PRIME TIME: From Eternity to Here: a non-Calvinist myth
As noted late last year, we live in a physical universe: space, time, matter, energy and such. Scientists have learned much in recent centuries about these physical phenomena, and also much about organisms that occur and evolve in great diversity and abundance on Earth, and we continue to learn.
Comparable but not identical organisms likely occur elsewhere in our 13-plus billion-year-old universe, in millions of diverse planetary systems in billions of galaxies. Our own solar system is congenial to the origin and evolution of life. Myriad others may be also.
"Acts" 1-3, below, are fiction. (Some don't acknowledge such accounts as fiction.) They are speculation, a guess about the sort of thing that may have gone on before "the Beginning," in the eternal Transcendent realm, the primary residence of Elohím* (the name of God in Genesis 1:1).
In Hebrew, "El" means God. But, Elohím, its plural, is often used for the One God that some Jews and others worship. That usage perhaps arose from a custom: magnifying the significance of something by using its plural, as more than we can imagine it to be in the singular. Behemoth, likely meaning hippopotamus, is from Hebrew behemoth, plural of behemah (beast: Job 40:15-24). Simply capitalizing won't do; Hebrew lacks capitals. In the Hebrew Bible, elohím sometimes means pagan gods.
In talks in 2015 at Adventures in Lifelong Learning, and 2016 at the Senior Activities Center, I said I'm a believer but not polytheist, trinitarian or a unitarian. In response to that puzzle, I said mere mortals are not qualified to assign numbers to the Transcendent. However, some claim to know much about the Transcendent, and often try to impose their "knowledge" on the rest of us, "for our own good." The first of Pope Gregory the Great's "Seven deadly sins" is overweening Pride, but I forgive them.
The tale below is a made-up pre-Beginning stream of consciousness in Elohím, or perhaps a conversation among Elohím. Roman numerals in it arbitrarily refer to different components or voices of Elohím. This story is dedicated to "K.M." among my other muses. "May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." Ps. 19:14.
I: We've been thinking forever.
I: Must be "we", since thoughts reply to other thoughts.
III: What about number?
I and IV: Number?
II: I understand; we recognize different voices, one and the same, but also different.
I: Different! We should count, but sometimes we are all one. I have thought of something new.
II and V: Like what?
I: How about stuff that is not Transcendent, and that operates independently of us but dependably, because of its own properties?
II, III, IV, V, and VI: We've never done (excuse me/us, "thought") that before. We've never DONE anything, just thought. Should we? Stuff would have to be active, or it would not be interesting. Something will have to make it go without my having to push it.
III: What if we don't LIKE what it does?
I, II, V, and VI. Like? What would not liking be like?
IV: If it's independent, it might do disturbing things.
II and IV: To be interesting, it would have to be independent.
I, III, and V: It would have to be not completely dependable, right?
IV and VI: Right; causal, but probabilistic, not determinate. (Note: Evan is not Calvinist.)
III: But what if I don't like what it does?
I, II, IV, V, and VI: Is "I" you?
III: Excuse me, "We." We could meddle, quietly.
V: This stuff and energy would need room, and time, something like our duration.
IV, VI, and VII: (doing various equations and such).
All (Elohím as One): Ready? BANG!
Later, maybe 1 billion to 3 billion years Before the Common Era (BCE); voices unnumbered: We've watched the stable and the radioactive isotopes of the 90-plus chemical elements interact and evolve variously to produce complex photosynthesizers, chemosynthesizers and critters, in scads of environments, and in complex webs of interaction in many different planetary settings, often involving water as the most common liquid medium.
Wasn't it neat that the polarity of that simple molecule made it liquid at temperatures where almost all inorganic matter is solid or gaseous? Yes. And that some critters are exquisitely adapted to other species as hosts or mutualists, whereas others are well-enough adapted to varied environments to prosper in many settings.
Now, 21st century CE: So our physical universe works well without any effort on our part, and is full of surprises some of us anticipated, and some we didn't. What are we going to do with it?
Just what we've been doing for 13-plus billion years: watch, see what happens, and monkey with it rarely, if ever.
Note: This is the classical, legitimate use of the Hebrew "Elohím," not the Raëlian sect's misuse of it for a supposed race of UFO extraterrestrials. I forgive them, too, I guess.
Hazard is a retired BSU biology professor.