We May Not Actually Be Here

Egyptian sky goddess

Egyptian sky goddess with stars on her body

According to the automatic counter on the WordPress website, this is the 100th blog entry on Write or Take a Nap? What is it about the number 100? The two zeros? Maybe they look like eyes, so 100 is the first number we can look at face-to-face. Or maybe it’s just because 100 contains ten tens, and we have ten fingers, so we can relate to it corporeally. It’s sort of like us…but ten times better. In any case, this is 100. And my birthday is in two days. So send me ten dollars.

I’m going to take this grandly numbered blog to write on something different from language and writing. Instead my topic is something everyone has thought about: where do human beings come from? (I mean before the stork brings them.) There are many lovely myths from around the world, any one of them as good as any other, such as the Maori story that a father sky and mother earth created other gods, leading to even further creation. One of the ancient Egyptian myths is similar but reverses the gender, with a sky mother and earth father.

But where I live the two most common explanations for our existence are the Jewish/Christian story described in Genesis and the scientific explanation of the Big Bang and evolution. Because large numbers of people apparently cannot comprehend symbolism (or have too little imagination to accept it as part of their religion), many Christians have decided that the scientific explanation contradicts Genesis. Although the Rejectionists would never admit it, they take the point of view that God is limited, and it isn’t possible for God to have used evolution to create human beings. But if God is all powerful, as they also say, then of course it’s possible.

Even in refusing to accept scientific explanations, the Rejectionists don’t like to admit being so foolish as to ignore science just because it doesn’t suit them, so they say they have a different “theory” and rename their religious story Creationism. I don’t know whether anyone is fooled by this, but no one follows Creationism who is not also a Christian.

Leaving aside the fake science, there are two basic ideas where I live. In one, God created everything almost instantly by declaring it with language, and in the other things happened gradually through random physical processes.

For me, neither explanation of our origin sufficiently accounts for the complexity of a human being. I’m not so stupid as to be a Rejectionist, and I recognize that with the information we have at the moment, the best explanation that seems to make all the pieces fit together is evolution.

Where I begin to have a problem with the evolution explanation is when I look at the functioning of a single cell. The complexity is staggering. According to the National Institutes of Health, it is estimated that each cell contains something like 10 billion molecules of protein, of 10,000 different types of protein. The energy used by our bodies is from a molecule called ATP, and it is also estimated that each cell has one billion molecules of ATP, which is completey used up and replaced every one to two minutes.

The facts in that paragraph far surpass what any person can mentally grasp, except as a very abstract idea, but those facts don’t even begin to touch the real complexity. All 10,000 of those proteins are being constantly created, modified, or dismantled. The proteins are also made only as needed, so the cell has some way of “knowing” and “deciding” to create a protein. The process of making a protein is extremely complex, beginning with uncoiling the DNA, pulling apart the two strands, and making a copy of part of one of them. The entire process is too complicated to discuss here.

model of protein molecule

Colored model of protein molecule

DNA is made of four elements, yet it can carry the information to encode probably hundreds of thousands of different proteins. Where do these molecules—DNA, proteins, ATP—come from? How did this inconceivably complicated set of interactions come to be? Did God say, “Let all this vast complexity suddenly exist”? Or did atoms randomly bumping up against one another gradually turn into DNA and thousands of proteins?

At least at the cellular level, neither one of those explanations makes sense to me. But honestly, I don’t think any explanation could ever work for me—none of it sounds possible. And the sky goddess told me I don’t have to believe it if I don’t want to.

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