Special to The Sun
We need a new creation myth, one that draws on new science instead of Babylonian science, one that sees science as revelation rather than as humanism, one that helps us to visualize our place in the universe rather than to be transported out of it, one that encourages us to care for and marvel at creation instead of subduing and dominating it.
Such a myth might go something like this:
In the beginning, there was mystery. And in the mystery there was a seed, so tiny that it could not be seen with the naked eye. In that seed, particles and anti-particles were packed in a soup that was infinitely dense and infinitely hot, more than a trillion degrees. They would become all the matter and energy in the cosmos.
It is 14 billion years ago. In an instant, billions of quarks and antiquarks annihilated each other and the surviving quarks and dark matter exploded out of the seed and expanded, creating space and time. Almost at once, the seed expanded to the size of a galaxy and continued to expand.
It is 100 seconds after the cosmic seed exploded. As the universe expanded and cooled, protons and neutrons formed helium nuclei. This fusion into helium nuclei created another explosion that filled the universe with hydrogen and most of the helium there ever will be.
The elementary forces of the universe were present from the beginning. These forces were gravity, which would govern the relation of the galaxies to stars and the stars to planets, and electromagnetic, nuclear and subnuclear forces, which would govern the relation of atomic nuclei and atoms.
It is now 100 million years after the cosmic seed exploded. Gravity began to exert its pull over hydrogen and helium atoms. Denser regions stopped expanding and started falling together. The hydrogen and helium atoms bonded to form halos that became stars. The stars exploded and sprayed stardust across the universe. The stardust gathered into smaller stars that traveled together and formed galaxies, including a galaxy later known as the Milky Way. This galaxy produced 100 billion stars, including the Sun, which was formed six billion years ago. One of the planets traveling around the Sun was the Earth, which was formed 4.5 million years ago.
For the first billion years of its existence, the Earth was inhospitable to life. It had no oxygen. It was a mixture of rocky materials, metals and trapped gases. It was bombarded by meteoroids and asteroids. Its surface was molten. As the Earth cooled, the water vapor that had accumulated in the atmosphere fell in torrential rains that lasted millions of years, creating the oceans.
It is three billion years ago. Life on Earth began when complex organic molecules formed. It is the Age of Bacteria. They developed a primitive form of photosynthesis, which absorbed sunlight, converted it into carbohydrates and released oxygen.
It is two billion years ago. Multi-celled bacteria began to form, which evolved into plants and fish in the sea. The fish evolved into amphibians, which in turn became egg-laying reptiles and birds.
It is 225 million years ago. Some of these reptiles and birds grew to enormous proportions and became dinosaurs. The first mammals were small, rodent-like creatures that remained hidden because they were prey for the dinosaurs. Seed-bearing and flowering plants developed.
The dinosaurs flourished for 160 million years. They died and became extinct when a large asteroid hit the Earth and created a dust storm that blocked the Sun’s rays, killing many plants that were the food supply for the dinosaurs.
It is 50 million years ago. The death of the dinosaurs allowed mammals to come out of hiding and to grow larger and to populate the land regions of the Earth.
It is four million years ago. The great apes emerged. Their brains were large enough to give them cognitive capacities that exceeded other species of animals. They could teach their young through mimesis and episodic memory.
It is 400,000 years ago. A species of homo sapiens differentiated from the great apes. They gathered into small bands of hunter-gatherers. As their diet became more stable, their brains grew in size and they developed the capacity for language, which enabled them to communicate verbally and to create myths and legends.
The creative power of the universe imparted this wisdom to humans: “This is your home. Care for the garden; help it flourish and grow. You have the freedom to shape your destiny or to destroy yourselves.
“Be mindful of your place in the universe. Remember that you are recycled material. You are the descendants of the stardust that was produced by the explosion of stars, the bacteria that enabled photosynthesis, the first rodent-like mammals that remained in hiding in the age of the dinosaurs, and the great apes that first demonstrated cognitive powers. These are your kin.
“You are the consciousness of the universe. You have the power of creativity that comes from God. Life is an adventure. Be creative.
“Whenever you look in awe and wonder on the levels of the universe and their beauty, their complexity, and their serendipitous creativity, praise God and give thanks that you are alive to witness this.”
And the evolution of the universe continues.DON HEATH is pastor of Edmond Trinity Christian Church. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.