Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory
Since the acceptance of the Big Bang theory as the dominant physical cosmological paradigm, there have been a variety of reactions by some religious groups as to its implications for their respective religious cosmologies. Some accept the scientific evidence at face value, some seek to harmonize the Big Bang with their religious tenets, and some 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 nature of the universe since its earliest discernible existence, the Big Bang carries possible theological implications regarding the concept of creation out of nothing. Many atheist philosophers argued against the idea of the Universe having a beginning by believing in the idea of the Universe having simply always existed for all eternity, but with the emerging evidence of the Big Bang theory, many theologians and physicists have viewed it 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.
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?
The view from the Hindu Puranas is that of an eternal universe cosmology, in which time has no absolute beginning, but rather is infinite and cyclic, 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." It consists of several "Big Bangs" and "Big Crunches" following each other in a cyclical manner.
The Nasadiya Sukta, the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (10:129) mentions the world beginning from a point or bindu, through the power of heat. This can be seen as corresponding to the Big Bang theory.
Several prominent modern scientists have remarked that Hinduism is the only religion (or civilization) in all of recorded history, that has timescales and theories in astronomy (cosmology), that appear to correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology, e.g. Carl Sagan, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, Robert Oppenheimer, Eugene Wigner, George Sudarshan, Fritjof Capra etc.
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 of Young Earth Creationism, who advocate a very literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, reject the theory.
Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, has taught that the universe has "neither beginning nor ending". In the Tablet of Wisdom ("Lawh-i-Hikmat", written 1873–1874). Bahá'u'lláh states: “That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different.” The terminology used here refers to ancient Greek and Islamic philosophy. In another text, Bahá’u’lláh states that the meaning of the "active force" (fa’il) is "the lord of the species" (arbáb al-anwá’), "and it hath other meanings".
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The Big Bang theory strikes many people as having theological implications, as shown by those who do not welcome those implications.
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Both theists and physicists have seen the big bang theory as leaving open such an opportunity for a theistic explanation.
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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.
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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.
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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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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.
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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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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.
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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.
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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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Conservative Protestant circles have also welcomed Big Bang cosmology as supporting a historical interpretation of the doctrine of creation.
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