Monday, February 25, 2013

The Tablet of Wisdom, part 7 - A Creation Theory

I really wish there was a way to add a subtitle to this.

This next section of the Tablet, which is a few paragraphs, is about creation. I'm going to look at the first two of these paragraphs and just talk about my own impression of them. It won't actually be an analysis, but more my own thoughts, combining what we know from science and what Baha'u'llah tells us here. To start, though, let's look at those paragraphs:

As regards thine assertions about the beginning of creation, this is a matter on which conceptions vary by reason of the divergences in men's thoughts and opinions. Wert thou to assert that it hath ever existed and shall continue to exist, it would be true; or wert thou to affirm the same concept as is mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, no doubt would there be about it, for it hath been revealed by God, the Lord of the worlds. Indeed He was a hidden treasure. This is a station that can never be described nor even alluded to. And in the station of 'I did wish to make Myself known', God was, and His creation had ever existed beneath His shelter from the beginning that hath no beginning, apart from its being preceded by a Firstness which cannot be regarded as firstness and originated by a Cause inscrutable even unto all men of learning.
That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different. Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure. Such as communicate the generating influence and such as receive its impact are indeed created through the irresistible Word of God which is the Cause of the entire creation, while all else besides His Word are but the creatures and the effects thereof. Verily thy Lord is the Expounder, the All-Wise.
It's a bit long, compared to the other passages I've quoted, but they really do go together, in my opinion.

So, what about creation? How was the world created? Some may prefer to ask, do I believe in Creationism or evolution? Well, that last question is kind of difficult, because I don't think it's an either / or. In fact, I believe it is a bit of both.

"What? How can that be?" Yeah, yeah, I can hear that now, even through the internet.

Simple, really. I do believe that the world evolves as it revolves. You have to ignore an awful lot of facts to deny that, and that would just be silly, now, wouldn't it? But I also believe that God created the universe. After all, a painting needs a painter to create it, so to speak.

And for those who would say that evolution denies the existence of God, I would counter, "Would you deny a carpenter the use of a screwdriver just because you are aware of the tool?" Evolution is a tool in that giant toolbox in the sky, so to speak.

So there you have it. I do believe in God, and I believe in evolution. I don't think they are incompatible, unless one's mind is really small and can't hold both at the same time.

Ok. But this section is not about evolution, it's about creation. What do I believe in that regard? Do I believe that God created the universe, or do I believe in the Big Bang?

To start, let me share a little story. You see, many years ago there was a remarkable man who was most remarkable because of his secretary. The man's name was Manikchi Sahib, and his secretary was Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, one of the greatest scholars of his age and an Apostle of Baha'u'llah. Through Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, Manikchi Sahib wrote Baha'u'llah a few letters, receiving in reply what has become compiled as Tabernacle of Unity, a truly remarkable book. Evidently in the first letter he wrote, he asked Baha'u'llah which of four schools of thought regarding the nature of God and the universe was correct, and in reply received the line "Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements." When asked for clarification about this reply, Baha'u'llah said that none of the four were correct. The question, as asked, was essentially unanswerable. This is how I feel about a lot of questions that people ask. The presuppositions inherent within them make them impossible to answer.

With that as a bit of an intro, let me also state that I am not a scientist, although I do have some training in the sciences, and do read quite a bit. In short, I am no expert, but I am not totally ignorant, either.

Baha'u'llah, to begin, says that science and religion are compatible. Let's start there. To me, and remember, this is just my own opinion, if a religious belief is contradictory to observable reality, then it's just not true. It means that we have misunderstood something and should go back to the source of that belief. Perhaps there is another way to interpret it.

So, Big Bang. Well, the simplistic way to get around it would be to say that God's voice is really loud, and when we read Genesis 1:1, His voice is the Big Bang. I could say that, but I don't actually buy it. That, to me, is a cop out.

So, what then?

Let's look at the Big Bang, for which there really is an awful lot of evidence, as well as still a lot of questions.

What is the Big Bang? It's the theory that all matter in the universe came from a single point, way back when (13.77 billion years ago, which makes me feel rather young and sprightly), and has been expanding ever since. It began as a tremendous explosion when the universe was tremendously hot and dense. When all the energy began to cool off, matter was formed, beginning with sub-atomic particles, and then forming various atoms, like hydrogen, helium and lithium. These massive clouds of swirling energy and basic matter then began to coalesce, forming galaxies, and then stars, and then solar systems, and so on. By tracing the various vectors of the different galaxies, we can look back and see that they all appear to have come from the same origin point, and hence the idea of the BB.

This makes sense. It conforms with observable reality, and seems fairly reasonable.

But where did all that primordial cosmic stuff come from? Where did all that energy come from? And what about what Baha'u'llah says up above?

Ok. Here's my thought, my attempt to reconcile in my tiny brain what I know of the science and what I read in the Writings.

Remember up above, where He talks about "the beginning that hath no beginning, apart from its being preceded by a Firstness which cannot be regarded as firstness and originated by a Cause inscrutable even unto all men of learning"? He then continues and says, "That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today."

To me, this perfectly describes not only the Big Bang, but alludes to some of the questions that surround it. If all energy was contained within a single point, a point so dense that time itself was warped around it so as to become non-existent, where did all that energy come from? If time itself vanished within the gravitational vortex surrounding that point, doesn't it make sense that this would be as far back as we could see, even if there was something before it? But what happened before that, if we could even talk rationally about a "before" at a moment when there is no time?

You see the problem here.

And Baha'u'llah was writing to an audience before Einstein discovered the flexibility of time, so He had an even more difficult task to do, trying to convey this to people who had no way of grasping the very fundamental concepts needed to even phrase the question.

Today we have a very different understanding of the basic construction of the universe and can read Baha'u'llah's words with a very different understanding. When I read those words, I can see that He seems to be alluding to this. How else can I think of a firstness that is not really a firstness? I think it is the first moment of this cycle of time.

And before that? In the previous cycle of time? Well, everything existed, but not in the form we see today.

Picture, if you will, that beginning, those 13.77 billion years ago. Everything in the universe in a single giant ball, with such a dense gravity that time is ground to a halt. All energy is also contained within that single point. But, as you know, this energy wants to expand outwards. Oh, there's my simplistic premise: matter wants to contract, and energy wants to expand. So, there is just too much energy within that single point for it to be contained. The Big Bang. Kaboom. Everything flies out, super fast, all energy. Slowly it cools and begins to transform into matter. This matter has gravity, that attractive force in the universe, the force gathering things together. Through this force as the various bits of matter lose more of their energy, they slow down and coalesce into the galaxies, and so on. I already described this above, so I won't bother doing it again.

Now fast forward umpteen billion years. As more and more of this energy is dissipated, more and more of this matter condenses together. Gravity overcomes the impulse of the energy to expand. Black holes form, gathering as many loose bits as they can, growing in size, merging together, until, finally, in the last days of the universe, there is only one black hole and all matter and energy are sucked back into it. All the matter in the universe is pulled by a mighty gravitational force back into a single point. Fwoomp. (I just love that sound effect.)

But this is too much. There is too much energy contained within that singular point and it all explodes forth, giving birth to the universe in a Big Bang. It expands. Grows. Cools. Condenses. Shrinks. Becomes a single point, stopping all time within that massive gravitational vortex.

But it's too much energy in a single point. Boom.

Expands. Contracts. Fwoomp.

Boom! Expands. Contracts. Fwoomp.

Over and over, time beginning anew with each explosion, a universe being born again with each cycle.

Expand. Contract. Expand. Contract.

Over and over again.

And that, to me, is like the heartbeat of God.