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Aimee's picture

Mind Boggling

 I remember a Sunday School class when I was 11 or 12 years of age, in which my teachers sought to explain how Genesis' account of creation complements modern scientific theories. "Look," they said. "'Let there be light.' That's just like the Big Bang! And if you look some more into Genesis, you'll see that life was created first in the seas, and then it moved onto land, before people were finally made. Evolution is the same way; it tells us life began in the sea. Yes, the Bible says life was made in a week, but who knows what a week is to God? One day could be millions of years!"


At the time, I believed that the Bible was a book of wisdom, and so the loose strings proposed by my teachers, which intended to tie together science and religion, became another argument for biblical truth. Considerably less gullible, I now feel that their assertion reflects humanity's inability to accept how small we are, and how little we matter, in an impersonal universe that has existed for billions of years without us.


To paraphrase the Bible, or at least one interpretation of it, God created us out of love. The laws of physics, the stars and galaxies, and every organism - from a simple bacterium to a human - were deliberately begotten by His desire to create. For ancient humankind, their limited awareness of the complexity of the universe facilitated the need for such God/s. Every morning brought new weather, every day people died of strange diseases, and every evening the moon changed its form, but no one understood why. People needed answers. The only unchanging factor in the ancient world was the "uniqueness" of its people - they could speak and think, they crafted tools, and, in many instances, their cities emerged from growing agrarianism. Thus, people could be perceived as special, and as many cultures demonstrate through their creation myths, humans saw their existence as central to the universe. Genesis' story focuses on the special covenant between God and His people - a story essential to the underdogs of the ancient world; the Mayans, who ate a staple diet of corn, believed that they were made of the same vital substance.


Now, as Turner explains in his article, within the last 100 years, humanity's scientific understanding of the universe has increased. People are no longer made of corn or clay; they are fashioned from atoms, which formed from the quarks that arose 10-34 seconds after the Big Bang, 13.7 billion years ago. Atoms, according to Turner, comprise 4.5% of the universe' matter. Everything else is dark matter, an invisible force that emits no light, and despite its presence, the universe is expanding outward and progressively cooling. Perhaps the fact that we exist at all, when considering the difficulty of recreating circumstances necessary for life, is enough evidence for people to believe that we are important to the universe, but I beg to differ. On the contrary, humans are too small to matter.


Consider the scope of a human life: we might live 80 years, if we're lucky. Consider next the relative age of hominids: 5 million years, roughly. Just as one human life is insignificant on the scale of human evolution, our existence - and that of our ancestors - is meaningless when compared to the 13 billion year lifespan of our universe. If Turner's later hypothesis is true, we might live in one universe within many multiverses, or be part of a repetitive cycle of creation and destruction; we are less than a blink of an eye, we are not central to the universe, we are nothing.  


"Nothing" is a hard concept for people to grasp. Just as many individuals reject the notion of mortality, believing instead that we will reach an afterlife, humans are just as likely to hope that a loving God fostered their creation. In a modern world, dominated by science, it would seem that religion has become irrelevant. Rather, religion has become essential for the majority of people, who feel that they must reconcile the vastness of the universe with their own insignificance. God is great, they think, and although we are small, we have a purpose given to us by God. We are loved. 


While my opinions differ, my commentary is not, however, an attempt to flippantly disregard all religion. For those with religious convictions, I hope they use their belief in a God-driven purpose for humanity's benefit. Still, everyone must humbly realize that humanity is small, and our role in the universe is to watch it unfold. With its mind-boggling complexity, we will always be awestruck...much like the ancients were when they first studied the heavens.  


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