‘Religion teaches how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go’

03Sep10

Stephen Hawking has now decided that he doesn’t believe that God had anything to do with creating the Big Bang. Choose your poison: The Guardian, ABC News, Universe Today, New Scientist CultureLab blog. New Scientist has a more recent opinion article on how Stephen Hawking was never religious in the first place, and that his use of God has always been a metaphor.

Cosmology takes us into a realm that once was only occupied by religion; that of the ‘big questions’—why we are here, where we are going, is there a God, etcetera.  Reading around, I feel like, at times, cosmology gets both ends of the stick—people such as Fred Hoyle and Eric Lerner claim/ed that Big Bang cosmology is too similar to religion or too closely tied with it, while devotees of biblical literalism and intelligent design talk of the Big Bang as distinct from religion, poo-pooing cosmological results:

I wasn’t there [at the Big Bang], and neither were they [cosmologists].

(I present to you the wisdom of John W. Bacon of the Kansas State Board of Education.)

From the article ‘The Other Evolution Wars’, written by cosmologist David Kaiser and published in American Scientist (2007, vol. 95, p518-526), Fred Hoyle, a vocal advocate of the steady-state theory, believed that:

… the very notion of a universe beginning in time was “quite characteristic of the outlook of primitive peoples,” who turn to gods to explain physical phenomena.

Both Hoyle and Lerner believe/d that Big Bang cosmologists are “blind believers” (Kaiser, 2007); Lerner went so far as to say that the Big Bang theory is built on faith, not observation.

The curious thing is that the Big Bang theory (correct me if I’m wrong) is a theory of Universe evolution from the first Planck time onwards; it does not predict how the Big Bang occurred. Hence, it doesn’t preclude a god, which got/gets on Hoyle’s and Lerner’s and surely other physicists’s nerves (although it made the Church happier). Intelligent design devotees who campaign against the Big Bang theory must have missed the memo!

P.S. The title is a quote from Galileo. Right on.

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