Issue 82 / July - August 2011
It was one of those chilly but lively mornings of spring. Everything was as expected: creeks were flowing, birds were flying, insects were waking up to a new life, and trees in the forest were silently but constantly growing. The noise in the ambiance was increasing as the sun was rising above the shoulders of the mountains.
That morning, however, was unusual for one of the ants, Sayhon. He was intrigued by the noises coming from all directions. He had recorded and investigated the noise generated by bugs when carrying chips of wood, the sound a fly makes when landing on a dry leaf, the clamor of the creeks as they hit the rocks, and so on. But regardless of the cacophony of the sounds, Sayhon was always able to filter out a background noise that showed up consistently. It was as if something or someone was omnipresent in every occurrence, making itself heard. After realizing this, the poor ant found himself in seclusion to concentrate on this subtle message. After a while, not able to figure out the source of this constant noise, nor able to come up with an explanation about its meaning, Sayhon spiraled down into an endless depression. In hard times like these, he always took refuge in the warm friendship of Nurson.
Nurson also conducted his own research, modeling the dynamic geometry of the forest. By formulating the variations in the locations of the fruits on the ground or those on the branch, he benefited the worker ants in establishing the optimum routes for collection. Even more challenging was Nurson’s interest in predicting the time and place of the birth of a new fruit. It was so demanding, this prediction effort, that it shook his antennas wildly. During his research, Nurson had come to the conclusion that, existing or newborn, all the fruits were moving apart from each other. This effect was more evident in the observation of a fruit at large distances.
One day when it was raining, Sayhon was observing how the raindrops splashed on the water, how they created a blasting sound. At the same spot Nurson was studying the expansion of the waves in the puddles made by raindrops. After some gloomy moments, Sayhon wanted to open a conversation.
“Hey dude! Do you hear any noise generated by those waves?”
“YES!” replied Nurson hysterically.
Sayhon was not expecting this kind of a “YES” to his question. Rather, it sounded like an answer to something else. This, in fact, was the case, because Nurson had had an epiphany with Sayhon’s question: “The noise you are detecting everywhere is due to the expansion of the forest.”
Sayhon was startled by the answer he had received for his teasing. Nevertheless, he was eager to continue this conversation: “Hey! Easy now, easy.”
“Look! The noise you are detecting everywhere points to an entity or occurrence that is omnipresent. To date, we don’t know an entity everywhere, but we do know an occurrence that is everywhere: the moving apart phenomenon. So, the only thing that can create this noise you are so curious about is the expansion of the forest. Every fruit, every branch-tip in this forest is moving apart from each other, while leaving behind a signature in the form of sound. Now everything makes sense.”
Enlightenment suddenly seized them both with a shiver throughout their bodies. When they came back to their senses, they couldn’t help but smile; it didn’t take long before Sayhon and Nurson started squealing in joy.
Soon, the entire ant colony was in a tumult about the discovery of the expansion of the forest, but with some subsequent thoughts. For example, an ant suggested that the omnipresent noise must be propagating through some unseen but all-pervading substance; but the experiments to verify this suggestion failed. Another thought was about the size of the forest. Some claimed that it was not possible to know the size of the forest, while others said it was finite, since otherwise it would result in an infinitely intertwined forest. A third item in this list of hot discussions was the age of the forest. According to the expansion theory, if the forest is expanding now, and if you rewind this process long enough, you end up with a single tree, and eventually a single seed, out of which this endless forest has formed. They called this unimaginable start the “big germination.” Based on the big germination theory, some ants suggested billions of years of age for the forest; but some others claimed an age on the order of thousands based on interpretation of their ancient texts.
In the fresh vibrations of these findings, the discussions of the ants about the start of the forest eventually became a discussion of their own existence. What was the origin of life in the forest? How had the living beings come to their current states, each with an optimum design for the survival of their own species and for the well-being of the entire habitat? Were they merely fallen off a tree as a result of a coincidence?
As the founders of the big germination theory, Sayhon and Nurson were invited to speak in huge assemblies where thousands of curious ants were gathered. They had given several interviews, and participated in many events on the subject of the origin of life. The two friends had differing points of views on this matter, but their discussion was as respectful as it was rational.
Sayhon held the view that the living beings had come to existence through a chain of events that are not yet readily known to the ants, but can be discovered with advancements in science. As his initial hypothesis, he proposed a common ancestor to all kinds of animals in the forest, like the start of the forest from a single seed. He supported his theory of a common ancestor with the observations of common traits among different organisms. But eventually, he admitted that his hypothesis is only tentative, and needed further scrutiny. He was open to change his views with new findings and observations, and never suggested that his hypothesis be used as the criterion to judge the veracity of new perspectives.
Nurson, on the other side, claimed that the origin of life in the forest was by the hand of the Creator, just like He was the one who had created the forest in the scenario of the big germination. In the same context, he thought that the scientific studies must be aimed at learning how the Creator was making different kinds of animals in the forest. Nurson said that his view did not essentially differ from Sayhon’s views in terms of scientific foundations or implications, but he positioned himself against unscientific interpretations of scientific findings. For example, he requested that, as he admitted his belief in the Creator is an unscientific presumption, Sayhon must admit his claims about a common ancestor is unscientific, since there was no absolute proof to it. Nurson also expressed his resentment about the ants who inferred the absence of the Creator in the scientific texts as a rejection of Him, since such inference was clearly irrational as well. Overall, Nurson neither tried to alienate Sayhon nor curse his views, he merely requested that both parties characterize their views properly, which was wholeheartedly approved by Sayhon.
In return to the request of Nurson, Sayhon invited him to admit that they don’t have a complete understanding of how creation occurs, and that interpretation of implicit information in the ancient texts cannot be binding. Nurson humbly agreed.
Despite the friendly opposition between Sayhon and Nurson, the ant colony was severely divided into two groups: some siding with Sayhon and others agreeing with Nurson. Each group projected their own view as the ultimate truth, unlike the two friends’ admittance of the unscientific parts in their views. Although Sayhon and Nurson both admitted the tentative and immature level of science in the matter, the public preferred to embrace them as complete and unchangeable. Thus, these two groups socially expelled each other, and showed intellectual hostility. Rejecting the other’s views in their entirety, they mutually evolved into antagonists.
Strange enough, as the tension between these groups increased, the climate in the forest started to change dramatically. Rain became more abundant, yet the weather also warmed up incredibly. They had yet to discover the significance of these drastic changes, but this threat to the entire colony acted as a uniting agent among the ants, and mitigated the divisions on the origin of life.
In one of those hot days, the ants noticed large cracks forming in their nests, which eventually evolved into large channels, through which a violent stream came and flooded the forest. Many of the ants were saved by embarking on the leaves. Now everything was underwater, and would be until it soaked completely into the soil, which was unlikely to occur in their lifetimes. Facing extinction, the big germination and the subsequent expansion of the forest felt like meaningless topics in their hopeless state. Yet, the origin of life was of the highest attention. Even the most bigoted ants who denied the Creator wanted to believe in a higher Hand that could penetrate the doom they were facing and deliver them to salvation.
The flood did not return the ants back home but carried them to another one. By the time they arrived at this new forest, the flood had faded to a nice stream, and the ants could safely disembark from their leaves. But with nothing in their possession, everything had to be reconstructed: a home, a safe environment, and most importantly, the hope for restoration.
Sayhon and Nurson were among these survivors. Seeing that their home forest actually had an end had shocked them. In light of this fact, they had to reconsider all their thoughts from scratch. This was not to be done publicly, because the colony was struggling for survival. Amidst this new land of uncertainties, everyone was in need of a certainty to cling to, and the suppositions of Sayhon and Nurson were the last thing they looked for.
As the colony’s efforts for reconstruction and the internal quests of these two ants continued, they came across the most unexpected thing: another ant colony just like them. It was as shocking to the native ants as it was to themselves. And as their relationship deepened, it was a subtle, mind-altering experience for all of them to see that they both had religious texts telling the same brief story about the origin of life.