Monday, October 2, 2006

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bang?! (Part II)

It would take a larger space than I have (or could fill for that matter) to chronicle the many views of the universe's origins that have existed through history. Suffice it to say that, because there was no scientific way to analyze or verify any of them, they stood as philosophical speculations. Plato thought that experimental science was unworthy of the attention of great intellects (like himself). Aristotle, Plato's student, thought it self-evidentially obvious that the Earth could not move because it had already found its way to the center of the universe.

Newton, who tried to apply scientific evidence to the issue, determined that gravity, because it entails the attraction of all particles toward one another, would have caused the edges of the universe to collapse toward the center. Because this obviously was not going on the universe could not be finite. He therefore deduced that the universe must be infinitely large and matter evenly distributed within it. In the mid 18th century Kant's cosmology added that, for various reasons, the universe had to have no beginning in time and be infinite in extent.

For a couple of centuries there were no scientific cosmological developments that could unseat these dogmatic views. So, as Hugh Ross points out in The Fingerprint of God, Newton's static, eternal, infinite universe was "cast in concrete" and readily accepted by all thinking people, most notably those who saw this fact as removing any need for a cosmological First Cause -- or what some of us might call, "God."

That's when Einstein came along and upset the apple cart. Struggling to put forth a theory to explain gravity, Einstein published his Theory of General Relativity in 1915. Part of his struggle was with the rascally, inconvenient implication his equations kept bringing up. No matter how many times he recalculated things, he continued to be bothered by the fact that, if he was correct, the universe had to be expanding. Scientific dogma disallowed such an implication so, in an effort to maintain professional respectability, Einstein inserted a cosmological constant into his equations to cancel out the expansion.

The key point in all this is that Einstein (and others) rejected the idea of an expanding universe not for scientific reasons, but for philosophical reasons! You see, if the universe is expanding as time goes on, running the clock backward tells us that, at some point (now referred to as the "singularity"), the universe must have begun to expand from a single point -- the point at which a universe-sized Cause must have set the expansion in motion.

Einstein's theory had divine implications.

By 1929, Edwin Hubble published his finding that, not only was the universe around us expanding in every direction, but the farther out he looked, the faster it was expanding. This data fit perfectly with Einstein's equations and forced him (Einstein) to admit that his cosmological constant was uncalled for. He later described his insistence on including it the "biggest mistake of his life."

The upshot of all this is to point out that atheist scientists hate the idea of the Big Bang, not for scientific reasons, but for philosophical ones! Sir Arthur Eddington called the idea that the universe had a beginning "repugnant." Fred Hoyle was prompted to sarcasm and was the originator of the term "Big Bang." Hoyle meant the name to be a derogatory label for a concept he could not bring himself to stomach. The problem is that today, scientists have verified the accuracy of the Big Bang so extensively that many refer to it as a “law” instead of a theory. Christian Theists need to realize that the Big Bang is not something we should fear.

Cosmologically and scientifically speaking, The Big Bang may be our greatest ally.

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