Friday, December 23, 2011

Tohu Wabohu & the Beginning of the Universe

I'm reading Dennis Overbye's Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos: The Story of the Scientific Quest for the Secret of the Universe. I'm still amazed that, as recently as the 1940s and 50s, the prevailing scientific view was that our universe had no beginning, and therefore had always existed. British astronomer and physicist Fred Hoyle was one who spoke against big bang cosmology when it began to emerge. Overbye writes:

"Hoyle absolutely detested the notion that the universe had a beginning. He compared it once to a party girl jumping out of a birthday cake; it wasn't dignified or elegant." (Overbye, 39) Hoyle coined the term "big bang" as one of derision. Aong with Thomas Gold and Hermann Bondi Hoyle developed an alternative to the expanding universe they called the "steady state."

Eventually, Hoyle came to change his mind. Overbye's account reads like a detective story. And, initially to some and even now to more than a few, this discovery sounded like the first chapter of Genesis, where God created the heavens and the earth tohu wabohu (Hebrew), translated as an "empty void," a "desolate" state of affairs. (See Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel's Gospel, p. 80)