Cosmology: The Collapse of the
Concept of An Eternal
Universe and the Discovery of Creation
The first blow to atheism from twentieth-century
science was in the field of cosmology. The idea that the universe
had existed forever was discounted, for scientists discovered that
it had a beginning. In other words, they proved scientifically that
the universe had been created from nothing.
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804; above) proposed
that the universe was eternal, a claim that is strongly defended
This idea of an eternal universe came to the Western
world, along with materialist philosophy, from classical Greek civilization.
It stated that only matter exists, and that the universe comes from
eternity and goes to eternity. In the Middle Ages, when the Catholic
church dominated Western thought, materialism was forgotten. However,
in the modern period Western scientists and philosophers became
consumed with curiosity about these classical Greek origins and
revived an interest in materialism.
The first person to propose a materialist understanding
of the universe was the renowned German philosopher Immanuel Kant
(1724-1804), even though he was not a materialist in the philosophical
sense of the word. Kant proposed that the universe was eternal and
that every possibility could be realized only within this eternity.
With the coming of the nineteenth century, it became widely accepted
that the universe had no beginning and that there had been no moment
of creation. Adopted passionately by such dialectical materialists
as Marx and Engels, this idea found its way into the twentieth century.
This idea has always been compatible
with atheism, for accepting that the universe had a beginning would
mean that God had created it. Thus the only way to counter this
idea was to claim that the universe was eternal, even though science
did not support such a claim. Georges Politzer (1903-42), a dogged
proponent of this claim, became widely known as a supporter of materialism
and Marxism in the first half of the twentieth century through his
book Principes Fondamentaux de Philosophie (The Fundamental
Principles of Philosophy). Assuming the "eternal universe" model
to be valid, he opposed the idea of creation:
The universe was not a created object. If it were,
then it would have to be created instantaneously by God and brought
into existence from nothing. To admit creation, one has to admit,
in the first place, the existence of a moment when the universe
did not exist, and that something came out of nothingness. This
is something to which science cannot accede.4
In the picture above we see Karl Marx
and Friedrich Engels (1820-95) at an 1847 meeting in London
defending their atheist views.
By supporting the idea of an eternal universe, Politzer
thought that science was on his side. However, very soon thereafter,
the fact that he had alluded to by saying "if it is so, we must
accept the existence of a creator," that is, that the universe had
a beginning, was proven. This proof came as a result of the "Big
Bang" theory, perhaps the most important concept of twentieth-century
The Big Bang theory was formulated after a series of
discoveries. In 1929, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953)
noticed that the galaxies were continually moving away from each
other and that the universe was expanding. If the flow of time in
an expanding universe were reversed, the whole universe must have
come from a single point. While assessing the validity of Hubble's
discovery, astronomers were faced with the fact that this single
point was a "metaphysical" state of reality in which there was an
infinite gravitational attraction with no mass. Matter and time
came into being through the explosion of this mass-less point. In
other words, the universe was created from nothing.
On the one hand, some die-hard materialist
astronomers have tried to resist the Big Bang theory and maintain
the idea of an eternal universe. Arthur Eddington (1882-1944), a
renowned materialist physicist, summed up their view quite well
when he said: "Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning
to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me."5
Despite this repugnance, however, the Big Bang theory continues
to be corroborated by concrete scientific discoveries. In their
observations made in the 1960s, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected
radioactive remains of the explosion (cosmic background radiation).
These observations were verified in the 1990s by the COBE (Cosmic
Background Explorer) satellite.
The materialists' claim that the "universe
is eternal" was disproved by Edwin Hubble (1889-1953) discovery
that the universe began from one point as the result of a
Confronted with all of these facts, atheists have been
squeezed into a corner. Anthony Flew, an atheist professor of philosophy
at the University of Reading and author of Atheistic Humanism, makes
this interesting confession:
Notoriously, confession is good for
the soul. I will therefore begin by confessing that the Stratonician
atheist has to be embarrassed by the contemporary cosmological consensus.
For it seems that the cosmologists are providing a scientific proof
of what St. Thomas contended could not be proved philosophically;
namely, that the universe had a beginning. So long as the universe
can be comfortably thought of as being not only without end but
also without beginning, it remains easy to urge that its brute existence,
and whatever are found to be its most fundamental features, should
be accepted as the explanatory ultimates. Although I believe that
it remains still correct, it certainly is neither easy nor comfortable
to maintain this position in the face of the Big Bang story.6
An example of the atheists' reaction
to the Big Bang theory is seen in a 1989 article by John Maddox,
editor of Nature, one of the best-known materialist-scientific
journals. In his article, entitled "Down with the Big Bang," Maddox
wrote that the Big Bang is "philosophically unacceptable," because
"creationists and those of similar persuasions … have ample justification
in the doctrine of the Big Bang." He also predicted that it "is
unlikely to survive the decade ahead."7
However, despite Maddox' hopes, the Big Bang theory
continues to gain credence, and new discoveries continue to prove
that the universe was created.
Some materialists have a relatively logical view of
this issue. For example, the English materialist physicist H. P.
Lipton "unwillingly" accepts the scientific fact of creation. He
I think … that we must … admit that
the only acceptable explanation is creation. I know that this is
anathema to physicists, as indeed it is to me, but we must not reject
a theory that we do not like if the experimental evidence supports
Thus, modern astronomy proves and states that time
and matter were brought into being by an eternally powerful Creator,
Who is independent of both of them. The eternal power that created
the universe in which we live is God, the possessor of infinite
might, knowledge, and wisdom.
Politzer, Principes Fondamentaux de Philosophie (Paris: Editions
Sociales, 1954), 84.
5. S. Jaki, Cosmos and Creator (Chicago: Regnery
Gateway, 1980), 54
6. Henry Margenau and Roy Abraham Vargesse, Cosmos,
Bios, Theos (La Salle IL: Open Court Publishing, 1992,) 241.
7. John Maddox, "Down with the Big Bang," Nature,
vol. 340 (1989): 378.
8. H. P. Lipson, "A Physicist Looks at Evolution,"
Physics Bulletin, vol. 138 (1980): 138.