edited by Robert John Russell , Nancey Murphy , Christopher J. Isham
Introductory Essay by Willem B. Drees
Cosmology, the scientific study of the Universe as a whole, is a most relevant topic for any theistic view, and at the same time one of the most speculative branches of science. The status of the laws of nature is of similar significance. The laws are important in all explanations, but how would one explain those laws? Why is there a Universe? Why is the Universe orderly? Why is mathematics so effective in analyzing the Universe? Why does the Universe have this order rather than a different one? Is the order particularly significant as showing that the Universe was made for human existence – the so called anthropic principle? Does the Big Bang theory provide evidence of an absolute beginning? What then is the scientific status of the Big Bang theory?
In this volume, cosmologists and physicists, theologians and philosophers, provide information on scientific theories and their consequences for ideas about the nature of time, reality, and God. The central issue is how one might think of God’s role relative to the Universe. Is God the creator of the Universe and its laws, respecting those laws once created? Or does God intervene in the order God created? Or does talk about ‘intervention’ rest upon a mistaken distinction between the laws and God’s actions? And regarding the nature of time: Did God create ‘long ago’, or should we rather see the universe as created and sustained by God at all times, or are past, present, and future created all at once?
George F.R. Ellis, William R. Stoeger, and Chris J. Isham inform the reader on Big Bang cosmology and recent quantum cosmologies – which tend to challenge notions of time and a ‘ beginning’ more deeply. Michael Heller and Stephen Happel reflect upon methodology. John Polkinghorne and Chris Isham debate the question of whether relativity theory with its mathematical notion of a four-dimensional space-time implies that the concept ‘now’ is meaningless, and that in some sense the future already exists (‘the block universe’). Other contributors are Paul Davies, Andrej Grib, William Alston, William R. Stoeger, John R. Lucas, Keith Ward, Ted Peters, Robert J. Russell, Willem B. Drees, George F.R. Ellis, Nancey Murphy, and John Polkinghorne.
The volume has been prepared in a research project and conference of the Specola Vaticana – the astronomical institute of the Vatican – and the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, based in Berkeley, California. It is the first fruit of a series of such research conferences, each one focusing on another segment of the sciences, each one resulting in a study with the same subtitle. In this serious academic volume, the authors discuss key issues in cosmology, theology, philosophy of science, and metaphysics, without reaching consensus; the book is a great incentive for thinking.