Returning to the conversation, after a weekend spent violating the Third and Sixth commandments (as well as some of the dietary laws set down in Leviticus), the conversation continues...
Originally Posted by DNMakinson
For the 1st group: the primary issue is often Young Earth vs Old Universe, evolution being an issue in that it requires the Old Universe. A literal interpretation of Gen 1-6 requires for them a Young Earth. This is based on the concept that Christ and Paul both quote and refer to Gen 1-6, and further requires that it be literally interpreted, wholly true, or else one must reject the Christian faith outright.
This is a good point, and one which I sometimes forget on account of its complete absurdity, despite the fact that my mother is a biblical literalist. I'm going to diverge a bit into analysis of scripture itself (even though I said I wouldn't) because it's important to have some background.
What I find quite interesting about this argument is that the book of Genesis actually contains two entirely separate accounts of creation. The first is the one which most people are familiar with, starting out "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth..."
and going on to describe various acts of subsequent creation taking place over a six day timeframe. (Gen 1:1-31)
Turning the page, however, there is a second telling of the creation story in Gen 2:4-23. This account differs greatly from the first not only in the tone and style of writing, but in the "facts" presented, specifically the order of events.
The first account breaks out creation such that one significant event happens on each consecutive day, as follows:
- Big Bang.
- Earth cools, atmosphere forms.
- Continents appear, plant life forms.
- Dust and fallout settle, atmosphere becomes clear enough to see the night sky through.
- Marine and avian life form.
- Mammals appear, culminating in homo sapiens.
The second account, by comparison, reads not so much like an instruction manual as a fireside fable. It breaks down creation not by day, but rather meanders through the process in a sort of poetic tone, pointing out major milestones along the way. What's really important, however, is that it lays out specific events in a different order
than the first account. Man before animals, for instance. Man before woman, vs both at the same time. Man before plant life (?!) vs. after. And so on...
Now, scholars have debated these points to death for centuries, and there's little incentive for me to continue that analysis. While I'd love to have been a fly on the wall to hear this debate at the First Council of Nicaea which, in 325 AD under the commission of Roman Emperor Constantine, pieced together all the little scraps of ancient manuscript into a "coherent" text which we today recognize as the modern Christian bible, that's clearly a moot point.
The best explanation which I have heard for this is also the simplest. That what we have here are simply two different transcriptions of a story whose origin comes from a pre-literate society, passed down over thousands of years through oral tradition until fixed in stone (literally) by two very different cultures in two very different languages.
Now, that having been said, it becomes impossible to state that every single word in the entire bible is literally true. It simply cannot be the case, nor would we EXPECT it to be, given that no autographic sources for any of the Old Testament exist. If we presuppose an extant, underlying faith in the fundamental concepts of Christianity, then we must view the Bible as being ALLEGORICAL
Where did the six-day model come from? Who knows- no person was standing there watching the universe being created and writing it all down in real-time. Perhaps whoever wrote down what we know as Genesis 1 heard the story told over the course of six nights sitting around a campfire in his ancient village. Perhaps whoever originated the story in pre-historic times received it in the form of Divine Revelation from God (eg: while hallucinating a burning bush on top of a mountain) over a period of six days. These are all just guesses (which I hesitate to even write, for fear that z31maniac will latch on and start critiquing them rather than the larger argument)
and in the end, it doesn't matter at all.
What matters is that since Gen 1 and Gen 2 contain material which is even trivially and superficially inconsistent, it becomes not mere unnecessary but unreasonable to require a strict, literal interpretation of either.
As such, I cannot accept the argument that a "Young Earth" is necessary to a Creationist model of the origin of life, nor that the notion of an "Old Universe" (as is generally held to be necessary by ALL branches of modern science, from Astronomy to Zoology)
is in any was incompatible with Creationist doctrine.
And THAT, in case it was unclear earlier, is why Darwinian Evolution and Biblical Creationism are not inherently incompatible ideas.