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LBTB: Genesis (Part 1: the creation, days 1-3)

I’ll start live-blogging from the beginning, at the first Book of Moses, Genesis. It starts like this:

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

1:2 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.

It starts beautifully, doesn’t it? Very poetic. It doesn’t give a hint that it’s soon to devolve into a tedious and lethally boring listing of the basic histories of various tribes. These first few lines are pure, beautiful, wondrous poetry.

Now, there is a problem already. The original Hebrew word used here was Elohim, not God. Elohim is a plural form, indicating there isn’t one god, but many.

“It refers to the Trinity!” you might say. But, at this point, it wouldn’t be a trinity, but a duality. God hasn’t yet forced himself on a 13-year-old virgin in a divine, but non-consensual, act of breeding. But in any case, the original texts hinted at polytheism, not monotheism.

1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

1:5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

This is the first day of creation.

There were waters, but no light. This is in obvious contradiction to what we know of the formation of our solar system. And so, we can dispose quite handily (and very early!) with a literal Biblical truth.

Sorry, Ken Ham. The answers in Genesis are at best poetic, and in general, contrary to reality.

1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

This is one of the strangest lines so far. How do you divide the waters from the waters? Even with poetic license, it makes no sense.

Now, you might be able to interpret the waters as being interstellar dust and the void of space, and the dividing of the waters from the waters referred to the coalescing of our planet. But then, you wouldn’t have day and night in verse 1:4 and 1:5. To have day and night, you need a planet, so Earth already existed.

Both interpretations have internal inconsistencies or incoherences. How am I ever going to be able to follow this tangled mess of a narrative?

1:7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

1:8 And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Thus ends the second day of creation. We learn the firmament is Heaven (whatever that means).

1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

1:10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

1:11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

1:13 And the evening and the morning were the third day.

All that was on the third day.

Okay. So now we finally have land, and seed, and so on. Also, we’re introduced to that most beloved of young earth creationists’ concepts: the kind.

What is a kind? Well, it’s what a parent is. The child shall never be anything other than the kind of its parent(s).

And now, some science!

The same is true in the theory of evolution through natural selection. The offspring of an individual (or two individuals) will not be of a different kind than its parent(s). Changes take place across centuries and millennia and eons and ages. Individuals don’t evolve, populations evolve. And they do so not from one generation to the next, but across hundreds and thousands of generations.

Consider one definition of species — organisms are members of the same species if they can interbreed and produce viable offspring. (This is simplified, and doesn’t take into account asexual reproduction, but it’s good enough for this discussion.) So, you can consider species and kind to be effectively interchangeable, at least when talking about all things Biblical.

NOTE: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A KIND. Forgive my shouting, but it’s important to realize, there is no real definition of kind, so to argue against evolution using the term kind is worse that fruitless, it’s stupid. I’m using the word kind only because it is the word used by young earth creationists, and we’re talking about the Bible here. So while the following is a discussion of actual, y’know, science, it’s in the context of Biblical literalism.

Now. There is a population of organisms. The first generation (call it g1) begat the second generation, g2. Individuals from g2 can still interbreed with individuals from g1. They are of the same kind. This continues: g2 begets g3, and individuals from g3 can still interbreed with g1. They are yet of the same kind.

That doesn’t mean they have the exact same genetic makeup. There is variation between individuals, certainly, but the populations also have a genetic makeup. A statistical survey of the various alleles in population g1 would vary slightly from a statistical survey of g3.

There’s more begetting of generations, until g53. Now, small changes have accrued across generations, so the imperceptible statistical differences between g1 and g3 become very pronounced between g1 and g53. However, g1 and g53 could still interbreed, if they lived at the same time. They are of the same kind.

This continues from another fifty generations. But, individuals from g103 cannot successfully interbreed with g1 (and not just because all members of g1 are dead). Individuals can, however, successfully interbreed with g53. So, g53 is the same kind as g1, and also the same kind as g103. But, g1 and g103 are not the same kind.

Wild, huh? But if you think that is crazy, check out ring species for an example of variation that allows interbreeding not between generations, but between populations.

Science is fucking awesome.

What does this have to do with Genesis? I’m so glad you asked!

Folks like Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis pretend that one kind can’t become another kind. They use the word kind because, well, that’s the word used in Genesis. Their literal interpretation of the Bible causes them to insist that evolution can’t be true, because the Bible claims one kind can’t become another.

Now, ignoring the fact that the Bible is a collection of myths and oral history and various other writings of the time, and in no way represents reality, the Bible still doesn’t contradict the facts of evolution. Here are the relevant verses again:

1:11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

Notice that the kind here refers to the parent and the offspring. There are no dramatic jumps in evolution — the parent produces the same kind as offspring, just as claimed here in the Bible. The only differences is, the small changes in allele concentrations in a population from one generation to the next add up over many generations. The change isn’t noticeable from one generation to the next. It’s noticeable only after dozens or hundreds or thousands of generations.

So when anyone claims that evolution contradicts the Bible based on unchanging kinds, they are full of shit.

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