The next time you find yourself outside on a warm summer’s night, look up at the sky. If you are lucky you will be able to see it lit up with tiny dots called stars. Realize that these stars are probably million of light years away, and the light you are seeing is quite ancient. Some of the stars that you are seeing may be dead by now. Allow me to explain: we can see stars that are million of light years away, but we are seeing light that the star emitted the same amount of time ago as the distance from us. For example: if we are seeing light from a star 100,000,000 light years away, the light we are seeing is 100,000,000 light years old. This may be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is beautiful and amazing that the human mind can grasp such ideas. I find this to be far more beautiful than anything religion has given us (one man’s opinion). However, lets look at history. The old teachings of the Church, in relation to the universe, said that we were living in a geocentric (Earth is the center of the universe) universe, the earth was “created” in 6 days, and all objects in the heavens (universe that we could see from looking to the sky) were perfect objects (for example they said that the moon and the sun and all the stars are perfect spheres. So lets break these down one at a time:
1. The geocentric view of the universe.
- Aristarchus of Samos – 310 BCE – 230 BCE. This man figured out what causes lunar eclipses. He reasoned that the shadow of the earth caused the lunar eclipse. Why is this important? Because of his model of how it was actually the earth that moves around the sun, not the other way around. However, his works were ignored and never really came to light. However, as you cans see in the Stephen Hawking video, the inquisitive nature of human being prevailed when Galileo discovered that Venus had gibbous phases. He took from Aristarchus’ works and realized that if Venus traveled around the earth then it would not have phases. This is a very simplistic explanation, for a better one read this. Galileo, made another surprising discovery. He discovered that Jupiter has 4 moons that orbit it (for more information watch the Stephen Hawking video on my Fun Media page. This was such a revolutionary discovery that the Church ordered him to denounce his findings and they put him under house arrest. I am often quite skeptical when Church officials say that science and religion are compatible.
3. Ah yes, the age old story in Genesis, that God created the earth in six days and God rested on the seventh. This has been disproved time and time again. So in order that the bible doesn’t contradict itself the Vatican put a whole lot of spin on it. They said that the Genesis account of creation has to be interpreted allegorically. In other words, instead of saying that the story is wrong (which it is) they decided to put a whole lot of spin on the story, showing they are too proud to admit fault or that they were just plain wrong. Why are they wrong? Let’s take a look at it scientifically. We now know that the Universe was started with what we call the Big Bang. As it turn out the entire universe started out in a single point, smaller than an atom. It was made of pure energy that expanded into the universe (for a more in depth explanation click the “big bang” link for Stephen Hawking’s explanation). What evidence do we have of the Big Bang? As I said before, the Big Bang started as pure energy, that is reflected in the temperature of the universe. It is called the Black Body Radiation and it proves two things: 1.) the universe was once smaller and hotter, and 2.) the universe is around 14 (13.7) billion years old. What evidence corroborates this? In the 1920s and 30s a man named Edwin Hubble discovered that the Universe is still expanding. This is shown through Hubble’s Law. Hubble’s Law says that (1) all objects observed in deep space (intergalactic space) are found to have a Doppler shift observable relative velocity to Earth, and to each other; and (2) that this Dopplershiftmeasured velocity, of various galaxies receding from the Earth, is proportional to their distance from the Earth and all other interstellar bodies. To better understand this think of a cup filled with water that has been turned upside down on a table (so as the contents doesn’t leave the cup). Now imagine that cup tipping over and the water spilling out on the table and the water spill becomes much more wide spread than it was in the cup. I would suggest reading on Hubble’s theory of expansion. Stephen Hawking says that before the Big Bang time did not exist, nothing existed, therefore there was no room for a creator to exist. This certainly gave me something to think about.
4. The objects of the heavens (stars and planets) are perfect spheres.
– Galileo also made quite an exciting discovery (which probably contributed to him
becoming blind). The sun actually has sunspots. This proved that the sun was NOT a perfect object AND actually rotates once every 27 (to 31 days depending on where you are on the earth). We have discovered craters on the moon from millions of years of meteor impacts. All of this thoroughly debunks the claim that the early church made that all heavenly bodies are perfect spheres.
This post is actually in response to something that a teacher of mine said. He told the that Richard Dawkins said that he has faith in science that it will answer all of our questions about the natural world. My teacher said that this was the same as having faith in religion, but I disagreed without really having an answer as to why I disagree. I specialize in studying history (although much of the information above is from an astronomy class that I took, I highly recommend taking one yourself if you have the opportunity) so I looked through history. As you can see science has proved again and again that the biblical accounts and religious views of the universe are wrong, so the conclusion that the facts point to is that Dawkins is being rational by saying that he has faith that science will eventually explain the natural world. Although, if I could talk to Dawkins I would suggest that he say that he is not faithful (because faith is believing in something without evidence) because he has historic and scientific evidence that science will explain the many quirks of the natural world. Faith really has nothing to do with it.
The other purpose of this post is to restore wonder to the Universe. The Universe is a curious place filled with mysteries that human beings have only scratched the surface of. When I contemplate the many wonders of the natural world I am filled with awe and inspiration. It is truly a wonderful feeling that I wish I could share with everyone. I think that science discovering these many intricate laws and workings of the Universe further adds to the grandeur that is life. I will leave you with this quote
“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependant on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.” ~ Charles Darwin