Science in Christian Perspective



Karl Turekian, M.A.

From: JASA 6 (September 1954): 25-26.

That branch of science dealing with no less a subject  the origin of the universe is called cosmogony.  The metaphysical analogue is termed cosmology and deals with the philosophical significance of the universe.

The science of cosmogony, in its grandest sense, is comparatively recent since it is only now that we have enough physical and astronomical data to allow detailed speculations regarding the origin and development of the universe. This in itself has provided the Christian mind a refreshing interlude from the haughty talk of the last generation regarding the eternity of the material Such terms as "co-eval", "co-terminous" or  "co-existent" applied to God and matter are no longer popular among those acquainted with the largest cosmogonical thinking.

With the revision of Hubble's constant in the astronomic realm, the age of the universe and the earth (by radioactive methods) are in agreement indicating that the universe as we know it had its origin in the vicinity of 5 billion years ago. The state of affairs prior to this time cannot be inferred from any physical laws. Any concept of a cyclical self-rejuvenating universe or a steady state (i.e. the c ontinuous creation and annihilation of matter) universe is at best abstract mathematical speculation with no basis for validity except the implicit denial of a beginning. More and more scientists are pushed to a unique origin of our universe in time and space.

Two of the latest offerings in this field are The Creation of The Universe (Viking, 1952) by George Gamow and The History of Nature (University of Chicago, 1949) by C. F. von Weizsacher.

The author of the latter book is a noted astrophysicist who, among other things, has presented one of the most satisfactory explanations for the origin of the solar system. His ideas dealing with the observed structure of the universe rest heavily on the physics of turbulent motion of gases and clouds. Dr. Weizsacher has found that the second law of thermodynamics compels him to accept a unique origin of our universe. When one reads his philosophical comments in the chapter 'Man: Inner History" one cannot help but feel that this renowned physicist may not be "far from the kingdom of God".

Professor Gamow has probably become well known to the general public through his popular treatises on various aspects of the natural and physical sciences. He has distinguished himself in the field of nuclear physics and has combined in this small book the latest of the knowledge regarding nuclear processes with astronomic and geochemical information. The marriage has resulted in a highly interesting discussion of the origin of the elements and the resulting cosmic architecture. Dr. Gamow also finds a date for the creation of our universe necessary but sidesteps, with a bit of witty chatter, the issue of what existed before that date and why it all started.

We will deal with the problems of cosmogony in more detail in subsequent articles. It is hoped that as many readers as possible will avail themselves of these well written current publications on modern cosmogonical thinking.

Columbia University
New York, New York
August 2, 1954