Global Express
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Where are you headed?: Universe & You


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Do you find yourself fascinated by the questions of how and why the universe began? It is a question whose ultimate answer remains elusive.

For centuries, theologians, scientists and philosophers have delved into the mystery. Now, because of the accelerated pace of scientific discovery, we may be closer to understanding the process that brought our cosmos into being. The "Big Bang" theory, as it is known, says the universe exploded into existence some 15 billion years ago, from a state of "infinite" compression. It is still expanding. When we think of our origins starting in this way, we may well ask, "So, what was happening before the Big Bang and how was it caused anyway?"

Dr Paul Davies, Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Adelaide, in South Australia, has been studying such questions. He has the ability to interpret complex scientific matters in a way that ordinary people, like myself, can at least partly understand. In an article in The Australian, a national daily paper, he explained that it was "Augustine of Hippo, a Christian saint and thinker living in the fifth century, who concluded that the physical world was made with time, not in time" (St Augustine saw God as being outside of time). Davies goes on, "The origin of the universe was not simply the sudden appearance of matter in an eternally pre-existing void, but the coming into being of time itself. Time began with the rest of the universe. There was no 'before', no endless duration for God, nor a physical process, to wear itself out in an infinitely extended preparation.

"Remarkably, modern science has arrived at more or less the same conclusion as Augustine, based on the nature of space, time and gravitation. It was Albert Einstein who showed that space-time isn't just an immutable arena in which the cosmic drama is acted out, but is part of the cast - a physical component of the universe. Therefore, any account of the ultimate origin of the universe must include the origin of time. The traditional Big Bang theory implies that at the very beginning, space and time would have been infinitely warped, forming a sort of edge to physical existence called a 'singularity', through which time cannot be continued. It follows that the Big Bang must coincide with the beginning of time, and any discussion about what happened before the Big Bang, or what caused it (in the usual sense of that word) is simply meaningless."

Other scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, are working on theories that test the possibility of the universe coming into being spontaneously. The cosmos detectives are hard at work! Yet Paul Davies asks, 'Why?' He admits, however, that if the creation of the universe was a purely random event, then there is no meaning to the cosmos or to our lives, a possibility he sees as highly unlikely. Davies is left with the conclusion that there must be some intellect behind the universe. Saint Augustine also believed in a creator God. It is a conclusion that is important if we are to feel a sense of purpose to our existence and hence a value to all that we do with our lives.

John Mills, Australia

Last update: 2000-02-12 17:19:51 (EEST).
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