Science and Faith and the Big Bang Theory of Creation

Science and Faith and the Big Bang Theory of Creation s

The discovery of cosmic ripples from the birth of the Universe is evidence beyond reasonable doubt of the Big Bang theory first proposed by Fr George Lemaitre.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1-3)

My friend, Augie, likes to stop by to compare notes about our favorite TV shows. We’ve been mesmerized by the return of Jack Bauer’s “24,” and we’re eagerly looking forward to this week’s return of “Falling Skies.” Earlier this week when Augie came to my door he asked, “What do you think of The Big Bang Theory?” I was so glad he asked. I launched into a 15-minute analysis of the science of modern cosmology and the meaning of the so-called Big Bang for both science and faith. When I finished, Augie looked dazed and said, “Umm…I meant the TV show!”

Sheldon

Then Mike Ciresi stopped by and asked, “What are you writing about this week?” “The Big Bang Theory,” I replied, hoping for another chance to spout off my explanation of the Cosmos. “Oh, I LOVE that show,” said Mike as he made a hasty retreat.

Okay, what have I been missing? Despite it’s being the most watched show on television, I had never seen an episode of the CBS hit, “The Big Bang Theory.” So I watched a few reruns. The show turned all social science on its head. I had no idea nerds were now “in!” And they even have girlfriends! Nerdhood has sure changed since I studied physics!

sheldon wallpaper ladybug

Alas, however, it’s the OTHER Big Bang theory that I’m taking on this week, but I implore you not to click me away just yet. I MUST write about this, and I hope you’ll read on. I’m not as funny as Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj, and of course Penny! I can only be that funny when I’m trying hard NOT to be funny! Like now!

I must write about the Big Bang theory for two reasons. First and foremost, a new discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation was big news a few months ago because it lends evidence beyond reasonable doubt to the truth of the science behind the Big Bang, a discovery first proposed by a Catholic priest who turned Twentieth Century cosmology on its head. I want to write about what this means for both the science of cosmology and the faith that we have all invested into a notion that this Universe was created by God. I’ll get back to that.

Finally, I must write about this because I was somehow thrown into the ring of debate about what it all means. My name showed up on the Facebook page of www.TheMindUnleashed.org, a quantum physics website. Mary Anne O’Hare posted in response to an article about the implications of so-called parallel universes and the “Many Worlds” theory:

“Gordon J. MacRae is one of the best authors who melds science with faith. Would be interested in his feedback.”

Thank you, Mary…I think! However, the ego bubble you built was burst just moments after I read your remark. TSW reader Liz McKernan from England sent me a clipping from the (UK) Catholic Herald. It reminded me that my paranormal quest for science and truth from behind these stone walls is dwarfed by another priest, the U.K.’s Father Andrew Pinsent, who is without doubt the most accurate and prolific contemporary writer and bridge builder in the realm of how science impacts faith. Liz McKernan’s clipping detailed Father Pinsent’s presentation to a packed room at the Newman Forum on “The Alleged Conflict Between Faith and Science.”

ARE SCIENCE AND FAITH MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE?

My post, “Lumen Fidei: The Science of Creation and a Tale of Two Priests” had a very nice graphic advertising that very same U.K. symposium on Science and Faith. In that post, I profiled the work of Father Andrew Pinsent – who also (Ahem! Ahem!) happens to read These Stone Walls. You might recall that the post also revealed a connection between the great Father Georges Lemaitre and our friend, Pornchai Maximilian Moontri whose Godfather, Pierre Matthews, was a close friend of Father Lemaitre. The post has a photo of them together. Pornchai is probably the only person on earth who can say that his Godfather’s Godfather is the Father of the Big Bang.

Before I delve further into Father Andrew Pinsent’s defense of the truth about Catholic contributions to science, however, I want to comment on another television show I awaited with great anticipation. The FOX -TV production of “Cosmos” hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is terrific despite one very unfortunate and inaccurate anti-Catholic slur in its first segment:

“The Roman Catholic Church maintained a system of courts known as the Inquisition and its sole purpose was to torment anyone who dared voice views that differed from theirs.”

It seems the “Cosmos” writers have been reading far too much of the sort of shoddy revisionist history put forth by novelists like Dan Brown. As the University of Dayton historian, Thomas Madden, pointed out, the Inquisition formed at a time when much of European society was in a perilous state of disorder, and the order it brought to anarchy saved thousands of lives. More importantly, Madden wrote, “The Catholic Church as an institution had almost nothing to do with” the Inquisition.

The insinuation by a “Cosmos” background writer was that the Catholic Church has been hostile to science, however the truth about the relationship between science and faith in the Twentieth Century demonstrates that just the reverse has more often been the case. For much of the later Twentieth Century, a fringe but vocally dominant number of scientists have been far more hostile to religion.

Few living scientists have done more than Father Andrew Pinsent to refute the attempts of this anti-religion fringe to replace faith in God with faith in science by always pointing to the “irrationality of believers.” I am sad that the otherwise excellent series, “Cosmos” fell prey to that slur.

Father Pinsent has helped redeem science by exposing the truth about the great contributions to science by Catholic priests. His examples include the Jesuit Astrophysicist, Fr Angelo Secchi, the father of the science of genetics, Msgr Gregor Mendel, and of course the astronomer and mathematician, Fr Georges Lemaitre. In this list, I cannot exclude Father Andrew Pinsent himself who holds advanced degrees in theology, philosophy, physics, and particle physics, and is currently Research Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion at Oxford.

SCIENCE FROM EAST OF EDEN

Still, I greatly respect and admire Neil deGrasse Tyson who went on in “Cosmos” to repair the damage somewhat by giving Fr Georges Lemaitre due credit as a foundational theorist of modern physics and cosmology right along with Albert Einstein.

The description of Father Lemaitre’s discovery as “The Big Bang” actually began as a term of mockery of his idea. The term first appeared in 1949, more than two decades after Lemaitre first proposed it. The prevailing winds of scientific thought for the first half of the Twentieth Century had settled on a belief that the Universe was not “created” at all, but had always existed, had no beginning, and will have no end. In that sense, for science, the Universe itself replaced God as eternal and without an origin. This was the accepted view, even by Einstein.

It was this predominant view that relegated the Judeo-Christian understanding of creation to the shelf, treating it, and all religion, as a quaint anachronism stubbornly clinging to bygone days of scientific ignorance. Science attempted to remove all rational belief from our Biblical Creation account, and declared it to be a myth in the way we popularly understand myth. In mid-Twentieth Century science, God was obsolete, and some in philosophy were soon to follow with “God is dead!” Many in science held that if science could so undermine the very first awareness of man that God is Creator, all the rest of Judeo-Christian faith would eventually crumble.

LET THERE BE LIGHT!

Then along came a brilliant mathematician-priest who subjected the conclusions of science to the rigors of mathematics. I wrote about the challenge this priest posed to the prevailing winds of science in “A Day Without Yesterday: Father Georges Lemaitre and the Big Bang.” Father Lemaitre was much respected by Albert Einstein, but far more for his mind than for his faith. At a 1933 conference in Brussels exposing his Theory of General Relativity, Einstein was asked if he believed it was understood at all by most of the scientists present. Einstein replied, “By Professor D. perhaps, and certainly by Lemaitre; as for the rest, I don’t think so.”

However, Einstein also had a fundamental disagreement with Father Lemaitre, though one – to the consternation of many in science – that was short-lived. Lemaitre used mathematics to present a model of the Universe based on Einstein’s own Theory of General Relativity which proposed that mass and energy create curvature of space-time causing particles of matter to follow a curved trajectory. Gravity, therefore, would bend not only matter, but light and even space itself. This had profound implications for science and was radically different from the reigning Newtonian physics which held that space is absolute and linear.

Even while demonstrating relativity, Einstein held to a “Steady State” theory of the Universe as being eternal, without beginning or end, and static. Using Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, Father Lemaitre created a mathematical model for the origin of the Universe concluding in 1927 that the Universe – including space and time – came into existence suddenly, some 13.7 billion years ago, from an explosive expansion of a tiny singularity that he called the “Primeval Atom.” The Universe, and time, were born on a day without yesterday. Suddenly, a created Universe was back on the scientific table.

Father Lemaitre conceived of nothing in existence but a tiny speck into which was contained all matter and energy that we now know as the Universe, and in a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, the Universe came into being in a moment of immeasurable heat and light. The resistance to this view within the scientific community was enormous. As Father Andrew Pinsent once wrote to me:

“As late as 1948 astronomers in the Soviet Union were urged to oppose the Big Bang theory because they were told it was ‘encouraging clericalism.’ People tend to forget that the world’s first atheist state in effect banned the Big Bang and genetics, both invented by priests, for more than thirty years.”

Einstein studied Lemaitre’s 1927 paper intensely, but could find no fault in the mathematics behind his proposal. Einstein would not be a slave to mathematics, however, and simply could not conceive of his instinct about the mechanics of the Universe being wrong. “Your mathematics is perfect,” he told the priest, “but your physics is abominable.” Einstein would one day take back those words.

Two years later, in 1929, the astronomer Edwin Hubble – in whose honor is named the Hubble Space Telescope – demonstrated that the Universe was in fact not only not static, as Einstein insisted, but expanding. This lent scientific weight to Father Lemaitre’s primeval atom because if the Universe is expanding, then logic held that in the far distant past it must have been much, much smaller while containing the same matter, mass, and energy. In fact, Physicist Stephen Hawking would decades later calculate the density of the Primeval Atom in tons per square inch to be one followed by seventy-two zeros.

Lemaitre’s model traced the origin of the Universe back 13.7 billion years to a point of immeasurable mass and density that suddenly expanded giving birth not only to matter, but to the space-time continuum itself. Appearing at a symposium with Father Lemaitre in 1933, Einstein stood and applauded the priest declaring that his view – which is today called the Standard Model of cosmology – “Is the most beautiful explanation of creation I have ever heard.”

Lemaitre-and-Einstein

THE NEWLY DISCOVERED COSMIC RIPPLES

“Let there be light!” is back in the parlance of scientific truth. Though not many cosmologists were ready to embrace the Biblical account of creation as being the sudden appearance of immense light upon the command of God, the science suddenly supported a belief in a Universe with a genesis “created from nothing.” In 1965, Bell Laboratory technicians Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected the background radiation from the Big Bang. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of the background signature of Father Lemaitre’s expansion of the Universe on a day without yesterday.

Early in 2014, Astronomers announced the discovery of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation permeating the Universe caused from the ripples left over from the moment of the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Even for the rigors of science and what constitutes proof, there is no longer reasonable doubt within reputable science that Father Georges Lemaitre was right.

But if you’re having trouble bending your mind around all this, please don’t ask what God did before the Big Bang. On that day, time itself was created so there was no “before.” That’s another post for another day. And as for those theories about multiple worlds and parallel universes that Mary Anne O’Hare wanted my opinion on, the idea is theoretical, entirely without evidence, and not technically in the realm of science.

In his terrific new book, Why Science Does Not Disprove God (William Morrow 2014) mathematician-author Amir D. Aczel described multiverse theory as a sort of “atheism of the gaps,” an attempt to plug theoretical scientific holes with anything BUT religious ideas. As G.K. Chesterton once said:

“People who do not believe in God do not believe in nothing. They believe in anything!”

For a masterful treatment of this story, see a fine article by Trent Horn entitled “The Heavens Declare the Glory of God” in the March/April 2014 issue of Catholic Answers magazine. It was sent to me by a friend and TSW reader, Bill Wendell, and it spurred me on to write this post. So, if you have read this far, you can thank Bill Wendell – or blame him as the case may be.

My friend, Jesse Pickard, just came by to ask what I am writing about and whether or not he will be in it. Finally, my moment had arrived! “What do you know about the Big Bang Theory?” I asked. Jesse pondered the question for a moment then said, “I like Sheldon the best!” I quit!

Editor’s Note:  It is with profound sadness that we learned of the attacks on two priests of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.  Father Kenneth Walker, FSSP died of his injuries and Father Joseph Terra, FSSP is recovering.  Phoenix Police have the suspect in custody.

In your kindness, please contribute to Father Walker’s Funeral Fund.  This allows members of his large family to travel to the funeral.  Proceeds not needed will be donated to the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter.  Also, please arrange for Masses for the repose of Father Walker’s soul and Father Terra’s recovery.

Father Kenneth Walker Funeral Fund

 

Events related to the funeral and burial of Father Kenneth Walker, FSSP, are now finalized, and are as follows:

(All times are given according to Central Time Zone)


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Father Walker’s viewing will be held from 2pm-5pm at Piper Funeral Home in St. Mary’s.

Piper Funeral Home
714 W. Maple St.
St. Marys, KS 66536

Later that evening the Most Holy Rosary will be offered for the repose of the soul of Fr. Walker at 7pm, at Sacred Heart Church in Paxico.

Sacred Heart Church
22971 Newbury Rd.
Paxico, KS 66526


Friday, June 20, 2014

Father Walker’s Funeral Mass will begin at 11:00am at Sacred Heart in Paxico.  Father John Berg, FSSP, Superior General of the FSSP, will be the celebrant, and Fr. Eric Flood, FSSP, District Superior for North America, will assist as Deacon.

Sacred Heart Church
22971 Newbury Rd.
Paxico, KS 66526

Father Walker’s burial will follow Mass.

He is to be buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in St. Mary’s, KS. Mount Calvary Cemetery is located on Mt. Calvary Rd, in northeast St. Mary’s.  From Highway 24 in St. Mary’s, KS, turn north on Highway 63 for one half mile. Turn right onto Mount Calvary Rd. for one half mile. The cemetery is located on the right.

A reception will follow the burial in the Sacred Heart Church parish hall.

Sacred Heart Church
22971 Newbury Rd.
Paxico, KS, 66526

All are invited and encouraged to attend all events. For those who are unable to attend, we ask you in charity to join together in prayer for the eternal repose of the soul of Fr. Kenneth Walker and for the good of all those affected by his tragic death.

Requiem Aeternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Requiescat in pace.

Fr. Joseph Terra, FSSP

Fr. Joseph Terra, FSSP

About Fr. Gordon J. MacRae

The late Cardinal Avery Dulles and The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus encouraged Father MacRae to write. Cardinal Dulles wrote in 2005: “Someday your story and that of your fellow sufferers will come to light and will be instrumental in a reform. Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials.” READ MORE

Comments

  1. Pierre Matthews says:

    Father Gordon, you did it again! I marvel about Father Lemaitre. In my humble opinion, you are an excellent journalist, able to tackle the most difficult “dark matter” and leave the reader with the exhilarating feeling that he understands it. It is amazing that two priests are highlighting the creation while many academics are drowning in an evolutionary soup. By the way,I noticed my name is once again associated with TSW media star, my godson, Pornchai Maximilian. Third time this year! Do you realize what it does to my repressed ego to swirl around in such an orbit?

    Your friend,
    Pierre

  2. MarcAnthony says:

    Er, Fr. McCrae, hate to break it to you…http://news.yahoo.com/big-bang-breakthrough-team-allows-may-wrong-114835743.html

    Headline: “Big Bang breakthrough team allows they may be wrong”

  3. Mary Jean Diemer says:

    Hi Father Gordon!
    I just saw that show for the first time at Thanksgiving when I was visiting family in Kansas. It was DVR’d so one episode followed another.
    I haven’t watched it since! Not my cup of tea!
    Your writings however are most welcome and refreshing because you back up what you have to say with other articles from other people.
    God bless you for what you do for us all out here with the limited means you have there. God bless you all and prayers continue for you all.
    The priest I was helping will be back to active ministry this Saturday night. He is doing wonderful! God is good! Love, Jeannie

  4. Edward Lewis says:

    Fascinating post…belies the silly notion that the Catholic Church is anti-science. They fostered it.

  5. Liz McKernan says:

    Fr Pinsent’s talk was indeed fascinating and was pleased to be able to see it via the link on your blog. I have not had the pleasure of meeting him yet as I don’t move in scientific circles and although he is a Priest in my diocese it is large.
    I attended a beautiful sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Feast of Corpus Christi. While there I remembered particularly the young Priest so tragically killed in Arizona. What a tragedy… he had his whole life of service ahead of him and yet it was cut short so brutally. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.
    Wednesdays have long been special to me with your blog to read in the morning and Adoration and Benediction in the evening where you are of course remembered with affection before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

  6. Lynda says:

    The data is being interpreted in a certain way based on prior metaphysical suppositions. Take these suppositions away and there are other interpretations that can be made. The first two volumes of Robert Sungenis et al, Galileo was Wrong, The Church was Right, show how certain metaphysical or ideological assumptions were adopted by cosmologists leading them to adopt models of the universe which required evermore tortuous interpretations of the data as against the more simple explanations, requiring such fantastical notions as “dark matter”, etc. to be proposed. Cosmology is not a science – it’s not based on observation and repeated experiments but rather notional models which have become harder and harder to reconcile with the actual data. People are being misled as it’s not data that’s presented to them but interpretations made to fit with models based on metaphysical assumptions. The upcoming film, The Principle will deal with the metaphysical suppositions underlying the Copernican Principle (that the Earth is not in a special position) and how the obtained data is making it increasingly difficult to uphold that Principle, the data suggesting otherwise. Those cosmologists who are committed to a certain metaphysical world view, and the Copernican Principle, control the message given out by the Media to the world. The actual data and scientific experiments do not suggest the wild interpretations given them (because of ideological, atheistic notions such as “modesty” requiring us to dismiss the apparent special position of the Earth). The public are given only the interpretations based on such metaphysical assumptions.

    • The book and movie by Sungenis & others should not be touted as a Catholic “science” when for starts Mr Sungenis has espoused sedevacantist ideas publicly. It is what Mr Sungenis and his friends believe. That thing should not be seen in the same light as Fr LeMaitre’s work. In first place Fr LeMaitre was a top notch mathematician and physicist who could converse with the likes of Einstein at the same level. Not so Mr Sungenis who to my ears sounds like a quack — and I have plenty of physics and mathematics inside my Catholic bald head — I do believe we are Catholics when we have Our Eucharistic Lord, Our Blessed Mother, and the Holy Father in Rome. If we drop one of them then we are NOT Catholics and we have lost our way. One can hardly be a defensor fidei in matters of astrophysics when not fully sharing one of the most basic and simple to understand tenets of said faith. Add to that a complete lack of academic formation and one has a dangerous mix that can hardly serve the faith it purports to defend.

      I will stick with Fr LeMaitre, and Fr Gordon for the time being.

      God bless.

      • Father Gordon J. MacRae says:

        I thank readers for these thoughtful comments, and even for the thoughtful controversy, but I must concur with Carlos Caso Rosendi. So did Pope Pius XII, who in 1951 addressed the Pontifical Academy of Science in the light of Father Lemaitre’s discovery. The Holy Father said, “It appears that today’s science going back millions of centuries has succeeded to witness the initial ‘Fiat Lux’ — Let there be Light! — coming out of nothing, that very moment of matter and ocean of light and rays, while the chemical components of particles split and assembled into millions of galaxies.”

        Saint Augustine may also agree with Father Lemaitre. Early in the fifth century, Saint Augustine proposed a sort of theological big bang suggesting that God’s “Fiat Lux” was the decree by which He created the angels. In the Genesis creation account, light appeared before the sun or any other source of light in the material world. “God saw that the light was good,” then in Genesis 1:4 God separated light from darkness. Saint Augustine proposed that this very verse recounts the rebellion of Satan and the fallen who chose everlasting darkness. For all we know, it was Saint Augustine who first proposed the big bang.

        • I wanted to add that a dirty little secret of modern science worshipers (not scientists) is the fact that for centuries the “agreement among scientists” was that the Universe had existed forever in the state we see it today. Only those brave Hebrews believed contra mundum that all had a beginning from nothing. The Church reaffirmed that over and over — most notably in the works of St Thomas Aquinas — It took the world 40 centuries to realize that the account of Genesis was right on the money. After a rather long wait, Abraham from Heaven said (I’m sure) “I told you so!”

          http://www.casorosendi.com/english/4-abrahams-certainty

  7. Cathy Pequeño says:

    Dear Fr. Gordon,

    I love “Falling Skies” too, but I had to quit my job and cable TV was the first to go. I also love “The Big Bang Theory” the TV show, that I also haven’t been able to watch. But even more I love cosmic science and the real Big Bang theory. If you had asked me what a thought of the Big Bang theory I probably would have said “I’m awed at the fact that the whole universe was contained in a tiny speck.”

    I never new that it was first proposed by a Catholic priest. I’m so proud! On the other hand, it is such a shame that Stephen Hawking, such a brilliant mind, could write: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” (So sad).

  8. Mary Fran says:

    After talking with Steve, Fr. Gordon, I realized that what I meant was evolution, not the big bang, that was opposed to creationism. I would be curious to hear what you have to say about that movie Principle, supposedly based on science, that proves (?) that the earth is the center of the universe. If you even know anything about it.

  9. Dee Susan says:

    This is a beautiful explanation of a subject that is profoundly deep and way beyond my understanding. You’ve made it seem so simple and obvious that I could now talk about it intelligently with my friends. Thank you for that. What an amazing discovery. It is so interesting that the question ‘How did He do that?” regarding creation is now being revealed. I have always loved science but I love God more. I really believe that one day science will accept the truths explained in the Bible and when that happens there will be rejoicing in earth and in heaven.

  10. Mary Fran says:

    One addition. I’ve NEVER heard of the TV show The Big Bang.

  11. Mary Fran says:

    Another interesting post, Fr. Gordon. I am really ignorant. I always thought that The Big Bang Theory and Creationism were at opposite ends; one couldn’t believe both at the same time. You explain cosmic science so well. And make it interesting too. I’ll have to make more comments in a snail mail.

    Physics, unfortunately, is beyond me. I had to take 2 semesters of it in college, practically failing the first course. Then, I discovered from a friend that I could substitute The Physics and Chemistry of Photography” for my second class. Thus began my love affair with single lens reflex cameras and the darkroom.

    What? You are no longer the librarian? Does that mean you are out of a paying job?

  12. Bonnie says:

    Reading your post peaked my interest in viewing the U-Tube video of Fr. Andrew Pinsent at the Newman Forum….your post and his talk were both wonderful. I now have written down the title of some books mentioned in the video. One is A Catholic Replies, another The Road to Science and the Way to God, and How the Catholic Church built Western Civilization, along with The Catholic Gift to Civilization. I’m wondering if you’ve had an opportunity to read these books? Does the prison have a new librarian yet?

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