TCS Daily


The Creation Myth

By John Farrell - June 22, 2006 12:00 AM

This June 22 marks the 40th anniversary of the death of one of the Twentieth Century's most far-sighted scientists. But Georges Lemaître, in addition to being a first-rate mathematician and physicist, was also a diocesan Catholic priest -- and in these days when religion and science are often hyped into starkly opposing sides, it's instructive to recall the man's extraordinary scientific achievement as well as his views on science and religion and the careful distinction he maintained between them.

Lemaître is credited with being the Father of the Big Bang theory (Fred Hoyle once disparagingly referred to him as 'the big bang man'), but in fact, his contribution to the theory was almost an afterthought to his real achievement. Lemaître was in essence the first cosmologist, meaning, the first physicist not only conversant with Einstein's field equations of general relativity, but also the first to deliberately train himself in astronomy and astrophysics to find proof of what the equations suggested to him -- that the universe could be dynamic, expanding.

He spent a year at Cambridge with Arthur Stanley Eddington (Einstein's greatest champion in the UK at the time) and a year at Harvard with Harlow Shapley and at MIT before heading out west to Cal Tech, to Mount Wilson where Hubble was collecting new red shifts, and to Flagstaff in Arizona to meet with the veteran American astronomer Vesto Slipher, who first began noticing the redshifts of what were then called extra-galactic nebulae. This is quite an itinerary for a young scientist from a Catholic University, considering it was back in the days before air travel.

Lemaître derived what is known as Hubble's constant in 1927. In a landmark paper, he showed how the redshifts indicated a velocity of recession proportional to their distances. He did this two years before Hubble cautiously published his own findings. In 1932 Lemaître also devised a solution to Einstein's equations that allowed J. Robert Oppenheimer and his colleague to first model those fantastical objects of cosmic doom, now called black holes, in 1939. Lemaître referred to his solution as a "dust" solution because it examined the gravitational collapse of a sphere made of dust (and therefore of zero pressure), something that did not occur to Karl Schwarzschild when he derived his Schwarzschild limit in 1916.

If that isn't enough for distinction, Lemaître virtually alone amongst his peers argued tirelessly for the inclusion in Einstein's equations of the so-called cosmological constant, arguing that it was not just an ad-hoc factor to balance Einstein's preconceived notion of a static cosmos, but it represented a real force, counterbalancing that of gravity on the cosmic scale and even causing the acceleration of the universe's expansion. It now looks, based on data regarding the expansion's acceleration, that he was right.

Back in the early 1930s, the Nobel Laureate Paul Michael Dirac had a chance to discuss the expanding universe with Lemaître. Dirac was an atheist, and yet later he recalled, "When I was talking with Lemaître about this subject and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However Lemaître did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion."

This is fascinating, not because Dirac was an atheist and feeling mystical stirrings when he contemplated the cosmos, but because Lemaitre was a priest -- and he did not.

There has always been something about cosmology, almost to the point of cliché, that is supposed to put the possibility of a Maker into the mind of even the most stubborn materialist, so it's interesting that Lemaître was not impressed by the cosmological approach to God. The sheer size and scope of the universe was evidently not a factor in his faith. Nor was he bothered by suggestions from colleagues and the media that his interest in the Big Bang was ultimately theological (a myth perpetuated most recently in Dan Brown's light-weight thriller Angels and Demons).

At the international physics conference is Solvay in 1958, he had a response to those who believed the Big Bang theory was inspired by religion:

"As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being. He may keep, for the bottom of space-time, the same attitude of mind he has been able to adopt for events occurring in non-singular places in space-time. For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God... it is consonant with the wording of Isaiah speaking of the "Hidden God", hidden even in the beginning of creation.... Science has not to surrender in face of the Universe and when Pascal tries to infer the existence of God from the supposed infinitude of Nature, we may think that he is looking in the wrong direction."

We may think he is looking in the wrong direction.

What does that mean, the wrong direction? Well, if we go back to Lemaître's comment to Dirac, he seems to be suggesting that psychology rather than physics more poignantly suggests a transcendental meaning to the world -- which I interpret here in broad terms to be the study of what motivates men and women to act or not act -- to be heroes and saints...or criminals and dictators.

Nor was Lemaître impressed by a literal interpretation of the Bible:

"The writers of the Bible were illuminated more or less -- some more than others -- on the question of salvation. On other questions they were as wise or as ignorant as their generation. Hence it is utterly unimportant that errors of historic or scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if errors relate to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them.

The idea that because they were right in their doctrine of immortality and salvation they must also be right on all other subjects is simply the fallacy of people who have an incomplete understanding of why the Bible was given to us at all."

Cosmology, like evolution, brought the issue of science and faith to the forefront as soon as Lemaître detailed his expansion model and its origin with at time t=0. If there was a temporal origin to the universe's evolution, then it seemed to many scientists to imply the act of creation. Arthur Stanley Eddington, a Quaker, certainly thought so and found the whole idea repugnant.

In Lemaître's view it did not have to imply that.

In many ways, he felt, the argument was based on a misunderstanding of terms -- one that many scientists are prone to make and one theologians are less likely to: and that assumption is, what a theologian or philosopher means by creation is the same thing as what a scientist means by origin. Lemaître indeed would not ever have allowed a term like creation to be used credibly in a scientific paper. By its very nature, the word describes something that is empirically unverifiable -- how, in principle, could any experiment or theoretical quantification be made of an act or process (for want of a better term) that by definition precedes all things, including time, space and matter? Lemaître never made this mistake.

He was in a hospital in Belgium 40 years ago, suffering the aftermath of a heart attack as well as a form of leukemia. His colleague Odon Godart brought him the news just a day or two before he died on June 20th: that the Americans Penzias and Wilson had discovered the cosmic background radiation. Lemaître was fortunate therefore to live long enough to see the discovery of the strongest evidence for the Big Bang -- what he had initially called 'the primeval atom'. One wonders whether, had he lived another decade, he might have shared the Nobel Prize with Penzias and Wilson.

John Farrell is the author of The Day Without Yesterday: Lemaître, Einstein and the Birth of Modern Cosmology.

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26 Comments

Paul Marmet, thanks
Dr. Marmet, former President of the Canadian Ass'n of Physicists, at the U. of Ottawa, etc., etc., (politically incorrectly), has shown that the red-shift of purportedly receding galaxys from the "big bang" is not a doppler phenomenon, (hence, no big bang) but actually caused by interaction of light with molecular hydrogen in space, which shifts it toward red, not an exploding universe. He has also shown that the famous missing 'dark matter' is heretofore undetected molecular hydrogen. Have a look at his work, it's truly elegant.

What about relic radiation?
How does he explain relic radiation, then? Evidence about a big bang doesn't limit to red-shift. Red-shift, by the way, is not explained at all as "a Doppler effect" in General Relativity.

An excelent article!
All what I read about Lemaître pointed (now I see, with no solid base) in the other direction. It's somehow funny that the error avoided by Lemaître was later adopted by Hawking, regarding his imaginary time hypothesis.

beats me - - - - -
f, thanks for your comments. It doesn't explain it as far as I know, but it doesn't need to. Marmet's is a great contribution on its own merit. Interesting that Einstein is also at odds with the big bang. There are fads, fancies, falacies and tribal politics in cosmology, as every other human endeavor. Oh well, it keeps the cosmologists employed and out of the pool halls. If, when, Marmet is accepted, there will be a lot of cosmologiste looking for work, instead of competing to see who can produce the wildest scheme.

The Creation Museum
"what a theologian or philosopher means by creation is the same thing as what a scientist means by origin."

What a load of bunk -- this is exaactly what Creation means to Creationists:

Home Again!
by Ken Ham
Answers in Genesis, June 30, 2005

While I was preparing to leave to return to America from Australia -- and during the actual flight back -- major secular media were again talking with Answers in Genesis (AiG) about the future CREATION MUSEUM. I continue to be amazed (though delighted) that God is blessing us with so much free publicity for a museum that will open in 2007.

While I was flying somewhere over the Pacific on Wednesday, a crew from the national TV news network “FOX NEWS CHANNEL” toured the museum and interviewed Mark Looy (VP of Outreach). That segment will air sometime this weekend (or perhaps on Monday, the Fourth of July). The producers told Mark that the date and time were yet to be determined, but that it was possible that AiG would be featured during FOX’s primetime 7pm newscast (on either “FOX Report with Shephard Smith” or “FOX Report Weekend”). The segment will deal primarily with the Creation Museum ... A cameraman (Bob) and producer (Ruth) from the Fox News Channel spent 2 1/2 hours with Mark Looy at the museum on Wednesday to film a news segment that may air nationwide this weekend.

http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/aroundtheworld/2005/06/30/home-again-2/

http://www.answersingenesis.org/museum/walkthrough/

----------------

Creation Museum Being Built in Kentucky
FOX News, July 05, 2005

A new museum being built in Kentucky will have some of the classic staples of natural history museums -- dinosaurs, fossils and a mineral collection. But it will also have something most museums don't: a viewpoint based solely on the Bible...

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,161643,00.html

A Limited God (to match our ignorance)
Human speculation is a natural process enabling efforts toward knowledge (of what is and is not) and truth.
However, that part of speculation that includes presumption is to be weighed - especially an a priori assumption of a Creator possessing human limitations.

Such a god is easily faith-based on human ignorance - not human knowledge. Additionally, a rejection of The Creator is also based on human ignorance - a questionable presumption.

Attempts at avoidance of a faith-based First Cause confirms an imaginary beginning that is accepted by science at large and is a variety of faith in human opinion without justification. Science? Is there a line to be drawn.

Most human 'lines drawn' put limits on man - not God, the Creator.

Jim Baxter
semper fidelis

psychology over cosmology
THe author says:
"Well, if we go back to Lemaître's comment to Dirac, he seems to be suggesting that psychology rather than physics more poignantly suggests a transcendental meaning to the world -- which I interpret here in broad terms to be the study of what motivates men and women to act or not act -- to be heroes and saints...or criminals and dictators."

Perhaps this narrows the priest's meaning - even trivializes it. Perhaps the point is that if a non material reality exists, our point of contact with it, and our only evidence of its existence is in that consciousness which each of us experiences constantly. The experience of consciousness is unsettling to materialists, so much so that Daniel Dennett is said to believe that consciousness is an illusion.

If cosmological studies are an inferior source of belief in a transcendental meaning, can a better source be theories of why men are bad? It doesn't seem that way to me.

It from bit
Many scientists believe the Next Great Theory must explain the Universe in terms of information. Of course, this is not "science"... yet. There is a range of proposals, with varying grades of weaving between Physics and Information Theory. In one of the extremes, there's something that looks like a Matrix theory: the Universe is a Turing machine. It's only that there's nothing outside this machine. If one of these theories finally proved right, it's highly probable that we could find a link joining our consciousness experience and the physical "reality". Then, we could consider our conscious minds as subroutines inside the global machine. It's hard to tell in advance what implications would follow if this were true.

Of course, all this is an exercise on science fiction...

No Subject
[Don wrote: Marmet's is a great contribution on its own merit.]

Sure! I just mentioned background radiation because it is the main evidence yet in favor of Big Bangs theories.

I'll try to find more information about Marmet's theory, anyway. I'm not a physicist, and it's hard to tell, for an aficionado like me, which new theory is right or wrong. But it's always interesting, of course :)

The Natural and Supernatural
Science can not prove nor disprove God since it God is a supernatural being and thus is immeasurable, hence a subject of religious belief.

The Big Bang, however, is a natural phenomena that can be objectively measured, thus it's a subject for science to study.

Oh no - - -
R, you'll be glad to know you just ruined my day. I find myself in agreement with your thotful posts in this thread.

Marmet
f, glad to send you some material if you wish. Don V.

Religion as science
So a Catholic priest looks at the redshift data which has two possible interpretations. The first is that the light has lost energy (either thru the effects of gravity or some other mechanism), which means that redshift is a measure of the distance that the light has traveled (if the energy has been lost to space) or the gravitation potential around the source or intervening sources. The second is that the redshift is a doppler effect and everything is moving away from everything else so there must have been a point in time where everything was all scrunched together into a singularity (or even Nothing) until something (or Someone, wink, wink, nod, nod) caused the Universe to explode into existence (you know, like a Creation event, wink, wink, nod, nod).

And so this Catholic priest, the good objective scientist that he is, decides to believe in the second possibility (like an Act of Faith). Religion and Science, separate and complementary. Just don't ask which one is which.

Unified Theory
Sorry, couldn't resist that play on words. But in fact I will suggest a congruent theory, if not unified. Discussion is whether psychlogy or cosmology are closer to religion? Lemaitre said it was psychology. What I suspect he meant was Jung's "collective unconscious" but who knows?

In any case, there is a general thread running through this that science starts after the big bang (if there was a BB)and so contemplation of the unknowable pre-BB is religious, or at least faith-based.

But if the law of conservation of energy holds, then every electomagnetic wave (our thoughts included, but everything or act ever illuminated by light) still exists, albeit highly degraded. If the BB will one day give way to a collapsing universe, then we will face the big crunch.

Then every thing, thought, history, life and even time will collapse into this primeval atom which cannot even be seen, measured or even imagined because there is no outside to it. And then, to use Alan Watt's interesting analogy, God-outside-time will decide yet again to play "hide and seek" and the universe will take a new "breath" (to use Hindu concepts of the cyclic universe) and God will enter time. Why does God breath? Again,who knows?

Don Let Me Help You
While R is correct that the assertion of an infinite God can not be properly assessed with Science, measurement is an estimate of magnitude, not of existence. Existence much be proven through other means, such as observation.

Even when he gets it right, he gets it wrong.

What Time Is It?
"Measurement is an estimate of magnitude, not of existence"
-- superheater, June 23, 2006, 2:46 PM

Scientists (and I hear that most normal folks too) observe AND measure existence everyday with things like calendars, clocks, and computers -- to name but a few of the more common instruments.

When all else fails....
you could always pull a god out of your bag of tricks. It is the answer for all that is left unanswered. Unfortunately for many that answer is constantly replaced by true answers gained from knowledge and discovery. Unfortunately for many others the one question involving origin may never see that answer replaced solely due to the magnitude of the problem. Multiple big bangs are quite popular - where after billions of years it all gets sucked back together only to bang out again. The idea of parallel universes is also somewhat popular, where collisions involving ours with a parallel universe actually cause the big bang. Regardless, humans have a problem understanding infinity. We make symbols as explantations. It is a definitive placed upon something that hasn't any. We have difficulty imagining infinity unless we pull ourselves away to view the figure 8 symbol lying on it's side. That definitive of space and time we can imagine traveling through as if on a race track. We see it as a whole object with barriers which cuts away the idea of infinity since we have found it's walls. So, if we remove that symbol and get back onto the idea of infinity without barriers, or walls we could ask, "Since the elements of the universe will be here forever, what is saying that they haven't already been here forever?"

Doppler, schmoppler
And another thing - - - - Marmet shows light loses energy thru interaction with molecular hyrdogen (H2), which, tho difficult to quantify is widely distributed, thus the reddening is a function of, and proportional, to the distance of the galaxy from us.

On the other hand, BB theory holds that galaxy's light is observed to redden, dopplerly, in proportion to a galaxy's distance from us. Since, according to the BB, they are actually receding from us at a speed proportional to their distance from us. This places us at the exact center of the universe and at the original location of the big bang. How likely is that? Score one more for my hero, Marmet.

Doppler redshift
If you want to read a thorough fisking of doppler redshift, read Halton Arp's Seeing Red (yes, *that* Halton Arp). While his theory that redshift is related to the age of the matter emitting the light is pure nonsense, he does a very good job of demonstrating that the redshift of Quasars is not due to their distance from us. They are in fact relatively close to us and in many cases can be seen physically interacting with galaxies at r=2 or less. So another cause of high redshift other than distance (a la Marmet) or doppler (a la BB) must be at work. High gravitational potential is the only other known candidate.

what the!
The observed red shift fits well into BB models any other theory would have to show how blue shift works a how to tell the difference. Current BB models also show how every point will appear as the centre? Most attacks on BB are ID style with little substance mainly teaching the Con.

No ID, just good science
Doppler redshift is disproved if very high redshift objects can be shown to be much closer to us than doppler redshift interpretation requires. If a quasar at r>7 is seen interacting gravitationally with a galaxy at r

Lemaitre's BB and Evolution

I have been a practicing system test engineer. I helped devised test to assure the functioning of the SAGE Air Defense System in 1960, which I know would have prevented 9/11 had it been able to function. Also on the Minuteman Missile program in the 1960s. Later in the 1980s I was a contract administrator on the Shuttle program. From 1/15/70 I was also a practicing lawyer in California. I am now a successful apartment owner. So I hope I know a little something about proving things.

I came across Drosnan’s The Bible Codes shortly after it was published. About 1994-1996. I reviewed the scientific support for the existence of the codes documented at the back of the book. I later read Satinover’s Cracking the Bible Codes. And I went on line to read the comments of the authors of the scientific paper published in Statistical Journal in California as I recall.

Suffice it to say that what was found in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, encoded in equidistant letter sequences, were the name, place and date of birth, without fail, of each of some 32 Rabbis who lived between about 700 AD and 1800 AD. The names were selected on the basis that they were the longest entries in a Jewish encyclopedia. Some 32 other names were rejected because some item, perhaps a date or place of birth, were unknown and thus could not be verified . The Hebrew Torah text used dated from about 1004 AD and as I understand it was the oldest complete Torah text.

Somewhat similar data are found in the Hebrew version of War an Peace, for example. However, these data, perhaps relating to Hitler for example, were found with a frequency and proximity consistent with chance. You could not for example look for any well known name and expect to find it in War and Peace, whereas you would find it in the Torah without fail.

Data on many of the Rabbis were found in Genesis, which is the story of creation. It has been established that it is impossible for us to encode anything within a surface text with meaning of this magnitude. Further, or course, we could in no way predict the future as these codes do. Drosnan believed the text and its codes were authored by some very superior alien race. It makes far more sense to see the codes as a verification of the hand of God in the Torah.

The fly in the ointment is that scientists say the universe is billions of years old, whereas study of the Biblical text gives the beginning of creation as about 4004 BC (Bishop Usher’s estimate). However, it appears that measurements of the speed of light were consistently slower ever since it was first measure in 1676, even when done by the same people on thee same equipment. And so the speed of light was continuously revised downward until shortly after Lemaitre’s BB theory.

Somewhere around 1940 the speed of light was declared a constant, apparently without supporting scientific data, and given a more specific speed somewhere in the 1980s or so as I recall.
Meantime, it was found the carbon 14 dating method began to significantly diverge from the known historical record as you go back beyond about 500 BC. I recall reading a new book to the effect in the 1990s.

This is consistent with the idea of a young earth. As the measurements of light are plotted and extrapolated backwards in time they eventually lead to the rising, asymptotic exponential point more consistent with 4004 BC than 16 billion BC.

The ancient universe hypothesis is absolutely necessary to the evolution hypotheses. However, as many scientists have noted, evolution is nonsense, as one put it, a fairy tale for scientists. The evolution hypotheses predicts nothing either in the past nor the future. It cannot be verified by any experiment. It has no scientific or engineering utility insofar as I am aware. So why do “scientists” persist in espousing the evolution hypotheses as fact?

Obviously its only use seems to be do deny Genesis. Depending on how you look at it, evolution either requires far more miracles than Genesis, or just as many. Looking at Genesis, which seems to be written from an engineer’s viewpoint, God appears to use many off the shelf items for creation, repeating successful items over and over in many variations.

All I know is the codes convinced me of the Torah, and Isaiah, and some other books of the Bible, as being the word of God. Beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty, as we lawyers would say, and far more certainly than the within plus or minus 20% as we electronics engineers used to say.

Huh?
I understand your point about the need for an ancient universe to explain evolution and so, why people who believe as you do (creationists) have to debunk the age of the universe as a starting point, how else to explain the trillions and trillions of fossils on the planet, not to mention oil etc. Perhaps 16 billion isn't right, as you say. But the evidence of human settlement and age and even written scripts from 4th millenium make the idea that the entire universe is 4000 years old just about the silliest notion I can imagine. I suppose there is no way to screen posters.

The creation myth
In 1948 Physicist Ralph Alpher stunned the scientic world when, in his doctorial paper, published the first mathematical formulas that established proof of the Big Bang. He also predicted within a few degrees the residual heat of the phenomenon later discovered by Penzas and Wilson. Alpher never received much credit for his work because at the time there were no means to verify it.

Also, if there was a compact speck of energy that exploded into what is now the Universe, where did it come from - was there a time before time?

I'm sorry
I went out of town for a couple of days and I didn't follow the thread. Sure, I'll be glad to take a look at it, though I say it again: I'm not a "pro". But I have some friends in the field, and in any case, it would be fine to give some food to the couple of neurons still working up there.

Hmm sure must be one scientific myth
I must interject when we speak of the so called creation myth. The simple fact is that there are some simple layman's questions that bring up some very scientific points about the big bang(for one there is the conservation of angular momentum which is to blame for much of the big bang's problems) but to bring up an even more important point I must say that the big bang(if it happened) does not rule out a creator. Even if all the chemicals to create life had been created in the right place and the right time(the odds are really so incredible that it is not even a scientific to say so) then you still do not get life. Life requires a creator. End of story. Look up the facts. I encourage looking into Lee Strobel's books if you want to get out of the atheistic brainwashing.

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