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c) Final Remark

Perhaps the most important result to emerge from the shifts in cosmology over the past decades is the emergence of the hot Big Bang as a ‘permanent’ description of our universe from the Planck time some 12-15 billion years ago to the present. Gone is the time when Hoyle’s steady state model posed a serious challenge to the Big Bang, with its picture of a single, ever-expanding universe whose fundamental features were time-independent. Instead the ‘domain of debate’ has shifted to the pre-Planck era and what might lie endlessly ‘before’ the Big Bang in quantum superspace. We have witnessed what Joel Primack and Nancy Abrams call an ‘encompassing’ revolution as distinguished from the kind of Kuhnian ‘replacing revolution’ one usually thinks of when scientific paradigms change. In such an encompassing revolution, the new paradigm, e.g., quantum cosmology, contains the old one, e.g., Big Bang cosmology as a limit case, e.g., when quantum effects can be ignored.Joel R. Primack and Nancy Abrams, ""In a Beginning..": Quantum Cosmology and Kabbalah," Tikkun 10, pp. 66-73 (Jan-Feb) (1995).To paraphrase a point made by Charles Misner, we can have confidence in relying on the Big Bang scenario, since we know just where it fails: prior to the Planck time.C. W. Misner, "Cosmology and Theology," in Cosmology, History, and Theology, ed. W. Yourgrau and A. D. Breck (Plenum Press, 1977), 75-100. In this sense the Big Bang is ‘here to stay’.This is, of course, an overstatement. Quantum gravity applies to the entire universe, not just its origins. If so, a careful philosophy of nature will have to take into consideration all the problems raised...

Given this perspective, the time is ripe for a renewed theological focus on the universe in which we have evolved, and a setting aside of what were interesting issues surrounding t=0 but which are now becoming rapidly outmoded.Moreover, we would commit the ‘genetic fallacy’ if we assumed that the most important clue to the universe we live in is found in its ancient origins.Instead we are poised, as never before, to focus research in theology and science on its 15 billion year history and the evolution of life, at least on planet Earth and perhaps throughout the universe. What will life in the universe tell us about the meaning of the universe, and about human life in particular? These questions suggest how cosmology, as a part of physics, and evolution, as a part of biology, are coming together in a ‘fusion of horizons’ that seemed impossible during the past three centuries. The theological challenges and opportunities are tremendous!

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

Topic Sets Available

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Jean Vanier of L'Arche
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