Origin belief

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The term origin belief refers to stories and explanations which describe the beginnings of humanity, earth, life, and the universe. Origins beliefs commonly refer to creation mythsmytho-religious stories which explain the beginnings of the universe as a deliberate act of "creation" by a supreme being. "Origin belief" may be generalized to include non-religious claims and theories based in contemporary science or philosophy—the Theory of evolution and the Big Bang fall into this category.

As with any set of beliefs, opinions regarding the validity of particular origins beliefs differ —points of view on these subjects vary widely.

The term "creation myth" may be seen as offensive when used to describe stories which are still believed today, as the term "myth" suggests ideas which are absurd or fictional. These beliefs and stories need not be a literal account of actual events, but may express what are perceived to be truths at a deeper or more symbolic level. Author Daniel Quinn notes that in this sense creation myths need not be religious in nature, and they have secular forms in modern cultures.

Many creation beliefs share broadly similar themes. Common motifs include the fractionation of the things of the world from a primordial chaos; the separation of the mother and father gods; land emerging from an infinite and timeless ocean; and so on.

Some religious groups assert that creation beliefs should replace or complement scientific accounts of the development of life and the cosmos. This assertion has proven highly controversial. For an account of this debate, see creation-evolution controversy.


Science-based beliefs

Science, strictly speaking, deals only with observable phenomena. Anything that cannot be observed (either directly or indirectly) is, by definition, not a subject of scientific investigation. Scientists look for patterns among observations, which give rise to hypotheses to be tested against further observations. If a hypothesis passes these tests, it is then called a scientific theory, which again is subject to amendment or rejection based on new observations.

The ability of scientists to analyse unique and non-recurring events in the distant past (such as the creation of the universe) is limited, because such events cannot be directly observed and are difficult to repeat experimentally. However, science may be able to measure some of the effects of such events (for instance, via the microwave echo of the big bang) and interpret these observations within a scientific framework. By extrapolating the current observed state of affairs into the past, scientists seek to construct an accurate picture of the past. Those who are strict adherents to philosophical naturalism believe that such is all that is possible to know. This is not a universally accepted idea by any means, and there are many who promote other paths to knowledge which are not characterised as scientific inquiry.

In scientific theories supported by the mainstream scientific community, the universe and life is described as developing through solely natural causes, and the progress of science is hoped to continue to improve the explanation of things and events in the past.

Creation science is a creationist effort to integrate science and Abrahamic faith by allowing for both supernatural causes of phenomena as generally described by creation according to Genesis and the application of the scientific method in interpreting observable phenomena. It is rejected as pseudoscience by the mainstream scientific community.

Accepted mainstream scientific theories

The Big Bang theory is the dominant cosmological theory about the early development and current shape of the universe. The ultimate origin of the preconditions for the universe is currently a subject of speculation, and some believe it is beyond the bounds of scientific inquiry. The solar nebula is considered the best planetary system formation model available for explaining the origin of the solar system. The Earth-moon system was formed out of this as described by the Giant impact theory.

The modern evolutionary synthesis is the dominant biological theory about the origin of human life on Earth. This combines Charles Darwin's theory of the evolution of species by natural selection with Gregor Mendel's theory of genetics as the basis for biological inheritance.

The origin of life itself on Earth is more contested. Scientific conjectures, hypotheses, and observations pertaining to this topic are detailed in the article on the origin of life.

It should be pointed out that the above scientific theories are not ex nihilo beliefs, that is they do not start from nothing. They provide no mechanism for the origin ex nihilo of energy or matter. In this respect they are unlike the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic beliefs which assert that the universe, Earth, and life originated in a unique creative act by God, or "scientific" speculations which propose an original cause of some other type. For a more precise understanding of modern science's concepts concerning "matter from vacuum" or "something from nothing" see virtual particle and vacuum energy.

Beliefs grounded in philosophical naturalism

Atomism is an ancient Greek philosophy supported by Democritus, Epicurus and Lucretius which held that events in the universe were not the consequence of any act by a Creator, but rather was the result of atoms moving about randomly. This philosophy was reformulated as determinism after the Enlightenment and still enjoys a following by some scientists, though the character of deterministic interactions in nature involving quantum mechanics is an outstanding question.

The Anthropic Principle and its more controversial derivative the Strong Anthropic Principle are explanations for the existence of humanity with respect to the conditions of the universe that we inhabit. The principle is used as a guide for some scientists to determine certain physical laws that have necessarily resulted in the existence of ourselves. In some sense, the Anthropic Principle is an empirical truism while the Strong Anthropic Principle is an idea that may defy falsification.

Deism was a popular belief of many scientists and philosophers of the post-enlightenment, including Newton, Leibnitz, and Thomas Jefferson that kept the formality of a creator, but allowed creation to function solely based on natural laws that were established at the time of creation. In this formulation, every interaction was completely deterministic.

The Many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the idea of parallel universes are ways of resolving questions of causality and determinism in the framework of probabilistic interactions. In this speculative interpretation, the universe that we inhabit is one of many possible universes that all simultaneously exist, but are independent of each other, and each universe bifurcates with every quantum mechanical "observation".

Creation ex nihilo

Creation ex nihilo (Latin: out of nothing) is at odds with our everyday experiences, in that nothing spontaneously comes into (or vanishes from) existence but instead matter and energy merely change forms. However, quantum mechanics allows for energy to be spontaneously created from the vacuum as long as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is not violated (usually, by the spontaneous annihilation of the created particles, e.g. the Lamb shift). This may give a means by which creation ex nihilo can be achieved, but nevertheless we are not currently able to explain creation ex nihilo, nor even to prove that it is required.

An explanation advanced by some theists is that God created the Universe out of nothing; some creationist hold also that life was created in something like its present state of variety, so that organisms were fully speciated from the beginning. While there are various attempts to square these ideas with available evidence and currently accepted theory, their explanatory utility, predictive power, and scientific standing are questioned by critics of creationism. Many scientists in the relevant fields, theist and otherwise, do not regard notions like divine power or divine will as playing genuine scientific roles in cosmology or biology.

The scientifically prevalent view is that life originated on Earth, although other views hold that organic compounds from comets may have been an important source of material for the appearance of life. The Miller-Urey experiment showed that amino acids could arise from a type of primitive environment. Nevertheless, while scientific research on abiogenesis is ongoing, there is no consensus on how life began.

Religious creation beliefs

Several religions have creation stories, some of which account for the existence and present form of the Universe by the act of creation by a supreme being or creator god. Most of these accounts depict one or several gods fashioning things out of themselves, or from pre-existing material (for example chaos or prakriti).

The scholastic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for the most part speak of creation ex nihilo. This is typified, for example, by the assumption that the first verse of the Christian Bible ("In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth") indicates the only self-existent entity is God with all other things deriving from God. 2 Maccabees 7:28 indicates that this philosophy may have been a common Jewish understanding of creation: "I beseech thee, my son, look upon the heaven and the earth, and all that is therein, and consider that God made them of things that were not ...". Similar to this is the language found in the Book of Hebrews, which states, "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear". Some (notably Augustine of Hippo) also hold that God is altogether outside of time and that time exists only within the created universe.

However, in these traditions, the belief that God gave shape to pre-existing things was not unheard of, and that idea became more fully articulated especially under the influence of Greek philosophy. In both Judaism and Christianity, belief in creation "from nothing" began to dominate the traditions sometime in the second century C.E., in part as a reaction against classical philosophy. The following story from the Talmud illustrates this:

A philosopher said to R. Gamiliel: Your God was a great craftsman, but he found himself good materials which assisted him: Tohu wa-Bohu, and darkness, and wind, and water, and the primeval deep. Said R. Gamiliel to him: May the wind be blown out of that man! Each material is referred to as created. Tohu wa-Bohu: "I make peace and create evil"; darkness: "I form the light and create darkness"; water: "Praise him, ye heaven of heavens, and ye waters" -- why? -- "For he commanded, and they were created"; wind: "For, lo, He that formeth the mountains, and created the wind"; the primeval deep: "When there were no depths, I was brought forth". BR 1.9, Th-Alb:8

Departing from this tradition, some modern scholars have argued that these statements and all others are still susceptible to ambiguous interpretation, so that creation ex nihilo may not be clearly supported by ancient texts, including the Bible. They point out the similarities of the biblical account, to other ancient religious beliefs that the universe was created by God or the gods out of pre-existing matter, as opposed to "out of nothing". Some scholars see evidence that the biblical account, like other ancient religious views, presumes pre-existence of some kind of raw material, albeit without form: "Now the earth was formless and void, darkness was over the face of the deep, and the spirit of God hovered over the waters." God then fashions the disordered material, to create the world.

Limits to the ontology of creation

While many scenarios are proposed by religion and science to identify 'first cause' and the origin of creation (ontology), there are some fundamental limits to the knowledge of humankind that present a barrier to finding any definitive answer.

Post-modern philosophy currently holds that there is nothing that one can know for certain. Kant put a good case to show that because we view the universe through the lens of the mind, which is 'shaped' by space, time, and the things embedded in space and time, it is not possible to see things-in-themselves (noumena) - the real objects that lie behind the subjective objects (phenomena) we recognise. If true, it is beyond the mind of humankind to perceive a condition that has no space or time. Many other philosophers, most recently Popper have all shown that there is precious little one can be sure of that would provide a starting point to determine the 'first cause' that led to creation.

Modern physics is an empirical science based on experiment and observation that characterizes how things happen through scientific theories and physical laws, but ultimately does not answer the question of 'why' things happen at the foundational (ontological) level. For example, the existence of the Big Bang is not predicated on a reason for its occurrence. What's more, the modern physics breaks down at the Planck time/Planck length, where both the influences of quantum mechanics and gravity are required to be combined in order to characterize the interactions that occur. As such, there is no model available that has been tested at this level, and so any attempt to theoretically probe beyond this regime in search of a more fundamental appreciation of the nature of the universe is hampered.

Religion has philosophy and oral testimony available to it to demonstrate a God or a separate "first cause" that called the universe into existence. As such it is dependent on faith in God or the specific "first cause" to which it ascribes.

Creation within various belief systems

Some creation beliefs are part of a named system of beliefs and are labeled as such below. Some creation beliefs seem to be better characterized according to time and/or place as they are part of a human culture in a time/place.


The Babylonian creation myth is described in Enûma Elish. It existed in various versions and copies, the oldest dating to at least 1700 B.C.E.

In the poem, the god Marduk arms himself and sets out to challenge the monster Tiamat. Marduk destroys Tiamat, cutting her into two halves which become the Earth and the sky. Later on, he also destroys Tiamat's husband, Kingu, and uses his blood to create mankind. (Reference: A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia.)


Buddhism does not posit an eternal self or soul. Neither does it posit or assume an absolute first cause of all existence, such as a Creator God in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.


There are five major views of creation in China:

  • The first, and most consistent historically, is that no myth exists. This is not to say there were none existing at all, only that there is no evidence showing an attempt to explain the world's origin.
  • The second view is very indirect. It is merely based on a question of a dialog in an earlier reference. The idea in the question implies that the heavens and the earth separated from one another.
  • The third view is the one perpetuated by Taoism by the nature of its philosophy. It appears "relatively" late in Chinese history. In it, Tao is described as the ultimate force behind the creation. With tao, nothingness gave rise to existence, existence gave rise to yin and yang, and yin and yang gave rise to everything. Due to the ambiguous nature of this myth, it could be compatible with the first myth (and therefore say nothing). But it could, like its antithesis, be explained in a way to better fit the modern scientific view of the creation of universe.
  • The fourth view is the relatively late myth of Pangu. This was an explanation offered by Taoist Monks hundreds of years after LaoZi; probably around +0200 AD. In this story, the universe begins as a cosmic egg. A god named Pangu, born inside the egg, broke it into two halves: The upper half became the sky, the lower half became the earth. As the god grew taller, the sky and the earth grew thicker and were separated further. Finally the god died and his body parts became different parts of the earth.
  • The fifth view would be tribal accounts that vary widely and not necessarily connect to a system of belief.



References to God in the New Testament vary, however, overall they demonstrate an incorporation of the first cause. It should be noted, however, that the Chrisitian conception of God, the holy trinity, is more complex. The following examples illustrate this:

Revelation 1:8 - I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end... that which is, which has been, and that which is yet to come, Almighty God.

John 1:1-4 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints believe that physical reality (space, matter and/or energy) is eternal, and therefore does not have an absolute origin. The Creator is an architect and organizer of pre-mortal matter and energy, who constructed the present universe out of the raw material.


The Creek believe that the world was originally entirely underwater. The only land was a hill, called Nunne Chaha, and on the hill was a house, wherein lived Esaugetuh Emissee ("master of breath"). He created humanity from the clay on the hill.


Missing image

There were at least three separate cosmogenies in Egyptian mythology, corresponding to at least three separate groups of worshippers.

Over time, the rival groups gradually merged, Ra and Atum were identified as the same god, making Atum's mysterious creation actually due to the Ogdoad, and Ra having the children Shu and Tefnut, etc. In consequence, Anubis was identified as a son of Osiris, as was Horus. Amun's role was later thought much greater, and for a time, he became chief god, although he eventually became considered a manifestation of Ra.

For a time, Ra and Horus were identified as one another, and when the Aten monotheism was unsuccessfully introduced, it was Ra-Horus who was thought of as the Aten, and the consequent cosmogony this inspired. Later, Osiris' cult became more popular, and he became the main god, being identified as a form of Ptah. Eventually, all the gods were thought of as aspects of Osiris, Isis, Horus, or Set (who was by now a villain), indeed, Horus and Osiris had started to become thought of as the same god. . Ptah eventually was identified as Osiris

Classical Greece

Plato, in his dialogue Timaeus, describes a creation myth involving a being called the demiurge.

Hesiod, in his Theogony, says that Chaos existed in the beginning, and then gave birth to Gaia (the Earth), Tartarus (the Underworld), Eros (desire), Nyx (the darkness of the night) and Erebus (the darkness of the Underworld). Gaia brought forth Ouranos, the starry sky, her equal, to cover her, the hills, and the fruitless deep of the Sea, Pontus, "without sweet union of love," out of her own self. But afterwards, Hesiod tells, she lay with Heaven and bore the World-Ocean Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and the Titans Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and Phoebe of the golden crown and lovely Tethys. "After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire." Cronos, at Gaia's urging, castrates Ouranos. He marries Rhea who bears him Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Zeus and his brothers overthrow Cronos and the other Titans, then draw lots to determine what each of them will rule. Zeus draws land, Poseidon draws sea, and Hades draws death.


"The Mahaa-Vishnu, into whom all the innumerable universes enter and from whome they come forth again simply by His breathing process, is a plenary expansion of Krishna. Therefore I worship Govinda, Krishna, the cause of all causes." (Brahma-samhitaa 5.48)

In Hindu philosophy, the existence of the universe is governed by the triumvirate- The Trimurti of Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Sustainer) and Shiva (the Destroyer). The sequence of Avatars of Vishnu- the Dasavatara (Sanskrit: Dasa—ten,Avatara—incarnation) is generally accepted by most Hindus today as correlating well with Darwin's theory of evolution, the first Avatar generating from the environment of water:.

Hindus thus do not see much conflict between creation and evolution. An additional reason for this could also be the Hindu concept of cyclic time, in some (4?) billion year cycles (unlike the concept of linear time in many other religions). In fact, time is represented as a wheel- 'Kaala Chakra'- Wheel of Time:.

In Hinduism, nature and all of God's creations are manifestations of Him. He is within and without his creations, pervading the entire universe and also observing it as an external observer. Hence all animals and humans have a divine element in them, that is covered by the ignorance and illusions of material existence.

An interesting point is that though Brahma is considered the Creator, unlike Vishnu and Shiva, there are very few temples of worship for Brahma. The only historic temple of Brahma in India (dating to the 14th Century) is the Jagatpita temple in Pushkar, Rajastan.


The Elders say that the first Hopi had chosen to live in this barren desert so that they would always need to pray for rain and thus not lose faith in their ceremonies which maintain their bond with the Mother nature and Creator. They said that the True Hopi people represents the Red race through the authority vested in them by the Creator, Maasaw.


The Incan account of creation is known based on what was recorded by priests, from the iconography on Incan pottery and architecture, and the myths and legends which survived amongst the native peoples. According to these accounts, in the most ancient of times the earth was covered in darkness. Then, out of a lake called Collasuyu (modern Titicaca), the god Con Tiqui Viracocha emerged, bringing some human beings with him. Then Con Tiqui created the sun (Inti), the moon and the stars to light the world. It is from Inti that the Sapa Inca, emperor of Tawantinsuyu, is descended. Out of great rocks Con Tiqui fashioned more human beings, including women who were already pregnant. Then he sent these people off into every comer of the world. He kept a male and female with him at Cuzco, the "navel of the world."

Con, the Creator; was in the form of a man without bones. He filled the earth with good things to supply the needs of the first humans. The people, however, forgot Con's goodness to them and rebelled. So he punished them by stopping the rainfall. The miserable people were forced to work hard, drawing what little water they could find from stinking, drying riverbeds. Then a new god, Pachacamac, came and drove Con out, changing his people into monkeys. Pachachamac then took earth and made the ancestors of human beings..

The founder of the first dynasty of the kingdom of Cuzco was Manco Capac. In one legend he was brought up from the depths of Lake Titicaca by the sun god Inti. In another he was the son of Tici Viracocha. However commoners were not allowed to speak the name of Viracocha, which is possibly an explanation for the need for two foundation legends.

In one myth Manco Capac was the brother of Pachacamac, both were sons of the sun god Inti who is also known as Apu Punchau. Manco Capac himself was worshiped as a fire and sun god. According to the Inti legend, Manco Capac and his siblings were sent up to the earth by the sun god and emerged from the cave of Pacaritambo carrying a golden staff, called ‘tapac-yauri’. They were instructed to create a Temple of the Sun in the spot where the staff sank into the earth, they traveled to Cusco via underground caves, and built a temple in honor of the sun god Inti, their father. During the journey to Cuzco, one of Manco’s brothers, and possibly one of his sisters, were turned to stone (huaca). In another version of this legend, instead of emerging from a cave in Cuzco, the siblings instead emerged from the waters of Lake Titicaca.

In the Tici Virachocha legend, Manco Capac was the son of Tici Viracocha of Pacari-Tampu (today Pacaritambo, 25 km south of Cuzco). He and his brothers (Ayar Anca, Ayar Cachi and Ayar Uchu) and sisters (Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Raua and Mama Cura) lived near Cuzco at Paccari-Tampu, and united their people and ten ayllu they encountered in their travels to conquer the tribes of the Cuzco Valley. This legend also incorporates the golden staff, which is thought to have been given to Manco Capac by his father. Accounts vary, but according to some versions of the legend, the young Manco jealously betrayed his older brothers, killed them, and became the sole ruler of Cuzco.


In Islam all creation is attributed to Allah (the proper name for God in Arabic), the one and only God for Muslims. He is clearly identified as the "first cause" at numerous places in the Qur'an. Three instances follow:

(13:16) … Say: Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Supreme

(57:3) … He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He is Knower of all things

(112:1) … Say: He, Allah, is One

(112:2) … Allah is He on Whom all depend

Referring to the first cause argument the Qur'an addresses the non-believers:

(52:35) … Or were they created without a (creative) agency? Or are they the creators?

(52:36) … Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, they are sure of nothing.


The god Izanagi and goddess Izanami churned the ocean with a spear to make a small island of curdled salt. Two deities went down to the island, mixed there, and bore main islands, deities, and forefathers of Japan. See Japanese mythology#Creation of the world.



The notion of "Tzimtzum", or God's retraction to make way for space and time, is a core element to the Jewish approach to the First Cause notion, as explored by Rabbi Moses Maimonides.


The Maya of Mesoamerica creation story is recounted in the book "Popol Vuh". In the beginning there is only sky and sea, personified as a trinity of gods called Heart-of-Sky. They decide that they want someone to praise them. They begin by saying "Earth", which appears on demand from the sea. This is followed by mountains and trees, and Heart-of-Sky establish that "our work is going well". Next for creation are the creatures of the forest: birds, deer, jaguars and snakes. They are told to multiply and scatter, and then to speak and "pray to us". But the animals just squawk and howl. They are consequently humbled and will become servants to whoever will worship Heart-of-Sky. So Heart-of-Sky try to make some more respectful creatures from mud. But the results are not great, and they allow the new race to be washed away. They call upon their grandparents, who suggest wood as an appropriate medium. But the wooden people are just mindless robots, so Heart-of Sky set about the destruction of this new race by means of a rain-storm. This causes the animals to turn against the wooden people; even their pots and querns rebel, and crush the peoples' faces. The wooden people escape to the forests and are turned into monkeys. Heart-of-Sky then make yet another attempt at creating a suitably respectful race, and finally succeed by fashioning humans out of maize-corn dough.


The Maori creation myth tells how heaven and earth were once joined as Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatuanuki, the Earth Mother, lay together in a tight embrace. They had many children who lived in the darkness between them. The children wished to live in the light and so separated their unwilling parents. Ranginui and Papauanuk continue to grieve for each other to this day. Rangi's tears fall as rain towards Papatuanuku to show how much he loves her. When mist rises from the forests, these are Papa's sighs as the warmth of her body yearns for him and continues to nurture mankind.


In the beginning there were Holy People, supernatural and sacred, who lived below ground in twelve lower worlds. A great flood underground forced the Holy People to crawl to the surface of the earth through a hollow reed, where they created the world. Changing Woman gave birth to the Hero Twins, called "Monster Slayer" and "Child of the Waters" who had many adventures. Earth Surface People, mortals, were created, and First Man and First Woman were formed from ears of white and yellow corn.


Odin and his brothers used Ymir's body to create the universe. This universe comprises of nine worlds. They placed the body over the void called Ginnungagap. They used his flesh for creating the earth and his blood for the sea. His skull, held up by four dwarves (Nordri North, Sudri South, Austri East, and Vestri West), was used to create the heaven. Then using sparks from Muspelheim, the gods created the sun, moon and stars. While Ymir's eyebrows were used to create a place where the human race could live in; a place called Midgard. The first humans, Ask and Embla, were created from logs. [1] (http://www.timelessmyths.com/)


Some philosophers like Hakim Bey and occultists like Peter Carroll think randomness, chaos or the Uncertainty principle is the prime mover according to science, and should accordingly be treated as divine.


You can trace the causes of things infinitely, or else you come to a first cause. But is there a first cause - a creator - or is there not? Obviously if there is not then he can't create anything. And if there is, he himself is spontaneously self-created. Either way, all things emerge spontaneously. Stuff just keeps happening. Everything emerges in an uncontrolled improvisation, whether there is a creator or not. Nothing, therefore, is commanded by anything else. That's the truth.

Chapter 25 of the The Book of Virtue states: 有物混成,先天地生。寂兮寥兮,獨立而不改,周行而不殆,可以為天地母 。吾不知其名,強字之曰道。 The LeGuin Rendition renders this as: "There is something that contains everything. Before heaven and earth it is. Oh, it is still, unbodied, all on its own, unchanging, all-pervading, ever-moving. So it can act as the mother of all things. Not knowing its real name, we only call it the Way." But no Taoist can tell you what this means. That is up to the reader. (see: modernism).


Everything and nothing are all interconnected, inseparable, a made whole. Zen denies that the person is the first cause. It says the Tao or ground of being is the real first cause.


The Zoroastrianism story of creation has Ahura Mazda creating 16 lands, one by one, such that each would be delightful to its people. As he finished each one, Angra Mainyu applied a counter-creation, introducing plague and sin of various kinds.

See also

External links

de:Schöpfung et:Loomismüüdid fr:Mythes et création du Monde nl:Schepping


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