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What Is Cosmogony?

Understanding the origins of the universe is the main focus of cosmogony.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2014
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"Cosmogony" is a term that is used to define the study of the universe, with special attention to its origins. Sometimes identified as a specialized subcategory of astronomy or cosmology, cosmogony is also sometimes classed as a philosophy, since the study does include consideration of the creation stories found in many religions. At its best, cosmogony seeks to incorporate the discovery of new information into the process of understanding the origins of the universe and how it continues to function.

The study of cosmogony differs somewhat from the study of cosmology. While both approaches have to do with the universe, cosmology is more concerned with studying what is happening with the universe in the here and now, with some attention to studying the events that led up to the present state. By contrast, cosmogony is more focused on how the universe came to be and following the course of events that transpired from that starting point. The idea with both approaches is to better understand the reality that humankind lives in and perceives, although each method goes about the process from a different vantage point.

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Depending on the background and mindset of the cosmogonist, the pursuit of cosmogony may focus primarily on the consideration and interpretation of scientific data, both from the perspective of contemporary scientists and the observations of others throughout the centuries. At other times, scrutiny of the creation stories and observations about the universe that are found within various world religions and the writings of theologians may also be part of the process, attempting to relate those observations to what is currently known about the physical universe. Debates on what type of information should and should not be considered valid data for use in cosmogony are ongoing, with some favoring scientific evidence to the exclusion of theological contributions and others insisting that theological insights must be included in order to advance the movement toward greater discovery.

At its best, cosmogony helps to provide new perspectives of data that is already used in part to help humanity understand the nature of the universe. Depending on the position of those who participate in this type of study effort, various approaches may appear somewhat self-limiting, effectively blocking the path to greater understanding. Just as many scientific and philosophical pursuits may be approached from more than one perspective, cosmogonists with varying ideas on how to understand the origins of the universe may approach the task using different types of data in hopes of eventually solving the ultimate mystery of how reality came to be.

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