"ARE YOU GOD?" Phil asked.
"Well, there, you see. Had an inkling that's the kind of thing you meant. No good answer, of course. I suppose it's 'Yes and No.'"
"Yes and No?"
"It's your world, you see. Brilliant idea. Loved it. Make everything so specific . Still think it's got possibilities. The idea. Not so sure about the execution. Still..."
"Did you create the universe?"
"That's better. Thank you. Much better. Still... 'Yes and No,' I'm afraid. Getting much warmer, though."
"Is this a guessing game? Am I supposed to be..."
"Not that way, no. Just have trouble getting down to your—you're so finite you see, so finite and so specific , at the same time. It's the combination, I think. Most of them are finite, after all. The infinite ones tend to run amok, take way too much intervention, on the long view. While yours, on the other hand. Well, that gets back to your question, doesn't it?"
"Did I create your universe?"
"You said, 'Yes and No.'"
"Right. Depends, you see, on what you mean . In your world—United States, right? Twenty-first century?—in your world, you have trees, yes? And you have farmers. Plant them, so they can harvest the wheat. Would you say a farmer created a tree?"
"Well, no. I wouldn't. I mean, he doesn't even create the seed..."
"Oh. Right. Bad example, then. Twenty-first century, hmm? Let's see... Bioengineering , right?"
"You mean, have I heard of it? Yes. I have."
"Closer. Still not... Have a phenomenal bioengineering lab, right? Put together any DNA string you can imagine. Put this string together. Got some ideas, right? Not completely random. But can't know what it's going to do. Drop it in a Petri dish, let it bubble away for a while... Out pops this creature. DNA isn't the same you originally strung ... Evolving, you see. Necessary part of the process. Following so far?"
"I think so."
"Create certain conditions, not the final result... Not the details."
"That's what you did, with the universe?"
"Reasonably close. Not DNA. Conditions before the Big Bang. Certainly didn't know, in advance, mind you, couldn't know your exact planet would get all furry. Didn't even know it would exist. Expected intelligence of some kind, sooner or later... No idea where, really, or when."
"You just start these little experiments, then, and let them run?"
"Fascinating, really. Wish it were possible to show you some of the more interesting ones..."
"And then, when one of these universes begins to produce souls..."
"Back to that. Questions. What makes you... Well, you're here, aren't you? You would think... given your background..."
"Something like the 'God' thing, you see. Not really 'God'... Not so a theologian would recognize me... Same thing with 'souls'. Only the other way round. Most of the 'God' thing is fantasy, only the germ has some truth. Opposite with souls—mostly true, only the germ is false."
"I still don't quite see..."