The Science of Genesis
Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament Bible, is a monumental work first recorded in either 1290 or 1440 B.C. enshrining an oral tradition dating from the time of Abraham around 2000 B.C. . For the first time in human history, this simple treatise struck a spark igniting the torch of reason to answer questions of origin and purpose. And it is this light which has led us out of the darkness of superstition and magical thinking and into the daylight of reason and modern science. And so in no little accomplishment, Genesis formed the basis for the world’s first scientific revolution.
When Genesis proclaimed God created the cosmos, this was a polemic against the worship of inscrutable forces of nature rather than their creator. When Genesis professed the existence of only one God rather than many, this recognized an orderly cosmos unburdened by conflicting and whimsical forces governing it. When Genesis gave man dominion over the earth to include all the animals contained therein, this was a condemnation of the worship of gods in the form of animals. When Genesis asserted that man was created in the image of God, this elevated man above nature and affirmed his ability to exercise stewardship over God’s creation rather than being entirely at the mercy of unknowable magical forces . When Genesis said the world was created from nothing (ex nihilo) creating space and matter and time, this removed the logical difficulty of infinite regression in which an ordered world would already have decayed to a lowest energy state.
These simple concepts created a unique model of the physical universe which is well-ordered, consistent, and knowable subject to human observation and reason. And so at the dawn of civilization, only Genesis was able to demote nature to be free of consciousness and intent while at the same time elevating it to be orderly and free of chaotic and unfathomable karma. The result of which was no less than the creation of the scientific method and, in fits and starts, all of its technological wonders.
Unfortunately in their zeal to deny the authority of the Catholic Church, Protestant fundamentalists substitute novel and nitpicking interpretations of the Bible reversing more than a millennia of understanding and practice. They substitute the word of man, in the form of firebrands seeking personal power and glory, for that of God, and the moral beauty of this message. For the first 3500 years before Protestants, the Judeo-Christian tradition, unlike all others, held that its sacred text, the Bible, is inspired but not dictated. And this tradition is maintained by the Catholic Christian Church which asserts we should not confuse allegory with strict reporting or substitute form for substance and so lose sight of the moral message and the consequent invention of the scientific method.
This is because while the Bible necessarily touches tangentially on cosmological issues, it is primarily a collection of moral lessons. Because of our God-like qualities of self-awareness and free will, Genesis also ascribed to mankind a moral component teaching those choices and behaviors best suited to both make us happy and harmoniously united with God. And these are truths that everyone recognizes in any honest examination of conscience. Unfortunately most Protestants lacking the scholarship and objectivity of the Catholic Magisterium twist the passages in Genesis so as to defy not only the historical record but common sense and clear scientific understanding as well.
But as to the thankfully small minority of fundamentalist Christians, we would recommend St. Augustine’s (354-430 A.D., Catholic Bishop of Hippo), commentary on Genesis which actually formed the basis for the first scientific revolution, a quote  from which is
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.
Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”
Strictly speaking, secondary Causation is the philosophical proposition that all material and corporeal objects, having been created by God with their own intrinsic potentialities, are subsequently empowered to evolve independently in accordance with natural law. This was a primary theme of the book of Genesis. Jews and Christians would slightly modify this injunction to allow for the occasional miracle as well as the exercise of free will. This was further molded into the philosophy of the Western Tradition by St. Augustine, Catholic Bishop of Hippo, and St. Thomas Aquinas, who was ordained into the Dominican order of the Catholic Church.
Secondary causation is a necessary precursor for scientific inquiry into an established order of natural laws which are not entirely predicated on the changeable whims of a supernatural Being. To be certain, Christians believe God is the not just the creator but the conservator of natural law. But in stark contrast to all other religions of the world, the Judeo-Christian God made a convenient with man and granted him dominion over an orderly world subject to consistent natural laws that he can understand. Accordingly this does not create a conflict between science and religion for, given a Creator, it is not inconsistent with the paradigm of a clockwork universe. It does however remove logical contradictions concerning the unfettered expression of man’s free will which would otherwise require not just God’s acquiescence but rather His direct intervention to implement.
A ONE TIME CREATION EVENT
In every other creation myth, timeless and formless chaotic forces without structure or reason magically gave rise to the first particles of the cosmos.
There are only two possibilities for the nature of the universe. Either the world has existed forever or it has not.
All of our observations indicate the universe was “created” in a “Big Bang” some 13.7 billion years ago. The observational evidence includes
1. The universe is now getting bigger and so it must have been smaller in the past. We see all our neighboring galaxies “red-shifted” or receding from us in direct proportion to their apparent distance. The observation of a uniform Doppler shift implies a beginning.
2. Einstein’s model of the universe as described in this theory General Relativity predicts the universe evolved from a single point without dimension at a specific time in the past. This was discovered by Georges Lemaître an ordained a Belgian Catholic Priest.
3. The universal abundance of elements, mostly hydrogen (75%), helium (25%) with trace amounts of lithium, is precisely explained by an expanding universe that was initially very hot and very dense. Indeed when the temperature of the initial fireball had dropped to the range of 109-4x108 degrees Kelvin from 10 seconds to 20 minutes after its creation, all atoms were synthesized. Interestingly these calculations are independent of earlier conditions and well understood from the constants of nuclear binding energies observed on much smaller scales in high energy colliders. That the calculations exactly match observations of the heavens, it strong evidence for a “big bang”. Note that the absence of stable nuclei having 5 or 8 nucleons means that any higher elements would have only undetectable, if any, concentrations.
4. Everywhere we look, we see a uniform sea of microwave radiation at a temperature of about 2.7 degrees Kelvin. And more than that, this radiation precisely follows the predictions of a black body radiator. This is explainable only by a universe that obeys the “standard model” of quantum mechanics and is consistent with a moment of creation in a “Big Bang.”
5. Our models of stellar evolution note that the oldest stars we can observe are no older than 13.7 billion years. Likewise our models of galactic evolution as evidenced by the large scale structure of the universe are only consistent with the “Big Bang” as well.
Other considerations lead us to believe that our universe is physically finite but unbounded. And further that our universe, of necessity, must be finite in time as well.
In addition, everything we understand about modern science demands the creation of the universe was a ONE TIME EVENT. Endless cycles are completely at variance with one of the most fundamental precepts of modern science, namely entropy from the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Logically, time must also have begun at the “Big Bang” and have been meaningless or non-existent previously.
No interpretation of quantum mechanics, EXCEPT FOR THE STANDARD MODEL, is mathematically consistent and no interpretation actually predicts what we observe in our many physics experiments. And only the standard model is consistent with a one-time ex-nihilo creation event.
If the universe began at the “Big Bang”, then it could not have been caused by any natural laws but had to have been created by some super-natural agency. This overwhelmingly implies a “Creator” who acted with purpose.
THE CREATION OF MAN IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
We are of this world and not of this world. Our consciousness is grounded in our bodies but soars above them.
When we contemplate our place in the universe, we are necessarily humbled by the relative scale of things. We may be insignificant grains of dust but we are not nothing. Along among the stars and planets and oceans and rocks, and even the animals, we know we exist. And that spark, fleeting and transient as it Is, makes all the difference.
1. “Genesis”, attributed to Moses 1440 B.C. or 1290 B.C. originally in Hebrew but translated into Greek in the Septuagint in Alexandra, Egypt about 285 B.C. and later into Latin by St. Jerome in 382 A.D. at the request of the Catholic Pope Damasus I; and since then into all the languages of the world.
2. “The Believing Scientist”, Stephen M. Barr, published by William B. Eerdmans (2016).
3. St. Augustine, Catholic Bishop of Hippo,