The Genesis Code, Part IVFebruary 21, 2011
We’ve got one day left to go …
Day 6 (250 Mya to 6000 years ago/appearance of Adam)
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. … God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
As usual, the movie does not quote the relevant passage from Genesis, preferring to summarize it inaccurately as follows, “Day Six, the land animals become dominant and God created man in his own image.” As you will note from the above passage in Genesis, there is no reference to land animals becoming “dominant”. The land animals are made on Day 6. The reason for this slight of hand will become apparent momentarily.
The movie’s scientist character tells us that 250 Mya there was a mass extinction that killed 90% of all life on earth, “followed by a rapid repopulation, mammals, land animals predominating, and then the first hominids.”
The bit about the mass extinction event 250 Mya is correct. It’s known as the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event. The repopulation was actually quite slow, not “rapid”, but this is a minor quibble. The reference to repopulation by mammals is puzzling. The periods following the P-Tr Extinction Event were the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. In other words, it was the age of the dinosaurs, not mammals. During those periods, mammals were quite small. It was not until the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction event 65 Mya, which led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, that mammals finally had an opportunity to exploit larger body sizes and diversify into the position of dominance on land that the movie is referring to.
The real problem for The Genesis Code when it comes to Day 6 is the fact that Genesis describes God making all land animals on Day 6. The earliest evidence of land-dwelling tetrapods dates back to 395 Mya, with the recently discovered footprints in Poland. That is 145 million years too early for the time frame allotted to Day 6 in the movie. In fact, by 250 Mya (the beginning of Day 6 in The Genesis Code), the land was already teeming with life, including pelycosaurs, amphibians, therapsids, archosaurs, and cynodonts. Knowing that land animals were abundant long before their time frame for “Day 6”, the movie has to ignore the plain meaning of “God made … all the creatures that move along the ground” and substitutes the “land animals become dominant” reading of Day 6, hoping that no one has brought their Bible to the movie theatre.
The Genesis Code purports to demonstrate that the Bible and science can both be true. This is a laudable goal, but it cannot be accomplished by pretending that Genesis contains a coded message that accurately describes the history of the universe and life on earth. In order to make their case, the makers of this movie have repeatedly twisted the language of Genesis and grossly misstated the scientific facts. It is telling that on the Endorsements page on the movie’s website, there doesn’t appear to be a single endorsement from a scientist.
The order of events in Genesis clearly does not line up with the scientific record. No matter what time frames are assigned to each day of creation, it’s never going to be the case that birds (Day 5) came before land animals (Day 6). It’s never going to be the case that fruit-bearing trees (Day 3) came before aquatic life (Day 5).
After walking us through his trainwreck of an explanation of the Genesis “code”, the movie’s physicist hero proudly proclaims that, “Science has proven what religious leaders have been unable to prove for thousands of years.” His sister chimes in with, “Science has just caught up with the truth of the Bible.” The irony is that, if one accepts that the account in Genesis is meant to be a scientifically accurate account of material origins, then the contrary is true: science has disproven the Bible. This is the danger in trying to use ancient texts for purposes for which they were never intended.
The sad fact is that thousands of evangelicals will flock to this movie. Given the big name actors and the high production values, they will assume that the producers must have invested equally in scientific quality control. They will walk away thinking that their faith in the Bible is well-placed because of the book’s prescient foretelling of the discoveries of modern science. This is particularly problematic for young people, who are thereby set up for a spectacular crisis of faith when they encounter credible scientific information later in life.
For anyone interested in how the Christian faith can co-exist with credible science, I would recommend skipping The Genesis Code and spending a little time with the resources over at the Biologos website.