This post and the next, I want to talk to you about the recent developments in our understanding of the origins of life. A lot has happened in this area over the past several decades and scientists are still hashing out the details, just like in other disciplines. Similar to biochemistry, the discoveries of the last several decades have not closed the “gap” for science to explain away God or anything similar to that. The opposite is the case – more discovery has conveyed more complexity and intricacies that we would otherwise assume didn’t matter. It was “out of sight, out of mind.” Our discoveries, while increasing our knowledge, have also made it very clear just how little we truly understand about our universe and origins. As such, to draw inferences assuming that we do have everything figured out is certainly premature.
Let’s look at a couple of examples (this post and next) of how things have changed and what they mean for people of faith.
The Big Bang:
The “Big Bang” theory (originally a derogatory term) came about through the work of two scientists in the 1920s – Lemaitre and Friedmann. They took Einstein/Hubble’s data about the universe expanding and made an obvious conclusion: if the universe is expanding, at sometime in the past, the distance between all matter in the universe must have been zero. Though the model made sense, I posted about all the attempts to produce another theory that didn’t have a “starting point.” Why? Because up until the Big Bang theory, cosmologists uniformly believed that there was no beginning or end to the universe. And all research endeavors to that point had been undertaken with that assumption firmly in place, once again denoting the “humanness” of science. But when a beginning point became a possibility, it became entirely feasible to ask what produced this beginning. In 1965, scientists found evidence of the big bang: residual radiation coming from all directions at equal length. Called cosmic microwave background radiation, their discovery silenced most critics of the Big Bang theory.
So, why is this a big deal? Well, it points to a beginning. And that makes it some of the best news science has ever produced for those looking for reconciling science and faith. For strict young earth creationists, the Big Bang is often seen as the enemy. But for all other models (various forms of intelligent design or theistic evolution, for example), this is an example of the reaffirming/collaborative effort faith and science can bring to each other. Science is still dealing with understanding this. For example, in attempting to reconstruct the precise point of the universe’s inception, astrophysicists have been able to calculate backwards to a point about 10-43 second from the zero point. At that point, their physics breaks down due to quantum’s uncertainly principle. Does this “prove” God exists. No…the only thing it “proves” is that we don’t know what happened beyond 10-43 second. All inferences at this point become philosophical/religious.