Wednesday’s Book Review: “The Genesis Enigma”

downloadThe Genesis Enigma: Why the First Book of the Bible is Scientifically Accurate. By Andrew Parker. New York: Penguin Books, 2009.

In many ways this is an infuriating and intriguing book. Andrew Parker is an evolutionary biologist who gained fame for what is known as the “light-switch hypothesis.” This argues that the pre-Cambrian explosion of life on Earth was largely the result of the evolutionary process whereby some animals developed the ability to “see,” in whatever form. This has been characterized as the “big bang” of biodiversity on Earth some 500 million years ago. That was a major contribution to evolutionary science.

This work is not a work of science, but an attempt to reconcile what we know about the scientific process whereby life emerged with the biblical account in the first few verses of the of Genesis about creation. He makes much of the Genesis statement about God creating light, not once but twice. He is equally taken by the statement that the first life created by God in the Bible were sea creatures, a statement also affirmed by scientific knowledge. As he moves through the biblical verses of creation Parker points to parallels between Genesis and scientific understanding. Those parallels are present, insofar as Parker wants to carry them. Many people of faith will find this work a comfort.

Parker appropriately concludes, “in the twenty-first century it is unreasonable to accept every statement in the Bible as the literal truth” (p. 199). But young Earth creationists will never accept this. That is where the real resistance to evolutionary theory exists. Religionists who are not wedded to biblical literalism have generally found ways to accept both evolution and a belief in God.

Parker’s conclusion is present on every page. As he states: “Bizarre as it may seem, the stages of the creation account of Genesis 1 appears to measure up well against the stages in the scientific account of the origin of the universe and the diversity of life on Earth” (p. 221). The parallels Parker emphasizes work as far as this goes. But I have trouble buying the argument that the order of creation depicted in the Bible is the same as scientists have uncovered while seeing the statement made just as straightforwardly in Genesis that these acts were completed in six days. Why is one true and not the other? They are presented side by side in the Bible. I understand the concept of non-literalness and the possibility that the “days” mentioned were not intended as 24 hour periods. I just believe that we have to take all of this as allegorical or none of it as allegorical.

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