Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Big Bang

Being in the science world, it is hard to be blind to the rather prominent anti-religion sentiment that many prominent scientists take. This is not to say all scientists are atheist, but I think it's fair to say that most of the outspoken scientists are in that position. Often science and religion are branded as incompatible with neither adding to the other and both standing in stark contrast to each other's teachings.

In the case of religious fundamentalism, this isn't far from the truth. However, in the case of Catholicism, it is entirely NOT the case. Catholicism is very embracing of science and scientific fact. Leading theologians work with science facts in order to evaluate philosophical arguments and to bolster their beliefs in God. Many people are probably scoffing at this very moment, "Ah, and I bet you think Galileo was treated fairly?" Galileo represents any interesting case where it wasn't necessarily the science which led him to be treated as he was by the church. He has also since received a full pardon. More on this in a later post.

So, is there any good evidence for the church adding to science? Yes. Georges-Henri Lemaître. What about him? Well, his name should really read: Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître. For those who are familiar with cosmology and astrophysics, this name should be familiar. For those who are not, Lemaître was the first person to propose the Big Bang theory. While his original hypothesis has since been revised and expanded upon, the notion of the Big Bang still exists and has a large amount of evidence in its favor.

It is interesting, however, to note that hardly any books (textbooks and popular science books) mention that he was a Catholic priest. While it may be rather irrelevant in the scientific context, it would do no harm to write his name as it should be written, Msgr. Lemaître. Also, it wouldn't hurt to dispel the myth that religion is strictly against the advancement of science. I wonder, are authors afraid of mentioning his religious background for fear of condemnation? Or maybe they do not want to give credit to the notion that religion is not opposing science? Maybe people just do not really know that he was a priest. Entirely possible.

I think his life would be interesting to read about. Unfortunately, no extensive biographies exist, at least from what I can tell, aside from the typical Wikipedia biographies. In the end, it is irrelevant to the science that he was a pious man, but I do believe that it can do a lot of good for science-religion relations if it were mentioned.