A General Systems Theory
One of the great ironies of the Creationist/Darwinist debate is that the Biblical account in Genesis almost certainly describes the evolution of man from the animals. The scriptural text clearly states that, but people ignore the obvious in order to maintain a non-biblical occult belief in the face of scripture.
View of Creation
Genesis 1:1 reads "In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth." But the word used for God in the original scripture is a plural noun "Elohim." This word Elohim was not a name, or proper noun, but rather a plural common noun, and is described in W. E. Vine's book "An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words" (pg 159) as "the plural form of majesty." It is absolutely crucial to understand that the word God used in Genesis 1:1 does not mean a singular entity. Indeed, as will become clear upon analyzing what the Bible actually says, Elohim is not an entity at all, but an essence we now refer to as "autopoiesis."
Regardless of theology, any interpretation of God cannot mean a single entity, a person or personal deity in the sense of some embodied supernatural creature, because the word used in the Bible is unequivocably plural. In particular, God cannot mean some supra-manifestation of a human-like vaporous being "in our image," as implied by the fundamentalists.
Nor is this plural a matter of minor concern. This same plural arises when the Bible describes the creation of Man. God says "Let us make Man in our image." Who is God talking to? Why is God even talking at all? Why does God refer to "us"? Typically the explanation of this assumes a polytheistic past to the Bible that results in this "vestigial language." But there are numerous examples of language in the Old Testament evolving as history flowed around them. If this were truly vestigial language the oral tradition too easily would have changed this to reflect rhetorical language of a single God thinking out loud.
Instead, one must clearly interpret what the Bible actually reads in its context. We are forced to make a different interpretation of this language in terms of both knowing the essence of God and the existence of evolution. Implicit in the fundamentalist translation of the creation in Genesis is the conception of an external God that preceded the universe and then crafted it. But the Bible does not say that. The word translated into English as "created" in the first sentence of Genesis has a peculiar meaning in the original and different from words that mean "to make" or "to form." We thus have to reject any presumption that the Bible referred to creation as an act of "making" by an outside agent.
It is crucial to understand that not only does the first sentence of Genesis use a different word for "create" (bara) than the word for "to make or assemble" (asah) or the word for "to form" (yatsar), but this same word is used in other places as a distinction with the words for "make" or "form" that implies a different meaning. According to W. E. Vine's book "An Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words", this word (bara) is used only 49 times in the Old Testament, compared to over 2,600 times for the word "to make" (asah). Vine says the technical meaning of bara is "to create out of nothing" and is used only with God as the subject, but one must consider that the limiting of this word to God implies a special meaning more akin to a manifestation. Indeed, bara is often translated to mean "create out of nothing."
There is nothing in the Bible that says God existed before the Heavens and Earth and then created them. Thus there is nothing which demands that God be considered as separate from the creation of the universe. One can think of the existence of God as being coterminous with the existence of the universe somewhat as the existence of a forest is coterminous with the existence of the trees. It is an entirely occult belief to attribute the creation of the universe to an external being. The Bible says "in the beginning" which applies to God just as much as the universe.
What the Bible says is that "in the beginning" out of the nothingness there was a manifestation of order in which the forces that created this manifestation was God. In the modern sense, this describes the "emergence" of a system within a chaos. The modern definition of a system is that it represents a manifestation of forces that form a single "whole" that is greater than the sum of its parts. The essence that constitutes this greater-ness is what the Bible refers to as God.
Indeed, in an ancient society without a tradition of sophisticated science, this greater-ness created by an assembly of parts that self-organizes out of chaos would very appropriately be described as a plural form of majesty. When translated in a future time it would be difficult for interpreters to conceive that the word "Elohim" was not a name but rather a term that reflected the essence of self-assembly that forms a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.
We have a modern term for this self-organizing principle common to systems: autopoiesis. The creation of interdependent feedback relationships that structure what we call a system is well documented in modern science. A complex system can evolve as these relationships interact with their environment and engender other feedback relationships. This creation of a whole that manifests itself as a single entity beyond what its constituent parts would indicate is today called "emergence," but to the ancients the same process was seen as God, which is why it was a plural term for majesty.
The Bible does NOT say that a prior existing entity named God made the universe, because the words used in the scriptures cannot have that meaning. The word written for God is plural and word written for what we translate as "create" is different from the word meaning "to make or assemble" (asah) or the word for "to form" (yatsar). When the Bible says "in the beginning" it means at the time God manifested the order out of the nothingness. It means the universe "emerged" and God was the process of its emergence.
The Biblical language requires that God is a process rather than a being, and that the process of God created order out of the chaos. Thus the traditional language of the Bible can only be read to mean God is the Biblical word for the process in which order is structured, what we today call autopoiesis, in which a dynamic system self organizes into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, and the creation of the Heavens and Earth resulted from this process called God.
There is no other way to accurately interpret what is written in scripture when the word used for God is actually a plural form of majesty, than to read it as a group that is greater than the sum of its parts. What we would today call a dynamic system, was being described by the ancients as best they could through their language by the use of a plural word, that was not even a thing, to describe the manifestation of order in the universe out of nothing.
In Vine there is a very telling statement about the word "to say" or "to speak" (amar) in the Old Testament (which was different from the word [dabar] used later in Genesis for "to speak"): Vine reads "Although not always so translated, this word can imply the act of thinking within oneself."2
The word "said" in Genesis 1:3 ("And God Said") is "amar." Therefore Biblical language suggests that "In the beginning," God and the universe were manifestations of the same thing, not different entities, that only said in the sense of thinking within oneself and that this "bara" word did not mean to create in the sense of craft, but rather has the same meaning as "manifest."
The first sentence of Genesis describes the manifestation of the universe by an organizing process wholly within the universe itself called God. In General Systems Theory this is called 'autopoiesis' and reflects a common characteristic of systems. The word translated into English as "to create" has more of an original meaning like "to organize" than a physical making. Whatever it was that physically formed the universe (such as a condensation of quarks) the organizing essence that transformed the chaos into matter and existence was God. In essence, the ancients clearly did not see God as an outside agent but rather an essential organizing essence of existence.
Autopoiesis is our modern term that reflects how complex systems organize themselves, and this organization is the fundamental essence of a system. The ancients could clearly observe autopoiesis around them and conceive from their surroundings that God is the imperative in the chaos that transforms into order. It easily can be understood that the ancients could see around them that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. It is the crucial recognition that the parts are plural and the essence of the whole necessarily arises from the parts but is greater than the parts. The ancients could see for themselves that some organizing essence existed that transcended the physical, thus they incorporated this recognition into their description of creation by referring to it as elohim, a plural noun which recognized that what one observed of the universe was somehow organized as some essence from its parts.
The universe as they perceived it was greater than just the parts and the ancients recognized this with the term elohim, a plural reference to the sum of the parts, a sum being plural, but which they took great pains to explain in the scriptures as a manifestation of the universe by using different words. The ancients clearly were not using bungled language to describe their perceptions of how the universe evolved and transformed into the animals all of which constituted the manifestation of a plural word for God. God was not conceived by the ancients as an outside agent manufacturing animals while talking to other outside agents in Genesis: there is only one internal universe "thinking within oneself" as a manifestation of God.
Thus when God says "Let us make Man in our image," God is the plural sum of the parts "thinking within oneself" to the parts "us" involved in evolution to that point, and is the manifestation of the whole "thinking within oneself" when referring to that plural sum. God is the organizing essence of the biotic "us" that existed as the biotic Earth.
God is not some teleological external being controlling this evolution, but rather the essence within the evolution itself. God is the essence which the ancients recognized as greater than the sum of the parts ("us/our") of the universe. God is talking to God in the sense that a forest might talk to its trees. The Bible is saying that the whole of the biotic Earth manifested from within itself a new transformation, a new emergence, that constituted man. In this sense, the language refers to preparatory language for the transformation through evolution of animals into Man. In fact, a Catholic Biologist named Teilhard de Chardin made precisely this interpretation.
Teilhard noted that the evolution of animals consisted of a divergent, branching, speciation into ever more different animals in the same way the trunk of a tree grows into branches and twigs. But mankind was entirely different in that the convergent evolution of Man terminated into one single species. Teilhard argued that this was a culminating evolution to which he gave a spiritual name: the Omega point. Such spirituality is not necessary, however, with the knowledge of General Systems Theory.
Three characteristics mark the difference between Man and the animals. The first is the total lack of speciation. The second is the presence of "free will" with the virtual absence of instinct. The third is the generic functionality of human morphology. These three can be explained in terms of a unifying conception of creation through evolution.
Simply put, the virtual absence of instinct and the presence of "free will" constitutes the driving mechanism of human evolution. Speciation in animals occurred because morphological and behavioral changes had to be matched in order to adapt to the environment. Consequently, animals had to speciate in order for the right combination of separate genetic and behavioral traits that constituted the adaptation to be retained.
Animals speciate by creating an adaptive combination of morphology and behavior that is genetically defined. In order to maintain the correspondence of morphology to behavior, animals have to focus their evolution on differentiation. In other words, as new combinations of genetic traits become useful the animals must find a way of concentrating this combination of genes for those traits so that they are not dispersed in the gene pool. As a consequence, animals speciate (just to clarify, this is not a teleological a priori decision by animals but rather a logical consequence of evolution).
Humans do not do this. Humans evolve by utilizing their intelligence to create technology and adapt their behavior instead of evolving morphology and instinct. As a consequence, the humans with the greatest evolutionary advantage were those with the necessary intelligence to understand and interpret the necessary behavior, and with the least limiting, most adaptable, morphology.
The generic functionality of humans is a consequence of convergent evolutionary pressures to remove the need for morphological adaptation. Humans evolved by adapting behavior through cultural changes implemented through a generic morphology. The human form is an evolutionary synthesis of forms that proved to be versatile in adapting to environments. The instinctual behavior and morphological specializations inherent in animals were detrimental when intelligence and cultural adaptation could more easily transform the being into harmony with the environment.
Instead of evolving specialized claws and other physical features in concert with appropriate instincts to dig in order to conform rigidly to an environmental niche, humans evolved generic physical features that allowed the spanning of environmental niches by learning how to live in accordance with nature. In so doing, humans evolved "free will" in order to span environmental niches.
Animals that evolved intelligence beyond a critical point found both instinct and morphological specialization to be evolutionary millstones. Previously where morphological speciation and instinct allowed animals to specialize so as to exploit the resources of a specific niche in the environment, intelligence allowed animals to develop learned behaviors for the exploitation of multiple niche resources, and with a generic morphology the same animal could better exploit several niches. The greater the intelligence, the greater the ability to span niches, and the greater the evolutionary advantage of a generic morphology.
Thus in this sense, in the sequential evolution of the species, animals began a transformation into humans in this final stage of convergent evolution. When the biblical authors wrote that God said "Let us make Man in our image" the use of the plural "us" referred to the biotic environment that constituted the existence at that point in evolution and they subsequently combined to transform animals into Man through evolution. The combination of disparate pre-human species into the one generic human resulted in a natural selection of traits from the genetic inheritance of all the animals and thus was "in our image." And this was why the ancients did not change the language: the language is not vestigial, it means what it says if you read it within the context of what the text is describing.
Again, the Old Testament represents an oral tradition of wisdom that was meant to explain our origins. The reason that this oral tradition did not change the plural God into a monotheistic reference that could have simply said "God decided to make Man in his image" must necessarily represent a fundamental understanding among the ancients of the evolutionary origins of Man from the animals which was explained by referring to their collective being as "us." This understanding makes the Biblical conception of God very nearly the same as the Native American conception of "The Great Spirit" which permeated existence.
Indeed, the language of the Bible when describing the evolution of man specifically utilizes two words, "to make" (asah) and "to create" (bara) in that section: "Let us make Man" and then "So God created Man" in two separate sentences. Why two words and why two sentences is instructive. This distinction is not made when the Bible refers to "making" the Earth. The word used for "create" is the same word (bara) used in the first sentence of Genesis. The point of separating these meanings in this particular text is to show that Man was "manifested" from nature ("us") and evolved in the same way nature was evolved.
In other words, the ancients used two specific words which together have a meaning almost identical to our word "evolution." The ancient Hebrew word "bara" has a known meaning which implies an evolution from nothing into something, but our word "evolution" means the creation of a new species from pre-existing nature. Indeed Vine notes "A careful study of the passages where bara occurs shows that in the few nonpoetic uses (primarily in Genesis), the writer uses scientifically precise language to demonstrate that God brought the object or concept into being from previously nonexistent material." The word "asah" refers to more of a crafting or assembling of pre-existing materials. Combining the two meanings implies that something new was manifested from pre-existing material. Their two words mean that man was manifested from nature. Our word "evolution" is clearly the word the ancients would have used to explain the evolution of man from animals, but they were forced to use two separate words in an attempt to specify a meaning not within either of their two words alone.
Their use of this specific duality in word use means that the ancients understood that man was not created by an outside being who set us on the Earth as if we were an animated chess piece in some creationist game. Man was not "made" and inserted into nature but rather was "manifested" from nature. The need for two sentences devolved from the uniqueness of the circumstance: man did not appear as an additional entity among the animals, but rather evolved as a convergence among the animals.
The crucial distinction is that the word "make" (asah) presumes pre-existing raw material, whereas "create" in the use of the word "bara" is to create out of nothing. God, as the self-organizing manifestation of the universe, thought within the oneself of us, let us manifest something new, but the second sentence clarifies that this us "made" Man by "manifesting" Man from the pre-existing material of nature: evolution.
God as the self-organizing manifestation of "us" was the "likeness" that Man was "made" (asah) from, but the process that resulted in Man was not a "making" but rather a different word (bara) that together meant a convergent evolution. If God simply created (bara) man, only one sentence would have been necessary. But the Bible utilizes the two sentences to convey that this newly manifested Man was created from pre-existence (asah), the two words mean this was an internal manifestation of a prior essence: an evolution.
This understanding is crucial in comprehending another critical translation: the words "in our image, in our likeness." Traditional translations presume that God is an external being with two arms and two legs and two eyes and two ears who "makes" Man to "look" just like him. But as noted, a careful reading of the language in the Bible reveals that God is not an external being, but rather an internal process or essence, and Man is not "made" but rather evolved and not to "look" like the external being that did not exist, but rather to be "alike" in essence of what was God.
Once again, here there are two words used in the Bible to convey this meaning. In Genesis 1:26 the Bible says "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." This redundancy of image (tselem) and likeness (demuth) reflects an attempt to specify a meaning not within either of the two words alone. Vine defines "tselem" as being "statue, image, copy" implying a visual copy but Vine states "The word (tselem) also means 'image' in the sense of essential nature"3
and defines "demuth" as a more abstract meaning in the sense of a pattern or process.
The redundancy therefore means that God manifested man not in a physical image, but more in an essential nature (tselem) in accordance with the genetic (demuth) plan and process of nature because God is not a physical being but a process. The use of two words marks an implied meaning that must be derived from their individual meanings. Man was evolved from the template of previous animals but in the manner of autopoiesis that is God.
It is an occult belief that God is a pseudo-physical human who can be manipulated through prayer. What the Bible refers to as God is an intellectual description of an essence of existence. There is some self-organizing principle within the universe that makes it greater than the sum of its parts, this something is not external to it and is not just another part. Whether we define the manifestations of that in individual terms of physical forces or as a General Systems Theory or as the simple term "God" is merely a matter of semantics.
But this is significantly different from the Occult belief that God is merely a pseudo-human that we can manipulate through prayer. What is significant is that the Bible, in the original terms actually used, defines the creation of the universe and the presence of God as a manifestation in which God is the process of becoming. This represents a view very close to the Deist conception of God held by the Founding Fathers of the United States at the fundamental culmination of the Enlightenment. They too viewed God as being an internal manifestation of the nature of the universe. The God of the Bible represents the Deistic God in that everything occurs according to God's plan, and that by knowing God's plan one can behave in ways that are in accordance with God.
The Deist conception of religion that devolved from the Enlightenment occurred during the very initial stages of scientific revelation. The Founding Fathers and other leaders of the Enlightenment were struggling to establish the positivist view of the world as a rational place. They had yet to establish a science of systems. Thus their Deism paralleled a systems view of the Bible but they could not have explicated that with the concepts of evolution and equifinality that were developed centuries later as extrapolations of their initial science. But it is crucial to recognize that the systems view of the Bible does not conflict with established views proffered by our enlightened predecessors. They simply lacked our technical conceptions with which to explicate it in the same way the ancient Hebrews struggled with two words to explain what our single word "evolution" carries.
The essence of evolution is therefore clearly found in the first chapter of the Bible, and the essence of God is clearly something that truth and science have brought man closer to. Indeed, without our scientific conceptions of evolution and systems theory the book of Genesis lacks a rational explication that values the original text. While fundamentalists ignore the true meaning of the words in the Bible, there is no conflict between a deeply scientific interpretation of Genesis as an explanation of truth not far removed from our scientific knowledge today.
Science today provides us a far more detailed understanding of the general principles enunciated in Genesis, but the greater our scientific knowledge the more easy it is to reconcile that knowledge with the true text of the Bible. Fundamentalists are, fundamentally, occultists attempting to distort the literal words of the Bible, to misconstrue knowledge and wisdom for their own benefit, rather than for truth. Their anti-intellectual, anti-education, anti-science view of religion represents a blasphemy of Biblical teachings.
Any reading of the Bible, however, has to recognize that a printed version did not occur for many centuries. The origins of the Old Testament lie in the oral traditions of the ancestors. These were explanations cogitated about by the very best thinkers of that time (and in evolutionary time their intelligence was equivalent to ours, only perhaps less deadened by the environmental toxins of today). In a time without electricity these ancient leaders of society had long hours to contemplate what they observed about nature and to develop "stories" (i.e. explanations) that would convey their understanding to their civilization without books. These "stories" were the collected wisdom of the ancients passed from their great leaders to subsequent great leaders.
The masters who conveyed this wisdom did their best to explain to the listener their interpretation of what had been told to them. The Old Testament, therefore, has to be read in terms of extracting meaning from context. God told Noah that Pi was equal to three. We know Pi is equal to three plus a fraction. Was God really stupid? Or was the Bible reporting a rule of thumb? It is more likely that the Bible was meant to be a narration of the events for people who had no reason to know the technical difference between three and three plus a fraction, in the same way we today explain a year as 365 days instead of precisely explaining it as 365 plus a fraction. It would be foolish to make a literal translation of what was clearly meant to be understood in context.
This is particularly true when our understanding of systems theory provides an explanation which more clearly explains the actual use of terms and redundancies in this biblical explanation of creation. General Systems Theory, in explaining technically how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, provides an understanding of what the ancients meant in describing their vision of God as a plural essence. A scientific interpretation of the Bible recognizes that ancient wisdom may not have had access to the technical vocabulary of today to express it. Thus one must recognize that the Biblical text uses words common in their day to refer to concepts that we have further developed in our day. The concepts they explained in their day are the same concepts we attempt to explain in our day and are rooted in the same phenomena, and their wisdom loses nothing in translation.
Similarly, we must consider that the ancients were aware of many of the concepts we have today in science without necessarily having developed our technical terms to describe them. We can see this in the use of the word "day" in Genesis. The ancients had the same view of the sun and moon that we have, including the obvious fact of a constant face to the moon (despite its wobble).
Religious fundamentalists erroneously claim that the Bible explains the origin of man in terms of a short creation rather than a long evolution. They attribute this to the use of the word "day" in the Bible's story of Creation. In addition, they claim that God exhibits the morphology of humans because Man was made in God's image. They argue against "Evolution" as being contrary to the Bible.
However, there are severe flaws in these claims. The term "day" generally refers to an exposure of the Earth to sunlight. One revolution of the Earth about its axis, in one sense, but it also refers to a single night and day in the sense of orientation to the sun. But one revolution about its axis may not result in an exposure to the sunlight. One side of the Moon, for example, always faces the Earth because its rotation about its axis takes exactly the same amount of time as its revolution about the Earth. If there were a similar situation in the case of the Earth and the Sun, this would mean a perpetual day for one part of the Earth and a perpetual night for the other part. In essence, an infinite day.
Consider, then, a rotation that did not exactly equal the revolution of the Earth. In terms of a "day" meaning one rotation around its axis, the day would last one year. But in terms of a "day" meaning the length of time between when the Sun was directly overhead in daylight and the next time it was directly overhead in daylight after a night had passed, one "day" could be millions or billions of revolutions around the sun (years). The ancients could have understood this.
It is generally recognized that the creation of our Moon occurred when an astral body slammed into the Earth and ejected the matter that coalesced to become the Moon. Such a collision likely completely altered the rotational dynamics of the Earth. Thus a "day" preceding the creation of the Moon could have had enormous periods of time, and after the creation of the Moon an entirely new period of time (which has itself changed as the Moon has moved away from the Earth). Therefore a "day" in terms of the creation has a totally different meaning than 24 hours, because the rotation of the Earth changed after the collision that produced the Moon.
It is not necessary that the ancients understood that the Moon was created by a collision with the Earth. It is only necessary that they understood the possibility that days were a consequence of rotation and orbital travel. Indeed, it is only necessary that they understood the dynamics could change and considered that they might have been different in the distant past.
The Bible says what it says, and Genesis says that the sun was not created until the fourth "day." The existence of three days before the sun was created necessarily requires translating the word "day" differently from the rotational period of the Earth. The word "day" first appears in the Bible in the context of light, in the sense of night/day, where the intent is not to define a period, but rather to define the photons.
Indeed, the first sentence of Genesis says "God created the heavens and the Earth" and then details the steps of that creation in terms of an evolution that clearly could not mean a twenty-four hour day, but rather meant stages of evolution. It could not have meant a twenty-four hour day simply because there were three of them before the mechanics of the twenty-four hours were even possible. The ancients had to realize that in writing the Bible it made no sense to have three days before there could possibly be a "day," unless their meaning of "day" represented an element of time rather than twenty-four hours.
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