Decoding the Genesis Code

Erstwhile politician and actor Fred Thompson sent an email (which I was lucky enough to receive) hawking the Genesis Code, what he calls “a real thought provoking movie out now on DVD.” The movie premiered at the Grand Rapids Film Festival back in August 2010 and its general release was time to coincide with the start of the presidential campaigning season, January 2011.

Chron.com points to the politics surrounding the release of the film:

Former U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle is also promoting the movie in New Hampshire and Iowa, both early primary states.

“These are political states, and this is a film that makes a fairly political statement about our culture,” Angle told CNN. “That we have drifted away from those constitutional values, those Main Street, mainstream values.”

Apparently, it doesn’t take much to provoke thought for Mr. Thompson (or Ms. Angle for that matter). Aside from its obvious political overtones and the fact that it will initially be available from Christian retailers, here’s what gets his juices going:

Kerry Wells (Kelsey Sanders), a college journalist and committed Christian with an effervescent personality, has been assigned to do a story on Blake Truman (Logan Bartholomew) the college’s newest and very popular hockey superstar. As a relationship between them begins to develop Kerry finds that Blake, who hides behind a tough and independent façade is actually struggling through a difficult personal crisis and that he bears the cross of a secret he has kept hidden for years. Blake rebuffs Kerry’s suggestion that prayer might help ease his burden; he is convinced that modern science completely disproves the Bible, especially the opening verses of Genesis. Kerry – who is herself suddenly confronted with a challenge to her faith on another front – sets out to prove that science and Genesis are not in conflict and her quest leads to a startling revelation. Could it be that what science teaches us about creation and the story as told in Genesis are both true!

If you can’t beat science, co-opt it. It’s not like we haven’t heard this spiel before, the claim that science actually proves the Bible – no matter how much of the Bible the science actually disproves. Just go the creation theme part, or read the fundie books about the origins of the Grand Canyon. We’re also told science can’t disprove God so just leave religion alone but why can’t religion leave science alone?

But Fred Thompson’s rapture doesn’t end there. This feel good story will move you…well, maybe your bowels. Read on if you can stomach the poor persecuted Christian meme:

We’re told that:

The Genesis Code received acclaim from other conservatives and family oriented groups, including a “fantastic” review from The Dove Foundation and Focus On The Family featured the film in theirTwentieth Anniversary of Plugged In.

Well if Focus on the Family likes it then it must be…awful. Right there is the kiss of death for any person who can say “science” without blanching.

Here is the thing you won’t find out from Fred Thompson (or Focus on the Family): If science proves Genesis is accurate, then it also ipso facto proves just about every creation story ever told.

You see, there is nothing particularly original about the creation story in Genesis. It’s a synthesis of older polytheistic creation stories, just as is Noah’s flood. We’re told Noah “was a righteous man” who “walked with God” (Gen. 6.9) but we also know that in a much older Babylonian story (17th century B.C.E.),  Atrahasis was one “whose ear was open to his god Enki, he would speak with his god and his god would speak with him” (Atrahasis 4.18-20).

It is interesting that in hearing so much about Creationism and about whether or not it should be taught in the public school system, not to mention its validity, we hear only of the Judeo-Christian Creation myth. “Fact!” traditionalists will cry. Indeed, we ask. And why? It is only one of many creation myths, more than we can discuss here, certainly. And not only is it not the only, it is not even the first.

And there is really nothing original about the creation story in Genesis (once we determine which of the two creation stories in Genesis we are talking about – and they are mutually contradictory). After all, we have the Babylonian epic called Enuma Elish, one thousand lines of text on seven tablets, discovered in the ruins of Ashurbanipal’s library in Nineveh by Henry Layard. The Enuma Elish is itself based on an older Sumerian source and dates from the latter half of the second millennium BCE. The Sumerian creation myth, the Eridu Genesis, dates from 2150 B.C.E., well before the existence of the first Israelite scribe.

In the Babylonian version, we find the following:

When in the height heaven was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsu, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamut, the mother of them both
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies were ordained;
Then were created the gods in the midst of heaven,
Lahmu and Lahamu were called into being…
Ages increased….
Then Ansar and Kisar were created, and over them….
Long were the days, then there came forth…..
Anu, their son,…
Ansar and Anu…
And the god Anu…
Nudimmud, whom his fathers, his begetters…..
Abounding in all wisdom,…’
He was exceeding strong…
He had no rival –
Thus were established and were… the great gods.[1]

From Hesiod’s Theogony we have another creation tale, again, not all that dissimilar from Genesis:

Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundations of all the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them. From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night; but of Night were born Aether and Day, whom she conceived and bare from union in love with Erebus. And Earth first bare starry Heaven, equal to herself, to cover her on every side, and to be an ever-sure abiding-place for the blessed gods.[2]

As scholars recognize, there really isn’t anything new or special about the biblical book of Genesis or its creation myth. Genesis tells us that God created man in his image out of “dust of the ground” to have dominion and the much older Enuma Elish tells us that humans are created from clay and flesh and blood to “bear the load of the gods” which sounds very much like holding earthly dominion as well.

In both of these stories, as in Genesis, we begin with chaos. What then, makes Genesis acceptable and neither of these tales? As Florence B. Lovell wrote in 1955, “The striking difference between the biblical account of creation and the other two is its monotheism.”[3]

So Fred Thompson and his friends can’t really have it both ways. If science proves Genesis as they claim, it also proves Enuma Elish, the Sumerian Eridu Genesis, Hesiod’s Theogony and my own Heathen creation myth. You can be sure that is not what is intended and they’ll still claim every other creation myth is false, but then conservatives are not and have never been very good with causation, understandable perhaps for big fans of stasis; if nothing much ever happens there won’t be any cause after all, and therefore no effect, just more of the same relentless religious oppression so popular in fundamentalist religious circles.

 

 


[1] Leonard W. King, The Seven Tables of Creation (London: Luzac and Co., 1902), 2. This creation story was discovered in 1875 on cuneiform tablets in the British museum by George Smith, who called them “the Chaldean account of Genesis.”

[2] Hesiod, Theogony, Evelyn-White translation.

[3] Florence B. Lovell, “Biblical and Classical Myths,” The Classical Journal 50 (1955), 273.

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13 Replies to “Decoding the Genesis Code”

  1. OH.MY.GOD.

    UGGH. My stomach is feeling really upset – too much bullshit too early in the morning. The most I can say is that the creation story in the Bible, if taken literally, is closer (if you could say that) to reality than some others (but there may be more that are even more accurate). But it gets so much wrong that it’s far more accurate to say science disproves a literal reading of the Creation myth.

    (Using the right meaning of the word myth – not as “a story that is untrue”, but in “a story told where truth or untruth is not important as the underlying theme and message tried to be conveyed by the speaker”.)

    Science disproves not only the little things in the Bible, but some of the “historic” facts as well. Some of the towns “destroyed by the Israelites” were not. One town claimed to have been destroyed during the wandering years didn’t even exist (at least, not until MUCH later). Jericho was destroyed many times (earthquakes), but as I remember the article NOT during the time period that is claimed. Some of the towns claimed to have been destroyed by the Israelites were actually destroyed by earthquakes – archaeology can often detect the difference.

    I get so sick of this crap. Any LIE they can tell to “PROVE” the Bible is not below them. Those people with their pseudoscience and attempts to co-opt real science for their attempts to take over the world turn my stomach. They need to expose themselves to REAL scholarship on the Bible… then maybe some of those stupid ideas of theirs will finally get kicked out of their head and they will be less of a threat to the rest of us.

    Maybe then they might truly become Christians… trying to understand what Jesus was saying and trying to teach and follow that, rather than worshiping the book where His words can be found.

    (I’m going to pass along the information about this video, as we may use it in a class on pseudo-archaeology that we teach.)

  2. You can’t expect much else from fundies. Oblivious to any gounded ‘facts’, they cover their eyes and declare, “You can’t see me!” Any disagreement with their so-called ‘reasoning’ is satanic persecution, so we’re supposed to give them a pass lest we become minions of evil.

  3. As long as we’re a talkin’ creation myths via science AND fiction, then let’s include the saga written by Orson Scott Card called “Xenocide”.

    It provides for a creation myth that humans, via a virus, were created and spread through genetically altered “seeds” similar to what Monsanto has done, is “spread” over a planets (latter to be colonized by humans). One planet spawns centuries of a primitive people known as the Pequeninos “little ones” who then create a myth that this “virus” is the Holy Ghost; that they are the chosen ones (not the Catholic Missionaries sent to teach them about Christian concepts) and plan to build their own space ship to spread their “seeds” all over the universe.

    …which then has become a deadly virus that will kill this off the “inferior” human race…

    There are millions and millions of “creation myths” within humanity; some myth-makers just clawed their way to the top via suppression of the others and domination via violence, pl,us logos that aren’t logic or “science” at all…mere propaganda to sell their “seed”, no different than Monsanto.

  4. Wow, lots to look at here. Biblical stuff, myths, legends, a couple of thousand years of human kind on this one very little planet in the Goldilocks Zone.
    Hrafnkell got me thinking outside the usual religious box most of us, including myself, is comfortable in.
    Here’s what I came up with after writing some of my thoughts down for grins and giggles: The Universe is suppose to be about 13.6 Billion (yes, that’s Billion) years old. I have a sneaking suspicion that as REAL science and physics continues to advance (God forbid) that number is going to increase by quite a lot, but lets stick with that interesting number of 13.6 Billion years. So, if we measure that number against how long we live on this backwater planet located in a nondescript galaxy, our time on this planet as compared to Universal time, so to speak, is about a nano second of a nano second. In other words, not even the blink of an eye.
    Now, in the Universal scheme of things, there are billions upon billions of Galaxies, and within those Galaxies are billions upon billions of solar systems, you can see where I am going with this, right?? How come God’s paying attention to this “3rd rock from the sun”, literally, this speck of dust in the Universe?
    Let’s take it a step further. This planet, this place we call home, is teaming with life. Look around you, there are plants, bacteria, bugs, animals, us, water, you get the idea. To me, we are the THIRD go round on this planet. There were two catastrophic events that wiped out “most” life on this planet! What is so important to understand is that this planet is so full of life that it literally cooked for a few million years and out popped another life form.
    Being a rational human being (which means I ain’t part of the GOP) I have to think it reasonable that there are other planets out there in far off solar systems that are as full of life as we are. I based this on the simple idea that there are billions of planets, even trillions, and that number bodes well for some of them to be full of life as well.
    Now, the real question: Since we are just one planet in our Galaxy that has life (there may be more) where’s God? (For the record, I believe in one God, but a spiritual God, not some judgmental pissed off God). I mean, in the Universal scheme of things, how come God pays attention to us?
    God being God, the Almighty, All Seeing and All Knowing kind of helps me understand the fact that He/She can keep an eye out for us, but…we are a speck of dust in the Universe, so if God is God, and He/She kicked off this whole mess (the Universe) in the first place, then maybe He/She is keeping an eye on us, and all the other “life” planets out there. Deep stuff.
    The Bible is made up of all sorts of documents; it’s an amalgamation of legend, myth and historical events in the old world. The twist in all of this is that whose is to say that the Universe wasn’t designed by GodS, instead of just “one God”? (Thanks Hrafnkell!)
    I’ll close with this little tid bit. My wife and I go to the State Fair every year, and we love to go to the exhibits. This year, there was a bunch of preachers there who were Creationists, with Bible in hand, ready to debate anyone who wanted to talk to them. Before I could even approach them, my wife grabbed me and said “No”!!! She understood the unreasonableness of what I was attempting to do, and had the wisdom to understand that arguing with them was like talking to a brick wall. She wanted to have an enjoyable time at the Fair with a husband who would also have fun. No need for me to get all huffy and puffy trying to convince some “fundie” on how it really is supposed to be.
    Considering the above article, and the increasing uncompromising political climate the fringe element GOP is forcing this country into, it was a wise decision to listen to the strong and loving advice from my wife.
    God,(or Gods) if you’re out there, save us from your ridged followers who will use Your name to inflict their will on us; IE, God help ALL of us!
    (By the way, you can poke as many holes into my above “rant” as you want. I’m human, which means, I’m not perfect and will make mistakes. I think they call that free will…or is it sin…not sure!)

  5. I personally believe that God created the world…. via evolution, the Big Bang, and all of that. In other words, I believe that God made things and we use science to discover the wonders of the world. But I’m sure as hell not going to try and make another person believe what I believe, and that is the big difference here.

  6. just my opinion, but just because a few founding fathers said that our rights come to us from a creator doesn’t make it so. And to think that a God has waited through all of the civilizations that have ever existed for us to come along just to give us certain rights is almost hysterical enough to make you want to cry.

    We cannot forget the epic of Gilgamesh, or the cold of Hammurabi to understand that the Bible and the God story are little more than pick up’s from other religions and other beliefs that came before. And there’s a good chance the Christian religion today or even the Muslim religion will be the precursors of another religion to come in another thousand years. How many rulers throughout time have said that there power and rights were God-given? Were they all right or is just religion in the US right?

    There are so many creation stories and so many gods throughout time, I wonder what it says about people who have to have a religion?is it the little boy standing in front of the vast ocean with the galaxy overhead wondering if this is all there is syndrome?

  7. Oh, the fools. This “science proves Genesis” is making the rounds again and it is as foolish now as it was years ago. Funny that science only works for the religious crowd when it’s convenient for them. Like when they need medical care or to prove the bible. It would be laughable if I could stop retching. Great call Hraf.

  8. I remember the big fuss over the video about finding Noah’s ark years ago, and how the dominionist and fundamentalist churches made such a to-do about it.

    Then it came out that the whole thing – the WHOLE THING – was a hoax.

    They actually denied that it was a hoax (I’m pretty sure it came out while I was one, because I remember clearly it being shown and pushed in the churches around here), even though the people who were the centerpiece of the video came forward and proved they’d faked it. The piece of partially petrified wood from the ark – a piece of California pine that had been soaked in Teriyaki sauce!!! (You could still smell it, even long after the video was made!) Once the guys pointed out the evidence that it was all fake, it became obvious to everyone BUT the Bible Pounders.

    The sad thing is that there are a couple of scientifically sound ideas that could have led to the Noah story… the creation of the Black Sea which would have flooded entire areas (see the Bob Ballard/National Geographic video), and I’ve read something about a meteor impact in the Indian Ocean that would have been since the last ice age (but I don’t know how valid that one is or not – or if there is even evidence) that could have caused a widespread Tsunami..

    IMO, it’s all to try to scare people. The probable next thing out of their mouths is fearmongering.

  9. The problem is that religion assumes that it is on an equal footing with science. Just because God cannot be disproved does not in the least mean that God exists.

  10. So along with Yahuwah and Jesus, I’ve got Lahmu and Lahamu waiting to toss my sorry ass into the bottomless pit of the Grand canyon.

  11. So, let me get this straight: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and then light, making the first day but he didn’t create the sun and moon until day four. This is science????

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