curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls
himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
There are probably as many Christians who look down their noses at science and scientists as there are scientists who view those same Christians as sorely deluded or misguided at best. Although I do think there are scientists who are more than a little snooty when they're addressing the Christian faith, it could be that in some cases Christians have earned their derision. Let me explain why I think so.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, three astronomers--Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo—became convinced that the movements of the planets could only be explained if the earth revolved around the sun. Everybody knows that, right? In fact, that wasn’t the case at the time. Even scientists were convinced the sun and other planets revolved around the earth. They changed their minds when the consistency of Galileo’s theory’s predictions proved they had been wrong. The church--meaning the Catholic church, which was the official state church in every European nation and to which most people belonged--remained firmly opposed, insisting that the findings of Galileo disagreed with the Bible. Galileo was eventually arrested and questioned by the Inquisition for heresy. He decided to publicly recant, admitting he had been mistaken. (He didn’t really mean it, but you have to admit it was preferable to being burned at the stake as a heretic.)
The problem wasn’t that the scientists were wrong, because the evidence established they were clearly right. The culprit in this case was bad theology, which is what you get when things are read into scripture that simply aren’t there.
Some discoveries have been made during the past century that have given science an entirely different view of the universe. Take, just as an example, what is generally known as the Big Bang. Have you ever sat watching a body of relatively calm water such as a pond or a small lake? Did you notice what happened when a fish surfaced to grab an insect on the water’s surface? Concentric rings began moving away from the spot where the fish had surfaced. Now suppose you hadn’t been looking at the exact moment when the fish surfaced, but you turned your head and saw the rapidly dispersing rings of water. It was obvious that something had caused the rings, and in all likelihood it had been a fish, even though you hadn’t actually seen a fish. Why? Because the evidence was there that something had broken the surface of the water. There were no trees overhanging the spot, and you didn’t see any birds flying overhead that could have dropped something. You knew something had disturbed the water, you had eliminated other reasonable explanations, leaving you with the likely explanation that a fish was responsible.
In not dissimilar fashion, an astronomer by the name of Edwin Hubble (the same person for whom the Hubble space telescope was named) conducted a famous set of experiments in which he looked at the rate that neighboring galaxies are moving away from our own. Using what is known as the Doppler effect—the same principle that allowed that state trooper to clock the speed of your car just before you received a ticket—Hubble discovered that everywhere he looked the light in the galaxies suggested they were moving away from ours. The farther away they were, the faster they were moving.
If everything in the universe is flying apart—and the evidence indicates that is exactly what is happening—then by
computing the speed at which entire galaxies are moving away, it can be predicted that at some point in time they were all part of the same original mass, just like those concentric rings in the pond had to have originated from a single source. Over the past seventy years, astronomers have been calculating the time it would have taken the galaxies to have gotten where they are presently. The result is that most physicists and cosmologists agree that the universe began at a single moment. That is what is referred to as the Big Bang. And when was this Big Bang calculated to have occurred? Approximately 14 billion years ago.
Do I think this is exactly what happened? I honestly don’t know. But you have to admit it makes for some interesting speculation.
We’ll pick this up and run with it in the next blog posting.