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Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story

December 2001

To the Citizens of Kansas (along with those from Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, and a dozen other states contemplating the teaching of “Intelligent Design” creationism as a “balance” to the theory of evolution in public school science classes), I present you with a small literary sampling of how the opening chapters of Genesis will have to be revised to accommodate modern scientific theories and data. I call it Genesis Revisited.

In the beginning — specifically on October 23, 4004 B.C., at noon — out of quantum foam fluctuation God created the Big Bang. The bang was followed by cosmological inflation. God saw that the Big Bang was very big, too big for creatures that could worship him, so He created the earth. And darkness was upon the face of the deep, so He commanded hydrogen atoms (which He created out of Quarks and other subatomic goodies) to fuse and become helium atoms and in the process release energy in the form of light. And the light maker he called the sun, and the process He called fusion. And He saw the light was good because now He could see what he was doing. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be lots of fusion light makers in the sky. Some of these fusion makers appear to be more than 4,004 light years from Earth. In fact, some of the fusion makers He grouped into collections He called galaxies, and these appeared to be millions and even billions of light years from Earth, so He created “tired light” — light that slows down through space — so that the 4004 B.C. creation myth might be preserved. And created He many wondrous splendors, including Red Giants, White Dwarfs, Quasars, Pulsars, Nova and Supernova, Worm Holes, and even Black Holes out of which nothing can escape. But since God cannot be constrained by nothing (can God make a planet so big that he could not lift it?), He created Hawking radiation through which information can escape from Black Holes. This made God even more tired than tired light, and the evening and the morning were the second day.

And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the continents drift apart by plate tectonics. He decreed sea floor spreading would create zones of emergence, and He caused subduction zones to build mountains and cause earthquakes. In weak points in the crust God created volcanic islands, where the next day He would place organisms that were similar to but different from their relatives on the continents, so that still later created creatures called humans would mistake them for evolved descendants. And in the land God placed fossil fuels, natural gas, and other natural resources for humans to exploit, but not until after Day Six. And the evening and the morning were the third day.

And God saw that the land was lonely, so He created animals bearing their own kind, declaring Thou shalt not evolve into new species, and thy equilibrium shall not be punctuated. And God placed into the land’s strata, fossils that appeared older than 4004 B.C. And the sequence resembled descent with modification. And the evening and morning were the fourth day.

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, the fishes. And God created great whales whose skeletal structure and physiology were homologous with the land mammals he would create later that day. Since this caused confusion in the valley of the shadow of doubt God brought forth abundantly all creatures, great and small, declaring that microevolution was permitted, but not macroevolution. And God said, “Natura non facit saltum” — Nature shall not make leaps. And the evening and morning were the fifth day.

And God created the pongidids and hominids with 98 percent genetic similarity, naming two of them Adam and Eve, who were anatomically fully modern humans. In the book in which God explained how He did all this, in chapter one He said he created Adam and Eve together out of the dust at the same time, but in chapter two He said He created Adam first, then later created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. This caused further confusion in the valley of the shadow of doubt, so God created Bible scholars and theologians to argue the point.

And in the ground placed He in abundance teeth, jaws, skulls, and pelvises of transitional fossils from pre-Adamite creatures. One he chose as his special creation He named Lucy. And God realized this was confusing, so he created paleoanthropologists to sort it out. And just as He was finishing up the loose ends of the creation God realized that Adam’s immediate descendants who lived as farmers and herders would not understand inflationary cosmology, global general relativity, quantum mechanics, astrophysics, biochemistry, paleontology, population genetics, and evolutionary theory, so He created creation myths. But there were so many creation stories throughout the land that God realized this too was confusing, so he created anthropologists, folklorists, and mythologists to settle the issue.

By now the valley of the shadow of doubt was overrunneth with skepticism, so God became angry, so angry that God lost His temper and cursed the first humans, telling them to go forth and multiply (but not in those words). They took God literally and 6,000 years later there are six billion humans. And the evening and morning were the sixth day.

By now God was tired, so God said, “Thank me its Friday,” and He made the weekend. It was a good idea.

This article was originally published in Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition (Selected and Edited by Philip Appleman.) 2001. New York: W.W. Norton: 625–626.

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35 Comments to “Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story”

  1. Jim Dominic Says:

    Although we may point to complexity and diversity in nature as an argument against the notion of divine, special creation, complexity and diversity in nature are also used as arguments *for* divine, special creation.

  2. Mike B Says:

    Yes, some people use complexity and diversity in nature to support the idea of divine creation.
    These people do not understand the concept of evolution, speciation, or that the so called “argument from design” is a laughable piece of thoroughly discredited drivel.

  3. CSJ Says:

    I think I remember reading this somewhere in Why Darwin Matters.

  4. Dave Says:

    Wonderful!!

  5. Jim Says:

    This is my favorite passage in the whole book, its a well crafted satire that wrecks I.D.

  6. Kergillian Says:

    Oh, well, since you put it that way, I guess it all makes sense!

  7. sornord Says:

    Would love to present the above to any Bible-thumper or fundie minister. (A non-fundie would probably just say, “See? God works in mysterious ways and this proves it.”)

  8. Mayer Says:

    I enjoyed the passage but I can’t figure out why there is an assumption that if G-d created the world there would not be evidence of evolution. According to the dismissal of creation you must have an idea of what G-d’s creation would look like in order to know this is not it. What do you know about God and creating planets that makes you think evolution is not part of a divine plan?

  9. Kelbo Says:

    Hey Mayer, your question misses the point. Can you really make an argument from Genesis regarding evolution?

    Public schools have no business teaching creationism unless its in a religious studies course, which should give equal time to other religious traditions and their creation accounts.

    Evolutionary studies belong to the field of science.

    Don’t confuse the two.

  10. Neil McCabe Says:

    It’s really very simple although the ‘Intelligent Design’ crowd does not think so. Evolutionary biology is science and faith is philosophy. Two different subjects that should be taught in different venues. They both can and should be taught but…..talk about an apple and orange comparison. The empirical world and the spiritual world. How and why should they ever be in the same classroom anywhere? I’ll go ahead and answer. Because they both think it their job to disprove the other. But how can they? Non-overlapping Magisteria anyone?

  11. Kenn Says:

    What many secularist fail to recognize is that creationism follows two distinct philosophical lines: Young earth vs old earth.

    The 4004 BC date was set by James Ussher, an Irish gentleman with money and, consequently, time to spend plotting an Old Testament chronology. Creation, it turns out, occurred at sundown preceding 23 October. Ussher’s work was published in 1654. It was the immensely popular Scofield Bible that published the 4004 BC date in its footnotes that canonized the literal six day creation event in the collective psyche of fundamentalism.

    Old-earth creationists, astrophysicist Hugh Ross being a key contender, believe the creation days are not literal days at all but describe eras that fit with secular science. They don’t bulk at micro evolution and point to the Cambrian explosion as an example of a creation event. The first humans were created about 50,000 years ago.

    The point being: when scrapping with creationists, first inquire as to which branch of the Christian army they belong: New earth or old earth.

    google: Dr. Hugh Ross

  12. Fossil Fool Says:

    My cambrian exploded once…quite a life changing experience at the time. Thanks to the advanced evolution of our founding fathers collective intellects, we now enjoy the fruits of their wisdom, ie: separation of church and state. Without this legal protection from reason suspended, the development and acceptance of scientific answers to our deepest questions would have most certainly been punitively curtailed. Imagine school age students being asked to close their chemistry books and open their alchemy texts.

  13. Matt Vessey Says:

    I find this quite amusing (“a”musing means to not think, btw) because you act like you guys were there at the beginning. Children enjoy stories like when the Princess kissed the frog and it turned into a Prince. Silly you say?According to evolution prince charming may have been a frog at one point. Oh, of course…just add millions of years. I will personally offer anybody who has *emperical* evidence for macro evolution $250,000. You may email me at mattvessey@att.net with your evidence and I will review. Don’t give up your chance to get rich.

  14. Paulie Says:

    I know of no evolutionist that believes any frog could possibly live millions of years and then turn into a Prince. This is what separates a thinker from people who will actually BELIEVE a children’s book, even if it’s called a “Bible”.

    By the way, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, amuse means more like “cause to think”

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=amuse

    amuse
    1480, from M.Fr. amuser “divert, cause to muse,” from à “at, to” (but here probably a causal prefix) + muser “ponder, stare fixedly.” Sense of “divert from serious business, tickle the fancy of” is recorded from 1631, but through 18c. the primary meaning was “deceive, cheat” by first occupying the attention. Bemuse retains more of the original meaning. Amusement “a pastime, play, game, etc.” is first recorded 1673, originally depreciative. Amusement park is first recorded 1909. Amusing is noted late 1920s as a vogue word.

  15. JesusFreak Says:

    The weekend is indeed a good idea. Thanks, God!

  16. Mike Says:

    “What many secularist fail to recognize is that creationism follows two distinct philosophical lines: Young earth vs old earth.”

    Ok, but doesn’t it go without saying that this article only addresses new earth Creationism? Why would you bother pointing out this distinction if the essay doesn’t make an references to old earth Creationism?

  17. The Portable Atheist - Some Internet Sources « Breaking Spells Says:

    […] 32. Michael Shermer, Genesis Revisited: A Scientific Creation Story […]

  18. Kay Says:

    …telling them to go forth and multiply (but not in those words).

    This is lovely, really. I’m memorizing this for my speech class. And to use against my dear {but Mormon} friend.

  19. earthmuse Says:

    I.D. are the first 2 letters in
    the word Idiot…

    (grins evilly)

    From Monty Python & the Most Holiest of Grails…

    Arthur: Consult the Book of Armaments!
    Brother Maynard: Armaments, chapter two, verses nine to twenty-one.
    Cleric: And Saint Attila raised the Hand Grenade up on high, saying, ‘O Lord, bless this Thy Hand Grenade that, with it, Thou mayest blow Thine enemies into tiny pieces… in Thy mercy.’
    And the Lord did grin, and the people did feast upon the lambs, and sloths, and carp, and anchovies, and orangutans, and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats, and large chu —
    Brother Maynard: Skip a bit, Brother.
    Cleric: And the Lord spake, saying, ‘First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then, shalt thou count to three. No more. No less. Three shalt be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once at the number three, being the third number be reached, then, lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.’
    Brother Maynard: Amen.

  20. Jim Says:

    Sounds like a bunch of school kids trying to one up the other. The idea of evolution alone is problematic as well. Regardless of what you believe, its obvious that animals and Humans physiology can adapt to dramatic changes in the their environment. Duh! That doesn’t prove evolution or disprove I.D. Be Objective! There is no more proof for evolution than I.D.. At least be honest with the evidence. It also takes a great leap of faith to believe in pure evolution.

    For instance, The Second Law of Thermodynamics refers to the universal tendency for things, on their own, to “mix” with their surrounding environment over time, becoming less ordered and eventually reaching a steady-state. A glass of hot water becomes room temperature, buildings decay into rubble, and the stars will eventually burn out leading to the “heat death” of the universe. However, the evolutionary scenario proposes that over time things, on their own, became more ordered and structured.
    The “Cambrian Explosion” in the “primordial strata” documents the geologically rapid appearance of most major groups of complex animals. There is no evidence of evolution from simpler forms.
    NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) has taken the best measurement of the age of the Universe to date. According to highly accurate observations, scientists now have the best estimate yet on the age of the Universe: 13.73 billion years.( How do they know this is the best estimate? How do they know the observations are highly accurate?) Its a guess at best. Just because I can only see 40 miles through my telescope, doesn’t mean theres nothing beyond that.
    If Evolutionists really want to be as objective as they claim from a scientific viewpoint, they also have to admit evolutions short comings.
    Once we get to that point. Then the ‘Objective’ discussions can really begin.

  21. Amy Says:

    Jim, my understanding is that the Second Law of Thermodynamics applies to closed, isolated systems. Organisms are open systems exchanging material and energy with their surroundings…shown by my toddler’s growth chart and the budding leaves outside my window. In fact, put your glass of hot water on top of my car in August and it won’t become room temperature and where I live, it won’t take long for mosquitoes to breed in it.

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  25. Kyle Says:

    One cannot prove that god does or does not exist. Thus, creating a theory of the creation of the universe (an idea in itself that cannot be proven) based upon the possibility of god, a divine being that no one can prove to exist, is absolutely ridiculous. It’s almost as though you grabbed a completely random idea out of the air and insisted it was true for the entirety of your- oh… wait.

  26. Bob Stichter Says:

    SIX DAY CREATION?

    Why do so many christians accept the Bible’s words about a six day creation, as being a literal six day creation [that surely doesn’t matter when it comes to “genuine salvation”], while they refuse to believe some biblical scriptures as meaning what they say [that do matter for “salvation”]?

    Bob Stichter
    Milford, IN

  27. Allen Glassford Says:

    How could anyone believe such BS, you write like God is a man. I believe in the creator of all, our god?? no one even knows, God or whatever is too busy to even think about humans, let alone each human and God or whatever doesn’t think down at our human level!!! You would think he’s or whatever would be a little smarter than that. I don’t think we were created in God’s image either, tell me why would he or whatever, need eyes, nose, ears,head or anything like humans. All that is just someone’s imagination, ya like God or whatever, doesn’t look like humans and we don’t look like him, or her, or it, or whatever!!!

  28. Allen Glassford Says:

    I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God or whatever, just something written by some very clever none humans to scam us humans. The story about the Virgin Merry, is about the dumbest story I ever heard, everyone that doesn’t believe is going to Hell??? Well if there even was a hell (another scam)there would be only standing room, if that.:-) I think most humans believe this dream only to make themselves feel better and not to fear death, well I’m ready anytime, I’d just miss my three sons. I would never even want to live to be a 100 years old, for what??? Just to put off dying??? you can’t do anything at that age, you look like death warmed over!! No thanks it’s not for me!!!

  29. Allen Glassford Says:

    We evolved from Apes, maybe, but not without some kind of intervention, from some other kind of life form of a different realm or dimension. We are not alone in the Universe and I’m sure close to the bottom of the intelligence quotient!!! Maybe,it wasn’t an Ape, but a cave man or better yet a cave woman and Adam was a test tube baby.

  30. Allen Glassford Says:

    You can take your finger nail and make a scratch on a big table and the scratch represents everything we know and the rest of the table represents what we don’t know, which is almost everything. I believe time travel is possible, also moving faster than the speed of light, our scientist just don’t know how, so they think both are impossible, well the same thing thing they thought about flying in the past. OK,chew on this awhile, our Moon is artificial and hollow inside, NASA already knows that, but who built the Moon??? Whoever it was they built the Moon, so it would make the Earth a satisfactory planet for human life or any life to live.

  31. Vahan Setyan Says:

    An ingenious summary creationism. Actually it is an elementary lesson to the theists who actually resume with the strong notion that society itself is still primitive in nature. Excellent work Dr. Shermer.

  32. justin Says:

    god said let us create man in OUR image. im thinking our implies that its more then one person. i think its a better shot to think we are not originally from earth but from another part of space for unknown reasons of our genuine past that could be alot longer then we think or that another race had genetically altered our dna as primitive species to enable us to gain knowledge, kinda like a snowball effect. take a look at the ancient astronaut theory, pretty solid thinking if you ask me, i think scientific people have a better chance understanding it then these hardcore religious people that insist we were created, there is not one supernatural thing in the bible that can not be explained in a scientific way. for example the virgin mary giving birth could be described as artificial insemination, or noahs arc to be a dna bank of species. watever it is i find it easier to believe scientifically, which is why the vatican admitted there could be life in space, not because it has anything to do with god, because if we had found hard proof of life in space before they had admitted it, itd be game over for them. what gets me is how they stated it like “intelligent beings created by God could exist in outer space”. so now if science proves that life exists out there, they’ll try to make everyone believe they were gods creations too. and if people still buy that shit, then not the whole human species would not be considered “intelligent life”,

  33. Kristin Roberts Says:

    This will be my kids bedtime story tonight. I would love to illustrate the tale as it told here. *kristin*

  34. MH Says:

    god said, “let there be evolution and lots of other cool natural processes;” then she went to get her nails done.

  35. Prince Says:

    I do have a question,.. that may be a bit off in subject, but out of the severals bibles I’ve opened, I couldn’t help notice, and it clearly states “and god placed adam in a deep slee, then god removed a rib from adams inner, god then closed the womb in which he removed the rib from, then god brough the woman to the man. My question is,…why dosen’t it say when god awakened adam “he brought the woman to the man”.