NOTE: The chapter links are stubs that will be expanded as the revision of draft material proceeds.
God is very pleased with his creation, which reflects his glory and handiwork. The Silent Voice of Psalm 19:1-4 (Chapter 1) which God graciously embedded into his creation gives a remarkable seelf-witness. God did not have to provide such a witness -- it is so unexpected that each new discovery comes as a great surprise to the hearers themselves, and often the finding is disputed for a time until time and further evidence finally demonstrate its truth beyond reasonable doubt.
That silent voice includes a remarkably detailed narrative set down as the creation unfolded, expressed in the many languages of science and observation: in the light of stars and cosmic rays, in the rocks, in the genetic code of every living species; as well as in the awe-inspiring beauty, symmetry and harmony of the earth and the heavens.
The silent voice has been accessible to the listener at all times of human existence, even in pre-scientific days (Chapter 1/Astronomy); but it has special meaning reserved to those who heed it in these present days, as the various languages of science interpret it with greater insight and depth of understanding.
The silent voice gives a detailed and truthful account of the Creation Narrative, in keeping with God's glory and truthfulness. What the voice expresses, if correctly understood, is true. If it indicates that a given stage in the creation process occurred at a certain time, and in a particular way, then that is what in fact happened. The silent voice does not narrate fictitious history.
Embedding this true narrative of the silent voice into his creation was a self-imposed restraint that God placed on his own creative activity. He lives in timeless eternity and could have created the present world instantaneously without the contingency of time01. But God chose to create in time and using natural forces, when time together with those natural forces can advance the creation narrative. The continuing task of science is to determine exactly what those natural forces are, their capabilities and limits, and how they participate in the creation narrative.
Here is the Creation Narrative revealed by the Silent Voice (as best we can understand it at the present time):
• The universe is finite and began with the Big Bang 13.73±0.12 billion years ago (Ba)02 (Chapter 3). Exactly what happened at the Big Bang instant cannot be explained by science because the known rules of physics and chemistry do not apply at this instant, when the universe (apparently) had zero size and infinite density. In this instant all of the energy of the universe was created as light and gravitational potential energy. A fraction of a second later, ordinary matter formed, followed a few minutes later by the creation of a few of the lightest elements: mostly hydrogen and helium. These are called the "primodial elements".
• The stars and the heavier elements formed in the forges of the stars over the next 9 billion years (By) (Chapter 4).
• The Sun and the Solar System formed from the remnants of an exploded star about 4.54 billion years ago. Early-on the Earth melted as it formed, and the moon formed a short time later from remnants of the Earth's crust (Chapter 5).
• As the earth cooled, a reducing (oxygen-free) atmosphere formed and a global ocean covered the earth. On this watery earth, God created the first microscopic life about 3.8 billion years ago. Actual 3.5 billion year old fossils of cyanaobacteria witness to the form and complexity of this early life (Chapter 6).
• For the next 2 billion years, these bacteria proliferated on the earth and did the necessary groundwork to support the arrival of more advanced life (Chapter 7). During this time the bacteria built up major ore deposits, and towards the end, gradually built an oxidizing atmosphere with a stable oxygen content, an essential requirement for the next landmark creation, visible multicellular life. Another essential creation in preparation for visible life -- the eukaryotic cell -- also appears at the end of this time (Chapter 8).
• The first visible multi-cellular creatures appeared in the oceans and shallow water environments about 500 to 600 million years ago. The full range of animal body types (phyla) appeared rapidly (Chapter 9), followed somewhat later by plants (Chapter 10). At this time all plants and animals lived in a water environment.
• In parallel with the preparation for advanced life, the earth formed the first stable dry land -- the material of the continents -- beginning about 3 billion years ago (Chapter 11). Microbial life began to populate the dry land and began the task of building up nutrients for later land life.
Once the oxygen in earth's atmosphere stabilized, it gradually formed an ozone shield to filter out the most harmful cosmic rays. This made it possible for advanced animals (Chapter 12) and plants (Chapter 13) to populate the land, both beginning about 380 million years ago. Over time the flora and fauna developed into the living species that are familiar today.
• The final step in this vast creation narrative is the creation of humans. After a long preparation, Homo sapiens appeared some 20-40,000 years ago, descending from a single first human woman, the first "Eve" (Chapter 14). This is the supreme achievement and the ultimate purpose of the entire creation narrative.
• This creation narrative succeeded only because the material universe is precisely tuned to support the entire creation agenda, a remarkable, teleological, anthropic universe so precisely tuned for life that it "must have known we were coming."03 (Chapter 15). Of course, the very ability of the silent voice to speak to modern man depends on the existence of a reliable medium of speech, the language of science, and the particular features of that speech that convey a development timeline to measure off the creation process in time (Chapter 16).
All of these assertions are, of course, conditioned upon the accuracy of the current understanding of science, which interprets the silent voice and is quite accurate overall, but may be subject to some changes in response to further discoveries and research.
Time is Created. One of the most remarkable occurrences of the past 100 years is the agreement between of the physical sciences and the historical position of Christianity that the universe had a beginning in the creation, and that time is part of that creation. Before the Big Bang, time and space as we know them, did not exist.Time in the Creation Narrative. Since time is created, God lives and acts apart from time. Nevertheless, God chose to create subject to the limitations of time, even though he could have created everything instantaneously by fiat (see note 1).
The Historical Christian View of Time. The Christian view that time is created comes from several New Testament passages that state that Christ existed before time began, which implies that time had a beginning04. Plato also argued that time was part of the creation in his work Timaeus05. The Old Testament view of this is not explicitly stated (as far as I am aware) but is implied (some say) by statements such as Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Time in General Relativity. In Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, time is intertwined with space in the 4-dimensional space-time continuum and with the equivalence of mass and energy, which involves a time-dependent parameter, the speed of light. One remarkable (and distressing to some early physicists, including Einstein himself) feature of general relativity is that it implies that the universe is either expanding or contracting: it cannot be otherwise. If it is expanding (as work by astrophysicists have shown), then by projecting back in time, there was a beginning, and so the universe is finite: hence the Big Bang occurred at some specific time in the past. Time and space began at the Big Bang."06
The Silent Voice, which, when accurately understood, is a truthful witness to his creative activity. A timeline is an integral part of that creation narrative. The narrative is complex: it takes the best efforts of the human mind and wisdom built up over millennia to understand it even partially. It is our privilege, as benefactors of modern science, to understand this witness more deeply than was possible at any other time in human history.
Time only figures in the creation account if there is a reason for its presence:
(1) The universe and the stars evolved with time. God chose to create the cosmos using natural processes that -- largely within the past hundred years -- have been revealed by general relativity and astrophysics. Against all reason and the desires of many scientists (who would have preferred a material universe with no beginning), the universe and time began in a Big Bang. This is an unavoidable, inexorable, logically derived fact. The mathematics that describes the details is, in effect, a specialized language of the silent voice, which reveals a record of creation activity reaching back to 10-43 seconds after the beginning of time, and includes details of how matter formed, how it coalesced into galaxies and stars, how stars and supernovas forge all of the elements, and how our solar system and earth coalesced from the ashes of stars.Clearly, any life-supporting environment must complete its preparation within the life of the solar system and more particularly the sub-span of time in which the system can provide a life-supporting environment. Thus the whole development of life is constrained to take place within a limited time budget of a few billion years -- the useful lifetime of a sun-like star. Evidence indicates that the entire process from the creation of the universe to the preparation of the earth for human habitation, proceeded about as quickly as possible.
(2) All natural processes are time-dependent. If (as I believe) God used natural processes when they would suffice -- for reasons of the integrity of the Silent Voice -- then creation using such processes occurred in time, and require the necessary minimum time to achieve the end result. This implies billions of years to create the elements and evolve the necessary components of the solar system, and further billions to develop the environment and species variation by natural means (to the extent possible). Evidence indicates that the entire process proceeded as quickly as possible.
Based on the best current understanding, many time-dependent events in the creation of life and the development of advanced species appear to occur much faster than would seem to be possible using purely natural processes. The secular conclusion is that they are the result of "unknown processes" or the chance occurrence of very low probability events. In my view these improbable events amount to "sharp points" that will be noted throughout the reconstruction of the creation narrative.
A Purposeful (Teleological) Creation.
The normal narrative of nature is one of constant disintegration and of pending chaos. The second law of thermodynamics dictates that this must occur, at least for as long as the universe is not in the end stages of a contraction07. In contrast to this, the creation narrative has a sense of direction, an arrow of development that moves inexorably towards the task of creating life, and ultimately humans and a congenial habitat. This development advances step by step with little, if any, wasted time. It pauses at a given stage just long enough to prepare the underpinnings for the next advance.
The pace of creating humans and their habitat had to keep moving, because there is an overall limitation to time -- the span of a few billion years in which the Sun can support a suitable habitat. Within that overall limitation, natural changes occur according to their own time requirements, and gradually build up from a primitive to a contemporary physical and biological world. Even natural catastrophes and cataclysms work toward this end -- at each step, clearing the stage for the sequel.
Within this purposeful development, the Creator uses natural processes whenever they suffice to produce the needed results, reserving fiat creation for things that cannot occur, if at all, within the time limitations. The silent voice provides a record of such means and changes -- a voice that can be heard and interpreted by that final human creation for which this whole enterprise is aimed. That itself is a glory.
There is no feature or law of nature that implies this purposeful development or that dictates that there would be a progression from the earliest living microbes to the modern species of life, and in particular no such thing that would predict the development of a human being. From the natural perspective, there is simply too much contingency, too much opportunity for things to fail. Even today the habitat for human existence lives as a minute habitable island within a vast sea of hostile forces -- a fact that leads some to contemplate extraordinary and ultimately futile efforts to preserve our exceedingly, irrationally blessed existence.
Every living cell is a beehive of activity with thousands of life's molecules being built up, broken down and reconfigured every second -- millions, billions, trillions of these events occur over its lifetime. Remarkably, all of this activity is the natural result of many ordinary, deterministic, chemical and physical interactions taking place at a microscopic level. For the most part, all of this happens smoothly, but in rare instances, a random change occurs, something out of the ordinary. These changes are called contingent because they depend on a chance change of some sort. Two molecules may accidentally brush past each other and result in a small change in the electric potential, thus upsetting a normal chemical reaction; a cosmic ray may pass through the cell and cause a small change in a gene; a chance pollutant may alter a normal reaction; a critical molecule or atom is missing when it is needed: there are many such contingencies. Usually, these accidental changes have no lasting effect on the cell, but once in a while they do result in a change that carries on to the descendents of the cell. Again, most such changes damage the cell's activity, but once in a while a change may actually be an improvement.
As we will see in the sequel, the cell's own development blueprint may encourage or hinder such random changes, and in effect, these provisions of the cell often are an important factor in the cell's survival, such as the ability to adapt to a changed environment.
The net result is that over time, small changes occur in a cell's descendents. Statistically, these changes occur at a sufficiently reliable rate that it is possible to use them as measures of relatedness among species, and even as a sort of elapsed-time clock over geological times. A most remarkable example of this latter development is conodont "teeth" which are microscopic and change very slowly over thousands and millions of years to become in effect time markers in the geological record08.
These small changes over time are examples of natural evolution. The fact that evolution occurs is hardly in doubt: everyone is familiar with the fact that flu viruses, for example, change year to year, and that occasionally they evolve into new or particularly virulent strains. Concurrently the targets of viral or bacterial attacks can also change, eventually developing resistant strains -- a beneficial result of random change.
In a number of ways cells promote changes. This is perhaps most evident in bacteria which occasionally share genetic material or incorporate genetic material from food. In higher animals the expression of development genes allows some variation which may lead to advancement and assist in adaptation to changing environments09.
The particular power of evolutionary change is in its ability to form superior species (for a given local environment) through competition and dominance of the species that undergo changes that render them the fittest, the best able to survive or to dominate competitors for the resources of the environment. This adaptation to changing environments is a survival mechanism that makes evolutionary change a part of the creation narrative, particularly for primitive species, such as bacteria, that have very high rates of reproduction.
The controversial aspect of evolution is the assertion by Charles Darwin that this evolutionary change is sufficient to explain the origin of all observed differences in all of the species of life. There are so many gaps in explaining the mechanisms for such change that it amounts to a metaphysical need to exclude any reference to, or need for, divine activity in the process of creation.
Without denying any particular asserted evolutionary mechanism, I would prefer to see a theory of evolution that is based on demonstrable mechanisms of change that can be verified by laboratory experimentation. How can natural evolution account for the appearance of a completely new gene or gene package (see Hoyle's remark above)? Such radical changes appear to arise only very rarely in the history of living species. Much more common, and in my view much more plausible, are changes in function or implementation of existing genes and gene packages. It is my view that adequate explanations rooted in experimentation and science may well suffice to explain such modifications.
A consistent and believable evolutionary theory would incorporate:
• An enumeration and evaluation of the mechanisms for both stasis and change in genetic make-up,
• A desription of how such changes get recorded and modified in the genetic code, and
• Effective laboratory experiments (or simulation) to show how these changes occur in time.
I believe that all of these steps are able to be done in a way that would place evolutionary theory on a solid experimental basis. At the same time, completion of these tasks would reveal where evolution fails to provide a complete and adequate explanation of the current state of nature and of life. To date, evolutionary theory has barely scratched the surface of the possible explanations of evolutionary change. The excuse that biology is too complex for such explanations seems to me to be like the assertions in the mid-1800s that we would never be able to learn about the physics and composition of the stars10.
Evolution and natural selection are important engines of change and critical participants in the creation narrative. Creationists should not be reluctant to use natural evolution to explain change when it suffices. But evolution is not sufficient in itself. Something more is at work. This should not be surprising to anyone who is familiar with the "meddling" God of the Bible.
The Necessity of God's Intervention.
Here I will just state my conviction, leaving detailed justification to the full creation narrative contained in the discussions outlined below. I believe that the objective evidence from the sciences indicates that the material universe as we know it, that even the simplest species of life, much less the inexorable arrow of development of life, leading to the present day, could not exist apart from the direct intervention of God the Creator. I attempt to express this conviction in the form of "sharp points" that are sprinkled throughout the creation narrative that follows. The nature of these sharp points is that their implications in favor of design and a Creator, can always be resisted, with effort. But as to the cumulative effect, I agree with Fred Hoyle (whether he really believed it or not).
The genetic blueprint -- the dna -- holds the key to how species are related and (a much more difficult task!) how the creation of new species proceeds. Until the past 50 years it was impossible to examine that blueprint directly, and even today it is a difficult and daunting task. Thus the underpinnings of evolution and the creation of novel forms of life have been, until recently, based on morphology -- a specie's physical form and observed function. This is the basis, for example, of the classification of the animal and plant world into the various phyla. Consequently, despite all of the confident pronouncement of ardent evolutionists, the true understanding of evolution and how new species arise is still in its infancy. I am confident that future centuries will see enormous advances in this understanding, and a much clearer notion of how change occurs. This puts this website's project of describing the creation process at a large disadvantage, because the research results are simply not there! Nonetheless, we will forge ahead in this fascinating endeavor!
In my mind (and this is pure conjecture), God formed new species predominantly by using the genes derived from existing species. I don't know if this was a physical process -- for example, gene exchange as has been observed in some bacteria -- or whether God simply formed genes from the logical structure of prior genes. Perhaps future discoveries will help to fill in this gap in understanding -- following the rule that God uses natural processes when they suffice. In any case, all species of life, both plants and animals, are "related" in the sense that they share many common genes and implement many common tasks at the genetic level.
The new science of Evolutionary Development shows that some broad features of widely diverse species share the same "gene packages" to control similar developments. For example, there is a similar package of genes at the root of the development of appendages -- the limbs, antennas and related sensors -- of many (most?) animal species. Similarly there is a similar package that controls visual organs, even of quite diverse types -- from eye spots to simple eyes to compound eyes -- all controlled by the same small package of genes.
Where did these common gene packages come from? and how does a species develop a new package? That is the pivotal question of creation. If the answer is that these new packages arose by natural processes, then that process should be described in terms of known chemistry and physics, and in such a way that isolated steps can be tested in the laboratory. The science of evolution is only now beginning to face the task of mapping out the implied development steps.
In my view, the human creation is a thing apart -- not because of physical features but because of the human rational faculty. In my view, this is the result of God's fiat creation of humans in his own image -- in my view just one of many likely instances in which God employed fiat creation in the process of creating life: another being the creation of the very first living species (a bacterium). The reasons for these views will be explained in discussing details of the creation narrative.