Sunday, February 16, 2014

Old Stars

CBC.ca recently had an article about a discovery made by two astronomers. They have discovered the oldest star seen in our sky. Using the wavelength signature of a star, astronomers can make accurate statements about the chemical content of a given star. Knowing the life-cycle of stars allows them to then give an accurate assessment of the age of a star. They had this to say about their discovery:
This star was formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago . . . . It's giving us insight into our fundamental place in the universe. What we're seeing is the origin of where all the material around us that we need to survive came from.
Then, perhaps pushed by journalists in a press release situation, the two scientists went on to speak beyond their knowledge:
Simply put, the Big Bang was the inception of the universe, he said, with nothing before that event.
The next question someone should have asked is, "What data in this research gives you confidence to say that there was "nothing before that event?" What information gave them the ability to speak philosophically and speak about things that came before time, before energy, before matter?

Now, I hasten to say, this was an off-hand comment and if someone had pressed the astronomers they likely would have quickly retreated from the statement and said that they were speaking of commonly held beliefs or speaking only about how there was nothing physical before this event. I am sure that they are reasonable men. Yet, the combination of the reporting by the CBC journalists and the statements made by the researchers leaves the overall impression that scientists can be philosophers and can speak authoritatively on what came before the Big Bang. When scientists do so, they speak beyond their knowledge.

There are other places to go to discuss what existed before the beginning of our known universe. Genesis 1:1 in the Christian and Jewish Bible says, "In the beginning, God . . . ." You see, we can look at the stars and, like these astronomers, see ourselves as small and insignificant in the universe; or, we can look at the stars and, like David in Psalm 8, see that we are small, yet significant in our relationship to God.

David says, "what are mere mortals that you [God] should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?" Yes, compared to the universe, compared to God, we are small and seemingly insignificant; but, God thinks about us, cares for us, and gives us significance. We are not the only intelligent beings in the universe. Before the universe was made, whether you believe it was made 6000 years ago or 13.7 billion years ago, God was there.

Psalm 8
New Living Translation (NLT)
A psalm of David, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.
1 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
    Your glory is higher than the heavens.
2 You have taught children and infants
    to tell of your strength,
silencing your enemies
    and all who oppose you.
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
7 the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!

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