God only Knows

Brian J Ford

Go to Home Page

Did life evolve, or was it created? There are many places - including some of the great States of the most sophisticated nation in the world - where you can be in serious trouble for suggesting that evolution is a fact. Religious fundamentalism is on the march in the Deep South much as it is in the Middle East.

In Britain we are more sanguine about these things. Darwin rules the roost. Since the mathematicians turned their minds to the way you could tie in the age of distant galaxies with the thermal properties of outer space we have lived in the era of the Big Bang. This, they say, makes a belief in God unnecessary. They say that are close to a ‘theory of everything’, where science accounts for reality in a grand conceptual sweep.

So two of the greatest nations in the world are divided by feelings of religious creationism, on one hand, and a strictly scientific view of natural physical phenomena, on the other. Or are they? I believe our cultural heritage has had more far-reaching effects than we realise. The Big Bang theory is a theoretical construct which fits current knowledge, but it is unlikely to stand the test of time. It’s like the eighteenth-century theory of phlogiston (the mythical substance given out during combustion). The Big Bang is the phlogiston of the nineties.

It is not so much a mathematical model, but a saga in the grand tradition of story-telling. The modern theory of the origin of the universe has its roots in ancient legends. The Big Bang recapitulates the creation recounted in the book of Genesis. There we find the birth of the universe, with the dividing of light from dark, and the formation of the world from the empty void.

There is something of the 'emperor’s new clothes' in the saga of the Big Bang. The powerful urge to grasp this unified theory of the origins of the universe stems from the same creationist principle as that which drives the literal followers of the Bible. The writings of today’s mathematicians reveal more about their early up-bringing and the ineradicable effects of their cultural background than they would find it comfortable to admit.

Western mathematicians were raised with the Bible, and it’s this which re-emerges in their modelling of the universe. Just as we are decrying the extremists in America who espouse creationism, we have creationists at the heart of theoretical physics. For these physicists, God is far from ‘unnecessary’. Creation is the lynch-pin of their view of the origin of matter.

American creationists decry Charles Darwin and all his works. It has to be said that Charles Darwin didn’t coin the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’, and the ‘Darwinian’ theory is really that of Wallace - indeed, Charles’s grandfather Erasmus wrote about it too. So, how could we marry the irreconcilable conflict between creationists and science?

Simple - God created evolution.

Go to the next in the series, to the previous article, or to the 'BrianWave' title index.

Send e-mail