Saturday, June 09, 2007

Goo

The new Creation Museum in Kentucky has made the news here in Ireland. The Irish Times gave a page to the story, complete with a sexy color pic of Adam and Eve having a chat, presumably about what's for dinner. And a handsome couple they are. Wasn't God a clever fellow to take his inspiration from the pages of People magazine (since past and future are available to him, no trouble with that).

Europeans don't quite know what to make of the fact that nearly half of Americans believe the world is 6000 years old. They wonder how a people who have for a century led the world in science and technology can imagine dinosaurs on the Ark. Well yes, it is difficult to explain, so generally I don't bother trying. To each his own, I say.

But let me make a riff today on the remark that closes the Irish Times article, a quote from a visitor to the Creation Museum, an evangelical pastor. "I'm just a simple person," he says, " but I could never believe we came from goo."

Me, I love the goo story. A few weeks ago, at the edge of a water meadow in New England, I was scooping up frog spawn in my hand. The gooiest of goo. And each little spheroid of goo will become a frog. I started out as goo myself: a gush of jism, a slimy egg. A speck of goo too small for the eye to see. A few weeks later, I looked liked a tadpole. Now I have four kids and six grandkids. The glory of goo!

I couldn't tell you how it all got started. Maybe it happened uniquely here on Earth 4 billion years ago. Maybe the first terrestrial goo came from somewhere else; it's a big, big universe out there. Maybe the universe is full of goo.

But no goo in the Garden. I know, because there was a color photograph in the Irish Times. Adam and Eve playing handsie. The lion laying down with the lamb. Ferns and palms. And dinosaurs. Cheerful prelapsarian dinosaurs. But no goo. No protoplasm. None of that great and glorious life force that the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin talked about on the first page of The Phenomenon of Man: "To push everything back into the past is equivalent to reducing it to its simplest elements. Traced as far as possible in the direction of their origins, the last fibers of the human aggregate are lost to view and are merged in our eyes with the very stuff of the universe." The stuff of the universe! But not just billiard-ball atoms bumping in the void. Rather, Teilhard's stuff is pregnant with emergent possibilities, ready to be carried along by the swelling river of evolution from the Alpha of creation to the Omega of cosmic completion. The primal goo!

Let the folks in Kentucky have their People magazine version of creation. I'll pray with Teilhard the scientist: "Shatter, my God, through the daring of your revelation the childishly timid outlook that can conceive of nothing greater or more vital in the world than the pitiable perfection of our human organism. On the road to a bolder comprehension of the universe the children of this world day by day outdistance the masters of Israel."

(And with this, we'll let creationism rest for a while.)