Perspectives on the Scriptures: Genesis Day Three – The Elements; the building blocks of life

The first part of Day Three is short, and to the point.

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas: And God saw that it was good.” [Genesis 1: 9 & 10]

The first thing to note is that this is the last time in the creation story that the naming of what had been created takes place. The names given here are “Earth” and “Seas” – and, as usual, this naming is with a capital letter.

As we have already noted, this signifies the next stage in the change of the state of the material that Genesis started with – “the heaven and the earth.”

First, we had “the heaven and the earth”, which were transformed into “light and darkness”; and the “light and darkness” were called respectively “Day” and “Night”.

The “light and darkness” were then collectively re-described as “the waters”, which were divided by the “expansion”. What was left was called “Heaven”, and as we have seen, that is what Rees called the “void[1] that is space.

Now, here, in Day Three, “the waters” are “gathered together unto one place” to produce “dry land”. But it is important to note that it is only “the waters that are under the heaven” that are made to gather together “unto one place.”

We should now recall that Day Two left off after the lighter elements of hydrogen, helium, lithium and deuterium had formed into the “first protogalaxies”, but before the creation of supernovae which would create the heavier elements.

This first part of Day Three thus clearly relates to the consequence of the “protogalaxies” forming the heavier stars and supernovae. As Rees says, “The first gaseous condensations to form … are consequently a million times heavier than stars. … [And] if [the gaseous condensations are] spinning, the gas settles into a disk, and condenses into stars, thereby initiating the recycling process that synthesizes and disperses all the elements of the periodic table.[2]

And that is clearly what is being described in Day Three with the “gathering together” of “the waters” which causes “dry land” to “appear”. The “dry land” is symbolic of the heavier elements that are being created in the “gaseous condensationsa million times heavier than stars … that synthesizes and disperses all the elements of the periodic table.” The “gaseous condensation” consisted of the lighter elements (“the waters”) from which the heavier elements were produced. But not all of the lighter elements were converted into heavier elements; most remained. And they were called “Seas.”

So we see that “the waters” do not disappear. Part of “the waters” are converted into the heavier elements, symbolized by the words “dry land”, which are then called “Earth”; and the remaining lighter elements, constituting the rest of “the waters”, are called “Seas.”

In essence, “the waters” that were brought together resulted in some part of “the waters” being maintained and called “Seas” (the lighter elements), while another part was converted into “dry land” and called “Earth” (the heavier elements).

So Day Three clearly refers to a generic situation across the universe, in which many areas were experiencing the same thing, even if at different times. The elements were being created across the universe, not just in our solar system, or even in our galaxy. In fact, according to Genesis, our solar system only really starts taking shape when we get to Day Four. However, its origins are here in Day Three.

Therefore, the reference to “Seas” and “Earth” can only refer to the creation of all the elements of which we are currently aware; all the elements necessary to create and sustain life. Any other interpretation would necessarily deviate from the methodology that Genesis establishes as each ‘day’ progresses to the next, recording the transformation of the original material from Day One – “the heaven and the earth” –into a physical world governed by physical laws capable of sustaining life. So, just as the original “heaven and earth” clearly did not refer to the sky and planet Earth, likewise it is clear that neither do “Seas” and “Earth” refer to planet Earth and its oceans. They refer to all the elements necessary to form planet Earth, with its oceans, continents, atmosphere, and life.

All the ingredients necessary to establish the universe and life as we know it were in place.

And so it was time to make everything “irreversible”, which is why we only now find the reference to “And God saw that it was good.” The observation (measurement) establishes a “fully settled” future from the initial intentions expressed in Day Two, and the first part of Day Three, by the words “And God said …” The observation establishes an “irreversible effect” in respect of everything that had been created up to that time. And that “irreversible effect” establishes what we recognize today as Classical physics. It explains “how the fundamental laws of quantum physics morph[ed] into the classic laws,[3] thus enabling us to predict with such certainty how inanimate objects behave.

It provides a stable and predictable macro-world of planets and stars which operate according to laws – laws that are symmetric across the universe. The universe becomes a cosmic factory; the stars and planets become cosmic machines; the elements are the cosmic ingredients; and the laws of physics and chemistry provide the cosmic instructions on how everything works.

The initial ingredients from which the universe was to be constructed have now been transformed, in accordance with the laws of quantum mechanics, into planets, stars and elements which operate under an apparently different set of laws to those that created them. As Weinberg says, in “modern quantum mechanics as well as in Newtonian mechanics there is a clear separation between the conditions that tell us the initial state of a system (whether the system is the whole universe, or just a part of it), and the laws that govern its subsequent evolution.[4] However, this does not mean that the laws of quantum mechanics have disappeared, or are no longer relevant. Weinberg notes that “even in quantum mechanics there is still a sense in which the behavior of any physical system is completely determined by its initial conditions and the laws of nature.[5]

And that brings us to Genesis 1, verses 11 to 13 – the second part of Day Three.

As we shall see, these verses are most curious, so we should set them out in full for ease of reference.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb-yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

And the earth brought forth grass, and the herb-yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And the evening and the morning were the third day.[Genesis 1: 11 – 13]

The first thing to note here is that nothing is named – there is no mention of the words “And God called …” We have already seen why that should be – all the material necessary to create life was in the required form, and the laws that determine how it can behave had been established.

So the next thing to consider is what exactly is meant by “grass, the herb-yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself”?

It would be an uncharacteristic departure from the meticulous methodology established by Genesis if we suddenly jumped from supernovae to grass and plants as we see them outside our windows today. But if these references to grass, plants and trees are meant to be symbolic, like “the heaven and the earth” and “the waters”, then what are they supposed to symbolize?

To throw some light on the meaning of these words we need to go to Genesis Chapter 2, which starts off with a summary of what had taken place throughout the six days of creation. It says this:

  1. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.
  2. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
  3. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
  4. These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
  5. 5. And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground. [Genesis 2: 1 – 5]

These verses are clear – at the end of the six days of creation as recorded in Chapter 1, Genesis tells us in Chapter 2 that nothing that was said to have been created in Chapter 1, in respect of living things, yet existed. No plants, no herbs, and no human beings. However, odd as that may seem at first, it does unequivocally vindicate the methodology that had been established in Genesis up to Day Three.

So we need to consider what exactly was ‘created’ in the second part of Day Three.

Now, it should be noted that verse 5 does not say that nothing had been created, only that whatever had been created could not be identified as to what it was to become. God is said to have “made … every plant … and every herb,” but that He had made them before they had developed into what we would recognize today as plants and herbs. And the reason they were apparently still in a sort of state of limbo, according to Genesis, is that “God had not [yet] caused it to rain upon the earth.”

So it looks as though Genesis is telling us that the basic structures of elementary life had been created, but that they had not yet been manifest as any particular kind of life; the life was dormant. It needed something to enable it to ‘grow’ into what it was ‘programmed’ to be. And verse 5 tells us that what was lacking was the right environment.

So, going back to Day Three, it seems that Genesis is suggesting that only primitive DNA had been created, and that it was created at about the same time as the heavier elements were created in the stars and supernovae.

What we do know is that DNA comprises five main elements – carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, and nitrogen. And apart from hydrogen, all these elements were created in the heavier stars and dispersed throughout the universe in supernovae explosions. According to Rees, “the debris thrown back into the space [following a supernova] contains a mix of elements. Oxygen is the most common, followed by carbon, nitrogen, silicon and iron.[6] And, of course, that “debris” would also include phosphorus, and other elements. This means that the very elements necessary to construct DNA were produced by such processes across the universe. As Rees notes, life can spring up in the most unlikely places, and it does not need sunlight: “The ecosystems near hot sulphurous outwellings in the deep ocean bed tell us that not even sunlight is essential [to the creation of life].”[7]

Of course, even primitive DNA is much more complicated than simply a combination of its elements, although it is still essentially just that. Most scientists would probably agree that DNA is a very improbable result of throwing its constituent elements together. But they would also acknowledge that they “still don’t know how or where life got started.”[8]

However, we should remember what Kaku said about quantum mechanics, and probabilities: “The quantum theory is based on the idea that there is a probability that all possible events … might occur… [and] … physicists realize that if we could somehow control these probabilities, one could perform feats that would be indistinguishable from magic.”[9]

Now, if we omit the second half of that quote, it is entirely possible that at the moment these elements were created they could have accidently formed into the right combinations to create the first primitive DNA, or precursors to DNA. But when we add the second part, we really get into the debate of whether “these laws [of nature] are arranged by some greater design or by accident …[10] Clearly both are ‘possibilities’. But in either case, quantum laws require that there be an observation if any consequential amalgamation of particles is to become “fully settled”. And only Genesis provides such an explanation with the words “And God saw that it was good.”

There is certainly a great deal of evidence that life-forms can be found all over the universe. And the evidence is growing stronger by the year that primitive DNA existed long before the Earth came into existence, and “originated from space”.

In 2013, a team from Sheffield University, led by Professor Milton Wainwright, discovered organisms from space after sending a balloon into the high stratosphere. Wainwright noted that “If life does continue to arrive from space then we will have to completely change our view of biology and evolution.”[11]

Wainwright went on to say, “we can only conclude that the biological entities originated from space. Our conclusion then is that life is continually arriving to Earth from space, life is not restricted to this planet and almost certainly did not originate here.[12]

But this is not the only evidence of life in space.

In a feature on 8th August 2011, NASA reported that “NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a ‘kit’ of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.[13]

Likewise, an article in Science Daily on October 27, 2011, referring to work done by Professor Sun Kwok and Dr. Yong Zhang of the University of Hong Kong, said that “Astronomers report in the journal Nature that organic compounds of unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe. The results suggest that complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of life, but can be made naturally by stars.[14] The article goes on to note that, “by analyzing spectra of star dust formed in exploding stars called novae, [Kwok and Zhang] show that stars are making these complex organic compounds in extremely short time scales of weeks. Not only are stars producing this complex organic matter, they are also ejecting it into the general interstellar space, the region between stars.[15]

Kwok is quoted as saying, “our work has shown that stars have no problem making complex organic compounds under near vacuum conditions. Theoretically, this is impossible, but observationally we can see it happening.

These are only a few of the many findings of ‘life from space’. With missions to Mars and Saturn, it is likely that even more surprises may be in store for us. But what this evidence shows is that the Genesis account of when life was first ‘created’ is turning out to be very accurate. Even into the 1970’s, biologists were absolutely convinced that life could not exist without sunlight. That has been proved to be wrong. Until even more recently, the notion that life may not have evolved on Earth would have been met with ridicule. But it seems that the evidence is starting to point in precisely that direction. And if the evidence does keep building up, as Wainwright says, “we [will] have to completely change our view of biology and evolution.” And perhaps scientists will have to give at least a grudging acknowledgement to the author/s of Genesis for having ‘known’ all this many millennia ago.

So when we come to the end of Day Three we find that we have our cosmic factory and cosmic machines; we also have the cosmic ingredients and the cosmic recipe; and now we get the first glimpse of the intended cosmic ‘product’ – life.

I should mention, however, that I do not claim to be the first to recognize the significance of Genesis 2, verses 4 and 5. Philo said this about them: “Does he [Moses] not here manifestly set before us incorporeal ideas perceptible only by the intellect, which have been appointed to be as seals of the perfected works, perceptible by the outward senses. For before the earth was green, he says that this same thing, verdure, existed in the nature of things, and before the grass sprang up in the field, there was grass though it was not visible. And we must understand in the case of everything else which is decided on by the external senses, there were elder forms and motions previously existing, according to which the things which were created were fashioned and measured out.[16]

Clearly Philo also believed that these verses qualified the whole account of creation set out in Genesis 1. And even though he did not have the benefit of knowing about DNA (as far as we know), or the recent discoveries of life throughout space, he still understood that these verses were telling us that those things said to have been created in the first six days were in fact only “incorporeal ideas … appointed to be as seals of the perfected works, perceptible by the outward senses.” Just how right he is turning out to be – except it seems likely that there were more than just “incorporeal ideas”, but real chemical structures, basic forms of DNA, which would not be “perceptible to the outward senses.” So perhaps that is what Philo meant when he said that “there were elder forms and motions previously existing, according to which the things which were created were fashioned and measured out.”

So before we move on to Day Four, and our own little corner of the universe, let’s just recap what we’ve learned from Day Three.

The “waters that were under the heaven” clearly refers to the matter that had been brought together into galaxies and stars. The heavier of the stars then collapsed in on themselves causing supernovae explosions which ‘fertilized’ the universe with the heavier elements. The words “Seas” and “Earth” symbolize the creation of all the elements of the Periodic Table – all the elements necessary to create and sustain life. So with the ‘naming’ of what had occurred up until that moment, followed by the observation – “And God saw” –  Genesis tells us that the Classical laws of physics, and thus the laws of chemistry, had been finally determined – or “fully settled”.

All the ingredients, and all the necessary laws, had been put in place for the ‘creation’ of life. And that is what then happens, virtually at the same moment as the heavier elements are being created. Primitive DNA that would be the blueprint for all life was spewing forth from supernovae explosions and filling the universe with life.

There is simply no other way to ‘interpret’ these verses of Genesis. And with each passing year, or even week, discoveries are confirming this account of the origin of the universe and life.

And we have only just got to Day Three.

Joseph BH McMillan. This is an abridged extract from chapter 5 of A ‘Final Theory’ of God, available from Amazon.comImagebook

jbhmcmillan@yahoo.com

www.josephbhmcmillan.com

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2014 All Rights Reserved

Notes

[1] Rees, Martin. Just Six Numbers, Phoenix, London, 1999 (paperback), page 119.

[2] Rees, pages 122 – 123.

[3] Greene, Brian. The Fabric of the Cosmos, Penguin, London, 2005 (paperback), page 199.

[4] Weinberg, Steven. Dreams of a Final Theory, Vintage, New York, 1994 (paperback), page 34.

[5] Weinberg, page 37.

[6] Rees, page 50.

[7] Rees, page 20.

[8] Rees, page 20.

[9] Kaku, Michio. Parallel Worlds, Penguin, London, 2006 (paperback), page 147.

[10] Kaku, page 242.

[11] Wainwright, Reported Press Association, 19 September, 2013.

[12] Wainwright, Ibid.

[13] http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/dna-meteorites_prt.htm.

[14] Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111026143721.htm.

[15] Science Daily, Ibid.

[16] Philo, On the Creation, XLIV, 129 – 130.

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