How Did Everything Begin?: Animations on the Origins of the Universe Narrated by X‑Files Star Gillian Anderson

Back in Novem­ber, we brought you the BBC series of short ani­mat­ed videos, A His­to­ry of Ideas. Pro­duced in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the UK’s Open Uni­ver­si­ty and nar­rat­ed by Har­ry Shear­er, these fun intro­duc­tions to such philoso­phers as Simone de Beau­voir and Edmund Burke, and such weighty philo­soph­i­cal top­ics as free will and the prob­lem of evil, make chal­leng­ing, abstract con­cepts acces­si­ble to non-philoso­phers. Now the series is back with a new chap­ter, “How Did Every­thing Begin?,” a sur­vey of sev­er­al the­o­ries of the ori­gins of the uni­verse, from Thomas Aquinas’ philo­soph­i­cal spec­u­la­tions, to Hin­du cos­mol­o­gy; and from the­olo­gian William Paley’s design argu­ment (below), and the the­o­ry of the Big Bang (above).

The two videos here present an inter­est­ing coun­ter­point between the ori­gin the­o­ries of astro­physics and the­ol­o­gy. Though cur­rent day intel­li­gent design pro­po­nents deny it, there is still much of William Paley’s argu­ment, at least in style, in their expla­na­tions of cre­ation. First pro­pound­ed in his 1802 work Nat­ur­al The­ol­o­gy, the theologian’s famous watch­mak­er analogy—which he extend­ed to the design of the eye, and every­thing else—gave Charles Dar­win much to puz­zle over, though David Hume had sup­pos­ed­ly refut­ed Paley’s argu­ments 50 years ear­li­er. The Big Bang the­o­ry—a term cre­at­ed by its fore­most crit­ic Fred Hoyle as a pejorative—offers an entire­ly nat­u­ral­is­tic account of the universe’s ori­gins, one that pre­sup­pos­es no inher­ent pur­pose or design.

As with the pre­vi­ous videos, these are script­ed by for­mer Open Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor and host of the Phi­los­o­phy Bites pod­cast, Nigel War­bur­ton. This time around the videos are nar­rat­ed by Gillian Ander­son, whose voice you may not imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nize. Rather than sound­ing like Dana Scul­ly, her famous X‑Files char­ac­ter, Ander­son speaks in a British accent, which she slips into eas­i­ly, hav­ing lived in the UK for much of her child­hood and now again as an adult. (You may have seen Ander­son in many of the Eng­lish peri­od dra­mas she has appeared in, or in British crime dra­ma The Fall or Michael Winterbottom’s uproar­i­ous adap­ta­tion of Tris­tram Shandy.)

These fas­ci­nat­ing spec­u­la­tive theories—whether sci­en­tif­ic or mythological—are sure to appeal to fans of the X‑Files, who can per­haps begin to believe again, or remain skep­ti­cal, thanks to news that Ander­son may reteam with Chris Carter and David Duchovny for a reboot of the clas­sic sci-fi series.

Watch the remain­ing videos in the series below:

Thomas Aquinas and the First Mover Argu­ment

Hin­du Cre­ation Sto­ries

Relat­ed Con­tent:

A His­to­ry of Ideas: Ani­mat­ed Videos Explain The­o­ries of Simone de Beau­voir, Edmund Burke & Oth­er Philoso­phers

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps – Peter Adamson’s Pod­cast Still Going Strong

Free Online Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es (130 in Total)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.