Thursday, September 1, 2005

Breishis & Science

Does Breishis fit with Science?

I'm glad you asked! Let’s see by looking at the text. I shall ignore Midrashic explanations which tend to be even more fantastical than the basic text and just focus on the basic text. Let’s go chapter by chapter through the beginning of Breishis and see what happens. I shall focus on the aspects of the Breishis story that are relevant to Science, and ignore other details that are not. Contradictions within the text itself shall be ignored, as shall obvious similarities to other ancient texts.

1. Breishis 1
Creation starts approximately 5765 years ago with Water. Next comes light, and then the first day ends. Second day, G-d creates Heaven and Earth, by separating the Waters. Third day, G-d moves around the lower waters, and thereby creates dry land and seas, and then creates vegetation on the earth. On the fourth day, G-d created the Sun, the moon and the stars. On the fifth day, G-d created all aquatic creatures, including Sea monsters, and also all birds. On the 6th day, G-d created animals, insects and then finally man and woman.

1. Science
Creation (of the current Universe) starts approximately 15 billion years ago with a Big Bang of energy, no Water. The energy could conceivably be called ‘light’. There is no separation of water into Heaven and Earth. For the next 10 billion years, various galaxies, stars and planets are born and die. Finally, about 4-8 billion years ago, our solar system is formed. The sun forms first and then the surrounding planets. Many stars obviously precede the earth’s formation, and vegetation obviously does not come before the Sun. Life starts in the seas about billion years ago, and then slowly spreads to the land first, and then to the sky. Dinosaurs rule the earth from about 300 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. Man (and of course woman) appear in some form about 2 million years ago. For the next 2 million years, Man (and woman) slowly evolve from primitive ape like beings to modern Homo Sapiens. Language appears about 100,000 years ago (if not earlier). Cave Paintings appear about 30,000 years ago. Man migrates out of Africa (or maybe India) and spreads across all 5 continents. 10,000 years ago we have intelligent man living in North America, Australia, Africa, Europe in many places. Pottery, art, language, even some basic farming are commonplace.

1. Conclusion
No match.

2. Breishis 2
G-d created a man, called Adam, and then placed him in the Garden of Eden, somewhere near present day Iraq/Iran. G-d tells Adam to eat from any tree. But not the tree of Good & Evil. Adam names all the animals but doesn’t have a mate. G-d recognizes that this isn’t good, so G-d makes him sleep, and then takes one of his ribs and creates a woman. They are both naked, and are not ashamed.

2. Science
The area described as Gan Eden is quite lush and fertile, and civilization does blossom there. As well as many other places in the world. Women and man both evolve from earlier forms.

2. Conclusion
No match.

3. Breishis 3
A talking snake convinces the woman to eat the forbidden fruit. G-d is unhappy and banishes the man and woman from the Garden. He punishes the snake by making it crawl, women are punished by being subservient and having childbirth pains, and men in general punished by having to work the ground for food. G-d creates clothes for Adam, and Adam calls his wife Eve.

3. Science
Snakes don’t talk, and fruit is fruit. Biologically, childbirth has been difficult for at least 100,000 years, since babies have large heads which are difficult to fit through the birth canal. Snakes have also been crawling for millions of years. Early man started to farm (as opposed ti hunt) about 10,000 years ago. Farming was always difficult. Clothes were invented at least 100,000 years ago.

3. Conclusion
No match.

4. Breishis 4
Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain & Abel. Cain kills Abel and G-d marks him so that he won’t be killed by other people (which other people?). Cain has children. And 7 generations later he has Yovol and Yuvol and Tuval-Cain, originators of nomadic life, musical instruments and brass & iron respectively.

4. Science
• 29,000–25,000 BCE - First ceramic appears
• 3rd millennium BC - Copper metallurgy is invented and copper is used for ornamentation
• 2nd millennium BC - Bronze is used for weapons and armour
• 1st millennium BC - Pewter beginning to be used in China and Egypt
• 16th century BC - The Hittites develop crude iron metallurgy
• 13th century BC - Invention of steel when iron and charcoal are combined properly

4. Conclusion
Partial match.

5. Breishis 5
Adam lived 930 years. Seht lives 912 years. Enosh lives 905 years. Kenan lives 910 years. Chanoch lives 365 years. Lamech lives 777 years. Noach is 500 years old, and has 3 children.

5. Science
Average lifespans tend to rise and fall depending on the region of the world and time perod, but generally fall into the range of 30-80 years. Maximum human lifespan would seem to be 120-150 years. All ancient bodies dug up (5000-10000 years old) are within the 30-80 range, usually at the low end. Living past 200 years might be possible in the future, but not in the past.
5. Conclusion
No match.

6. Breishis 6
Sons of gods (rulers?) steal daughters of men. G-d is unhappy, and limits human lifespan to 120 years. Nephilim (giants?) roam the earth. G-d is unhappy with the violence on the earth, and vows to destroy all mankind. However Noach finds favor, so G-d commands him to build a boat, and gives him detailed instructions. G-d tells Noach to take 2 of every kind of animal into the Ark, and food.

6. Science
There are no sons of gods (at least according to Judaism). There are also no giants. Boats are commonplace about 4,000 years ago.

6. Conclusion
Partial Match.

7. Breishis 7
Approximately 5,000 years ago, G-d says he will cause it to rain and blot out every living being on the earth. The fountains of the deep were opened, as well as the storehouses of the heavens. All the high mountains under all the heavens are covered in water. Every single animal, fish and insect dies, only Noah is saved.

7. Science
There were many local floods throughout the world. An ice age ended about 20,000 years ago in Europe causing massive flooding. There was also potentially a major flood in the Caspian see area about 8,000 years ago. In all cases, only the local populations and animals were affected. No mountains were ever covered in water. That much water does not exist on the planet, nor could the planet sustain so much water. There are no ‘fountains of the deep’, nor ‘storehouses in the heaven’ of such vast quantities of water. Geological and archeological evidence from a variety of sites all over the world show uninterrupted human habitation and development for at least the past 30,000 years, and show that a global flood never happened.

7. Conclusion
No match.

8. Breishis 8
The flood eventually ends and Noah and his wife and sons leave the Ark. They repopulate the earth with animals, fish and birds, since everything was wiped out. There are no other humans besides them.

8. Science
Archeological and zoological evidence from all over the world show an uninterrupted development of human and animal life all over the planet. Some species have been indigenous to their areas for tens of thousands of years.

8. Conclusion
No match.

9. Breishis 9
Noah and his family repopulate the earth. Noah dies at 950 years old.

9. Science
Population and genetic studies, not to mention archeological data, show that the population of the earth with humans was unbroken and happened 30-50,000 years ago. There was no repopulation of humanity only 4,000 years ago from a single family.

9. Conclusion
No match.

10. Breishis 10
Geneology of Noach’s sons, showing how they repopulated the Earth.

10. Science
Same as above.

10. Conclusion
No match.

11. Breishis 11
The whole earth speaks one language, approximately 4,000 years ago. They buld a tower to heaven which displeases G-d. G-d scatters the men and causes them to have different languages. Men spread across the face of the earth. A geneology is decribed linking shem to Abraham

11. Science
Linguistic evolution shows language developed in many parts of the earth over the last 50 to 100,000 years. Human populations too.

11. Conclusion
No match.

Clearly, 99% of the Science of the first 11 chapters does not match accepted Science. The only thing that came close was the invention of metal working. So, what are we to do?

Obviously you can claim that all Science is the work of evil atheist reshoim and therefore unreliable, or alternatively everything is a Ness. However Science is clearly reliable, and nothing is a Ness unless the Torah explicitly says it is (following the mehalech of the Rambam).

This leaves us with 2 options.

1. Kvetch like crazy to come up with far out Scientific theories, take many of the words non literally, ignore many difficult passages and create a story which is entirely far fetched, does not really match the accepted scientific account and destroys much of the meaning and impact in the text

2. Explain the whole thing as mythology which was included in the Torah for the important moral and spiritual lessons it teaches us.

I call option 1 the ‘Kiruv Clown’ option.