As expected, the finding of gravitational waves from the earliest moments of the Big Bang has prompted —along with scientific exultation—the usual blathering of theologians and believers, who can’t resist connecting this new finding with God. I didn’t post about that because those blatherings were a). predictable and b). adequately covered by other websites.
But there is one that is extraordinarily silly—because it’s from CNN (the Cable News Network), a respected news source, and doubly silly because it’s written by a scientist, Leslie Wickman. CNN describes her this way:
Leslie Wickman is director of the Center for Research in Science at Azusa Pacific University. Wickman has also been an engineer for Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space, where she worked on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station programs. The views expressed in this column belong to Wickman. [JAC: I’m glad they’re not CNN’s, but they chose to publish her!]
And, in an “opinion” piece on CNN, Wickman asks: “Does the Big Bang breakthrough offer proof of God?” The answer, surprisingly, is “yes”—in contrast to the usual saw that any column whose title is a question will answer that question in the negative.
Here are her reasons:
The prevalent theory of cosmic origins prior to the Big Bang theory was the “Steady State,” which argued that the universe has always existed, without a beginning that necessitated a cause.
However, this new evidence strongly suggests that there was a beginning to our universe.
If the universe did indeed have a beginning, by the simple logic of cause and effect, there had to be an agent – separate and apart from the effect – that caused it.
That sounds a lot like Genesis 1:1 to me: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth.”
So this latest discovery is good news for us believers, as it adds scientific support to the idea that the universe was caused – or created – by something or someone outside it and not dependent on it.
Well, we already knew, from other data that has been around a long time, that the universe had a beginning. The new data says something about what happened right after it began, and adds weight to the notion of cosmic inflation.
Besides getting that wrong, she also botches “the logic of cause and effects”, raising the old canard of the Cosmological Argument. Well, that logic doesn’t apply to quantum mechanics, does it, Dr. Wickman? Or is there a cause for making a particle pop into existence, or for an atom to decay? Can you tell us what that cause is? And if that cause is an “agent”, how do you know that that agent was the Abrahamic God? Couldn’t it have been Baal, or Brahma, or any of the thousands of Gods who have come and gone on the world scene? Or even, maybe, a space alien from another universe?
Further, if there is a simple law of cause and effect that implies an agent, well, then, what agent caused God? Or did He pop into existence like a particle, totally uncaused? Is God the only thing in the universe that doesn’t need a cause? If so, please tell us why. After all, Dr. Wickman, you’re a scientist as well as a theist, so how do you know that God doesn’t need a cause? And what was he doing hanging around before there was a universe?
Then her words fall together in a familiar pattern, like sled dogs lining up before being harnessed:
We also need to remember that God reveals himself both through scripture and creation. The challenge is in seeing how they fit together. A better understanding of each can inform our understanding of the other.
It’s not just about cracking open the Bible and reading whatever we find there from a 21st-century American perspective. We have to study the context, the culture, the genre, the authorship and the original audience to understand the intent.
The creation message in Genesis tells us that God created a special place for humans to live and thrive and be in communion with him; that God wants a relationship with us, and makes provisions for us to have fellowship with him, even after we turn away from him.
So, we know that Genesis was never intended to be a detailed scientific handbook, describing how God created the universe. It imparts a theological, not a scientific, message.
There it is: “Genesis was never intended to be a detailed scientific handbook, describing how God created the universe.” Well, Dr. Wickman, how do you know that? In fact, there’s every indication that it was intended to be a literal and historical account of how the world and its creatures came to be, and that’s how theologians interpreted it for millennia. It’s only now—now that we have the luxury of scientific knowledge—that we can see that Genesis was a form of proto-science: it was the best guess by its authors about how stuff got here, but it was stone, dead, wrong. You may now, to save the story, imbue it with whatever metaphorical meaning you want (I’m anxious to hear what “original sin” means, Dr. Wickman), but Genesis certainly imparted a message about history, and that is a “scientific” message as well as a theological one. (My translation of the familar trope “the Bible is not a science textbook” is automatically “the Bible isn’t correct”.)
Wickman goes on praising the Lord and declaring the glory of his handiwork, but it’s all embarrassing, for her, her university, and her scientific colleagues. She trots out, for instance, the fine-tuning argument, apparently not aware that the scientific findings that inspired her article lend credence to the idea of multiverses, which in turn could dispel the notion that our universe is “fine-tuned” for life:
These physical laws established by God to govern interactions between matter and energy result in a finely tuned universe that provides the ideal conditions for life on our planet.
As we observe the complexity of the cosmos, from subatomic particles to dark matter and dark energy, we quickly conclude that there must be a more satisfying explanation than random chance. Properly practiced, science can be an act of worship in looking at God’s revelation of himself in nature.
And the final entity that should be embarrassed is CNN—for blessing this unholy matrimony of science and religious drivel. I wish I could have a Marshall MacLuhan moment now, but with Sean Carroll instead of MacLuhan.