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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Religious, traditional creation accounts and evolution

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The creation account involves Adam (Adama) and Eve (Hawa) as the first parents who lived in paradise. Shared with the Hebrew story: God warns Adama and Hawa not to eat fruit from a certain tree, an advice they defied earning expulsion from paradise. Developed in many verses of the Qur’an the narrative holds that the skies and the earth were joined together as one “unit of creation”, after which they were “cloven asunder”. And after the parting of both, they simultaneously came into their present shape after going through a phase when they were ‘smoke–like’. With some parts of the Qur’an having stated that the process of creation took six days, others also claim that the process took eight days: two days to create the earth, four days to create the mountains, to bless the earth and to measure its sustenance, and then two more days to create the heavens and the stars. The consensus among Muslim scholars however, being that the process of creation took six days, not eight. They claim that the four days for creating the earth and the mountains, blessing the earth and its sustenance implicitly include the two days for creating the earth. The Qur’an states that God created the world and the cosmos, made all creatures that walk, swim crawl and fly from the face of the earth from water. Molded clay, earth, sand and water into a model of a man and breathed life and power into it, and it immediately sprang to life. That the first man was Adama, whom God took to paradise, taught him the names of the creatures, and then commanded all the angels to bow down before him.

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The Genesis creation narrative is the creation account of both Judaism and Christianity, made up of two parts; Genesis 1:1 through 2:3 and holds that Elohim, Hebrew generic word for God, created the world in six days, rest on, blessed and sanctified it the seventh day. That God created by spoken command (“Let there be … “) and named the elements of the cosmos as he created them, in keeping with the common ancient concept that things did not really exist until they had been named.

That in the second Genesis 2:3, God referred here by the name “Yahweh”, shaped the first man from dust, placed him in the Garden of Eden, and breathed his own breath into the man who became nephesh, meaning a living being:  man shares nephesh with all creatures, but only of man is the life – giving act of God described. The man named the animals signifying his authority within God’s creation and God formed the first woman, whom the man named “Eve” (Hawa) from the man’s body by taking one of the man’s ribs.

Ancient Egyptian traditional creation myth has it that the world emerged from an infinite, lifeless sea when the sun rose for the first time in a distant period known as zip tpj (sometimes transcribed as zepTepi), “the first occasion”. The myth attributed creation to different gods, a set of primordial deities called the Ogdogand, the self-engendered god, Atum and his contemporary, Ptah, and the ‘mysterious, transcendent god’ Aum. While these differing cosmogonies were believed to compete to some extent, they were in other words said to have been complementary, according to differing aspects traditional Egyptian society understands of creation. The creation myths have some elements in common for example; they all hold that the world had arisen out of the ‘lifeless waters of chaos, called Nu.

The basic element of Chinese cosmology was qi (“vapor, gas, life force”). It is further understood that qi was believed to embody cosmic energy governing matter, time and space. An energy which according to Chinese mythic narratives, undergoes a transformation at  the moment of creation, so that the nebulous element of vapor becomes differentiated into dual elements of male and female, Yin and Yang , hard and soft matter, and other binary elements.

The number of traditional creation myths is exactly at a total number of a hundred and one and the number of religions and religious creation accounts is not known, however, estimates puts the number of religions at 4,200. A dozen classified as major religions all of which are of their own creation accounts are, from smallest to largest in followers by rough numbers as follows:

Zoroastrianism – 150,000

Daoism – 2.7 million

Shinto – 4 million

Jainism – 4 million

Confucianism – 6 million

Judaism – 23 million

Hinduism – 900 million

Islam – 1.3 billion

Christianity – 2 billion 

In contrast, according to Darwin’s evolution theory, all life on earth is descended from a last universal ancestor that lived approximately 3.8 billion years ago. That repeated specification and the divergence of life can be inferred from shared sets of biochemical and morphological traits by shared DNA sequences, traits and sequences more similar among spices that shared a more recent common ancestor, which can be used to reconstruct evolutionary histories, using both existing species and fossil records.

Charles Darwin was the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Alfred Russel Wallace whose 1858 theory shocked Darwin as nearly a replication of his is largely considered Darwin’s partner in the formulation of the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Evolution by means of natural selection is a process inferred from three facts about populations as: (1) when more offspring produced then one can possibly survive, (2) traits vary among individuals, leading to different rates of survival and reproduction, and (3) trait differences are inheritable,  thus when members of a population die they are replaced by the progeny of parents better adapted to survive and reproduce in the environment in which natural selection takes place, a process which creates and preserves traits that are seemingly fitted for the functional roles they performed. Natural selection is the only known cause of evolution; other non-adaptive causes include mutation and genetic drift. A mutation is a change of the nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism, virus or extrachoromosomal genetic element.

Mutations results from unrepaired damage to DNA or to RNA genomes, typically caused by radiation or chemical mutagens, errors in the process of replication, or from the insertion or deletion of segments of DNA by mobile genetic elements. Mutations may or may not produce discernable changes in the observable characteristics (phenotype) of an organism. Mutations play a part in both normal and abnormal biological processes including; evolution, cancer, and the development of the immune system.

Genetic drift or allelic drift is the change in frequency of a gene variation (allele) in a population due to random sampling. The allele in the offspring are a sample of those in the parents, and as per natural selection, chance has a role in determining whether a given individual survives and reproduces. A population’s allele frequency is the fraction of copies of one gene that share a particular form. Genetic drift may cause gene variations to disappear completely and thereby reduce genetic variation.

Evolution became widely accepted in the 1870s, among contemporary scientists and philosophers, the Kenya-born English professor Richard Dawkins is special in extensively popularising and updating the theory of evolution through most of his works including and not limited to; The Blind Watchmaker, described by Time magazine as ‘enchantingly witty and persuasive and pleasurably intelligible to the scientifically illiterate’ and the Selfish Gene of which WD Hamilton of the Science Monitor remarked: ‘This book should be read, can be read, by almost everyone. It describes with great skill a new face of the theory of evolution’.  In their support of the theory, Cameron M Smith and Charles Sullivan also authored a meticulously researched and distinctly presented overview of the theory in, The Top Ten Myths about Evolution. James Birx also authored the book titled: Interpreting Evolution – Darwin and Teilhard De Chardin in which he also defended evolution as true, tried–tested and proven scientific theory.

Many people relate Darwinian evolution to the big bang theory; Darwinian evolution is generally independent of the big bang theory. The big bang theory was born out of the observation that other galaxies are moving away from our own at great speed in all directions, as if they are propelled by an ancient explosive force. George Lemaitre, a Belgian priest was the first to suggest the big bang theory in the 1920s when he theorized that the universe began from a single primordial atom. His idea subsequently received major boost by Edwin Hubble’s observations that galaxies are speeding away from us in all directions, and from the discovery of cosmic microwave radiation by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. The theory is said to leave several unanswered questions, one is the original cause of the big bang itself. Answers to address this question are also said to have been proposed, but none have been proven and that, even adequately testing them have proven to be a challenge.

However, the big bang theory remains the cosmological theory of the early development of the universe, said to have occurred approximately 13.798 – 0.037 billion years ago. It is the scientific theory believed by many to be most consistent with observations of the state of the universe, both past and present with broad acceptance within the scientific community. The theory is believed to offer an explanation for a range of observed phenomena, including the abundance of light elements, the cosmic microwave background, et cetera.

 

By Ebou Sohna

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