The earth is held up by four elephants standing on the shell of a gigantic turtle. It may be one of nine branches of a tree that holds up the entire universe. It may also have been created by a Supreme Being.
These are just some of the creation stories discussed in the “Creation Myths of the Universe,” a lecture presented by the science department on Sept. 26. This was the first in a series of science lectures for the current academic year.
Math, physics, and astronomy professor Paul Kazarian headed the lecture, commencing with an explanation of the term “myth.”
“All myths have some very significant basis in real events,” Kazarian said. “They can be controversial or non-controversial. You need to translate [myths] into something people can understand and accept.”
Kazarian discussed how early civilizations believed that the earth was flat and that the earth was considered to be the center of the universe.
The professor cited some myths accepted by early civilizations, such as the Egyptians’ belief that the world was a “primordial formless mound” created by the gods. Babylonians apparently shared a similar belief; they believed in the existence of gods who created the earth in three layers: the realm of gods, the actual earth, and the underworld.
He also mentioned that the “creation of the earth by a Supreme Creator is a concept shared by many religions, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Another significant myth that elicited some discussion among the audience was the Australian aborigine concept of “dream time,” which consisted mostly of the belief that “everything happens at the same time,” and that there was no linear concept of time.
Of special interest to the audience was the commonly publicized Hindu belief that a flat earth was being held up by elephants which stood on the back of a giant turtle, which, in turn, stood atop a gigantic snake.
Another interesting story was one from Norse mythology, which described a “universal tree” with nine branches. Each branch represented a different world or realm, three of which include the world of the gods, the underworld, and the earth itself.
Kazarian also emphasized similarities and connections between ancient myths and modern scientific theories and discoveries such as the Big Bang theory. He said that the “great light” mentioned at the very beginning in the Bible’s creation story may correspond to the immense amount of light generated during the Big Bang.
“What we know as science today might or might not turn out to be a myth one hundred years from now,” Kazarian said at the end of the lecture. “On the other hand, what our ancestors thought to be just fairytales might turn out to be real.”
The lecture culminated in a question-and-answer session and an open discussion with the audience.
Heven Renteria, an atmospheric science major who was a member of the audience, said that the lecture was not what he expected it to be.
“I thought it was going to be more of a science versus religion kind of thing,” Renteria said. “It turned out to be very different since it didn’t show any conflict between science and religion.”
“I like the blend of scientific explanation of the creation of the universe with mythological and Biblical explanations,” said math professor and Science Lecture Series Coordinator, Sid Kolpas. He was one of the many instructors present at the lecture. “I was gratified to find that in many ways, myths are not at all incompatible with science.”
“The talk was non-technical and very interesting,” Kolpas added. “Dr. Kazarian delivered the talk with expertise and lots of humor. He is to be commended for a job well done.”