Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Science Confirms Judeo-Christian Worldview, Or, Dalai Lama, Call Your Office

 

One of the most basic observations of comparative religion is that the difference between Judeo-Christian religion and Asian religious systems, such as Buddhism, resembles the difference between a line and a circle.

In Judaism and Christianity, reality has a beginning and an end. It’s linear. It’s going somewhere. Both beginning and end are mysterious, the former rendered, mythically, in the creation story, the latter represented, at least in Christianity, in the thrilling if baffling formulation that “time shall be no more.” The beginning is believed really to have happened and the end is believed to really be coming.

Buddhism, by contrast, conceives of reality as a matter of rhythm, of repitition and pattern. As Chesteron puts it in the Everlasting Man:

For most of Asia the rhythm has hardened into a recurrence. It is no longer merely a rather topsy-turvy sort of world; it is a wheel. What has happened to all those highly intelligent and highly civilized peoples is that they have been caught up in a sort of cosmic rotation….

Of course neither religious system possesses any purchase at all upon the contemporary mind—or didn’t, until yesterday morning’s newspaper.

“Discovery Bolsters Big-Bang Theory,” read a headline in the Wall Street Journal. “Signals Reach Back to the Birth of the Universe.”

Scientists said Monday they have detected the earliest signals reaching back to the birth of the universe almost 14 billion years ago, buttressing the big-bang theory of how the cosmos was formed.

Using a radio telescope at the South Pole, a team of astronomers and astrophysicists said they found telltale patterns of gravity waves in the primordial microwave radiation that lingers in space today. Scientists consider this the faint afterglow of the big bang.

The discovery offers what scientists say is the first direct data on the creation of the universe. Until now, cosmologists had theories but few facts.

The experiment didn’t merely lend credence to the big-bang theory. It damaged—and perhaps destroyed—the alternative theory.

A rival theory to the big bang suggests that the universe was instead created as part of an endless self-sustaining cycle. If the latest observations are true, “those cyclical models are dead,” said Neil Turok, director of Canada’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, a theorist who favors the cyclical models.

Now, I wouldn’t want to take my religious views from physics so complicated that I couldn’t begin to understand them any more than I would want my religion to constrain scientific inquiry (and, if I had my way, anyone raising the dispute between Galileo and the Church in the comments thread would be found guilty of violating the Ricochet Code of Conduct). But jeepers. We have here the most sophisticated and utterly contemporary science available to us. And what is it saying? That Genesis is right. Creation really did have a beginning.

To quote that most penetrating of western philosophers, Bertie Wooster, deuced interesting, what?

There are 59 comments.

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  1. The Mugwump Inactive

    The universe was created not as a line, but as a sphere radiating out from the source and center where resides the Creator. Time is like a wheel where we his creatures reside on the rim. We look backwards along the rim into the past or forward to anticipate a future. Our present location is known as the present. Travel down the spokes of the wheel to the hub where all time and motion stops. You would experience past, present and future as a simultaneous instant. Such is the perspective of our Creator.

    • #1
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:19 AM PDT
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  2. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I don’t think it matters whether the world actually had a beginning.

    If we live our lives as if there is a past and a to-be-determined future, then we can make progress. 

    And if we live our lives as if they are controlled by fate and a cyclical world, that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • #2
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:19 AM PDT
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  3. Leslie Watkins Member
    Leslie Watkins Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    On an indirectly related point, have you noticed that the ad for the Cosmos series looks like a big freaking eye?

    • #3
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:26 AM PDT
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  4. Mike H Coolidge

    What they’ve shown is the observable universe has a beginning. I haven’t looked into this discovery yet, but what grabbed my attention the most is that they’ve found “telltale patterns of gravity waves.” I didn’t realize there were predicted patterns. Gravity waves have been one of the most elusive predicted particles to detect. The Higgs doesn’t hold a candle in terms of difficulty. Is this the first real evidence?

    • #4
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:34 AM PDT
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  5. True Blue Inactive

    Not necessarily. The universe might still be a cycle. The question is: after the expansion caused by the big bang, what happens next? The universe could continue to expand forever OR the universe could stop expanding and begin to contract again. If the latter occurs, then the Big Bang would occur in reverse. After that contraction is done, the Big Bang might happen again and the universe would start expanding anew. This cycle could be permanent. The jury is still out.

    Either the world ends in a bang (contraction) or a wimper (continued expansion). Was T. S Eliot right? The jury is still out.

    • #5
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:49 AM PDT
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  6. A-Squared Coolidge

    The difference between the Western (Judeo-Christian) and Eastern Worldview is a little more complicated than just the nature of time.

    I read this book over 25 years ago [The Tao of Physics], but as I recall, it’s core argument is that the underlying nature of the universe is far more in line with the Eastern worldview, but it is only because we held believe in the Western Worldview that we believed the underlying nature of the universe was understandable and engaged in the research necessary to understand the underlying nature of the universe.

    It’s a fascinating topic for discussion.

    • #6
    • March 19, 2014, at 5:55 AM PDT
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  7. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Peter, I can’t help but point out that you seem quick to adopt cosmological evidence that buttresses your understanding of Judeo-Christian theism, but equally quick to dismiss biological evidence that contradicts that understanding.

    I’m curious to hear more about Judeo-Christian takes on the end of the universe. How do those fit in with revelation (let alone Revelation).

    • #7
    • March 19, 2014, at 7:29 AM PDT
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  8. Bob Wainwright Member

    It confirms only the most generic aspect of western religious perspective. It does not confirm the real heart of the biblical perspective, namely, that the world was created intentionally by a personal god who made a good world. That core assertion is not in line with what has been learned about the world since the Bible was written. The big bang is part of a larger set of scientific findings, including evolution, which consigns the core of biblical teaching about God and the world to the realm of mere symbolism.

    • #8
    • March 19, 2014, at 7:32 AM PDT
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  9. Kay of MT Member

    I for one am not going to worry about it. If it took 14 billion years to get to where we are today, then it should be at least a few billion more years to reach the end, unless we humans destroy the planet through foolishness.

    • #9
    • March 19, 2014, at 7:45 AM PDT
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  10. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Peter: You left out the most important word in your title: “Again”

    And yes, the cyclical model is really dead. It has been for decades. This is just another nail in the coffin. And yes, it does matter. A beginning makes a source of the observable universe that is both beyond and prior to the observable universe -that its, by definition, an supernatural source- an unavoidable logical necessity.

    • #10
    • March 19, 2014, at 7:53 AM PDT
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  11. Jack Dunphy Contributor

    Science, religion, and Wodehouse all in one post. Nice hat trick, Peter.

    • #11
    • March 19, 2014, at 8:12 AM PDT
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  12. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tom Meyer:
    Peter, I can’t help but point out that you seem quick to adopt cosmological evidence that buttresses your understanding of Judeo-Christian theism, but equally quick to dismiss biological evidence that contradicts that understanding.
    I’m curious to hear more about Judeo-Christian takes on the end of the universe. How do those fit in with revelation (let alone Revelation).

     People always like what they like. I think physics is proving fertile ground for theists because to me it seems physics is quickly leaving the realm of the material world. I have heard some physicist postulate something that sounded a lot like metaphysics to me, though they were loath to call it that. Frankly I think theists have to give biology a bit more time. we have only been doing it for 150 years in earnest. Physics has like 300 years on us. I think if you believe in a God you should have faith that the science will all workout in the end so there is no need to fear it or dislike. 

    • #12
    • March 19, 2014, at 8:29 AM PDT
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  13. Kelly B Inactive

    Tom Meyer:
    Peter, I can’t help but point out that you seem quick to adopt cosmological evidence that buttresses your understanding of Judeo-Christian theism, but equally quick to dismiss biological evidence that contradicts that understanding.
    I’m curious to hear more about Judeo-Christian takes on the end of the universe. How do those fit in with revelation (let alone Revelation).

     I’ll bite – what’s the biological evidence that contradicts that understanding? I’ve always thought that theology provides the “why” where science provides the “how” and “what” of things, from which you can deduce that I’m not an Old Testament literalist, I guess.

    • #13
    • March 19, 2014, at 9:33 AM PDT
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  14. Doctor Bean Thatcher
    Doctor Bean Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Peter, I adore you. We met at the USC meetup at which time I tried to be profligate with my sycophancy. So it is with this background of affection and respect that I hope you take my pleading to stop trying to use science to bolster the claims of religion. I’m a more-religious-than-some-and-less-than-others Jew and I believe that the faith statements our religions demand have to stand or fall on their own. Finding scientific facts that seem to bolster our faith is a fool’s errand, because ultimately the literal simple reading of Genesis can’t be factually correct, unless you believe in a universe in which trees existed before stars.

    • #14
    • March 19, 2014, at 10:37 AM PDT
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  15. Umbra Fractus Coolidge
    Umbra Fractus Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kelly B:

    Tom Meyer: Peter, I can’t help but point out that you seem quick to adopt cosmological evidence that buttresses your understanding of Judeo-Christian theism, but equally quick to dismiss biological evidence that contradicts that understanding. I’m curious to hear more about Judeo-Christian takes on the end of the universe. How do those fit in with revelation (let alone Revelation).

    I’ll bite – what’s the biological evidence that contradicts that understanding? I’ve always thought that theology provides the “why” where science provides the “how” and “what” of things, from which you can deduce that I’m not an Old Testament literalist, I guess.

    Indeed. The claim that science “disproves” religion is nothing more than confirmation bias among those who already disbelieved.
    That said, I think Peter’s original post is also a pretty blatant example of confirmation bias. The new discovery has nothing to do with religion, and shouldn’t be used for that purpose.

    • #15
    • March 19, 2014, at 10:42 AM PDT
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  16. Bob Wainwright Member

    The idea that religion answers “why” and science answers “how” and other conceits that separate religion and science into completely different realms (such that one cannot disprove the other) are notions that mostly came about only after scientific discoveries about how the world works came to light. It represents a retreat and a fallback position, an attempt to make religious doctrines unfalsifiable. Pre-modern people could really believe that the world was made intentionally by a good God and that it was made good; that pain, suffering, and death were not part of the way it was made at the beginning; that humans occupied a special status etc etc. These beliefs formed the necessary background for the concept of salvation. What scientific discoveries in physics and biology have done is to disprove these beliefs as empirically factual and thus relegate them to the status of mere symbols. “Mere” in the sense that they no longer represent anything in the empirical world. This is a huge challenge to the biblical religious worldview, because it means that if such a worldview survives, it can do so only by relinquishing its claim that it has anything directly to do with the empirical world.

    • #16
    • March 19, 2014, at 11:06 AM PDT
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  17. Kelly B Inactive

    I agree with you – science and religion don’t answer the same questions, and we really shouldn’t conflate them.

    • #17
    • March 19, 2014, at 11:43 AM PDT
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  18. Kelly B Inactive

    Bob Wainwright:
    … Pre-modern people could really believe that the world was made intentionally by a good God and that it was made good; that pain, suffering, and death were not part of the way it was made at the beginning; that humans occupied a special status etc etc.

    Well, I exist now, and I believe that humans and other life on earth are subject to evolutionary pressure and have changed as a result (e.g., I follow the Paleo approach to eating and other life activities based on the relative recency of humans adopting agriculture). And I believe that the world was made intentionally by a good God and that it was made good, and the rest of your statement that I quoted. Does that make me pre-modern? I can live with that.

    • #18
    • March 19, 2014, at 11:47 AM PDT
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  19. Bob Wainwright Member

    Kelly B:

    Bob Wainwright: … Pre-modern people could really believe that the world was made intentionally by a good God and that it was made good; that pain, suffering, and death were not part of the way it was made at the beginning; that humans occupied a special status etc etc.

    Well, I exist now, and I believe that humans and other life on earth are subject to evolutionary pressure and have changed as a result …And I believe that the world was made intentionally by a good God and that it was made good… Does that make me pre-modern?

     A pre-modern Christian would have considered, for example, the modern scientific conclusion that pain and death were built into the creation from the beginning as heretical, because that would undermine the “mythology” of salvation and God’s goodness. So you don’t sound pre-modern. You sound like a modern who doesn’t see a contradiction where pre-moderns would have. My point is that it’s not a simple matter to shrug off that contradiction. The religion as “why” and science as “how” is a facile solution to that contradiction.

    • #19
    • March 19, 2014, at 12:17 PM PDT
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  20. Kelly B Inactive

    Bob Wainwright:
    A pre-modern Christian would have considered, for example, the modern scientific conclusion that pain and death were built into the creation from the beginning as heretical, because that would undermine the “mythology” of salvation and God’s goodness. So you don’t sound pre-modern. You sound like a modern who doesn’t see a contradiction where pre-moderns would have. My point is that it’s not a simple matter to shrug off that contradiction. The religion as “why” and science as “how” is a facile solution to that contradiction.

     I don’t know that I have any opinion whatsoever as to whether pain or death have been part of the deal from the beginning or not, truly. I do believe fervently in the doctrine of the Fall, though – if I were not a flawed being in some way, it would be a heck of a lot easier to shed bad habits.

    • #20
    • March 19, 2014, at 1:24 PM PDT
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  21. Valiuth Member
    Valiuth Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Umbra Fractus:

    Indeed. The claim that science “disproves” religion is nothing more than confirmation bias among those who already disbelieved. That said, I think Peter’s original post is also a pretty blatant example of confirmation bias. The new discovery has nothing to do with religion, and shouldn’t be used for that purpose.

    I disagree. The new discovery is free for all to integrate into their world view as they see fit, and to bring forth in their own defense. Science reveals things about nature, how it work, how it is, how it was, maybe how it will be. Interpreting what any of this means is everyone’s personal prerogative. I think as long as people keep science as objective and acknowledge that their world views aren’t actually science but rather philosophy then we can all use what ever facts are on hand to support our preferred philosophy.

    • #21
    • March 19, 2014, at 1:27 PM PDT
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  22. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    True Blue: Not necessarily. The universe might still be a cycle. The question is: after the expansion caused by the big bang, what happens next? The universe could continue to expand forever OR the universe could stop expanding and begin to contract again.

     There’s no “or” about it. If the Big Bang Theory is correct, then the latter is certainly the outcome. Gravity makes infinite expansion an impossibility. Eventually, gravity must counteract momentum from the Big Bang and subsequent forces (from exploding stars, for example). Once momentum is nullified, gravity becomes the ruling force. The only question would be how much of the initial matter from Big Bang would coalesce in the center before another Bang would result.

    The Big Bang Theory is like a microscopic organism riding a pebble in a pond, analyzing the ripples caused by a single drop of rain in a storm, and forming a theory of what the whole pond must look like based on that one ring of ripples. Such are the limits of empiricism.

    But, of course, all of this matters about as much as what Nancy Pelosi had for breakfast this morning. Is there any branch of science more impractical than extragalactic astronomy?

    • #22
    • March 19, 2014, at 1:40 PM PDT
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  23. Bob Wainwright Member

    Kelly B:

    I don’t know that I have any opinion whatsoever as to whether pain or death have been part of the deal from the beginning or not, truly. I do believe fervently in the doctrine of the Fall, though – if I were not a flawed being in some way, it would be a heck of a lot easier to shed bad habits.

    Bob’s response:
    But what if your bad habits or people’s sins in general are just the ways we’re programmed to act by nature. That’s the way scientific “naturalism” sees it. There’s nothing supernatural in “sin” in that perspective. That’s the problem. And if what we are being “saved” from is nothing other than the tendencies that we were created with, then salvation ceases to be a return to what the creator originally intended (which is what orthodox Christianity says) and becomes instead a deliverance from the created order (which is what Gnosticism says). And that’s where orthodox Christianity ceases to be orthodox. So the only type of Christianity that can comfortably coexist with evolution and other such discoveries is one that has become essentially Gnostic.

    • #23
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:15 PM PDT
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  24. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Aaron Miller: Gravity makes infinite expansion an impossibility.

     Aaron, that’s not necessarily true. Gravity’s ability to bring objects to a stop is limited, hence the concept of escape velocity. If the universe is expanding faster than some critical speed, gravity will always slow it asymptotically toward some finite value, but never bring it to a stop nor reverse its direction.

    • #24
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:43 PM PDT
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  25. Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson

    Bob Wainwright:
    It confirms only the most generic aspect of western religious perspective. 

    True enough, Bob, but that ain’t nothing.

    • #25
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:54 PM PDT
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  26. Kelly B Inactive

    Bob Wainwright:

    But what if your bad habits or people’s sins in general are just the ways we’re programmed to act by nature. That’s the way scientific “naturalism” sees it. There’s nothing supernatural in “sin” in that perspective. That’s the problem. And if what we are being ”saved” from is nothing other than the tendencies that we were created with, then salvation ceases to be a return to what the creator originally intended (which is what orthodox Christianity says) and becomes instead a deliverance from the created order (which is what Gnosticism says). And that’s where orthodox Christianity ceases to be orthodox. So the only type of Christianity that can comfortably coexist with evolution and other such discoveries is one that has become essentially Gnostic.

    I’m all in with physical evolutionary changes but don’t buy that our behavior has evolved. Man is so significantly different from other mammals that the “natural” state would be exceedingly “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” if we gave in to it, and unlikely to sustain our existence as a species. And I apologize; I’m about to go dark on a road trip.

    • #26
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:56 PM PDT
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  27. Peter Robinson Founder
    Peter Robinson

    Mark Wilson:

    Aaron Miller: Gravity makes infinite expansion an impossibility.

    Aaron, that’s not necessarily true. Gravity’s ability to bring objects to a stop is limited, hence the concept of escape velocity. If the universe is expanding faster than some critical speed, gravity will always slow it asymptotically but never bring it to a stop or reverse its direction.

     Mark Wilson, mixing it up with Aaron Miller. That’s the intellectual equivalent of a sumo match.

    Have at it, boys. I’ll simply back slowly away…and watch.

    • #27
    • March 19, 2014, at 2:57 PM PDT
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  28. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Peter Robinson: Mark Wilson, mixing it up with Aaron Miller. That’s the intellectual equivalent of a sumo match.

     Peter, you’d be amazed how much I have to eat to keep my weight up. It’s just sickening.

    • #28
    • March 19, 2014, at 3:01 PM PDT
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  29. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Wilson:

    Aaron Miller: Gravity makes infinite expansion an impossibility.

    Aaron, that’s not necessarily true. Gravity’s ability to bring objects to a stop is limited, hence the concept of escape velocity. If the universe is expanding faster than some critical speed, gravity will always slow it asymptotically but never bring it to a stop or reverse its direction.

    Alright, so perhaps some matter on the edges of the universe could achieve escape velocity. But gravity is stronger toward the center of the explosion, where matter is more commonly colliding and is more densely surrounded by gravitational objects. Correct?

    Like I said, that raises the question of how much matter could reform at the center before another Bang initiated. Who’s to say that even half the original Bang’s mass was necessary to cause such an explosion?

    • #29
    • March 19, 2014, at 3:09 PM PDT
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  30. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Peter Robinson:

    Mark Wilson:

    Aaron Miller: Gravity makes infinite expansion an impossibility.

    Aaron, that’s not necessarily true. Gravity’s ability to bring objects to a stop is limited, hence the concept of escape velocity. If the universe is expanding faster than some critical speed, gravity will always slow it asymptotically but never bring it to a stop or reverse its direction.

    Mark Wilson, mixing it up with Aaron Miller. That’s the intellectual equivalent of a sumo match.
    Have at it, boys. I’ll simply back slowly away…and watch.

     Don’t get your hopes up, Peter. Aerodynamics is Mark’s bread and butter. I’m just an artist.

    • #30
    • March 19, 2014, at 3:11 PM PDT
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