Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Short History 6

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s a large effort was being put forth by scientists to understand the atom. Many scientists even at this time rejected the concept of atoms. It was only in 1911, 2500 years after the Greek atomists, that Ernest Rutherford convincingly experimented to show that atoms exist with a negative particle encircling a positive center.

The Church’s conception of a beginning for creation has endured scientific challenge. Albert Einstein calculated his general theory of relativity with the assumption that the universe is eternal. Then in 1929, Edwin Hubble recognized that distant galaxies are moving away from each other, confirming predictions of a “Big Bang,” or initial beginning point. The “cosmological constant” with which Einstein “fudged” his numbers to agree with an eternal universe was by his own assessment his greatest mistake.[i]

It is important to note in this brief description of history that neither the church nor science is automatically right or wrong about the physical nature of the world. We must realize scientists go through many stages to get to the truth of nature. It is not wrong to use imagination to make theory—it may take years for experiments to be conducted. And our expectations should not limit our conclusions—a negative result can be as informative as a positive. In a way, every negative finding for one theory is a positive finding for a different theory. We continue to work to understand the relationships between nature and faith. Persons can use the reason God gave them to sort fact and literary metaphor in the Bible—both are there!

[i] Ronald Clark, Einstein (NY: Avon, 1971), 268-270.

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