The Handbook for the Creation-Evolution Debate, Chapter III: Creationism

Creationism

Scientific creationists are those who are devoted to a scientifically viable version of creationism that is compatible with the Torah. They appear in two groups: those who interpret the Torah literally and those who allow for some parts of the creation account to be interpreted metaphorically or scientifically. Nonetheless, for the most part, both groups assert that evolution is not a legitimate mechanism for explaining the origins of everything found in the world, as the Torah describes creation as a supernatural creative act by God. In their argument for an evolution-free creation, biblical and scientific creationists take two primary lines of attack:

A)    They interpret all the verses of Genesis scientifically for they believe that valid science cannot contradict Biblical fact

B)    They refute the possibility of evolution. They are not worried about disproving other creation epochs. For them, there is only one Bible, and hence, all the creation myths of other religions need not be taken seriously. Because creationism and evolution are the only two options on the table, if one were able to discredit the latter theory, then formulating a forceful argument is unnecessary: either organisms first appeared as we see them today on earth – and have been left for the most part unchanged ever since – or they did not.

Evolutionists, on the other hand, argue that certain principles of the world have been in place ever since the Big Bang. It is even possible that those principles predated the Big Bang, but there is no way to verify that. These rules are the staples of the universe and they are unchanging. We should keep in mind that not all evolutionists are atheists, but evolutionists do believe that they could explain the world without appealing to the Divine. Scientific creationists agree with evolutionists in that the rules of physics are unchanging, but that the present set of physics laws has not always been the case; rather, only since after the flood when God said (Genesis 8:22): “Continually, all the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease,” have the rules of nature in which we presently experience been in place. Before the flood, God had no qualms with changing reality in any way that He saw fit. Scientific creationists argue that these changes could be subsumed under three main categories.

While we will take a deeper look into the first chapters of the Genesis account in a later chapter, it would be helpful to take a glance at those chapters if they are not fresh on your mind.

Scientific Creationists

3 Stages of Change in Reality

1. First Six Days – Law of Conservation of Energy

2. The Sin – Law of Increasing Entropy

3. The Flood – leaves the world with a new natural uniformity

First Six Days

1)      The universe is created perfectly, made fully functional and prepared for Adam.

2)      All life is created fully formed, just as Adam was.

3)      All creatures are herbivores for no death exists.

The underlying rule behind the perfection of the universe was the First Law of Thermodynamics – the law of conservation of Energy for this new creation is fully sustained by God. Furthermore, one cannot inquire or reveal anything about the way that it used to be then, for our world is totally different and not sustained in the same way.

The Sin (The Fall)

1)      The world’s perfection was destroyed with the first sin.

2)      Death was caused by that sin.

3)      A world without death needed modification to accommodate this new situation.

4)      Therefore, deterioration and disorder were introduced.

On top of the First Law of Thermodynamics, this Second Law of Thermodynamics was superimposed, such that they would work together. Adam and Eve’s sin caused a drastic change in the physical realm so that all physical processes would naturally deteriorate and increase entropy.

The Flood

1)      The worldwide flood at the time of Noah killed all living being except those in the ark.

2)      The flood waters had an effect on the surface that makes all geological studies and fossil records unreliable. The fossil record is an interpretation of the havoc in which the flood had on the world. The different strata of fossils and geological epochs may also be explained this way.

On the flip side of the coin, not only do scientific creationists assert that the Torah offers its readers true facts about the origins of all species and the universe, but the theory of evolution is so flawed that even without the Torah informing the world that creationism is true, any rational person would still reject evolution.

Books

The other line of attack in which creationists take is to fully reject the findings of science that contradict the traditional Jewish position. While all would agree that the Torah’s position and storyline for creation is esoteric, complicated and deeper than it seems at first glance, many contemporary commentaries and rabbis will not allow the text to stray far from its simple/literal meaning. So far has the literal interpretation of the text been accepted in the present generation that most books that propose a non-literal approach are deemed heretical and the author is warned not to further disseminate his deceitful and fictitious position. Nonetheless, there are still many books which bend the biblical account to fit with a philosophical or scientific approach. In the following, we will examine some of these approaches and how they make the Torah and their modern science coalesce.

Biblical Creationists

1) Genesis and modern physics can be reconciled.

Gerald Schroeder’s Genesis and the Big Bang

Basically, Schroeder argues that the clock that determines that the human race is presently in its sixth millennia starts after the first six days of creation. He argues that before the earth was created, the Torah writes from the universe’s perspective, not from mankind’s perspective. Because absolute time does not exist, it passes differently based on the differing gravitational pressures. He calculates that six days under the extreme conditions when the universe was exceedingly small and hot is much longer. Therefore, he reasons, the six days that the Torah speaks of parallels the fifteen billion years that the scientists speak of.

2) Previous Worlds Theory

This approach is found in Bereishit Rabbah (3:7):

Rabbi Yehuda ben Shim’on said: It is not written here [in Bereishit] “Let there be night,” but “and there was night.” From here [you can learn] that a time-order existed before this juncture. Rabbi Abahu said: This teaches us that [God] created worlds and destroyed them until He reached this world. He (God) said: this one pleases me and the others did not please me.

This Midrash, in conjunction with the Talmudic statement: “Rabbi Katina says: six thousand years the world exists and one thousand it is destroyed” (Sanhedrin 97A), has impelled many Kabbalists (and almost all Kabbalists since big bones started to be found everywhere) to conclude that many worlds were created and destroyed before our present stage of existence. Each of those cycles lasted seven thousand years; the cycles parallel both the days of creation and the shmittah (sabbatical) cycle in which work is done for six days, while the seventh is to be a day of rest. Similarly, just as one works his land for six years and then leaves it fallow for the sabbatical year, so too, the earth is operational for six thousand years, and then it lies in a state of ruin for a thousand years. This approach has been put forth by R. Ibn Ezra (Leviticus 25:2), Nachmonides (Genesis 2:3 and Leviticus 25:2) and R. Bahya b. Asher (Leviticus 25:2). Most traditional books on creation accept this theory including Mysteries of the Creation by R. Dovid Brown.

3) The World is a Test

God purposefully placed dinosaur bones and other fossils in order to test our faith about the Torah’s authenticity and to test our faith in the Sages. We know that the idea of God (or Satan) testing is not foreign to Jewish tradition from many biblical examples including the ten tests Avraham Avinu had to endure, the many travails of the Israelites in the Sinai desert and the trials that Job went through.

Furthermore, if one ascribes to the last theory – that many worlds were created and destroyed before our own – then those previous worlds are beyond investigation. Not because it is difficult to find and identify ancient bones and artifacts, but because the Mishnah in tractate Hagigah (2:3) states that anyone who gazes at that which is before him, it is fitting that he did not come into the world. The famous Mishnaic commentator R. Pinchas Kehati explains the phrase ‘before him’ to mean that a person should not investigate that which was before the creation of the world. So by investigating the details of those previous worlds, one transgresses the Mishnah’s proscription. Hence, the fact that there is so much archeological findings present in our present world to investigate is itself a test: not a test of belief, but a test of obedience. Also, it should be noted, that the author of the Mishnah might have felt that knowledge of events prior to our present world would be detrimental to the overall well being of an individual, an hence, discouraged against it.

4) The World is fooling you

The presumed age of the earth and the universe are unreliable because God created the world fully functional. Many Midrashim and Rishonim presuppose this hypothesis. For example:

  1. Adam and Eve were created as adults.
  2. Adam was created as a twenty-year old man (Bereshis Rabbah 14:7).
  3. Everything in the work of creation was created in its full form (TB Rosh Hashanah 11A).

5) Theistic Evolution

A brief introduction will be beneficial here. Above, several positions have been presented that either:

A) take some aspects of the Genesis account non-literally, or

B) alter some aspect of the standard evolutionary theory in order to fit better with the Genesis account

In theistic evolution, some form of naturalistic evolution will take place, but God will be pulling the strings ensuring that the world go a certain course. People who maintain the belief in theistic evolution will have a genuine respect for the conclusions of science, yet refuse to accept the atheistic picture proclaimed by the majority of scientists today. There are three possible approaches that a theistic evolutionist will put forth in order to explain has God interacts in a world ruled by the cold determinism of physics.

1. God controls events that seem to be random

A. Quantum Mechanics – there is genuine randomness in nature and God controls that randomness. Atoms are in states of flux in which there is no way to ever know how they will change, and it is not just ignorance on our part of the true pattern; the changes in the atoms are truly random and there is an intrinsic element of unpredictability in the world. God influences the physical world at the subatomic level and controls events that appear to be random. Somehow, God could even control evolution to ensure some happy result.

B. Chaos Theory – a system ruled by chaos theory can have vastly different behaviors even though they started with indistinguishable conditions. Here, also, is a place where God could interact in the world without violating any of the rules of physics.

2. God designed the system of chance in the world

A. Anthropic Principle – God designed the world, from the onset, with built in potential: such that it was capable of self-organization and transformation. All the amazingly precise conditions that allow for human life to be sustained: the strength of gravity, the mass of a proton, the distance of the earth from the sun, the charge of an electron, such that if any on of them were off by the smallest amount, life could not evolve into what it is today, were set by God to ensure the production of life and the human race specifically.

3. God influences events without controlling them

A. Divine Influence – God influences the outcome of all events and is ever-present in all events. Just as God was able to harden Pharaoh’s heart without actually altering the rules of physics so that he would disallow the Israelites from leaving Egypt, so too God has the ability to influence all events in the world to ensure a specific outcome

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