All posts tagged: cosmology

Faith and the Expanding Universe of Georges Lemaître

On October 29th of last year, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to recommend renaming Hubble’s Law the “Hubble-Lemaître Law.” That such a vote would take place today—during a time when science and faith are portrayed in the media as implacable foes—speaks to the remarkable character of Lemaître himself, the Belgian monsignor and astronomer who made a number of fundamental contributions to the science of cosmic structure and origins. His dual career as priest and scientist puzzled many in science and in the public at large when he was alive, and his struggles to defend his “Big Bang” model of the origin of the universe against those who accused him of being religiously motivated epitomizes the growing tension between science and organized religion in post-war Europe and the US. The story we will tell about Lemaître will of necessity be selective in the details of his life, which was complex and rich enough to merit multiple biographies,[1] [2] as well as numerous articles. I want to emphasize those aspects of his career that merited the …

When Worlds Collide: Scripture and Cosmology in Historical Perspective

Collision Course Scientists are generally lauded for their stellar achievements for the cause of humanity. Their work is tedious and painstaking, requiring great intellect and greater patience. They dedicate their lives to thinking outside the box, asking unimaginable questions, and resolve seemingly unresolvable problems. Every now and then they reach a breakthrough, identifying the cause or cure for a disease, locating a distant planet where life could be viable, or finding a more efficient source of energy. In most cases, the general public appreciates their efforts and celebrates new discoveries, excited for the promise these triumphs hold for the qualitative improvement of human life; that is, until science interferes with ideology. There are many ideological obstructions to the advancement of science. Some obstructions are warranted and necessary. As science moves at breakneck speeds with respect to genetic engineering, for example, there are legitimate ethical concerns regarding not what can be done, but what should be done. Other obstructions would seem to be unwarranted and unnecessary. These roadblocks are generally ideological in nature, operating under the …

Attempts to Explain Cosmogony Scientifically

In Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, I discussed some of the speculative scenarios in which time has no beginning and the Big Bang is merely the beginning of one part of the universe or one epoch in its history. Another line of physics speculation accepts the idea that time has a beginning, either the Big Bang that occurred some 15 billion years ago, or some earlier perhaps even bigger Bang, but seeks to give that beginning a scientific explanation. Many scientists are under the impression that such an explanation would render a divine creator superfluous. As I will explain later, this notion is based on a misunderstanding of the idea of Creation. However, let us put that issue aside for now and focus on the scientific ideas. The Reasons to Look for a Theory of the Beginning Theories of the beginning of the universe generally are formulated within the field called “quantum cosmology.” There are several motivations for this work. At the most basic level, scientists seek to understand phenomena, and the Big Bang is a phenomenon. …

Ah, to Live in a Cosmos Again!

Anaxagoras takes the stage early in Aristotle’s Metaphysics as that sober man among drunks who rightly claims that reason is the cause behind all of nature and its beauty.[1] This same Anaxagoras, we are told, “answered a man . . . asking why one should choose rather to be born than not by saying ‘for the sake of viewing the heavens and the whole order of the universe.’”[2] Reason is needed to cause the beauty of the whole; only mind can make the world a cosmos. Mind is also needed to recognize that we live in a cosmos, as Seth Benardete remarks: “We see heaven and earth, but we do not see their unity, which we call cosmos. ‘Cosmos’ puts a label on an insight about the structure of the whole that is simply not available to sight.”[3] This label, “cosmos,” is rooted in the Greek verb kosmein, meaning both “to arrange” and “to order, rule” as well as “to adorn” (as in “cosmetics”). The aggregate of all that exists is a cosmos because of …