Creation: Six Days, 15 Billion Years, or Both?
Thursday, 5 May 2004, Young Israel of Midwood
notes by Jon Baker
He started with arguments for 6 days, and their refutations:
1) Earth created to look old -> could have been created 5 minutes ago.
2) Yom in Gen. 1 is not "24 hrs." -> we see later that it must be.
Radiocarbon dating forces us to hold the earth is old.
Why was the Creation 6 days, not instantaneous? So that the world looks natural, the result of natural processes - if the world were obviously miraculous, it would eliminate free will.
A bit of history of current cosmology:
1959: survey among American scientists - 2/3 of them believed (like Aristotle) in the eternity of the universe. No beginning.
1965: Penzias & Wilson at Bell Labs discover the 3-deg background radiation, the echo of the Big Bang. This proved that the universe has a beginning, if not that a First Cause created it.
If the laws of nature pre-existed the Big Bang (time t0), then creation ex nihilo could have occurred. At any rate, be it God or natural law, something metaphysical started the process of creation.
We look at Creation through the eyes of Ramban, which cannot be properly understood without relativity.
In the beginning, the Creator created a very thin substance (dak me'od). Later, form was added, and it became substance, beginning from a single point. We would say that the moment of t0 was the 'quark confinement', that which triggered creation.
Cosmology holds that at the moment of creation, there was a single point, from which electromagnetic radiation (EMR) or "light beams" shone forth, and following Einstein's equation of matter and energy (E=mc^2), the EMR eventually cooled into matter. The initial energy became matter, becoming hydrogen, which began to pull together under gravity and form stars. The stars began to fuse, and create higher elements as fusion products (iron, carbon, silicon, etc.). Eventually the first generation of stars burned out as novae, and released their heavier elements into "stardust", which recondensed into new stars and planetary systems. Our Sun is a 2nd or greater generation star. All space began from that point, and stretched to become the huge Universe we see today.
This corresponds beautifully with Ramban: energy is the thin substance, it became real matter, beginning from a single point.
Think about the slim chances that led to the possibility of life on earth: just the right distance from the right color sun, right size not to trap hydrogen or to let water escape to space, enough heat & vulcanism to power plate tectonics, tides from an abnormally large moon but not enough gravity to force the Earth into a tidal lock (perpetual day on one side, night on the other, as Mercury & Venus are).
The time for the initial energy to cool into hydrogen matter was on the order of 1/100,000 sec.
The Torah hints at a requirement to set up a calendar. We say on Rosh Hashanah "Hayom Harat Olam" corresponding to day 6, when Adam was created. The Torah lists dates for Seth's progeny, but not for Cain's progeny. Why? Cain's progeny doesn't matter, it died out by the time of the Flood. Our history, dates matter - we have to set up a calendar.
Now, the commentators do say that words change meaning in the Genesis narrative. E.g., "choshech" usually "dark", in verse 2 is translated by the Gemara (Chagiga) as "black fire". "Erev" starting from "erev vayehi boker yome echad" meant "chaos"; only after the invention of the Sun did it become "evening."
So what about "yom"? In Chagiga 12b, and then in Rashi, Ramban, etc. it is alwasy translated as "24 hours". No hint of any other meaning. Ramban, however, says something interesting: "24 hour days that contain all the ages of the universe". What does this mean? Relativity.
One changes one's frame of reference, perhaps by traveling at great velocity, or being in a big gravity field, and time slows down or speeds up, relative to other observers not exposed to the same conditions. The Lorentz equations (pre-Einstein) tell us how much.
Now, the verse says "vayehi erev vayehi boker yom _echad_". One day, not "second, third" as the rest of the days. Cardinal number, not ordinal. Prof Schroeder's daughter supplies the explanation: because at that time, t0, there were no other days, just the one day. As in, the 1914-1918 war was "The Great War"; only after WWII happen did it become relegated to "The First World War"; before then it was sui generis.
This is one example of the Torah's not being set in the "now". It takes many different viewpoints as to time, e.g. "Az Yashir Moshe" being "Then Moshe _will_ sing", rather than the usual "Moshe sang". So when it says "yom echad", we see that the Torah views the Creation from time t0. Meanwhile, we view history from now. The Torah changes viewpoint to encode extra information in its narrative flow.
If space stretched, and this is part of standard cosmology, then it's still stretching today. We see evidence of this in the red-shift as stars pull away from each other, and from us. Say a star puts out a green light wave, length 0.5 microns. As space stretches, that same wave starts to take up 0.7 microns, and is visible to us as a red light wave. We know that the redshift factor Z is determined by a simple ratio of the temperature of the universe at time t0 (which we also know) to the temperature today (3 degrees Kelvin, as Penzias & Wilson found), and we find that Z is about 1 trillion.
So if we see 15 billion years, and divide it by the redshift factor Z, we wind up with about 6 (or 5.5) days. Thus, the creation of the universe took 6 days or 15 billion years, the same amount of time, depending on one's viewpoint, the Torah's or ours.
Prof. Schroeder then gave an addendum on evolution. If we take his compression scheme, we could say that day 1 covered 8 billion years, day 2 covered half that, or 4 billion years, etc., adding up to 15.5 billion years. Day 5, then, covered 1/2 billion years, say from 750 My (Mega-years) ago to 250 My ago. After puttering along in single-cell form for billions of years, suddenly at about 600 My ago, we get the Cambrian Explosion, the oceans teeming with life, including, according to Scientific American, all body plans of all animal life yet to come (bilateral symmetry, chordates, non-chordates, segmented, complex digestive tract, etc.) All the eye forms we find today arose almost simultaneously during the Cambrian Explosion. This fits the description in Gen. 1:21: "And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that creepeth, wherewith the waters swarmed, after its kind,..."
Now, it's not enough to prove that God was there, but it does hint at the existence of some kind of non-Darwinian force. Pure Darwinianism doesn't deal with the Cambrian explosion.
In response to a question, there is another way to get to this age of the universe, follwing Isaac of Acco (medieval kabbalist): Ps. 105 "Torah was given to the thousandth generation", but only 26 generations from Adam to Moshe, so Torah pre-existed our world by 974 generations. Archetypal generation is 40 years (generation of the desert). Each Divine year is 365 Divine days, each of which is 1000 of our years (Ps. 90:4) - multiply that out, and you get about 14.2 billion years, which is about the same scale as the current 15.5 billion year old universe.