Thursday, June 10, 2010
The New Creationists
A long time ago in the hazy dawn of my memory, aged around eight years, I was for a while in the choir of the local church before being expelled for various bits of nuisance, including questioning God’s status. My mother used to say that Shadforth church was ‘high’. I had no idea what that meant, except that it suggested a notion of altitude. When I became the main tree climber of the village a bit later, I had to take on the dare of climbing a tree by the church and sitting in a nest that was above its main roof. I can still remember the fetid smell of birds’ droppings, musty twigs, asthma inducing feathery refuse and insect larvae. Up there was a different world. Rooks are very gregarious and get annoyed at a boy’s invasion, so it was like being an alien, sitting on the accumulated ledge of ill-formed housing that rooks go in for and being bombed by indignant residents. None of your weaver bird architectural niceties. More like the trolls in Tolkien.
Anyway, before I got thrown out of the high Anglican church with its quasi-catholic tendencies of Latin, gold-edged robes and funny hats, its incense swinging and so on, Canon Tillard told a story about God and scientists. Scientists took a seed of corn and broke it down into its various ingredients (we’re in the mid Fifties) and made a copy. But a priest pointed out that, although the seed was in every obvious way the same as the original, once planted, God’s seed would grow and the new one wouldn’t.
Let us career on to the present day. Canon Tillard would need to revise his well thumbed note book of sermons because this week a scientist named Craig Ventner has produced a synthetic microbe called (scientists are rather bad poets as a whole) Synthia. It is a breakthrough of immense significance, well into the territory of the wheel, the microchip and the atom bomb. The next fifty years will flash past faster than the half-century I have just spanned in this blog and a theological question will become part of everyone’s attempt to understand the nature of existence.
Will these new life forms be godless, since they were created by man? Or will there be a revision by the world’s religions to the effect that God has intended humanity to supplant itself with a species, perfectly formed and equipped to deal with a dying planet and conquering space? A species which will one day extinguish its human antecedents because of their incapacity to tend to their environment and manage a life of peaceful, creative co-existence.
This could be a species that will outlive the Bible, the Koran, the Vedas and any other tracts that lack proper scientific validity and begin to assemble its own manual of existence.
“In the beginning was the Ventner. And He did engineer Synthia. And He was pleased.”