Is Genesis Scientifically Accurate?


Many creationists make the claim that the order and timing of the events described in Genesis are scientifically accurate, and thus could only be the result of divine knowledge. The most vociferous proponents of this argument are the Jehovah's Witnesses, in their booklet "Life: How Did It Get Here?". Are the creationists right? Is Genesis accurate in the order and timing of the events it describes? Is Genesis a historical narrative that accurately describes the appearence of life? A cursory examination shows that it is not. To see why, let's go through the creation accounts verse by verse.


Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth".


There are some questions about this translation. The original Hebrew word usually translated as "God" here is elohim, which is actually the plural form. Literally, this verse reads, "in the beginning, the GODS created the heavens and the earth." This is one of several places in the Bible where God is referred to in the plural. Biblical scholars conclude that these fragments are left over from an early part of Hebrew history when the Jewish religion was, like every other religion on earth at the time, polytheistic, with more than one god. During this time, the god Yahweh was a storm god, one of many others.


There is also some dispute about the words. An alternate translation has this verse as "When god began to create the heavens and the earth".


This verse implies that the "heavens and the earth" were created more or less at the same time. Scientifically, we know that the "heavens", that is, space, appeared billions of years before the earth ever appeared. The sun is at least a "third generation" star, which formed from condensed gas clouds made up of remnants of at least two supernovae from previous stars.


2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.


The early universe was not "dark". We know from quantum mechanics that the earliest universe was a sea of quarks, followed shortly after by a sea of free nucleons and photons. Until the era of "decoupling", about 300,000 years after the formation of the universe, the entire universe was as bright throughout as the surface of the sun is today.


The verse refers to "the face of the waters". If this verse refers to the waters on earth, such as the ocean, it is completely wrong. The early earth had no ocean. It was not until millions of years of accretion had built up the planet that liquid water began to form, both from volcanic outgassing and from the impacts of comets attracted by the gravity of the earth.


However, most Biblical scholars believe that the "waters" referred to here are those in heaven, from which rain comes. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Genesis account later describes how these "waters" were divided from those of earth by a wall, with one portion of these divided waters forming the oceans.


But we know from science that the early universe did not have any liquid water. None at all. Not even any water molecules. In fact, for a period of several hundred thousand years, it did not have any molecules of any sort. The Genesis description of water above the "firmament" is simply wrong.


3: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.


This verse has the formation of light occuring only AFTER the "waters" and the earth already existed. As noted above, this is simply wrong. The entire universe was brightly lit for its first 300,000 years of existence, billions of years before the earth came into being.


4: And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.


This verse betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of "light", one that was common to the pre-industrial peoples who wrote the Bible. During these times, it was believed that "darkness" was an element separate and distinct from "light" (see, for example, Amos 5:8, which declares that God "maketh the day dark with night"). This of course is simply not true. Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light. One can no more "separate" light from darkness than one can separate "left" from "right" or "up" from "down".


5: And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.


Notice here that there is no Sun yet, it not having yet been created. This account is thus contradicted by science on several grounds. Since a "day" is itself based on the earth's rotation near the Sun, there could have been no "day" until AFTER the sun appeared. Nor is there any cosmic source of "day light" other than the sun. Scientifically, we know that the sun actually condensed first, and was already burning nuclear fuel when the earth first began to appreciably accrete. The Genesis account, which has the earth and the "waters" formed before the Sun, is simply wrong.


6: And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7: And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

8: And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.


The word "firmament" refers to a hard, clear wall or divider. It refers to the ancient belief that the stars and planets were held in the sky by a huge transparent wall or roof. The "waters above" the firmament were presumed to be huge reservoirs of water in the sky, from which, it was presumed in ancient times, rain came through holes in the firmament. This is referred to during the Flood story by Genesis 7:11, which says "the windows of heaven were opened", and also in Genesis 8:2, which says "the windows of heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained". It is also referred to by other verses in the Bible like Acts 14:17, where God "gave us rain from heaven", Deuteronomy 11:11, which says "But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven", Deuteronomy 11:17, which says "And then the LORD's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain", Deuteronomy 28:12, which says "The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season", Isaiah 55:10, which says "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud", and Revelations 11:6, which says "These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy".


Needless to say, there is no "firmament" that holds rainwater or stars up in the sky. The ancient writers of the Bible, having no knowledge or understanding of "gravity", simply postulated that this hard clear sphere MUST be there, or else the stars and planets would all fall down, and that the "firmament" must have "windows" to let the rain through. They were wrong.


9: And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

10: And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.


According to the Genesis account, the oceans come from water that was already existing when the earth was formed-----the "waters above" and "the waters below". From the description given, it appears that the Genesis writers assumed that the entire earth was covered with water ("the waters below"), and that the dry land was formed by moving all that water to specific locations to form the oceans. Scientifically, we know this to be untrue. There has never been a time in earth's history when its surface was covered with water. In fact, the early earth had no liquid water at all on its surface. It wasn't until millions of years after it accreted that the earth began accumulating water, in the form of volcanic outgassing and impacts of ice comets.


11: And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

12: And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

13: And the evening and the morning were the third day.


According to the Genesis account, the first living things to be created were grasses and plants, and they lived on land. Scientifically, this is untrue. For the first three billion years of its existence, all life, both animal and plant, was entirely aquatic and lived in the sea. The land area was sterile and had no life. During this period, all life consisted of single-celled prokaryotes that were not grasses, not herbs, and not even plants. The Biblical account that has grasses appearing at the same time, or shortly before, fruit trees is also incorrect. Flowering plants, or angiosperms, appeared during the Cretaceous period, just before the extinction of the dinosaurs, and before any grasses appeared. As far as grasses, they weren't even remotely the first forms of life---grasses didn't appear until the early Tertiary period, well after the extinction of the dinosaurs. They are actually one of the LAST major groups of plants to have formed. The Genesis writer's idea that plants appeared before animals is also simply wrong----we know from the fossil record that multicellular animals appeared first. The Genesis account gets all of this wrong.


Note here too that the Sun hadn't been created yet. . . . Plants, of course, cannot live without photosynthesis using sunlight. The Biblical idea that plants could have appeared before the Sun appeared simply reflects their lack of knowledge about the most basic biology of plants.


14: And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:

15: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.

16: And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

17: And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,

18: And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.

19: And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.


Lots of problems here . . . .


According to the Genesis account, no heavenly bodies were created until this, the "fourth day". Yet the same account has "day" and "night" appearing on the FIRST day. This is simply impossible, since "day" and "night" are defined according to the earth's relationship to other heavenly bodies. There could not have been any "day" or "night" without a Sun for the earth to rotate near.


The "lights of the firmament" refer to stars and planets. As pointed out earlier, ancient peoples believed that the stars were held up by a clear invisible roof in the sky, the "firmament". Scientifially, we know that the firmament does not exist. We also know that, contrary to the Genesis account, these stars existed for billions of years before the earth (or even our own Sun) ever existed. The biblical account that has the stars forming after the earth did is simply wrong.


Note also that this narration has the lights of the firmament being formed to "give light to the earth". This, of course, had already been done way back in verses 3 and 4, on the first "day". We also see a reference here to "dividing the light from darkness", which had also already been done, in verses 4 and 5. There are in fact several instances where the creation narrative gives two different times for the occurence of certain events. This leads Biblical scholars to conclude that, not only is the creation narrative in the first chapter of Genesis from a different source than the creation narrative in the second chapter (which contradict each other in several ways), but the narrative in the first chapter is itself a compilation of several different narratives which contradict each other.


Note also that the Genesis account has the sun and moon both being formed at the same time, and has both being placed on the same "firmament" that holds up the stars. This reflects the ancient belief that the "crystal spheres" of the "firmament" --including the ones that carried the sun and moon---revolved around the earth. In other words, the Biblical account concludes, as did all ancient cultures, that the earth was at the center of the universe, and that the sun, moon and all the stars were carried around the earth by a transparent wall in the sky. Scientifically, we know this is silly.


Scientifically, we also know that the sun and moon were not formed at the same time, as the biblical writer states. The sun already existed when the earth accreted. The moon didn't exist for about a billion years after the earth had already formed. In fact, from geological evidence we know that the moon was itself formed by the debris from the impact of a large body with the already-formed earth---this impact debris accreting to form the moon. The Genesis account here is simply wrong.


Another problem: according to this account, the moon is itself a source of light, and shines under its own power. This is further reinforced in Isaiah 13:10, which says "For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.", and in Ezekiel 32:7, which says "And when I shall put thee out, I will cover the heaven, and make the stars thereof dark; I will cover the sun with a cloud, and the moon shall not give her light", and Isaiah 60:19, which says "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee", and Jeremiah 31:35, which says "Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night", and Mark 13:24, which says "But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light", and Matthew 24:29, which says "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken". Scientifically, we know that all of these verses are wrong; the moon does not produce any light of its own, and simply reflects sunlight. The writers of Genesis, who knew nothing of astronomy, were unaware of this.


Finally, note here that verse 16 has God creating the "stars", which had already been created back in verse 14. Another instance of two different narrations being edited together (and not quite fitting).


20: And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

21: And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

22: And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.

23: And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.


The Genesis account here places the appearence of marine life AFTER the appearence of terrestrial grasses and fruit trees. Scientifically, we know this to be wrong. This account also has whales as one of the first (if not THE first) marine life to appear. Wrong again. Whales are a very recent appearence, not developing until long after the dinosaurs had died out. The Genesis account mentions that birds were created at the same time. Wrong again. Birds date from at least the Jurassic period, millions of years before the first whale. The Genesis account is also wrong in stating that birds appeared before any of the other terrestrial animals---the "creeping things" (the literal translation of the latin root for "reptiles"). This is simply not true. Not only did reptiles and dinosaurs appear on land before birds did, but we know from fossil evidence that, taxonomically, birds and dinosaurs belong in the same group.


25: And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.


The Genesis account here places the creation of "creeping things" (this phrase usually refers to insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians and other "creepy-crawlies") at the same time as the creation of mammals ("cattle"). According to Genesis, these things all appeared AFTER grasses, fruit trees, whales and birds had already appeared. And Genesis is wrong. All of these groups appeared several hundred millions of years before mammals did. All of them first appeared in the ocean, not on land.


The reference to the creation of "cattle" is also wrong, since cattle are a domestic animal that were produced by ancient pastoral societies. They are not a species that ever lived in the wild. The ancient Hebrews, knowing nothing of archaeology, got this wrong.


26: And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.


Note here: God says "Let *us* make man in *our* image." Yet another leftover reference to Judaism's polytheistic past, that hadn't been edited out of the creation narratives. . . .


The least sophisticated of Biblical readers interpret "in our image" to mean the PHYSICAL image of God, and this is the source of most creationist opposition to evolution. It is an untenable interpretation. God has no more a "physical image" than does gravity. Note also that despite all the creationist howling, the Biblical account doesn't say a word about HOW man was created (although this IS described in the different creation narrative found in genesis chapter two).


Note here that this creation account has man and woman created at the same time, in contradiction to the second creation account in chapter two, which has woman created after man. Yet another indication that the Genesis accounts are edited and redacted versions of several different narratives, each written and passed on independently of the others until spliced together by the emerging Hebrew preisthood.


On to Genesis Chapter Two:


1: Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

2: And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

3: And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.


The idea here is that creation is completed---i.e., there are no new things appearing. Wrong. New species have been observed forming in the wild. Humans, despite the Genesis account, were NOT the last living things to appear.


The end of the first creation narrative is reached with verse 3 (the diving lines between chapters in Genesis do not reflect the dividing lines between the different narratives that were spliced together). I include it only to note with interest that, according to the Biblical writer, God "rested" after his creation, and to wonder why a presumably omnipotent being would feel any need at all to "rest" . . . .


4: These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

5: And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

6: But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.


Here begins the second narrative of the creation story---a much shorter one than the first narrative. There are several differences between it and the earlier account in chapter one. First of all, the word for God used here is NOT the plural "elohim". This indicates that the second account was written long after the first one, at a time when Judaism had already firmly rejected its polytheistic roots.


We immediately run into the first contradiction between this creation account and the preceding one. According to Genesis 2, plants and herbs had appeared, but there had never been any rain yet. Not only is this scientific nonsense (plants cannot live without water), but it also contradicts Genesis 1, which talks about the "waters above the firmament" (presumed by the ancient cultures to be the source of rain) and "separating the waters of the earth". The Genesis 2 account then describes the earth being watered by a "mist", which is not mentioned in Genesis 1 and which is contradicted by the account of God dividing the waters. Note too that in Genesis 1 the earth is covered with water and dry land appears when the oceans are gathered up-----in Genesis 2, the earth is dry and water comes from within it. The two accounts are mutually exclusive.


7: And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.


Here we have the second creation account's version of how man was created. As we know, it is scientifically untrue. Humans come from the same evolutionary process as every other living thing.


9: And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.


Now we have fruit trees and other plants being created AFTER humans had already been created, a contradiction with the earlier account, which has trees and plants created before any humans.


10: And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.


And here we have the rivers being "parted", despite the fact that the first Genesis account has the waters being "divided" BEFORE the appearence of plants or humans. Yet another instance of the two separate narratives failing to conform to each other.


19: And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

20: And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.


Now we have cattle being created AFTER the man, which directly contradicts the earlier version that has cattle being created BEFORE humans. We also have birds created AFTER cattle and AFTER humans, which also contradicts the sequence given in Genesis 1. According to the first creation account, cattle were created, then both man and woman. According to the second account, man was created, THEN cattle, THEN woman. Another indication that the entire book of Genesis is an edited compilation of several distinct and separate narratives, written at different times by different peoples, that was later spliced together somewhat clumsily. It is NOT a single unbroken historical narrative.


21: And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

22: And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.


And finally we have a story here where woman was created AFTER man, in contradiction to the earlier account which has them both created at the same time.

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