Scientists estimate that our Universe came into existence 14 billion years ago, through the ‘Big Bang’. The universe expanded rapidly from an infinitely small, hot and dense size to the one we live in today. The Universe expanded as it also cooled, giving rise to particles of matter and antimatter which typically destroy each other. But some matter survived, and more stable particles called protons and neutrons started to form when the Universe was one second old. Over a long period of time, the slightly denser regions of the nearly uniformly distributed matter gravitationally attracted nearby matter and thus grew even denser, forming gas clouds, stars, galaxies, and the other astronomical structures observable today. Life on earth began first as microbes, then sponges, worms, invertebrates (including insects), fishes, reptiles (with dinosaurs), then mammals, producing hominids (in Africa) from 4 million years ago, the ancestors of humanity today.
As to the historical conflict between science and religion on the beginning of the universe; some of the world’s leading cosmologists and prominent religious leaders agree that creation and evolution need not be incompatible.
”One could still imagine that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang, or even afterwards in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang, but it would generally be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when [God] might have carried out [the] job.”
”Some people feel that science should be concerned with only the first part; they regard the question of the initial situation as a matter for metaphysics or religion. They would say that God, being omnipotent, could have started the universe off any way he wanted. That may be so, but in that case he also could have made it develop in a completely arbitrary way. Yet it appears that he chose to make it evolve in a very regular way according to certain laws. It therefore seems reasonable to suppose that there are also laws governing the initial state.”
From A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkings,
Theoretical physicist, cosmologist and former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge.
“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. …Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
The Epic of Gilgamesh is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia (circa 2100 BC) regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature. What is fascinating about this document, which pre-dates the Hebrew Bible (circa 1000-1100 BC) is that a number of themes, plot elements, and characters have counterparts in the Bible, notably the accounts of the Garden of Eden (the Genesis story of Creation), the advice from Ecclesiastes and the Genesis flood narrative.
There are parallels between the stories of Enkidu/Shamhat and Adam/Eve. A man is created from the soil by a god, and lives in a natural setting amongst the animals. He is introduced to a woman who tempts him. In both stories the man accepts food from the woman, covers his nakedness, and must leave his former realm, unable to return. The presence of a snake that steals a plant of immortality from the hero later in the epic is another point of similarity.
In 1987, research by a group of geneticists found that the lineage of all people alive today falls on one of two branches in humanity’s family tree. One of these branches consists of nothing but African lineage, the other contains all other groups, including some African lineage. The conclusion was that every person on earth right now can trace his or her lineage back to a single common female ancestor.
‘Mitochondrial Eve’ named after mitochondria and the biblical Eve is estimated to have lived between 99,000 and 200,000 years ago, most likely in East Africa. This DNA evidence is consistent with earlier archeological findings tracing the cradle of humanity from (Eastern and Southern) Africa.