Origins by Jim Baggott

All human cultures that we know of, literate and non-literate, have constructed stories about their own origins. It’s a perfectly natural thing to do. At an individual level the child asks ‘Where did I come from, Mummy?’ So, it’s equally compelling for a tribe or civilisation to ask ‘Where did we come from? The answers, called ‘creation myths’, are fascinating. An interesting list of the types and examples are found at this link

According to the Baganda of Uganda the following happened. In the distant past, Kintu was the only person on earth, living alone with his cow. Ggulu, the creator of all things, lived up in heaven with his many children, occasionally came down to Earth to play. On one such occasion, Ggulu’s daughter Nambi and some of her brothers encountered Kintu and his cow in Buganda. Nambi instantly took a liking to Kintu and decided to marry him. Her brothers pleaded with her, eventually convincing her to return to heaven with Kintu, to ask for her father’s permission for the marriage. This led eventually to the birth of the tribe.

According to the Iroqouis there was an island floating in the sky long before the world was created. The Sky People lived there quietly and happily. No one ever died or was born or experienced sadness. However one day one of the Sky Women realized she was going to give birth to twins. She told her husband, who flew into a rage. In the centre of the island there was a tree which gave light to the entire island since the sun hadn’t been created yet. He tore up this tree, creating a huge hole in the middle of the island. Being curious, the woman peered into the hole. Far below she could see the waters that covered the earth. At that moment her husband pushed her. She fell through the hole, tumbling towards the waters below. Water animals already existed on the earth, so far below the floating island two birds saw the Sky Woman fall. Just before she reached the waters they caught her on their backs and brought her to the other animals. Determined to help the woman they dove into the water to get mud from the bottom of the seas. One after another the animals tried and failed. Finally, Little Toad tried and when he reappeared his mouth was full of mud. The animals took it and spread it on the back of Big Turtle. The mud began to grow and grow until it became the size of North America. The Sky Woman miraculously conceived at the thought of this, and gave birth to the Iroqouis, who were the first of all peoples.

According the ancient Hebrews, Yahweh created Adam and set him in The Garden of Eden. Adam was lonely, so Yahweh took one of his ribs and made the woman Eve to keep him company. Eve disobeyed Yahweh’s prohibition about eating fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Banishment from the garden was the punishment. Women would give birth in agony from that point forward and man earn his living by the sweat of his brow. Adam and Eve procreated outside the Garden and so mankind began.

Modern stories about human origins rest upon scientific methodologies and the accumulation of evidence. The reader may choose to give no credance to scientific method or evidence. In that case the Moon is made of cottage cheese and ‘Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles‘.

Should you wish to review the latest account offered by science reach for this volume by Jim Baggott, published this year by Oxford University Press. Baggott ( It takes us from the beginnings of the universe, through the formation of stars and galaxies, on to the solar system coalescing and the Earth forming, through our planetary ages, up to the beginnings of life and the recent evolution of homo sapiens. There’s no doubting the ambition in Baggott’s task here. It’s a lot to pack into 432 pages. In fact, it’s everything! I leave you to judge whether his presentation is successful.

To do so enquire at your local library or consult for full bibliographic detail.

To go with this account of origins read Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, also published this year, reviewed by me here

Full bibliographic detail available at

432 in Oxford University Press

First published 2015

ISBN 978-0198707646

Jim Baggott

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