Gerald Schroeder's Six Days of Creation

A question from the webpage…

Have you considered the case made by Orthodox Jewish physicist Gerald Schroeder that the creation account in Genesis can be reconciled with billions of years of natural history due to a big bang observer perspective and time dilation?

Here’s a brief summary from his Wikipedia page:

“Namely, that from the perspective of the point of origin of the Big Bang, according to Einstein’s equations of the ‘stretching factor’, time dilates by a factor of roughly 1,000,000,000,000, meaning one trillion days on earth would appear to pass as one day from that point, due to the stretching of space. When applied to the estimated age of the universe at 13.8 billion years, from the perspective of the point of origin, the universe today would appear to have just begun its sixth day of existence, or if the universe is 15 billion years old from the perspective of earth, it would appear to have just completed its sixth day”.

If I recall correctly, too, Schroeder affirms most of mainstream evolutionary theory. He does address the question of Adam and the primeval history in the early Genesis chapters, but as far as his view of the initial creation account (leveraging ancient / older Talmudic and Midrashic sources), I think it might actually provide a startling way to reconcile earth’s apparent long natural history with a six day creation from the perspective of the big bang.

In terms of how it comports with modern cosmology, evolutionary history, some things seem to not line up completely. For instance, Schroeder suggests that the winged animals appearing on day five refers to the appearance of winged insects. There are other concerns as well.

However, because his mapping of around six days to billions of years seems pretty startling on first glance, I think his view is worth considering.

This is what one of the @physicists in our network once emailed me about his idea:

The physics is just wrong. We know exactly how to account for the stretching of the universe because it stretches all wavelengths of light, and we know exactly how those match up with the atomic spectra we see in stars all over the universe. The spectra are as detailed as a fingerprint, revealing the atomic makeup of the star, and important things like how the laws of physics (including the speed of light and the rate of passage of time) have not changed throughout the history of the universe. Regardless, his argument about space stretching has zero relevance to the age of the earth, which is 4.58 billion years old.

So, this doesn’t seem to work.

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Wait, I’m not sure I understand the objection. Schroeder isn’t claiming that the earth is young, or that the stretching of space somehow enabled the earth to be created in six solar days (from our Earth-bound perspective). His claim is that from the spatial perspective of the big bang, due to relativity, the unfolding of the events of cosmology (including the evolution of the earth) could have appeared to taken place in less than or around six days from the big bang spatial perspective.

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Is there such a thing as “the point of origin of the Big Bang”? I thought that would be everywhere, since space expands everywhere. The common analogy is blowing up a balloon. Where’s the point of origin of the balloon’s expansion?

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Well, here is what Schroeder writes in The Science of God:

"Physics, during the past twenty years, has come to agree with Nahmanides. Nahmanides writes that his teachers learned this account from the first word of the Bible, Be’rai’sheet, which means “In the beginning of.” In the beginning of what, they asked? In the beginning of time was their conclusion.

Nahmanides’ insight that biblical time takes hold with the appearance of matter is quite extraordinary. Visible light rays, invisible microwaves, X rays, gamma rays are all forms of the same type of radiant energy known as electromagnetic radiation. As science has discovered, radiant energy does not experience the flow of time. Radiant energy, such as the light rays you are seeing this very moment, exists in a state that might be described as an “eternal now,” a state in which time does not pass. (This is a concept we can write but not intellectually grasp because all our existence is within the flow of time.) Time, in the sense that we experience it, is totally related to the material world. Time truly takes hold when matter forms.

That transition from energy to stable matter occurred approximately 0.00001 seconds after the big bang.28 The universe was then approximately a million million times smaller and hotter than it is today.29

THE SIXTH GOLDEN APPLE: THE AGES OF OUR UNIVERSE

“And the earth was tohu and bohu…” (Gen. 1:2). The usual translation of this verse from the book of Genesis is “And the earth was unformed (tohu) and void (bohu).” Unformed or chaotic is a fair translation of tohu. But bohu does not only mean void. Both the Talmud and Nahmanides state that bohu means filled with the building blocks of matter. 30,31

A more accurate, though cumbersome, translation of Genesis 1:2 is: “And the earth was in a state of chaos but filled with the building blocks of matter.” Since biblical time takes hold with the appearance of matter, the biblical clock starts at bohu, that instant just after the big bang when stable matter as we know it formed from energy. The age of all matter in the universe dates back to bohu, the moment of quark confinement.

We know the temperature and hence the frequency of radiation energy in the universe at quark confinement. It is not a value extrapolated or estimated from conditions in the distant past or far out in space. It is measured right here on Earth in the most advanced physics laboratories and corresponds to a temperature approximately a million million times hotter than the current 3°K black of space. That radiant energy had a frequency a million million times greater than the radiation of today’s cosmic background radiation.

The radiation from that moment of quark confinement has been stretched a million-million fold. Its redshift, z, as observed today is 1012. That stretching of the light waves has slowed the frequency of the cosmic clock—expanded the perceived time between ticks of that clock—by a million million. “This also applies to proper rates of events as one sees by the application of a sequence of Lorentz time-dilation factors.”32 Those are solid values in physics.33–34-35-36

To measure the age of the universe, we look back in time. From our perspective using Earth-based clocks running at a rate determined by the conditions of today’s Earth, we measure a fifteen-billion-year age.* And that is correct for our local view. The Bible adopts this Earthly perspective, but only for times after Adam. The Bible’s clock before Adam is not a clock tied to any one location. It is a clock that looks forward in time from the creation, encompassing the entire universe, a universal clock tuned to the cosmic radiation at the moment when matter formed. That cosmic timepiece, as observed today, ticks a million million times more slowly than at its inception. The million millionfold stretching of radiation since bohu caused that million-million-to-one ratio in this perception of time.

This cosmic clock records the passage of one minute while we on Earth experience a million million minutes. The dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 120 million years, as measured by our perception of time. Those clocks are set by the decay of radioactive nuclides here on Earth and they are correct for our earthly system. But to know the cosmic time we must divide earth time by a million million. At this million-million-to-one ratio those 120 million Earth years lasted a mere hour."

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Welcome to the forum @grayxr :slight_smile:

That’s deep!

I think the issue is that it doesn’t really align with physics nearly as well as he thought, and also this just amounts to day age in the end.

I’ll let the @physicists comment though…

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Yeah I agree that Schroeder’s view is a variant of the day-age view, however I think Schroeder’s view is distinct from RTB’s in that Schroeder’s view attempts to legitimize the notion that saying the Earth was created in six 24 hour days is literally true from the perspective of the big bang / quark confinement. Not sure if that distinction is worth much of a difference, though. I appreciate the feedback, thanks for posting my question!

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I don’t think Schroeder has a good handle on what the cosmic microwave background is. There was a ~300,000 year period between the initial expansion of the universe and the origin of the CMB. Before the CMB the universe was a hot plasma which absorbed any light that was produced. It wasn’t until the universe spread out, cooled, and then condensed into atoms with a nucleus and electrons that light was finally able to move freely through the universe. That is what we observe as the CMB, the moment 300,000 years after the Big Bang when plasma first started condensing into molecular hydrogen, helium, and lithium.

It is also strange that Schroeder then wants to frame everything in terms of what a CMB photon would see. That really doesn’t make sense.

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Think about that though. How can there be years before the solar system exists?

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No amount of time dilation, stretching, scaling or distortion will overcome the discrepancy concerning whether whales and birds came into existence before land animals (Genesis), or after them (evolution and palaeontology)

Are you trying to say that time and space did not exist until humans invented units of measure?

Yeah, this is my main concern with Schroeder’s view, and with all day age views; It becomes difficult to sufficiently line up the creative sequences in Genesis 1 with what we find in the evolutionary history.

However, others have interpreted the text to mean that specific creative activities merely begin on/during each day, but that they also continue to unfold as each day progresses (so whales emerging on day 6 wouldn’t necessarily contradict the narrative).

I’m not sure you’re characterizing his view correctly. In the quote I posted above, Schroeder states that the “transition from energy to stable matter occurred approximately 0.00001 seconds after the big bang”. This is the point where he claims the clock starts from the author’s perspective in Genesis 1.

Schroeder’s book was written over 20 years ago, so I bet he’s revised his model somewhat in light of current physics.

The problem with that (even if you somehow deal with plants before the sun and plants before animals) is that you also need birds, or flying animals if you want to be charitable, before land animals. There’s really no way to reconcile the sequence, even if it’s just the beginning of some process.

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Schroeder argues that the Hebrew term used for “birds” or “fowl” on day 5 can actually refer to winged creatures in general, and he argues that it lines up with the appearance of winged insects. Since he affirms the sort of progressive/overlapping day view as well IIRC, then birds appearing on later days wouldn’t necessarily contradict the narrative. I believe he argues similarly for plant life on day 3.

As far as the sun goes, many old-earth models affirm the existence of the sun before day 4, but that the Earth’s sky was translucent so as to not permit the sun, moon, and stars to be discerned. So, day 4 would be describing Earth’s atmosphere becoming transparent, allowing the sun, moon, and stars to be used for signs / seasons, etc.

All of this is definitely not something I’d intuit from the text on first glance, but I think Schroeder’s point is that this could be the deeper, hidden meaning behind the text. Ancient and Medieval Jews developed mystical readings of the text of scripture, so I think this definitely intersects in that school of thought. Schroeder cites these sorts of mystical authors as well in his book, it’s a big part of how he tries to substantiate the legitimacy of his model.

Yes, you can say that some aquatic animals existed at the appropriate time. But that doesn’t work for flying creatures, all of which have terrestrial ancestors. Unless you think the skies were teeming with flying fish.

But it doesn’t. Wingless land arthropods appear before winged insects. One could argue that day 5 includes winged arthropods as “birds” while day 6 doesn’t include terrestrial arthropods as “creeping things”, but surely that’s a very selective, special-pleading sort of reading.

Is he proposing that the “plant life” in question are cyanobacteria? But of course the text mentions no bacteria or algae or anything other than angiosperms. Again, special pleading.

Yes, that’s well known. But of course it’s special pleading again, as the text is quite explicit about what happened, and there was no time when the sky became transparent.

Why should the meaning be hidden? And why should that be the meaning rather than any other random scrambling of the text?

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Wingless land arthropods appear before winged insects.

That’s a good point, that even if winged creatures appear in the appropriate period that Schroeder’s model assigns to day 5, it still doesn’t answer how land animals appeared / existed in that period as well.

Why should the meaning be hidden? And why should that be the meaning rather than any other random scrambling of the text?

I’d just like to note that I’m more so trying to lay out Schroeder’s view here, because others seem to have demonstrated that they hadn’t fully grasped his view. I’m not really trying to prove that his view is correct. I’ve already conceded that I think his reading introduces apparent inconsistencies.

The actual point is even worse: land animals appeared before winged creatures, not just in the same period.

Sure. But you’re the only conduit we have here for his views, so you’re the only one who can be asked. Why should there be a hidden meaning? It’s not any deeper than the traditional understanding. It’s not a mystical meaning either, merely an alternative sequence of physical events. It seems that the sole function of Schroeder’s reinterpretation is to make Genesis conform to scientific fact. But to do that he has to warp the text.

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