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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?