God and the Astronomers


I just finished a great book by Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), the founder and former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute and a self-avowed agnostic. In “God and the Astronomers,” Jastrow describes the scientific discoveries and the men who made them leading up to the development of the Big Bang theory. What was surprising was how begrudgingly scientists like Albert Einstein came to embrace this theory because it pointed to a single beginning of the cosmos. Jastrow finds the reactions of others in the scientific community fascinating because of the emotional ring to them.

He suggests that “…scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained.”

“There is a kind of religion in science,” Jastrow observes, and “this religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control.”

Jastrow continues, “If he really examined the implications, he would be traumatized. As usual when faced with trauma, the mind reacts by ignoring the implications –in science this is known as ‘refusing to speculate’–or trivializing the origin of the world by calling it the Big Bang, as if the Universe were a firecracker.”

Science is left with a huge problem. If they have in fact “proven that the Universe exploded into being at a certain moment,” they are now faced with the question, “What cause produced this effect?…And science cannot answer these questions…The scientist’s pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation…[and] the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable.”

Jastrow concludes that “at this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Just a few quotes to inspire you to pick up a great book and read it!
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