Updated March 2022
The frame of reference in Genesis 1:1 is the cosmos, all of physical reality. God declares that he brought into existence the entire universe—matter, energy, and all the associated space-time dimensions. Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us that the cause of the universe acts independently (i.e., from outside) of matter, energy, and the space-time dimensions along which matter and energy are distributed to bring it into existence. Observations now securely establish the reliability of general relativity.
Genesis 1:2 explicitly shifts the frame of reference, the narrator’s vantage point, to the surface of Earth, above the waters but below the clouds. This verse describes the initial conditions of primordial Earth: dark on its surface, covered with water, empty of life, and unfit for life. With the frame of reference and the initial conditions for the six creation days thus established, a straightforward chronology of creation events unfolds:
- Planet Earth is singled out for a sequence of divine interventions. At its beginning, Earth is empty of life and unfit for life, and light cannot penetrate its thick atmosphere.
- As interplanetary debris cleared and early life began to transform Earth’s atmosphere, light from the heavenly bodies could penetrate to the surface.
- As water vapor formed in the troposphere, a stable water cycle formed.
- Continental landmasses arose and ocean basins took shape.
- Plants began to grow on the continental landmasses.
- The atmosphere transitioned from translucent to occasionally transparent so that the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars could be seen from the vantage point of Earth’s surface.
- Swarms of small sea animals filled the oceans.
- Sea mammals and birds were created and became abundant.
- Three specialized kinds of animals came onto the scene: short-legged land mammals, long-legged, easy-to-tame land mammals, and long-legged, difficult-to-tame land mammals—all three appropriate in specific ways to help meet humanity’s needs.
- Human beings appeared.
Multiple factors limit large animals’ capacity for natural-process change and make them especially vulnerable to rapid extinction. The seven most significant factors are these:
- Relatively small populations
- Long generation times (interval between birth and the ability to reproduce)
- Low numbers of offspring per reproduction cycle
- Highly complex morphology and biochemistry
- Relatively large body sizes
- Specialized food supplies
- Complex social structures
These factors limit the capacity of animals to not only survive natural selection and mutations but also to adapt to environmental changes. Biologists observe an even more fundamental problem: deleterious mutations vastly outnumber beneficial mutations by the tens of thousands, at least. In order to survive long enough to benefit from mutations, any species needs an enormous population, a short generation time, and a small body size. Otherwise, mutations (especially in the face of environmental stresses) are prone to drive animal species to extinction.
Crude mathematical models indicate that for a species to advance rather than die out, it must have a population of a quadrillion individuals, a generation time of three months, and a body size of about one centimeter. These models have been confirmed by numerous field observations.
Genesis offers an explanation for the survival of large animals: God intervened to replace extinct species with new ones. In most cases, the new species were different from the previous ones because of step-by-step changes in Earth’s geology, biodeposits, and biology—changes that prepared the planet for the survival and flourishing of humans.
The many “transitional” forms seen in the fossil record suggest that God intervened more than just a few times, here and there, while natural process did the rest. Rather, it appears God was involved and active in the development of new species.
We can reasonably deduce from these and other findings that God created humanity at the precise moment in Earth’s history when the maximum possible resources would be available and accessible to us. These rich resources allow humanity to fulfill God’s purpose for us before the time window for our survivability closes. Thanks to this divine provision, humans need spend only a relatively brief time preparing for life in the vastly superior creation to come.
The unique beauty of this biblical creation model resides in its ability to anticipate advancing scientific discovery. The ability to anticipate, or “predict,” is the hallmark of a reliable theory. By contrast, naturalistic evolution, chaos theory, and some creationist views not only fail to predict the growing body of data but, instead, contradict it.
Here is a small sampling of some of the most significant predictions that flow from RTB’s biblical creation model, predictions thoroughly tested and confirmed as transcendent creation events . . .
- uniqueness of Earth, our solar system, and our galaxy
- the rapidity of life’s origin
- the Cambrian explosion
- fossil record “reversals”
- rapid recovery from mass extinction events
- the rapidity of symbiotic relationships’ emergence
- the relatively recent origin of humanity
One reason we evangelicals have had so little impact on secular society with our creation teachings is that we try to teach Genesis without presenting a testable creation model. We either focus all of our guns on what is wrong with naturalism or we duck the issue by claiming that Genesis presents no specific creation model. Thus, we are perceived by society as either negative or cowardly.
This situation stems from Christians’ failure to apply the scientific method to their interpretation of Genesis. A great irony, here, is that the scientific method comes from the Bible and from biblical theology. The core of this method is an appeal to the interpreter to delay drawing conclusions until both the frame of reference and the initial conditions have been established. If we approach Genesis in this way, we discover that we can, indeed, discern there a scientifically plausible, objectively defensible account of creation.
We can reflect on many more reasons than these few for God’s step-by-step creation. Some are discussed below. Others may be found in my book, The Genesis Question. A more complete description of our testable creation model may be found in More Than a Theory.
Testing the Creation Model
The unique beauty of this biblical creation model is its ability to predict with accuracy advancing scientific discovery. This ability to predict is the hallmark of any reliable theory. By contrast, Darwinian evolution, chaos theory, and six-consecutive-24-hour-creation-day creationism fail to predict and instead contradict the growing body of data. This summary lists just 20 of the numerous successful predictions made by the Reasons to Believe model.
- transcendent creation event
- cosmic fine-tuning
- fine-tuning of the earth’s, solar system’s, and Milky Way Galaxy’s characteristics
- rapidity of life’s origin
- lack of inorganic kerogen
- extreme biomolecular complexity
- Cambrian explosion
- missing horizontal branches in the fossil record
- placement and frequency of “transitional forms” in the fossil record
- fossil record reversal
- frequency and extent of mass extinctions
- recovery from mass extinctions
- duration of time windows for different species
- frequency, extent, and repetition of symbiosis
- frequency, extent, and repetition of altruism
- speciation and extinction rates
- recent origin of humanity
- huge biodeposits
- Genesis’ perfect fit with the fossil record
- molecular clock rates