More Godless Cosmology

Eagle Nebula - mists of light?The June Sky and Telescope had three interesting letters to the editor. In the March issue, a reader had written to complain that God is consistently left out of cosmological theories. One June letter noted that adding God to the mix just pushes any explanation a step further back, irreverantly asking who then, had created God, and what mechanism did He then use? Another dryly noted that science concerns itself with natural phenomena, not supernatural. He added: “highly speculative” religious theories need only be internally consistent – they can ignore scientific factfinding and advances, needing only not to contradict other parts of their religious teachings. The third writer asks why we can’t expect our scientists to base their theories on the evidence, just as we expect from doctors, lawyers, reporters and your local auto mechanic.

I agree with all of the writers, but this “internally consistent” angle provoked my curiosity. Obviously, not only do religious sects not have to be concerned with scientific discovery, theory and proof, they do not even have to be concerned with what other sects and religions think.

I did some Google searches on “religious theories of creation” and found over 4,270,000 hits. After page 2 these devolved quickly into personal opinion pages (like this one), complete with warts, mis-spellings and everything. I was also struck by how heavily our English-language search engine is biased by competing but overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian theories of creation. This means, of course, that if you’re a Baptist subscribing to a more Catholic view of creation, you’re going straight to heck in a handbasket.

Since creationist teachings need only be internally consistent, I tried for a cram course on world religions. Even Wikipedia doesn’t have a “compare before you buy” on religion. Why is it noticeably harder than comparison shopping for a used car or a flat-panel TV? I had to do my own quick lookups on several world religions that I could think of.

Buddhism does not have a supreme god or creator, and therefore no theory of creation as such. Buddhism is not concerned with the proving or disproving of aspects of existence per se; these questions are irrelevant to Buddhist teachings. It is said that the great Gautama himself pointedly ignored questions about how he explained the existence of everything, not because he was ignorant of the importance of such questions, but because the questioner had completely missed the point of Enlightenment.

The Hindu religion generally leaves all this to the realm of Brahma and Brahmanism, which I readily confess I do not understand or follow. My impression was that any theories of creation would be part of the vast cultural storehouse of stories, or folklore, passed down through the millennia – and are generally understood as such. Again, mastery of the litany is not taken as mastery of life.

Judaism itself does not appear to have any particular creed about creation. Debate about modern theories of evolution or the Big Bang would center around whether they contradicted some fine point of the Torah and other holy writings.

The Navajo, like many native American cultures, have a particularly colorful depiction of how it all began. “The Holy Supreme Wind being created the mists of lights …”

The next time we hear a fundamentalist complain that we’re not giving equal credence to their particular creed or sect, perhaps we ought to ask them, “Well then, should I ask the Pope, or the Dalai Lama?”

Personally, I like the colorful Navajo stories the best of all the myths. They show more abstraction and they celebrate life. I just can’t understand why Creationists don’t share my enthusiasm.

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