Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wonders of the Universe

Like many others, I'm captivated by Professor Brian Cox's BBC series 'The Wonders of the Universe', being broadcast on Sunday evenings. The enthusiasm that he has for his subject is infectious - he is a true evangelist for astrophysics, though I have to confess that I have always found the subject matter interesting.

As a small boy, growing up in the 1960s, I was fascinated by the Apollo space programme, and eagerly collected clippings from Radio Times outlining the flight-plans of the missions from Apollo 8 (the first lunar orbit) to Apollo 11 (the first lunar landing) and beyond. It was an exciting time to be alive as new frontiers were crossed. For Cox the turning point was Carl Sagen's TV series 'Cosmos' (he is 7 years younger than me, so the Apollo missions probably passed him by).

Cox has told the story of the origins of the universe: how every atom of every element of every living thing was 'created in the heart of a dying star', thrown together through the irresistible force of gravity, and ultimately destined for destruction as entropy takes its inexorable course.

As a Christian I have been fascinated by his ideas, and have found nothing in what Cox says that contradicts my understanding of a Creator God. Cox, as I understand it, holds no theistic beliefs, holding to the supremacy of science to explain everything. But to my mind he is only answering one set of questions in his programmes - questions of 'how' - of mechanics. There is no attempt to address questions of 'why' - of purpose. It is, I recognise, dangerous to compartmentalise the science/ faith debate by saying that one is about 'how' and the other about 'why', but I have yet to find Cox addressing these underlying issues. To my mind, he is simply showing us (without openly acknowledging it) how God created the Universe - by establishing the physical laws that underpin reality and by setting in place the processes of creation.

In college we would often ask this question: 'Did the Big Bang make God jump?', or did God 'press the button'? I think Cox is showing us what happens when 'God created...' [Gen 1:1], when 'God said...' [Gen 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20 & 24]