Comments on "Evidence and Cosmology: What we have learned from NASA's cosmic radiation probe"


Michael S. Turner, PhD

Assistant Director for Math and Physical Sciences

The National Science Foundation



The Reverend Barbara Putney Smith-Moran, SOSc
Co-chair, Executive Council Committee on Science,
Technology and Faith
Episcopal Church in America


I attended this talk, the latest in the AAAS DoSER series (Dialogue between Science Ethics and Religion).  I have been following the latest research in cosmology for the past year with great interest, and I am planning to teach a series on “Christ and Cosmology” in my church (National Presbyterian) this spring.  


These “dialogues” have a scientist followed by a respondent who is a theologian or social scientist.  


Dr. Turner summarized the recent findings on a table indicating an assessment of the degree of “certitude” that scientists now have with respect to various observations in cosmology.  For example, on his scale of 1 to 5 (5=absolute certitude), the hot Big Bang is a 4; the Hubble expansion of space is a 4, the existence of cold dark matter is a 2; the evidence for inflation is a 1 or 2.  He concluded “We believe -- I shouldn’t say believe – we have scientific evidences that this really happened.”  He emphasized that although there are still mysteries and setbacks, science is on a single-minded journey toward certitude.  


The respondent, the Reverend Barbara Putney Smith-Moran, described herself as being “in the business of Christian credibility”.  She suggested that God is co-evolving with us; that rather than God creating us in God’s image, we are also creating God in our image.  God emerges out of the historical development of mankind.  God was not around before we were around.  etc. etc.


In the Q&A period afterward, I usually don’t miss the opportunity to speak up.  I observed that there was a big elephant in the room, namely truth, that was at the heart of the dialog.  And, citing Jesus who said “I am the way, the truth and the life”, I observed that philosophically, the scientist and the theologian had switched places.  The scientist was searching for the truth; the theologian was following the postmodern trend of the day, in which such a search is considered passé.  And yet it’s ironic that every theologian -- from the creationists to the liberal Episcopal Establishment – wants to appear scientific.  


After the meeting, Dr. Turner took note of my question, and we had an interesting discussion of the latest cosmological findings.  And I think I, as a Christian, have more affinity with the scientist seeking the truth than with the postmodern theologian’s attempt at “credibility”.  Remember Stephen Weinberg’s assessment of liberal theology: that it is “not even wrong.”  Philosophically I am on the same side as the scientists.  And I believe that most people in ASA would feel the same way.


Paul Arveson


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