The Genesis Enigma : more drivel
Do you, like me, ever get annoyed at the incredible amount of poorly-researched-and-thought-through drivel that is put down on paper for the general public to read? Just recently Christopher Hart writing for a British Newspaper, The Daily Mail,1 consciously decided to add to this pile of drivel. He decided to spend almost a page and a half looking at a new book, The Genesis Enigma,2 by Prof Andrew Parker,3 whose basic premise is that “the ancient Hebrew writers of the book of Genesis knew all about evolution—3000 years before Darwin. … and that ancient text had described how the evolution of life on earth took place in precise detail and perfect order.”4 As a scientist Parker had never paid much credence to the opening chapter of Genesis before visiting the Sistine Chapel5 in Rome and gazing upon Michelangelo’s work. It was apparently here that it hit him, with ”dizzying force”, that the order of creation in the Genesis account was an early poetic description of the evolutionary story. However, it is only by viewing the opening chapter of Genesis as poetry, rather than as it is intended, as historical narrative (see Should Genesis be taken literally?), that Parker is able to try and force such a crude interpretation as outlined below.
However, before going any further, I must say that in the past few years of reading widely on the various ways that people try to force the evolution story into Genesis, I can honestly say that I have never read one with such an imagination behind it. As tiresome as it may be, I will now waste my time explaining and pulling apart such fluff.
Here is a basic layout of his scheme (based on Hart’s report on Parkers book, wherein more detailed imagination may have been presented6):
Parker’s Day One:
- God creates the heaven and earth without form and commands there to be light—a perfect description of the big bang
Here Parker attempts to roll together the creation of the heaven and earth in Gen 1:1 and the description of the earth in Gen 1:2 which is described as “formless and void”, and using this ‘formless and void’ description of the earth (which he attributes back to everything that was created in verse 1) he then attempts to make this into an initial particle that some think the “big bang” originated from. The commandment, “Let there be light” then refers to God giving the command for that initial particle to explode, giving off light.
What happened in Parker’s Day Two is not mentioned in the newspaper article.
Parker’s Day Three:
- God creates dry land out of the waters; water is crucial for life
- God brings forth grass, herb yielding seed and fruit trees which are nothing of the sort, but rather photosynthesising life in general, cyanobacteria in particular (bacteria which can photosynthesise).
Not only does this completely contradict the evolutionary model for how the earth formed, as a hot dense blob due to gravitational condensation of dust particles, etc. (rather than a watery mass), but trying to force the grass, herb yielding seed and fruit trees to mean “cyanobacteria” is almost laughable. What does he do every other time the words are used later in the Bible? Do they then refer to photosynthesising life in general too? One of the reasons given that the Bible couldn’t seriously be talking about real grass in this verse is that in the evolutionary model grass was not thought to have evolved until after the time of the dinosaurs. Hart even goes out of his way to say, ”Now factually speaking, grass didn’t evolve until much later. In the Triassic and Jurassic epochs, the dinosaurs knew only plants such as giant conifers and tree ferns.” Perhaps if either Parker or Hart were more adept at keeping up to date with scientific discoveries rather than trying to enter the realm of biblical exegesis (even just Googling the words ‘dinosaur’ and ‘grass’ together) they would have seen that even in the evolutionary model, the 2005 finding of dinosaur coprolites (dung) with grass in them has pushed back the evolutionary origin of grass to at least 100 million years ago.7 Granted, this is not early enough for Parker’s ideas to need to change, but it does show how he can’t even get events in the timeline of the evolutionary story right, never mind the biblical timeline.
Parker’s Day Four:
- The sun and moon had previously been created at some point. It is now that the first eye evolves which could distinguish between day and night.
Do I even need to comment on how (is there another way of saying it?) stupid a suggestion this is in relation to the language of the biblical text? Here Parker now says that the creation of lights in the sky, to serve as markers of seasons, days and years, is a poetic description of the formation of vision—eyes which can now behold the daily event of night and day! What would the evolution of the first eye at the bottom of the sea have to do with the creation of stars, seasons or years? Although it is unfortunate that in the western world so much of the glory of the heavens is obscured by light pollution, there is still the odd place, just a bit further away from the city, that the stars can be seen on a good clear night. This magnificent sight which gives glory to our God would have no meaning for this first eye under the sea.
Parker’s Day Five:
- abundant sea life evolves in direct response to the evolution of vision.
”Almost overnight, life suddenly grew vastly more complex. Predators were able to hunt far more efficiently, and so prey had to evolve fast too–or get eaten.”8 No worries here for the Bible to fit squarely with this—just a few million years of death, bloodshed, disease and predation in God’s very good creation before death entered the world through Adam’s sin!
Parker’s Remainder of creation:
- ”Creation of birds, then animals, cattle and finally homo sapiens“
Sorry, what came next? Does he even know how evolution is supposed to have occurred? Birds came next, before land animals? Not according to any textbook on evolution. And why do the words on the page suddenly start meaning what they say? Why do the words “winged birds” mean winged birds now? Is this just because it now fits with what he wants to have happened? And then, finally, there’s also us, Homo sapiens, just tacked on at the end of this long process of death. No longer specially created in God’s image.
The question has to be, what does this pathetic attempt to exegete Genesis hope to accomplish? I mean, can you really see the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens9 reading The Genesis Enigma, the lights coming on and them realising that the Bible is true (but only if you can read it whatever way you want)?
Why is it that so many biblical scholars (not that Parker is, as already stated) have, in the light of fallible naturalistic scientific theories, tried to reinvent the meaning of the creation account in Genesis? Does this then leave any biblical passage open to reinvention depending on what scientific theories man comes up with in the future? The major issue here is, should the interpretation of the Bible be dependent on looking at its historical/grammatical context (as it traditionally has been), or rather dependent upon scientific revelations to shed light on its meaning? For example, theistic evolutionist John Polkinghorne agrees with the latter and says “that there are some classical doctrines that need restatement in an age of science.”10 If Polkinghorne and Parker are right, that we can only truly appreciate the meaning of biblical passages in the light of modern science, then what lies ahead for other biblical passages which have traditionally been interpreted and are also in disagreement with a current scientific trend? If we can simply re-interpret God’s Word in Genesis to fit man’s fallible opinion, then ultimately, it would only be consistent to be able to apply this same hermeneutic anywhere and everywhere we wanted. The consequence would be that anyone could come to any area of Scripture with a preconceived idea, and then simply reinvent the passage to fit with their preferred meaning, regardless of the historical/grammatical context.
The implications of this approach are huge. Think about what this would do to the rest of the Bible! Scripture is a harmonious whole. To change the meaning of one part means having to change other parts as well. By reading the Genesis account of creation in a way that does not reflect what it is actually saying means that we will also have to read other passages in unnatural ways (for example Exodus 20:11 or Mark 10:5-9, or indeed any other time Jesus speaks about creation. See Genesis: The Bible authors believed it to be history). Where does this end? If language has any communicative value at all it must be that we expect people to understand what we are saying. Indeed, Parker writes on that very premise, as he expects people to understand the words in his book.
The Church really needs to wake up on this issue! Genesis 1 has to be one of the most straightforward narratives to read in the Bible. Why do people feel the need to come up with such mind-boggingly stupid attempts to read things into the text that only they have seen for the first time, to try and distort its meaning and bow the knee to the secular science community—which doesn’t care about anything that Genesis has to say, anyway? Let’s stop the blathering nonsense and just take the Bible at its word. Such poppycock as has been printed in the Daily Mail is so incredibly poorly thought out. And I’m sure the author doesn’t have a clue about the far-reaching implications that such an imaginative interpretation as Parker’s has for the rest of the Bible—such as when the entrance of death occurred, the character of God, how this effects the worldwide flood in Noah’s time, etc.
The question for the Church has to be, when will enough drivel be enough?
- Christopher Hart, The Genesis Enigma, The Daily Mail, Saturday 18 July, 2009, pages 52-53. Also see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1200486/The-Genesis-enigma-How-DID-Bible-evolution-life-3-000-years-Darwin.html, last accessed 29 July, 2009. Return to text.
- Andrew Parker, The Genesis Enigma, Published by Doubleday, 2009. Return to text.
- A biography of Andrew Parker can be found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Parker_(zoologist), last accessed 29 July, 2009. Return to text.
- See ref. 1. Return to text.
- This refers to the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo between 1508-1512. For more details see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel_ceiling, last accessed 29 July, 2009. Return to text.
- A more detailed critique of the book may follow. Return to text.
- Dinosaurs had appetite for grass, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4443696.stm,and fossil dung reveals dinosaurs did graze grass: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8336–fossil-dung-reveals-dinosaurs-did-graze-grass.html, last accessed 29 July, 2009. Return to text.
- See ref. 1. Return to text.
- Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitches are currently two of the world’s leading atheists. Return to text.
- John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Yale University Press, 2003, p. 83. Return to text.