The Evolutionary Universe 1, Genesis Literalism 0

Question: Five days after the creation of the universe, were there whales?

Answer: Obviously not.

Why?

Because the earth was not here five days after the universe began. And, for that matter, it was not here a billion years after the universe began. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, but the universe is 13.7 billion years old. Whales and planet earth are latecomers to the universe.

I bring this up because Genesis 1, read literally, answers yes to the question of whether whales existed in the universe five days after it began. In Genesis 1, whales are said to have been created on the fifth day of the creation week.

Genesis 1, in other words, gets a fundamental truth about the universe wrong: we do not live in a static universe in which things have changed little (or not at all) since its beginning. Instead, over the past two centuries, scientists have discovered that we live in an evolutionary universe. If we could go back in time, the universe would look differently. The universe changes over time.

This is not a discovery that has anything to do with Charles Darwin in particular; it is not just biology’s discovery. It is a discovery of astronomy, physics, and geology as well. Even if the evolution of life and humans is removed from the evolutionary equation, astronomers, physicists, and geologists have discovered that the things that make up the universe evolve and have evolved, and that Genesis 1, read literally, is thus wrong.

And this gets to the real evolution problem for Genesis 1 believers: the problem of the evolutionary universe itself. To accept Genesis 1 literally is sometimes thought of as (primarily) just a rejection of a key theory of biology: Darwin’s origin of species by natural selection. Most Genesis 1 believers wouldn’t think of themselves as rejecting the broad conclusions of astronomy, physics, and geology as well. They might be anti-Darwinists, but they are not (to their minds) anti-science. But because the Genesis 1 story posits a static universe in which all the familiar objects of our universe, living and nonliving, are present from the first week of creation forward, to accept the story literally entails the rejection of the firm conclusions, not just of biology, but of physics, astronomy, and geology as well.

In short, all the key sciences touching upon the universe’s history have converged upon a startling conclusion that is contrary to Genesis 1: the universe, far from being static, has evolved in numerous ways over eons. Thus, if you’ve got a problem with the evolutionary universe (because you are trying to salvage biblical inerrancy), your quarrel cannot just be with Darwin. It’s with all of science.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to The Evolutionary Universe 1, Genesis Literalism 0

  1. Don’t you know that god is a tricky bastard? He made the universe to look old, although it is really only 6000 years old. And yes, whales did exist on day 5, because on day 5 the universe looked to be 13 billion years old.

  2. santitafarella says:

    What I’d like to see is the following question asked of the Republican presidential candidate field (during a debate): “Do you believe that, five days after the universe began, that there were whales in it? Please raise your hand if you believe this.”

    This question would drive the candidates off the fence regarding the evolution question. The real evolution question has always been whether we live in a static or evolutionary universe, but journalists, by asking the question wrong, give politicians too much weasel room. Asking the question this way would force their hand concerning how seriously they take science (and whether they can dare say the obvious in the presence of their fundamentalist base).

    To answer yes to the whale question is to, quite literally, dismiss all of science.

    —Santi

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