- A Day Without Yesterday: Father Georges Lemaitre and The Big Bang
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- 'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang
He was ordained in after earning doctorates in mathematics and science.
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It was that model, widely accepted in science, that developed a wide chasm between science and the Judeo-Christian understanding of Creation. From his chair in science at Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium from to , Father Lemaitre put his formidable mind to work. He also concluded that The Universe is not static, as Einstein believed, but expanding at an ever increasing rate, and he put forward a mathematical model to prove it. In , Father Lemaitre was proven to be correct.
About fifteen billion years ago, they would have been on top of each other, and the density would have been very large. Einstein seems never to have taken the big bang seriously. It was 1, ,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,, ,,,,,,,,, tons per square inch. Though Einstein disagreed with Father Lemaitre at first, he respected his brilliant mathematical mind.
When Einstein presented his theories to a packed audience of scientists in Brussels in , he was asked if he thought his ideas were understood by everyone present. They were words Einstein would one day have to take back. In the case of Father Lemaitre and The Big Bang, it was science that refused to believe the evident truth that a Catholic priest proposed to a mathematical certainty: For his work, Father Lemaitre was inducted into the Royal Academy of Belgium, and was awarded the Franqui prize by an international commission of scientists.
He admitted that his concept of an eternal, unchanging universe was an error. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
Cardinal Dulles wrote in Your writing, which is clear, eloquent, and spiritually sound will be a monument to your trials. I was doing some research on him just now and was pleasantly surprised to your posting on him. That letter you received from Carl Sagan provides a fascinating link between these two men — complete opposites in their professed beliefs.
And please keep all of us in your prayers. Thank you Father for a remarkable post. I found this to be very interesting. I have always loved science too. Especially Chemistry — I wish I had the opportunity to study astronomy and physics too. I am one of those peole who never heard of Father Georges Lemaitre.
I am going to make it a point learn more about him. What a fascinating piece! I am about as far away from a math and science buff as you can get but I simply devoured every word! Please tell Skooter and Charlene that I very much beg to differ with their predictions about the negative impact of this post! As a science buff, this article made for wonderful reading.
I know many intelligent people whose faith is diminished by their intellect. But then their are some whose intellect so dwarfs all the rest of us that their understanding of the universe seems to require a depth of faith. This post is brilliant, funny, entertaining, and unfathomably deep. If Father LeMaitre was around today, he would be e-mailing this link to all his friends like I just did. Thanks for this interesting reading. You are correct that the Big Bang theory is conclusive proof of the Biblical story of creation.
A Day Without Yesterday: Father Georges Lemaitre and The Big Bang
I started out in that field, and then got sidetracked into law somehow. It always struck me that the study of physics leads to religious faith; the mathematics which governs our universe is too elegant to be random, it must be the product of a conscious design. In the beginning, God indeed created the heavens and the earth. Gordon wrote about his European friend, Pierre, being blessed by St. Padre Pio many years ago. Recently Pierre wrote that when his family vacationed with Msgr.
Lemaitre in Switzerland, he and his brothers were called upon to serve as altar boys. This is a post my husband will just love! He is a math professor: In these times when the secular press constantly tries to make out The Church is the enemy of science and reason this is a most welcome and fascinating post Father G!
I enjoyed this post, Father. I love astronomy although have no real scientific knowledge of it and could gaze at a starry, moonlit sky for hours in sheer awe, and even wondered from time to time if there was anyone else out there. Thanks to Fr Lemaitre we have the science behind our faith. Now there is a science curriculum our young people should be learning- Fr.
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I read your article with great interest. Fr Lemaitre is a hero of mine. I should send the following to you as a letter and may try to do so, but I did want to post it since the conceptualization joins both current concepts in cosmology and quantum theory with a potentially new conceptualization of the Holy Trinity. Forgive its length, but I think its meaning may be considerable. Because of this, I thought the following was important to communicate widely within the Christian community without relevance to who I am.
The constant developments in science have frequently been used by the Secular Progressive movements to deny the relevance of God. This story and revelation has bearing on that relevance. In a recent extensive journey, my most memorable encounter came from a Southern Baptist evangelical who my wife and I ran into as a passenger sharing the aisle seat on our flight from Bucharest to London.
'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang
We do not recall his name, but he was a very loquacious and affable 73 year old on his return from proselytizing preaching the Gospel and saving souls in the Ukraine. He seemed to reflect on that, and then reported that his biggest problem during his ministry was to explain the Trinity to the newly saved. After overcoming the difficulty of explaining that Jesus is God — i.
It occurred to him to compare the Trinity to the water molecule: What an excellent concept I thought and congratulated him on his epiphany relayed to me and we went our separate ways. Since he had no scientific background — I doubt that he realized what a deeply profound concept he had in fact developed expounded. If you can bear with me, let me explain how this conceptually relates to the Holy Trinity and makes that concept — and, in fact all of Christianity —even more comprehensible:.
As we know, water is composed of two explosive gases: When they combine they do so violently and evolve a lot of heat. The end result of that process is that they form water: In the process of the combination of the two gases —O2 and H2 — there is one atom of Oxygen left over which is a nascent, elemental [O] which is an exceedingly active free radical. This is the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah; drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and slew multitudes. But when we speak of the God of Christianity, we speak of a loving, forgiving presence.
The British astronomer realized that Lemaitre had bridged the gap between observation and theory. Most scientists who read Lemaitre's paper accepted that the universe was expanding, at least in the present era, but they resisted the implication that the universe had a beginning. They were used to the idea that time had gone on forever. It seemed illogical that infinite millions of years had passed before the universe came into existence. Eddington himself wrote in the English journal Nature that the notion of a beginning of the world was "repugnant.
The Belgian priest responded to Eddington with a letter published in Nature on May 9, Lemaitre suggested that the world had a definite beginning in which all its matter and energy were concentrated at one point:. In January , both Lemaitre and Einstein traveled to California for a series of seminars. After the Belgian detailed his theory, Einstein stood up, applauded, and said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.
An article about Lemaitre appeared on February 19, , and featured a large photo of Einstein and Lemaitre standing side by side. The caption read, "They have a profound respect and admiration for each other. For his work, Lemaitre was inducted as a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. An international commission awarded him the Francqui Prize. Despite this high praise, there were some problems with Lemaitre's theory. For one, Lemaitre's calculated rate of expansion did not work out. If the universe was expanding at a steady rate, the time it had taken to cover its radius was too short to allow for the formation of the stars and planets.
Lemaitre solved this problem by expropriating Einstein's cosmological constant. Where Einstein had used it in an attempt to keep the universe at a steady size, Lemaitre used it to speed up the expansion of the universe over time.
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Einstein did not take kindly to Lemaitre's use of the cosmological constant. He regarded the constant as the worst mistake of his career, and he was upset by Lemaitre's use of his super-galactic fudge factor. But in there was a significant breakthrough that confirmed some of Lemaitre's theories. Workers at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey were tinkering with a radio telescope when they discovered a frustrating kind of microwave interference.
It was equally strong whether they pointed their telescope at the center of the galaxy or in the opposite direction. What was more, it always had the same wavelength and it always conveyed the same source temperature. This accidental discovery required the passage of several months for its importance to sink in.
Eventually, it won Arno Penzias the Nobel Prize in physics. This microwave interference came to be recognized as cosmic background radiation, a remnant of the Big Bang. Lemaitre received the good news while recovering from a heart attack in the Hospital Saint Pierre at the University of Louvain. He died in Louvain in , at the age of seventy-one. After his death, a consensus built in favor of Lemaitre's burst of fireworks.
But doubts did persist: Did this event really happen on a day without yesterday? Perhaps gravity could provide an alternative explanation. Some theorized that gravity would slow down the expansion of the universe and make it fall back toward its center, where there would be a Big Crunch and another Big Bang. The Big Bang, therefore, was not a unique event which marked the beginning of time but only part of an infinite sequence of Big Bangs and Big Crunches. When word of the Berkeley discovery that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate first reached Stephen Hawking, he said it was too preliminary to be taken seriously.
Later, he changed his mind. Hawking was actually being modest.