Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Search for a First Cause

There is a huge difference between how religion “searches” for a first cause and how science does it. In the religious paradigm, a position is asserted and that’s that. God did it, their minds are made up. In science however, the answer may never be definite or absolute, but that does not take anything away from the beauty of it, it simply shows the honesty of the scientific method.

There was a time when scientists thought that the origin of the universe was outside the realm of scientific inquiry, when Newton was describing the motion of the planets as God had placed them there. The universe was the way it was because that’s how a powerful deity made it to be. That time is long gone, science has been fearlessly making leaps and bounds over the last century to discover (or at the very least learn more about) the origin and nature of our universe. Theories are devised, calculations performed, observations made, theories revised and so on. The search will probably be never-ending, as we probably can never know everything.

A notable example of this revision in the face of observation is the expansion of the universe as predicted by Einstein. The prevailing view at the time was that the universe was eternal, and when Einstein discovered that his calculations lead to an expanding universe, which implied that at one point in time the universe was smaller, indicating that there must have been a point of origin. He adjusted his theory so it would not predict an expanding universe, observation of the red-shift by Edwin Hubble and later the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation has shown us that he was right the first time round, the universe is expanding.

The religious search jumps on board the scientific train with this discovery, but jumps off again when natural explanations for the ‘Big Bang’ are postulated. This mindset is typical of the religious search for a first cause. They have their minds made up, if a proposition goes against their belief that a god created the universe they will reject it, and when a proposition seems to support their belief (even if just at surface level) they will claim that they were right all along, that science has vindicated religion. Picking and choosing which science you support based on your prior commitments is at the very least inconsistent, and at the worst dishonest.

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