The Quest for Origins in Story and Science
Martin H. Greenberg
Factual, speculative, and mythical ideas about origins--concerning (in four separate parts) the universe, the solar system, the Earth, and humankind--via a peculiar, confusing mix of materials: four scriptural selections, four straightforward science pieces, 17 fantasy/sf stories from 1933-81, a poem, and a recent Asimov essay refuting Creationism. Part I, for instance--the origin of the universe--starts off with Genesis, proceeds to describe the physics of the Big Bang, adds stories about gods, creations, and cosmological phenomena, and winds up with the philosophical ambiguities of the Rg-Veda. Inconsistencies soon appear. Only Judeo-Christian and Hindu creation myths are included; Carl Sagan's look at the solar system (from Broca's Brain) avoids the question of its origin; and--most prominently--there is no scientific account of human evolution. Some pieces nonetheless stand out: the excerpt from Steven Weinberg's admirable The First Three Minutes, in the particle physics department; Brian Aldiss' valiant attempt ("Non-Isotrophic") to wed theology and cosmology with fiction; two golden oldies--Eric Frank Russell's Adam-and-Eve yarn, "First Person Singular," and Asimov's Neanderthal child, "The Ugly Little Boy"; plus lesser efforts from van Vogt, Clarke, Simak, and Wells. A disjointed, artificial assemblage--that still might find favor in a few origin-pondering classrooms, as well as with ardent Asimovians.