Modern Science in the Biblical Creation Story

Jesus said “I am the Light of the World.” I believe He meant it literally. Light is the missing link between science and faith. Case in point: Understanding the biblical creation story in terms of a small number of well-known principles of light completely resolves the perceived conflicts between the creation story and science’s timeline of the creation of the universe.

Genesis 1:

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

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I postulate that the phrase “the heaven and the earth” in Genesis 1:1 is a reference to the dual, wave/particle nature of Light, – the “complementarity principle” – with “earth” being the entire physical universe, the particle (photon) side of Light, and “heaven” being its wave counterpart. The well-known “double slit experiments,” performed with increasingly larger physical objects have convinced many physicists that the complementary principle characterizes everything in the universe, and probably even the universe itself.

Given this hypothesis, we see that the first chapter of Genesis is a metaphor, or allegory, representing the creation of the universe (both the spiritual and physical), rather than an account of the creation of Planet Earth, which begins in Chapter 2. When we understand the allegory, the perceived anachronisms disappear and the creation story then agrees perfectly with science’s “big bang” model. See the many internet videos on the “complementary principle.”

In Schrodinger’s scenario a cat is placed into a box that also contains a radioactive atom. If the atom decays and emits radiation, the radiation is detected with a Geiger counter, which then activates a mechanism that releases a quantity of hydrogen cyanide gas, and the cat dies. The time of radioactive decay cannot be predicted.

By the laws of quantum physics the atom has both decayed and not decayed as long as the system remains isolated from the rest of the world, analogously to the photon/light wave passing through both slits in the double slit experiments when you’re not looking. Since the atom has both decayed and not decayed, the mechanism is both activated and not activated, and the cat is both alive and dead! This condition of being in more than one state or location simultaneously is called being in “superposition.”

Now let’s say you open the box after some period of time. You will find either that the mechanism has activated and the cat is dead, or that the mechanism has not activated and the cat is alive. Your looking at the system has caused it to be in one state or the other. This is analogous to the double slit experiment, in which the photon passes through one slit or the other when it is observed.

If the cat is alive he may be hungry. If he has been dead for a while, he will have rigor mortis. In either case, your observation has not only caused the formerly isolated and superposed system to assume one of the available physical states, it has also generated a history appropriate to the state in which you find the cat!

Summarizing the Relevant Properties of Light
Everything in the universe is fundamentally light (which itself is just energy).
Light has a dual, wave/particle personality called complementarity.
Observation manifests light’s physical (photon) identity. This phenomenon is called “waveform collapse.”
Observation, in this context, includes any physical sensory experience.
Physical manifestation always includes an appropriate physical history.

Let’s test our hypothesis that Genesis 1 is an allegory representing the creation of the universe by comparing the day-by-day narrative with the “Big Bang” cosmological model.

The “earth” (the physical universe) was “without form, and void” in the beginning, meaning it had no physical existence as yet. It had not yet been physically manifested. “The deep” in Verse 2 is a metaphor representing the entire universe, not the earth’s oceans, and the “waters” are the contents of the deep, which will soon be manifested as pure energy (photons).

3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

These references to light have nothing to do with our sun and moon. If they did, and if the “earth” meant our planet, then the earth would have been created before the sun, a serious anachronism. This light is the only Light that existed in the very beginning. Specifically, it’s the physical side of Light - pure energy. This beginning of the universe as pure energy agrees with cosmologists’ “Big Bang.”

Notice that immediately after creating light, God saw the Light, and by property # 3 on our list above, what happens when Light waves are observed? Waveform collapse! Notice that God “sees” his new creation after each day, except the day He creates space, which is invisible.

And here is a critically important point: The phenomenon of waveform collapse is literally an instantaneous transformation from a reality we can’t detect with our natural senses or instrumentation, to the familiar natural world. This invisible reality of light waves is the created spiritual reality – the “heaven” of Verse 1.

Waveform collapse is literally the manifestation of physical reality from spiritual potential, within the parameters of the spiritual. For example, Schrodinger’s cat is either alive or dead. There are no other options, Butin many cases the possibilities are endless.

So, the universe has now been created as a spiritual entity (light waves), and manifested physically (as photons) by God’s observation. It exists initially as pure energy, and this energy is the physical manifestation of Light. Also in Verse 4, God divides the light from the darkness, which means separating the Light into its physical and spiritual identities, which He names “Night” and “Day” (capitalized) in Verse 5.

5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

The concept of time enters the narrative in Verse 5 with the lower-case word “day.” But what is a day in this context? Beginning with this verse, Moses refers to “evening and morning” in relation to each of the six days of creation. He’s setting up a scenario in which God goes down to the “earth” in the “evening,” which means He enters the darker, physical universe, the world of “Night,” which he has separated from the brighter, spiritual world in Verse 4. While in the physical world, He accomplishes some phase of creation and gives it physicality by “seeing” (observing) it. In the “morning,” He returns to the brighter, spiritual world.

It can be shown with fairly simple algebra (Lorentz transformation) that for anything approaching the speed of light, time and distance approach zero. To state the obvious, the only thing that travels at the speed of light is light itself. In contrast to what we physical beings measure, a light beam itself experiences zero elapsed time and zero distance from departure to arrival. Thus, in a reality consisting entirely of Light, the word “day” has no meaning. A “day” in this context symbolizes a sojourn by God in the physical universe, the only realm in which time as we know it exists, as opposed to its wave (spiritual) counterpart. This is the meaning of a “day” in the creation story.

6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Immediately after introducing time into the discussion, Moses follows it up in Verse 6 by introducing space. The word translated as “firmament” means “expanse,” or “space.” Space and time – spacetime – differentiate and separate the physical reality from the spiritual. This is what Moses means when he says “let it (the firmament / space) divide the waters from the waters.” Paraphrasing, “God created spacetime, which separates the stuff of the spiritual world from the stuff of the physical world. Space and time as we know them are unique to the physical universe.

“Above the firmament” means the spiritual world, and “below the firmament” means the physical universe. The “waters below the firmament” means the stuff of the physical universe, i.e., physical matter and forces, time and space; and the “waters above the firmament” means the stuff of the spiritual world, the wave/unmanifested identity of the Light.

We might ask whether the creation of space at this point in the narrative fits the big bang cosmological model, and if so, how. According to the big bang model, the universe entered a period of expansion at 10^(-36) seconds, in which space expanded extremely rapidly. Cosmologists call it the inflationary epoch. The creation of the firmament / space in the Genesis narrative is physicists’ inflation epoch. The chronologies coincide perfectly!

9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

What about gathering the waters under heaven into one place, and dry land appearing? This is another metaphor. These verses are not about the planet, water, and land. They’re about the universe, energy, and matter!

The “waters under the heaven,” means the stuff of the physical universe (energy). The “dry land” that appears as the waters are “gathered together” represents the increasingly complex structures materializing out of the original mass of pure energy as the universe expands and cools – fundamental/elementary particles, followed by nucleons, nuclei, atoms, and so on. The “gathered” waters are the growing material structures.

By E=mc2 matter is just a form of energy. A small quantity of matter is equivalent to an enormous amount of energy. Imagine gathering a quantity of energy together into one place if you could. What would you have? Matter! In the early universe energy became elementary matter (and force) particles as expansion and cooling progressed. “Energy” = “waters” and “matter” = “dry land.”

Besides, this is still only the third “day” of creation; the “lights in the firmament” have not yet been created. If these verses were referring to the planet, then we’d have the same serious anachronism again, in which the earth is created before the sun. But when we understand the metaphor, this problem disappears.

11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

And speaking of anachronisms, what about this verse? How could plants and trees have been created on Day 3 when “lights in the firmament” aren’t created until Day 4? Everyone knows plants need sunlight, including Moses (the generally recognized author of Genesis) and his contemporaries. To answer this question let’s have a look at a corresponding verse in the Book of Abraham [1]:

Abraham 4:11

11 And the Gods said: Let us prepare the earth to bring forth grass; the herb yielding seed; the fruit tree yielding fruit, after his kind, whose seed in itself yieldeth its own likeness upon the earth; and it was so, even as they ordered.

This is still Day 3; energy is being transformed into matter, including the nutrients needed to grow plants. So, according to Abraham, who lived several hundred years before Moses, God did not create plants on Day 3. Rather,He commanded the developing universe to prepare the matter that will be necessary for life. All food ultimately comes from plants, the bottom of the food chain. This is why plants are mentioned on the same “day” that dry land is appearing. In fact, in my opinion, it supports the claim that the “dry land” is matter. There is no anachronism.

14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

“Lights in the firmament of heaven” is symbolic of stars and planets throughout the universe, not just our sun and moon. And again, “earth” means the physical creation. We can paraphrase “lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth” as “stars in space to shed light upon the physical creation.”

20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

On the fifth day God creates sea life and fowl.

25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

What about the man whom God creates in Verses 26 – 27? Isn’t he referring to Adam? No, not yet. Adam is not mentioned by name until Chapter 2. But we earthlings are not God’s only children.

31 And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.

On each of the six days, except the day He creates the firmament (space), the Lord observes His creations, giving them physicality. But on the sixth day, in which He creates man and gives him dominion over all of His other creations, God observes everything together. He does not observe man independently, as he does with each of his other creations. He observes him as part of the entire creation.

In fact, even though God creates both the beasts of the earth and man on Day 6, He observes the beasts before He creates man (Verse 25). I believe this is significant. Man is part of one overall (universal) wave function, but animals, plants, and rocks are not. They’re subsets of creation, so to speak. The likely reason is because only man is an unlimited, divine being, created in the image of God. Man is not separate and distinct from God in the way that God’s other creations are.

The table below compares the timelines of science and Genesis 1, given that the biblical story is allegorical. The lack of a border between sea life and other life on the last day on the science side just indicates multiple simultaneous processes occurring, in a scientific sense, rather than clearly delineated boundaries.

Day Science Genesis 1
1 Energy Light (energy)
2 Inflation (space) Firmament (space)
3 Matter from energy (E=mc2) Land appears (metaphor for matter materializing from energy)
4 Stars and planets Lights in the firmament (symbolic of stars in space)
5 Sea life Sea life and fowl
6 Land Plants, Animals, fowl, and Man Land animals and Man

What about evolution?
God set up the universe such that it was initially perfect (“very good”). See the quantum eraser experiments (google them), in which observation not only manifests physical reality but generates a physical history that’s appropriate to that reality. God’s observation would have included a history that extends back to the beginning of the universe. The reality manifested by present day observation does not change God’s perfect creation. Rather, it interfaces with it seamlessly, such that we see a continuous history of the physical universe all the way back to the “big bang.”

In Schrodinger’s thought experiment, if the cat is found dead, a forensic examination might indicate it had died, say, 24 hours earlier. But Schrodinger might disagree, saying it died an hour earlier, when he opened the box. In this analogy the forensic examiner is the classical scientist and Schrodinger is the biblical literalist. The scientist says the earth is billions of years old, but the biblical literalist insists it’s only 6,000 years old.

Who’s right? From a purely physical perspective there is no reason to reject the discoveries of the classical sciences and the plethora of evidence for a long and gradual evolution of the universe. But paradoxically, the biblical believer has a valid point as well, given that observation creates a valid and consistent back-history. So, we could say with perfect logic that God created the universe 6,000 years ago including a much longer history that’s every bit as valid as your favorite NFL team’s season record from last year. And this may well include a human couple named Adam and Eve. On the other hand, we can say the universe is billions of years old. We can’t reject either statement!

However, we must keep in mind that because only man is of the same essence as God,created in His image, everything except man is limited in its evolutionary potential. All of God’s creations were limited in their spiritual and physical scope, as evidenced by the fact that He created and manifested each class, or subset, of creation independently. Only man was exempted from such limitation.

How does an entity’s spiritual creation as Light limit its evolution? Light waves do not change or age, although their physical manifestation from spiritual potential can be influenced by belief, or faith, within the parameters of its spiritual creation. Thus, a fish cannot exceed the limits of its spiritual creation to become a man

As a final comment I think it’s important to emphasize that we have been speaking of the spiritual and physical creation. However, in Genesis 2:7 God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” The “breath of life” is the divine, uncreated essence of man that exists initially in God. It is life itself. It is more fundamental even than Light. It is not created, nor can it die, but returns to God upon the death of the created body.

Conclusion

Understanding the biblical creation story as an allegory representing the creation of the universe and incorporating a few well-known principles and properties of Light, we find perfect agreement between the creation story and science’s Big Bang model of the history of the universe. It follows that our hypothesis is correct, and there is absolutely no conflict with modern science. Furthermore, no man could have had such insights in Moses’s day (nearly 4,000 years ago) except by divine revelation.

Welcome to the forum, Joe. There are some who take a more allegorical view of the Genesis creation story. Personally I like John Walton’s view that the creation story is primarily about God assigning functions and roles to the elements of creation, rather than a story of material creation. I’m not sure I’d call that an allegory though – is there a particular viewpoint you’ve encountered?

Here’s the first in a series of articles about Walton’s views: Genesis is an Ancient Book, and that’s OK - Articles - BioLogos

Actually, these and other insights seem to occur to me rather randomly. This started around 2006. At that time I started writing them down so I wouldn’t forget them. Soon I had so many insights into the scientific meaning of various scriptures that I wondered what I was supposed to do with them. I pondered over it for about 3 years, until I decided that I was supposed to write a book, which I did. Wow, what a chore that was! The process goes something like this: An insight comes to me, usually rather unexpectedly, then I write it down, next I research the science and the scripture, then I try to write about it in a way that’s accessible to the non-scientist. That’s the hardest part. I don’t know why this blessing/chore has fallen to me, but I’m grateful to have something to contribute!

Sounds like an interesting endeavor! (By the way, it’s better to put new material in a new post rather than adding it to an old one – now my first reply to you reads oddly since I was replying to your original one-sentence post rather than the longer edit.)

But anyway, that’s an interesting viewpoint – I’ve heard others also express the idea that the “let there be light” statement was basically the start of the Big Bang.

I’m not sure I buy the idea of Genesis being a metaphor for modern science though. I’m fine with seeing it as a functional creation that makes use of what the ancient Hebrews’ understandings of cosmology was at the time. Otherwise we run the risk of making our own time, place, and level of scientific understanding the centerpiece of an ancient people’s story.

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Yes, but I believe God did indeed reveal truth to the ancients that were meant for our benefit in this day, when science has largely replaced faith. Now we see that science and Genesis are not at odds after all. The choice is between a) Moses was wrong and b) Moses was right after all.

It’s clear you’ve thought a LOT about this topic. You could be right, but I’m not sure how there’s any way we could know if that’s what Genesis truly meant all these years. My general approach is as follows,

  1. looking at Genesis in its ancient near eastern context shows that its cosmological statements were not super unique in that they simply reflect an ancient understanding of the world. Sure, different theological messages and different deity/deities, but similar physical cosmology
    1b) a plain reading of the cosmological or “scientific” texts of the Bible match what could be inferred by simple observations and are consistent with the common understanding of the flat geocentric earth
  2. historically, people assumed it’s an actual scientific description and were left confused as their concordism gradually became incorrect as our scientific understanding improved. Yet there is no shortage of concords between the science of one’s day and Genesis 1 throughout the centuries
  3. I can’t truly say God definitely did NOT hide modern science secretly in the text, though what modern science should he hide in the text? I wouldn’t presume that our present explanation of modern physics is the ultimate one.

What do you think?

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Thanks for your comment. In the scientific method one posits (hypothesizes) an answer to a question and then tests it by experiment and/or observation to determine whether the hypothesis makes the correct predictions or at least fits the observed data. In this case there are far too many points of agreement with the observed data to ignore (taking the “big bang” model and known characteristics of light as the observable data). Such agreement merits serious respect and consideration. Not only does every “day” correlate with science’s timeline of the history universe, but it neatly answers the question of the meaning of a “day,” the question of what are the created “heaven and earth,” why God “saw” His creation after each act of creation, etc. Also, the creation story is not the only example of allegory in the Bible. For instance, the story of Jonah in the fish’s belly for 3 days is probably an allegory representing Jesus’s death and resurrection.

I wonder why people seem to think that the Bible has anything to do with science, modern or otherwise?

Richard

If the Bible is true, which I believe, then why wouldn’t it? Don’t they both come from the same Source? Actually, the “mysteries of God” all have a scientific basis, much of which has already been discovered and accepted as genuine features of reality. Not many people have realized this yet, but the day is coming…

Curious. Does science undergird God or the other way around?

How would the ancient authors possibly be referring to something none of them knew anything about? It’s some kind of weird attitude of ethnocentric and historical entitlement to assert that biblical texts have a “real” meaning that is only accessible to modern people with advanced scientific understanding. Whatever the text meant, that meaning was discernible to the original audience and intended by the original author.

I am the Light of the World is clearly a metaphor and would have been understood as such by the original audience. It is not literally true that Jesus consisted of light.

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“How would the ancient authors possibly be referring to something none of them knew anything about?”
How did the Old Testament prophets know about Jesus, Christy? And regarding light, we are all beings of light. Did you not read the entire post? As for the science, see my comment above.

I think I might need to push back a little bit on this which is the more we understand about modern science the more options you have to squeeze something into the text always after the fact. Your argument is pretty identical to one from Hugh Ross with reasons to believe. What he claims the details of these seven days are about are different from yours, and to be honest, I don’t see a way to judge between concords. Both you and him (and every other concord- see this one by the late Glen Morton: The Migrant Mind: Days of Proclamation: Historical Reading of Genesis 1) correctly chose events that are in order based upon our present understanding of modern cosmology or evolution or geology, and all of you argue your concords match very well with the literal words of the Bible. But within 4 billion plus years of Earth’s history and 13 billion years of our universe’s history there are a lot of things that occurred. How could anyone possibly know if your particular combination is correct compared to another Christian’s combination? Why don’t we just take any ancient texts and use it as proof that this religion or that one was divinely inspired because it describes modern science perfectly. For example, there are people who go around talking about the scientific miracles of the Quran and really all they are doing is what to me, it seems like you are doing- reading modern science into the text because you presume it contains modern science.

Many combinations of events that match the order of things perfectly could be generated to match the fuzzy description of the physical world that the ancient Israelites had. But if we read the text truly literally, and don’t superimpose the requirement that it’s secretly be describing modern science, we see a very ancient picture of the universe. That is a small flat geocentric Earth with a literal ocean above the dome of the firmament. The stars are little dots in the sky and so a third of them can literally fall to the Earth according to the author of the book of Revelation.

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True about what?

The bible is about God and faith. History and Science are both incidental.

It is people trying to read too much into Scripture that cause half the problems. Scripture is not about science. It might refer to some scientific areas like medicine but it is not a manual for science.

You wouldn’t expect a textbook on cooking to talk about God and faith, so why should a textbook of faith talk about science? The Bible is about our relationship with God. Yes, science is a part of creation but it is not part of the Bible.

Richard

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I agree with you that science and Genesis are not at odds. I don’t think it comes down as starkly to the author of Genesis (whether Moses or someone else) being “wrong” or “right” though. I think that if we can get outside of our Western, 21st century, scientific expectations, we might find that Genesis doesn’t need to explain science in order to be “right.” But at the same time, more power to those who choose to see God’s power revealed in Genesis in a way that doesn’t pit science and the Bible against each other – that is refreshing!

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I have downloaded Days of Proclamation and will give it a read soon. Hugh Ross has a lot of stuff on his website. How about pointing me to the most relevant? I’ll get back to you after I check out their stuff.

Prophesy is a different category than descriptions of future scientific discoveries based on completely unknown theories and technologies. And the ancient audience was certainly capable of comprehending prophesies about the promised Messiah and looking for his coming. No one was waiting for the discovery of relativity because of something the Bible taught. I don’t believe reading modern science into the text is ever a valid hermeneutic method.

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In my book I write "Buddhists have a saying: ‘The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.’ At best, language can point to facts, and facts can point to truth. But truth itself can only be known directly – that is, by the Holy Spirit. Science is about facts, but if you want to know whether I’m teaching truth, well, consult the Holy Spirit.

As others have stated I realize also that you’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about this and linking it to science. Most of us in here has also spent quite a bit of time thinking about genesis. For some of us, discussing genesis 1-11 makes up about 50% of my theological conversations with strangers and it’s almost redundant I feel. It’s almost always the same questions and answers just slightly altered every now and then.

So for me there are a few reasons why I’m not able to really consider your viewpoint as possible.

As mentioned a few times I just don’t see the point in Yahweh hiding secret science in the Bible about things they don’t even know exist such as the bulk of your interpretation and like Christy I consider it very different from prophecy that gets hinted at again and again and often hinted at directly by Yahweh. Such as Yahweh promising promising a messiah repeatedly and this promise being fine tuned through genealogies again and again. That’s very different from secrets of the stars and universe.

But the main reason why I find it problematic is that I don’t see the connections in scripture such as earth meaning universe and water meaning energy and so on. It’s just not there. I don’t think Genesis is a metaphor at all. I think it’s clearly written as a myth. Ancient Jewish people seemed to have really believed in a flat earth, dragons, and shield around the earth that kept water out. Now I don’t think they believed this because of genesis. I think they wrote it in genesis because it’s what they believed. I don’t think what they wrote was just their own words though. I think it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the point of genesis was not story about actual natural history but that it was written as a myth to convey multiple things such as a messiah, a enemy, sin, stewardship and who our god of gods is. That’s why genesis 1 and genesis 2 has very different accounts.

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The way a stopped clock is twice a day.

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