Do you believe in the Big Bang theory, or Creation?

If, by 'Creation', you mean the literal interpretation of the Old Testament story of Genesis, you are asking me to compare two things that have nothing to do with each other. The biblical story is not a scientific one, whereas Big Bang theory is a scientific 'story'. You cannot compare and judge two descriptions of an event based on systems of knowledge that have no common denominator. The methods of scientific investigation and experimentation, the process of asking questions and challenging the answers, and the process of constructing falsifiable theories, are the fundamental tools of the scientific approach to acquiring knowledge about the world. This is not the same process and rules of operation that biblical literalists use to argue the merits of the Creation story.

You can argue until you are blue in the face that a scientific theory can never become a 'fact', but the point is that the scientific theory generates many predictions that are testable and can be experimentally shown to be false. The Creation story begins with the assumption that it is the literal Word of God and is therefore correct. All of the activity is focussed on finding 'evidence' that substantiates it, and no one tries as hard to investigate alternate non-supernatural evidence that could refute it. The most often used argument against Big Bang theory is that scientists, like sheep, flock to this theory and in some grand conspiracy, suppress all evidence that refutes this theory. This argument works because very few non-scientists have a clue about the history of science. Do you really think that if some scientist could prove that quantum mechanics or Einstein's relativity were false, that he/she would be vilified? Or do you think that he/she would receive a Nobel prize? The most astounding ideas about the physical world have come from the minds of scientists, not from philosophers! This proves that when it comes to the major ideas in science, there is tremendous pressure to innovate and find better explanations for the data at hand. This process knows no bounds, respects no preexisting authority, and is slavishly devoted to testing all ideas against the searing, hard reality of concrete experimentation and observation.

The process of science does not require you to 'believe' anything. If you were to jump off your chair, it is not a matter of belief that will change the outcome, it is a matter of Newton's theory of Universal Gravitation that dictates what will happen. You do not have the choice to quibble over whether it is 'only a theory' that explains what will happen next. Your destiny as a physical object can be computed to 10 decimal places by this 'theory' and that is the only standard we use in science to determine the value of a theory; Are its predictions compatible with the evidence? The Genesis Story, taken literally, makes no predictions that are testable to falsify it, unless like a careful shot in billiards, you line up the investigation so that it only yields the outcome demanded by the literal interpretation of Genesis.

Do I 'believe' in the Big Bang theory? If the comparison is between one methodology that respects contrary evidence ( the Scientific Method ), and one that suppresses it and is based on ridicule, political intimidation, and a deceitful use of evidence ( the Creationists approach ), I believe that the scientific story is far more accurate as a story about the physical world. Among western biblical scholars, those individuals who actually take the time to look critically at the Bible, there is unanimity that the scientific story is not at all in conflict with Genesis. Even the Pope accepts Big Bang theory as a fleshed-out description of God's handiwork!

If you now argue that Big Bang theory is just a theory and that all theories are not proven fact, then you have just reduced all of science to some kind of silly passive process of recording events with no meaningful certainty in interpreting them. This is, of course, a meaningless quibble which many people have difficulty with, especially those vocal few who wish to insert Creationism into our schools as an equally scientific 'theory' of the beginning of the universe. Their proposal for 'balance' falls on receptive ears because who would not want the process of investigation to be a democratic one with all voices respected for their views. The problem is that the advancement of science has nothing to do with democracy or with what feels good and makes sense. Quantum mechanics and relativity don't make much sense to anyone, and relativity certainly doesn't make anyone feel good. Like the slogan on the T-shirt says " The speed of light is not just a good idea, it's the LAW".

If we want to respect balance between conflicting ideas, and use our schools as the venue to air them, then we must open our doors to the value of slavery as an economic tool, and to female genital mutilation ( 160 million women have been victimized in this way in many societies ) as a culturally-valid mode of ethical behavior. Obviously this will not happen, so clearly we apply this standard of fairness in presenting mixed views in very lopsided ways depending on the political and moral leanings of the times. The debate over the Big Bang theory vs the story of Creation taken literally, is a debate that does NOT belong in the classroom. The debate cannot continue and be engaged unless society demands that a single standard of evidence be applied.

Copyright 1997 Dr. Sten Odenwald
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