Wednesday, 30 December 2015


Here's an interesting one.

Creationists poke fun at scientists by saying things like "so....there was nothing...and it exploded" and "life from nothing, ha ha".

The objection is that, to the creationist, life from non-life ("nothing") is a ridiculous concept.

I've heard many and various examples of this, and........ I sympathize. That may surprise you. But it's all about what you can wrap your head around, and I have the same problem with other ideas.


Because I've done a bit of study on the current theories of the origin of life, I don't actually have any problem with the idea of simple chemical compounds becoming organic. One of the most recent theories is detailed here:

Of course, it could be completely wrong, but something along these lines is quite plausible.

Another popular theory is that we were "seeded" by microbes arriving from other planets, ultimately for other solar systems, other galaxies. Which is fine, but you still need abiogenesis happening somewhere.

The creationist rejects this, either because it is simply not what his book tells him, or he doesn't understand it and the book version sounds simpler. OK.

In his version everything is created by God from...............nothing.

So what's the difference?

Well, according to scientists, first of all, when they talk about the origin of the universe and the origin of life, these are two different things. The time span between them is considerable (10 billion years) and during that time a lot of other things happened. Gradually. Also, since life began, almost another 4 billion years has passed, giving plenty of time for those simple life forms to evolve.

In the creationist model, that 10 billion years is whittled down to a week, and this all happened 6,000 years ago, which quite clearly doesn't allow time for very much evolution at all. We barely had time for wolves to become dogs.

There are other options, of course. I'll come back to that, but for now let's consider these two versions..


Scientists have never suggested that the Big Bang was the start of the cosmos. It wasn't "matter from nothing". Laws of Physics insist that matter from nothing is not possible. The theory says that there was a singularity of mass, which expanded, and rather suddenly at first. And it is still expanding.

It is well-known that most of the universe is empty space, more than 99.9999999% in fact. Even the most solid things that exist are mostly empty space. Atoms are mostly empty space. If you take away all that empty space you can reduce the remaining mass down to an incredibly small size. So the whole singularity concept is not really a problem at all. The size could be argued, but of course the question remains, what came before that?

And that question exists no matter what your version of origins are. As do many others.

Those who are not literalists, look at the creationist version as given in the Judeo-Christian tradition as a best guess. Not to be taken seriously, not to be read as science or history, but seen as the best theory the priests could come up with. People wanted to know where it all came from, and after much consideration, this was the story that worked for them. It shouldn't be taken literally.

And those who say "but nobody really knows" are missing the point. If you don't find the Big Bang Theory compelling, there are other theories. Google it if you are interested. There are serious scientists looking at other possibilities, and maybe one day these will become the prevailing theories. That's how science works. It is a process, an honest process. If something that was standard in the textbooks is found to be wrong, then it is changed.

It's not a belief system. Anyone, at any time, is at liberty to prove it wrong, and if that proof is good, it will be accepted. The science of cosmology is interesting simply because we are dealing with things long ago and far away that we can't pick up in our hands to observe. It is always going to be full of changing theories. That's the nature of it.

What cosmology does not get involved in is life. Whereas in the creationist model everything started at once, in the scientific model, life, and subsequently evolution, came later and therefore is part of a separate scientific discipline.


One thing is quite clear, the organisms alive today have not always been here, and many of those that once existed are now extinct. Things change.

Of course we do still have single-celled organisms, very simple lifeforms, and these help us understand evolution, because they do it so fast we can watch it happening. The more complex an organism is, the more changes are required for it to be quite different, so the longer it takes. We can't watch mammals evolve because of the timespan involved. But the principles are exactly the same. This makes it a much easier science, and this is why we are on such solid ground.

Returning then to the original issue, which is creationists poking fun at scientists for claiming that something came from nothing, it is actually the creationists with the more absurd ideas. Humans from dirt? Women from ribs?

Oh, it's all good for a laugh. Makes great cartoons. And if you really wanted to have a giggle at somebody's expense you could read the creation myths from other cultures. There are plenty to choose from.

OR, you could accept creation myths as they are, leave the actual work of figuring all this stuff out to the scientists, and teach your children the latest, most carefully studied theories, because those are what will help them get on in life.

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