Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If a god actually did make the universe recently, how would it be different?

One of the great misconceptions of anti-science creationists is the idea that evolution is only a “theory,” instead of a fact. Actually, in science, a theory has a status above even that of facts, in that they are frameworks that provide a way for us to interpret facts. In general, the theory of evolution is bedrock solid and able to do what any good theory can do: it is testable and can be used to make predictions, and has succeeded so often that, along with a variety of other theories, it is a part of our directly observable physical world, to the point where the study of life would be near-nonsensical without it.

But what if…(and this is just a thought exercise in the realm of science fiction) what if there actually was a divine hand that created the universe? How would the universe and life on earth be different?

If a divine being…and it can be anyone you like, really, take your pick: Zeus, Wotan, anyone…really did create the universe, anything could be possible. We could have mountain ranges made of ice cream, and 1 + 1 = 3. But let’s assume for the moment that it’s a universe very much like our own, only different in that life came into being as a result of supernatural forces instead of any gradual change over time. What could we expect to be different?

1. Unusual body components. In evolution, any feature has to develop from a previously existing one. Teeth, for instance, developed from specialized scales on jawless fishes. To this day, the scales on more “primitive” fish like sharks are made of enamel (and are called “denticles”). But in a world where Zeus made everything, anything goes! Why not feature butterflies with metallic wings? Metal in general isn’t used in the construction of any living thing, which is a shame as it would make great armor, especially a light material like aluminum.

2. Wheels! One feature that isn’t found (well, at least in multicellular organisms anyway) are wheels, which would be a handy means to get around. Why is it there aren’t any? If life evolved, then where would the blood vessels go, the nerves? How could something not attached to the body grow with an organism? But in a universe of created beings, a feature not attached to the body can develop. (Incidentally, in Philip Pullman’s the Amber Spyglass there was a great science fiction way around this).

3. Expect radically different vertebrate body plans. Even whales have hip bones. Small and vestigial ones, but they’re there. In a created universe, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect hexapod beings (creatures with six limbs). As land vertebrates emerged from the water at the same time, we all have a similar four limb body plan. As the crawly weirdness of the arthropods and other creatures show, there are definitely other ways the body structure can go.

4. Imagine a nearly dark sky.
There sure as heck wouldn’t be a Milky Way band. If the universe is created in less than 10,000 years old, the light from distant stars wouldn’t even have reached us yet.

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