I’m working on a social science writing question and need an explanation to help me understand better.
Too often, when we read the words on a page we do not fully integrate that new information into our existing knowledge structure, and so we fail to gain a new understanding of the world around us. Research in cognitive science and learning tells us that “deep learning” requires that the learner reflect on new knowledge and create personal meaning from it.
To help us reflect more deeply on readings in this unit, we will use a reading reflection. Reading reflections are designed to help the reader engage with the material in a deeper way, and to construct new meaning from it. The reflections also have the advantage of providing the instructor with detailed information about your learning in the course. This not only helps guide the daily preparation of class activities but also helps connect us as a community of learners.
Reading Reflections Project
Instructions: Your response to each question needs to be at least 2 paragraphs and six sentences each, AND must clearly indicate careful reading and thoughtful reflection. You must respond to all three of the questions.
- What is the main point of this reading?
- What information did you find surprising? Why?
- What did you find confusing? Why?
Chapter Nine: Cosmogony
Basis of Cosmogony
Cosmogony is an account of the emergence or creation of world order. Interest in beginnings is tied to the natural and social order, the status of the gods and humans, as well as human action.
Many Westerners take for granted the idea of a creation of the world. Many of our assumptions about cosmology, or the nature of the world and our place in it, are derived from the Bible.
Many early cosmogonic beliefs centered around myth. Mircea Eliade stated, “myth narrates a sacred history; it relates an event that took place in a primordial Time, the fabled time of the ‘beginnings.'” In other words, according to Eliade, myth is related to creation. Cosmogonic myths often represent exemplary model for future acts and they are a rehearsal of the original cosmogony.
Cosmogonic myths were not really developed before 300 B.C.E., when the earliest creation texts appear. The dominant themes in these myths are sexual fecundity, fertilization, procreation and generation. Some of the creation myths also show creation as a result of a divine thought or will.
Emergence or Procreation from a Primal Substance or Being
A common theme in early cosmogonies is emanation of the primal elements or beings from a watery chaos or nonbeing, or from a primeval being- a god or being itself. An example of this is in ancient Egypt Pyramid Texts (about 2400 B.C.E.).
Sexual Union of a Primal Male and Female
In many religions, the appearance of the elements, seasons or beings that make up the natural environment are the result of a sexual union between a primeval male and female. It represents the coming together of opposites. One example of this is within Chinese mythology.
Creation by Conflict and the Ordering of Chaos
Sometimes in cosmogonic myths the ordering that comes is derived through a battle or conflict. The Babylonian creation epic Enuma elish is an example of a cosmogony involving conflict and the bringing of order out of chaos. The focus of this myth is on the establishing of a social order, not on the origin of the physical cosmos. Review this story on p. 203-206. It is important to note that this myth sees the emerging political structure as the human-social reflection of the order already achieved by the pantheon of the gods.
Not all cosmogonic myths conceive of chaos as evil or representing death and destruction. The Taoist cosmogony does not subscribe to a privileged rational order but posits that chaos is a polar element with order in Becoming (Tao), which is the harmonious yin-yang of the creative process of nature.
Creation by a Divine Craftsman
A distinction must be made between the terms “cosmogony” and “creation.” The above examples of cosmogony are not strictly myths but are imaginative narratives of generation, procreation, or ordering from primal substances or beings. Technically, creation means creatio ex nihilo, or creation from nothing. Creatio ex nihilo finds its most distinctive expression in the later theologies of the three Western monotheistic faiths- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Greek cosmology employed the image of the creative artisan or craftsman. The earliest Greek philosophers conceived the world animistically as a living, divine organism and they believed that the origin and evolution of the cosmos came from intelligent direction and design, or a divine craftsman.
For example, Plato wrote that the material world of becoming requires some eteranl cause that he called the divine Demiurge or Craftsman. This god is good, divine, creative Reason but it is NOT the Creator God. The Demiurge “took over” preexisting material and fashioned it as perfectly as possible. The Demiurge is not the omnipotent Creator but is a persuasive power working on disordered, stubborn material. The Demiurge takes over space and the material elements and fashions the cosmos after the model of the eternal Forms.
Creation by Decree or from Nothing
Many creation accounts conceive of the deity as creating by divine command or by will. The text that became the classic doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, creation from nothing, is Genesis. Scholars agree that there are two creation accounts in Genesis. The biblical cosmogony that is found within this text shaped the worldview and ethical ethos of ancient Israel, later Judaism and Christianity and also of Western consciousness.
There is no theogony, or account of the creation of the god (s) in Genesis. Also, the world is not viewed as divine. Another important point is that there is no struggle in Genesis between the Creator and other beings in bringing forth cosmic order. The biblical creationist model implies that God alone is self-existent, creates sovereignty by Divine wisdom and will, is not engaged in any struggle and relates to a world that is wholly dependent on divine creative an providential activity. Relatedly, humanity is given a very high status and humans enjoy a unity of body and soul, a unity that is declared “very good.” Suffering and evil in the world are due to human perversion of the original Creation, not to God’s creation.
The Rejection of Cosmogonic Speculation
Not all religions have cosmogonic myths and if they do, some play a less significant role in the religion’s life. Jainism, a religion that began in ancient India as a protest against Hindu ritualism, i one example of a religion that does not have a cosmogonic myth. Similarly, Buddha also disapproved of cosmogonic theorizing.
Today we live in a scientific age where few educated people think of cosmology in mythic terms. Or do they? Even Charles Darwin couldn’t avoid using intelligent design language in discussing natural evolution.
Modern “scientific” theorists, such as Freud try to avoid religious mythical cosmogonies but still fall prey to mythic visions of nature’s order in their theories. See pg. 216 for details of Freud’s theory.
Today there are theoretical physicists and cosmologists who are posing interesting religious and theological issues while attempting to discover more about design and purpose of the universe.
The Anthropic Principle
The anthropic principle refers to the recognition by some physicists of the fine tuning observed and required to explain our natural world. This entails the bringing together of various constants and constraints that were required for our world to emerge. Overall, some physicists believe that due to the exact and precise requirements to bring about human life form, some type of “designed” universe is possible. The scientists who subscribe to these types of theories see them as hypothesis, not fact.
It is not a fruitful endeavor to attempt to harmonize the mythical cosmogonies with modern scientific cosmogony. Religion is often discredited in these attempts. This conflict has been recently reignited by the attempt of some to have Creation Science taught as science in public schools. Creation Science is not a science but a religious belief of a specific kind. Members of the Creation Research Council subscribe to a statement of faith committing them to a belief in special, miraculous creation. This methodology does not seem very scientific and it also seems Bible centered- not necessarily open to other religion’s creation stories.