Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Origin of the Universe (A Cartoon)

Someday soon I'll write a more serious post about Charles Darwin and how The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man actually have some pretty moving passages in them and descriptions of God that rival those of the Bible. For now, however, I'm going to demonstrate, in comic strip form, how those who believe in the Bible shouldn't have any beef with those who believe in, you know, stuff we actually have evidence of concerning the origin of life, the universe, and everything.

First, we have God. Fair enough. Science, hang on tight: we'll get to you in a second.

For the purposes of my comic strip, a Son of God (the yellow dot) was also introduced, but that's not important to what we're talking about today. What's important here is that the little red ball of energy (God's "grandson," if you want to get technical) eventually undergoes a big bang, creating the universe. I never understand when someone says, "I don't believe in the Big Bang Theory. I believe in God." Well, why couldn't God have set off the bang? That's like saying, "I don't believe in an oven. I believe the cook made this dinner." Isn't there sometimes a middle?

From here, of course, things spread out and form as they form: galaxies, stars, planets, etc. Did God control or guide these things, or did they "just happen"? What's the difference? If you believe they just happened, what's wrong with someone calling that phenomenon "God"? If you believe God guided these things, what's wrong with saying he made them "just happen"? No one should be arguing.

Eventually life springs forth: in this case, single-celled organisms (or "Phil," if you want to be all scientific about it).

News flash: dinosaurs and humans never lived together. We never rode them like cowboys, and we didn't have smaller purple versions of them as dogs. No matter how much "faith" you have, you can't make something true just by believing it. I feel silly even writing this, because I can't imagine who would need to hear it, but then I do a Google search for "dinosaurs lived with man" and my mind is blown. Anyway, I like to believe that dinosaurs evolved into birds. (For proof, look at a bird.)

Eventually, through evolution, came mammals and man. If you want a Godly answer for how the domination of man came about, then maybe God gave him a little nudge (maybe even using the monolith from 2001). If you want the Darwinian answer, then -- in order to survive -- mankind passed on helpful traits: reason, invention, a sense of morality, etc. Either way, it's the same result.

And if you're hung up on the "first man" notion from Genesis, then consider what that means. Does it mean that man had to be created from scratch, or could "man" have come only after a long line of evolution: from ol' single-celled Phil to fish/amphibians to monkey-types to Neanderthals to modern man (with God breathing the breath of life in him, if you like, just to give us that extra flavor)? I don't understand why God would have to create every single thing from scratch. Simple observation certainly doesn't show this to be the case. (In a future post, I'll explain why the duck-billed platypus does not prove that God has a sense of humor.)

Here's something you don't see depicted every day: Adam (the first man) hanging out with his primitive ancestors...

... which certainly solves the literalists' problem of where Cain found his wife (without having to resort to his sister--gross).

Of course, things get simplified or mythologized. For one thing, the guy(s) who wrote Genesis didn't know what we know today about the universe. But that doesn't mean that they explained it wrong. If a little boy named Jimmy asked his parents where he came from and they told him, "Well, Jimmy, we fell in love, got married, prayed for a child, and the next thing we knew, we were holding you in our arms," there's nothing incorrect about that version of the story. It's just not specific.

That version of the story doesn't go into the gory details of sexual intercourse, Jimmy's development inside the womb, the actual delivery, etc. And, when Jimmy grew up and learned about sex, he probably didn't turn to his parents and say, "You lied to me!" Jimmy's parents were giving him a mythologized, poetic version of his genesis, and Jimmy (as an adult) was smart enough to know that.

Notice, too, how Jimmy's parents said they prayed for him to be born. Did the prayer bring him about? Maybe, maybe not: that's something we can't really know. What we can know for sure, however, is that their having sex brought him about. And there's the crucial difference between science and faith. Faith is something we can believe in that gives our lives more meaning and poetry. Science explains what actually is so that our lives are not lived in complete ignorance and we can make smart decisions that truly affect our lives. When in doubt, then, you'll be wise to choose science.

And the Bible is not a science book. (We learned in a previous post that it's not a rulebook.) It is a book about humanity: the good, bad, and ugly of it. It doesn't have the answer to everything you want to know (sorry). If you're truly interested in the creation of the universe, the Bible isn't the book to go to.

So good news: you don't have to try to throw away your seventh grade science book just because you believe in God. You don't have to make creationism compete with evolution. Genesis skims through the origins because that's not what it's interested in, so you don't have to be either (though it's cool if you are). So relax!

And, science, you can go on doing your good work. The more we know about how the universe actually works, the more we can know about God.


P.S. If you're wondering how seriously I take my Bible Stories comic and its explanation of the origin of the universe, I'll tell you. My goal in writing the comic is to treat the Bible pretty literally and present it in a comic strip form (complete with jokes). While doing so, I try to give it some kind of real world sense. So while I have talking snakes and floating people and all the supernatural stuff, I also try to ground it with a certain contemporary understanding. So if you're asking do I believe (there's that word again) in what I'm drawing: no, not necessarily. I'm just trying to tell the story in a way that makes some kind of sense within the logic of the strip as I've fashioned it.


Brittny said...

Ah! Commentary.

I love what you say about Myth vs. Science. Adam and his ancestors is one of the most intriguing installments of your comic IMO.

Darwin and Creationism sitting down and having a peaceful cup of tea?! I've got to chew on this.

*goes to read updates to the comics*

Rusty Spell said...

Thanks, Brittny.