I personally don’t think creation must be instantaneous and out of nothing; this is a wide-spread human prejudice. We don’t need such a miraculous creation; we only need a natural transformation process like evolution because anything, call it matter energy or whatever, that exists need not be created at all. I will try to explain here why I think this way.
When a man says “god created me” he doesn’t mean god created him instantaneously with hairs and beards. Religious or not, we all accept that this is a natural process; conception, pregnancy, birth, childhood, adulthood and so on.
Then why don’t some religious people accept that the human creation can be a natural process like evolution? We don’t take everything in Bible or Kuran literally, do we (I mean the famous 6-days story)?
I have a hypothesis as to why most people might think divine creation must be instantaneous.
Magic is a very old job. For example, there was a tradition of prophets in India. Every prophet was at the same time a magician. The prophets were not only trained in magic and illusion, but also in philosophy, rhetoric and poetry to impress people. These talented prophets traveled from village to village, demonstrated their crafts and told people that they were prophets. In turn, they received free catering, food and much respect. What do you expect more from a fruitful job?
How did a prophet prove that he is a prophet at all? Through magic of course. By instantaneously producing a pigeon for example, or by instantaneously curing a blind man (this is a well known trick). You see, magic is always instantaneous! The naive villagers believed that the prophet must really have some supernatural powers which always acted instantaneously. So, a miracle must be instantaneous.
Believe or not, there are still such traveling prophets in India.
Magicians and medicine men were not unique to India; they were to be found in almost every society of the world. All these men apparently had some supernatural powers and all their miracles were instantaneous. Why? Because a natural and understandable process is no magic for people.
If you boil a cup of cold water through heating, say in 10 minutes, nobody thinks you are a magician. It’s another story if you can boil it instantaneously without an apparent mechanism.
What is God? A supernatural power, so his creation or other miracles must be instantaneous! I say, this is a historical human prejudice, a leftover from ancient magicians and superstitions.
Up to this point, I tried to explain why creation need not be an instant magic. But there’s still another question however which awaits an answer. All these things that exist in our universe, stars, planets, galaxies, atoms… How did they came into life? What created them? How was the start?
There was a related comment in Richard Dawkins forum:
I guess the reason why it (creation) has to be in some way instantaneous is in the word creation: Creation implies that first there was nothing and at some point later something exists. I simply don’t see how something can gradually start to exist, it either does or it does not. So at one point it instantaneously exists. Certainly evolution could be interpreted as being the progressive work of a creator (assuming he exists as you do). But there is a moment were this creation starts to exist, the moment the universe begins if you want, and this will always have to be instantaneous. (The first molecule, or the first particle, or whatever, in short the first existing thing)
I personally don’t think total emptiness or nothingness should be the initial state of the universe. If we found an empty universe we could as well ask who emptied it. Why must something existing be actively created but an emptiness not? I think, non-emptiness and emptiness should have equal weights. That is, the universe need not be created from nothing because total emptiness was not necessarily the initial state.
Thanks to modern science and astronomy we know today that even stars have a life cycle; they came into life, shine for billions of years and die. The existence of starts are not explained by creation in the literal sense of the word creation as explained in the above comment. Their existence is explained by some natural transformation processes; from one form and shape into another.
Similarly, the word creation in the context of “life on earth” must not be taken in the literal sense. After all, all living things are made of organic molecules. We only need a natural transformation process like evolution.
Tunç Ali Kütükçüoğlu, July 2009, Zürich
Evolution resources in internet:
see http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=19713 for an excellent listing. I personally recommend:
This particular entry is significant to me as a (former) taxonomist and evolutionary biologist. I do believe that evolution is a form of creation. I never understood why the two concepts must be considered mutually exclusive. But in my experience, it was difficult to get into an open discussion with either side. The extremes, as in so many cases, own the discussion. I was an alpha (species level) taxonomist. Looking at that detail in a creationist light caused me almost to wonder if the “Creator” was bored. Add a spine here, or a plate there…or why bother at all really. Why does an animal living 2000m in the sea have a different spine pattern than one at 1000m?
But as a self sustaining, self perpetuating process, evolution could be seen as the ultimate mechanism of creation. I found studying evolution, oddly, to be a rather religious experience!
(Found the site through an Amazon.com list…thanks!)
Thank you for your comment, though I don’t quite understand what you mean by “the extremes, as in so many cases, own the discussion”. So, do you think the scientists like Ernst Mayr, Dawkins or Denett who are trying to make evolution understandable to the majority are extremists? How can you be a sincere scientist, explaining evolution by natural laws and at the same time cautiously leaving room for supernatural powers? I think, the real extremists are not on both sides; they are on the political religious side because they are insistently blind to mountains of scientific evidence. I don’t even believe in the sincerity of politically motivated creationists. We don’t have any evidence yet for supernatural powers. So, I don’t think anyone would be an extremist, if he says that he won’t believe in a supernatural power unless there is sound evidence. Maybe you mean extremist not in the scientific or logical, but in the social and political sense.