Recently, a possibly monumental discovery in astronomy/cosmology has been plastered across your favorite news sources. The BICEP telescope team has announced a discovery related to the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Radiation. It has been heralded as a step in the direction of a quantum understanding of gravity, but perhaps more controversially, as a proof of Big Bang cosmology. For those of you with an interest, here are some helpful resources for working through the discovery and its consequences as people of faith.
1. What Is The Discovery?
If you prefer to read your news, then I recommend this fairly thorough article: “Space Ripples Reveal Big Bang’s Smoking Gun” by Dennis Overbye. However, if you are like me, a quirky video is almost always better than a lengthy article. The video below from the nice folks at MinutePhysics is a fairly comprehensible summary.
2. Notable Responses
One notable response to this has come from William Lane Craig. Craig is an outspoken theist and debater in the field of cosmology. In the short interview below, Craig will discuss how the discovery fits within his understanding of Genesis. My view of the Genesis creation account is not exactly the same as his, but I still found the video interesting.
3. A Careful Distinction
For me, the most notable point to mention here as it relates to faith in Genesis is that this discovery looks more like a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition. Like the CMB radiation itself, this discovery correlates to what one might expect to find if the universe operates as the current cosmological model depicts. However, it is not a sufficient condition to prove any of the great big atheistic claims that concern believers. Nor is it really even a sufficient proof to demonstrate one particular cosmological model (Big Bang, Young Earth, etc.). It is in harmony with expectations of the Big Bang model, but not an independent proof of it. Furthermore, as Lane points out above, it fits in with at least one theistic model. This discovery is an insight into an important area of physics research, but not the end of the story.
The fact is that Genesis, for all its beauty, does not offer us a detailed, physical cosmology, nor would we have understood it if it did. It paints the picture in pretty broad strokes. I suspect the human imagination has not even scratched the surface of addressing the central question: “What would a world made by God look like and how would it differ from a world not made by God?” There are a lot of assumptions made all around, but in the end we only have one world to examine and nothing with which to compare it. There is no control group, “an atheistic universe,” with which to compare our own world to see if it matches up or differs. What would a universe made by God look like? Well, it might very well have Cosmic Microwave Background radiation that demonstrates the presence of gravitational waves. Nothing in this discovery advances any atheistic case against God in any way.
So, as is so often the case, Christians need to take a deep breath, settle down a bit, and share in the wonder of this new breakthrough. It is not a threat to us, but rather another curious glance into the rich mystery of God’s creation.