The relevance of Biblical principles to my work, as well as my addressing some of the issues with both evolution and creationism places me squarely in the middle of this conflict. I’ve been labeled as a ‘Darwinist’ by some and a believer in pseudoscience by others. Thankfully, most consider my position to be at least reasonable, even by those who might not fully agree.
Those familiar with my work know I support neither creationism nor evolution in their purest ‘fundamentalist’ forms. Evolution is a statement begun in mid-sentence—the second half sounds fine, but lacking the first, it remains an incomplete thought. There’s more to the appearance and progression of life than pure Darwinism can explain. And while intelligent design speaks to the existence of a Creator, fundamental creationism is more specific in that it proposes a literal interpretation of certain Biblical passages.
Central to certain fundamentalist views is the belief that the heavens, earth and all life were created in six literal 24-hour days as it appears to state in Genesis. The problem here is that the Bible contains many numerical sums and time periods that are clearly symbolic in nature. Many folks are not aware of how integral mystical numerology was to the ancient Jewish worldview. Because this is so foreign to our modern mindset, it’s easy to overlook when reading. There are many examples. Jesus chose 12 disciples to mirror the 12 tribes of Israel. He talked of forgiving 7 x 70 because Jewish numerology held the number 7 as ultimate perfection. The Anti-Christ symbol of 666 reflects the numerological belief that the number 6 represents ultimate imperfection, which is then expressed three times as a form of anti-trinity. In ancient times, the number 1000 was often used in common speech to represent a quantity too large to count, and so was a rough equivalent to our own colloquial use of a word like “ga-jillion” to express the same idea. The 144,000 mentioned in Revelation is far more likely to have been a symbolic image in John’s divine vision based on the 12 tribes of Israel x 12 Apostles x the very large number of 1000 = 144,000 rather than a precise, literal number. Other examples are the 7000 men in 1 Kings (7 x 1000) who had not bowed their knees to Baal, or the seven Asian churches in Revelation (we know historically there were more in this Roman province at the time of it’s writing around 100 A.D.).
Look at the often-quoted passage, “For a 1000 years in your [God’s] sight is but as yesterday, or as a watch in the night.” A fundamentalist literal interpretation combines this with the Genesis account into a literal formula of 1000 years x 6 days of creation = earth is 6000 years old. Forget for a moment that this in direct conflict with the other notion that the six days of creation are literal 24-hour days. What is consistently ignored is the last part of this passage, “…or as a watch in the night.” A watch was a sentry period of 4 hours, which would make our formula now equal 36,000 years. Since the psalmist is presenting two very different values in the same sentence for a day of God, the intent is clearly a symbolic, metaphorical representation that God’s time is far different than earth time.
The point is that there is more than enough justification from the Bible itself for any Christian of good conscience to interpret the days of creation metaphorically as perhaps referring to very long periods of time if he or she so chooses without compromising the basic Christian message of faith or without being apostate, heretical, corrupted and so on, as a few hard-liners accuse. The same accusations were hurled against Galileo, whose findings contradicted a number of Biblical passages that when interpreted literally indicated an earth-centered solar system. I find it interesting that those who I have encountered that champion such Biblical literalism never want to talk about Galileo, and when asked direct questions about that incident, always ignore them and instead divert the conversation elsewhere.