Symbolic Reconciliation

One of the longest debates that ever raged since the time mankind embarked on a quest to understand the Universe is about the creation of the Universe. Thinkers thus rally to either of the two camps: the Creationists and the Evolutionists. Each group has been relentlessly trying to prove the other wrong.

What many don’t understand is that Genesis and Evolution are two sides of the same coin. I believe that there have been a few people who have tried to put forward this point. First of all, there is no doubt that evolution is a very valid theory. Fervent supporters of Creationism would inveigh against such a statement. They believe that the entire Universe as we see it was made in a span of 6 days simply because the Bible says so. What one must realize at this juncture is that the first few chapters of the first book and most of the last book of the Bible are intensely symbolic. Interpreting them in a literal sense would be foolish.

There are two issues that merit discussion here: the beginning of the Universe and the origin of life on Earth. The Big Bang theory propounded by science seeks to explain the former issue. According to it, the Universe was once in a hot and dense state that rapidly expanded in what scientists call a Big Bang. It is believed that this occurred approximately 13.75 billion years ago. This event released a hail of subatomic particles by conversion of energy into mass according to the famous equation: E = mc2 . These particles subsequently combined to form the first hydrogen atoms. Large clouds of such atoms and ions coalesced under the force of gravity to form stars. Within these stars atoms continued to combine with each other to form still newer elements, which were released in giant supernovae when stars die. Smaller clouds comprising a mixture of such elements formed planets which were drawn towards stars by gravity to form planetary systems like the solar system.

To look at the myriad stars twinkling as we look up on a clear summer night and say that all that magnificence was created in a single day is to dumb down the infinite wisdom of God. God doesn’t work like a magician or a conjurer. He laid down the laws of science and by those very laws he designed the Universe. “Let there be light”, He said. This is the moment of creation which corresponds to that time roughly 13.75 billion years ago when a singularity appeared in space and in a fraction of time that the human mind can barely comprehend, an intense burst of matter and energy occurred. Thus matter and energy came into being: “-and light appeared.”

Many people ask, “Where is heaven?” I have no definite answer to that, but I believe that it is a different dimension separate from the four dimensions that we know of. A dimension that cannot be perceived as it is, but was created on the second day. We read that God separated the two waters by a dome called the Sky on that day. Throughout the Bible, water is used to  symbolize the Spirit. When Ezekiel spoke of the stream of life giving water that flowed from the Temple, he was talking about the Holy Spirit that flowed from Jesus Christ, the Temple which was torn down and rebuilt in three days. I believe that the water separated by the Sky refers to the partition of the spiritual world into the heavenly realm and the earthly realm.

The formation of the Earth as explained by science is an interesting study. About 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth was a hot, uninhabitable place. The earliest geological period is thus called Hadean Era, corresponding to the hellish condition in the underworld, Hades. During this time, the atmosphere was thick with numerous gases like carbon dioxide, water vapour, hydrogen etc. About 3.5 billion years ago, the surface of the Earth gradually cooled and the molten surface solidified to form the crust. At the same time, the water vapour in the atmosphere condensed and further cooled the Earth. Correspondingly, we see that on the third day, God separated Earth into land and sea.

As the Earth cooled, the atmosphere began to clear. For the first time, the sun, moon and stars appeared in the sky as we see on the fourth day. All this was to lead to that climactic moment of the creation of life. Now, in the thick atmosphere that prevailed on Earth before, a primordial mix of compounds like carbon dioxide, hydrogen, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen etc, along with the highly charged atmosphere with frequent lightning led to a number of curious chemical reactions. Again, I can only marvel at the ways God works, because these reactions led to the formation of diverse molecules essential for the beginning of life. Compounds like ammonia, methane etc. mixed with water and more flashes of lightning later, amino acids, the building blocks of life were formed.

One of the landmark experiments to prove this theory was conducted by Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago. They sealed a concoction of compounds: methane, ammonia, hydrogen, water in a glass flask to simulate the atmosphere of Earth 3.5 billion years ago. Then they passed electricity across a pair of electrodes in the flask creating arcs of electric spark to simulate lightning. They also heated the flask to a similar temperature as that on Earth at that time. Within a day, the mixture in the flask turned pink in colour. At the end of two weeks of operation, most of the carbon in the flask had formed organic compounds. Two percent of which were amino acids that are used to make proteins in living cells. Sugars were also formed. This proved that the building blocks of life could be formed in a clever way thought out by Almighty. Of course, the compounds in the flask didn’t spontaneously become alive. That may have taken several more years of reactions.

According to the theory of origin of life called Abiogenesis, once the Earth had cooled down and oceans had formed as we saw on the third day. The skies had cleared to let the sun rays fall on Earth and in the warm shallow seas a marvelous thing happened. The organic compounds had combined in mysterious ways to form crude single celled organisms. It was the beginning of Evolution, a wonderful tool that God used to populate the Earth with a variety of fascinating creatures. We see that God first filled the seas with living beings. Many scientists believe that it was in the warm shallow seas that the first forms of life appeared. The earliest invertebrate creatures were aquatic. From the seas, life migrated to the land as amphibians and subsequently, terrestrial organisms. All this happened on the fifth day.

By the sixth day, the land and the seas were filled with plants and animals. As evolution had its way, many creatures lived and died. God took his own time with evolution to create the crowning glory of His work - Mankind. How come the Bible talks about creation in six days when it took more than 10 billion years? We need to understand that Gods timescale is mind bogglingly different from ours. Moses and Peter had a vague idea about this difference. “A thousand years to you are like one day..” (Psalm 90:4), “There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years..” (2 Peter 3:8). Of course, a thousand years is a far cry from a billion years but then, I don’t think they could have comprehended such vast time scales then.

As I understand the world around us more and more, I have come to appreciate the magnificent wisdom of God at work in the Universe. Hence I see no conflict between religion and science. Paul said, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and the sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” (Romans 1:20). David also mused, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1).

When I see butterflies flit by as I walk wooded paths or watch the fireflies light up the night with their gentle glows, I am convinced that this beautiful world was designed by a loving God. These ephemeral creatures embellish the world around us and serve little purpose otherwise. They are proof that the world hasn’t evolved in a clinical way as science would have it. Everyone must take time to step out on clear summer nights to watch the night sky. If one is lucky enough they might behold an exquisite, faint streak of white stretching from horizon to horizon. For those who understand that the Universe was created by God, watching the galaxy we inhabit, the Milky Way, is an intensely spiritual experience. Take time to stop and admire the world around you. God lets His creations speak for Him. All you need to do is listen.

-Roshan Sam

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