Infallible, part 3: the unoriginality and wrongness of Biblical creation

George Lemaître, le génie du ChristianismeIn my ongoing series of posts addressing the arguments from Michael, a militant Catholic, today’s post will examine the claim that the Bible’s cosmogony is unique among creation myths in that it talks about creation ex-nihilo. In Michael’s words:

Every culture known believed that the Earth, stars, indeed the entire universe has been present in all eternity. Creation stories abounded, but all the stories began with matter that preexisted

Of course, let’s get out of the way the fact that if that were true (it isn’t), it wouldn’t give any advantage to Catholicism against the rest of Christianity, against Judaism, or Islam, since all are sharing the same Genesis story.

It is also obvious that there is such variety in creation myths that it wouldn’t prove anything if one of them happened to correspond vaguely to reality. For instance, the Bhagavad Gita anticipates the concept of a multiverse, the expansion of the universe, until its thermal death, with time scales in the billions of years for the universe, and trillions of years for the multiverse. This is much closer to the current thinking in cosmology than Genesis ever was to the thinking of l’Abbé Lemaître last century. Does it prove that Krishna is the one true god? Of course not.

Let’s get back to Michael’s specific claims. Does every culture really believe that the universe has been existing for all eternity? Of course not. That claim alone betrays confirmation bias, and the thinking from someone who doesn’t bother to verify what other apologists have been saying. Other myths of creation ex-nihilo exist. Worse, Genesis does not itself appear out of thin air: it has its own influences and heritage in Mesopotamian mythology.

The biggest problem however is that Genesis is a primitive, vague creation myth that gets pretty much everything wrong: the Earth is created before the light, the firmament is a thing that is holding “waters”, plants appear before the night and day cycle, which appears before the Sun, which appears before the stars, the Moon appears only at night, and it goes on.

Even the claim of creation ex-nihilo is unsound: the relevant Hebrew verse would be more accurately translated as “in the beginning filled God the heavens and the Earth” (emphasis mine). This implies a pre-existing void that got filled, which is at odds with modern cosmology that shows that our space and time emerged at the Big-Bang, from nothing at all, from a singularity, or from another region of a multiverse. In any case, there was nothing to fill, as space itself had yet to be created.

There is nothing original in the Bible’s creation myth, and it is mostly wrong anyway. It cannot be seriously used as an argument to prove Christianity right.

Archived comments

  • Julien Couvreur said on Friday, November 28, 2014

    Hey Bertrand, Thanks for the discussion tonight. We should exchange emails. I see that you are quite interested in the topic of the Bible and arguing atheism (noticed Boghossian in your reading list). There is an argument which caught my attention but I have yet to see formalized fully: Ockham's Razor. A theory which can explain many possible outcomes (as opposed to specific outcomes) must be assigned a smaller probability by Bayesian inference. The more parameters (degrees of freedom), the smaller the probability. If your theory predicts a narrow range of behaviors (the apple falls in a specific way), every observation that fits increases your confidence significantly. If your theory predicts a very wide range of behaviors (the apple could fall in any trajectory "because God"), then every observation adds almost no confidence. That's an effect of "spreading" the probability thinner over the space of parameters. The God theory has infinite degrees of freedom and can explain any observation, therefore must be assigned an infinitesimal probability/confidence/belief. The open issue is whether Ockham's Razor can be formalized and derived from logic alone (following what E.T. Jaynes does for probability theory).
  • bleroy said on Wednesday, December 24, 2014

    Thanks for the pointer. good post, that probably is however way above the head of the average creationist.