Genesis Enigma

Andrew Parker is no creationist, and he has little patience for intelligent design. Yet he thinks that Genesis 1’s account of the origin of the universe is scientifically accurate. He asks “Could it be that the creation account on page one of Genesis was written as it is because that is how the sequence of events really happened?” (The Genesis Enigma, xiii). By the end of the book, he is answering that question affirmatively.

What impressed Parker were the parallels between the sequence of events as told by contemporary science and the sequence of divine creative actions in Genesis 1. He links light with the formation of the sun and the gathering of waters with the formation of seas and land (around 4 billion years ago, by his estimate). Two parallels especially intrigued him: He correlated the creation of heavenly lights on Day 4 with the evolution of the eye, which Parker has previously argued (In the Blink of an Eye) was the foundation for the Cambrian explosion (Parker’s “light-switch theory” of evolutionary development. He was also struck by the fact that Genesis claims that the earliest forms of life emerge in the ocean rather than on land: “Why would the writer record such a thing? It goes against all he knows. In fact, it portrays what he does not know” (121). But ignorant as the writer must have been, he got this right.

Parker’s theory is similar to the century-old day-age theory of Genesis 1. But that reading of Genesis 1 typically came from theologians starting with the biblical text; as a zoologist, Parker started from the other side of the religion-science divide. 

Parker’s book is remarkable in part because he eventually bites the logical bullet. How could an ancient writer know so much about the origins of the universe, especially when a fair bit of that history is counter-empirical and counter-intuitive? The parallels are, he thinks, too close and too numerous to be the result of guesswork. Unless it was inspired guesswork, or maybe just inspired.

Parker is reluctant to say it, but he cannot logically rule out the possibility that the author of Genesis knows about the sequence of evolution because God told him: “the writer of Genesis 1, or rather than announcer of the story – Moses – surely must have received divine intervention. That is to say, he must have been spoken to by God. The image of life’s and the universe’s origins formed in the mind of the writer of Genesis 1 or Moses must have been placed there by God. . . . The opening page of Genesis is scientifically accurate but was written long before the science was known. How did the writer of this page come to write this creation account. From where did his thoughts, evidence, imagery, or inspiration come? . . . I must admit, rather nervously as a scientist averse to entertaining such an idea, that the evidence that the writer of the opening page of the Bible was divinely inspired is strong” (216, 219).

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