The Big Bang Theory may be the last word on the origins of the universe, but it's far from the first.
Through the millennia, humans have asked: How did everything come into existence? Modern science's answer is the Big Bang Theory, which posits that the universe sprang in an instant from a sub-atomic fragment. On Thursday, European scientists said observations by their Planck space probe support the theory.
The ancients, however, did not have $900 million machines to plumb the secrets of the universe. By revelation or by imagination, they came up with assorted explanations:
ARISTOTLE: The world always existed, at the center of the universe.
CHINA'S PANGU LEGEND: In darkness and chaos, a cosmic egg is formed. Two forces — yin and yang — act on the egg, which cracks and gives birth to Pangu, a being who over thousands of years separates the sky and the Earth, and eventually becomes one with the universe (his head is the mountains, his breath the wind, his sweat the rain).
HINDUISM: God (Brahman) created Brahma, whose day lasts 4,320,000,000 human years. In the course of the day, Brahma creates the universe and destroys it, using fire and water. The next day, and every day for his 100-year lifespan, he does it again. Meanwhile, an infinite number of Brahmas are creating an infinite number of universes.
ZOROASTRIANISM: The god of light, Ahura Mazda, created an egg-shaped universe of good — first spiritual, and then, after 3,000 years, physical. Then he made the perfect man, Gayomard, and the first bull. Meanwhile, another god — Angra Mainyu — created an opposite universe of evil, which contained everything but humans, which he could not make. So he invaded the good universe and killed Gayomard and the bull. But their seeds grew into the world's beneficial living things, and into a plant whose leaves formed Mashya and Mashyana, man and woman. Angra Mainyu's incursion introduced the bad things in the world, including the dark of night.
ABORIGINAL TRIBES: In an era known as Dreamtime, supernatural beings shaped the land and created everything that lived there, including men and women and the laws under which they must live.
GENESIS: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." And then, over six days, God created the rest.