Is Genesis Believable?
Few dinosaurs are as famous as the brontosaur. Millions of people have gazed at huge brontosaur models in museums or looked at brontosaur pictures in books. Generations of cartoon watching children have seen the brontosaur featured in The Flintstones. In 1989 the U.S. Post Office chose four major dinosaurs to feature on stamps, and one was the brontosaur. The brontosaur has enjoyed an impressive career as a big time celebrity. There’s just one small problem: it never existed!
How could a non existent creature become so famous? Well, back in 1874, a large dinosaur skeleton was found, but the skull was missing. A fossil expert decided to complete the skeleton by adding a skull which had been found some distance away, and it was trumpeted as a newfound species called brontosaurus. With each passing year, the brontosaur’s fame grew. But at long last somebody pointed out that the head matched one dinosaur species, while the skeleton matched a different species. The making of the brontosaur was like taking the bones of a poodle, topping them off with the skull of a cat, and calling the mismatched skeleton a newly discovered species.
It took quite a while for scientists to notice the mismatch, and it has taken far longer for non scientists to get the news. At the time the post office worked on the brontosaur stamp, it had already been years since the beloved brontosaur had been dismissed by science as a big blunder, but some people in the post office were apparently getting their information from Flintstone reruns rather than keeping up with the facts. Still today, many people still believe in the brontosaur, and some dinosaur websites confidently offer pictures and stories of brontosaurs.
Most of us have enormous confidence in science, and we can hardly believe that a fossil expert could make a wrong headed dinosaur. But what about portraying a pig as a primate? Believe it or not, that really happened. Evolutionist scientists announced that they had found a missing link between apes and humans, and they offered drawings of the skull and skeleton, along with an artist’s portrait of what this ape man had looked like. Science labeled it Hesperopithecus; the popular media called it Nebraska Man. With all the details being offered about the way this missing link looked and how he lived, people were impressed, and few were aware that the only real fossil the scientists had to go on was a tooth. It was quite a stretch to figure out so much from just a tooth, but here’s the worst part: the tooth was later identified as coming, not from an extinct primate, but from a type of pig that today lives only in Paraguay.
Another missing link was an ape man which the experts labeled Eoanthropus. This remarkable skull, popularly known as Piltdown Man, prompted The New York Times to trumpet the headline, “Darwin Theory Is Proved True.” Evolutionary experts testifying for the ACLU at the “Scopes monkey trial” triumphantly used Piltdown Man to prove their case. Years later, however, Piltdown was proved a counterfeit. It turned out that some evolutionists, eager to convince everyone that Darwin was right, had deliberately put together a fake fossil, using a human skull cap and an orangutan’s jaw. It wasn’t even a good forgery, but nobody checked it over closely or challenged its authenticity. Why not? Because it supported the prevailing theory and the perpetrators of the fraud had great prestige. As a result, Eoanthropus enjoyed over forty years as Item A in the evidence for evolution before it was exposed as a fraud.
Now, I don’t mention these things because I am anti-science. I value many of the inventions and technical advances that sound science has achieved. I enjoy scientific study and try to keep up with some of the major ideas and discoveries. But though I appreciate science, I know that science is not always right. Science has been right about many things, but it has also been wrong a lot. Scientists can make honest mistakes, and some dishonest scientists even concoct false evidence on purpose to support their pet theories and advance their careers.
This is important to keep in mind, especially when we think about the relationship between science and the Bible. The book of Genesis, in particular, has been attacked by some scientists. They insist that there’s no way God made the world as the Genesis account says he did. They say there could not possibly have been a worldwide flood as described in Genesis. Such challenges might make you wonder if Genesis is believable. That’s a question we’ll return to, but before you ask whether Genesis is believable, first ask how believable science is.
Many of us have seen textbooks and TV documentaries which display the peppered moth as a present day example of natural selection and survival of the fittest. The moth comes in light and dark forms. At one time the light colored ones outnumbered the darker colored ones because, we were told, they blended in better with lighter colored tree trunks and were harder for birds to detect and devour. But when tree trunks became darker because of pollution, the dark moths were better camouflaged and increased in number, while the light ones stood out and were more frequently eaten by birds and decreased in number.
This is what we were told, and how could we not believe it? We could see it with our own eyes. Textbook photos clearly showed light and dark moths on various tree trunks, leaving no doubt that it would be much easier for birds to find one kind than the other. Films showed birds in action, eating the easier to find moths. Nothing could be more obvious, except for one problem: peppered moths don’t rest on tree trunks!
But how can that be? Photos and films don’t lie. Well, sad to say, photos and films do sometimes lie if people are staging them to support a theory. It turns out that the moths being eaten on film were laboratory bred and were placed onto tree trunks during the day in sleepy condition for birds to eat while the cameras rolled. The classic textbook photos were of dead moths glued to tree trunks, not live ones behaving naturally in the wild. University of Massachusetts biologist Theodore Sargent helped glue moths onto trees for a Nova documentary and says books and films have featured “a lot of fraudulent photographs.”
Peppered moths, it turns out, come out only at night, and nobody is quite sure where they rest during the day. They are seldom even seen in their natural habitat. The best guess is that they rest in high branches, hidden under leaves. But wherever the moths rest, researchers know that they don’t rest on tree trunks during the daytime, so changes in tree trunk color don’t affect whether there are more light moths or dark moths.
For years the peppered moth was presented as a case of evolution in action. H.B. Kettlewell, the scientist who did the original work, declared that if Darwin had seen this, “He would have witnessed the consummation and confirmation of his life’s work.” However, even if Kettlewell’s moth story had been accurate, it would not have proved large scale evolution. It would only have shown that in an existing population, the relative numbers of dark and light moths can shift in response to environmental changes. It didn’t show the evolution of any new species or any new infusions of genetic information of the sort that would be necessary for one celled creatures, over time, to evolve into human beings. Even so, many Darwinist scientists viewed the peppered moth as powerful evidence for evolution because it offered a clear example of natural selection.
But now this classic case study has lost all scientific credibility. A leading evolutionist conceded that the peppered moth story, which he called “the prize horse in our stable,” has to be thrown out. This realization, he says, gave him the same feeling as when he found out that Santa Claus was not real.
But get this: even after the moth myth was discredited, some textbook authors went on using it and kept giving it the same old evolutionist spin. A Canadian teacher who helped write a science text for Alberta public schools admitted that he and his colleagues “were aware” of the problems with the moth story when they wrote the book, but they included it anyway. Why? Because “it is extremely visual,” he said. When students are older, he added, “they can look at the work critically.”
But if that’s the case, why not feature photos of a department store Santa Claus in a science book? After all, Santa is “extremely visual.” Why not teach students that science has proven Santa’s reality? If anyone objects to this approach, just say that when kids get older, they can check on their own whether the science book was right in portraying Santa as a proven fact.
Pictures of dead moths glued to tree trunks have as little scientific value as photos of an actor dressed as Santa Claus, and yet some science educators go right on teaching young people the moth myth as though it is a scientific fact. Why? Mainly because they think the moth myth is a persuasive show and tell for the kind of natural selection which supposedly drives the grand process of evolution without a Creator.
An Error-Free Authority
Before you ask, “Is Genesis believable?”, first ask whether your favorite science textbook is believable. Let me say again that I don’t want to badmouth science or deny its many achievements. But I do want to caution against believing every pronouncement made in the name of science as though it is beyond question. We must always be alert to the possibility of unintentional mistakes, flawed reasoning, and even doctored evidence and deliberate lies. We may learn and benefit from science a great deal, but we should not bow before science as the error free, final source of all truth.
There is an error free, final authority we can always believe, but science isn’t it; the Bible is. The Bible comes to us from God himself. God knows all things and never makes mistakes. God always speaks the truth and never lies. So when God speaks to us in the Bible, we can believe every word—starting with the very first chapters of Genesis. Is Genesis believable? Absolutely, because the words of Genesis are God’s words.
The question “Is Genesis believable?” is tied to another question: is Jesus believable? If Jesus is believable, then Genesis is believable. If Genesis isn’t believable, then Jesus isn’t believable either. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ must believe the first chapters of Genesis. There’s no doubt that Jesus taught the truth of those chapters. When some people asked Jesus about God’s will for marriage, how did he respond? He quoted from the first two chapters of Genesis. Jesus echoed the Genesis message that at the beginning, the Creator made humanity male and female, and that marriage makes the two of them one flesh. “Therefore,” concluded Jesus, “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matthew 19:4 6). Marriage is not merely a humanly evolved way of relating that we are free to disregard if we wish, said Jesus. Marriage is something God instituted at the very beginning when he created Adam and Eve, as recorded in Genesis.
I could point out a variety of occasions when the Lord Jesus Christ made Genesis a vital part of his teaching, but for now I’ll mention just one more. Jesus said that the time of his Second Coming would be like the time of Noah. “For in the days before the flood,” said Jesus, “people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:38 39). Jesus plainly taught the reality of Noah, the reality of the huge ark he built, and the reality of the flood which swept over the earth as God’s judgment against human evil.
It’s clear, then, that Jesus affirmed the early chapters of Genesis. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). The story of Abraham begins in Genesis 12, so if Christ existed as the Son of God even before Abraham, it means he was there during the events described in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Indeed, not only was he there, but he was vitally involved in those events. The Bible says of Christ, “All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16 17). If our guesses and theories about earth’s early history come into conflict with the record in Genesis and the words of Jesus, we must be quicker to doubt ourselves than to doubt the words of the Lord and Creator.
Sometimes the wisest thing we can do is humbly confess that there is much we don’t know, and when we’re uncertain, to trust the words of God and the Son of God. A biblical writer in Proverbs 30 said, “I am the most ignorant of men… I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One. Who has gone up to heaven and come down? … Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know? Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:2 6).
In another place God responded to someone who challenged him and demanded answers from him. The Lord thundered, “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? … Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” (Job 38:2,4). We may talk confidently as though we have figured out exactly what happened at the beginning of the universe, but what if our theory is “words without knowledge?” We weren’t there to see what happened, but God was there, and in the early chapters of Genesis he tells us the basics of what we need to know about the earliest history of the universe and of humanity.
Genesis is so important for the New Testament gospel of Christ that the New Testament refers to Genesis over 200 times. People may doubt the truth of Genesis, but when people disagree with God, “let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). Genesis is true as surely as God is truthful, as surely as Jesus is God’s Son, as surely as the whole Bible is God’s Word.
The New Know-It-Alls
Does this mean that Christians are always right about every idea which they say comes from Genesis? No, just because Genesis is always right does not mean Christians are always right about what Genesis is saying. At various points in history, Christians have misunderstood or misapplied the Bible’s teaching in various ways. These past blunders ought to remind Christians not to act like know it alls but to realize that we are sometimes mistaken.
The most famous and embarrassing case is when church officials opposed Galileo for saying that the earth orbits around the sun. The Bible itself doesn’t even deal with that question, but some important people (spurred on by the science establishment of that day) took a verse out of context and persecuted Galileo.
But we’re not living in Galileo’s time any more. That was centuries ago. These days, people are less likely to think they know it all based on the Bible and more likely to think they know it all based on science. These days persecution usually comes from evolutionists and their lawyers who want to suppress any public school teacher who questions any aspect of evolution or even hints that this world bears the marks of intelligent design or a divine Creator. These days the most common problem is not that we believe too strongly in Genesis or in our interpretation of it, but that we don’t believe Genesis and have too little confidence in its factual reliability. These days, when a scientific theory appears to contradict something in Genesis, people tend either to reject Genesis or else to revise the understanding of it so drastically that the reinterpretation bears little resemblance to what Genesis actually says. Once upon a time, theologians and preachers may have been too sure of themselves and too quick to reject new scientific ideas, but these days, many are so unsure of their own beliefs and so quick to yield to any scientific claim that their beliefs about Genesis change with every shift in the winds of biology or cosmology.
We don’t want to end up looking like dimwitted dunces who disagree with scientific findings, like the misguided opponents of Galileo. But in situations where scientific ideas seem to be at odds with biblical teaching, why think only of Galileo and the church’s error? Why not also remember brontosaurus, Piltdown Man, the peppered moth myth, and other blunders, hoaxes and myths of modern science? And why not pause for a moment to remember that every major scientific theory in history has eventually been discarded and replaced with another.
Somehow science, despite many errors, has gained an aura of absolute truth. But science has all the glitches and weaknesses of the people who carry on scientific investigation and analyze the results. Del Ratzsch, a philosopher of science, says that even at its best, “science seems to have a serious and incurable case of the humans.” Ratzsch points out that just about the only sure thing about the overarching theories of science is that they will eventually be discarded and replaced: “After the twists, turns, false starts and revolutions found in the history of science,” says Ratzsch, “it would be pretty amazing if we were the ones in the right time out of all history who were here when the truth finally arrived.” What seems absolutely certain today may be laughed at by scientists a hundred years from now.
What does this mean in relation to Genesis? It means if a particular scientist or theory contradicts the creation account or the flood of Noah’s time, we shouldn’t be embarrassed to go right on believing what God says in Genesis. In response to new scientific information, we may examine our own understanding of Genesis to make sure we haven’t been reading some things into it that aren’t there. But even as we doublecheck our interpretation, we should have no doubt that Genesis itself, rightly understood, is absolutely true and without error.
Now, I’ve been discussing what happens in cases where the Bible and science might come into conflict, but let’s not get the wrong idea. The Bible and science are in harmony far more than they are at odds. When science correctly interprets the world God made, and when faith correctly interprets what God says in the Bible, there is no conflict between science and faith.
Why Not Believe?
But, you might ask, hasn’t evolution become so certain that Genesis is no longer believable? Well, a human theory is never more believable than the Word of God. But in case you think people reject Genesis and believe in random evolution because of clear, indisputable evidence, just listen to the words of some true believers in evolution. A noted atheistic biologist said that belief in evolution comes “not so much from motives deduced from natural history as from motives based on personal philosophic opinion. If one takes his stand upon the exclusive ground of fact, it must be acknowledged that the formation of one species from another species has not been demonstrated at all.” Atheist Richard Dawkins of Oxford said, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” “Even if there were no actual evidence in favor of the Darwinian theory,” asserted Dawkins, “we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” Another scientist who rejects the Creator said, “Evolution itself is accepted by zoologists, not because it has been observed to occur, or can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.”
Faith in evolution is people’s attempt to avoid the God who made them. Sometimes it is claimed that Christians believe in the personal, caring Creator for no sound reason, simply because they want God to be real. But the fact is, many people deny the Creator because they don’t want him to be real. They would rather believe they are meaningless accidents than be responsible to the Creator.
Famous author Aldous Huxley chose to believe in random evolution, not because of evidence, but so that he could enjoy sexual freedom and do whatever he wanted without considering the God of the Bible. “For myself,” said Huxley, “as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” Meaningless evolution provided a scientific sounding concept to make rejection of God reasonable and respectable. As Huxley put it, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.”
But reality can’t be reinvented for our own sexual and political convenience. Genesis tells the truth, whether we want to believe it or not. Genesis tells us where we came from and who made us. Genesis shows us how Adam and Eve fell into sin and brought themselves, their world, and their descendants under a curse. Genesis shows God’s judgment against our sin and offers God’s promise of a Savior, a promise that God fulfilled through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel message is that if you believe in the Lord Jesus, you will be saved. And where does belief in the Lord Jesus begin? With belief in God’s Word, the Bible, beginning with Genesis.