Groovy greetings to you all! On the one hand I want to apologize for hovering on the same subject and same book chapters so far in my summary series. On the other hand, at close inspection there’s so much rich and thought-provoking information contained in the early part of Meyer’s book that it would be a shame to miss the consequence of it all. I hope I can do it some justice. Also please see at bottom my disclaimer.
THE BEGINNING, CONTINUED
Sir Isaac Newton, though being, as Meyer says, “profoundly theistic” and extremely intelligent and well-educated, believed that the universe was infinite in its physical extent, because otherwise, in his understanding of gravity, all material bodies would collapse on each other. Einstein initially agreed with this view, but his own theories on gravity, and later the work of other scientists, caused him to re-think.
According to Einstein’s General Theory, presented in 1917, space itself is curved, and so he reasoned that there must be some outward-pushing force acting to stop all of matter congealing. He proposed a “Cosmological Constant”, a constant repulsive force pushing outwards, but based on his understanding of an eternal universe.
Various theories challenged Einstein’s Constant, and strongly suggested a dynamic (changing) universe. In 1927 Georges Lemaître, a Belgian physicist (and incidentally, a Catholic priest) declared from his own studies that space is expanding spherically. He also surmised that one logical conclusion from this fact was that there had to be a starting point for the expansion, which he called the “primeval atom”.
Einstein didn’t like this line of logic at all, both mathematically, and because, he said, it sounded too much like the Christian “dogma” of Creation. It took an experience with Hubble’s one-hundred inch telescope, and the red-shift of distant and receding galaxies, to turn Einstein’s thinking around. Here he realized that there had to have been a beginning to the universe. He and other physicists worked hard to find an alternative-coming up with several elaborate ideas and theories in order to dispense with the need for a beginning. British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington said, about the specter of the universe having a beginning:
“Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order is repugnant to me. I should like to find a genuine loophole”.
Robert Dicke, a leading Princeton physicist during the 1950s and 1960s, said that an infinitely old universe “would relieve us…of the necessity of understanding the origin of matter at any finite time in the past”.
In this vein three Cambridge researchers offered “the steady state” model, and Meyer writes, “Fred Hoyle (one of the three) acknowledged that he proposed the steady-state model to circumvent what were to him the obvious theistic implications of the big bang theory”. Hoyle never did accept accept the big bang, despite all its alleged evidence, which includes the “smoking gun” evidence of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, documented in the mid-1960s.
At this time some physicists, still looking to avoid that beginning, proposed an oscillating universe model. According to this model, the universe perpetually expands and contracts. One major problem with this model came from mathematical calculations for the effects of entropy, which would increase with each successive cycle, thus defeating the concept of an eternally dynamic universe. Mass and energy would be increasingly randomized, and the amount of energy would decrease, finally leaving an insufficient level to do the work.
Meyer shares the observation that recent astronomical measurements appear to show that the universe’s mass is less than the critical level which would be necessary to stop its expansion, and that it will likely never collapse. It seems also that the speed of the expansion of the universe is actually increasing, as a result of dark energy.
Meyer relates that “the discovery of a beginning to the universe has led many scientists to reflect seriously on the possible theistic implications of a finite universe”. He shares the story of one physicist in particular who in recent times underwent his own change of conviction. Allen Sandage served as a graduate assistant to Edwin Hubble, and earned his PhD at Caltech. He continued the work of Hubble, and the relationship between recessional velocity and distance.
Sandage was “widely respected” as one of the great observational astronomers of the twentieth-century, also being known as an agnostic and materialist. However, Meyer himself later witnessed Sandage shock many of his colleagues by announcing at a conference his recent religious conversion, and explaining how the evidence of a “creation event” had contributed to a profound change in his worldview. Meyer describes Sandage, discussing scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe, at one point looking around the audience intently , and gravely stating:
“Here is evidence for what can only be described as a supernatural event. There is no way that this could have been predicted within the realm of physics as we know it.”
So here is my own disclaimer as promised, or forewarned: whatever your viewpoint. Some Christians, including some prominent Creationists who I respect greatly, see the Big Bang model as being both flawed and unscriptural. Far be it from me to question them, but I personally see no problem with the idea of the big bang. The universe had a sudden beginning, in which time, space and matter all came into being. While not intended to be a scientific statement, this following scripture was WAY ahead of its time, as we see from Meyer’s history of human understandings of the Beginning.
In the beginning (time) God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter) (Genesis 1:1).
And I personally think that numerous scripture passages such as that following really do lend themselves to the expansion of the universe (along with walking on water!):
He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8)
While I personally subscribe to the young-earth view, and Meyer to an old creation of the cosmos, I see no problem with the idea that God, a spiritual and pan-dimensional being, brought all of the material universe, and so space-time, into being from one point, and spread it outwards, or designed it to spread outwards under its own divinely-installed set of laws, instructions and energy. I know this is a crude way of looking at it, but either the physical universe came into being from one point in… space (for want of a better word) or it suddenly appeared in its entirety, like a cartoon wizard might make an entire elephant “poof” into existence in an instant. It seems to me that the former is a dead-ringer for the big bang model, or something not unlike it.
Thank you for reading!