Fundamentalists use the creation stories in the Bible to construct what they misname as “Creation Science” in opposition to Evolution and the known, long history of the universe. However, there are two creation stories in the Bible–and they differ in significant details. These differences in the two accounts have some important implications for the fundamentalist’s belief in the literal truth of the Bible. In fact, these differences prove that belief to be wrong.
In the first story (Genesis 1:1-2:3), creation takes six days, and man and woman are created last after all the plants and animals. In the second story (Genesis 2:4-25), creation takes one day, man is created first, then all the plants and animals, and finally woman is created last of all.
It can be seen that the major differences between these two accounts of creation are:
- The overall length of time it took,
- the stage at which humans were created, and,
- whether man and woman were created at the same or different times.
It is a fundamental principle in logic that if two statements contradict each other then both cannot be true. Therefore at least one of the creation myths briefly summarized above is at least partially untrue because of the contradictions between the two. That is, if we believe that one of the accounts is true (which does not necessarily apply) then the other cannot be held to be true. It is also quite possible, however, that both accounts are untrue. We should keep this principle of contradiction between accounts, proving the falsity of at least one of the accounts, in mind as we examine the Bible stories of creation.
If one accepts the truth of both accounts of the creation one will have problems in trying to explain the differences. The differences between one and six days for the whole event, the timing at which humans were created, and the fact that woman was either created at the same time as man or later, are not minor and need some serious explaining if they are to be ignored or accepted. If the whole of the Bible is taken as literally true, as fundamentalists argue, then the discrepancies cannot be explained away and they must somehow be accepted as true.
The Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland may have found herself able to believe six impossible things before breakfast, but I find it difficult to even think of a way that the creation stories can be made compatible without a major rewrite–or abandoning one of them. Since fundamentalists would not allow either of these devices, even to give their beliefs some extra support, we have reached a major stumbling block in any attempt to describe the Bible as literally true.
If, however, the two creation stories are taken as nothing more than stories, then these contradictions are of little importance. They might simply be storytellers’ errors, changes in the story for dramatic effect, or just different versions of the same story, perhaps from different origins in different cultures or places. But if one is looking for literal truth, then the contradictions in these two accounts show that one must look elsewhere because both accounts cannot be taken as literally true; at least one must be untrue.
That the two accounts of creation cannot both be literally true also shows that the Bible as a whole cannot be literally true. Unfortunately for fundamentalists who want to believe that the Bible is literally true, they are wrong. The Bible as a whole is little more than a story. That is not to say that the Bible is not a good nor an interesting story, but it does mean that it must not be given the value that fundamentalists place upon it. That is, it is not the truth, and no matter how much one wishes it to be so it cannot be seen or taken as the truth.
The fact that the contradictions in the creation stories cannot be explained away also counts against fundamentalists in that it shows that their beliefs can be proved wrong using the very same source that they use to argue that they are right. The Bible cannot be relied upon as supporting evidence for any beliefs from the existence of god to the rites or history of a religion; it is simply unreliable and ineffective as a source of evidence to back any theory or belief.
If one is faced with a fundamentalist arguing for creationism, then ask him/her whether s/he believes in the Bible story of creation. The answer will, almost certainly, be “Yes.” Next ask which creation story s/he believes, the one in Genesis 1 or the one in Genesis 2, pointing out that the two are contradictory in many of their details. Since most fundamentalists do not seem to be aware that there are two contradictory creations stories in the Bible, confusion will likely follow. But don’t expect enlightenment to automatically follow because fundamentalists don’t give up their false beliefs easily.
On the other hand, perhaps it would be kinder to allow the fundamentalist to continue his/her mistaken beliefs. Some fundamentalists are so mentally and emotionally tied to their beliefs that it would be dreadfully traumatic to have them taken away. Sympathy and kindness rather than education and enlightenment might be the best policy. As someone once said “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.” Perhaps it would be better to allow the fundamentalist to be happy in his/her ignorance. And as a matter of fact you will likely never convince fundamentalists of their error; they will almost always have an answer that satisfies them that they are right and that you are wrong.
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(NOTE: The accounts of the creation from Genesis 1 and 2 that I used in the writing of this article were taken from www.leighb.com/genesis.htm which lists the two versions side by side for easy comparison.)