The Expanding Universe

In the Catholic worldview there is simply no room for conflict between faith and science, between belief and reason. In fact, the very proposition that  “faith is in conflict with science” makes about as much sense as saying that “gardening is in conflict with lunch”. Different, yet complementary domains with a common goal – no conflicts in sight.

Not only is there no conflict, but we can see many cases where faith enriches science, and vice versa (but let’s save that for another post or more).

Because they are different, the methods to study each domain also differ. Recently we began to look at this question (Scientific Knowledge, Scientific Methods) using the example of Fr. Georges Lemaître, physicist and Catholic priest … and postulator of the Big Bang Theory (which proposes the whole idea of the expanding universe).

A Fun Surprise

At the recently concluded XXX General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union (the worldwide professional association of astronomers), a motion was considered and passed preliminary votes to rename Hubbles Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law (!).

Quoting from the resolution itself:


7. to pay tribute to both Georges Lemaître and Edwin Hubble for their fundamental contributions to the development of modern cosmology;

8. to honour the intellectual integrity of Georges Lemaître that made him value more the progress of science rather than his own visibility;

9. to highlight the role of the IAU General Assemblies in fostering exchanges of views and international discussions;

10. to inform the future scientific discourses with historical facts;


11. to recommend that from now on the expansion of the universe be referred to as the “Hubble-Lemaître law”.

See this story from the meeting itself, or this story from a more general interest site for more information on the resolution and it’s prospects for final passage.

Cohesive Worldview

Lemaître and Einstein

Father Lemaître understood, and more importantly actually lived the coherent worldview that is deeply foundational for the serious Catholic – when properly pursued, faith and science both contain knowledge that describe parts of the larger reality.

He was both a serious physicist who pursued – scientifically – questions about the origins of the universe, and a serious priest who practiced and preached the Catholic faith.

It is particularly gratifying to see his scientific community acknowledge the quality, originality, and influence of his scientific work.

The image at the top of this post is courtesy of the IAU. As described (with necessary corrections): Astronomers Edwin Hubble (right) and Georges Lemaître (left) who first developed theories about the expansion of the Universe. Observations later made using the 100-inch Hooker Telescope on Mt. Wilson in California (upper-left) and the Hubble Space Telescope (upper-centre) supported those theories. (NASA / ESA / A. Feild (STScI))


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