Ask this guy…
Don’t recognize him? Here he is, giving a seminar:
Hmm. Looks like a little math on the board.
Here’s a photo, taken after the lecture:
You may recognize the fellow on the right. The guy on the left is Robert Millikan, then the President of Cal Tech, and recipient of the 1923 Nobel Prize in physics. Of course, the guy on the right won the 1921 Nobel in physics.
The priest is Msgr. Georges LeMaître, who (a) was a Catholic Priest; (b) held a doctorate in mathematics from the Catholic University of Leuven; (c) held a doctorate in astronomy from MIT; and (d) was a professor at the Catholic University of Leuven. It was LeMaître who first proposed the Big Bang theory and calculated the expansion of the Universe as a linear function of time; this became known as Hubble’s Law, but recently the IAU voted to rename it the “Hubble-Lemaître Law”.
This guy was the guy who came up with the Big Bang Theory — the actual theory, not the TV show. On hearing LeMaître’s lecture at Caltech, Einstein reportedly said “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened."
He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics (1954) and Chemistry (1956).
So he was a pre-eminent scientist, and remained a devout Catholic, diocesan priest, and professor at the Catholic University of Leuven throughout his life. He became a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1936, and served as its President from 1960 until his death in 1966. He was a friend of Popes Pius XII and John XXIII, and the latter awarded him the title Monsignor in 1960.
Pretty clearly he thought religion and science were compatible. His famous quote on the subject is “There is no conflict between science and religion”. He expanded this:
Once you realize that the Bible does not purport to be a textbook of science, the old controversy between religion and science vanishes.
He was entirely comfortable with the idea that neither the Bible nor science was the complete truth:
I was interested in truth from the point of view of salvation just as much as in truth from the point of view of scientific certainty. It appeared to me that there were two paths to truth, and I decided to follow both of them.
He also said:
The Bible knows nothing about physics, and physics knows nothing about God
As far as I see, [the Big Bang theory] remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being. He may keep, for the bottom of space-time, the same attitude of mind he has been able to adopt for events occurring in non-singular places in space-time. For the believer, it removes any attempt to familiarity with God, as were Laplace’s chiquenaude or Jeans’ finger. It is consonant with the wording of Isaiah speaking of the “Hidden God” hidden even in the beginning of the universe … Science has not to surrender in face of the Universe and when Pascal tries to infer the existence of God from the supposed infinitude of Nature, we may think that he is looking in the wrong direction.
So he neither held that science discredited nor validated religion. In fact, he was annoyed when Pius XII said that the Big Bang theory proved that God created the Universe, and worked with Daniel O’Connell, Pius’ scientific advisor, to persuade Pius to not mention Creationism publicly, and to stop making proclamations about cosmology.
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