In the beginning, an artist created a work of art.
We don’t need to know who this artist is.
We’re all living inside this work of art,
or at least that’s what many of us believe.
Once upon a time, God created heaven and earth.
“Let there be light” sounds a lot like the Big Bang,
and “Let the waters bring forth living creatures
that have life” sounds a lot like Evolution.
Why can’t people who believe this origin myth
simply say, “Our origin myth is closer
to what really happened than any
other religion’s origin myth, so we win!”
But no, some of them must have an easily
disproved six thousand year old universe
where dinosaurs tromped outside the Garden of Eden
but wouldn’t fit aboard Noah’s Ark.
Snakes are subtle, suddenly lunging out
from a hiding place to swallow whole
a salamander, a mouse, a capybara,
depending on the size of the snake.
And they did once have legs.
You can fit them in the lizard cladogram
somewhere near the monitors and mosasaurs
sometime deep in the Cretaceous.
So we have a devil, the villain of the piece,
disguising himself as something like a Komodo dragon
and urging a naked woman to enlarge her recipe book
to include apples, or pomegranates, or something.
Eating apples increases self awareness.
That’s a sin! You’re supposed to follow instructions!
The old man’s really annoyed about this one
and kicks the first couple out of Paradise Palms.
Whenever a story has a talking snake,
with or without legs and demonic possession,
it’s a pretty good sign the story’s not for real.
Raising predatory birds is hard.
Whether they’re eating mice or fish,
mom and dad can rarely catch enough
to feed more than a single chick.
Yet mom almost always lays two eggs.
Cain, the first to hatch, pecks Abel to death
and pushes the body out of the nest.
The parents don’t object.
They also each once killed a younger sibling.
Cain the human chose to kill his brother,
an act most people would agree was evil.
It’s not too hard to explain why
such behavior might evolve in certain birds,
but why would the artist create an evil species?
Ten thousand years ago the Ice Age ended.
Glaciers melted all over the north, often suddenly.
Sometimes a lake would be dammed by a glacier
until it was deep enough to float the ice,
and the whole lake would spill away in flood.
No wonder so many cultures have flood myths!
Consider the lake in Montana
which spilled down the Columbia River valley,
scouring the channeled scablands,
a swirling torrent all the way to Eugene.
There were people living in Oregon then,
people swept away suddenly to their deaths
by something which had nothing to do with them.
Natural disasters happen, and if enough people
are living in the wrong place, many will get killed,
regardless of who might be virtuous or sinful.
No one built an ark in the Willamette Valley,
and if they had, it would have been wrecked anyway.
That flood would have wrecked an aircraft carrier!
Building a tower to the heavens can’t be done
with any Mesopotamian technology.
Clay blocks, baked bricks, blocks of stone,
pile them higher than the highest mountain
and the foundation will be under too much pressure.
First it will deform, then it will melt.
If the old man objected to such a tower,
he didn’t need to do anything at all.
His own laws of physics ensured failure.
And if it really was the artist’s policy
to keep his humans from ever leaving the earth,
at least while alive, what about the space program?
Why was building a campsite on the moon okay?
As for the alleged punishment, diverging languages,
this happens when people get separated from each other,
not when they’re trying to work together.
We have plenty of writing to show how
languages split and change over thousands of years.
This phenomenon doesn’t need an origin myth.
The Bible’s a work of art, of many authors,
containing some moral lessons that work,
which have been field tested for thousands of years.
It’s not a scientific description of our universe,
how it originated, how old it is, how big it is.
The authors didn’t know about quasars or dinosaurs,
or even what caused that big flood in the folk tale.
They thought their ancestors whose age was counted in months
lived about twelve times as long as people did now.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
is one of the wisest things anyone ever said.
“Homosexuals shall be put to death”
is nothing more than a stupid, cruel law, best forgotten.
You really need to be mature and selective
about which instructions you accept and follow.
The universe is probably not a work of art.
We’re in it, but it wasn’t made for us.
Most solar systems are completely uninhabitable.
We’re just self-organized bits of biochemistry
who’ve managed to become very complicated,
and we took several billion years to get this way.
copyright © 2012 Carl Miller