There’s this video floating around the ether — maybe you’ve seen it, but if you haven’t, it’s down below — of a happy Stanford physicist named Andrei Linde being greeted at his front door with news that one of his theoretical babies, something called cosmic inflation, had been confirmed with freshly detected evidence.
From what I gather with my pinheaded layperson’s grasp of science, a team of researchers possessing either sensitive equipment or super-sized ears picked up gravitational ripples that pinged out billions of years ago from the Big Bang. These ripples suggest that the results of said large Bang evolved not in some laid-back, leisurely, bon-bon-eating fashion but in a lickety-splitty instant. And in this instant, all that became the cosmos exploded into being.
I have two responses to this news:
1. Holy freaking wowz!
2. Ain’t science awesome?
Apparently, not everyone is having these reactions. Some creationists are less than impressed, citing the Book of Genesis as proof that God didn’t use the Big Bang to whip the universe into being.
I don’t get this. I DON’T GET IT. How can anyone, especially people who call themselves “creationists,” insist on one narrow and literalist reading of the cosmically butt-kicking Creative Genius behind all of existence? How can anyone can regard a scientific revelation of this order with anything short of wonder? Research that tells us so much about the moment of creation — a moment both impossibly brief and infinitely large — ought to give believers, all of us in every sect and stripe, yet more reason to honor its Creator.
Think about this cosmic inflation business. There was nothing. Then suddenly there was something, a lot of something, more something than we can ever fully grasp. Sounds kind of biblical, no? KABLAMMO! INSTANT STUFF! No sitting around waiting for the heavens to expand overnight like a little blue sponge toy on the counter. It came to be. Thanks to Linde and his colleagues, how it came to be is a little less of a mystery than it once was. We know a little more about its genesis, be it capitalized or not.
I never understood this idea that science is somehow arm-wrestling with religion –- or engaged in an angry and vicious cage-fight, noses broken, chest tats bleeding. I think they ought to get along. Science, after all, is only trying to understand and describe the dimensions and dynamics of all that came to be, all those molecules smashing through time and space from some distant then into now. Comprehending how this universe was made doesn’t mean nobody made it. It doesn’t mean it’s any less amazing. Maybe it’s more.
I’m reminded of a class I once took in physical anthropology –- i.e., human evolution. The guy who taught it was in the thick of a disquisition on randomness and mutation and adaptation and happenstance when some kid in a back row raised his hand and said: “Sooo. . . what you’re saying is: It really is a miracle that we’re here.” And the teacher nodded and replied, “Yes. Exactly.”
I happen to believe that this and other miracles have an author behind them. But what I believe, what you believe, what anyone believes, doesn’t or shouldn’t matter in the conversation about our cosmos. Arguing about it is as futile and tiresome as arguing over the sunset. (It’s red! No, it’s light being refracted! No, you dumbass, it’s red! No, it’s refracted light! Yeah? Well, your mother’s an idiot! Yeah? Well, so’s yours!)
What this bigger-bangy revelation tells us is that truth and beauty are one and the same thing. We can ascribe to them divinity or chalk them up to the sublime creative forces of chance. It doesn’t make a difference.
They’re a miracle either way. And either way, we should stand in awe.