Our Origins and Evolution

Creativism sees the universe as emanation from a source before the big bang, a God beyond God. A metaphysical big bang and evolving universal mind are proposed.

How the world and life began

Science has achieved wonders in explaining how our Universe and Earth came to exist, and how life (including human life) formed. But the key questions we want answered remain unanswered, and may be so forever. The formation of the Universe and Earth and the beginning of life are all in many ways, even to scientists, miraculous. Argument that the Universe arose from almost nothing is not persuasive, nor is the idea that we are a one-in-a-million chance happening in a vast multiverse. Perhaps the most credible idea is the old one of emanation: that from a source wrapped in mystery, an unstoppable creative urge necessitated the big bang and all that followed. The emanation has become an unending process of expansion, evident in all parts of the Universe and life and ongoing today. Given the unexplained appearance of the non-material, even the laws of nature, we might speculate that the physical big bang was preceded by a metaphysical big bang which gave birth to entities such as good, evil, order and chance, and through them the laws of nature. This might go some way toward explaining why the Universe is so constructed that it can support life.

The substance of the Universe

If we could understand better how the Universe is made up, we might penetrate further the mystery of the source. The idea that everything arose from just a pinpoint of energy is not sufficient, for energy is purely material and therefore not an explanation for the non-material. The converse, that the Universe arose from something non-material, is equally problematic; yet there is some appeal in the idea of a source which was incorporeal but packed with potential - the creative potential that lies in ultimate reality. Conceivably, non-being invited the birth of being, which as one (being) invited the birth of two, and so on. “Hard” science such as the discovery of the Higgs Boson (the so-called “God particle”) does not seem much help in resolving this riddle. Theoretical science may lead further, especially the idea (from physicist John Archibald Wheeler and others) that energy and matter are incidentals in a world that is made of information.

The possibility of a universal mind

Darwinian theory largely explains how life has evolved, though it cannot account for the actual origin of life, which remains wrapped in mystery. The wonders of the Universe are such that we are naturally attracted to the idea of a designer, but creationism is discredited and intelligent design theory partly so. A possibility is that the laws of nature were designed, then allowed to operate without intervention, just as – supposedly – human history has been allowed to run without intervention. This begs the question “why?” and thus the enigma remains. The notion of a universal mind might be an answer. Biologist Stuart Kauffman’s theory that life is capable of self-organisation and thereby increasing complexity raises the possibility of a universal mind, especially when combined with ideas about the Universe as information. Universal mind has long been theorised by philosophers, and it supports the idea of a divinity with capability. But if a universal mind exists, the way it operates has yet to be revealed. Perhaps it is this mind that determines fundamental truth – whatever is the right order in the world – which we individually confirm by our actions and help establish.

An evolving universal mind

Energy exists throughout everything, so why conceptually should not mind, with the two being more or less (as philosopher Baruch Spinoza said of body and mind) dual aspects of the one underlying reality? Different types of universal mind are conceivable, like the human mind which is subject to ongoing debate about the relationship between mind and body. One option (echoing philosopher Daniel Dennett on the human mind) is that there is no actual entity such as a universal mind but rather a collection of information inputs and outputs, or different kinds of “software” running in parallel. This opens the door to the possibility that each of us is a small part of the overall “thing like a mind” which has been evolving as the Universe itself has evolved. There is a parallel here with Process Theology in which “God” is the continual creative force which is itself temporal and mutable.

God beyond God

The Universe demonstrates endless creativity but there is also seemingly endless destruction, always a negative wiping out a positive, and vice versa. If the source of this Universe is indeed the ultimate reality underpinning our lives, then it must comprehend all aspects of life; it cannot be the wholly benevolent God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It must be the essence of everything, all good and bad, all creativity and destruction. This is a long way from the concept of God as ultimate goodness: truth joined with love in creative action. That concept - the Goodness God - must stand, for it is the way of experiencing the divine that makes most sense for us; the Goodness God is not a power with an omniscient mind but it is the most powerful influence in our lives. In the bigger picture, however, there is a God beyond this God, which is the remote, mysterious source of the Universe. This is the source that is forever beyond our understanding: the source whose inexorable urge to create gave birth to the Universe, making our existence inevitable.

And now, for a poet’s perspective, read The Wheel

Goodness (God) is not itself responsible for our existence. The universe and life come from a more fundamental creative source which precedes the big bang and is part of the mystery of ultimate reality. It is probable that this mystery includes some kind of universal mind and therefore that we are here at least partly by design.

In the big picture, then, we have a God beyond God, which is the source of everything and transcends even “our” God, which is goodness. If there is a universal mind, it too transcends the Goodness God. How goodness might connect with a universal mind and its power is a mystery, but we human beings are part of both. As we grow, so does the mind of the Universe.

Suggested further reading

Bohm, David. 1990. “A New Theory of the Relationship of Mind and Matter.” Philosophical Psychology 3: 271-86. http://www.tcm.phy.cam.ac.uk/~mdt26/local_papers/bohm_mind_matter_1990.pdf

Davies, Paul. 2007. Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Hawking, Stephen, and Leonard Mlodinow. 2010. The Grand Design. London: Bantam Press.

Kauffman, Stuart. 2008. Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion. New York: Basic Books.

Swimme, Brian, and Thomas Berry. 1994. The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era – A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos. London: Penguin.