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The Very Beginning

By Noel Singleton

People once figured the Earth to be flat,
But now anybody knows better than that.
A number of notions have come into doubt
Since science developed and straightened us out.

Some time ago, people who asked might be told,
“The world is six thousand and fourteen years old.”
But now we’ve picked up information they lacked,
And know that four BILLION is closer to fact.

The Bible, it turns out, is not quite correct.
According to evidence clear and direct,
The word “evolution” sums up a true story:
How life came about in its wonder and glory.

The very beginning of all time and space
Was when an explosion---the Big Bang---took place.
Matter burst into existence that day,
And energy happened the same sudden way.

“Creation” is not the best word for that blast,
Since no one was there in the most remote past
To plan it or cause it, or be pleased to see
The bright birth of all that was ever to be.

It was quite a bit later when stars came about,
And much longer still before many burned out,
Collapsing, then blowing up, spreading around
The various elements nowadays found.

Space-dust and hydrogen drifted and swirled
And formed the nine planets, including this world.
At the center, when gravity’s project was done,
There dazzled a nuclear furnace---the Sun.

With land spewing lava and sea all a-brew,
The new planet Earth had some cooling to do.
Asteroids, comets, a wild atmosphere---
Took millions of years for the weather to clear.

But these were the very conditions it took
For chemicals we are all based on to cook.
Ingredients known as life’s “building blocks”
Would boil in the puddles and bake on the rocks.

When compounds of carbon build up a long chain
(Like beads on a necklace or cars in a train),
They don’t need instructions or coaxing to do it---
It’s how they behave and that’s all there is to it.

Though some will debate it, good scientists know
The process got started that way, long ago,
As something like protein developed by chance
And DNA’s ancestor joined in the dance.

Now maybe such things don’t occur overnight;
In dozens of millions of years they sure might.
And once that had happened, some molecules found
They could copy themselves from the parts all around.

Tiny bubbles and blobs with the right stuff inside
Then rolled out to sea via river and tide...
Though hardly complex, those wee globules were set---
Each one had a chance at the best system yet.

The chemical processes slowly proceeded...
One case in the billions at random succeeded
In starting a process of enzyme production,
Or any such breakthrough in life’s great construction.

The substance exchanged when two systems collided,
Or shared when one ruptured and roughly divided,
Arrived at a protocell type that worked best---
Which then might outnumber and outdo the rest.

The very most primitive fossil-rock tells
Of bacteria, algae and similar cells.
At last photosynthesis came to exist,
And oxygen bubbled up into the mist.

Whenever mutation produced a new feature
That helped in the life of a single-celled creature,
The trait was passed on to the new generation
And gave them an edge in the next situation.

Competing to get the most out of existence,
Protozoa made progress at Nature’s insistence.
But then certain groups of them tried something new
And discovered that they could cooperate, too.

Many-celled beings began to appear---
That’s when the adventure got into high gear,
With sea-lilies, trilobites, mollusks and such
Waving and swimming and living so much.

Of species that washed up on warm ancient sand,
A few mutants luckily thrived on dry land.
The challenge of life has no easy solution,
But taking a chance led to more evolution.

The shifting of continents, mountains that rose,
And changes in climate when much of Earth froze...
Disaster for some was for others okay---
The very best stories begin the hard way.

Of dinosaurs much has been written and said;
The last one is sixty-five million years dead...
Their images awesome, they still fascinate
As everyone “digs” dino sagas of late.

Those giants were ages asleep in the ground
When some of the warm-blooded furries around
Adapted to life in the trees for a change---
The safer to sleep, and the farther to range.

The babies of those who proved clever and able
Would likely have lives that were rather more stable.
Their bright eyes reflected the greatest of gains,
A primate’s advantage---superior brains!

A few million more years, and here we all are,
Looking back on the fortunes that brought us this far.
As caretakers, children of marvellous birth,
Let’s try to protect this most wonderful Earth.

Copyright © 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 by American Atheists.