Credit where credit’s due: P. Z. Myers vs. Daniel Friedmann on Genesis
|June 25, 2013||Posted by vjtorley under Intelligent Design|
I’d like to confess two things up-front. First, I know next to nothing about Kabbalah (an ancient Jewish mystical tradition which forms an integral part of the Oral tradition of Judaism). Second, I’m not a big fan of the “day-age” interpretation of Genesis, having been turned off it at the age of twelve, when I learned that birds appeared only 150 million years ago, long after the appearance of land animals (or even mammals, for that matter) – in other words, the reverse of the order in Genesis. But I’d be the first to admit that my own personal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 might well be wrong – in fact, I’m quite sure that it is wrong, in places. (The only question is: how wrong?) So if someone were to argue that when the events narrated in Genesis 1 are properly understood, the “day-age” interpretation turns out to be right after all, then I’d at least hear them out. Who knows? They might be right.
Daniel Friedmann is CEO of MDA Corp. aerospace company in Canada, specializing in robotics used on the international space station. He has a master’s degree in engineering physics and 30 years’ experience in the space industry. He has published more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers on space industry topics. He is also a longtime student of cosmology and religion, and he believes that science and Genesis can be reconciled. He holds to a “day-age” interpretation of Genesis 1, which he expounds in a recent book titled, The Genesis One Code.
Friedmann’s Three Great Interventions
Readers may be curious as to where Friedman stands on Intelligent Design. According to his interpretation of Genesis, everything that took place in the first chapter of Genesis happened according to standard scientific laws of cause and effect, except for three big events that required Divine intervention: the origin of the universe itself; the origin of complex life; and the origin of the human soul.
Mr. Friedmann has kindly drawn my attention to the following passage in his book, in which he contrasts acts of formation with acts of creation:
“Most acts in Genesis are something from something else and all within nature. Thus science can describe what is happening. BUT there are exceptions – ex nihilo (out of nothing) creations which science may not decipher.”
Mr. Friedmann nowhere states in his book that the acts which science can describe happened naturally, via an undirected process. Rather, what he says is that we can understand them via the scientific method. Nevertheless, his book makes it quite clear that these acts are caused by God.
In a recent interview with Antonia Zerbisias, of The Star of Toronto, titled, Ideacity: Has Daniel Friedmann found ‘biblical clock’ and key to creation (14 June 2013), Daniel Friedmann explained why he regarded those three events as inexplicable according to the laws of cause and effect:
The most famous one is the beginning. If you look at the Big Bang theory, it explains absolutely everything from the beginning until today very nicely but it has no idea how the beginning came about.
The next most famous one is what the Bible calls the human soul. The Bible says the bodies of humans were made just like the bodies of animals. In some cases science recognizes the soul, in some cases it says there is no soul, we’re just super-intelligent. The key thing is, what does a soul bring to a human that it doesn’t bring to anyone else? The ability to speak and the ability to envision the future. We’re the only species according to science that can do that. That leads to painting and art and things that in an evolutionary context are completely useless. The Bible tells us that these behaviours come from the soul, the divine soul, from the outside. Science agrees that these behaviours are completely unique to humans but they don’t have an explanation for where they come from.
The third thing is the appearance of sea creatures during what science calls the Cambrian explosion. What happened then came out outside of the scientific natural process. God interfered and did something miraculous.
Those are the only three times that something was happening that was not just cause and effect within the normal laws of nature.
In short: Friedmann could be fairly described as a front-loader.
Friedmann’s time scale for matching Genesis and science
Friedmann argues that while science and Genesis might offer different slants on how the world originated, they should at least agree on what happened, and when. Consequently, chronology is of vital importance to Friedmann’s interpretation of Genesis.
The first question that needs to be addressed is: if each day in Genesis represents an age, then how long are the ages? In other words, what time-scale does Genesis 1 use? Friedmann explained how he derived his time-scale in an interview with Ginny Grimsley in Marketwire (April 18, 2012) titled, Physics Engineer Daniel Friedmann’s Formula Provides Key to Biblical Clock:
In “Genesis One Code,” Friedmann explains how he developed the formula – 1,000 X 365 X 7,000 — from references in religious texts.
“The formula is simple,” says the CEO of the Canadian aerospace company known for creating the robotics used on the international space station.
“The Bible tells us in Psalms that one day for God is 1,000 years for us. We know that 365 days is our solar year, and from other studies of the scriptures we can conclude that one creation day in Genesis equals 7,000 God years.
“Multiply those numbers and you find that in years as we know them, each creation day is an epoch of 2.56 billion years,” Friedmann says. The age of the universe, when calculated using the formula, is 13.74 billion years. Science puts it at 13.75 billion, plus or minus 0.13 billion.
In fact, Friedmann’s estimate is even more precise than that: he holds that the universe is 13.742 million years old.
Where does Friedmann get his “days” from?
In his book, The Genesis One Code, Friedmann emphasizes that his interpretation of Genesis is not a novel one, but one that goes back no less than 800 years, in Jewish thinking:
This is not a modern concept. Isaac ben Samuel of Acre (fl.13th-14th century), a Kabbalist who lived in the land of Israel 800 years ago, was the first to state that the universe is actually billions of years old, at a time when the prevalent thought was that the universe was thousands of years old. Isaac arrived at this conclusion by distinguishing between time as experienced by humans and time as experienced by God, herein described as Human Time and Divine Time, respectively. However, his work was only brought to light recently in English by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1979).
Scientist Rich Deem helpfully clarifies the reasoning underlying Friedmann’s chronology in an online review of Friedmann’s book, The Genesis One Code:
Friedmann goes on to say that a “creation day” is 7,000 “divine years.” How this number was arrived at is not explained in the text, but in a very long appendix. Having read the appendix carefully, I could still not figure out exactly how that number was arrived at, other than having to do with 7 cycles of 7 and the universe existing for 49,000 years (not sure where that number came from and how it relates to the universe’s real age of 13.8 billion years). So, according to Friedmann, a “creation day” is equivalent to 2.56 billion years (365,250 years/divine year X 7,000 divine years/creation day)…
Actually, the 7,000 “divine years” are derived from the Sefer ha-Temunah, an ancient Kabbalistic work attributed to the first-century tanna, Rabbi Nehunya ben ha-Kanah. Jewish scholar Aryeh Kaplan explains the teaching in his book, Immortality, resurrection, and the age of the universe: A Kabbalistic view (Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, Ktav Publishing House, 1993, ISBN 978-0-88125-345-0), adding that this teaching about Sabbatical cycles was by no means universally accepted among Jewish authorities, and that a diversity of opinions existed on the subject:
The Sefer ha-Temunah speaks about Sabbatical cycles (shemitol). This is based on the Talmudic teaching that “the world will exist for six thousand years, and in the seven-thousandth year, it will be destroyed.” The Sefer ha-Temunah states that this seven-thousand-year cycle is merely one Sabbatical cycle. However, since there are seven Sabbatical cycles in a Jubilee, the world is destined to exist for forty-nine thousand years. (p. 6)
How Friedmann derives a 13.74 billion-year-old universe from Genesis
In his online review of The Genesis One Code, Rich Deem spells out the logic behind Friedmann’s Biblical calculation of 13.74 billion years for the age of the universe:
When one multiplies 2.56 billion by 6 creation days, one ends up with over 15 billion years, which is somewhat over the value determined by science. However, Friedmann has an answer for that — like human beings, God only works during the daytime. Since the creation days begin at sunset, God takes off the first 12 hours of creation day 1. In addition, the creation ends on the 21st hour of the sixth day, since Kabbalistic sources put Adam and Eve’s sin at that time. So, in reality, the God’s creative days are only 5.375 days long. When multiplied by 2.56 billion years, we end up with 13.74 billion years for the age of the universe (in human time). At the time of the writing of The Genesis One Code, this was nearly the exact value given by the results of the WMAP satellite (13.73 billion years). However, since that time, the Planck satellite has come in with a new value that is much more accurate, but slightly older at 13.82 billion years. Maybe Friedmann can find a few more minutes to add to the sixth creation day. (Emphases mine – VJT.)
According to Friedmann, the darkness in Genesis 1:3 corresponds to the Dark Ages in the early history of the universe, before the stars were formed; then came the first generation of stars, which were very large and bright, and which lit up the entire universe. This was the light on the first day. Friedmann argues that the “waters” on the second day are actually hydrogen; and the separation of the waters refers to the formation (from hydrogen) of the current generation of stars, which are generally much smaller. The appearance of dry land on the third day is said to refer to the creation of nitrogen and the formation of the Milky Way’s galactic disk. (Friedmann also holds that the Earth was formed on this day, about 7.5 to 8 billion years ago, before the solar system, and that it was subsequently captured by the Sun, about 3 billion years later.) The Sun, moon and solar system were completed by the end of day 4. Life starts on the morning of day 5, 3.52 billion years ago, and complex animals appear at the end of hour 4 on Day 6, or 532 million years ago.
Friedmann’s singular prediction: a 7.5 billion-year-old Earth
There’s one date in Friedmann’s chronology which doesn’t square with current scientific theory: he estimates that the Earth is 7.5 to 8 billion years old.
In the following excerpt from The Genesis Code, Friedmann explains how he reconciles his postulated age of 7.5 to 8 billion years for the Earth with the 4.5 billion year age of the solar system:
Meteorites, which are fragments of asteroids (small celestial bodies composed of rock and metal that move around the sun) that fall to earth, date back to about 4.5 BY ago. Scientists have theorized that the earth formed at the same time as the rest of the solar system, including the asteroids. Thus, scientists take the age of the meteorites found on earth to be the same as the age of the earth.
However, cosmologists have discovered planets that have been ejected from star systems, potentially by a supernova (a very large stellar explosion). Some scientists have postulated that the earth itself was ejected by an earlier solar system. It is also known that nucleosynthesis in stars created enough elements to constitute earth-like planets approximately 8 billion years ago. Thus, the earth could have formed much earlier somewhere in the disk of our galaxy, passed through the clouds of molecular hydrogen and other material from which the solar system was being formed, and been trapped by the gravity of the solar system’s material as the system formed 4.5 BY ago. Then, over time asteroids dating back to the formation of the solar system have fallen to earth and in so doing produced the meteorites that we now date. This scenario, which does not contradict the scientific measurement of the age of the earth’s rocks (but does contradict the currently accepted theory that the earth formed with the solar system), is consistent with Genesis wherein the planet earth is formed in Day 3 (one day earlier than the sun and moon), some 7.5 to 8 BY ago.
Friedmann’s astonishing claim: Twenty matches between science and his account of Genesis!
In a recent talk entitled, Daniel Friedmann on the Story and Science of Creation, given at the IDEACity 2013, Koerner Hall, Toronto, June 19-21, 2013, Friedmann displayed a slide showing what he described as “a very good match” between Genesis and science. The table below (which is based on his slide) illustrates how well Friedmann’s interpretation matches up with the chronology uncovered by scientists.
|Event||Creation Time||Human Time||Time [Science]|
|Age of the Universe||5.375 creation days||13.74 BY||13.75 +-0.13 BY|
|Sun and Moon||End of day 4, Moon < 2/3 hour later||4.79 BYa, [Moon] < 70 MY later||4.57 +-0.11 BYa, [Moon] ~ 50 MY later|
|Beginning of life||Beginning of day 5, in water||3.52 BYa||~3.5 BYa|
|Complex animals||End hour 4, Day 6||532 Ma||530 Ma, Cambrian explosion|
|Adam names the animals||Hour 6, day 6||426-320 Ma||4-legged animals 397 Ma, Herbivores 369 Ma, All ancestors of current animals 310 Ma|
|Land plants||Eden planted hour 6-8, day 6||426-106 Ma||First plants 420 Ma, First trees 280 Ma, Flowers 130 Ma|
In the table, BY denotes billion years, BYa denotes billion years ago, MY denotes million years, and Ma denotes million years ago.
Friedmann only showed a few of the matches here. But there are about 20 altogether more, according to a recent book review in the Sonoran News of Arizona titled, Physics Engineer’s Formula Provides Key to Biblical Clock:
The age of the universe, when calculated using the formula [developed by Friedmann], is 13.74 billion years. Science puts it at 13.75 billion, plus or minus 0.13 billion.
Friedmann’s formula produced 20 other Bible/science matches for events described in Genesis. They include:
* According to the Bible, the sun appeared to mark days, seasons and years on Day 4 of creation. Calculating from the end of the fourth day, Friedmann puts the “creation time age” at just under 4.79 billion years ago. Science says the sun is 4.57 billion years old, plus or minus 0.11 billion years.
* Science has determined the simplest form of life first appeared on Earth 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago. Using Friedmann’s formula, calculating from the beginning of Day 5, life appeared 3.52 billion years ago.
* Complex life – most of the major animal phyla – appeared in a fairly rapid “Cambrian explosion” about 530 million years ago, give or take 5 million years, according to fossil records. That was four hours into Day 6, according to Friedmann, 532 million years ago.
* Day 6 was when “God planted the garden in Eden,” according to the Bible. Friedmann calculates plant life appearing a little later in the “day,” starting 426 million years ago and concluding 106 million years ago. The fossil record indicates that the first primitive macroscopic plants appeared about 420 million years ago, with seed plants and conifers diversifying 280 million years ago and flowering plants showing up 130 million years ago.
For those who may be wondering: the other events that Friedmann claims to find matches for in Genesis include major extinction events in the Earth’s history. Let me say that I have not examined Friedmann’s claims in detail, as I haven’t yet read his book; but what I will say is that in my opinion, any theory, no matter where it comes from and no matter how bizarre it may be, merits serious scientific evaluation, if it makes a large enough number of striking scientific predictions which turn out to be unexpectedly accurate. At the moment, many of the Genesis dates tabled by Friedmann (see his slide above) appear to be slightly at variance with the scientific chronology. For my part, I’m rather skeptical of Friedmann’s Genesis chronology. But if science were subsequently to vindicate Friedmann’s dates, that would prompt me to reconsider his “day-age” theory of Genesis. In the end, the ability to make predictions trumps everything, when judging a scientific theory.
Problems with Friedmann’s chronology: The Third and Fourth Days
Friedmann’s chronology is not without its problems, however, as Rich Deem points out in his online review of Friedmann’s book:
Friedmann interprets the appearance of dry land on the third day as the creation of nitrogen and the assembly of the Milky Way’s galactic disk. The verses from the third day that refer to the creation of green plants and trees (Genesis 1:11-12) are conveniently ignored. However, they are sneaked into the sixth day as having been created on the third day, but not having sprouted until the sixth day.
Deem then goes on to accuse Friedmann of inconsistency here, on the grounds that according to Friedmann’s timescale, the earth would not have been created until the very end of the fourth day, but as we have seen, this is incorrect: Friedmann actually holds that the Earth was created on the third day, about 7.5 to 8 billion years ago.
The Fifth and Sixth Days: The creation of complex life and of man
However, as Deem points out, it is on the fifth and sixth days that Friedmann’s chronology faces its most severe test. On a straightforward reading of Genesis 1:21-24, fish and birds appear on the fifth day, while land animals do not appear until the sixth. Friedmann is therefore compelled to reject this reading, since on his interpretation, complex life does not appear until the end of hour 4 on the sixth day.
In his online review, The Genesis One Code by Daniel Friedmann, scientist Rich Deem (who is also a Christian apologist) points out that Friedmann’s chronology comes unstuck when he comes to the creation of man:
Since God does not work in the dark, He didn’t start working to create Adam until hour 13, which is still about 1 billion years ago. With each step in the process taking 107 million years, Adam was not completed until 430 million years ago. At that point, Adam spent 107 million years naming all the animals (even though most of them had not yet been created, according to science)…. Friedmann explains that both Adam and Eve were created outside the garden [of Eden], [and] had children Cain and Abel hundreds of millions of years before they sinned. The fossil record is also clear that modern humans appeared less than a million years ago.
In all fairness, I should point out that in his latest book, The Broken Gift (Inspired Books, 2013), Friedmann defends the biblical claim that human beings were created 6,000 years ago – a claim that he endeavors to reconcile with the scientific claim that modern-looking humans appeared 200,000 years ago. Be that as it may, I am sure that many readers will be puzzled by Friedmann’s claim, in the media kit accompanying his latest book, that “Adam was a divine being, very different physically and spiritually from us but his descendants, post sin, were like us in every way – agreeing with science,” and that “Eve existed but she was a divine being and very different from us.”
P. Z. Myers’ criticisms of Friedmann’s harmony between science and Genesis
In a recent post titled, The KEY to understanding Genesis! (June 16, 2013), Professor P. Z. Myers (photographed above, courtesy of Wikipedia and Larry Moran) was dismissive of Friedmann’s book, The Genesis One Code, as the following comments show. I’ll let readers judge for themselves whether Myers has made a proper effort to understand Friedmann’s work:
Multiplying 6 god days by 2.56 billion years per god day, doesn’t give you a number that’s even close to the scientifically measured age of the universe, and the dates don’t line up in even an approximation for the origin of life…
The currently known age of the universe is 13.8 billion years; the earth is 4.5 billion years old…
5 billion years ago, the solar nebula was condensing from clouds of interstellar gas. “Fish”, loosely speaking, evolved in the Cambrian, half a billion years ago; his dates are off by an order of magnitude. Birds evolved in the Mesozoic, and whales in the Cenozoic, so he’s off even further there…
The capabilities of humans are a product of their material brain, no soul (which kooks like Friedmann can neither define nor measure) required. And if we have no idea what initiated the Big Bang, neither does Friedmann — “God did it” is not an explanation.
I’d like to make a few brief comments in response:
1. If Professor Myers had taken the time to acquaint himself with the claims made in Daniel Friedmann’s book, The Genesis One Code, and in his online talk entitled, Daniel Friedmann on the Story and Science of Creation, he would have realized that according to Friedmann’s chronology (which he bases on the 800-year-old writings of the Kabbalah), the events described in Genesis 1 cover 5.375 creation days, not six days. That’s why he contends that the age of the universe is 13.742 billion years, rather than 15.36 billion years.
2. As we saw above, it is a striking (and scientifically falsifiable) prediction of Friedmann’s interpretation of Genesis that the Earth should be 7.5 to 8 billion years old. Friedmann holds that the Earth was captured by the solar system at the time of its formation, which he dates to about 4.79 billion years ago (compared to the current scientifically accepted date of 4.567 billion years ago). One would think that a scientist like Professor Myers would welcome Friedmann’s falsifiable predictions, and encourage scientists to test them.
3. Friedmann is fully aware that complex life (including fish) appeared much later than the Earth. That’s why he dates the emergence of complex life (the “Cambrian explosion”) to the end of hour 4 on day 6, which would be 532 million years ago on a scientific time-scale. (Some complex life-forms would have appeared later.) I’ll leave it to Friedmann to explain how he squares his exegesis with Genesis 1:21, which seems to declare quite plainly that fish and birds were made on day five. But at least Myers cannot fault Friedmann’s chronology for its scientific inaccuracy on this point.
4. Myers’ claim that “the capabilities of humans are a product of their material brain” betrays a conceptual confusion on his part. It is a fact of life that humans are capable of formulating abstract, purely formal concepts such as “true,” “false,” “prime” and “set”. Material processes are no more capable of explaining our ability to formulate formal concepts than a material like wood is capable of explaining the abstract property of roundness. The attempt to explain the formal in terms of the material is a category mistake, pure and simple. All the correlations in the world between mental events and brain processes can’t get around that fact. And if correlation between two sets of processes does not imply causation, it certainly does not imply identity, as Myers would have us believe in the case of mental states and neural processes.
5. Professor Myers contends that “God did it” is not a proper explanation. But “Some Intelligence did it” certainly is. If I say that at least some of the structures in the underwater Japanese Yonaguni monument (such as “The Turtle,” pictured below, courtesy of Wikipedia and Masahiro Kaji) should be explained, not as a product of unguided natural processes, but as the work of some intelligence (be it human or alien), then I have certainly said something meaningful and genuinely informative, regardless of whether my assertion turns out to be true or not. My claim, if correct, surely has explanatory power.
I conclude (with regret) that Professor Myers’ post is marred by a failure to engage with the arguments advanced by a person whose world-view is radically different from his own.
Friedmann and Intelligent Design
I’d now like to address The Genesis One Code from an Intelligent Design perspective.
As we have seen, Daniel Friedmann posits three and only three occasions in the history of the cosmos (prior to the Fall of man) where the intervening hand of God was necessary to steer the course of events: the origin of the universe; the origin of complex life; and the origin of the human soul. All other events in the history of life, Friedmann contends, can be accounted for in terms of the laws of cause and effect that scientists routinely invoke.
As I see it, there are two problems with this view. The first is that the laws of Nature are conceptually inadequate to explain the emergence of life. As Professor Michael Behe succinctly put it in a review (First Things 94, June-July 1999, pp. 42-45) of physicist Paul Davies’ best-seller, The Fifth Miracle (Simon & Schuster, 1999):
laws cannot contain the recipe for life because laws are “information-poor” while life is “information-rich.”
The second major problem with Friedmann’s “minimal intervention” scenario is that it fails to address the origin of singleton proteins and genes, which appears to be beyond the reach of unguided natural processes, for reasons discussed by Dr. Branko Kozulic in his 2011 paper, Proteins and Genes, Singletons and Species:
Each unique gene, and accordingly each novel functional protein encoded by that gene, however, represents a major problem for evolutionary theory because unique proteins are as unrelated as the proteins of random sequences – and among random sequences functional proteins are exceedingly rare. Experimental data reviewed here suggest that at most one functional protein can be found among 10^20 proteins of random sequences. Hence every discovery of a novel functional protein (singleton) represents a testimony for successful overcoming of the probability barrier of one against at least 10^20, the probability defined here as a “macromolecular miracle”. More than one million of such “macromolecular miracles” are present in the genomes of about two thousand species sequenced thus far. Assuming that this correlation will hold with the rest of about 10 million different species that live on Earth , the total number of “macromolecular miracles” in all genomes could reach 10 billion. These 10^10 unique proteins would still represent a tiny fraction of the 10^470 possible proteins of the median eukaryotic size.
If just 200 unique proteins are present in each species, the probability of their simultaneous appearance is one against at least 10^4,000. Probabilistic resources of our universe are much, much smaller; they allow for a maximum of 10^149 events  and thus could account for a one-time simultaneous appearance of at most 7 unique proteins. The alternative, a sequential appearance of singletons, would require that the descendants of one family live through hundreds of “macromolecular miracles” to become a new species – again a scenario of exceedingly low probability. Therefore, now one can say that each species is a result of a Biological Big Bang; to reserve that term just for the first living organism  is not justified anymore…
Evolutionary biologists of earlier generations have not anticipated [164, 165] the challenge that singletons pose to contemporary biologists. By discovering millions of unique genes biologists have run into brick walls similar to those hit by physicists with the discovery of quantum phenomena. The predominant viewpoint in biology has become untenable: we are witnessing a scientific revolution of unprecedented proportions.
At the very least, intelligently guided evolution seems to be required here. Laws on their own are not up to the task of overcoming probabilistic hurdles such as these.
Have any viewers read Daniel Friedmann’s The Genesis One Code? If so, what did you think of the book? Comments are welcome.