The Genesis Enigma – A scientific approach to the origins of life and the universe

When I was in Sydney a few months back I picked up a book at the airport to read on my flight home entitled “The Genesis Enigma – Why The Bible Is Scientifically Accurate”. I was surprised to find what at first I considered to be a creationist book in the popular science section of an airport bookshop. Furthermore the book is written by Dr Andrew Parker an Honorary Research Fellow of Green Templeton College at Oxford University, Research Leader at the Natural History Museum and a Professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University none of which are the typical credentials of a creationist.

The book takes a very different approach from most books on God, science and the origins of the universe. The typical approach is to use the bible as a literal roadmap of creation and then tweak the science to make it fit the bible stories. However, Parker takes the opposite approach in The Genesis Enigma by outlining the science of the origins of the universe and life and then tests if the bible can line up with this. Surprisingly with a little less literal interpretation of the bible it does.

The main thesis of the book is:

  • The bible is a historically accurate record of people and events.
  • The six days of creation are not a literal six days but instead refer to the order in which science now reveals the universal comes into being. Something that no one writing a religious book a few thousand years ago would have been able to know, or understand unless the knowledge came through divine intervention.
  • The evolution is an undisputable scientific fact. However atheism is not a fact or theory it is as much a religion as any other faith based religious belief.
  • There is more to life and God than just science. And science cannot explain everything in the world. Science is not the be all and end all of explaining the meaning and purpose of life.

Overall the main ideas in the book make a lot of sense and while I do not necessarily agree with all of them it has provoked my intellectual thought around the subject. The end of the book also finishes with a discussion of intelligent design and atheism which is very interesting independent of the rest of the book. In particular:

“One’s reaction to the science versus religion debate is a very personal choice. Do you believe that science will take such huge steps, changing the way in which it works today, as to be able to answer those big questions in the universe? Or do you choose God? To borrow from C. S. Lewis, do you believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, or that there is a great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest? Creationism and atheism are neither scientific theories nor demonstrably true. If we do not allow them to cloud our judgement then God can appear as a rational answer as to why we exist on earth.”

Furthermore Parker makes a very strong case for divine intervention in the authorship of the bible by stating:

“That Aaronid priest who wrote the Bible’s first page, or Moses who may have given the ancient Israelites their creation account originally, lacked any interest in natural history. Although demonstrating attention to detail in other subjects – geography, politics, economics, law – this Aaronid priest and the character Moses, provide us with no signs of biological inclination. The scientific method, necessary to decipher the true account of how the universe formed and life evolved, with its repeatable experiments, was yet to manifest itself. The ancient Israelites were not conducting scientific experiments in their sheds – if they were, they would have written about it, as they did about everything else they did. The writer of the Bible’s first page simply roamed the desert or traversed the dusty streets of ancient Jerusalem during the day, and marvelled at the stars at night. He was without so much as a magnifying lens.

Indeed, the history books tell us that science and natural history began some centuries later with the ancient Greeks, who were influenced by very different natural surroundings. So, in terms of providing an explanation for how the universe and life came to be, the Aaronid priest given this task, or the character Moses, would not have had a clue. All the same, something was written. And it made its way to pride of place in the Bible.

As such, unprovided with evidence of any kind, the creation account on the Bible’s opening page might be assumed a fantasy. But the Genesis Enigma has told us that those enigmatic phases that ignite the Bible actually mean something – they are scientifically accurate. That would be an outrageous assertion, were it not true. The conclusion that this page of the Bible could, perhaps more than any other, represent God’s hand in the Bible. The true account of how we came to exist may have been handed to humans by God.

In any case, our strong preconception that science has, with each discovery chipped away at the notion of God is proved wrong in this book. Now we can live with the real possibility that God exists while fully accepting the science, rather than straining to find contradictions. Faith suddenly appears that much stronger.”

Now as I stated earlier I do not necessary accept or agree with everything Parker has outlined in his book.  The remaining question for me is that if God is able to put in places the rules that govern the universe that make evolution work on both a small scale (as now commonly accepted by most creationists) and a large scale (as Parker and most of the secular scientific world believes) then why does God just stop there? If God can do all this stuff that makes the world tick over then why can he not decide to play with the rules and create a literal six day creation as well? It is not designed to make us confused about how old the world is, but rather to demonstrate that God ultimately has the power to influence and change the universe. It is about demonstrating that God is in control and not science.

After reading the book and pondering some of the ideas raised in it I went back and read some of the creationism based “science” that I had blindly followed from a few years ago. What I have discovered is that by arguing that evolution is nothing more than a myth and controlled “brainwashing” people they are essentially doing the same thing with “creationism”. Statements such as “long years of educational brainwashing in the mythology of evolutionary theory “ plant ideas in the minds of people that they have been brainwashed, ironically by planting these ideas creationists are doing nothing more than the same thing! Furthermore, the contradictions in their arguments and statements just scream this out.

For instance Chuck Missler who is well known for his Bible commentary and in particular his study on Daniel’s 70 weeks where he shows they are not a literal 70 weeks but weeks of years states here: http://www.khouse.org/articles/2004/528/ that the earth was created in six literal days because the bible says so. However, the bible does not directly say Daniel had 70 weeks of years, no it just says 70 weeks. So how do you determine when there is a literal meaning and where there is not? Furthermore Missler shoots himself in the foot in another article on the site where he argues there is a gap between God creating the heavens and the earth and the actual six day creation: http://www.khouse.org/articles/2008/821/ this makes no sense because now in one place he is arguing in an absolute six day creation, and another he argues there is a gap. What one is it?

Or for instance the finding of a city under the Black Sea as evidence for a worldwide flood http://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/299/ when anyone with any knowledge of geology would brush this off as evidence of the plates of the earth shifting and changing over the years. This is not to say that the ideas of intelligent design are completely dead in the water Kent Hovind poses some good questions that have still not be fully answered by science, in particular:

  • Without a creator how did time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves?
  • How and why did matter create life by itself?
  • How and why did early life-forms learn to reproduce themselves?
  • How and why did major changes occur between diverse life forms (i.e., fish changed to amphibians, amphibians changed to reptiles, and reptiles changed to birds or mammals).

The biggest problem with creationism is the way in which they throw out solid science and replace it with arguments that the Bible says this happened so it must be true. This would be the same as arguing the world is made of the Greek Classical Elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Aether) because this is what was written on Greek tablets a few thousand years ago. The reality is the stories written in the Bible were written firstly for the understanding of the people who lived at the time the stories were written. Yes the Bible and the stories in it still have a huge amount of relevance today, however, we cannot take every single word as literal because the very first thing we would be worshipping is a lamb and not a person who lived 2000 years ago.