It’s impossible to view the Scales of the Universe display (http://www.amnh.org/rose/scales.html) at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in New York without falling into a discussion about creationism versus evolution. On hand is an 87-foot sphere which serves as a standard for comparative displays featuring numerous items and distances, which range from the calculated size of the universe down to individual protons, currently considered the smallest object from here to there. Dimensions go from 10-to-the-17th to 10-to-the-minus-17th: large beyond belief to tiny beyond belief. You walk counter-clockwise around the display as things get smaller and smaller. At the conclusion, the Big Bang theory is presented, described as the explosion of unimaginable dense material the size of a proton, an “explosion” that even now — after billions of years — continues, actually stretching the universe to a presumed size of billions of light years from edge to edge.
Well. Right there begins the collision with biblical descriptions. Creationists see a dramatic emergence of the planet in absolute accord with the six-day scenario (He rested on the seventh day, recall) that appears in Genesis, and subsequent history that runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 years, give or take.
Pausing at that point, we launched into how crazy believing in the Monday through Saturday schedule really would be, and here’s what we (and a lot of other people) think the real point is (and why both sides can relax)…
Since Genesis was written (from Divine inspiration, we’re told) by a shepard (Moses) to be heard by people who were basically illiterate, the creation of the Universe — that is, the process — was reduced to a very simple story, one that would be palatable in the extreme. Coupled with a required belief in an omnipotent God, the credibility was not questioned.
What’s fascinating is that the simple biblical tale is completely consistent with the process in terms of order of events, and even in the imagery involved. Certainly the evolution of life from ocean-borne species, to land animals, culminating in humans, corresponds perfectly with the order suggested in the Bible. Prior to that, you have “and God created light”: the Big Bang.
No great discovery of mine here, of course. Those comparisons have been made for decades, if not longer. The issue has always been unquestioning allegiance to the word choice of biblical editors hundreds of years ago who exercised no curiosity regarding where that pesky sun kept coming from if the earth was, in fact, flat. Obstinance, to the point of denying any such notion from people like Galileo.
So you begin to wonder — as our discussion went — why particular groups would still persist, branding the advocates of an amazingly powerful and nearly infinite universe as removed from any personal involvement of an infinite being. Good science does not suggest random occurrences; it’s practitioners are just not always in the religion business. They’re far more interested, again, in process.
So for me, getting a larger view of the picture hardly strips away the magic. Instead, it magnifies the work and the reality of the Worker.
The highlight of our recent New York trip. Really.