The Genesis Code, Part III

February 20, 2011

I’m continuing my examination of the scientific claims in the new Christian movie, The Genesis Code, which I began in two previous posts (Part I and Part II). We’re on to days 4-5 of creation:



Day 4 (1.75 Bya to 750 Mya)

Genesis 1:14-19

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

The Genesis Code tells us about Day 4 simply that “the sun, the moon and the stars appeared.” The use of the word appeared is, of course, intentional. Genesis 1:14-19 is clear that on the 4th Day God made the sun, moon and the stars. But the writers of the movie have to obscure this because they know that the sun, moon and stars were in existence long before 1.75 Bya.

Having redefined Day 4 to be the day on which the heavenly bodies “appeared”, the movie then proceeds to tell the audience that during this time frame, due to rising oxygen levels, the earth’s atmosphere went from opaque to translucent such that the sun, moon and stars could be seen from earth for the first time.

Why God would decide to put the sun, moon and stars in the narrative according to when they became visible from earth (as opposed to when they were created) is not explained. After all, at 750 Mya there still were no life forms on earth capable of seeing the heavenly bodies.

Moreover, it’s not at all clear to me that the scientific claim is correct. It’s true that the earth’s oxygen content was rising during this period. But that process began billions of years before 1.75 Bya and continued well past 750 Mya. I haven’t been able to locate a reliable source as to whether the various heavenly bodies became visible from earth during this period. But I have some real doubts, particularly with respect to the sun. The only reason that oxygen levels were rising was because oxygen was being produced in abundance by photosynthetic life on earth, which means that the sun (albeit a dimmer sun) must have been visible from earth long before 1.75 Bya.

Day 5 (750 Mya to 250 Mya)

Genesis 1:20-23

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

It is apparent from the above text that for Day 5 we should be looking for the appearance of “every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it” and “every winged bird”.

The scientist character in The Genesis Code tells us, correctly, that initially, sea life would have been dominant. He then tells us that at 530 Mya the Cambrian explosion occurred, “when every species of land animal literally appeared at the same time”.

Really? Are you kidding me? You would think that having spent roughly $5 million on this movie, the producers could have spent a few bucks to hire a bona fide scientist as a consultant. Would it have hurt them to at least borrow a high school science textbook? Or to check the Wikipedia entry for “Cambrian Explosion”? It is at this point in the trailer that one becomes painfully aware that the makers of this movie employed no credible scientific quality control.

As anyone even remotely familiar with the Cambrian fossil record can tell you, the life forms that emerged in the Cambrian were a variety of bizarre sea-dwelling creatures. They included trilobites and early brachiopods and arthropods. In the Cambrian there were zero, count them zero, land animals. The transition to land did not occur into roughly 400 Mya.

It seems fairly obvious what has happened here. The scriptwriters have confused species for phyla. The Cambrian does contain many of the phyla that continue to exist today. But there is an enormous distinction between species (a very narrow category) and phyla (a very broad category). The phylum of chordates, for instance, includes all mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish. What did the Cambrian chordates look like? Like Pikaia, as depicted here:

Or Haikouichthus, as depicted here:

That’s as close as you come to a fish, reptile, amphibian, mammal or bird in the Cambrian. Not exactly “every species of land animal”, is it?

Even if the claim were that the major phyla “literally appeared at the same time,” this too would be wrong. The so-called Cambrian explosion lasted tens of millions of years and many of the phyla that appear in the Cambrian have evolutionary precursors in the earlier Ediacaran fossil record.

But once again, the movie seems to have completely forgotten the text of Genesis. We’re not even supposed to be looking for land animals in Day 5. We’re supposed to be looking for “every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it” and “every winged bird”. From 750 Mya to 250 Mya we certainly do find a lot of aquatic life, but notably missing are the cetaceans (e.g. whales), sirenians (e.g. manatees) and pinnipeds (e.g. seals), which did not return to the water until about 50 Mya (way too late for Day 5).

And of course the most glaring problem for Day 5 is birds. Even primitive birds like Archaeopteryx don’t show up in the fossil record until 150 Mya, well outside the movie’s time frame for Day 5. How does the movie account for this? It doesn’t. It just quickly moves on to the next day, assuming (perhaps correctly) that its target audience is as scientifically illiterate as the scriptwriters.

Frankly, if The Genesis Code were a high school science project, it would be well on track to a solid F.

More to come … [Click here for Part 4]


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