Catholicism and the "Big Bang" Theory

No, this is not about the comedy television show.  I'm talking about the mathematical theory on the origin of the universe.  The so-called "Big Bang" theory was created by a Catholic priest named Father Georges Lemaître.  (Yes, it's true, Google it.)  Now Father Lemaître didn't call it that originally.  He called it the "hypothesis of the primaeval atom" and Albert Einstein gave him full credit for this, even though the press tried to give it to Edwin Hubble instead.

Now, any scientific theory is defined simply as this: "the best explanation we have for the scientific data... until a better one comes along."  That's why it seems like scientific theories are always changing.  Because they are changing!  They are not designed to be constants.  They are not intended to be dogma.  Rather, they are designed to be models.  These are mere models, which scientists use in an attempt to solve more problems.  They continue to use these models, until they stumble across data that would appear to contradict these models.  Then their scientific theories must be rethought.  Sometimes they are merely modified to accommodate the new data.  Sometimes they are scrapped all together in favour of newer and better theories.  That's science you see.  It is always in a state of fluctuation.  It is never absolutely solid.

The problem here is not so much science as it is Modernism.  Now Modernism is a social ideology with religious undertones.  It has many amorphous meanings and implications, but probably the best way to summarise it is to say that it promotes a break with historical Christian thought, understanding, religion and morality, in favour of a new world view based on science and human reason.

Unfortunately there is a problem with this.  People, by human nature, require dogma to base their lives on.  Modernism has obliterated classical Christian dogma, and replaced it with science.  Now science was never intended to serve as dogma.  That was never its function, and it is wholly inadequate for this purpose.  That's why the Catholic Church has encouraged science, yet at the same time, kept a strict separation between science and religion.  Science is the search for data.  Religion (particularly Catholic Christianity) is the revelation of absolute truth.  See the difference? 

There is nothing wrong with subscribing to scientific theories to solve scientific problems, but to substitute those theories for the dogma, upon which we build our lives, is a horrible mistake.  It is an abuse of science, dogma and humanity. 

Father Lemaître understood this all too well.  Which is why he convinced His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, to stop using his "Big Bang" theory as a scientific justification for creationism.  It was a bold but wise move for a lowly Catholic priest to council the Holy Father in such a way, but I think it was the right thing to do.  Today, modern science has moved on from the so-called "big bang," and modified the theory into what appears now to be a "Big Push."  This was to be expected because no scientific theory is dogma.  It can never be.  Father Lemaître would agree. 

What should Catholics take away from this?  We should remember that God has revealed that the universe had a definite beginning. Science for centuries asserted that the universe was eternal.  Father Lemaître used science to prove them wrong.  The universe did have a beginning and that is mathematically indisputable now. So on this one thing, science has now been forced to agree with religion, even though most scientists were dragged kicking and screaming into it.  As for HOW that beginning happened?  Well.... that's just a matter of theory.  The current scientific understanding will remain, until a better one comes along, but God's dogmatic truth is unchanged, and in this case, scientifically vindicated.  No, the universe is not eternal.  Yes, the universe did have a beginning.  Thank you Father Lemaître for putting science in its place on that one.  That's what we Catholics should take away from all of this.  Don't base your life or world view on something that is constantly changing.  That's what scientific theories are.  They are designed simply as temporary models to solve scientific problems.  You can't build your life on shifting sand like that.  When it comes to our lives, we must based them on the revealed truth of God.  This will make the only solid foundation.  If you want to flirt with scientific theories, that's fine, so long as you understand what they really are.


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Miles Christi said… great sermon on this