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Does the Judeo-Christian Concept of Creation Conflict with the Big Bang?
One questioner asks:

According to my Bible God called the expanse above the firmament Heaven. He called the dry land Earth. According to your academic definition of a myth, Evolution and The Big Bang qualify as myths. No one has any proof that either of these explanations is true. They are both no more than theory. According to Occam the explanation that demands the least amount of assumptions is usually the correct one. To believe in Creation takes only one. Faith. To believe that anything as beautiful and as perfect as our Solar System came about by accident requires more faith than believing in God.

Answer courtesy of Todd Hoeksema, solar physicist, Stanford University:

The origin of creation is a widely discussed topic in both scientific and religious circles. It can be hard to reconcile 'scientific' and 'religious' answers to some questions. I don't think that science and religion have to be in conflict. Certainly God and the universe are not - who's in charge, after all?

Genesis 1 says that God created the universe. Genesis does not provide all the details of how it was done. Scientists try to understand how things happen in the world as we observe it. The Big Bang theory* is people's attempt to put together all of the evidence we have from the physical universe to explain what we observe. For example, we detect radiation of a certain temperature coming nearly uniformly from every direction in space. This fact fits into the picture that at some time in the past the universe actually had a beginning. And, all the galaxies we have observed are moving away from us, and each other, which implies that they were once closer together. The current ratio of hydrogen to helium, the two simplest atoms, is exactly what is predicted by the Big Bang concept. These are just several of many, many pieces of evidence that are explained by the Big Bang theory. The theory of evolution is similar - it is an attempt to explain the physical world based on the evidence we have.

Scientific theories are not absolute, nor are they complete. Theories are always tentative to a certain degree. One never knows what new thing might discovered tomorrow. Theories change when they conflict with facts. Scientific theories are constantly being extended and improved to explain more facts. Sometimes this takes a lot of time. Anomalous facts are often treated very skeptically, particularly if people have a lot of confidence in the theory. But scientists take facts very seriously and will abandon a theory if it doesn't explain the facts. The search for things that don't fit the theory is a real motivation for those of us who make observations. One scientist said that an observation that matches expectations is just a measurement, but an observation that cannot be explained is a discovery.

On the other hand theories are not arbitrary. They are more than just arbitrary guesses about what might happen. They have real predictive and explanatory power. The Big Bang theory makes a real and verifiable prediction about how much hydrogen and helium there are in the universe. Any new theory would have to explain this too. Theories provide understanding of how the universe works.

Occam's razor doesn't really help in this case, does it? It isn't really a question of believing that God created the universe *or* believing the Big Bang theory. Nor is it really a question of purpose *versus* chance. You might say that God maintains the whole universe through his providence and that He keeps the stars and planets in their places. That doesn't conflict with general relativity and the theory of gravity that explains why the Earth orbits the Sun in a year and why the Sun and solar system together orbit the center of our galaxy every 250 million years or so.

The American Scientific Affiliation is a group of Christians who are scientists. They have a web site you might be interested in:

* The way that scientists use the word 'theory' is a little different than how it is commonly used in the lay public, According to Jaime Tannder, a professor of biology at Marlboro College, "Most people use the word 'theory' to mean an idea or hunch that someone has. But in science the word 'theory' refers to the way that we interpret facts."

The University of California, Berkeley, defines a theory as "a broad, natural explanation for a wide range of phenomena. Theories are concise, coherent, systematic, predictive, and broadly applicable, often integrating and generalizing many hypotheses."

In other words, a scientific theory is strongly based on facts and observations. For more information, see What is a Scientific Theory?

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