Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Modern Creation Myth

No-one knows for sure exactly how the world started, since none of us were there to see it.

The Biblical creation account in Genesis is, in my view, a God-inspired myth.  It's a story, set within the cosmos according to the way the Jews understood it at the time, which attempts to encapsulate what they knew about God, the world He created, and our place within that world.

Nowadays, modern science has uncovered a lot more about the way the world works and has advanced various theories regarding it's history.  None of these theories are complete and what we think we know is constantly being challenged and refined.

Here is a modern "creation myth" based on the generally accepted current understanding.  (I prefer to think of it as supplementing, rather than replacing the original).  I found it in Arthur Peacocke's "Paths from Science Towards God":

There was God. And God was All-That-Was. God's Love over-flowed and God said, 'Let Other be. And let it have the capacity to become what it might be, making it make itself - and let it explore its potentialities.'

And there was Other in God, a field of energy, vibrating energy - but no matter, space, time or form. Obeying its given laws and with one intensely hot surge of energy - a hot big bang - this Other exploded as the Universe from a point twelve or so billion years go in our time, thereby making space.

Vibrating fundamental particles appeared, expanded and expanded, and cooled into clouds of gas, bathed in radiant light. Still the universe went on expanding and condensing into swirling whirlpools of matter and light - a billion galaxies.

Five billion years ago, one star in one galaxy - our Sun - became surrounded by matter as planets.  One of them was our Earth.  On Earth, the assembly of atoms and the temperature became just right to allow water and solid rock to form.  Continents and mountains grew and in some deep wet crevice, or pool, or deep in the sea, just over three billion years ago, some molecules became large and complex enough to make copies of themselves and became the first specks of life.

Life multiplied in the seas, diversifying and becoming more and more complex.  Five hundred million years ago, creatures with solid skeletons - the vertebrates - appeared.  Algae in the sea and green plants on land changed the atmosphere by making oxygen.  Then three hundred million years ago, certain fish learned to crawl from the sea and live on the edge of land, breathing that oxygen from the air.

Now life burst into many forms - reptiles, mammals (and dinosaurs) on land - reptiles and birds in the air.  Over millions of years the mammals developed complex brains that enabled them to learn.  Among these were creatures who lived in trees.  From these our first ancestors derived and then, only forty thousand years ago, the first men and women appeared.  They began to know about themselves and what they were doing - they were not only conscious but self-conscious.  The first word, the first laugh were heard.  The first paintings were made.  The first sense of a destiny beyond - with the first signs of hope, for these people buried their dead with ritual. The first prayers were made to the One who made All-That-Is and All-That-Is-Becoming - the first experiences of goodness, beauty and truth - but also of their opposites, for human beings were free.