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The origin and development of species

Creation science: one of three models


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This essay describes the Judeo-Christian creation science belief systems. Other religions teach hundreds of other belief systems; some are covered elsewhere.

Other essays in this web site describe the other two theories of origins that are commonly promoted in North America: theistic evolution and naturalistic evolution belief systems.


Rejection of evolution in favor of creation:

In North America, the vast majority of scientific creationists, and almost all of the creation science organizations, are Christian. They assume that that a literal interpretation of the creation story/stories in the book of Genesis are accurate. They believe that God created all life forms, the world, and the rest of the universe. Most believe that this happened fewer than ten thousand years ago.  This belief in a new and created universe is common among Fundamentalists and other Evangelical Christians, because it is the only theory that is compatible with conservative Christians' belief in:

  • God's inspiration of the authors of the Bible.
  • The inerrancy of the Bible. Each passage in he Bible is viewed as being without error, wherever it discusses theological, historical, spiritual, scientific or other matters.
  • Reliance on the literal interpretation of the Bible, except when a symbolic meaning is obviously intended by the author.

The concept that species evolved naturally or that God used evolutionary processes to create new species is abhorrent to many conservative Christians. Evolution implies that countless trillions of animals have attacked each other, suffered and died over billions of years in order to bring the earth to its present state. Many feel that God would not have developed such an inhumane and inefficient method.

Some creation scientists attempt to harmonize Genesis with the findings of earth and biological scientists. This is doomed to failure, mainly because the Bible's order of creation does not agree with that of the fossil record, and thus with the theory of evolution.


The meaning of "yom:"

Much of the conflict among conservative Christians over origins involves the precise meaning of the Hebrew word "yom," in Genesis 1-3. This is normally translated into English as "day." Those who believe that the universe was literally created in six 24 hour days support their argument by:

  • Referring to Genesis 1:5 to 31. These verses state repeatedly that various days had a morning and an evening. Many who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible tend to believe that its passages should normally be interpreted literally. A day would thus be a 24 hour interval, unless there were some unusual circumstances that would point to an alternative, symbolic meaning.
  • Arguing that the concept of the Sabbath being observed as a day of rest every seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3) does not make a lot of sense unless the days of creation were 24 hour days.
  • Noting that one of three versions of the Ten Commandments directly links six days of human work with the six days of God's creation. Including the Sabbath, both are one week long:

Exodus 20:8-11 "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. You shall do all of your work in six days. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. On it, you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male slave, nor your female slave, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. This is because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them in six days, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."

However, other theologians point to this same Hebrew word, "yom," being translated as "the day of God's wrath" in Job 20:28 -- apparently referring to a period of time of indeterminate length. Similarly, when translated from Greek, 2 Corinthians 6:2 refers to "the day of salvation" -- again a time interval that is apparently not equal to 24 hours.


Divisions with creation science:

Modern day creation scientists are divided into many sub-groups, primarily according to their interpretation of the Hebrew word "yom" (day) in Genesis 1-3, and their belief on whether the six "days" were contiguous. All reject the possibility of biological evolution of the species through gradual change. 1 According to author Frank Egleston Robbins: 2 from Origen in the 3rd century CE until John Milton in the 17th century, there have been more than 300 Christian authors who wrote about the six days of creation. 3 Some writers, including Ambrose, Basil, Bede and Calvin, interpreted the days as normal 24 hour periods. Others, such as Augustine and Origen, interpreted the days figuratively or allegorically.


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An attempt to resolve the conflicts in biblical interpretation:

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) is a conservative denomination within the Presbyterian movement. They created a Creation Study Committee to study the first three chapters of the book of Genesis -- the creation account -- and to interpret its meaning of the term "day." They presented their report, a 92 page document, to the PCA's 28th General Assembly on 2000-JUN-6. They found that their committee reached a consensus on many matters. That:

  • The Bible is inerrant.
  • Genesis 1-3 was written by Moses.
  • The creation story is "...history, not myth..." It really happened, just as Genesis describes.
  • "...the doctrine of creation lies at the basis of the Christian worldview."
  • The committee was unable to reach agreement over their prime directive: to interpret the Hebrew word "yom" (day) in Genesis
  • They were concerned lest their church divide over this issue.

The committee members decided that there are four main views of  creation days represented within their group. However, they were unable to determine whether which -- if any -- of the four is the correct view. This implies that they were unable to determine the truth, either through reason or through prayer to God.

  • The Creation Study Committee identified four interpretations:
    • Calendar-day interpretation  (a.k.a. biblical creationists, scientific creationism, young earth creationism, literal creationism, literal view, traditional view, twenty-four-hour view): This is probably the most popular current belief system among very conservative Christians. It is the historical belief taught by the Christian religion.  They interpret the two Genesis accounts of creation literally and attempt to blend the two stories; the "day" mentioned in Genesis 1 is thus a standard 24 hour day, and creation was completed in 6 normal days. In their view, most sedimentary rocks were laid down during the world-wide Noahic flood. Most believe that the earth is less than 10,000 years old; some hold to 4004 BCE as being the approximate year of creation.
    • Day-age theory: They define each of the "days" in Genesis 1 as referring to a specific time interval that is not 24 hours in duration. A "day" in Genesis is "understood in the same sense as 'in that day' of Isaiah 11:10-11." 4 1000 years is a common value, and is based upon the statement in II Peter 3:8 ".... one day is with the Lord as a thousand years;.... Many believe that Adam and Eve were created circa 4004 BCE. Creation would then have occurred over a 6 thousand year period, starting circa 10,000 BCE. The Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, states that one day with God is equivalent to 10,000 years. That would push creation back to about 64,000 years BCE. Both these Christian and Muslim beliefs fall way short of the 4.5 billion year age of the earth as measured by radiometric dating.

      Some feel that God's creative work was spread out over the full interval of time that made up the "day." Others believe that his work was done within a 24 hour day; he then waited for a long interval; during that time, animals and plants that he had created developed fully. "The six days are taken as sequential but as overlapping and perhaps merging into one another." 4
    • Framework hypothesis: This view "asserts that Genesis 1 is not to be taken as a literal, chronological account of creation, but rather a topical account which asserts God created all things." 5 Creation is described as having taken six days followed by a day when God rested. But the creation week is a metaphor, not a definition of an interval of time. The purpose of the creation story is mainly to teach humans that they should design their life around a six-day work week, followed by on day reserved as the Sabbath. It is not meant to imply that God actually took six days (144 hours) to perform all of the tasks. "...we should interpret it topically and not chronologically." 5
    • Analogical Days Interpretation: Each of the "days" in the creation stories are God's workdays. They are "analogous (but not necessarily identical) to human workdays." 4 Each "day" represents a period during which God performed a major activity. The days are: "successive periods of unspecified length. They may overlap in part, or may reflect logical rather than chronological criteria for grouping certain events on certain days." 4

Other creation science interpretations of Genesis:

  • Other interpretations of the first three chapters of Genesis that broadly fit into the scientific creation theory are:
    • Indefinite-age theory: (a.k.a. Old Earth creationism) The six days in Genesis were not 24 hours long. Rather, they were extremely long intervals of time. Each was perhaps millions or hundreds of millions of years long. They do not assign a specific length to any of the Genesis "days", but believe that God created the earth and its life forms in the sequence specified in Genesis, over an interval of time lasting billions of years. They accept various scientific observations and measurements which indicate that the earth has been in existence for billions of years. However, they reject biological evolution. They believe that God created various "kinds" of animals and that no new species have been developed since creation.
    • Gap theory creationists: (a.k.a. interval interpretation, gap restitution, ruin and restoration and gap theory.). They believe that after God created "the heaven and the earth" as described in Genesis 1:1, there was a very long time interval - sufficient to accommodate many geological ages. The earth apparently existed for billions of years without light from the sun, moon and stars. Some believe that their light was obstructed by an overcast condition which God removed on the fourth day. They maintain that the conventional translation of Genesis 1:2 ("And the earth was without form and void..") is inaccurate. A better translation is that "the earth became waste and void", perhaps because of the fall of Satan or of some unspecified cataclysmic judgment of God before the first humans were created. Verse 3 and following then describes how God reclaimed his creation. Jeremiah 4:23-26; Isaiah 45:18; and Ezekiel 28:12-15 may have echoes of this interval. This belief can be traced back into Jewish writings from the second century CE. 6,7
    • Seven-day theory: God created the universe over a period of six days, each 24 hours long. This happened an unknowable but very long time ago.
    • Revelatory-device theory: The author(s) of Genesis used "days" as a literary technique to organize his description of creation -- similar to a playwright organizing a play into six acts. An analogy might be a description of a construction project. A building might be portrayed as being built in many phases: phase 1 would be excavation; phase 2 would be pouring of the foundation; phase 3 would the erecting the steelwork, etc. Perhaps the author(s) are using "day" where other writers might indicate "phase."
    • Revelatory-day theory: Perhaps God showed Moses the sequence of events that made up creation -- something like a TV documentary. Perhaps God took 6 days to complete the demonstration. Moses, in writing the first chapters of Genesis was describing the illustration, not the original creation.
    • Biblical reality theory: God created the universe (earth, moon, stars, etc) over a three day period, over 10 billion years ago. God also created various forms of life on earth and at other locations throughout the universe. Various species lived and died since, producing the fossil record. Dinosaurs, for example, all died off about 65 million years ago. After the most recent ice-age, God created humans and modern animals about 10,000 years ago. Noah's flood and humanity's greatest genocide happened in 2611 BCE.
    • Intermittent day theory: Each of the days refer to 24 hour intervals. But they are separated by intervals of unknown length. "That is, the days are "normal," and consecutive, but not contiguous." 8
    • "Days of divine fiat" theory: God took six consecutive 24 hour days to command the universe into existence. But the orders took an unknown period of time to be actually fulfilled.
    • Expanding time theory: Gerald Schroeder, an Israeli physicist, suggests that the first day of creation is 24 hours long, when viewed from the "beginning of time perspective" -- from the perspective of the "big bang." It lasted eight billion years from our perspective. Each of the remaining five days lasted half as long as the previous day: four billion, two billion, one billion, half billion, quarter billion. This ads up to 15.75 billion years, which agrees closely with modern "big bang" cosmology.
    • Replicated earth theory: Mike Schuler has developed a novel theory of origins, and has begun a web site to explain this and other scientific puzzles. 9 He believes that God created an original earth. He spent billions of years trying every possible genetic code, to see what types of life would result. Most of the species were useless. God  created a mass extinction event whenever the world filled up with such unneeded species. At the end of this great experiment, he was ready to create humans in the image of God. So he created an exact copy of that original earth in perfect detail, down to the atomic level. This took him only six days, as Genesis states.

      Schuler draws the analogy of the creation of a music CD. It might take months to create a new CD, but a copy can be created in seconds. The young earth -- the one that we live on -- is a precise duplicate of the original old Earth, and includes all of the fossils of those extinct species and the geological evidence of an old earth, which were byproducts of God's grand experiment. But it is only a copy of the original, with the addition of the human race. 9

Summary of various theories:

Judeo-Christian theories based on Genesis: These theories conflict with each other. None agree with the hundreds of other creation stories taught by non-Judeo-Christian religions. Only one -- perhaps none -- can be correct.

The theories are listed below in alphabetic order:

Theory Creation started: Duration of creation: Comments
Analogical Days Unknown. Six "days," of unknown lengths. "Days" are God's work-days, not 24 hour days.
Biblical reality 1) Stars and earth: billions of years ago.
2) Humans: about 8000 BCE.
1) Three days, each 24 hours long.
2) Three days, each 24 hours long.
Two separate creation intervals.
Calendar-day After 8000 BCE. Six 24 hour days. Many alternative names.
Day-age About 10000 BCE. Six "days", each 1,000 years long.  
"Days of divine fiat" Unknown. Six 24 hour days for God to initiate creation. It tool a long interval for creation to actually take place.
Expanding time About 15 billion years ago. First day: 8 billion years. Each remaining day half as long as the previous day.  
Framework hypothesis Unknown. Unknown. Genesis not to be interpreted literally
Gap theory Billions of years ago. A gap of billions of years between creation and the Garden of Eden story.  
Indefinite Age Billions of years ago. Six time periods, each tens or hundreds of millions of years long.  
Intermittent day Unknown. Six days, each 24 hours long. Days of creation separated by long intervals of time.
Replicated earth Billions of years ago, for the original "old" Earth. A few thousand years for the "new" Earth. Billions of years, for the old Earth. Six days for the new Earth. It took God billions of years to create an original earth. Then he copied in in a few days.
Revelatory-day Unknown. Unknown The six days of Genesis refer to the time that God took to describe creation to Moses.
Revelatory-device Unknown. Unknown. "Days" are like phases of a construction project
Seven-day Billions of years ago. Six 24 hour days. It only took God six days to create the world, many billions of years ago.

Scientific theories based on secular data sources: These are accepted by over 99% of the geological and biological scientists in the U.S.

Theory Start of the universe Species developed over Comments
Naturalistic evolution About 15 billion years ago About 3.5 billion years Species evolved due to natural forces and processes.
Theistic evolution About 15 billion years ago About 3.5 billion years Evolution guided by God.

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Dick Fischer, "The Origins Solution", Fairway Press (1966)
  2. Frank Egleston Robbins, "The Hexaemeral Literature: A Study of the Greek and Latin Commentaries on Genesis," University of Chicago Press, (1912)
  3. "Report of the Creation Study Committee," at: http://www.reasons.org/
  4. "Four views of the biblical creation account," Reasons to Believe, at: http://www.reasons.org/ This essay appears to have a HTML coding error as of 2002-JUL-6.
  5. Joseph Pipa, "From chaos to cosmos: A critique of the Framework Hypothesis," Draft, 1998-JAN, at: http://capo.org/
  6. Arthur C. Custance, "Without Form and Void", Doorway Publications, Hamilton, ON
  7. "What is progressive creationism?" ChristianAnswers.net, at: http://www.christiananswers.net/
  8. "Report of the Creation Study Committee," at: http://www.reasons.org/
  9. Mike Schuller, "The Secret of the Universe," at: http://www.mikeschuler.com/

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Copyright © 1995 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on 1995-NOV-3
Most recent update and review: 2008-NOV-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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