Putting Things In Perspective

“Imagine that you have thirty large volumes on your bookshelf. Each tome is 450 pages long, and every page stands for one million years. Let this set of books represent the scientific story of our 13.7-billion-year-old universe. The narrative begins with the Big Bang on page 1 of volume 1, but the first twenty-one books show no obvious signs of life at all. The earth story begins only in volume 21, 4.5 billion years ago, but life doesn’t appear until volume 22, about 3.8 billion years ago. Even then, living organisms do not become particularly interesting, at least in human terms, until almost the end of volume 29. There the famous Cambrian explosion occurs, and the patterns of life suddenly burst out into an unprecedented array of complexity and diversity. Dinosaurs come in around the middle of volume 30 but are wiped out on page 385. Only during the last 65 pages of volume 30 does mammalian life begin to flourish. Our hominid ancestors show up several pages from the end of volume 30, but modern humans do not appear until the bottom of the final page. The entire history of human intelligence, ethics, religious aspiration, and scientific discovery takes up only the last few lines on the last page of the last volume.”

John F. Haught, Christianity and Science: Toward a Theology of Nature, xii.

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