To the Relation between Religion and Science at the Dawn of the 21st Century

Abstract
(1) The twentieth century can be characterized by unprecedented progress innatural sciences, especially in the field of lifeless nature. This circumstanceinfluenced substantially also our point of view on the Universe, on itsproperties, structure as well as its evolution. Many new questions could beformulated and answered in the field of micro- as well as macro-worlds. However,even if several problems could be formulated more appropriately than before,their complete solution is in large deal still missing. There are also caseswhere the correct answer or solution should be looked for beyond the naturalsciences. Generally speaking, current cosmology represents a well establishedbranch of science, i.e. it already does not belong to a pure speculative area ofthe human activity.

(2) The data, presently available, allow us to conclude that our Universe isevolving. Its evolution started from a hot state of matter. It originated aswhole, i.e. there is no scientific support in favor of the idea that theuniverse - as we know it today - might have arisen (let us say, gradually, in astepwise way) by gluing together several hitherto individual and independentlyevolved universes. Our contemporary level of knowledge allows concluding thatthe existence of the Universe will be finished in the distant future. Moreover,there is no serious evidence of the existence of an oscillating universe.

(3) During recent years, the Standard Cosmological Model has been introducedinto cosmology. By and large, it is based on the following principles, oraxioms: (i) seen from the global point of view, the Universe reveals itshomogeneity and isotropy, (ii) fundamental properties of the gravitation fieldsare described in terms of Einstein's theory of general relativity, and (iii)matter moves in the Universe obeying the laws of relativistic flow of fluid.

It is usually said that application of the Standard Cosmological Model allows usto explain chiefly the following three fundamental observations, namely: (a) theHubble red shift of galaxies and their clusters (sometimes called expansion ofthe Universe), (b) the presence of the cosmic microwave background (relic)electromagnetic radiation at the temperature T = 2.735 Kelvin (with small butvery important fluctuations), and (c) the primordial abundance of light atomicelements (especially of the deuterium, two helium isotopes and lithium).

(4) Our complex present day knowledge allows to conclude that (i) the relicelectromagnetic radiation acquired the properties observed today, when the ageof the universe was about several hundred thousand years (recent results lead tothe value 340 thousands years), (ii) the primordial abundance of the lightatomic elements appeared when the age of the universe was about ten seconds upto several minutes, and (iii) the Hubble expansion (i.e. the increase of thedistance between galaxies and their clusters) observed today is primarily causedby the inflation (an enormously large expansion of the Universe in a span of anextremely short period of time); a relatively popular scenario places theappearance of this phenomenon to the period when the universe was t_1 secondsold (where t_1 is equal about 10^{-35}sec) and the duration of the inflation wasabout 10^{-33}sec. (Let us say that the existence of the inflation cannot beverified nor falsified.)

(5) The three observations mentioned above bring an important portion ofknowledge about evolution of the Universe. On the other hand, they do not sayanything about processes that took place before the time t_1, nor do theyrequire existence of the Big Bang. Some theoretical models allow extrapolationfrom the time t_1 up to the time t_0 (where t_0 means time zero or the startingpoint of existence of the Universe). This means that the singularity in thetemperature or the density of the matter at the time t_0 comes in due to aspecial and very attractive extrapolation of the properties characterizing theUniverse during the time interval between t = t_1 and t = t_0.

Now, it is seen that if there was an agreement achieved on the existence ofthe Big Bang, one should introduce - in addition to the three observationsmentioned above, in the foregoing section - a fourth statement, too, namely,that (iv) the Big Bang truly took place (i.e. this addition is introduced by ourhands, not by the nature). Introduction of this addition into the StandardCosmological Model may lead to what can be called an Extended StandardCosmological Model.

(6) The Hubble expansion requires some comment. Namely, according to our presentideas the Universe is filled with a material environment represented by(heavy) matter and radiation; the rest mass of the radiation quanta vanishesso that their speed is equal to the speed of the light in vacuum. The Hubbleexpansion (or more aptly, the increase of the distance among galaxies and theirclusters) is ascribed, today, mainly to the inflation and therefore it is not asimple task to deduce (without additional assumptions) the age of the Universefrom the time dependence of the increasing distance just mentioned. But thequestion What was there yesterday where the Universe is expanding today? isstill interesting and hardly answerable in field of the general relativity.

(7) Let us admit (for the moment being) that all the matter started to exist byBig Bang. This is to say that before the Big Bang there existed no matter at all(i.e. no heavy matter together with any kind of radiation). In that case,natural science (or any other science, such as philosophy or metaphysics) isneither able nor competent to answer the question: What was there before theBig Bang? The answer represents a matter of belief: the transition fromnothing to something is not a physical event. Physics and the naturalsciences in general are always dealing with some environment whose propertiesare specified by quantities adherent to the matter. A scientific approach(including for instance also the notion of causality) fits to the materialworld, not to the spiritual one. Religion is in a special way intimately relatedto such a world, which cannot be described in terms adherent to the materialworld.

Nevertheless, let us say that some kind of primordial matter (either in itsvacuum or some excited state) existed before the time t_0 as well. In such akind of matter there existed different fluctuations and one such energetic andvery rich fluctuation might decay, leading to the birth of our Universe. In thatcase, the temperature at the origin of our Universe might have been extremelyhigh but it could not have been necessarily infinitely high. Of course, such apossibility does not solve the problem of the origin of the matter. This modelshifts it only one step further into the past.

(8)The questions related with the origin (or eternity) of the matter areanswered within the framework of religion. Let us point out that it still mightbe that the volume of the Universe filled by (heavy) matter need not be the sameas the volume filled by (some kind of primordial) radiation. On the other hand,quite often the answers to such questions come from various speculations andthey do not represent the results of a serious scientific approach. Perhaps itis interesting to notice that not all questions formulated in a field of seriousscience will adequately meet their serious (scientific) answers.

(9) In the present contribution the distinction between facts and hypotheses isstressed. There are mentioned also some points of view on the interpretation ofobservations of the Universe. Mutual complementarity between religion andsciences is briefly sketched, too.

Biography
- Mikuláš Blažek: Born in Trnava, Slovak Republic (1932). University studies atthe Comenius University, Bratislava (1957). PhD from Czech Technikal University,Prague. The late vice-chancellor at the Trnava University.
- Ladislav Csontos: Born in Pie√Ö¬°tany, Slovak Republic (1952). Mathematicalstudies at the Comenius University (1975), PhD.studies at Roman Catholic Facultyof Theology in Bratislava, Dean of the Faculty of Theology Trnava University1997-2003.
- Miroslav Karaba: Born in Pie√Ö¬°tany, Slovak Republic (1976). University studiesat the Theological faculty of Trnava University. PhDr studies at PalackyUniversity (Czech Republic). PhD. studies at the Theological faculty of TrnavaUniversity (from 2002.


The twentieth century can be characterized by unprecedented progress in naturalsciences, especially in the field of inanimate nature. This circumstance hasinfluenced substantially also our point of view on the Universe, on itsproperties, structure as well as its evolution. Many new questions could beformulated and answered in the field of micro- as well as macro-worlds. However,even if several problems could be formulated more appropriately than before,their complete solution is in large deal still missing. There are also caseswhere the correct answer or solution should be looked up beyond naturalsciences. Generally speaking, the current cosmology, as it is known at the dawnof the 21st century represents a well-established branch of science, i.e. itdoes not belong to a pure speculative area of the human activity any longer.

I. Evolution of the Universe

(1) The data, presently available, allow to conclude that our Universe isevolving. Its evolution started from a hot state of the matter. It originated asa whole, i.e. there is no scientific support in favor of the idea that theUniverse - as we know it today - might have arisen (let us say, gradually, in astepwise way) by gluing together several hitherto individual and independentlyevolved universes. Our actual level of knowledge allows to conclude that theexistence of the Universe will finish in the distant future. Moreover, there isno serious evidence of existence of an oscillating universe. (According to therecent observations of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe the age of theuniverse is 13,7 billion years, with 1% uncertainty.)

(2) During recent years, the Standard Cosmological Model has been introducedinto the cosmology. By and large, it is based mainly on the followingprinciples, or axioms: (i) seen from the global point of view, the Universereveals its homogeneity and isotropy, (ii) fundamental properties of thegravitation fields are described in terms of the Einstein theory of generalrelativity, and (iii) the matter moves in the Universe obeying the laws of therelativistic flow of fluid.

It is usually quoted that application of the Standard Cosmological Modelallows to explain chiefly the following three fundamental observations, namely:(a) the Hubble's red shift of galaxies and their clusters (sometimes calledexpansion of the Universe), (b) the presence of the cosmic microwavebackground (relic) electromagnetic radiation at the temperature T = 2.735 Kelvin(with small but very important fluctuations), and (c) the primordial abundanceof light atomic elements (especially of the deuterium, two helium isotopes andlithium).

(3) Our present day complex knowledge allows to conclude that (i) the relicelectromagnetic radiation acquired the properties observed today when the age ofthe Universe was about several hundred thousand years (recent results lead tothe value of 380 thousands years), (ii) the primordial abundance of the lightatomic elements appeared when the age of the Universe was about ten seconds upto several minutes, and (iii) the Hubble's expansion (i.e. the increase of thedistance between galaxies and their clusters) observed today is primarily causedby the inflation (an enormously large expansion of the Universe in a span of anextremely short period of time); a relatively popular scenario places theappearance of this phenomenon to the period when the Universe was t1 seconds old(where t1 is equal about 10-35 sec) and the duration of the inflation was about10-33 sec, [1]. (Let us utter that existence of the inflation cannot be verifiednor falsified.)

II. Approach involving the Big Bang

(1) The three observations mentioned above bring an important portion ofknowledge about evolution of the Universe. On the other hand, they do not sayanything about processes that took place before the time t1, nor they requireexistence of the Big Bang. Some theoretical models allow extrapolation from thetime t1 up to the time t0 (where t0 means time zero or the starting point ofexistence of the Universe). This means that the singularity in the temperatureor the density of the matter at the time t0 comes in due to a special and veryattractive extrapolation of the properties characterizing the Universe duringthe time interval between t = t1 and t = t0.

Now, it is seen that if there should be achieved an agreement on theexistence of the Big Bang, one must introduce - in addition to the threeobservations mentioned above, in the foregoing subsection - a fourth statement,too, namely, that (iv) the Big Bang truly took place (i.e. this addition isintroduced by our hands, not by the nature). Introduction of this addition intothe Standard Cosmological Model may lead to what can be called the ExtendedStandard Cosmological Model.

(2) The Hubble's expansion requires a comment. Namely, according to our presentideas the Universe is filled up with material environment represented by matterand radiation; the rest mass of the radiation quanta vanishes so that theirspeed is equal to the speed of the light in vacuum. The Hubble's expansion (orrather the increase of the distance among galaxies and their clusters) is to beascribed, today, mainly to the inflation and therefore it is not a simple taskto deduce (without additional assumptions) the age of the Universe from the timedependence of the increasing distance just mentioned. But the question What wasthere yesterday where the Universe is expanding today? is still interesting andhardly answerable in field of the general relativity (compare also [2] and [3]).

(3) Let us admit (for the moment being) that all the matter started to exist inthe moment of Big Bang. This is to say that before the Big Bang there existed nomatter at all. In that case, the natural science (or any other science, such asphilosophy or metaphysics) is neither able nor competent to answer the question:What was there before the Big Bang? The answer represents a matter of belief:the transition from nothing to something is not a physical event. Physicsand natural sciences in general are always dealing with some environment whoseproperties are specified by quantities adherent to the matter. A scientificapproach (including for instance also the notion of causality) fits to thematerial world, not to the spiritual one. The religion is in a special wayintimately related to such a world, which cannot be sufficiently described interms adherent to the material world.

Nevertheless, let us say that some kind of the primordial matter (either in itsvacuum or some excited state) existed before the time t0 as well. In such a kindof matter there existed different fluctuations and, at a certain point, such anenergetically very rich fluctuation might decay which led to the birth of ourUniverse. In that case, the temperature at the origin of our Universe might havebeen extremely high but it could not have been necessarily infinitely high. Ofcourse, such a possibility does not solve the problem of the origin of thematter. This model shifts that problem only one step further into the past.

III. Pre-Big-Bang theory

(1) In some studies the assumption is adopted that a special (primordial) matter(sometimes it is called dilaton) field existed and exhibited fluctuations inits vacuum state. And, eventually, one of the fluctuations, very rich in energy,arose and decayed. Briefly saying, after that decay, there appeared all periodsof the evolution of our Universe known today, [4].

In this case it is sufficient to expect that only a finite amount of theenergy-matter at very high but finite temperature and density participated inthe decay. The corresponding approach represents a non-singular pre-big-bangcosmology; it might be called e.g. the extended dilaton cosmological model.However, the question concerning the origin of this pre-big-bang energy-matteris not answered there, it is only shifted again one step further into the past.Of course, this field might be present also in those regions where our today'suniverse expands. The question whether the volume (in our usual threedimensional space) filled by that matter is finite, remains unanswered as well.On the other hand that approach predicts some phenomena that might be observedin the next decade. And they differ from the big-bang predictions, so that theexperimental evidence might play a decisive role in favor of the Big Bang or ofthe pre-big-bang scenario.

Especially, the approach involving dilatons predicts existence of the relicgravitation field which - when compared with such a field predicted in frame ofthe standard cosmological model - should exhibit increased intensity in theregion of high frequencies.

(2) A quasi-steady state cosmological model [5] involves also a scalar fieldwith the aim to realize the pair production (considered as creation of thematter from the already existing electromagnetic field) which takes place inlittle big bangs distributed over all space and time, the Universe itselfbeing without a beginning. Some other cosmologies are shortly mentioned e.g. in[6]. Looking on those approaches it is advised to take into account thewell-known rule, non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate (do not enlargethe number of fundamentals if it is not necessary).

(3) Questions related with the origin (or eternity) of the matter in general areanswered within the framework of the religion. Let us point out that it mightstill happen that the volume of the Universe filled by the (heavy) matter neednot be the same as the volume filled by (some kind of primordial) radiation. Onthe other hand, quite often the answers to such questions come from variousspeculations and they do not represent the results of a serious scientificapproach. Perhaps it is interesting to notice that not all questions formulatedin the field of a serious science must meet their adequately serious(scientific) answers.

IV. Deterministic but unpredictable phenomena

(1) Many events appearing in the Universe were prepared far under the limitsof our detecting possibilities and our abilities to observe them. Such eventsmay be deterministic, but still unpredictable. In this context the attributedeterministic indicates a process that is described in a sufficiently accurateway by a set - sometimes quite a simple set - of nonlinear differentialequations; in few words, they establish a relation between a process in a givenmoment and the process in the preceding moment. And, what is essential, for somevalues of the parameters involved in those equations, their solution isextremely sensitive on the concrete value of the initial conditions. This means,in the case when we are seeking, for instance, the location of a particle, thata very small change of the initial conditions (which is usually out of ourcontrol) gives rise to a quite different location. Such a circumstancecharacterizes a chaotic or unpredictable behavior of the system.

(2) There are events that once observed allow to deduce a chain of small,separately insignificant disturbances (or causes) which eventually led tothem. However, also in those cases there is still open the problem why theyappeared exactly there and then. Let us keep in view the evolution of asystem that was influenced by immense numbers of events whose individualappearance was nearly improbable but they appeared in a needed sequence. Letus also bear in mind the events prepared very far under our detectionpossibilities and abilities. Both cases might be considered as a remainder ofthe God's manuscript in the Universe. On the other hand, it might be a sign ofdeep misunderstanding if somebody would make a considerable effort to regard Godlike a subject of the material research; God cannot be circumscribed byproperties adherent to the matter. Nor a scientific research or a rationalapproach are adequate for study the God's attributes. Moreover, rationalapproach usually dealing with causality, and, on the other hand, with implicitassumption about the presence of some signs or rules, indicating more or lesspronounced or hidden regularities, leads to the conclusion where areregularities there are equations. But God cannot be described in terms ofequations.

(3) The evolution of the Universe as well as the mutual behavior of its parts issignificantly marked by non-linear interactions. This is the reason why thechaotic phenomena cannot be excluded from the history of the Universe, nor ofour solar system. Those phenomena are hardly reversible in time. Therefore thehistory (or the evolution) of the Universe has, and can have, only one timedirection. In this connection it is perhaps worthwhile to recall the words of E.P. Wigner, the Nobel Prize winner for physics in 1963, the miracle of theappropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the lawsof physics is wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. Let usadd that the considerations mentioned above are related also with problems ofthe free will, necessity and responsibility.

V. God and rational methods

Some of God's deeds can be analyzed by means of rational procedures. However,this fact doesn't mean that God himself (or the world of transcendence) isrational. Of course, the fundamental properties of God cannot be characterizedby any set of relations or equations. Anybody who would try to perform theanalysis of God himself by rational methods or equations would finish his workwith something that cannot characterize the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex3,6) but something quite different.

Let us add that while in the region of transcendence it is more appropriate tolook for the truth or for the true answer, in the region of the science itis much more adequate to speak about the correctness and the correct answer,of course, in frame of the underlying philosophy. Also the notion proof isadherent to what we call the scientific or material world.

In this connection we mention also the effort of John Paul II (cf. Fides etratio, 106) to encourage especially the faithful Christians working in thefield of philosophy that they try to clarify different spheres of human activityby applying the ratio, which becomes more sure and bright once it is supportedby belief. And, the fearlessness of the ratio must respond to the sincerity ofthe belief (ibid., part 48).

VI. Exemplifying the cosmic distances

To get an insight into the cosmic scales let us adopt a model in whicheverything is miniaturized on a scale of 1:100,000,000,000 (= 1 : 100 billion).Given such a drastic reduction, one centimeter in the model corresponds to onemillion kilometers in reality. Accordingly, the 1.392 million-kilometer diameterof the Sun shrinks to 1.4 centimeters, about the size of a cherry. A small grainof sand -the Earth- revolves around the cherry at a distance of a meter and ahalf. Almost 8 meters from the Sun there is Jupiter, 1.4 millimeters indiameter; and 59 meters from the Sun there is Pluto, 0.05 millimeters in size.If we imagine the sun-cherry located in New York City, then the star that is ourclosest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is 410 kilometers away in Rochester. We wouldfind the next closest star (Barnard's Star) 560 kilometers away in Toronto. Butthe Andromeda galaxy, which in reality is 2.3 million light-years away, nowshatters our attempt to construct the Universe on an earthly scale, for in ourmodel it would be one and half times as far away as in reality the Earth is fromthe Sun. The farthest perceivable distance in our universe - from here to QuasarQ1208011, 12.4 billion light years away - produces in our model a distancecorresponding to 7800 times the actual distance between the Earth and the Sun.And so our attempt to model actual distances itself collapses under the weightof the incomprehensible magnitude of the Universe [8].

VII. An interesting lesson from the history

On April 26, 1920 Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis came together in Washingtonto discuss the state of the Universe. The question was this: What were thespiral-shaped nebulae, and how far away were they? From his studies of theCepheids, Shapley had already established that our galaxy was some ten timesbigger than scientists had previously thought. Because our galaxy was so big,Shapley reasoned that the spiral nebulae were related to our galaxy, and couldnot lie very far outside it.

Heber Curtis took the side of the old school: Our galaxy was far smaller thanShapley's Cepheid measurements had indicated. Since our galaxy is small, thoseremote spiral-shaped fuzzy patches are comparable in size and nature to our owngalaxy, and are probably far away from it. Curtis had strong support fromanother important scientist: Back in 1914, Arthur Eddington suggested that theremote nebulae were really galaxies like our own.

Although no one knew it at the time, history records that Curtis won the debateby using the wrong argument - against Shapley - to come up with the rightanswer. The spiral nebulae are comparable in size to the Milky Way, and they areat incredibly vast distances from it. Although Shapley was correct in hisargument about the size of our galaxy, he was wrong about the nature anddistance of the spiral nebulae. Curtis was right about the nature of thespirals, but for wrong reason. Using the observational data of the time, bothscientists did the best they could. It is interesting to compare scientificdebates with political ones, where poise and the power of persuasion areparamount. In scientific debates neither poise nor persuasion have anything todo with it. Nature itself watches the arguments, quietly keeping score andchoosing the winner [9].

VIII. Concluding remarks

(1) In the present contribution the distinction between facts and hypotheses isstressed. There are mentioned also some points of view on the interpretation ofobservations of the Universe. Mutual complementarity between religion andsciences is briefly sketched, too.

(2) While the science, especially the contemporary physical cosmology, indicatesthe end of the Universe (after several decades of billion years), the faithemphasizes a special mission of the human being. The appearance of the life andthe creation of the man cannot be reliably described in terms of contingency.The science and the belief (or better: the faith) are essentially complementary,not contradictory.

(3) In the process of looking for answers to several questions more or lessclearly outlined also in the present contribution, the light in darkness isbrought by idea of John Paul II, in his encyclical letter Fides et ratio,namely, the belief and the reason are like two wings that help to move the humanspirit towards contemplation of truth. The desire to recognize the truth andeventually to realize that God's image was put into the heart of the man by Godhimself with the aim that whenever the man will acknowledge and love God, he canreach also the full truth about himself.

REFERENCES

[1] G. Börner: The Early Universe, Facts and Fiction. Springer Verlag, Berlin1993, (compare also new edition of 2003).
[2] P. J. E. Peebles: Principles of Physical Cosmology. Princeton Univ. Press, 1993.
[3] Henning Genz: Nothingness - The Science of Empty Space. Perseus Publishing,Cambridge MA, 1999.
[4] M. Gasperini, M. Maggiore and G. Veneziano: Towards a Non-singularPre-big-bang Cosmology. Nuclear Physics B, Vol. 494, 1997, p. 315.
[5] F. Hoyle, G. Burbidge and J. V. Narlikar: A Quasi-Steady State CosmologicalModel with Creation of Matter. Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 410, 1993, p. 437.
[6] P. J. E. Peebles, et all: The Case for the Relativistic hot Big-Bang Cosmology. Nature Vol. 352 (1991), p. 769 and The Evolution of the Universe. Scientific American, October 1994, p. 29.
[7] The Book of the Cosmos. Ed. By D. R. Danielson, Perseus Publishing,Cambridge MA, 2000.
[8] Werner Gitt: Incomprehensible Magnitude, Unimaginable Darkness. In: [7]
[9] David H. Levy: Cosmic Discoveries. Prometheus Books, Amherst NY, 2001.

 

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