Sample History Paper of how the Universe and the things in it came to be


Question 1

Around the world, there are different stories of how the Universe and the things in it came to be. Many of the stories are told from a traditionalist point of view with every ancient community around the world having their own opinions and views of the origin of the universe. According to ethnologists and anthropologists, these stories are referred to as “origin stories.” There are various origin stories with some based on real people and events and others on merely imaginative stories or accounts. Although origin stories may revolve around emotional and powerful symbols conveying a certain level of truth, the fact that they revolve may not be in a literal sense. These stories have evolved over the years and have been overtaken by events such as the spread of religions such as Christianity around the world. People are more inclined or tend to believe stories they are familiar with.

One famous traditional origin story is that told by the Iroquois people who inhabit North America. The story revolves around a great turtle that played a key role in the creation of the Universe. In the story, the first people lived beyond the sky as the earth was non-existent. During this time, a chief’s daughter contracted an incurable disease. A wise old man then suggested that the girl would be cured if a tree was dug up and the girl put beside the hole. In the process of digging the hole, the tree fell through the hold and the girl was dragged along. Deep inside the hole was a sheet of water with two floating swans, which looked, saw the girl, swam toward her and later took her to the Great Turtle who was the leaders of the animals(Marina, 2005).The Great Turtle then opined that the girl had appeared from the sky thus was a sign of good fortune. It was later suggested that an island was to be made for the girl using earth that was put on the back of the turtle. Digging up earth proved a huge challenge for the animals as most of them died in the process. The only animal that was successful in digging up earth and bringing the same to the Great Turtle was the old lady Toad (Marina, 2005).  Upon resurfacing from the deep hole, old lady Toad spit dirt on the Great Turtle’s back. The dirt became magical earth that had the power of growth. It grew into a big island and the woman was settled on it. The island grew to become the world and was supported by great waters on the Turtle’s back.

Another traditional origin story is that told by the Mayans who inhabited the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico between 250CE to 900CE. According to the story, in the beginning there was only the sky and pool of sea water under it. At the time, the face of the earth could not be seen clearly. Additionally, in the sky were makers called the Heart of Sky who worked hand in hand with makers in the sea (Plumed Serpent) in planning the dawn of life. The makers’ words brought forth the earth, followed by the separation of mountains from water with the sky and earth being set apart in the midst of the waters (Beukers, 2013, p. 31). The makers in the sky then brought forth animals to occupy the mountains and they were later joined by the birds. Fortunately, both animals and birds could not talk but just howled and squawked. A decision was later reached to create a person. Consequently, wooden carvings that were human in speech and looks were created and later multiplied.  However, a flood caused serious destruction and killed the wooden carvings. The story further suggests that the final people to occupy the earth were made from corn.

The two origin stories are similar and different in one way or the other from the origin story I grew up knowing, which is the creation story from the Christian perspective. The creation story argues that God is responsible for the creation of the Universe from plants and animals to humans (Jackson, 2000). It is almost similar to the story told by Mayans of powerful makers whose word brought forth the universe. In the Christian story, it is God’s word that brought forth the Universe and everything in it. However, this story is different from that told by the Iroquois people who believe that the creation and rise of the Universe revolve around a Great Turtle. According to the Christian creation story, the Universe was inexistent and not even animals existed.

Learning about different origin stories has impacted my worldview in that I am now aware of where and how humans and the entire Universe came into being. The Judeo-Christian origin story, for instance, has influenced my belief in the existence of God and why he plays an important role in our day-to-day lives.

Question 2

There is a significant relationship between the emergence of complexity, energy flows, and the Goldilocks conditions. However, it is important to understand the meaning of these concepts to figure out the relationship between them. For almost 13.8 billion years that the Universe has existed, quite complex things have appeared. One of the most complex things in the Universe is humans. Complexity is just but a quality, like being hot or cold (Spier, 2004). Things can be simple and complex at the same time. Three qualities define the complexity of something. First is diversity in ingredients implying that the more the bits and pieces and the more varied these bits and pieces are, the more complex something is. Second is precise arrangement which infers that in simple things there is no consideration to the arrangement of ingredients although there is quite a precise arrangement of bits and pieces in complex things. The third quality of complexity is emergent properties, which means that once ingredients are arranged correctly, there is the likelihood that they can do things they could not do when they were not organized correctly.

There is a great relationship between complexity and energy flows. The history of the Universe reveals that all forms of physical, cultural, and biological complexity emerged on their own (Spier, 2004). A scientific approach thus rejects the argument about the influence of supernatural forces on bringing forth complexity.  In day-to-day life, people observe the breakdown of complexity into chaos (Spier, 2011). An example is how cities’ refuse can result in their choking. There emergence of complexity is also believed to occur when energy lows through matter hence the relationship between the two concepts. Energy flow through matter results in more complex structures. There is also a great relationship between complexity and the Goldilocks conditions. Goldilocks conditions refer to the right environments, right ingredients, and the right energy flows. Complex things can only be found where the conditions, energy flows, environments, and ingredients for making them are right (Chaisson, 2014).

Numerous perspectives have been brought to Big History from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The contribution of the sciences to Big History is evident in best evidence from sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology being woven together to come up with a story explaining the origin of the Universe and various components in it. From the perspective of chemistry as a science, the focus is not on balancing chemical equations but how various chemical elements came out of the death of stars and played a part in the origin of the Universe. Humanities also contributed greatly to the Big History as evidenced in the fact that Big History draws most of its findings from a wide range of humanities, including archaeology, geography, ancient history, paleontology, cosmology, natural history, as well as population and environmental studies. Social sciences have also brought various perspectives and concepts to Big History, and one of these is the word “system” (Spier,2011). The integration and key contribution of the term “system” in Big History is attributed to the social system approach that was largely advocated for in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s by a renowned sociologist Talcott Parsons.

Question 3

Big History teaches how humans came to spread across the globe and when it took place. Big History reveals that Africa is the cradle of humans who then migrated to other parts of the world. The migration of the human species, Homo sapiens, from Africa was triggered by a warm interglacial interlude within the Ice Age. It is believed that the Ice Age was between 130,000 and 90,000 years ago and was followed by the cooling of the climate from around 70,000years ago resulting in the formation of glaciers on the tops of mountain ranges thus cutting off north-west and north-east Africa from each other (Gugliotta,2008). According to Big History, this physical separation of species paved the way for small variations among species thus creating diversity. The mentioned changes led to the four main ethnic groups of modern humans; Khoisan who are African, Caucasian who are European, Mongolian who are Chinese and American Indian, as well as Aboriginal who occupy Australia(The Independent, 2009).The small variations and creation of diversity as well as the resultant four main ethic groups brought about the notion of race that is widely talked about in today’s society.

Big History also teaches that from around 60,000 years, the four main ethnic groups migrated from Africa at different directions of the world at their own time. In the migration led to few genetic differences that are evident today in terms of color, hair, and eyes among others. It is believed that some of the Homo sapiens spread across Asia and in the process caused the displacement of Neanderthals who inhabited the region. Big History reveals that Homo sapiens displaced the Neanderthals through hunting them, depriving them of food, and gradually absorbing them into their species through interbreeding (The Independent, 2009). Other homo sapiens who occupied Asia moved south to occupy China and India, where they learned how to build rafts. Migration of humans into Australia came around 40,000 years ago. For several years, Australia had served as a preserve for marsupial mammals and the migration to the region was because it became a human hunting ground.

Homo sapiens walked eastwards out of Africa and then moved towards the north via the Middle East and finally into Europe. According to Big History, the mentioned movement took place around 50,000 years ago (The Independent, 2009). The migration of humans from Africa into Europe saw them introduce numerous changes in Europe in terms of lifestyle, technology, as well as culture. Concerning culture, once humans migrated into Europe, they deigned the world’s first spears that were used mainly for flight instead of close-range use as was witnessed with the clubs made by Neanderthals. The period from around 50,000 years ago is believed to have marked a turnaround for humans because of the dramatic increase in the complexity of tools used by humans. Humans took part in carving where they relied on bone, antlers, and tusks to make ornaments as well as other household items such as spoon-like oil lamps, needles for sewing, and jewelry in the form of pendants and necklaces (The Independent, 2009). During this period the earth was cooler. However, it is believed that the last of the great ice sheet swept down from the North Pole roughly 22,000 years but disappeared later after 12,000 years. The changes in the climate led humans to develop various adaptations such as pale skin that increased the production Vitamin D, which is important in bone formation.

The arrival of humans in Britain took place around 20,000 years ago (The Independent, 2009). These individuals walked across the British channel from France because the area was not flooded. Nonetheless, they were not the first to arrive as the Homo erectus species had inhabited Britain about 700,000 years ago. Around 15,000 years ago, a huge land bridge connected Russia’s eastern tip to Alaska thanks to giant glaciers than sunk sea levels. The bridge allowed humans to walk on foot from Asia to North America, which until then had not been occupied by humans (The Independent, 2009). Big History teaches that both North and South America were the last regions of the world to be occupied by man, and are still referred to as “the New World.”

Question 4

Humans’ day-to-day lives revolve around agriculture and its products. Agriculture can be defined as the art and science of soil cultivation, growth of crops, as well as raising livestock. It also entails the preparation of animal and plant products for use by people domestically and distribution to markets. Agriculture was developed about 11,500 years ago resulting in the rise of civilizations. Before civilization, humans spent their lives searching for food by gathering wild plants and hunting wild animals (Miller&Wetterstrom,2000). They then gradually settled down and learned how to grow cereals and root crops. Eventually, they shifted from hunting and gathering to farming. It is believed that by 2,000 years ago, a significant percentage of the population of the earth dependent on agriculture. Although no single factor led to the development of agriculture, climatic changes that were witnessed around the earth at that time pushed humans to embrace agriculture. The development of agriculture several years ago can also be attributed to the increasing pressure put on available natural resources. Some of these resources included wild animals and plants hence humans were forced into domesticating animals and plants. The key events during the development of agriculture were plant and animal domestication.

Humans’ efforts to domesticate plants began in the Near East region with the focus on crops such as peas, barley, and wheat (Miller &Wetterstrom, 2000). In the last 9,000 years ago, cereals were already being grown in some countries such as Syria. Figs were also cultivated since around 11,300 years ago. The fact that humans moved from a nomadic life to a more settled and organized way of life was marked by what are referred to as Neolithic villages. These villages were characterized by activities such as stone grinding to help in the processing of grains. In China, during the Neolithic period, some of the cereals that were first domesticated were rice and millet. In 2007, experts discovered the oldest rice paddy filed in eastern China. It is this discover that revealed some of the oldest techniques of cultivation such as food and fire control.  Squash cultivation can be traced to Mexico where the practice is believed to have begun almost 10,000 years ago. On the contrary, it is believed that the domestication of plants such as maize began almost 9,000 years ago with the first directly dated corn dating to around 5,500 years ago. It later spread to other parts of the world such as North America that had also begun farming potatoes and sunflowers. How humans domesticated or reared animals can also be traced to the Neolithic period, and countries in Asia including Iraq, Turkey, and southwestern Iraq had started to rear animals such as pigs, goats, sheep, and cattle between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago. The practice of domesticating animals gradually spread toward the west into Europe into Europe thus helping to revolutionize Stone Age society. Animal domestication had a significant impact on people in Europe. The lives of Europeans came to revolve around animal domestication, and as high as 90 percent of the population in northern nations descended from people who practiced cow herding.

Since its development11,500 years ago, agriculture has become important to individuals and society as a whole. First, agriculture is important as it serves as a source of livelihood for many people (Mellor, 2017). It is estimated that 70 percent of the world population relies directly on agriculture as a source of livelihood. The overdependence on agriculture is because of the slow development of non-agricultural activities that can absorb the ever-increasing global population. Second, agriculture’s importance is evident in its significant contribution to national and international revenue. For instance, agriculture is the major source of revenue for many developing countries. In most developed countries, agriculture makes minimal contribution to national revenue (Mellor, 2017). Third, agriculture is important given its contribution to the development of international trade. An array of agricultural products such as tobacco, tea, coffee, sugar, rice, and others make a significant percentage of items exported by countries that are reliant on agriculture. Agriculture is also important as the sector contributes to marketable surplus, serves as a source of raw materials, and contributes to the growth and development of the global transport sector.




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