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Earth & Planetary Sciences
Course Code
EPSC 180
Olivia Jensen

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The Terrestrial Planets
EPSC 180 Winter Term 2013
Prof. Olivia Jensen, McGill University c

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1Creation of the universe, solar sys-
tem, planets and satellites
Pluritas non est ponenda sine necessitate.
... William Ockham (c 1285?-1349)
1.1 Creation mythologies
1.1.1 Pre-civilization, primitive peoples
What records do we have? While we have no written records, we do live with
myriad cultural and religious traditions that derive from ancient mythical expla-
nations of the origins of humanity, nature and the cosmos.1There is a human
need to create the story of our own creation. Our myths are the symbolic nar-
rative of our traditions, cultures and world views. We shall follow a thread
through to our current creation narrative based in empirically testable scientific
metaphors and models.
1.1.2 Civilized man
religious and cultural mythologies:
We might begin our thread with oldest known and preserved writings of
mankind from the Sumerian mythology: the Epic of Gilgamesh2. The
adventures of this King of Uruk (somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE)
lead us to the edge of the creation.
Probably near coincidentally in Ancient Greece a more mechanical creation
story forms in which the forces of nature, the gods are serially created from
the Chaos.
The creator God who Genesis 1:13In the beginning created the heav-
ens and the Earth.... celebrated in the Jewish tradition during Rosh
Hashanah: the creation 5773 years ago. It is similarly described in Sura
- 57:4 (Q’aran)–“He is the One who created the heavens and the earth in
1Ancient religions and myths: Metareligion
2The Epic of Gilgamesh:
Enuma Elish: the Sumerian Epic of Creation
3King James version of the English bible

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six days...”4. The great western/middle-eastern monotheistic religions, Ju-
daism, Christianity, Islam and their many offshoots essentially hold to a
common myth: creation of all and its continuing “management” by a still-
interested ompnipotent and omnscient God, Jehova, Allah whose name is
Archbishop Usher (17th Century English cleric) took the biblical story and
record to be factual data and used it to calculate the year of creation to
be 4004BCE. Cambridge secularist scientists derisively precised the date
to 9:00AM, on October 26. Some Christian fundamentalists still hold to
this date as the ”Creation”.
Other traditions:
The Haida peoples – creation by the Raven trickster5; the Plains Amerindi-
ans – the coyote trickster,
Mayan (Central America): the four gods (yellow, red, black and “without
colour”) conspire to create humankind and Earth. (Note that the world
did not come to its end on December 20, 2012 as some have interpreted
from Mayan mythology.)
Shinto (Japan): Kunitokotatchi arises as a reed out of the ocean of chaos,
the first of the gods, then Izanami and Izanagi.
Hindu: remarkably, the length of one day and night of Brahma (that is,
one cycle of the Universe) is calculated to be 8.4×109years, 6
China: One early creation story describes Pangu separating the world egg-
like Hundun, the ”primordial chaos” into Heaven and Earth.
Contemporary philosophical mythologies
Neocreationism – Intelligent Design Hypothesis – A long time ago and
according to a conscious design, the Universe was formed; the Universe
is so remarkably “tuned” for life and existence that it must have been
designed on purpose.
Scientific mythologies(?),models(?) – the narrative
Properly science doesn’t address the moment of creation but rather at-
tempts to understand what has happened since. Our cosmologies are evo-
lution models that describe the Universe we see; they do not explain the
4The Islamic New Year counts from the revelation of the creation to Mohammed: 1534H and
does not date creation itself
5Bill Reid’s Raven and the First Men
6109means 1 followed by 9 zeros or 1 billion
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