So I think the first page of the Bible is as good as place as any to begin. Chapter 1 of Genesis is probably the best known part of the Bible and most people could tell you that it’s about how God created the world in seven days.
The story goes like this: In the beginning, God said “Let there be light” and created the Earth. He then separated light from dark (aren’t they separate by definition?) and an expanse (called Heaven) to separate the waters from the waters (what water is this? Did someone look into the sky and presume that because it is blue that there must be water up there?). Then on the third day he created Earth and filled it with vegetation. On the fourth he created two great lights, the Sun and the Moon, which is strange because the Moon does not create light, merely reflects it. This also raises the question of where all the light was coming from before the sun was created and how did all the vegetation survive? How could he mark the days before the creation of the Sun? It seems that God/whoever wrote this doesn’t know the basics of how the solar system works. It’s probably a bit early for reaching conclusions, but it seems that at least this chapter was written by ordinary people, not the divine creator of the universe.
The most revealing part is how after making the Sun and the Moon, there is a throwaway line about “and the stars”. Now to an ancient society, stars probably seemed like little more than dots in the sky, hardly worth much attention, but we know that in fact the case is the opposite. Earth is not the centre of the universe as Genesis 1 says, but rather we are a tiny dot in a Universe so massive that it cannot be described by words. It is estimated that there are about 1022 to 1024 stars in the Universe. If it takes a day to create a planet or a star, then there simply isn’t enough time since the Universe was created for all these stars to exist. This small detail is one of the most damning parts of Genesis 1, and shows that whoever wrote this, did not know how the Universe was created.
Then fish and animals are created until we get to the sixth day when humans (a man and a woman) are created (something I didn’t know, the Hebrew word for man is Adam). Man is made in God’s image (don’t all people think that God exactly resembles them and how they think?) and will rule over all the animals of the world. All plants and fruits are given to humans to eat, which is odd, because most wild plants are not edible. Even crops like grain are actually poisonous to humans in their wild state and it took generations of selective breeding/evolution before they were transformed into modern crops. All animals are also given plants to eat which is odd, were all animals herbivores?
Then something odd happens. After the creation of the world is described in Chapter 1, it is described again in the second chapter, but this time the details are different. This time man (a single man) is created (from dust) first and then all the vegetation. In Chapter 1, livestock is created before humans, but on the very next page, livestock is created after humans. Which is it? It can’t be both. It is odd that after only two pages the Bible is already contradicting itself (and that this was not noticed by the editors). The only explanation I can find by apologists is that some plants were created and some after, which seems like scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Perhaps, at the time Genesis 1 was written, it seemed like a decent explanation of how the world was formed, but we have learned an awful lot since then. The world did not suddenly appear in an instant like Genesis says, but gradually over billions of years. The Universe was formed roughly 1 billion years ago, but Earth was only formed 4 billion years ago. If the Universe was created for us, then why was there a 10 billion year gap? It’s hard to look at a history of the Universe and not conclude that our existence is only an unintended side effect. Likewise, the idea that all of life was created in its current form has been completely debunked under the weight of the overwhelming evidence for evolution. Again, considering the billions of years it took to get from primitive life to Homo sapiens (humans) and the many times life nearly went extinct, makes it hard to claim that Earth was created for us.
What I think is the most important part of Genesis 1 is what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say who or what God is, or how he created the Universe. Nor do we get any insight into one of the greatest scientific mysteries, how did life originate? Questions about whether there is a God and how the world was created have been debated for millennia, but the Bible gives us no answers. Contrary to what religious people claim, the Bible isn’t that good of a way to “know” God or how he operates. One of the strongest arguments that believers use in debates against Atheists, is that Atheists can’t explain how the Universe was formed. But neither can the Bible. At least there are some hypotheses on the origin of life and evolution and the Big Bang explain a lot, whereas the Bible gives us nothing. The creation of everything is such an important event that it is bizarre that it only merits a single page, while whole books later on are devoted to the most mundane issues.
Thousands of years ago it seemed natural to think that the Earth was the centre of the universe, so the fact that other planets and stars don’t get a mention would have seemed normal. Humans like to think that there is something special about ourselves that puts us higher than other animals and puts Earth superior to other planets. But in the general scheme of things, we are quite insignificant. It’s impossible to claim that the Universe was created specially for us when you consider how massive it is and how small Earth is. (The following is thanks to Andrew Colvin and Wikimedia).
To put Earth in context, it is has only 0.2% of the mass of the planets in our Solar System.
Our Solar System is only one of 53 in the Solar Interstellar Neighbourhood.
This is only a tiny piece of the Milky Way which has an estimated 100 billion planets and 100-400 billion stars.
It used to be thought that all of the Universe was inside the Milky Way, but we have since discovered that the Milky Way is part of a Local Group of 54 galaxies.
This Local Group is only a small part of the Virgo Supercluster which has at least 100 galaxy groups in it.
This is in turn only one of many superclusters.
These are a part of the Observable Universe (there could be more to the Universe that we don’t know about).
Now considering the vast size of the Universe, does it seem likely that it was created in seven days by a single being who only cares about a single planet? If Earth is so special, then why are there so many billions upon billions of other planets? If they are not for us then why did God waste time and energy creating them? Knowing the size of the Universe is a truly humbling experience and makes it seem the height of narcissism to believe that humans are the only beings that matter. Comparing the silly story of Genesis 1 with what we know about the Universe, is to compare a dull and unimaginative with the wonder and splendour of reality.