Most Recent Scientific Discoveries
In the next section I will outline chronologically a summary of the sequence of the most significant scientific discoveries that provide an insight into the origin of the universe and a little relating to what we know about how it operates, from the ancient Greek philosophers up to the present day.
Classical Physics/Cosmology & Quantum Physics
Scientists study the universe at these three fundamental levels.
First our everyday three dimensional experience of life on earth:
The study of this we call Classical Physics: We experience the majority of this through our five senses. Many express the view that this is the only reality that exists, if we cannot experience it through our five senses, it is somehow not real. Before we move on to the two other dimensions that science studies, let us observe briefly that even for the reality here on earth, just how blinkered and therefore how narrow a view of reality this is.
Three simple examples will serve to demonstrate.
Dogs can and do hear sound at much higher frequencies than humans. So there are dog whistles that emit a high frequency sound that cannot be heard by the human ear but which dogs can readily hear.
The infra-red camera can detect and photograph images around the human aura, and all other light emitting objects which the human eye cannot see.
There are many poisonous gases and liquids which cannot be detected by smell or taste and of which even the tiniest amounts can kill instantly.
So we can see that to conclude that because we cannot see, feel, touch, hear or smell something means it does not exist makes little sense.
The second dimension is Cosmology.
This is the study of space, the stars, planets and galaxies. These studies have revealed astonishing facts about the origin of the universe in the past twenty years. This has turned on its head everything science believed it understood about the world. In order to provide a complete picture of this story I will start at the beginning.
Origin of the Universe:
I will outline the evolution of beliefs on the origin of the universe as simply as I can. The writings of the ancient Greek philosophers are the earliest written accounts we have of man’s thinking on the origin of the universe.
Around 600 years before Christ, a generation of Greek thinkers now called the Pre-Socratic philosophers, began to see the world as something ordered and intelligible.
The Greek world of their time was a mysterious world where everyday events were explained as being the result of the actions or whims of a countless number of unseen gods. They began to explore and seek to explain the workings of the universe more in line with a sense of order. They envisaged a universe, operating more in compliance with a set of laws of nature as opposed to the arbitrary decisions of unknown and unseen gods.
Over the next 2500 years, including the works of Socrates, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, philosophers and scientists set about discovering and understanding the natural laws of the universe. It was a generally accepted belief, across the disciplines of philosophy and science, that a Divine Creator had brought the universe into being and established the laws of nature.
It was only in the 1600s that philosophers like Rene Descartes began to question this long held worldwide belief. With his famous thesis, I Think Therefore I Am. Descartes is often referred to as the father of modern philosophy. While being a devout Christian himself, his Method of Doubt kicked off centuries of questioning and scepticism, as philosophers, like Hume and later Kant, began to question the existence of a Divine Creator. This questioning stepped up a gear with the emergence of Darwin’s theory of evolution in the 1800s. Scientists then began to theorise that the universe always was and always would be. Therefore, the constituent energies of air, water and fire may change form and shape over the centuries.
The beginning of the 20th century saw the
influence of Fredrich Nietzsche come
to prominence in western philosophical thinking. Nietzsche was a German
philosopher born in 1806 died 1900. Nietzsche’s central ideas he placed in a
narrative in the words of a madman declaring that God was dead.
Existential Nihilism was the core of
his philosophy. It argues that life is without objective meaning and has no
purpose or intrinsic value. Moral
Nihilism asserts that morality does not exist at all. That Christian morality
arises from a slave mentality. He believed in a concept he called Ubermench or
Overman, meaning the will to power, asserting that a person could become great,
if they did not limit themselves by obedience to arbitrary laws of morality and
ethics. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was clinically declared a mad man
before his death.
Today a large section of Millennials in America use the
phrase the will to power as their
motto. This is a group that largely, have little or no respect for life, morals
or ethics. It may also be worth re reading the views on life expressed earlier in the recent UK survey of 15 to 29
nine year olds.
As we fast forward to the beginning of the 20th century: Most scientists continued with the belief that our universe never had a beginning; they believed mass, space and energy always existed. They believed our own Milky Way galaxy was the entire universe and that only about 100 million stars existed.
The Big Bang Theory: Along came Einstein
Along came Albert Einstein in the early 1900s, his equations told him that the universe could not stay static. It had to either expand or contract. He ignored what his mathematics was telling him. He added a constant to his equations to make them compatible with a static universe. He later reputedly called it “the biggest blunder of my life.” So Einstein and most scientists continued to insist that the universe was “simply there” with no beginning or end.
However, it took a Catholic priest from Belgium to send the scientific world into a tailspin. His theory of the origins of the world in the 1920s revolutionised thinking on the origins of the universe. Fr George Lemaitre, an astronomer and professor of physics, is now feted as the father of the Big Bang theory.
Lemaitre believed the world started as a fireball many billions of years ago. He was the first to introduce the idea that the universe started with a singularity in his ‘hypothesis of the primeval atom’. He believed that the origin of the universe could be traced to this single point and that the universe was expanding and cooling ever since. His work moved science on from a point where the world could no longer be seen as a self-sufficient, mechanical and changeless system.
Instead, the world had a beginning, and therefore an end. Suddenly the universe was as vulnerable and precarious as that of human beings. He presented his new ideas to many sceptical scientists, including Einstein.
Many thought his work was far-fetched. Years later, his biggest detractor, Fred Hoyle, a professor at Cambridge University, scornfully referred to Lemaitre’s work as the ‘big bang’ theory. However, Edwin Hubble and others confirmed Lemaitre’s hypothesis with mathematics. Within a few years Lemaitre’s theories were widely accepted by those working in the field of physics and astronomy. Albert Einstein is eventually said to have described Lemaitre’s work as: “the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.
’It is important to state that no scientist of repute, including Einstein, has ever claimed to have discovered anything that disproves the existence of God. In fact, acclaimed theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, while speaking at the California Institute of Technology in the 1950s, said he did not believe that science will ever disprove the existence of God. “I think that is impossible,’’ he said. “And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God - an ordinary God of religion- a consistent possibility?”
The Hubble Telescope
Fr. Lemaitre’s theories that the universe had a beginning were initially validated by the evidence provided by the introduction of the Hubble Telescope after it was launched in 1990. Being beyond all the pollution by which earth based telescopes are limited, it clearly indicated that the universe was expanding and instead of just one galaxy, our own Milky Way had about one hundred million stars. The universe is comprised of trillions of stars clustered in about 100 billion galaxies. This was subsequently conclusively proven by the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) mission in 1992. Changing our understanding of the early cosmos, COBE finally confirmed the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe.
Even the Nobel prize-winning scientist, George Smoot, who ran the COBE experiment, saw parallels between the big bang and the Bible. “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing,” he wrote.
George Smoot; Wrinkles in Time; 1993.
Just to provide a sense of the enormity of the now known universe, our sun compares to one grain of sand amongst all the sand on all the beaches on earth. 1.3 million of our earths would fit inside the sun
Astrophysicist Robert Jastrow says “the Universe flashed into being and we cannot find out what caused that to happen.’ He even compared the event to the account in Genesis 1:1 of the origins of the world: “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world,” he wrote.
More recently Amir Aczel, a science lecturer in America, noted how the Big Bang dove-tails with many ancient scriptures on the origins of the universe.
“Traditions of Chinese, Indian, pre-Colombian, and African cultures, as well as the biblical book of Genesis, all describe... a distinct beginning to the universe, whether it’s the “creation in six days” of Genesis or the “Cosmic Egg “of the ancient Indian text The Rig Veda,’’ he wrote.
He added: “This is an interesting example of scientists being dead wrong (for a time) and primitive ancient observers having an essentially correct intuition about nature.’’
Once the penny dropped that beyond any doubt the universe continues to expand, similar to a balloon being filled with air, scientists had to deal with the reality that, if the universe is expanding, it had to start somewhere at some point in time, exactly as astromemer, professor of physics and priest Fr George Lemaitre had postulated in the 1920s. With his hypothesis of the singularity and primeval atom, which he understood to be a scientific description of Creation?