CHAPTER 3: Does the Big Bang really threaten atheism?

[Excerpt from Chapter 3: The Origin of the Universe]

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Consider a number of reactions from atheists, as they encountered the evidence of the Big Bang for the first time. For instance, in 1931 Arthur Eddington wrote, “I have no axe to grind in this discussion [but] the notion of a beginning is repugnant to me… I simply do not believe that the present order of things started off with a bang… the expanding Universe is preposterous… incredible… it leaves me cold.”[1]

Geoffrey Burbidge was the late atheistic professor of astronomy at the University of California, San Diego. He despised the theological implications of the Big Bang so much that he said anyone adhering to it was joining “the first church of Christ of the big bang.”[2] John Maddox was the atheistic editor for Nature magazine, who wrote an article entitled “Down with the Big Bang” in Nature magazine in 1989 to steer the scientific community away from this line of thinking. Maddox wrote, “Apart from being philosophically unacceptable, the Big Bang is an over-simple view of how the Universe began, and it is unlikely to survive the decade ahead… It will be a surprise if it somehow survives the Hubble telescope.”[3] In a similar vein, German chemist and physicist, Walter Nernst wrote, “To deny the infinite duration of time would be to betray the very foundations of science.”[4] Phillip Morrison of MIT wrote, “I find it hard to accept the Big Bang theory; I would like to reject it.”[5] Allan Sandage of Carnegie Observatories wrote, “It is a strange conclusion… it cannot really be true.”[6]

Several of these quotes come from Robert Jastrow’s book God and the Astronomers. Jastrow was the founding director of the Goddard Institute at NASA. He is agnostic, not Christian. And yet he makes an observation about these men that is stunning. Jastrow writes, “There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions. They come from the heart, whereas you would expect the judgments to come from the brain.”[7] It seems clear that these atheistic scientists were uncomfortable with the Big Bang, not because of the scientific facts, but because of the theological implications.

I can’t blame them.

If I were in their shoes, I would feel uncomfortable, too.

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[1] Ibid., 104.

[2] Stephen Strauss, “An Innocent’s Guide to the Big Bang Theory: Fingerprint in Space Left by the Universe as a Baby Still Has Doubters Hurling Stones,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), April 25, 1992, p. 1. Cited in Robinson, Timothy A. God. 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2002. 151.

[3] Maddox, John. “Down with the Big Bang.” Nature 340 (10 August 1989): 425.

[4] Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. New York: Norton, 1992. 104.

[5] Ibid., 104.

[6] Ibid., 105.

[7] Ibid., 105.