Rewriting the Book of Genesis

The first edition of The Book of Genesis was written during a time when our survey of reality was quite small.  We now know that reality is  fantastically larger in size, so I’m wondering if someone should rewrite The Book of Genesis and give it a bit of updating.

1In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2And 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.

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

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

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

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

7And 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.

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

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

You see, we have a problem, right from verse 1.  Is God just the architect of planet Earth, and Genesis only the chronicles of creation for our local neck of the woods, or are we starting the story late, after God has done a whole lot of other work?  Wouldn’t it be better if we start with verse 3?  “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

That might go better with our knowledge of The Big Bang.  But it also has some problems.  When the biblical authors mentions light, are they only talking about the visible spectrum?  It took mankind another few thousand years to learn of the existence of the entire electro-magnetic spectrum.  If the line was written now, would it say, “And God created space and time, matter and energy, and all the forces of nature.”

For many decades scientists thought The Big Bang was the beginning of all of creation, but now cosmologists dare to entertain a time before The Big Bang, with multiple universes, which makes reality a whole lot bigger still.  Because we all love to think in terms of cause and effect, shouldn’t the first verse of The Book of Genesis be something like:  “From out of nothing came something.”  Or maybe, “Reality is infinite in all directions of time and space.  Our existence proves the impossibility of nothingness.”  But this boggles the mind.

Any new editors of The Book of Genesis will need to thoroughly understand cosmology, because of our knowledge of creation is quite vast, and more than that, it has deep philosophical implications.  When our most distant ancestors wrote the first edition of The Book of Genesis they only covered their nano-tiny corner of existence, and pictured God manlike, able to trod Earthly paths.  Later writers and editors of the Bible pushed God up into the sky.  Does this mean, with our current knowledge about a universe 13.7 billion light-years across, that God has to stand outside of this creation?  Can God be smaller than his art?

The science of astronomy is going through a renaissance right now, and they know a whole lot about creation and how it evolved.  Fundamentalists may foam at the mouth when they hear the word evolution, but if you look at our knowledge of reality there is a common thread that runs throughout the history of everything that can only be thought of as evolving.

Absolute nothingness should have been the order no time and space.  Reality never should have gotten started.  But it did, and if you study the relentless development of our universe from Big Bang to Big Brains you will see a spooky force seeking greater organization.  This force is more like gravity than a deity.

To get just a taste of what I mean, read the Rare Earth hypothesis, based on the book Rare Earth by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee.  I’m sure theists will see this as the hand of God, and scientists will consider the same concept as one hell of a lucky streak for random events, but I wonder. 

How long has reality worked to create you and me?  How many universes and dimensions did it take to produce Earth?  If The Book of Genesis was rewritten to take in the knowledge within Rare Earth, with it’s ever growing list of almost impossible requirements to produce a planet with animals, the new Book of Genesis 2.0 would be far more inspiring than 1.0.  Theists who are too lazy to study more than one book of knowledge really need to get into science.  The trouble is, science takes reading dozens of books just to get a glimmer of what’s going on.

If modern scientists wrote The Book of Genesis today, they might condense what they know about the miracle of evolution down to something the size of The Encyclopedia Britannica.  But that would only get you Evolution for Dummies.  Some theists are all hung-up on mankind descending from apes, but hell, that’s almost the end of the story of evolution.  Even if you ignore where the Big Bang comes from, just getting from hydrogen to the rest of the periodic table of elements is a fairly long and complex story, a tale that is omitted from The Book of Genesis 1.0.

Every element beyond hydrogen took a great deal of stellar evolution to create, and that took billions of years.  Getting from tiny particles to stars is another long story.  After that is the evolution of heavier elements, so planets could evolve.  Getting to land, air and water is another epic adventure.  Then we must chronicle the rise of complex molecules, and then to the miracle transformation from inorganic to organic chemistry.  That gets us to a few billion years ago when this spooky force that I’m talking about, through apparent random events, came up with the beginnings of life.

At every step of this long evolutionary path, randomness chooses order over chaos.  Why?  There is no real reason to believe an even higher ordered force existed to guide this randomness.  If that was true we’d have to ask how it evolved first?  The only thing I can imagine about this reality after reading Rare Earth, is forces of nature have been trying to produce humans for a very long time, much longer than our 13.7 billion years in this universe.  How many eons of creating sterile universes did it take before one had this spooky force that keeps driving forward turning chaos into order?

And the absurd tragedy for this unknown force’s effort, is us,  a species hell bent on turning exterminating the beautiful order that this force took so long to create.  It took eons to evolve an Earth that’s capable of evolving complex life, and our western civilization is going to destroy our magical planet in a couple hundred years.  Go figure.

The purpose of the Old Testament was to teach about obedience to the will of God.  If you want to know the will of reality, I’d suggest studying science and the history of the universe from The Big Bang until The Book of Genesis was written.  If you want to tag it Intelligent Design, then go ahead, I don’t care.  Call that spooky force God, if you want.  But it’s no personal God. It doesn’t offer salvation or promise answers to prayers.  It doesn’t even care that we exist.  If it expects anything from us, I would imagine, it’s only desire would be for no one to break its extremely long lucky streak.

There is no afterlife or Heaven so far in this long chain of evolution, because all Creation does is create more order, and we’re apparently its mostly complex accomplishment.  It would be amazing if it could evolve spiritual beings and heaven.  Maybe us thinking of such a concept drives the spooky force onward towards such an even more complex ordering.  Who knows what future eons will bring.  Maybe immortal souls won’t happen in this universe, but might in the future, half an infinity of universes from now.  But it won’t happen if we fuck up this planet.

JWH – 5/28/9   

4 thoughts on “Rewriting the Book of Genesis”

  1. We should just throw away Genesis. It’s ridiculous, and attempts to update it are misguided. Sorry. I’ve been sent emails, even entire hardcopy books, arguing for logarithmic time systems or redefinitions of the “day” all to serve a colossal waste of time.

    I think we’re really in agreement.

    For me, the issue is that religious people tend to be close minded and will not accept science for what it is, and demand “something” to replace their faith when it is contradicted in such an obvious fashion.

    Science doesn’t care.

    Should we?

  2. Mike, I think kids, and adults will always want to know how things started, where did we come from and why did it all happen. For thousands of years, The Book of Genesis answered those questions. And for primitive people The Book of Genesis is a proto form cosmology, anthropology and history. The Book of Genesis needs to be rewritten constantly. Look what happens when it doesn’t get updated – for three thousand years it gets to be the answer.

    Too many people let their kids read the Bible before anything else and it imprints on them. What if they got to read a Book of Genesis 2.0 first? How much would that change the world?

    Mike, you and I understand what’s in books like Rare Earth. But what percentage of the population also understand it? I’d be amazed if it was even 1 percent. If we’re going to give all kids a book about the origins of the universe, Earth, life and humans, shouldn’t it be up-to-date?

  3. There’s already A Cartoon History of the Universe, which is pretty good, but not very read in many quarters. Think we could sneak The Book of Genesis 2.0 into Christian bookstores?

  4. Genisis just needs to be reworded. Pretty much every translation of the bible is connotatively broken. With todays knowledge Genisis could read like this.

    it begins with endless nothingness that never was becauwse it is not. A part is manifest, sets into motion contrasting void & illuminates. No charge particles, free radicals, ions… God is in the wire, Sunday

    Then it begins to materialize & you get the formation of matter in empty space, ground & sky, the formation of sub planetish stuff, but only from fluids. This is why god is in the water. Solids & gasses just collide and bounce off eachother. this creates temperature and the cold solids build heat and begin to melt. Only fluids are able to compound in the way that is necessary to create the universe as we know it today. Monday

    From this alone, this micro-scale existance. Life emerges from the eternal change in void. There is no limit to possibility. Tuesday

    After all that, life (archea) compound the chaotic substance into large enough spheres to create suns & satellites. wed

    repeat day one with added ground factor & you get our soul.
    thursday

    repeat day two with radical terrestrial soul & you get our body.
    friday

    now go home
    sunday

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