, you would have this even distribution of metals upon the face of the earth, a lot of it in soluble form, which would have been deadly to advanced life. Not deadly to the bacteria, but deadly to advanced life. And so one of the things God does early is He creates special metal-eating bacteria, sulfate-reducing bacteria that basically feed on these soluble metals, convert them into insoluble metals and deposit them in concentrated form. So, for example, zinc which was at a level of about one part per million in the environment in soluble form, which would have been deadly to human life, was now reduced to one part per billion and placed in concentrated, insoluble form, so that when we human beings come upon the scene, we can mine rich zinc deposits. None of that zinc would have been there for us to mine if it weren’t for billions of years of previously existing sulfate-reducing bacteria.
And God actually creates bacteria for each specific metal. It makes the environment safe for us but also gives us wealth that we can exploit for technology.
Ankerberg: We’ve been talking about the anthropic principles that are found in the universe – that God, you know, 13.7 billion years ago brought the universe into existence and then has fine tuned the universe and done things specifically all the way along the line. Now, a lot of Christians feel like they’ve got to hold onto “a day is 24 hours.” Now, to start to think about 24 hours, why would it take God, if God is God, 24 hours to do anything? He could have done it in a nanosecond.
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: So, the 24 hours is nothing special. The question is, what is the age that we’re talking about? What are the tip-offs on the time of a “day” from the text?
Ross: Well, the tip-off is, this is written in Hebrew. The Hebrew language, biblical Hebrew, doesn’t have a word for a long period of time other than the word yom. It’s the only word in the biblical Hebrew language that can refer to a specific long period of time with a definite start point and an end point. The Hebrew word yom has four different literal definitions: part of a day time; a 12-hour period, roughly; 24 hours; or an extended period of time that’s finite in length. All four are literal readings of the texts. So I sign off to a doctrinal statement of belief in six literal creation days. But my understanding is that these are six consecutive long periods of time – which means there is no conflict with the established record of nature.
Ankerberg: Ken, a lot of people would say, “Hey, what about the Exodus passage when we’re talking the Ten Commandments. It looks like a work week is a seven day period of time, and that’s compared to the creation account. [Ex. 20:8-11] What do you do with that passage?
Samples: Well, it’s a good question and it’s a fair question. However, there are clear passages, for example, in Genesis 2, where yom is used and it can’t really be a 24-hour period, recognizing the Exodus passage as a type of analogy that is being used there. And there are difficulties with a 24-hour view right in Genesis 1. A little later we’re going to get to the sixth day. It’s very difficult to see all of the activities of the sixth day in a mere 24-hour period.
Ankerberg: Yeah, doesn’t Genesis 2 also say in referring to the whole six days of previous….
Samples: Refers to the whole period….
Ankerberg: …the day the Lord made all this stuff, referring to all the six. [Gen 2:4] So the “day” there can’t refer to 24 hours because it refers to the whole package.
Samples: Correct.
Ross: Well, the Exodus 20 passage, too, is in the Levitical law; and the Levitical law talks about a “sabbath year” for the agricultural land. So I would agree with Ken that Exodus 20 is an argument of analogy because in the Levitical law there are several different Sabbath lengths of time.
Ankerberg: Okay. Moving on to Day 2. I know it’s quick but we’ve got to move on because we’re out of time here. Genesis 1:6-8: “And God said, Let there be a firmament [that is, an expanse] between the waters, to separate water from water. So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. God called the expanse sky. And there was evening, and there was morning – the second day.” So what’s going on here?
Samples: Well, again, it’s important to recognize Genesis from an apologetics standpoint. God, the transcendental Creator, but He is also the imminent Sustainer. God is imminent in His creation, preparing it, developing it. Saint Augustine, one of the great Church Fathers, said that other than the resurrection, the greatest miracle is God’s creation. So some type of stable water source is being here developed by God in preparation for the days that will follow.
Ankerberg: Alright. Mr. Scientist, you have said the fact that advanced life can survive only if the evaporation of precipitation averaged between 25 and 60 liquid water inches per year. And then if you want abundance of life, you’ve got to have moisture changing geographically in different parts of the earth, ranging from two inches to 600 inches. And then you’ve got the luminosity of the sun that we know is, what, 17 percent brighter now than it was at the beginning of the earth?”
Ross: Seventeen percent brighter.[1]
Ankerberg: So you need more moisture. You’ve got to have the sunlight coming in; everything’s got to be balanced. Tell us scientifically what you’re finding out is going on in Day 2 here.
Ross: Well, in Day 2 I believe it is God speaking about water in the atmosphere above and water in the ocean below, and the transfer of water from the ocean to the atmosphere and back. This is the water cycle. One of my friends, Dr. Robert Newman, who is an astrophysicist and a theologian, that was his theology thesis was an analysis of just that Day 2; drawing the strong conclusion it’s a definitive reference to God setting up a stable, long-lasting water cycle. And this really ties into the third creation day in terms of the continents. The only way to get water falling relatively evenly over the whole surface of the earth is if you position the continents just right relative the ocean; and the moon has to be in just the right position to make sure the rotation rate is what you need in order to get this well-distributed water cycle flowing over the face of the earth.
Ankerberg: What else is happening here, Fuz?
Rana: Well, what’s implied here is, as Ken mentioned, God is deeply involved in bringing this about. And just the fine tuning to maintain or even to establish a water cycle and then to maintain it for the entire earth’s history is incredibly remarkable. The atmospheric composition has to be fine tuned; the pressure has to be fine tuned to the earth’s atmosphere; you have to have the right amount of land mass; you have to have the right life forms at the right time. It’s incredible fine tuning and it speaks very powerful of divine design.
Ankerberg: Hugh, you say God had to be involved in this water cycle, because scientists have recently found a deadly imbalance in the water cycle and a remarkable phenomenon that compensates for it, namely, comets.
Ross: Well, the earth loses a tiny amount of water to outer space. It’s a very slow leakage. But over the course of billions of years it adds up. But likewise, there’s a very slow input of water from comets. You know, micro-comets, mini-comets, as well as regular comets bring in this supply of water. And the two are in balance, so earth is able to maintain the water it needs.
Ankerberg: But then, you’ve also got to have the balance, the sun is changing.
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: Talk about that in relationship to the moisture on the earth – cold, hot and so on.
Ross: Well, the sun, for the last three billion years, has been getting progressively more and more luminous. Now, this would be deadly for life on earth unless the atmosphere of the earth were transformed gradually over those past three billion years so that the greenhouse gases become less and less efficient in their capacity to trap heat. And you want to keep it in perfect balance; otherwise, the water cycle will be disturbed. And so here we see incredible fine tuning from God’s perspective: creating just the right life forms at just the right time, fine tuning the plate tectonics and the volcanism of the earth so that, in combination, life with this plate tectonics and volcanism gradually removes carbon dioxide and water vapor from the atmosphere, transforming into carbonates and sand and coal oil and natural gas. If you get out of sync ever so slightly with the wrong life forms at the wrong time, or in the wrong abundance or the wrong diversity, suddenly you’re going to disturb that water cycle. You’re going to get a runaway greenhouse effect or runaway freeze-up of the planet and all life dies.
Ankerberg: As an astrophysicist, then, is the Genesis record accurate to science?
Ross: It’s in the correct chronological sequence, and it is giving the correct scientific description of each of the events that we see. And moreover, it’s the primary events. And if I were to ask the question, “What are the most significant events in preparing the planet for human beings?” they are the ones we see recorded in Genesis 1: The right chronological sequence, the correct scientific description. Could Moses have pulled that off without God’s divine inspiration? Impossible.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re just starting. Next week we’re going to go to Day 3 and Day 4: What happened according to the Bible? What happened according to science? And we’re going to look at that and I hope that you’ll join us.

Notes

  1. In The Genesis Question the figure of 35% is used. More recent calculations use a superior model for early solar mass loss and change this figure to 17-18%.

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