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Dr. Andrew Parker and the Strange Genesis Interpretation

on August 8, 2009
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Metro: “Dr. Andrew Parker: The Bible Got Everything RightIn one of the strangest news stories we’ve examined to date, an Oxford biologist declares that Genesis is incredibly accurate; then says “creationism is totally unfounded”; then admits “the first page of the Bible . . . doesn’t spell out any of the science in detail.”

On the surface, it sounds exciting: Oxford University biologist Andrew Parker has authored The Genesis Enigma: Why The Bible Is Scientifically Accurate, which “claims the story of Genesis matches the history of the universe so accurately it could only have been written with divine intervention,” Metro reports. Yet after digging only a little deeper, Parker’s ideas seem worthless.

After digging only a little deeper, Parker’s ideas seem worthless.

In an interview with Metro, Parker explained his basic idea: “Not only is the sequence of events in Genesis scientifically correct but some of the events themselves are really quite precise, which would have been impossible for a human to know at that time. You have to conclude that either the author made extremely lucky guesses or something strange was going on: divine inspiration.”

Yet Parker’s version of Genesis reads quite differently than ours; no surprise, since he told Metro, “Creationism is totally unfounded. It is as dangerous as fundamentalism in other religions.” (Though we’re at a loss to recall the last act of young-earth creation terrorism.)

But we have pointed out frequently in the past, the order of events of evolutionary history are at odds with the order of events given by Genesis at several points. For example, Genesis very explicitly claims that the earth existed before the sun and stars, and that flying creatures (birds, bats, pterosaurs, etc.) existed before land animals. Unsurprisingly, Parker has to twist the text to get it to fit his ideas. For instance, he claims God’s command “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens” actually refers to the evolution of the eye. It’s eisegesis in the extreme; yet the Mail reported last month that, according to Parker, “the ancient Hebrew writers of the Book of Genesis knew all about evolution—3,000 years before Darwin.” Mail reporter Christopher Hart writes:

On the third day, we are told: “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.’” Now factually speaking, grass didn’t evolve until much later. . . . [S]ince grass did not in fact evolve until much later, a sternly literal-minded scientist would declare the Bible wrong . . . .

But wait a minute, says Parker. If you take “grass, herb, and tree” to mean photosynthesizing life in general, then this is, once again, spot on. The very life forms on earth were single-celled bacteria, but the first truly viable bacteria were the “cyanobacteria”—those that had learned to photosynthesize. As a result, they began to expire oxygen, creating an atmosphere that could go on to support more and more life. They were the key to life on earth.

Parker then adds in a bit of “chronological snobbery” to try to further justify his ideas, telling the Mail, “The ancient Israelites would have been oblivious to any single-celled life form, let alone cyanobacteria.” Likewise, Metro asks Parker, “In Genesis, God creates the earth in six days, makes man out of dust and there’s no mention of the Big Bang. If it was written with God’s help, why is so much wrong [from an evolutionary standpoint]?” But Parker answers, “It’s the authors adding their artistic interpretation, shoehorning the facts into the type of story people would be able to understand.”

But the Metro interview easily reveals a chink in Parker’s model, asking him: “You say the second ‘Let there be light[s] . . .’ refers to the evolution of the eye but you edited out the rest of the line, which clearly refers to the sun, moon and stars. There’s no mention in Genesis of the evolution of the eye.” Parker answered, “Um, OK. I’ll probably have a look at this in more detail again. The first page of the Bible doesn’t spell out the eye but it doesn’t spell out any of the science in detail.”

Parker’s interpretation ignores its fundamental problem of death before sin.

In reality, Parker is so loose with his interpretation—and so readily reads into Genesis 1 what already believes (e.g., millions of years, the big bang, the evolution of the eye, cyanobacteria)—that we may as well read in cryonics into the Resurrection account. Furthermore, Parker’s interpretation ignores its fundamental problem of death before sin.

Also frustrating is Hart, who declares, “There is no doubt that literal-minded creationists do a disservice to the triumphant achievements of modern science, and to the beauty and poetry of the Bible. Evolution is taking place around us all the time. It’s why the MRSA superbug has become so dangerously immune to antibiotics, why the race is on to beat the swine flu virus.” Not only is it clear that Hart does not know what creationists actually believe or argue; he also begs his own question, since we do not agree that Genesis 1 is (figurative) poetry.

Our guess is that Parker’s strange variation on one of the more popular creation compromises will never make it out of the dustbin of history. Genesis needs no reinterpretation to “fit” science because true science confirms Genesis!


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