Can the Biblical Account of Creation Be Reconciled with Scientific Evidence? – Program 3

By: Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Fuz Rana, Ken Samples; ©2002
Did God create every form of plant that would ever exist at one point in time, or have time and natural forces contributed to the variety we see today and in the geographic record?

Can the Biblical Account of Creation Be Reconciled with Scientific Evidence? – Program 3

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. We’re talking about the fascinating topic of science. We’re also talking about science and the Bible. And so many pastors are afraid to teach on Genesis 1 and 2 because there is so much information of science, there is so much information in theology, that this program is unique. And we’re taking the days that Genesis unfolds for us and we’re asking the scientists, “What happened? Does this square with the Bible?” I want to start with Day 3 today.
And we’ve got as our guests Dr. Hugh Ross, who received his Ph.D. in astronomy at Toronto and did post-doctoral research at Caltech on quasars; Dr. Fuz Rana received his Ph.D. in chemistry at Ohio University; and philosopher and theologian Kenneth Samples. Guys, we’re glad that you’re here. Let’s take Day 3 and let’s find out what’s going on here. Day 3:
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the third day. [Gen 1:9-13]
Ken, what’s going on here?
Samples: It’s important to recognize who wrote this. Moses did. It’s being revealed to him by God. It’s being written to the covenant people of Israel. The theological perspective is important. The world is not divine, God alone is divine; but this universe and the earth is dependent upon Him. Again, we see God in His process of creation bringing forth a stable world and we see this vegetation, a life. Life is not imbued with spirits. It is the product of God creating all of these things. So, the Jewish theistic view of God as the Creator and as the Sustainer of life is being revealed here in Genesis.
Ankerberg: Hugh, scientifically, does this square with what science knows? We’re told the oceans are separated and dry land masses appear. Is that what happened in earth’s history?
Ross: One of the amazing things about planet earth is it has this enormous internal heat source. That collision that led to the formation of the moon also super-enriched earth with radiometric elements. And it is those radiometric elements that provide the heat that drives plate tectonics. And with the deep oceans you would get high-density water, and high density liquid water combined with the radiometric heat flow transforms the basalts at the base of the ocean floors into silicates. Silicates are lighter than the basalts so they float, and over time, these silicates would pile up to be able to break the surface of the water. And now you’ve got continental land masses, and now you’ve got a process whereby those continental land masses, exposed to the atmosphere, through the agency of created life, can transform those silicates into sand and carbonates. And that’s critical to compensate for the increasing luminosity of the sun. So, without the formation of those continents, large continents residing above the surface of the waters of the earth, future life would not be possible, advanced life would be impossible.
Ankerberg: Yeah, one of the things you said in the book was, oh, by the way, the current ratio of land to water surface is perfect for life on earth – it’s 29 percent to 71 percent.
Ross: That’s the best for human life. When you’re talking advanced life, that’s a very good ratio to have. Also critical is the orientation of those continental land masses. Notice that the continental land masses are kind of oriented north/south rather than east/west, and that’s an ideal orientation for distributing the water, for making sure that you have the maximum surface of the planet available for human habitation.
Ankerberg: From the biblical data, was the land all one hunk at the beginning and it’s divided up or what was it like?
Ross: Well, we can only trace it back about a quarter of a billion years. What was going on before then, we’re not sure, although we do know that the continental land masses accounted for about 3 percent of the total surface of the planet about two and a half to three billion years ago, gradually increased to about 21-22 percent until half a billion years ago; and then it has gone up to the 29 percent. And those percentages are appropriate for the kinds of life forms that existed at different points in earth’s history. So again, we see an optimization throughout the record of the past 3.8 billion years.
Ankerberg: Fuz, God says, the next thing after the land came up, He said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants.” And now we’ve got plants and trees. Does that square with the evidence in the fossil record?
Rana: Well, one thing to keep in mind, and maybe Hugh can even jump in here, is that in the original Hebrew those words that are translated as “seed-bearing plants and trees” really is probably being over specific. The Hebrew words that are used in Genesis 1 are a little bit more general and can refer to any type of plant. And so our model would be not that all the plants that ever existed were created at this point in time, but that the first plants that appeared on land appeared in this time and that subsequent to that there were other miracles that God was doing to bring different types of plants into existence that would sustain the animal life and also play a role, as Hugh was talking….
Ankerberg: Yeah, you don’t say all the plants that ever were were created there?
Ross: No. I mean, the cryptogamic plant life forms – these are symbiotic colonies that existed three billion years ago in earth’s crust – that was critical to prepare the continental land masses for advanced plants, vascular plants where you’ve got this flow of water going up and down these stalks. That can’t happen unless you have these billions of years of previously existing more primitive plant life forms.
Ankerberg: Yeah, I think we need to hit this thing of God does things in steps. People say, “Why didn’t God just create all of it in an instant?” What do you say to that?
Ross: Well, God chose the laws of physics that He did for the universe. I think it has a lot to do with His desire to efficiently conquer sin, evil, and suffering. And given those laws of physics, that would mandate a certain order of creation. God chose the laws of physics for a higher spiritual purpose, then within those laws of physics, He creates life according to a pattern that we would recognize as extremely rapid and extremely aggressive. I mean, billions of years sounds like a long time, but when you really look at all that needs to be done to prepare for human beings and human civilization, it is indeed very rapid and very aggressive.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Didn’t some of the scientists actually talk about that, that they were amazed that the universe was so fine tuned but over such a long period of time seeming just for man in a short period of time?
Ross: Well, Brandon Carter back in ’83 made note of the fact how amazing it is that given the physics of the universe, human beings can reside here in so little time. Fourteen billion years is an incredibly brief period of time to get everything set in place so that human beings can exist. And then he went on from there and developed what’s been called the Carter Inequality or the Anthropic Principle Inequality. And he noted the fact that although it takes this minimum of 14 billion years to prepare a home for human beings, the laws of physics would only permit a very narrow window of time in which human beings can exist and in particular, human civilization can exist.
Frank Tipler and John Barrow calculated a maximum of 41,000 years for human civilization.[1] When you compare that 41,000 years with 14 billion, that means it took a million times longer to prepare a place for human beings – and I would argue it would take miraculous input to make it happen that fast – and yet the window of time in which we can exist with civilization is so incredibly brief. And Carter’s point is that means there must be an extremely high purpose for the human species for a Creator to expend all of that time and effort and resources for something that lasts such a whisper of time.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Is it biblical to say that the universe, the stars and the earth itself, are one big illustration that God loves us and cares about us?
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: Alright, Fuz, I want to come to you on this one and say, in the textbooks we find out that there’s a primordial soup that is always mentioned that life had to come forth from. And yet the Bible says that God made plants and He started making this life. Okay? What do you see from science?
Rana: Well, what’s being discovered in recent years is, number one, there was no evidence for a primordial soup.
Ankerberg: People find that hard to believe. I mean, how can that be?
Rana: Right. This is a scientific myth; it’s not a scientific fact. And the evidence for that is, number one, when we go to the oldest rocks present on the earth, instead of seeing a geochemical signature indicating that the organic remains were produced through non-biological means, we see very clear indication that they were produced, unequivocally, through the activity of biological organisms, meaning life was present on earth as soon as life could possibly exist. Moreover, there is now very good indication that the conditions of the earth simply could not sustain the production of prebiotic compounds that would form the primordial soup. Both observations go together very powerfully. And then also we see that life, when it first appears on earth, appears very suddenly in a narrow window of time. And so this all indicates, along with other pieces of evidence, that life had a supernatural origin.
Ankerberg: Yeah. You guys have written a book, Origins of Life, that came out in January [2004], and you almost have to have a Ph.D. to read that sucker; but the fact is, it is tremendous evidence. And one of the things you’ve got in there is the fact that the complexity of life, the information that’s needed, the scientists don’t have a clue as to how to get that information.
Rana: That’s a huge problem. How do you get information? Even if you did have a primordial soup, there’s no way that you can generate the information that you need to sustain the complex chemical systems of life.
Ankerberg: Alright, life arose very briefly, according to the fossil record, and that’s a problem for evolution. Why?
Rana: Well, evolution would anticipate for life first to emerge, probably a billion plus years of chemical evolution for life to emerge. And what we see, again, is almost virtually instantaneous appearance of life. And so when, on Day 3, the Bible makes very powerful and direct statements that God is the Creator of plant life and later animal life, that statement theologically squares very powerfully with what science is discovering.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Talk about why it is that the scientists don’t know how to develop DNA or RNA by chance and you need them both at the same time. You can’t have one and then the other either direction. You’ve got to have them both together and they’re very, very complicated.
Rana: Yeah. This is the “chicken and egg” paradox, as it’s referred to, is that namely DNA can’t replicate itself. It really needs a collection of protein machines to replicate itself. But the problem is that those protein machines are dependent upon the existence of DNA. DNA contains the information needed to make those protein machines, but DNA can’t replicate if those protein machines don’t exist. And that interdependence is called the “chicken and egg” paradox, and so that just highlights, in essence, the irreducible complexity of living systems.
Ross: Fuz, has any chemist ever made a DNA, an RNA, or a protein molecule in a lab?
Rana: Not through strictly undirected natural means. You can make those compounds in the lab, but it involves a tremendous amount of effort on the part of a chemist.
Ankerberg: And it’s always protected.
Rana: It’s always protected. The conditions are just right.
Ankerberg: And why wasn’t that the case in the primordial earth?
Rana: Well, in the primordial earth, assuming there was a prebiotic soup, you have a very complex chemical system. All these different compounds would interfere with the putative origin of life pathways. Many things would have shut down the chemistry; the conditions would have been physically and chemically harsh….
Ankerberg: There would be more things that could destroy life than to build it.
Rana: Right. And even destroy the molecules needed for life. As soon as those molecules would form, there are a whole lot of forces, chemical and physical, at work to destroy even the molecules, let alone the living systems.
Ross: You either have ultraviolet radiation destroying the molecules or you’ve got oxygen destroying the molecules.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Why is it all the textbooks, even the science textbooks we were showing a little bit ago, were saying, if you have oxygen in the early earth’s atmosphere, you’re dead in the water in terms of creating life.
Ross: Right.
Ankerberg: Why is that so?
Rana: Because oxygen is actually a very corrosive material. We think of oxygen as being good, and it is, but it’s really a very reactive corrosive material.
Ankerberg: And oh, by the way, when does oxygen show up?
Rana: Well, there’s evidence that there are some low levels of oxygen very early in earth’s history, not high levels but low levels that would be significant enough to shut down these chemical reactions. And as Hugh mentioned, even if you didn’t have oxygen, that still creates a problem, because now this ultraviolet radiation impinges upon the earth and that would destroy the organic compounds as well.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve already touched on this in our previous program, but let’s just drive this in, Hugh. The fact is that the origin of life scientists are so frustrated – you guys have attended their national and worldwide meetings – that you’ve heard them in their frustration starting to postulate that life couldn’t have evolved here on earth. It had to come from another planet or from aliens. I mean, this shows the bankruptcy of the whole theory of evolution. Talk about that a little bit.
Ross: In some respects Fuz and I were encouraged. The fact that they were appealing to aliens sending life here on spaceships tells us they’re getting close to the right answer. It’s not directed panspermia, it’s supernatural directed panspermia.
Ankerberg: What’s panspermia?
Ross: Panspermia means life from outer space; life from some distant star system. “Directed” means some intelligence brought the life here. Supernatural directed panspermia would be the biblical model: that there’s a God.
Ankerberg: As an astronomer, you’ve even said that, the fact is, you can’t do that because you can’t get life out there in the universe either. Not enough time.
Ross: Not enough time. Well, I mean, to think of natural panspermia, you’re talking about a rock or some dust coming from another planetary system to our planetary system. And Jay Melosh a couple of years ago calculated that only one rock every 1016 years makes it from another planetary system to our planetary system. Well, the problem with that is, the universe is only 1010 years old. You would need a million times more time than the universe would provide just to get a single rock to come here from another planetary system.
Ankerberg: And then you still don’t have the information to program that rock to do what it’s supposed to do to have life evolve.
Ross: That’s another problem!
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s go to Day 4 here:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky [So it sounds like we’re talking about the sun here] to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day. [Gen 1:14-19]
Now, you say on creation day four, the moon and the stars became distinctly visible from earth’s surface for the first time. Why don’t you think that the words “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky… God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day, the lesser light to govern the light. He also made the stars”, why does not this indicate that God made the sun, the moon and the stars on the fourth day?
Ross: Well, the 14th verse says, “Let there be” these lights. It doesn’t say that God “created” the lights. It says, “Let there be the lights.” And it’s the 16th verse where it says, “So God made the sun, moon and stars.” Now, in the Hebrew language they don’t have tenses like we do in English. There are three verb forms: one for commands; one for action not yet finished; and one for action that has been completed at some unspecified time in the past. That 16th verse is in that third form. It’s telling us that the sun, moon and stars were completed entities by the fourth creation day, which would imply that the sun, moon and stars were made either on Day 4, Day 3, Day 2, Day 1, or before the six days.
Now, you say, “Well, why wasn’t Moses specific here?” I think he was. Verse 1, “In the beginning God created the shamayim erets,” that’s “the heavens and the earth,” a reference to all matter and energy. That would have been the stars and the galaxies. Those lights were made before the six days, but they don’t become visible to an observer on the surface of the earth until God transforms earth’s atmosphere from translucent, from permanently overcast, to occasionally transparent. And as it says in the text, that this is the time that they served for “signs” to mark days and years and seasons. Signs for life. Notice on the fifth and sixth creation days, which we’ll talk about in the next episode, we’re talking about animals so advanced they need the occasional visibility of the sun, moon and stars to regulate their complex biological clocks. So the signs are for the benefit of life, therefore the atmosphere must be transformed.
Ankerberg: Alright. You say, “After a period ranging from thousands to millions of years enough oxygen had diffused into the upper atmosphere to permit under certain precise conditions a formation of a delicate layer of ozone.” And, boy, you say ozone, the way it’s created here in earth, it’s really coming back to this passage: God made it, God superintended it, God had to do it because it is so intricate. Tell us why the ozone level in all the different parts of the atmosphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, the whole thing is so intricate.
Ross: That’s part of the transformation from translucent to transparent: carbon dioxide and water being removed from the atmosphere; oxygen is being added. That leads to the formation of ozone. But yet the quantity of ozone in the atmosphere, the troposphere, the stratosphere and the mesosphere, all three places must be very carefully fine tuned, otherwise advanced life will not be survivable on the surface of the earth. Particularly advanced plants are very sensitive to the quantities of ozones in those three layers.
Ankerberg: Fuz, what else do you think?
Rana: Well, I mean, to piggy-back on what Hugh is saying, is this idea that the atmosphere now is high oxygen content is critical for what’s going to be happening on the fifth day, because unless you have high oxygen levels, you can’t have advanced life. Because for advanced life to respire, to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide with the atmosphere to sustain multi-cellular entities, you have to have a very high level to get efficient delivery of oxygen to tissues. And the first thing that’s going to happen when advanced life appears is it’s going to be exclusively marine life in the oceans and the oxygen level has to be even higher in the oceans for it to sustain marine life. You can get by with the lower levels for animal life in a terrestrial environment.
Ankerberg: Alright, the two of you were not always Christians. You came to know the Lord later on, and this Genesis record hit you guys as scientists as being absolutely unique. We’re only to Day 4. Next week we’re going to take the last, five and six, creation of man. There are some things folks want to know about. But why was this record so important to you as scientists and kind of crucial in bringing you to faith in God?
Ross: I’ll start off. When I looked at all the different creation accounts in the different religions and holy books of the world, they were all a scientific “laugh” except for what you see in the Bible. The different creation accounts just struck me. The sequence is right; the descriptions are right; everything is a perfect fit with the established record of nature. The only explanation I had for that was that God must have supernaturally inspired these Bible writers thousands of years ago to be so accurate in their statements. The probability of them writing that by chance is just astronomically remote.
Ankerberg: Fuz, you’ve got a Ph.D. in chemistry. You were fighting this thing the whole time. What brought you across the line?
Rana: Well, it was really Reasons to Believe and Hugh Ross. When I first became a Christian, it was the cellular complexity at a molecular level that convinced me there had to be a Creator. And as I read Scripture, I was convinced that it must be Jesus Christ. But I couldn’t quite square everything that I was learning to be true as a Christian that I was knowing to be true as a scientist. Now, I’ll say that when I looked at Genesis 1, I had the very same impression that Hugh had. There was a remarkable correlation here between life’s history and earth’s history and what science has discovered, but I couldn’t fit all the pieces together and it was really coming in contact with Reasons to Believe where Hugh showed just the few pieces of the puzzle that were missing. And when those pieces were in place, you know, everything kind of jelled.
Ankerberg: Okay. Ken, wrap this up for us. What do you conclude about listening to all this conversation?
Samples: You know, Thomas Aquinas said that “all truth is God’s truth.” What we discover in God’s written Word is this revelation of a God who cares about us, who has created the world, who will later send His Son to redeem us. But Christian truth is not abstracted from the truth of the natural sciences, and so what we discover is what we’re talking about here is a consistent view of the Scriptures and it corresponds to our best science.
Ankerberg: Great.
Samples: That’s truth.
Ankerberg: Thank you, gentlemen, for this. Next week we’re going to talk about the complex animals and where they come into the fossil record; and then man: Is it ape to man, or is it that God created? What is the scientific evidence? What does the biblical record say? It’s very important. I hope that you’ll join us.

Notes

  1. This estimate is taken from Brandon Carter’s work and appears on page 566 in The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler.

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  1. […] Can the Biblical Account of Creation Be Reconciled with Scientific Evidence? – Program 3 By: DDr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Fuz Rana, Ken Samples […]

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