God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools, and He has not been disappointed. If I have brought any message today, it is this: Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world.
— Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
The evolution of the world can be compared to a display of fireworks that has just ended: some few red wisps, ashes and smoke. Standing on a well-chilled cinder, we see the slow fading of the suns, and we try to recall the vanished brilliance of the origin of worlds. — Abbé Georges Lemaître, on the nature of cosmology
The stars are the jewels of the night,
and perchance surpass anything which day has to show.
— Henry David Thoreau
Open cluster M41, image credit: Anthony Ayiomamitis
American astrophysicist, Robert Jastrow, is back as this month’s notable quote, taken from a 1982 interview in Christianity Today:
“Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
Jastrow was not a believer, but he recognized the logical implication of the big bang and accepted it.
There are generally two atheist responses to this. One is to try to find a loophole in cosmology that gets them out of a beginning, and thus out of the supernatural. The other is to accept the existence of the supernatural and to posit an alternative — like the multiverse — to God as the supernatural creative force.
Image credit: unknown.
Robert Jastrow. Credit: Unknown.
Robert Jastrow was an American astrophysicist who headed NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center for many years. He was an enthusiastic popularizer of science who frequently appeared on television to talk about science and the space program. He was also a noted skeptic of human-caused climate change. Jastrow was an agnostic and non-believer, but his assessment of mankind’s current state of knowledge led him to make some surprisingly frank observations about science and religion. The following, taken from God and the Astronomers, is perhaps the quote for which he is best known.
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 mountain 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.
Max Planck in 1918. Credit: AB Lagrelius & Westphal.
Max Planck is the father of quantum theory, and is thus arguably the father of modern physics. He made an incredible leap in thinking to solve what seemed like an intractable problem in physics — the ultraviolet catastrophe — and thus the idea of the quantum was born. He won the Nobel Prize for this insight in 1918. Planck was also a deeply religious man who had plenty to say about God, religion, and science. He made the following remarks in Religion und Naturwissenschaft (1958), which are quite relevant in light of the recent posts on SFAs:
Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but – which is even worse – also any prospects at a better future.