The Big Bang Theory Science Vs Religion Essay

The Big Bang Theory vs. God’s Word

by Wayne Jackson

“We have tried over and over again to point out to readers that the big bang theory is not at odds with the Bible nor with the concept of God as Creator.” So wrote John N. Clayton, of South Bend, Indiana, in the September-October, 1999 issue of his paper, Does God Exist? In addition to teaching high school, Mr. Clayton has virtually made a career of lecturing most weekends of the year to churches across the country. His knowledge of science is woefully skewed with ideas of evolution; unfortunately, his acquaintance with the Bible is even more deficient.

A number of conservative Bible students have tried, “over and over again,” to get John Clayton to see that it is a serious compromise of scriptural truth to give credence to the big bang theory. In this article, we examine this materialistic concept of the origin of the universe.

Basically there are two views of the origin of the universe. One of these is the supernatural position set forth in the book of Genesis (chapters one and two), with ample confirmation from other inspired writings. The Genesis narrative affirms that God created the heavens and the earth on the first day of the initial week of earth’s history. Subsequently, during the remaining five days of creation activity, attention was directed to this planet, the abode of man—who was uniquely fashioned in the image of the Creator (Genesis 1:26, 27). The sun, moon, and stars were also made (vv. 14ff). The Scriptures make it perfectly clear that the whole creation (inorganic and organic) came into being during this six-day period (see Exodus 20:11).

The second view of the beginning of the universe is wholly materialistic. Modern “scientism” prefers to grapple with its problems without appealing to God, although, as science writer Lincoln Barnett observed, “this seems to become more difficult all the time” (1957, 22). Isaac Asimov wrote: “The Bible describes a Universe created by God, maintained by him, and intimately and constantly directed by him, while science describes a Universe in which it is not necessary to postulate the existence of God at all” (1981, 13).

Theories concerning the mechanistic origin of the universe come and go. Today’s “science” is tomorrow’s superstition. A few years ago scientists were touting the steady-state theory as the most reasonable explanation of the origin of the universe. It asserted that new matter is constantly being created to replace that which is lost by the expanding universe. “Today most astronomers regard the steady-state theory as dead” (Weaver 1974, 625). The current inclination concerning the beginning of our universe is known as the big bang theory, but even the “bang” notion is receiving competition from a newer view called the plasma theory (DeYoung 1992, i-iv).

The Theory Defined

The big bang concept alleges that some twenty billion years ago (give or take ten billion), all of the matter in the known universe was tightly packed into a microscopic cosmic “egg.” One writer expresses it this way: “Astonishingly, scientists now calculate that everything in this vast universe grew out of a region many billions of times smaller than a single proton, one of the atom’s basic particles” (Gore 1983, 705). This is truly an incredible statement!

In one of his books, Dr. Robert Jastrow asserts that in the beginning “all matter in the Universe was compressed into an infinitely dense and hot mass” that exploded. Over many eons, supposedly, “the primordial cloud of the Universe expands and cools, stars are born and die, the sun and earth are formed, and life arises on the earth” (1977, 2-3). Dr. Jastrow is describing, of course, what is commonly known as the big bang theory, and it does not require much critical acumen to conclude that the concept is evolutionary to the core.

Where the cosmic egg came from no one seems to know. Certainly no cosmic chicken has been located! Some allege that the egg always existed. They speculate that it possibly resulted from some earlier universe that collapsed upon itself. This assumes that matter is eternal. But this idea is refuted by our knowledge of physics (e.g., the second law of thermodynamics). Jastrow concedes that “modern science denies an eternal existence to the Universe, either in the past or in the future” (15). Others, like Professor Victor Stenger of the University of Hawaii, muse that perhaps the universe came from nothing (the egg laid itself!):

[T]he universe is probably the result of a random quantum fluctuation in a spaceless, timeless void . . . the earth and humanity, are not conscious creations but an accident. . . . [I]t is not sufficient merely to say, “You can’t get something from nothing.” While everyday experience and common sense seem to support this principle, if there is anything that we have learned from twentieth-century physics, it is this: Common sense is often wrong, and our normal experiences are but a tiny fraction of reality (1987, 26-27).

One thing is certain: one is required to lay aside his “common sense” in order to accept the foregoing incomprehensible speculation. None of these materialistic theories has any credibility—biblically or scientifically. Some scientists should take a hint from the Scottish skeptic David Hume: “I have never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause” (1932, 187).

Dr. Mart de Groot, who views the big bang concept as “a possible way of understanding the opening statement of the Bible, ‘in the beginning God . . .’,” admits that there is an objective difficulty to the theory. And it is this: even if the “primordial matter” exploded, he says, resulting in our present universe, “what is the origin or source of this matter?” He confesses that “probably the most serious shortcoming of the big bang is its inability to go back to the very beginning of time and space” (1999, 20-23). The theory has far more shortcomings than the matter of “matter commencement”!

Flaws in the Big Bang Scenario

There are a number of logical problems with the big bang scheme of origins:

(1) The big bang scenario speculates that the marvelously ordered universe randomly resulted from a gigantic explosion—a “holocaust,” to use Jastrow’s term. Never in the history of human experience has a chaotic explosion been observed producing an intricate order that operates purposefully. An explosion in a print shop does not produce an encyclopedia. A tornado sweeping through a junkyard does not assemble a Boeing 747. No building contractor dumps his materials on a vacant lot, attaches dynamite, and then waits for a completed home from the resulting bang. The idea is absurd. Evolutionist Donald Page was correct when he wrote: “There is no mechanism known as yet that would allow the Universe to begin in an arbitrary state and then evolve to its present highly ordered state” (1983, 40).

(2) If the universe started with an explosion, one would expect that all matter-energy should have been propelled radially from the explosion center—consistent with the principle of angular momentum. It would not be expected that the universe would be characterized by the curving and orbiting motions that are commonly observed, e.g., the revolution of our earth around the sun (cf. Morris 1984, 150).

(3) For years scientists have been attempting to measure the microwave radiation that is coming in from all parts of the universe. It is conjectured that this radiation is the left-over heat from the original big bang. The problem is, wherever this radiation has been measured, it has been found to be extremely uniform, which does not harmonize with the fact that the universe itself is not uniform; rather, it is “clumpy,” i.e., composed of intermittent galaxies and voids. If the big bang theory were true, there should be a correlation between the material composition of the universe (since everything emits thermal heat) and the corresponding radiation temperature. But such is not the case.

Over the past few years, the news media have made much of the report that new measurements of background radiation reveal some variation. The press has hailed this as proof of the big bang. The facts are:

(1) The temperature differential supposedly detected was only about thirty millionths of one degree, and there are other possible explanations for this circumstance apart from the hypothetical bang.

(2) Some of the scientists involved in the project question whether the instruments employed for measuring the radiation are sensitive enough to warrant the conclusions that are being drawn.

(3) Others, who claim that additional testing has confirmed their assertion of temperature “ripples,” confess now that it is “harder than ever” to explain “how these ripples grew into the starry structures that fill the universe” (Flam 1993, 31).

Even the respected science journal Nature suggested it is a “cause of some alarm” that the media have characterized this flimsy evidence as “proof” of the big bang (1992, 731). Why do some religionists gravitate to these groundless theories in deference to plain Bible statements?

We will not, at this point, discuss other flaws in the big bang hypothesis, but simply refer the reader to several other sources (Morris 1984, 149-151; Major 1991, 21-24; Morris 1992, d; Humphreys 1992, i-iv).

Fatal Compromises

It is to be expected, of course, when “science” announces some amazing new “discovery,” which purportedly supports its view of the origin of the universe, that liberal religionists will jump on the band wagon—in this case the “bang” wagon—affirming that such is consistent with the Genesis record. When the big bang theory was first heralded, Pope Pius XII wrote that “scientists are beginning to find the finger of God in the creation of the universe.” More recently (1990), Gerald L. Schroeder, an Israeli nuclear physicist, wrote a book titled, Genesis and the Big Bang. Therein he contended that there is no contradiction between the biblical account of creation and the current big bang theory (see Ostling 1992, 42-43).

In addition to Clayton (cited above), Arlie Hoover, a professor at Abilene Christian University, has argued similarly:

It is entirely possible, though not at all firmly established, that God used a big bang as His method of creation. You cannot affirm it as a certainty, but neither can you deny it apodictically. Because the Bible does not specify how God did it, we are left to choose the hypothesis that seems to have the best supporting material . . . nothing in the biblical doctrine excludes the big bang (1992, 34, 35).

In an incredible display of illogical meandering, the professor attempted to show why it is possible to accept both the big bang concept and the Genesis account. He suggested, for example, that the question, “Where did I come from?” can be answered a number of correct ways: from God, from mother’s womb, from a hospital, etc. Similarly, he says, one might suggest that the universe came both from God and the big bang.

The problem with this line of argument is this: In Hoover’s illustration, each of the possible answers—God, mother, hospital—can be supported with evidence. In the matter of the big bang, this alleged “cause” has not been proved. It is just that simple. But let us go back for a moment to the “Where did I come from?” question. Suppose one responded in this way: “From God. From the hospital. From the stork!” Is each of these answers equally valid? If not, where is the flaw?

The Bible versus the Big Bang

Are the Bible and the big bang theory in agreement? No. And informed persons, on both sides of the issue are aware of this fact. Paul Steidl, an astronomer, has noted:

50o astronomers would ever think of the big bang as the creation event of Genesis. The big bang was invented specifically for the purpose of doing away with the creation event. An astronomer would laugh at the naivety of anyone who chose to equate the two events (1979, 197).

Evolutionist Paul Davies, in a discussion of the big bang, says that this theory of origins “differs greatly in detail from the biblical version.” He then quotes Ernan McMullin of Notre Dame University:

What one cannot say is, first, that the Christian doctrine of creation “supports” the Big Bang model, or second, that the Big Bang model “supports” the doctrine of creation (1983, 17-20).

The fact is, there are significant contradictions between the big bang theory and the Bible record. Let us reflect on some of these:

(1) As noted earlier, the Bible plainly teaches that the entire universe, including the earth with its various “kinds” of biological organisms, came into being during the six, literal days of the creation week (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). The big bang theory postulates eons of time.

(2) Some, of course, contend that there may have been a vast “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, thus accommodating the alleged time involved in the expansion and development of the universe following the big bang.

(3) It is argued that the “days” of Genesis 1 were not literal days.

(4) And perhaps there were “gaps” between the days of the creation week, etc.

But none of these twisted theories has an ounce of credibility if one seriously considers that God has communicated the historical record in an understandable fashion through his inspired word. Each of the theories mentioned above is designed to bring the Bible into harmony with evolutionary chronology. (For further study see Jackson 2003.)

The big bang myth allows that the sun was formed long before the earth. Various theories have been formulated to explain how the universe came to be organized after the initial explosion. Take your choice: the planetesimal theory, the nebular theory, the dust cloud theory. They all have one thing in common—they assert that the earth is a new-comer compared to the sun. However, the Bible teaches that the earth was created first, and the sun came later—on the fourth day of the first week (Genesis 1:1, 14-16). The same point can be made regarding the stars. The Bible puts them after the earth; the evolutionary model teaches otherwise. Of course some have attempted to solve this difficulty with yet another slippery compromise. They allege that the “creative acts” of Genesis 1 are not necessarily “in chronological order” (Willis 1979, 92).

The big bang theory supposes that the universe started with a chaotic explosion which then proceeded toward order. The Bible teaches the exact opposite. God created the universe as a beautiful and orderly masterpiece, but it has been degenerating toward disorder in the intervening millennia (Psalm 102:25ff; Hebrews 1:10-12).

Big bang cosmology postulates a universe that is nearly twenty billion years old, with the human race evolving only three or four million years ago. According to this view, a vast period of time separates the origin of the universe from that of mankind.

But the Scriptures affirm:

(1) The human family came into existence the same week as the universe (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). Man has thus existed from the beginning of the creation (Isaiah 40:21; Mark 10:6; Luke 11:50; Romans 1:20).

(2) Human antiquity extends to only a few thousand years before Christ, as evinced by the genealogical records of the Lord’s ancestry all the way back to Adam, the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45). There are some two millennia spanning the present back to Jesus Christ; another two thousand years push history back to the time of Abraham. There are only twenty generations between Abraham and Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Even if one concedes that some minor gaps exist in the Old Testament narrative (cf. Genesis 11:12; Luke 3:35-36), surely no responsible Bible student will contend that twenty billion years can be squeezed into those twenty generations. The universe thus cannot be billions of years old.

Big bang chronology and biblical chronology are woefully at variance.

Conclusion

The big bang theory is without validity. It has the support of neither genuine science nor responsible biblical exegesis. For once we agree with several evolutionists who admit: “Cosmology is unique in science in that it is a very large intellectual edifice based on very few facts” (Arp et al. 1990, 812).

In view of that, it can hardly be classified as “science.”

References
  • Arp, H. C., G. Burbidge, F. Hoyle, J. V. Narliker, and N. C. Wickramasinghe. 1990. The extragalactic Universe: an alternative view. Nature, August 30.
  • Asimov, Isaac. 1981. In The Beginning. New York, NY: Crown.
  • Barnett, Lincoln. 1957. The Universe and Dr. Einstein. New York, NY: Mentor.
  • Davies, Paul. 1983. God and the New Physics. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  • de Groot, Mart. 1999. The Search For A Plausible Cosmology. Ministry, November.
  • DeYoung, Don. 1992. The Plasma Universe. Impact, 228, June.
  • Flam, Faye. 1993. Microwave Ripples Have a Reprise. Science, 1 January.
  • Gore, Rick. 1983. The Once and Future Universe. National Geographic, June.
  • Hoover, Arlie. 1992. God and the Big Bang. Gospel Advocate, September.
  • Hume, David. 1932. Letters. Vol. 1. J. Y. T. Greig, ed. Oxford, England: Clarendon.
  • Humphreys, Russell. 1992. Bumps in the Big Bang. Impact, 233, November.
  • Jackson, Wayne. 2003. Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth. Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications.
  • Jastrow, Robert. 1977. Until The Sun Dies. New York, NY: Warner Books.
  • Major, Trevor. 1991. The Big Bang In Crisis. Reason & Revelation, June.
  • Morris, Henry. 1984. The Biblical Basis For Modern Science. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.
  • Morris, John. 1992. Has The Big Bang Been Saved? Impact, 228, June.
  • Nature. 1992. Big Bang brouhaha. April 30.
  • Ostling, Richard N. 1992. Galileo and Other Faithful Scientists. Time, December 28.
  • Page, Donald N. 1983. Inflation Does Not Explain Asymmetry. Nature, July 7.
  • Steidl, Paul M. 1979. The Earth, the Stars, and the Bible. Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed.
  • Stenger, Victor J. 1987. Was the Universe Created? Free Inquiry, 7:3, Summer.
  • Weaver, Kenneth F. 1974. The Incredible Universe. National Geographic, May.
  • Willis, John T. 1979. Genesis. Austin, TX: Sweet Publishing Co.
Scripture References

Genesis 1:26, 27; Exodus 20:11; Genesis 1; Genesis 1:1; Genesis 1:1, 14-16; Psalm 102:25; Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 40:21; Mark 10:6; Luke 11:50; Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 15:45; Luke 3:23-38; Genesis 11:12; Luke 3:35-36

Cite this article

Jackson, Wayne. "The Big Bang Theory vs. God's Word." ChristianCourier.com. Access date: March 10, 2018. https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/133-big-bang-theory-vs-gods-word-the

This fall, PBS will broadcast ''Faith and Reason,'' a documentary written and narrated by Margaret Wertheim and partly financed with $190,000 from the Templeton Foundation, featuring interviews with scientists about God. In the last two years, a steady stream of books has appeared with titles like ''Cybergrace: The Search for God in the Digital World'' and ''God & the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science & Spirituality.''

The Conference

A Universe With Purpose

The Templeton Foundation also gave the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences $1.4 million for a heavily promoted conference called ''Science and the Spiritual Quest,'' held this month in Berkeley, Calif. For four days scientists, most of them Christians, Jews or Muslims, testified about their efforts to resolve their own conflicts over science and religion. All seemed to share the conviction that this is a purposeful universe, that there is a reason to be here.

''Theology is not some airy-fairy form of metaphysical speculation,'' said John C. Polkinghorne, a Cambridge University particle physicist turned Anglican priest whose books include ''Quarks, Chaos & Christianity'' and the newly published ''Belief in God in an Age of Science.'' Like science, he said, religion is rooted in encounters with reality -- though in the latter case these include spiritual revelations whose truths lie in the unreachable realm of the subjective. The pervading question was whether this kind of experience could ever be studied scientifically.

For most of the century people have espoused the view that science and religion should be kept apart to avoid the inevitable combustions. But to logical minds it has always been troubling that two opposing ways could exist to explain the same universe. Science and religion spring from the human obsession to find order in the world. But surely there can be only one true explanation for reality. Life was either created or it evolved. Prayer is either communication with God or a psychological salve. The universe is either pervaded by spiritual forces or ruled by nothing but physical laws.

One way out of the dilemma has been to embrace a kind of deism: The Almighty created the universe according to certain specifications and then left it to run on its own. ''God'' becomes a metaphor for the laws that science tries to uncover.

Or religion can be explained away scientifically. ''There is a hereditary selective advantage to membership in a powerful group united by devout belief and purpose,'' Dr. Wilson wrote in ''Consilience.'' He warned against letting this genetically ingrained drive overpower the intellect. ''If history and science have taught us anything, it is that passion and desire are not the same as truth. The human mind evolved to believe in the gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology.'' It is important not to confuse the universe as it is with the universe as we wish it would be.

The Theories

Limits of Science Can Lead to Religion

For many researchers, the whole point of science is to replace religious teachings with verifiable theories, and to pretend otherwise is self-delusion. ''We're working on building up a complete picture of the universe, which, if we succeed, will be a complete understanding of the universe and everything that's in it,'' Richard Dawkins, a University of Oxford biologist, said in a preview copy of ''Faith and Reason.'' He found it baffling that some of his colleagues struggle to keep God in the picture. ''I don't understand why they waste their time going into this other stuff, which never has added anything to the storehouse of human wisdom,'' he said, ''and I don't see that it ever will.''

But others, like the cosmologist Allan Sandage, have found that their search for objective truth has led them to questions that science cannot answer. ''The most amazing thing to me is existence itself,'' Dr. Sandage said at the Berkeley conference. ''Why is there something instead of nothing?'' This impenetrable mystery, he said, drove him to become a believer. ''How is it that inanimate matter can organize itself to contemplate itself? That's outside of any science I know.''

Science, like religion, is ultimately built on a platform of beliefs and assumptions. No one can prove that the universe is mathematical or that the same laws that seem to hold in the here and now can be applied to the distant quasars or to the first moments of time. These are among the tenets of the faith, marking the point at which reasoning can begin. ''Science is not able to question these issues,'' George Ellis, a professor of applied mathematics at the University of Capetown and a Quaker, said at the conference. ''It takes them for granted as its bedrock.''

It is not just the coincidence of the approaching millennium that is inspiring hopes for what would be the grandest of unified theories. Faced with science's success in modeling the world, people find it harder to accept religious teachings that cannot be verified. Many Christians were disturbed when radiocarbon dating suggested that the Shroud of Turin was not Jesus's burial cloth but a medieval forgery, and they hope that new scientific data, not religious fiat, will overturn the old research. Even the creationists realized long ago that they can't sway the opposition simply by asserting that their beliefs are true because they are written in the Bible. They proffer scientific proof -- pseudoscientific, those outside the faith would say -- that life and the universe were created as described in Genesis.

But science, too, is feeling its limits, leaving a vacuum that religion is happy to rush into. Neuroscientists can explain the brain, on a rough level, as networks of communicating cells called neurons. But it is hard to imagine a satisfying theory of the conscious experience -- what it is like to be alive. And no amount of theorizing is apt to converge on a persuasive explanation of where the mathematical laws are written or what happened before the Big Bang. For all its powers to observe and reason, the mind ultimately encounters chasms. Then the only choice is to retreat or take the great leap and choose what to believe.

The Money

Dollars Fuel Effort To Put God in Science

For all the genuine philosophical longings, the recent drive to put God back in science would not be nearly so intense without the millions of Templeton dollars looking for places to land. ''We are searching for a serious rapprochement between science and religion,'' Charles Harper, the executive director and vice president of the Templeton Foundation, said at the beginning of the Berkeley conference.

The money and the inspiration come from the investor John Marks Templeton, founder of the Templeton Growth Fund and other ventures, who retired in 1992 to work full time on his philanthropy. The most prominent of Sir John's endeavors (he was knighted in 1987) is the annual Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, guaranteed to exceed the Nobel Prizes in monetary value. (Mr. Templeton thought Alfred Nobel snubbed spirituality.) Early winners of the Templeton award, first given in 1973, were usually religious leaders like Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. More recently the prizes, now more than $1 million, have gone to the political scientist Michael Novak and the physicist and science writer Paul Davies.

The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences in Berkeley is receiving $12.6 million from Templeton to help develop science and religion programs at universities worldwide. The American Association for the Advancement of Science received $1.3 million ''to help establish a science and religion dialogue.''

Last year the foundation's announcement that it would award grants of $100,000 to $200,000 for a program in ''forgiveness studies'' sent behavioral scientists scrambling to write proposals. Among the work being funded are ''Forgiveness and Community: A Game-Theoretic Analysis,'' ''Assessment of Forgiveness: Psychometric, Interpersonal, and Psychophysiological Correlates'' and ''Does Forgiveness Enhance Brain Activation Associated With Empathy in Victims of Assault?''

Those who submitted proposals were asked to include a section about how their research would address the issues clarified in Mr. Templeton's books ''Discovering the Laws of Life'' and ''Worldwide Laws of Life: 200 Eternal Spiritual Principles.'' A major focus of the foundation is publishing some 20 works by and about Mr. Templeton and encouraging scientific research on what its literature describes as ''optimism, hope and personal control.''

The Discourse

Polite Talk, But No Passion

Judging from the conference, no amount of money is likely to succeed in blending science and religion into a common pursuit. A kind of Sunday school politeness pervaded the meeting, with none of the impassioned confrontations expected from such an emotionally charged subject. ''Many of the speakers have been preaching to the choir,'' Dr. Sandage complained. ''There are no atheists on the program, only strict believers.''

Many of the speakers avoided grappling with religion directly, content to ponder mysteries that have disturbed scientists for decades. The Stanford University cosmologist Andrei Linde speculated on the tantalizing possibility that consciousness, the very hallmark of humanity, could be an intrinsic part of the universe -- as fundamental to the warp and woof of creation as space and time. After all, he said, our subjective experience is the only thing each of us is really sure of. All else is speculation.

''Our knowledge of the world begins not with matter but with perceptions,'' Dr. Linde argued. ''I know for sure that my pain exists, my 'green' exists, and my 'sweet' exists. I do not need any proof of their existence, because these events are a part of me; everything else is a theory.'' It is to explain the source of these perceptions that we posit the existence of an outside reality, forgetting that this is just a supposition.

The existence of a real world is another of the tenets of the scientific faith. It is impossible to proceed without it. But many scientists would find the view that consciousness is the root of everything to be hopelessly anthropomorphic and even solipsistic. The conference might also have booked prominent scientists, like Stephen Jay Gould, who argue that consciousness, as powerful as it necessarily seems to its holders, may be just an accident of evolution. Behind the face of consciousness, one can choose to find God. Or not. Without a decisive experiment, it is a matter of personal belief, not of science.

The astrophysicist John Barrow of the University of Sussex spoke of another longstanding mystery: the dazzling cosmological coincidences that make life possible. If certain physical constants had slightly different values, stars would not have formed to cook up the atoms that made the biological molecules. Since early in the century, some truth seekers have taken this sort of argument as a reason to believe that the universe was created with people in mind.

But one is also free to choose the opposite belief: that the coincidences simply show that life is indeed an incredible fluke.

It was hard to know what to make of some of the presentations. Mitchell Marcus, chairman of the computer science department at the University of Pennsylvania, speculated that the craft of artificial intelligence -- designing thinking computers -- is a modern realization of the school of Jewish mysticism based on the Kabala. According to this ancient teaching, it is not quarks and leptons but the first 10 numbers and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet that are the true fundamental particles: the elements of the divine utterance that gave rise to creation. ''Computer scientists,'' he declared, ''are the Kabalists of today.'' The ancient rabbis are said to have used magical incantations to create beings called golems. The programmers create their simulated creatures with incantations of computer code.

The audience politely applauded after each presentation. But there was little sense of intellectual excitement, that people were coming to grips with the disturbing issue of whether there really is a God.

Most of the presentations consisted more simply of heartfelt testimonials about the difficulties of constantly being pulled by two powerfully conflicting attractions, the material and the spiritual, the known and the unknowable. And some of the speakers seemed to believe that, for all the efforts to bring them together, science and religion must inevitably go their separate ways. ''Would I do science differently if I weren't a Quaker?'' asked Jocelyn Bell Burnell, chairwoman of the physics department of the Open University in England and a Quaker. ''I don't think so.''

Dr. Sandage, the cosmologist, matter of factly put it like this: ''I don't go to a biology book to learn how to live. I don't go to the Bible to learn about science.''

As science continues to draw its picture of the physical world, each question it answers will inevitably raise more. So there will always be mysteries, the voids in human knowledge where religious awe can grow.

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