Thursday, September 10, 2009

Summary of meeting last last Saturday

When we met on Saturday (more than a week ago now...I'm a terrible blogger!), we talked predominantly about the origin of the universe, which is basically the big bang theory. Not the tv show. The actual scientific theory.

Well, to be honest, I don't know a whole lot about the theory itself. But the theological implications are strong. The big bang theory says that the universe had an origin at some finite time in the past (current measurements place the cosmic creation event at 13.7 billion years ago). This creation event was the beginning of all space, time, matter, and energy. Before that, the universe simply did not exist.

I wanted to impress upon everyone how strong the implications are. I feel like we are sort of deadened to it these days, as if everyone understands that the universe had a beginning, and accepts it, but refuses to think about what that means. To put it into perspective, I talked about some of the initial (and ongoing, in some cases) opposition to the big bang theory. In each of these cases, the opponents admitted that their antagonism of the theory rested solely on a dislike its implications.

One example is Albert Einstein himself. After publishing his theory of general relativity, he realized the implications that came with it. (General relativity serves as the theoretical underpinnings of all current big bang models for the origin of the universe.) As a result, he later "added" a constant to his equations, changing the implication from a universe with a beginning to an eternal one. Later he called this the biggest mistake of his life.

Another example, one of the biggest opponents of the big bang theory, is Fred Hoyle. He was a major contributor to cosmology as a whole, but denied it because of its theological implications. Incidentally, Fred Hoyle was the one who coined the term "big bang", in ridicule of the theory.

On the other hand, experimental evidence has now verified, to an astonishing degree, some sort of big bang-type model. That is, we know that we live in an expanding universe that had a beginning some finite time in the past.

There are two reasons why non-theistic scientists find the big bang distasteful (yet most no longer deny its veracity). First, a beginning implies a beginner. Or a Beginner. And second, many scientists assumed that natural processes and evolution needed a nearly infinite amount of time to produce life. Certainly a few billion years is far too short a time for that. (It is interesting how our opinion changes due to necessity.)

But the reality of the matter is that we live in a universe with a beginning, and that life has originated and thrived here on this planet. These things are directly consistent with what the bible teaches about the world. There are many places in the bible that teaches about the beginning of the universe (as in, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo), as well as the beginning of time itself. Some would even claim that the bible teaches we live in an expanding universe, although I am hesitant to go that far. It is kind of provocative, though. Search biblegateway in the NIV for occurrences of the two words "stretch" and "heaven" in the same verse. It occurs ten times, all in the construct, "[God] stretches out the heavens." But again, we don't want to read too much into that.

The point of the matter, however, is that, from our study of the universe we live in, we have found that it indeed has a beginning. And most people nowadays either ignore the implications of that, or try to explain it away through metaphysical speculation. But it is a powerful apologetic point.