Let there be a little light

A Short History of Creation, from the Big Bang to the Merrimack School Board. By Chris Dornin

I know a satellite engineer, I can’t use his name, but he thinks his right hand is too deep to have popped from the deck by chance. That view puts him with the losers in the trial that made creationism a joke 80 years ago. Same farce is playing out in Pennsylvania now. Could it happen here? But it did. The Merrimack School Board banned the teaching of evolution a decade ago. The Christian majority ran things by the book until the next election. The same battle will surely visit Bristol, Canaan or Colebrook soon enough. The question is, would that be so bad?

Evolution says some lucky mud brewed in heat, morphed into proteins, took a jolt from the sky, and lived. Time changed these juices into critters and people. We swung in trees until we walked. Standing freed our hands to whittle spears. Words made us better killers. So did clans. The traits of sacrifice and fear bonded kin into raiding parties. The invention of gods helped armies win battles.

Sex came along late. If you’ve noticed, it can be a problem. Darwin was clueless how it emerged slowly. In theory, the separate organs evolved until the moment two could be one. We’re also to believe these parts were useless until perfect. That’s a poser.

So let’s deal with the big bang. Whizzes like Stephen Hawking trace the universe back to one point so small it took up no space. By the way, note that Hawking has a mutation, not a creation, of a mind. His body has survived Lou Gehrig’s disease for four decades. That’s a few standard deviations from the mean. His rare will broods all day on black holes. His numbers follow the oceans of light back 20 billion years to a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a hundred millionth of a second after stupendous heat and mass leaped from nothing. Hawking sits, that’s all he can do, almost alone among scientists who think the cosmos grew this way so the human mind could notice it. He calls that idea the anthropic principle. Scientists shy away from the G word.

Hawking sees the skies and seas as a stupendous winning lottery ticket. Maybe 15 factors like gravity, the charge of the electron and the masses of protons and neutrons had just the right values to form stars and meld the heavy elements of life in the cauldrons of galaxies.

The celestial power ball game has just these 15 balls that might have taken on any value between zero and infinity. Multiply infinity by itself 15 times. Those are the odds against a universe with life to marvel at it. It’s a pretty big number.

The anthropic principle asserts the big bang cooled into planets, DNA and hemispheres of brains just so we could mutter something like “Jesus.” Hawking stops short of saying his math proves a miracle. But he’s the first-born of a breed with Newton’s mind, Helen Keller’s courage and Napoleon’s drive. Throw in Hawking’s rare resistance to a killer that breaks most people long before they die. That’s sudden evolution. It’s like the big bang of new life forms in the Cambrian period 550 million years ago. But here’s the strange part. Hawking reached this let-there-be-light answer maybe waiting just for him all these celestial eras since the allegedly blind onset of mass, force, space and time. His insight comes at a good moment. Frogs are losing their legs, and minor powers are putting warheads on missiles. Our kind is using up all the wetlands, oil, gas, uranium, metals, water and arable land.

Charles Darwin spent most of his life in a funk. He had killed something he needed, faith in a world with a purpose. But Hawking, bless his brave heart, shows the worlds began with a miracle. Maybe he miraculously knows this. You can only see miracles if you admit they happen. NH

Statehouse correspondent and poet Chris Dornin lives in Concord.