I’ve been thinking a lot about the intersection of science (particularly evolution and the Big Bang) and Genesis 1. I’ve taught Old Testament Survey several times lately, and that (among other things) keeps the topic in mind.
I’ve been trying to think of parables (explanatory stories) that I could use to illustrate good and bad approaches to the topic. Here’s what I have so far; can you add to my list?
How Science Works I
Imagine with me that you’re sitting in your living room, watching TV. A baseball crashes through the window on the north side of your house. What story do you compose in your mind to explain what has happened?
Well, if you live in a neighborhood where the kids play catch in their yards, you probably assemble a story based on things you’ve seen (kids playing ball) and things you know about people (Billy, the neighbor boy to the north, is always running into things and breaking things.)
You take something you observe (a baseball breaking glass on the north side of your house and landing on your living room floor) and combine it with previous knowledge (a neighborhood full of kids, Billy’s predilections, the fact that his house is on the north side of your house) to explain what happened.
THAT’S WHAT SCIENCE DOES.
- Scientists observe stuff.
- Then they mix what they observe with previous knowledge (knowledge from previous observations) to form hypotheses about what happened.
Then (3) they test their hypotheses. For example: what happens if you go next door and find out that Billy has been away at a relative’s house all week, and was not in the same zip code with you when the ball crashed through your window? You adjust your explanation / hypothesis.
How does this apply to the discussion of Genesis 1 and the Big Bang?
When scientists say that the universe is 13.77 billion years old, they are (for the most part) not trying to attack Genesis 1. They’re stating the results of a whole bunch of complex observations, and a whole bunch of extremely complicated math.
They’ve observed the presence and prevalence of different elements in the galaxy; the distance from earth of the cosmic background radiation that appears to be the most distance phenomenon we can observe, etc.
And based on all those observations, and a whole lot more math than I want to think about, they say (in essence): “What I see makes sense IF the universe is 13.77 billion years old, and it began with the explosion of a singularity that initially contained all space-time, …”
Which is a lot like dusting the broken glass off the baseball, picking it up and taking it next door, and saying to Billy’s dad, “What I see makes sense if Billy is in town, and he and his friends were playing baseball in the side yard.”