Big bang blurb ...(universe now inflated beyond 15 characters)

(Mervin Bitikofer) #1

This is me shamelessly crowd-sourcing for editorial comments and especially any needed corrections on a poster I’m preparing for my ‘history wall’ in my classroom. If it seems a bit preachy toward the bottom, keep in mind that the reading audience in my classes will include many that have been taught that the big bang is “in enemy territory”. I want to make sure I have my own facts straight. And I can’t think of a more intelligent crowd to run this by … So; trying to squeeze a lot of history into what feels like a tweet: here goes. (It’s a graphic, sorry!)

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #2


There was an blog on BioLogos which gave me a different point of view on LeMaitre’s role in the origin of the Big Bang. When Einstein developed his theory he realized that it meant that the universe was expanded, which he believed to be untrue (for philosophical reasons) Therefore he included a corrective to the theory.

LeMaitre say that the "corrective was false and disputed Einstein on this. To his credit Einstein befriended LeMaitre and allowed himself to be convinced, and confessed that this was a big mistake.
Of course Hoyle refused to accept somethi9ng that went against his atheistic ideology.

Le Maitre wanted to make clear that he took the position that the universe had a beginning as a result of the evidence available, which was good and true. I do not see anything negative in pointing out that this fact is in harmony with our faith.

Our faith is not based on science, but if we believe that God created the universe through His Word, the Logos, Jesus Christ, then science is ultimately in harmony with Christianity. God is not God of the gaps that we cannot understand, but God of the facts that humans can understand because we are created in the Image of God.

(Jay Johnson) #3

Suggested changes:

Hubble (and many others) later made significant contributions to Big Bang cosmology, but LeMaitre is highlighted to critically examine common assumptions about religion and science.

After the sentence about the Pope:
Others opposed LeMaitre’s proposal because of their own commitment to atheism. Fred Hoyle remained stubbornly opposed to the Big Bang his entire life, despising it as another form of creationism. But LeMaitre was adamant that neither his theory nor any other cosmology had anything to do with sacred Scripture. He insisted that he was merely doing science and saw no threat to his faith. To the end of his life, LeMaitre remained devout, curious, and in pursuit of truth wherever it led.

Don’t forget to laminate it. Teachers would be helpless without lamination …

(Mervin Bitikofer) #4

Thanks, Roger. I had read that earlier Biologos piece on LeMaitre too. One of my struggles in this is that my posters are already too wordy (for ‘placard’ style reading), and so I’m forcing myself to pare it down to the most important concepts I want to get across. I have to leave a lot of good stuff out.

Apparently LeMaitre dabbled in these kinds of ‘concordist’ enthusiasms in his earlier years, but then very deliberately left them behind prior to his cosmological advances. [I forget at this point if I read about this in the Biologos article or in other sources --but regardless, I’m fairly sure I read this somewhere.] And that is a stark contrast to so much philosophy promoted in Christian school environs, --a contrast I want to call attention to and maybe poke at just a bit. We are anxious to jump all over anything that looks like a “clear win” for “our side”. And LeMaitre seems to have emerged from that mentality --but did not emerge away from his faith. I think that deserves attention. In fact I wish I could have had more explicit words about it --but my page is full. [added edit… in fact another thing I left out which may seem just a bit disingenuous, is that some Christians too opposed LeMaitre’s finite universe on the grounds that they had already become comfortable with an eternal universe within the context of their faith. This I believe was in the Biologos article. So it wasn’t just atheist ideologies struggling with it --we all have those bugaboos. But I made much of the atheist contrast here to help serve as a corrective for what would seem to have been a ideological hijacking of the big bang.]

Amen to that! Thanks again for you comments.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #5

I like your edits, Jay. With your permission I may use nearly all of that --so shortening it, and improving it without losing anything critical. Thanks so much!

I’m a wordy person. What can I say?

(Jay Johnson) #6

The goal of editing. Use it all and claim it as your own. That’s always the relationship between writer and editor. :wink:

(Chris Falter) #7

Great work! Wish I had had posters like that in my science classes.

That first paragraph is rather long. I’d make “Lemaitre’s findings were largely ignored” the start of a new paragraph. This has the additional benefit of signalling the transition from what he did to the controversy that arose.

The topic sentence of the next paragraph should focus on the different ways if approaching science/faith relations. The aside about Hubble’s eventual contributions doesn’t help your flow of thought. You could safely remove it, in my opinion.

Grace and peace,
Chris Falter

(Casper Hesp) #8

I have two points, take it or leave it :).

  1. Steady state cosmology has never been “established cosmology” in the sense that there was simply no evidence available for it to be proven or disputed in Einstein’s time. It was the “favored cosmology” of the time, mostly for philosophical reasons. Nowadays Big Bang cosmology is truly established, in the sense that it has produced many specific predictions that correspond with observations. I think that distinction is important because the field of cosmology today is robust, not fickle as it was 100 years ago.

  2. In defense of Fred Hoyle, he was one of the greatest astrophysicists of the 20th century. He could not stomach the Big Bang theory, but much progress has been made in science owing to his genius and creative mind. I believe that presenting him as a bad example of inquisitiveness / openness to learn is a great mistake and a bit demeaning to his legacy.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

Thanks, @Chris_Falter --I’ll probably be making the modifications you recommend.

And @Casper_Hesp, I will definitely be changing “established” to “favored” per your expertise here! And thank you too for the note on Hoyle. You’re right that it is too demeaning to reduce his legacy down to one ideological ‘hiccup’ he may have had. I’ll see if I can reword so as to present him as a brilliant astrophysicist who, like all of us, occasionally lets ideology get in the way. My challenge, though, is I still do want a contrast between somebody [LeMaitre] who was able to take their ideology and learn to hold it critically at arm’s length, and somebody else [Hoyle] who (brilliant though I’m sure he was) still let his ideology have, perhaps un-examined, influence, at least in this case. Is there a way to highlight that example without just tarring Hoyle’s entire legacy with that brush?

[added edit – I have already changed it a bit using Jay’s better wordings, and used the extra space at the bottom to add “the Pope’s and Hoyle’s” perspectives as a kind of ‘bundle’ to contrast with LeMaitre’s. Hopefully that puts in more stark relief the real contrast I’m trying to make. I.e. --not belief vs. atheism, but rather ideological caution and self-awareness vs. brute, un-examined ideological drive; and how all of that impinges on science.]

(Casper Hesp) #10

I understand the dilemma, Hoyle’s mistake is a clear illustration of how ideology can get in the way of science. Perhaps something like:
“Do you want to follow the example of LeMaitre, or make the same mistake as Hoyle?”

(Mervin Bitikofer) #11

Thanks to all who replied above. I don’t think there is anybody whose advice did not get worked into this.

Casper, see if this doesn’t sound a lot less demeaning to Hoyle.

My ending question is a little more open-ended and a little less one-sided I think. There is still time to add in more good advice though!

(Casper Hesp) #12

It sounds fine to me, thanks for incorporating my thoughts!

(Mervin Bitikofer) #13

Narrowing down on final changes here … I still wasn’t quite happy with my last thought, and changed the question to:

Was LeMaître right to keep his theology and science apart? Or were Hoyle and Pope Pius right to value science so highly for ideological purposes?

Hopefully that doesn’t do injustice to Hoyle or Pius, neither of whom have I studied beyond their intersection with LeMaitre’s story.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #14

After saying that Einstein opposed LeM aitre’s view, you did not say that he changed his mind based on conversations with him.

I think that you should make Einstein a good example of someone who was willing to change his mind and publicly admit a mistake. He also was in the gap between theism and atheism.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

Those are good points. I did include the caveat “at first” in my statement: “Luminaries of the day such as Hoyle, Hubble, and even Einstein himself did not at first take this possibility seriously; …”

I agree that Einstein should not in any way be vilified here; of course, I shouldn’t be vilifying anyone. What I didn’t share here before, is that Einstein is already on his own glowingly written placard on my wall. So I don’t feel a need to greatly expand on his views (or defend him) here on this particular work.

Maybe I ought to share my blurb on Einstein here too, even though I’ve already spent the ink and effort and made it part of my wall. But I think I did manage to portray his state of belief “in-between” as you call it. After a sentence where I mention his quote about God not playing dice with men, I do include this: “… his quote should not be confused with any sort of commitment to traditional theism.” …which is really more a warning away from thinking of him as a believer than toward it. But I think we can accurately say he didn’t exhibit much animus against religion generally.


Isn’t it strange how roles have reversed? Today, YECs argue that the Big Bang is an atheist ideology.[quote=“Relates, post:2, topic:36851”]
Le Maitre wanted to make clear that he took the position that the universe had a beginning as a result of the evidence available, which was good and true. I do not see anything negative in pointing out that this fact is in harmony with our faith.

Even as an atheist, I completely agree. Lemaitre and Einstein are great examples of how believer and non-believers can both find common ground their shared passion of science.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #17

Yes and no. YEC’s are not mainstream Christians. It should also be noted that Dawkins has endorsed the view that the Big Bang was not creation ex nihilo. [quote=“T_aquaticus, post:16, topic:36851”]
Even as an atheist, I completely agree.

I am thankful that we agree on this.

It is clear that Einstein was not a Christian, since he was an ethnic Jew, but to say with any certainty that he was an unbeliever is a stretch. He did say that he did not believe in a Personal God, whatever that meant to him, yet he made comments that seem as if he did.

I would say that if Einstein believed that God was the intelligent Source of the universe, he was a theist, and I think he did. Of course I cannot give clear empirical evidence of this.


“Scientific research can reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and view things in terms of cause and effect. Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order. […] This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God. In common parlance this may be described as “pantheistic” (Spinoza).”–Albert Einstein

If anything, Einstein seemed to believe in God as Nature, not as an entity unto itself or a concept of God that the vast majority of theists would adhere to. I would classify this as a non-believer, but for the purposes of the comparison between Einstein and Lemaitre I think it is fair to say that Einstein did not believe in a deity who created the Universe through the Big Bang as Lemaitre did.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #19

This statement of belief is contrary to what I find in the writings of Dawkins and you, so I do not understand why you would consider Einstein a non-believer. Maybe Einstein did think of God as “nature,” but he thought of God as rational nature, which atheists today do not. I do not see how one could say that God is rational, can think, and not be personal, but that could well be a philosophical predisposition. I was just reading about Spinoza’s attacks on Judaism favoring a Christian philosophical position which contributed to anti-Semitism in Europe.


Is there something lacking in the rest of my explanation from the previous post?

If anything, Einstein seemed to believe in God as Nature, not as an entity unto itself or a concept of God that the vast majority of theists would adhere to. I would classify this as a non-believer, but for the purposes of the comparison between Einstein and Lemaitre I think it is fair to say that Einstein did not believe in a deity who created the Universe through the Big Bang as Lemaitre did.

I didn’t say that Einstein was an atheist like myself. I said that he was a non-believer.