Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory
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Since the acceptance of the Big Bang theory as the dominant physical cosmological paradigm, there have been a variety of reactions by religious groups as to its implications for their respective religious cosmologies. Some accept the scientific evidence at face value, while others harmonise the Big Bang with their religious tenets, and others completely reject or ignore the evidence for the Big Bang theory.
The Big Bang itself is a scientific theory, and as such stands or falls by its agreement with observations. But as a theory which addresses the origins of reality it carries theological implications regarding the concept of creation ex nihilo (a Latin phrase meaning "out of nothing"). In addition, many theologians and physicists have viewed the Big Bang as implicating theism; a popular philosophical argument for the existence of God known as the Kalām cosmological argument rests in the concepts of the Big Bang. In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state Universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory, who rejected the implication that the universe had a beginning.
Pope Pius XII declared, at the November 22, 1951, opening meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that the Big Bang theory does not conflict with the Catholic concept of creation. Some Conservative Protestant Christian denominations have also welcomed the Big Bang theory as supporting a historical interpretation of the doctrine of creation; however, some adherents to Young Earth Creationism, which advocate a very literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, reject the theory.
Among the Hindu Puranas, an eternal universe cosmology in which time has no absolute beginning, but rather is infinite and cyclic, is described, rather than a universe which originated from a Big Bang. However, the Encyclopædia of Hinduism, referencing Katha Upanishad 2:20, states that the Big Bang theory reminds humanity that everything came from the Brahman which is "subtler than the atom, greater than the greatest." The Nasadiya Sukta, the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (10:129) mentions world beginning from a point or bindu, through the power of heat. This can be seen as it being corresponding to The Big Bang theory.
Many Muslim commentators have stated that there are references in the Qur'an to the Big Bang. One example of such a finding is a verse from the Qur'an, Sura 21:30, which states: "Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?"
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- Manson, N.A. (1993). God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-26344-3. "The Big Bang theory strikes many people as having theological implications, as shown by those who do not welcome those implications."
- Harris, J.F. (2002). Analytic Philosophy of Religion. Springer Press. ISBN 978-1-4020-0530-5. "Both theists and physicists have seen the big bang theory as leaving open such an opportunity for a theistic explanation."
- Eric J. Lerner (2010-12-15). The Big Bang Never Happened: A Startling Refutation of the Dominant Theory of the Origin of the Universe. Vintage Books. ISBN 9780307773548. Retrieved 16 March 2012. "From theologians to physicists to novelists, it is widely believed that the Big Bang theory supports Christian concepts of a creator. In February 1989, for example, the front-page article of the New York Times Book Review argued that scientists argued that scientists and novelists were returning to God, in large part through the influence of the Big Bang."
- James Franklin Harris (2002). Analytic Philosophy of Feligion. Springer Science. ISBN 9781402005305. "THE KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT Perhaps the best known and most clearly formulated version of the cosmological argument that incorporates the fundamental concepts of big bang theory is found in the work of William Lane Craig."
- McGrath, A.E. (2011). Science and Religion. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-4443-5808-7. "It will be clear that this type of argument relates directly to modern cosmological research, particularly the "big bang" theory of the origins of the cosmos. This is also true of the kalam version of the cosmological argument, to which we now turn."
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- Harrison, P. (2010). The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion. Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-521-71251-4. "One reason for initial resistance to the Big Bang theory was that, unlike the rival Steady-State hypothesis, it proposed that the universe has a beginning – a proposition that for some had unwelcome religious implications."
- Kragh, H. (2008). Entropic Creation. Ashgate Publishing. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-7546-6414-7. "Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's notorious chief ideologue, said in a speech of 1947 that Lemaître and his kindred spirits were 'Falsifiers of science [who] wanted to revive the fairy tale of the origin of the world from nothing ... Another failure of the 'theory' in question consists in the fact that it brings us to the idealistic attitute of assuming the world to be finite.'"
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- Pope Pius XII (1951-11-02). "Ai soci della Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze, 22 novembre 1951 – Pio XII, Discorsi" (in Italian). Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana. Retrieved 2012-02-23.
- Russell, R.J. (2008). Cosmology: From Alpha to Omega. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-6273-8. "Conservative Protestant circles have also welcomed Big Bang cosmology as supporting a historical interpretation of the doctrine of creation."
- Sushil Mittal, G. R. Thursby (2004). The Hindu World. Psychology Press. "In the Vedic cosmogonies, the question of what caused the primordial desire does not arise; like the Big Bang of modern cosmology, the primal impulse is beyond all time and causation, so it makes no sense to ask what preceded it or what caused it. However, in the Hindu cosmology which we find in the Puranas and other non-Vedic Sanskrit texts, time has no absolute beginning; it is infinite and cyclic and so is kama."
- John R. Hinnells (2010). The Routledge companion to the study of religion. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0415473284. "There are also other cosmological models of the universe besides the Big bang model, including eternal universe theories – views more in keeping with Hindu cosmologies than with traditional theistic concepts of the cosmos."
- Sunil Sehgal (1999). Encyclopædia of Hinduism: T–Z, Volume 5. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 8176250643. "The theory is known as the 'Big Bang theory' and it reminds us of the Hindu idea that everything came from the Brahman which is "subtler than the atom, greater than the greatest" (Kathopanishad-2-20)."
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- Diane Morgan (2010). Essential Islam: a comprehensive guide to belief and practice. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 0313360251. "Although the Quran is not intended to be a textbook on physics, many Muslim commentators search through it for passages that seem to parallel findings made by modern science, in an effort to show the timeless wisdom of the book. Some of these parallels are said to include references to the Big Bang, antimatter, rotating stars, radioactive fusion, tectonic plates, and the ozone layer."
- Helaine Selin, ed. (1997). Encyclopædia of the history of science, technology, and medicine in non-western cultures. Springer Press. ISBN 0792340663. "Subjects ranging from relativity, quantum mechanics, and the big bang theory to the entire field of embryology and much of modern geology have been discovered in the Qur'an."
- Islam in Malawi week 1998. University of Malawi. 2000. ""Do you know what the Quran says about the BIG BANG THEORY? The Quran says: Do not the unbelievers see that the Heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation) before we clove them asunder? Holy Quran 21:30."
- quran.com Surat Al-'Anbyā' 21:30 سورة الأنبياء
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- God and the Big Bang: featuring Professors Peter Bussey, Gerald Gabrielse, Owen Gingerich, Nick Saunders, and Jennifer Wiseman. It discusses the connection between the Big Bang and God from a Christian perspective.
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