“The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible“
– Albert Einstein.
A. The Religious Position
Those who believe in a divine creation of the universe could be classified into three broad categories based on their differing views on the role of god in creating and sustaining the universe. These are Deism, Theism and Pantheism.
- Deism: The word is derived from the Latin word for God: “Deus“. Deism believes that god created the universe, established its rules of behaviour, set it going and left the scene once for all. The philosophical position of Deism is that while god created the universe, that god does not interfere directly with the affairs of the world. God’s only contribution to the universe was to set everything in motion. That done, he just exited never to be seen again. From there on, the laws of science took hold of the system and governed every subsequent sequence of events. This kind of a stand is easy for Deists since Deism does not have any prophets through whom god revealed his mind or any holy book laying down the rules and doctrines of their faith. Its ideas of god are derived from reasoning and real life experiences.
- Theism: This term arose from Theos, the Greek word for god. Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of either a single deity (Monotheism) or multiple deities (Polytheism). Theists believe in a God who not only created the universe but also remains directly involved in its day-to-day operations. (In polytheism, the creator god could be different from the god who sustains it). For theists, the divine involvement after creation is particularly strong and striking when it comes to the affairs of human beings, with whom god maintains a continuing relationship. Theism has its prophets and holy books and believes that their religion is ‘sent down from above’.
- Pantheism: Both Deism and Theism make a sharp distinction between creator and creation. Both consider God as a power wholly different and beyond the physical universe. For theists, god is eternal but the universe is not. But in Pantheism, (a term derived from the Greek word pan (meaning “all, of everything”) and theos (meaning “god, divine”) no such separation is made between the creator and his creation. Pantheism holds that all reality is identical with divinity. It believes that god is in everything and everything is part of god. In the West, pantheism was formalized as a separate theology and philosophy by 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Spinoza’s book, ‘Ethics’ counters the dualistic theory of Descartes that body and spirit are separate.
B. The Scientific Position
1. A Universe of Infinite Age
2. A Universe of Finite Age
Now, what was state of the universe when the Big Bang started? Imagine that we could run the process of universe creation backwards from the current stage in a manner similar to running a movie backwards. As the process rewinds, the galaxies would start coming closer and closer. Then they huddle increasingly closer and would start merging with each other. It would be followed by the increasing level of squeezing together of the galactic material. Continuing in this vein, we would understand that there must have been a time when the universe was only half its present size, a quarter, one-eighth and so on. This squeezing process would continue until a state of enormous density is reached. If this process has to cease, some outward force that could overcome the force of gravity trying to compact the universe has to be present. Since such an outward force is unknown, the squeezing continues. Eventually a stage would be reached when further compression becomes impossible. There is no mass left to compress. At this point, the whole universe would sit tightly squeezed into an infinitesimally small point. Scientists use the term ‘singularity’ to denote this state. It is a kind of no mass, no space and no time, state. All normal laws of physics would be rendered unsuitable to study it. The principles of quantum physics alone might help. This was the original state of extreme compaction of the universe at the point of the big bang.
|2 The Big Bang Creation of the Universe|
Fritjof Capra says in ‘The Tao of Physics’, ‘“Experiencing the universe as an organic and rhythmically moving cosmos, the Hindu’s were able to develop evolutionary cosmologies which come very close to our modern scientific models“. For instance, Lord Krishna says, “At the end of the night of time all things return to my nature; and when the new day of time begins I bring them again into light. Thus through my nature I bring forth all creation and this rolls around in the circles of time” (Bhagavad Gita 9:7-8). That is amazing insight!
(We can’t go into the details on how ‘it fails to hold up to scrutiny’ here, primarily because I have already stretched to breaking point my niggling knowledge of science).