Inspired by Faith and Science: Genesis 1

Genesis 1:3 says God began creation by making light. That's kind of neat, since we've just been looking at science saying the universe began with a flash of light.

But my early interest in astronomy wasn't confined to cosmology. I wanted to know what stars and planets were made of. I was fascinated by results from probes sent to Venus and Mars. The scientists were looking, amongst other things, for for free water, or ice, on Mars as a prerequisite for life. Water vapor in a Venus soup just wouldn't do. We need free-flowing water in puddles and watery clouds in the sky for life to exist. And Genesis 1:6 doesn't just say that God made water next; it says he separated the waters on earth from the waters in the sky; he made precisely that water that the scientists require.

Science says life would have begun in the oceans and plants would have spread onto land, which is just what Genesis says the third day saw. Then comes the fourth.

Day four always used to confuse me as a kid. Why would God create light on day one and not make the things that make light until day four. How did that make sense? But the Venus probe could see light in the thick pea-soup of Venus' atmosphere, even though it couldn't see the sun moon and stars. Scientists say earth's atmosphere would have been pretty soupy too back in the day , and the skies wouldn't have turned blue and clear, and we wouldn't have seen stars until the plants appeared and scrubbed out the impurities.

Then, of course, there's fish and birds and dinosaurs on day five--since ancient English didn't have a word for dinosaur I'm pretty sure ancient Hebrew didn't either, but the sea-monsters and Leviathans of Genesis 1:21 sound like a decent approximation (RSV translates it, unimaginatively, as whales). Then came mammals. Then came man.

As a scientist, I've got to ask how the people writing Genesis, well over 2,000 years ago, somehow managed to guess the right sequence for everything, even including the singularly improbably sunshine on day 4. The simplest explanation that occurs to me is someone told them. And unless I'm going to guess that we discover time travel some day, that someone was God. So, no, I don't think faith and science are enemies. It's science that strengthens my faith and deepens its delight. And it's faith that makes me long to know more, trusting God that there's more to be known, leading me to study science.

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