Modern Creation Myth: Thoughts on Abiogenesis by Richard Mans

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January 20, 2015 by katmcdaniel

In our time, the tantalizing mystery of Creation is usually explored through science or religion. Can art provide vision also?

This short film, Abiogenesis by Richard Mans, produced by Fuzzy Realms, is an interesting take on the subject of life and its origins. A machine lands on a desolate planet, finds resources there and begins to create life. The animation is beautifully detailed; mechanical and biological forms are rendered in intricate clarity. The film is a fantastic fusion of images from the scientific and technical world with those from mythological and faith sources. I am especially drawn to the pools that exist on this bleak planet, which remind me so much of the colorful geothermal areas of Yellowstone National Park, and to the glorious representation of the Tree of Life that springs, volcanic, from the ground. This is an amazing work, full of deep connotations and new flights of thought.

Abiogenesis is the generation of life from that which is not alive. It doesn’t have the same implications as spontaneous generation, which implies that living tissue can randomly generate from non-living tissue. This is exemplified in the belief, held by scientists as recently as the 19th century, that maggots generated from rotting flesh. We now know that flies lay eggs on dead flesh, which hatch maggots. I think Mans gives a nod to this when he makes the collecting units of the machine look like flies, before they transform into motorcycles and race back to the landing module, where the “magic” happens. The next sequence is breathtaking, as life erupts on the planet. Rhian Sheehan’s musical score is wonderfully effective here. Kudos to sound designers Justin Doyle, Michelle Child and Dave Whitehead who round out the impressive team of artists at Fuzzy Realms.

I love the ending, the capsule reassembling into its original form and departing, ostensibly with the purpose of creating life on other worlds. We don’t know who created this machine, or how it was made, but I think most will agree that it is delightful and exhibits forethought and purpose, as well as some sort of Providence.

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The earliest texts humanity produced were Creation myths, set down in writing after being passed down by generations of storytellers. It seems that, since we became self-aware, we’ve always wanted to know why and how we came to be on this planet. Faith has sought to deal with questions of purpose and science with the mechanics of the creative process. In modern times these two branches of inquiry have come into desperate conflict. Troubles arise most quickly when faith tackles mechanics and when science ascribes purpose. These difficulties become almost insurmountable when people seek to impose their assumptions, drawn from their own experience and training, on others. We can only believe that which we are prepared to believe. Does this mean that the modern human must make a choice between having purpose and having knowledge? What an ominous decision.

The arts are uniquely positioned to help work through this crisis. Artists do not only study or theorize about the creative process, they live it. In order to produce an artistic creation, elements of purpose and mechanical facility must come together. If anyone can integrate and synthesize faith and science it is the artist, and Mans does a wonderful job with this video.

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Each of us stands in a different place, with very different light. The more we share with one another the more expansive our sight becomes.

Images are © Fuzzy Realms and are used in accordance with Fair Use Policy.

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One thought on “Modern Creation Myth: Thoughts on Abiogenesis by Richard Mans

  1. […] 4. Modern Creation Myth: Thoughts on Abiogenesis by Richard Mans […]

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