Inspired by R. Aryeh Kaplan and R. Natan Slifkin.
Please keep in mind that this is simply my pet theory of creation. It has no special standing and please feel free to critique it and point out any flaws/errors that you may find.
As we all know, much ink has been spilled and many electrons disturbed over the perceived conflicts between the current scientific understanding of the origin of the universe and the literal Torah account of God's creation. What I propose is a reconciliation of those two accounts while maintaining a fairly close literal reading of chapter 1 of Beraishis (Genesis) and while adhering (as much as possible) to current scientific understanding. In no way do I claim that all differences will be reconciled.
My theory of creation rests on Chaos Theory. In short, chaos theory (also known as the butterfly effect) states that small changes at the start of any given system can have enormous differences in the end-state of that system. The theory was later popularized by the Ray Bradbury story "A Sound Of Thunder."
Another aspect of chaos theory is that events that are seemingly random can, in fact, be deterministic. A deterministic result is a result, which, fed the same input, will always produce the same result. For example, a function that doubles a number is deterministic, because when fed any given value, will always produce the same result. If you fed the function "2," it will always return "4" no matter how many times you run it. A non-deterministic function, on the other hand, may return a different value every time. For example, a function that multiplies a number by a random number is non-deterministic, since it will produce different results each time it is run.
There are actions that we perform in our everyday lives that seem random, but, in fact, are deterministic. Take the roll of a die, for example. The result of the roll is seemingly random and (assuming the die is balanced and weighted equally on all sides) will, over the long haul, have each side come up about 1/6 of the time. Which side will come up on the next roll, however, usually seems random.
In reality, however, the result isn't random at all. The result of a die roll is really a function of how the die is held, the arc with which it is thrown, the surface it lands on, the spin put on it while it is thrown, air resistance, any intervening objects that it might hit on the way and probably a few other factors that I missed. The point is that if you could successfully account for all these factors, you could predict the result of every throw of the dice. Using the same method, you could determine the result of a flipped coin or the next throw of the Roulette wheel. These actions, while seemingly random, are, in fact, deterministic if one knows all the variables that surround the particular action.
However, it is important to note that any slight change in any of the factors going into the function can have dramatic effects on the result. A change in how I hold the dice before they are thrown can change the result from snake-eyes to boxcars.
So, to get to our point...
In the beginning God created the universe. As the next verse tells us, the "earth" was void and without form (tohu va'vohu). The universe, left alone at that point right after the Big Bang, would have produced nothing. Perhaps simple elements such as hydrogen and helium might never have formed. But on that first day (and you can translate day as a literal 24-hour period if you like... or you can use some other time period if you prefer) God made a quantum change in some or all of the matter in the universe -- and light became possible. It may not have existed at that time. Perhaps God only made a small change at the beginning of creation which may have made light possible later on down the road, via the butterfly effect.
The later days of creation follow a similar pattern. On the third day, God made a minute change to some of the matter of the universe which allowed for the eventual appearance of dry land on earth. Perhaps, without that change, the Earth might have been a planet resembling Water World. That doesn't mean that the dry land appeared on the actual third day of creation (in all likelihood, there was no earth yet for there to be dry land on), but it was God's actions on that day that allowed for the eventual appearance of dry land... and plants.
On the fourth day, God set in motion the chain of events that would result in stars, galaxies and the formation of the solar system. Had He stopped then, perhaps we would have had a dead earth; much as the other planets in the solar system which support no life. God changed that on the fifth day with more small changes, which allowed for aquatic life to form. On the sixth day, God set in motion the sequence of events that would result in terrestrial life and man. And on the seventh day, God changed nothing, and in commemoration of God's ceasing of creative activity, we cease creative activity each week.
With this theory, you can probably have the best of both worlds. You can translate "yom" to mean a 24-hour day - when God made His changes are (to us) irrelevant. You can have evolution, cosmology and geology as well. The world appears to be billions of years old because it *is* billions of years old. More complex life forms evolve from more primitive life forms because they *did*. But in the end, God created them all in six days (and you can even say literal days) because He alone could account for all the variables that would be required to achieve the desired result. He alone could determine how the change of spin on one electron in the primordial chaos could allow for wonderful panoply of life that we see around us. And He alone could do so in six days and then "sit back" as the results unfolded over billions of years.
Part of this was inspired by something I read from R. Aryeh Kaplan. In his book Facets and Faces, he discusses miracles and how God likes to work within nature rather than disrupting the natural order of things. In his work, he takes the example of a ball. A ball is composed of an incredible number of molecules, all moving in a chaotic jumble. Usually, the result of this chaos is that the movements of all the molecules cancel out and external forces are allowed to act upon the ball. Thus, when you let go of the ball, it falls - because the motion of the individual molecules cancel each other out and gravity is allowed to act upon the ball. However, questions R. Kaplan, what if all the molecules in the ball suddenly moved upwards together? The result is that the ball would move upwards (assuming that it had the force to overcome gravity, of course). The chances of all of the molecules of the ball suddenly moving in any one direction are astronomical - you could probably wait billions and billions of years before it might happen naturally. But if it did happen, it would certainly seem miraculous.
He then goes on to talk about Krias Yam Suf (the Parting of the Sea). Of course, water, like the ball in our previous example, behaves in expected ways because the movement of the molecules of water will cancel each other out, allowing gravity (or other forces) to act upon them. However, what if, during the week of creation, God "planned" for the molecules of water in the Sea to suddenly "jump up" and form walls and passageways. Certainly such a thing happening by itself would be highly improbable - to the point where the odds against it couldn't be described using our nomenclature. But God, on the other hand, could have "fixed" the odds during creation, so that at the precise moment that the Jews would need to go through, the molecules would be in the proper state to cause the highly, highly, highly improbable to happen. It probably wouldn't even take much - change a few hydrogen molecules at some point during creation and let the result unfold when needed millions of years later.
It was when contemplating this "theory" of his that I thought that the same could apply to creation itself. What if God, at the outset, during the first week after the Big Bang, manipulated events so that the end result is what we see now. What must seem to us to be random events (the placement of the earth in the solar system, the placement of the solar system within the galaxy, the formation of life and the myriad of species on the planet) are all deterministic for God, who has the ability to compute all the variables necessary for the universe to turn out the way it did.
So, that's my theory. I can't vouch that it's correct. I certainly can't claim that it is a scientific theory as, short of direct Revelation, it is cannot be tested and is unfalsifiable. I can’t vouch that it will shtim with every Rishon and Acharon (in fact, I can guarantee that it won’t). But it’s still a pretty good one, IMHO. Of course, if you don't like my theory, there is always 42.
What do you think? I'd love to hear...