What is our origin?

An overview of perspectives and worldviews


Peter W. Guess

origin, earth, evolution, science, culture

An overview of perspectives by major religions, scientists, philosophers, cultures and integrative views.

The question of our origin can be approached from multiple perspectives: scientific, philosophical, cultural, religious and other approaches.

Scientific Perspective

Cosmological Origin

1.      Big Bang Theory:

    • The Big Bang theory suggests that the universe originated from a singularity, an infinitely small and dense point. Around 13.8 billion years ago, this singularity began to expand, leading to the formation of space, time, and eventually, matter and energy. This theory is supported by evidence such as the cosmic microwave background radiation, the abundance of light elements, and the redshift of galaxies.

2.      Formation of the Solar System:

    • Nebular Hypothesis: About 4.6 billion years ago, our solar system formed from a giant molecular cloud. Gravity caused the cloud to collapse, forming the Sun and a surrounding disk of gas and dust. From this disk, the planets, moons, and other solar system bodies coalesced.

3.   Earth's Formation:

    • Accretion Process: The Earth formed through the process of accretion, where particles of dust and gas clumped together under gravity to form larger bodies. Over time, these planetesimals collided and merged to form the Earth.

Biological Origin

1.      Abiogenesis:

    • The exact mechanisms of abiogenesis are still not fully understood, but several hypotheses exist. One is the "primordial soup" hypothesis, which suggests that life began in a warm pond or ocean from a mix of chemicals that formed simple organic molecules. Eventually this formed more complex molecules like RNA and proteins. Various hypotheses exist about where and how this occurred, including deep-sea hydrothermal vents, tidal pools, and the presence of clays as catalysts for chemical reactions. Another hypothesis involves hydrothermal vents on the ocean floor, where mineral-laden water could have provided the energy and nutrients for the first life forms.

2.      Evolution:

    • After life began, the theory of evolution by natural selection explains how complex organisms, including humans, evolved over billions of years. The fossil record, comparative anatomy, and genetic evidence all support this theory. Key stages in human evolution include:
    • Common Descent: All living organisms on Earth share a common ancestor. Through the process of evolution by natural selection, species have diversified and adapted to their environments over billions of years.
    • Hominid Evolution: Humans belong to the family Hominidae, which includes great apes. The divergence of the human lineage from the common ancestor with chimpanzees around 6-7 million years ago. Key species in this lineage include Australopithecus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and finally Homo sapiens.
    • Homo Genus: The emergence of the Homo genus, with Homo habilis appearing around 2.8 million years ago.
    • Homo sapiens: Modern humans, Homo sapiens, appeared around 300,000 years ago in Africa.

Philosophical Perspective

Existential Questions

  1. Foundations: Philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle laid the groundwork for Western philosophical thought about existence. In the East, philosophers like Confucius, Laozi, and Buddha explored similar questions.
  2. Existential Questions: Philosophers have long pondered questions of existence, purpose, and consciousness. Various philosophical traditions offer different explanations for human origin and existence, ranging from metaphysical ideas about the nature of being to existentialist ideas about creating meaning in an inherently meaningless universe.

3.      Meaning of Life: Philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus have explored questions of existence, purpose, and meaning. Existentialism, in particular, suggests that life has no inherent meaning, and it is up to individuals to create their own purpose.

o    Mind and Consciousness: The nature and origin of consciousness remain profound philosophical questions. Different theories propose that consciousness arises from complex neural processes, while others suggest it might be a fundamental aspect of the universe (Panpsychism).

o    Panpsychism: The view that consciousness is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of the physical world, advocated by philosophers like David Chalmers.

    • Dualism: The idea that the mind and body are distinct and separate. René Descartes is a notable proponent of dualism.
    • Physicalism: The belief that everything about the mind can be explained in physical terms. This view is widely held in contemporary philosophy of mind.

Cultural and Religious Perspective

Creation Myths

1.      Variety of Myths: Cultures worldwide have creation myths that explain the origins of the world and humanity. These myths often reflect the values, environment, and knowledge of the culture.

2.      Ancient Greece: Hesiod's "Theogony" recounts the origins of the gods and the world. The story of Gaia and Uranus, the primordial deities.

3.      Norse Mythology: The tale of Ymir, the giant, and the creation of the world from his body.

4.      Mesopotamian Mythology: The Enuma Elish describes the creation of the world and humanity by the gods.

5.      Indigenous Beliefs: Many Indigenous cultures have rich oral traditions that explain the creation of the world and humanity, often involving a close relationship with nature.

Religious Beliefs

1.      Islam: The Quran also contains an account of creation, with Allah creating the heavens and the earth and shaping humans from clay

2.      Hinduism:

    1. Cyclic Cosmology: Hinduism describes the universe in cycles of creation, preservation, and destruction (Kalpas). The gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva play key roles in these processes.

3.      Buddhism:

    1. Dependent Origination: Buddhism does not focus on a singular creation event but rather on the concept of dependent origination, which explains the interconnectedness of all things and the cyclical nature of existence (samsara).

4.      African Mythologies: Diverse African cultures have various creation myths, often involving a Supreme Being or creator god who fashioned humans from clay or brought them forth from the earth.

5.      Shinto: In Japanese Shinto, the creation myth involves the gods Izanagi and Izanami who created the islands of Japan and various deities.

6.      Judaism: In Judaism (and Christianity), the origin of humans is often linked to the creation story of Adam and Eve as described in the Bible. The Book of Genesis describes God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, with humans created in God's image

    1. Creation of the World (Genesis 1-2):
      • Genesis 1: This chapter describes the creation of the world in six days. God (Elohim) creates light, sky, land, vegetation, celestial bodies, animals, and finally, humans. On the sixth day, God creates mankind in His image, both male and female, and gives them dominion over the earth.
      • Genesis 2: This chapter provides a more detailed account of the creation of humans, particularly focusing on Adam and Eve. God forms Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes life into him. God then creates the Garden of Eden and places Adam there. Seeing that Adam needs a companion, God creates Eve from one of Adam's ribs.
    1. The Garden of Eden (Genesis 2-3):
      • Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden and are given free reign, except for the prohibition against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
      • The serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit from this tree, and she, in turn, gives some to Adam—their disobedience results in their awareness of their nakedness and shame.
      • God discovers their disobedience and pronounces curses upon the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life and gaining eternal life.
  1. Christianity: Like in Judaism, the Book of Genesis (chapters 1-3) describes God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, with humans created in God's image (with Adam and Eve being corrupted by sin and thus fall from grace.)

Christianity and Judaism

Christianity shares the Genesis account of creation and the fall of humanity with Judaism, but it also incorporates additional theological interpretations and beliefs, particularly with the introduction of the New Testament.

  1. Shared Genesis Account:
    • The creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2 are foundational in Christianity as well, explaining the creation of the world and humanity in six days and the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
  2. Theological Interpretations:
    • Original Sin: The concept of original sin, which is more developed in Christian theology, stems from the disobedience of Adam and Eve. According to Christian doctrine, this original sin has affected all of humanity, making humans inherently sinful and in need of redemption.
    • Jesus Christ as Redeemer: Christianity introduces the belief that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to Earth to redeem humanity from sin. The New Testament presents Jesus as the second Adam, whose obedience and sacrifice offer salvation and reconciliation with God.

Key Differences and Commonalities

  1. Differences:
    • Original Sin: While Judaism acknowledges the disobedience of Adam and Eve, it does not emphasize the concept of original sin to the same extent as Christianity. In Judaism, sin is more about individual actions rather than an inherited state.
    • Messianic Redemption: Christianity views Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the promise of redemption, whereas Judaism awaits the coming of the Messiah.
  2. Commonalities:
    • Monotheism: Both religions share a belief in one God who created the world and humanity.
    • Moral and Ethical Teachings: Both traditions emphasize ethical conduct, moral responsibility, and the importance of obeying God’s commandments.

How does Evolution fit into Christianity?

The relationship between evolution and Christianity can vary depending on one's interpretation of both scientific findings and religious beliefs. Here are some common perspectives:

  1. Creationism: Some Christians adhere to literal interpretations of the creation accounts in the Bible, such as those found in the book of Genesis. They believe that God created the universe and all living things in their present form, typically rejecting the idea of evolution. Young Earth Creationists, for example, believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and that all species were created separately by God.
  2. Intelligent Design: This perspective accepts some aspects of evolutionary theory but posits that certain features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than natural selection alone. Proponents of intelligent design argue that the complexity of living organisms and the universe suggests the involvement of a designer, often identified as God.
  3. Theistic Evolution: Also known as evolutionary creationism, this view reconciles the scientific theory of evolution with the belief in a Creator God. Theistic evolutionists interpret the creation accounts in Genesis symbolically rather than literally, seeing them as theological narratives rather than historical or scientific descriptions. They believe that God used the process of evolution to bring about the diversity of life on Earth.
  4. Non-literal Interpretations: Some Christians interpret the creation stories in Genesis as metaphorical or allegorical rather than as literal descriptions of historical events. They may see the narrative as conveying deeper theological truths about God's relationship with humanity rather than providing a scientific account of creation.
  5. Acceptance of Mainstream Science: Many Christians, particularly those in more liberal or mainstream denominations, fully accept the scientific consensus on evolution and see no conflict between evolutionary theory and their faith. They view science and religion as addressing different aspects of reality and believe that faith enriches their understanding of the natural world rather than contradicting it.

Overall, there is a wide range of perspectives among Christians regarding evolution, and individuals may hold differing views based on their interpretation of religious texts, scientific evidence, and theological principles.

A Secular Integrative View

  1. Scientific Discoveries and Philosophical Inquiry: Scientific advancements can lead to new philosophical questions about the nature of reality and human existence.
  2. Cultural Context: Understanding scientific concepts through the lens of cultural narratives can make them more accessible and meaningful.
  3. Religious and Spiritual Significance: Many people find that their religious and spiritual beliefs provide a sense of purpose and understanding that complements scientific explanations.

This integrative approach considers how these perspectives interact and enrich each other. These perspectives provide a holistic understanding of human origin. The scientific narrative explains the physical processes that led to the formation of the universe, Earth, and life. Philosophical inquiry addresses the nature of existence, consciousness, and meaning. Cultural and religious stories provide a rich tapestry of human thought and belief, reflecting humanity's quest to understand its place in the cosmos.

An Integrated Christian Worldview

I believe God created the universe (and multiverses if these exist) and our world, possibly using evolution for most species (in part a theistic evolution) except for the creation of humankind made in the image of God – a unique divine design.

I believe that humankind was corrupted due to a rebellion against God, but that Christ, the Messiah, came to redeem all humans by his merciful death on the cross – an act validating this grace through his resurrection from the dead.

To receive this gift of love, mercy and grace we need to repent of our sin and have faith in the complete work of Christ, the Son of the living God. *John 3:16-17; Romans 3:21-22; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 1:7-8*

This act of faith in Jesus makes us children of God, agents of change and ambassadors on the earth, for Christ to heal the brokenhearted, and restore the planet in line with the will of God. He came to establish the kingdom of God on this planet and to restore God’s peace and purposes on earth. *[2 Corinthians 5:17-21]* Christians are called to restore justice, alleviate suffering and work towards changing a lost society.

Peter W. Guess

3 June 2024


Curated with OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (3.5) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com


*References from the Bible*

1. John 3:16-17 NLT

16) For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17) God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

2. Romans 3:21-22

21) But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22) We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

3. Romans 6:23 NLT

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

4. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NLT

17) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

18) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. 19) For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21) For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

5. Ephesians 1:7-8 NLT

7) He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8) He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.






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