Every now and then, when people learn that the Urban Astronomer is a Christian, some wag asks “So why should we take you seriously if you believe that the universe is six thousand years old?”. And I battle to answer, because where do you start with such a retarded question?
See, the latest round of partisan thinking is “Almighty Skeptical Atheism
” vs “Almighty Faith-based Literalist Christianity
” (since, as the dominant religion in the West, Christianity is the obvious target for those who would save the world from religion). Like all absolute divisions, we’re forced to choose one of two over-simplified camps. My camp apparently all think that the world is six thousand years old.
But why am I supposed to believe this? Is it biblical? In 1658, Bishop James Ussher
completed his treatise on Chronology. He combined knowledge from Middle Eastern and Mediterranean histories and Holy writ to calculate the exact date of Creation: 23 October, 4004 BC. His work was included in a preface to the Authorised edition of the Bible in 1701, so that it was very quickly accepted as gospel truth by the faithful. But I don’t buy it. Without going into every step of his calculations (I haven’t even seen them), let’s look at the very beginning: Genesis, Chapter 1
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day.
Notice how the entire universe, including earth, are all created before the first day? Even before the iconic “Let there be light”! The only unit of time (the Day) is meaningless for the first 4 verses, which has got to throw those calculations out of whack.
As we read the rest of account, we find the following events.
Day two: God creates the sky (Separating waters of heaven and earth – the division is called sky).
Day three: God gathers the water together, and separates it from dry land – we now have “Ground” and “Seas”. He then creates vegetation – trees, plants, etc
Day four: God creates the Sun
and the Moon
And there’s the second problem. Astronomical definitions aside, most people would agree that the word “Day” means the period it takes for the sun to make one apparent circuit of the sky, yet for the first three days of creation there was no sun. So what kind of Day is the bible talking about? But that’s not all. In chapter two, we read that God rested on the seventh day, and also that the land was empty of plants – no rain had yet happened to water the fields, so nothing had grown. Which seems to contradict what we read happening on Day Three.
And that’s enough for me. That’s three major problems with a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account. It doesn’t make sense at all.
The only way around, short of discarding the Bible altogether, is to accept that Genesis is not a literal account. Call it metaphorical, or allegorical, or a parable, but don’t try to use it to say that Adam and Eve walked with Dinosaurs
. That’s just dishonest, and only fuels the flames between these two radical camps
Now can we please get back to appreciating the night sky and stop with the name-calling?