Theories of the Universe
And God Said …
We've already discussed some of the creation story found in Genesis as well as its source. But that is just part of the whole belief system known as creationism. Besides the creation of the universe and earth, there is also the creation of man, specifically Adam, in God's image and the entire story that takes place with Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Creationism is a term that applies to individuals and groups who believe in the literal word of the Bible and the entire creation story. However, there are many different groups of creationists. There is scientific creationism, which seeks to use science as a means to disprove the theory of evolution. There are also forms of liberal creationism that accept some of the Bible and some of evolution theory as well. Then there is pure creationism that accepts only the Biblical portrayal and believes that the Bible is the literal word of God.
Creationism has a wide variety of adherents, from scientists to fundamentalists. Regardless of the many interpretations it has, creationism does have as its core the essential belief that God created the world and everything in it. After that the various arguments and proofs cover a wide range of beliefs and theories.
Emotions in support of creationism often run high because the belief in God is so much a part of our society. But a belief in God doesn't mean that what is in the Bible is the only true source regarding creation. Only a few years ago, the Pope came out in support of science's views on evolution. He believed that there was no reason why evolution couldn't be part of God's overall plan. For him and many of his followers, God provides the purpose and the reason for life unfolding as it does.
But as with anything there will always be people who claim that what they believe to be true, should be everyone's truth as well. So it all comes back to the question of truth once more, doesn't it? It also seems to be part of human nature to tenaciously pursue and impress upon others the uniqueness of one truth over another.
Have you ever heard of the Scopes Monkey trial? On July 25th, 1925, a biology teacher by the name of John Scopes was put on trial in Tennessee for teaching the theory of evolution. Clarence Darrow, a brilliant lawyer, was leader of the defense and William Jennings Bryant—three-time presidential candidate, Secretary of State to Woodrow Wilson, and evangelist—was the leader for the prosecution. It's considered one of the greatest court-room examinations ever, and revealed the conflict that exists between creationism and evolution. The trial was made into a Broadway play and the movie, Inherit the Wind.
To Believe or Not To Believe, That Is the Question
A point that needs to be made before we go any farther, is that many of the questions raised and points made in this last section on beliefs comes from discussions among philosophers, scientists, sociologists, theologians, and historians of science. It's not meant to be preachy or to come across as discrediting anyone's particular beliefs. Only that there is always more to the development of understanding than we sometimes assume.
One of many interesting recent theories in the area of human consciousness research has shown that we are probably hardwired in our brains to look for what is meaningful to us in life. It is what seems to be at the core of our innate need to believe in something upon which we can base our lives. So does it mean that some of us may be more inclined toward a religious rather than scientific point of view and vice versa? Possibly, and that in and of itself raises some interesting questions. Maybe some of us weren't designed to believe in God and others were. (Would God do that to us?)
Why do you think that we have this incessant need to convince others of the correctness of our point of view? Many individuals think the problem lies in the degree to which we identify with our beliefs. Under the guise of rationality or authority or both, beliefs are used as a means to argue for superiority of correctness. But we can't see the forest for the trees, because we can become blinded by our inability to see the world other than the way we want to see it. We become so strongly identified with what we believe to be the truth, that it's impossible for us to even consider that we could be wrong, or at least misinformed.
Beliefs are a lot like theories, they can go a long way in explaining why something is the way it is, but it's not an absolute. A belief, again like a theory, is just that—a belief. Are we only what our beliefs are? Perhaps not. When you come to think of it, we're really not aware of any one particular belief most of the time in our daily activities. It only comes into play when something evokes a response from it. And then, of course, we're ready to take whatever action is necessary. Now we're so identified with it that an attack against or a support of the belief gets an immediate response in kind. (This may be a little abstract, so just remember the next time someone questions your belief about something; see how you react.)
Have you ever changed your belief about something sometime in your life? If so, what happened? How did you feel or think differently? Are you still the same person you were before, or are you different because your belief changed? No answer is required here; it's just something for you to think about.
Under all of this lies the fundamental question, why do you believe what you do? If you accept the authority of science or religion, how do you really know that what they are telling you is really true? Have you experienced that truth for yourself? Of course, you can't go around questioning every single element of either of these systems, but at the same time should you swallow whole the admonitions of religion and the purely materialistic claims of science? The ability to discriminate can go a long way in helping us to arrive at our own conclusions about things.
To discriminate means to distinguish between things, to recognize a difference. And a discriminating mind is one of the most powerful tools you can have to arrive at your own understanding of things.
Over the years science has sought to become more popular in the eyes of the general public. That's a great idea because it helps to demystify some aspects of science and makes many of the ideas more accessible to you and me. But at the same time, science hype has also increased. Headlines such as “Science Now Knows How the Universe Will End,” or “The Smallest Particle That Can Exist Has Finally Been Found,” come across as fact rather than theory. It's a misleading way to attract people to buy books and magazines. Hyped up advertisement also only goes to reinforce the assumption that only science can solve the questions that we are asking. If science has learned anything, it's that just when you're sure you have the final answer, a new theory, idea, or solution makes itself known. Instead of seeing the discoveries of science as stepping stones to greater understanding, popularizers of science and even scientists often consider the goals of science as ends in themselves.
The main ingredient missing in all of the answers that science and religion have to offer is simply asking why. Not how, or when, or who, but why. And that really puts the whole thing back on us. Human consciousness—what it is, why it is, and how it operates—plays a crucial role in our understanding of anything, and has to be included in any formulation, theory, or explanation that either science or religion has to offer. Our understanding of what consciousness is still in the early stages. What is needed is a Copernican revolution in the field of human consciousness that will help to explain consciousness's role in the cosmology of the universe. It may even help explain why.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Theories of the Universe © 2001 by Gary F. Moring. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.