Genesis

This is the Astronomy page, not the Commentary page. This article deals with a subject dear to the worlds of both science and faith. Our Constitution supports both freedom of religion, and separation of church and state, and I, a “nonbeliever,” support each in this discussion and elsewhere.

The idea of a Genesis, or creation story, seems to have its roots in the predawn of mankind. After that, scholars and archaeologists unearthed written documents going back, in some cases, several thousand years.

Those earliest writings bore little relation to the much later King James Genesis most of us know today, or to the earlier Hebrew Bereishit (Genesis). One uniqueness that distinguishes the “new” creation stories from the really archaic versions is their description of something being created out of nothing.

Physics.org is interested in this too:

bigbang

The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html#jCp

I got interested in this Genesis angle after examining the proposed new “No Big Bang” model for the birth of the universe. A universe without beginning or end? It’s not proven mathematically or theoretically, and peer review will be merciless.

But it does revive haunting metaphysical questions arising out of Big Bang or Son of Big Bang: Is a “singularity” anything? How can something be created out of nothing? Or can it indeed?

Genesis? How do we justify THAT? For scientifically-oriented people like me, that’s always been just a lovely metaphor, in fact my favorite part of the OT when I read it as a youngster.

I wanted to remember what Genesis actually SAID. I admit to a shock when I went back to read it anew!

Genesis 1 King James Version para 1-4 (the Hebrew text is identical here).

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

2 And 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.

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

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

Let’s refer to the artist’s model depiction of the creation, development and expansion of the universe in its first 13.8 billion years. We can identify, measure and describe each of the four stages depicted in Genesis.

1a. Big Bang: Inflation, Afterglow

2a. Big Bang: Dark Ages

3a. Big Bang: 1st Stars

4a. Big Bang: Development of Galaxies, Planets, Dark Energy, Accelerated Expansion.

We can see that before Inflation, the universe was dark and without form (so far as we can know). We can see the stars divided light from the darkness, and all of what followed that we observe, measure and chart in the night skies.

We might just replace the biblical word “earth” with “universe.” No one can hold it against iron age mankind that they saw a time frame of “The Seventh Day” instead of our billions of years, spectral red-shifts, and Hubble’s billions of light-years.

For those of us who’re not religious, isn’t it striking how close to “getting it right” sequentially the drafters of Genesis actually came? Our twenty-first-century scientific advances, which make it so easy for us to interpret a customized and vetted physical timeline of the universe, were not even know to mankind when I was a youth in 1950. Those early civilizations had nothing but their eyes and minds to infer a logical sequence of events.

It would be cheap to play the Hollywood “cast of thousands of men and animals” card. God did NOT guide Charlton Heston’s hand in manuscripting Genesis, into what some might be tempted to call an astounding, supernaturally inspired coincidence.

Some are compelled by faith to see Genesis as divinely inspired. I see the power of the mind of man to infer and forge measurable order out of the unknown and chaotic.

For those of us who are religious, can we not be filled with a sense of awe that our spiritual forebears saw so clearly a right design in the night sky, nature and the firmament? Would this God create an inexplicable design that defied all other laws of His universe? I would certainly expect that logical consistency would not represent a problem for a Creator, even as it appears so inexplicable to some of his creatures. Let’s leave it to theologians to prove or disprove my postulate that a moody, irascible, helter-skelter Creator would be a logical contradiction solely of mankind’s making.

NASA states: “Supernovas signal the destruction of an entire star and can be so bright that they outshine the whole galaxy where they are found. Supernovas are extremely important for cosmic ecology because they inject huge amounts of energy into the interstellar gas, and are responsible for dispersing elements such as iron, calcium and oxygen into space where they may be incorporated into future generations of stars and planets.”

We might each do well to pause for reflection again that, whether by divine intervention or nucleosynthesis, we are all, quite literally, children of the stars. If by God, it would seem blasphemous to declare that such a deity could not have both created it in the grand fashion our astrophysicists describe and measure, yet still have left us, an inquisitive and bright mankind of His own design, with an audit trail and the faculties to follow it.

Personally, I find comfort in the fact that the mathematics would be the same in either case.

 

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Is Reality Digital or Analog?

I stumbled across this question in a Scientific American RSS feed. Does it really ask what it seems to? Unfortunately, that seems to be the case. This is what happens when you let a bunch of physicists loose in a sandbox and ask them to define it.

I have to be careful in framing my criticism of the real question posed here, since I lack any credible qualifications for judging questions of quantum mechanics. What I submit instead is that the “definition” of reality does not fall within the jurisdiction of the laws of quantum mechanics (whatever those turn out to be), any more than the glorious majesty of Half Dome or the Grand Canyon falls within the jurisdiction of the traffic court division of the Superior Court of California, County of Kern.

To my thinking, the question as framed is meaningless. Is the Empire State Building incandescent or fluorescent? How many angels can sit on the head of a pin? Continue reading

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