For Skeptical Briefs.
How can both the Bible and science be right? Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder says he can show us how, in his book The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom (New York and London: The Free Press, 1997). The Bible says God created the universe in six days and indicates the passage of only about 6,000 years since Adam. Modern cosmology, on the other hand, currently estimates the visible universe to be about 13 billion years old, give or take a few billion. Schroeder reconciles the two, explaining that the six days of the Bible refer to a different measure of time than what is given by our everyday clocks.
Schroeder argues that since the earth did not exist until the end of the creation period, we cannot expect the Bible to have used an earth-based time scale. The term "day" is meaningless without an earth and, he says, is being used metaphorically. During the six "days" of creation, the Bible measured time on a cosmic clock. God started it all with "Let there be light," so what else can be used for that clock but the vibrations of light?
Today, the light from creation appears as the cosmic microwave background. This is now redshifted, that is, lowered in frequency, by a factor of a trillion from the period of "quark confinement" when matter as we know it first began to form. Thus, Schroeder asserts, the six cosmic days of creation took about 15 billion years earth time - exactly (plus or minus a few billion years) the cosmological age of the universe!
Each of the six days in Schroeder's Genesis actually takes a different length of earth time. Cosmic day one is 8 billion earth years long and you divide by two to get the duration of each succeeding cosmic day.
Day one starts 15.75 billion earth years ago and covers the creation of the universe, light "breaking free" as electrons bind to atomic nuclei, and the beginning of galaxy formation. This is described in Gen. 1:1-5 as the creation followed by light separating from the darkness.
Cosmic day two starts 7.75 billion earth years ago and lasts four billion earth years. During this period the stars and galaxies are born. This corresponds to Gen. 1:6-8, the formation of the heavenly firmament.
Cosmic day three starts 3.75 billion earth years ago. During two billion earth years, the earth cools, water appears, and the first life forms appear. In Gen. 1:9-13, vegetation (including fruit trees!) first appears during the third day.
Cosmic day four starts 1.75 billion earth years ago and lasts a billion earth years. The earth's atmosphere becomes transparent and photosynthesis produces an oxygen-rich atmosphere. Schroeder says that this corresponds to Gen. 1: 14-19 when "the Sun, Moon, and stars become visible in the heavens."
Cosmic day five starts 750 million earth years ago and lasts 500 million earth years. During this period, the first multicellular animals appear and the oceans swarm with life. Gen. 1:20-23 says the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures and "birds fly above the earth."
Cosmic day six starts 250 million years ago and ends at the time of Adam, which is virtually the present on this scale. During this period we have a massive extinction in which 90 percent of life is destroyed and then repopulated with humanoids and humans. This, Schroeder says, corresponds to what is described in Gen. 1:24-31.
After the six cosmic days of creation, Genesis switches its focus over to humanity and starts measuring time in human terms, that is, with our familiar earth-based clocks. The rest of the Bible concerns itself with the 6,000 earth years since Adam and Eve, estimated from the Bible in Bishop Ussher fashion.
Schroeder's use of quark confinement as the defining moment for his cosmic time scale is completely arbitrary. He seems to have chosen it for no better reason than it gives the right answer. Alternatively, he might have chosen the moment in the early universe called "decoupling," which represents the point where radiation separates from matter. Indeed, he relates this event to the separation of the "light from the darkness" described in Genesis day one. But the redshift from decoupling to the present is only 1,000, which would give an earth time interval of only fifteen years since decoupling!
Schroeder's dividing by two for the earth periods for each succeeding cosmic day is not justified by his argument that earth time is simply redshifted cosmic time. While an exponential relationship would apply for the inflationary epoch in the early universe, that has long ended by the time of quark confinement. Afterwards we have Hubble expansion in which the redshift varies roughly linearly with time.
By having each cosmic day half as long as the preceding one in earth years, Schroeder is able to vaguely relate events known from cosmology to those described in Genesis - though he has to do a lot of data bending in most cases.
For example, in cosmic day two the firmament is created. Schroeder excludes from the firmament all galaxies older than 7.75 billion years old, of which there are many. Besides, the universe is not a firmament anyway, but expanding and evolving.
Biblical day six supposedly contains the mass extinctions of life that occurred 65 million years ago. But the biblical verses referenced make no mention of mass extinction. The Biblical Flood occurs well after Adam, but Schroeder needs to end the six days of creation with Adam for other purposes. This is one event he simply cannot make fit, although he is not honest enough to say so and leaves the impression that everything is consistent.
My full review of The Science of God can be found on the Secular Web at <http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/vic_stenger /schrev.html>.