Sunday, June 19, 2005

Bible Series: Creation

Today, by happenstance, the minister at my Unitarian-Universalist church gave a sermon on Creation, the subject of the beginning of the Bible in Genesis 1. She told the original Hebrew version of the creation, and remarked that there are two versions of creation in Genesis. The one she wrote gave a six-part synopsis of how the world came to be. The six parts are:

1. Separate light from the darkness.
2. Form the sky.
3. Form the oceans.
4. Form the Sun and the Moon
5. Bring about birds, fish, and other lower creatures
6. Form mammals and humans.

And then the seventh part, or day, was one of rest. Our minister pointed out that at each step of the way, God saw that it was Good.

Why is this at the beginning of the Bible? It is because people the world over have wondered where they come from. There are creation stories from all of the cultures of the world. Here are some samples of creation, in my paraphrasing:

In the beginning there was Chaos. And then Gaia, the Mother Earth, came into being. She soon bore a son, Father Sky, also known as Uranus (pronounced your Anne Us). And then Gaia and Uranus came together to form the Titans: Cronus, Rhea, Tethys, Atlas and a few others. The Titans soon took over the world, but then their ruler, Cronus, soon ate his children by himself and Rhea, except for Zeus, brought up by two baby-sitters. When Zeus grew, he forced his father to regurgitate his children, resulting in a war between the Titans and the Olympians. Zeus and the Olympians defeated the Titans and threw them into Tartarus. (Greek myth)

In the beginning the earth and sky were dark, but they were connected. The gods formed the earth and sky and put light into it, and placed creatures of all sorts and humans in the Lower Existence. Black God set forth to create the Upper existence. With a pouch of stars, he carefully put on the Upper Existence the Star that Never Moves, The Man and Woman who revolved around the Star that Never Moves in their hogan, and several other constellations. All the Gods congratulated him for this work except Coyote. Coyote was determined to show the others how to create the night sky. Coyote took all the remaining stars and scattered them throughout the heavens, and then he took one last bright one and made the South Coyote Star out of it. Earth and sky then separated. And that is why there are a few well-ordered constellations and a chaos of scattered stars in our night sky. (Navajo Creation)

In the beginning, the gods got together and agreed to form an Earth with people. Bright Star, a lovely princess with the weather and the animals as her allies, did not want to do this, as it would involve mating with Great Star. But nevertheless Great Star chased her across the sky and created a child with her, which they then placed on the earth, a girl who met a boy, the son of Sun and Moon. And that is how humans originated. (Skidi Pawnee myth)

As you can see, ancient cultures tend to anthropomorphize the Creation, and Christianity and Judaism even say that humans were created to look like God. With rational analysis, the scientific story was brought out. This is just as much a myth or metaphor as any of the other stories, but there is evidence to back at least some of it:

In the beginning - well, we don't know about that exact moment. A fraction of a second later, an incredibly hot fireball of high mass expanded with extraordinary speed. The white hot universe cooled to red-hot and then went dark as hydrogen and helium were created. Then hundreds of millions of years later, the material coagulated to form hot stars and the Universe saw Second Light. The stars formed into galaxies and started to expand. A supernova exploded in a galaxy, causing a mass to coagulate into stars. One of these became the Sun, and blobs nearby became the planets, including Earth. Early volcanism helped form the oceans. Collision with another planet formed the Moon. Life came into being on the Earth, and it developed more and more complex forms, including invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs (including birds), and mammals (including humans). Mammals developed intelligence and dominated the planet.

There is some similarity to other stories, especially the Genesis one. The Genesis story seems like a good metaphor of the creation and development of our world, although it does not reflect the light-dark-light cycle that we know from science took place. However, it cannot be said to have literally taken place. Those who support such theories as intelligent design and creation are supposing that events of incredibly low probability took place, such as the creation of an intelligent designer. Evolution is what actually happened, and the Biblical creation, and to a lesser extent the other creation stories, can be thought of as a metaphor for the evolutionary processes that shaped this world.

Next: Adam and Eve: Female Intelligence Confronts Two Shysters.


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