This is part of a series of notes in response to "Why I Became an Atheist" by John W. Loftus
Chapters Fourteen & Fifteen: Science and Genesis
This will be quite brief. Genesis is one of my current strongest objections to the Christian story. In my 7 months of searching thus far, there are few areas that I think can conclusively have the chance of being cornered in such a way that a decisive "true" or "false" answer can be compelling. As I have already stated several times, scripture, unanswered prayers, the problem of evil and many other avenues of discussion are quite frustrating because apologists can say approximately anything as long as it is not logically impossible. Impossible != probable, though.
The fall is one of the few areas where science intersects religious propositions enough to allow a more conclusive discussion, in my opinion, as there simply seem to be less shadows in which to hide. I have yet to encounter any remotely plausible scenario in which a fall of any sort (literal or figurative) took place. The following conditions seem to be required by most Christian propositions about the fall if evolution is true:
- A man had awareness of god's commands/rules and his parents had no such awareness
- A man had intimate and direct communication with god and his parents had no such communication
- A man had an immortal soul while his parents had no such soul
- If the above abilities occurred through evolution, we must believe:
- that the same mutation or aberration also occurred to one woman within the same lifetime
- that these two first humans were close enough geographically to meet and reproduce
- that their children also had the "human" mutation and the entire currently alive race of humans came from this single pair
- That both the human capacities (moral sense, ability to communicate with god, and immortal souls) and the tendency to sin resulting from the fall are both transmitted through sexual reproduction
- A man far in the distant past had enough mental capacity to comprehend god's commands and the resultant punishments for disobedience such that his transgression was sufficiently aware as to warrant the moral culpability of eternal damnation
I find the above extremely unlikely and have yet to hear any explanation other than "x, y, and z are the minimum we need to believe and thus we can simply trust that they are possible and that they happened." I have also heard propositions such that the "soul" was really just the development of higher intellect and consciousness. I don't see this as possible given that the soul is supposed to live on forever. Consciousness and intellect may well be simply functions of larger brains.
The order of creation also presents a problem, but again, perhaps not as large of one as one might think. The "shadow" of figurative language can always be used for muddying the waters. Only a few (see my post on D'Souza) seem to think the Bible confirms what science discovers. While the universe may "have a beginning", the order of creation is far from what one would expect. One of the most interesting parts of the chapter for me was John's listing of modern science vs. Genesis 1. He gives one line to the discrepancy between the order of the universe, earth, and other celestial forms, but I think it should be given more. Here is the order of Genesis 1:
- Heavens and the earth created, earth was formless, let there be light is decreed, and day/night are separated (first morning/evening occur)
- God separates "water from water" (?), putting the sky in between the water to separate the "water under the expanse" from the "water above it"
- God takes the water under the sky and separates it with land; vegetation is created
- Lights to separate day from night and differentiate seasons/days/years. Making of "two great lights", one for the day and one for the night (sun and moon). Making of the stars.
- Water creatures and birds
- Livestock and man
The overwhelming oddity here is the that the universe and earth are mentioned on the same day. While one might be tempted to say that the universe could have come first (13.7 billion years ago) and the earth later (4.5 billion years ago), one is met with an immense difficulty on Day 4: the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. The sun definitely surpasses the earth in age and most stars are between 1 and 10 billion years old.
This puts the order of creation near the impossible end of the spectrum when it comes to Genesis. The easiest out is to simply claim that Genesis is essentially figurative in its entirety. Yet the Catholic Church, for example requires that everyone must "confess the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing."
But from where does this belief arise? It seems that it arises from Genesis, supported later by philosophy. Or suppose that it was believed and then written down in what was supposed to be sacred text. But does Genesis pretend to add anything to the already existing questions of "why something rather than nothing"? Supposedly it was inspired by god, yet it offers nothing to the pool of information except falsehood. I see a thin thread upon which to hang a confirmation of the Bible's truth when it comes to Genesis. Essentially one must toss everything except that somehow it confirms creation ex nihilo… yet how that creative act transpired has been all but demolished.
 Vatican I, Canons on God the Creator of All Things, Canon 5
To Ch 16: Prophecy and Biblical Authority >>