01 August 2015

Concordance between the narrative of Genesis ch. 1 and modern cosmology

The objective of this article is twofold. First and more important, to show the remarkable concordance between the narrative of the first two days of creation in Genesis 1:1-8 and the current conceptual framework of inflationary relativistic cosmology. Secondly, to show that, even though the concordance of the narrative of the following days with contemporary science is not uniquely determinable as that of the first two days, and also much less strict, the most natural choice for it leads to a remarkable symmetry in the duration of the seven days.

Part 1: days 1 and 2

First of all, some background on the exegetical and scientific levels is required.

On the exegetical level, I am not saying or implying that it was only after Aleksei Starobinsky proposed the theory of cosmic inflation in 1979 that the narrative of Gen 1:1-8 could be correctly understood. Clearly the "deep" teaching of that narrative was available to readers of all ages. What I am saying is than the conceptual framework of current cosmology allows an additional layer of interpretation of Gen 1:1-8 that, while much less important that the "deep" sense of that narrative, can provide some marginal apologetic value and, for believers, is quite aesthetically pleasing.

On the scientific level, it is well known that there are no observable "imprints" or "signatures" of the time before the inflationary epoch. Therefore, from the theistic perspective that God created the universe out of nothing in some initial state, it is perfectly consistent with current science [0], and at the same time maximally parsimonious, to postulate that said initial state was at the start of the inflationary epoch, empty of matter and radiation and with only the "inflaton" scalar field that drives inflationary expansion. (Moreover, when compared with the non-scientific mythology of the multiverse undergoing eternal inflation, this view enjoys the advantage of Occam's razor.)

With this background, let's examine the concordance between the biblical narrative, quoted verse by verse from the English Standard Version, and modern cosmology.

Day 1

1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. = Creation ex nihilo of both the spiritual (heavens) and physical (earth) universes.

1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. = In the inflationary epoch there was neither matter (therefore the universe was void) nor electromagnetic radiation ("light", therefore the universe was dark), but only the "inflaton" scalar field, which was probably the Higgs field (not the Higgs boson).

1:3 And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. = At the end of the inflationary epoch, the inflaton scalar field decayed in the particles of the Standard Model (event conventionally but, in my assumption of initial state, improperly called "reheating", because there was no previous "hot" state), including the photons of the electromagnetic radiation, i.e. "light". These particles were initially mixed in a homogeneous hot plasma, in which photons were constantly colliding with protons and electrons, so that the universe was opaque, a "luminous fog".

1:4 And God separated the light from the darkness. = The ongoing expansion of the universe caused the gradual cooling of the hot plasma to the point in which protons could capture electrons to form electrically neutral hydrogen atoms (event conventionally but improperly called "recombination", because there was no previous state when protons and electrons were "combined"). Shortly after, photons ("light") decoupled from matter and started to travel freely (event called "photon decoupling", properly for once!). At that time, part of the initial electromagnetic radiation was still in the visible region of the spectrum, but the greatest part had alreadly redshifted into the infrared.

1:5 And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. = As is well known, in the Israelite reckoning of time a day starts at sunset, so that each day is comprised of evening/night and then morning/daylight. This was strictly fulfilled in the "first day", when the universe started to exist in darkness ("there was evening"), and then "there was light" ("there was morning"). Duration of day 1: 400 thousand years (Ky). (For cosmology nerds: 378 +/- 1 Ky [1]).

Day 2

1:6-8 And God said, "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven. = This reflects the initial formation of structure, during which dark matter (a misnomer, as the correct name should be "transparent matter") started to collapse into the marginally denser regions by way of gravitational attraction, attracting in turn ordinary matter and giving origin to dark matter halos and then galaxies, leaving a void space ("expanse") between them.

1:8 And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. = Since the ongoing expansion of the universe causes a continual increase of the wavelength of the "background" electromagnetic radiation (that which started to exist at "reheating" in day 1), very shortly after "photon decoupling" that electromagnetic radiation went completely into the infrared region of the spectrum, so that the universe went back into "darkness" (from the viewpoint of hypothetic human observers) for at least 400 million years (My) ("there was evening"). Then, after the formation of structure, the massive and short-lived first-generation stars (Population III, or extremely metal-poor stars) were formed and started to emit visible light ("there was morning"). Duration of day 2: 450 My.

For cosmology nerds: day 2 ends at "reionization" [2]. Using Ho = 67.7, Om = 0.31 & zre = 10, all consistent with Planck 2015 [3], as input in Ned Wright's calculator [4], you get 472 My. Given the margins involved, 450 My is OK. If you don't know what I am talking about, congratulations, you're not a cosmology nerd.

Part 2: days 3 to 6

The remarkably precise level of concordance between the biblical narrative of Genesis ch. 1 and current scientific knowledge covers only the first 2 days of creation. However, if we continue the concordance with the following verses in a much less strict way, in particular ignoring the creation of the Earth and plants in day 3 before the creation of the sun in day 4, a remarkable symmetry in the duration of days is achieved.

1:13 And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. = The massive first-generation stars ended their short lives exploding as supernovas ("there was evening") and second-generation stars (Population II, or metal-poor stars) were formed and started to emit visible light ("there was morning"). Duration of day 3: 4,000 My. (This number is largely arbitrary but the sum of days 3 and 4 is not, as explained below.)

1:16,19 And God made the two great lights--the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night--and the stars. ... And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. = Second-generation stars started to end their life cycle and shut down ("there was evening"), and third-generation stars (Population I, or metal-rich stars) were formed and started to emit visible light ("there was morning"), our sun being one of them. Duration of day 4: 4,900 My.

For nerds: the sum of days 3 and 4 is constrained on the lower side by the time of formation of the sun 4,600 My ago, as this event must occur in day 4. Further requiring that the sun became a main sequence star in day 4 constrains the end of day 4 to be later than 4,500 My ago [5]. My choice (for other reasons, see below) of 4,450 My ago for the start of day 5, and therefore for the end of day 4, fits this constraint neatly. Thus the sum of days 3 and 4 is 13,800 - 450 - 4,450 = 8,900 My.  The specific choice of 4,900 My for the duration of day 4, or equivalently of 4,000 My for the duration of day 3, is intended to place the start of day 4 shortly after the time of formation of the oldest Population 1 stars, currently estimated at 10,000 My ago [6].

1:20,23 And God said, "Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures,..." ... And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. = For the start of the "evening" of day 5, I choose the impact on earth that created the moon [7], which according to current estimates happened 4,450 My ago [8], and which would have caused that "a fair fraction of material should have been vaporized by this impact, creating a rock vapor atmosphere around the young planet. The rock vapor would have condensed within two thousand years." [9] Then the earth cooled down and life appeared and evolved in the oceans. Duration of day 5: 4,000 My. (This is fully determined by my choices for the starts of day 5 and 6, 4,450 and 450 My ago respectively.)

1:24-31 And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds--livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. ... And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. = For the start of day 6, I choose the Ordovician–Silurian extinction events, 447-443 My ago [10], with the "evening" loosely corresponding to the burst of volcanic activity that probably triggered the events [11]. Afterwards, life, both vegetal and animal, started to spread over dry land. For the end of day 6, the obvious choice is the creation of man, which according to current estimations of the time of Y-chromosomal Adam, a logical fit for biblical Adam, happened 200-300 ky ago [12]. Duration of day 6: 450 My.

Summarizing the duration and ending times of the 6 days, with "e" after a time meaning "exact":

day - duration - ending time - ending time
                 from t = 0    from today

1 -   0.4 My e -    0.4 My e - 13.800 My e
2 -   450 My e -    450 My e - 13.350 My e
3 - 4.000 My   -  4.450 My   -  9.350 My
4 - 4.900 My   -  9.350 My e -  4.450 My e
5 - 4.000 My e - 13.350 My e -    450 My e
6 -   450 My e - 13.800 My e -    0.3 My e
7 -   0.3 My e (still ongoing at the time of writing of Genesis)


[0] Paul J. Steinhardt, "The Big Bang Cannot Be What We Thought It Was", 2016 01 01. (Added as an edition to the article.)


"The failure to detect the B-mode pattern means that there is something very wrong with the picture of a violent Big Bang followed by a period of high energy-driven inflation. Whatever processes set the large-scale structure of the universe had a to be a gentler, lower-energy process than has been supposed.

Simply lowering the energy concentration at which inflation starts, as some theorists have suggested, only leads to more trouble. This leaves more time after the Big Bang for the non-uniform distribution of matter and energy to drive the universe away from inflation. Starting inflation after the Big Bang and having enough inflation to smooth the universe becomes exponentially less likely as the energy concentration is lowered. The universe is more likely to emerge as too rough, too curved, too inhomogeneous compared to what we observe.

Something more radical is called for. Perhaps an improved understanding of quantum gravity will enable us to understand how the Big Bang and inflation can be discarded in favor of gentler beginning."

Which fits perfectly my postulate that the universe began to exist at rest at the start of the inflationary epoch, with no previous Big Bang. Whereby quantum gravity is not needed, Big Bang is discarded, and inflation kept.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recombination_(cosmology)

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reionization

[3] http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/1502.01589

[4] http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/CosmoCalc.html

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formation_and_evolution_of_the_Solar_System

[6] Blaauw 1995. "Stellar evolution and the population concept after 1950; The Vatican conference". P. 47.


[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant_impact_hypothesis

[8] Carlson et al 2014. "How Did Early Earth Become Our Modern World?". P. 7.


[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadean

[10] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordovician–Silurian_extinction_events

[11] http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18618-highcarbon-ice-age-mystery-solved.html

[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y-chromosomal_Adam

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