Science, Faith and Culture: Conflict and Reconciliation week 3

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Coffee with the Classics

Science, Faith, and Culture: Conflict

and Reconciliation

Week 3: Georges Lemaître and Big Bang Theory.  (29th March 2017)


This week we study the discovery of Big Bang theory and how it was received by scientists, the Catholic Church and and the Communist Soviet Union. We are studying extracts from four documents:

1. Abbé Georges Lemaître’s 1931 follow up note in Nature of his 1927 paper, in which he finds a solution to Einstein’s equations that presents a surprising new view of the Universe. • Try and get a general sense of what it is that Lemaître is proposing about the Universe. • What is Lemaître proposing that is new and different? • Why might this be controversial?

2. Helge Kragh’s article on “The Universe, the Cold War and Dialectical Materialism” • What was the Communist ideology about the Universe? • How did Andrei Zhdanov view the work of Lemaître? Why?

3. Pope Pius XII’s 1951 address on “The proofs for the existence of God in the Light of Modern Natural Science.” • What ideas about the Universe proposed by modern science does Pope Pius XII think are important? Why? • Why do you think this document is seen by some as being controversial?

4. Pope John Paul II’s 1985 address “The proofs for God’s existence”. • What are the similarities and differences between John Paul II’s address and Pius XII’s address? • How does this help us to develop a conciliatory view of Big Bang theory and the ideas of both believers and non-believers?