How Did the Universe Begin?
- Pages: 4
- Word count: 929
- Category: God
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In his article, “God May Be the Creator,” Robert Jastrow writes how interesting it is that many astronomers now believe that the universe does have a definite, specific beginning. He finds this interesting because scientists have finally arrived at the same conclusion theologians have held for centuries.
Jastrow is not disparaging scientists, he himself is one, but merely making an observation. He doesn’t seem to have anything in particular at stake with his essay. He isn’t going to stop being an astronomer, he’s not going to stop using scientific methods. He is only reporting a fact. Something that is part of the scientific method.
The tone of his essay is simple, straightforward and a bit surprised and somewhat amused. He finds himself in a situation that is odd given the history between cosmologists and theologians.
Isaac Asimov, however, comes out swinging and pulling no punches in his response, “God is Not the Creator.” He is aggressive, antagonistic and sometimes rude. He often doesn’t quite play fair, equivocating on the use of various words, insulting Jastrow and all non-scientists. He twists Jastrow’s simple observation and engages in a polemic against non-scientific belief and against non-scientists in general.
Asimov says that astronomers used to be sure that the Bible was wrong and that after centuries of work “they grew all downcast about their own discoveries” (148), because they had discovered that the Bible is right. I don’t see this in Jastrow’s writing. He doesn’t appear downcast or despondent at all.
Asimov goes on to write that “Jastrow is implying that since the Bible has all the answers … it has been a waste of time, money and effort for astronomers to have been peering through there little spyglasses (emphasis mine) all the time”(148)
This isn’t true. Jastrow made no such claims He did not write that the Bible had all the answers. Rather that two groups of people had come to the same conclusion by using different methods. He did not say that all astronomy work had been a waste of time, money and effort.
At this point, Asimov becomes quite unfair and belittles Jastrow “with his little spyglass” (148) remark. The terms “little” and “spyglass” denigrate the work of astronomers and the astronomers themselves. He next suggests that Jastrow never had any faith in the power of reason. This is unfair and sophomoric. An ad hominem attack says nothing about the argument, but a good deal about the person making the attack.
Asimov equivocates on the term “theologian” first claiming it means that a theologian believes the universe had a beginning, then that the Bible has all the answers and now that theologians believe the Bible is literally true and that God created the universe in six days approximately 4004 years ago.
This is clearly false. Asimov has leapt from theologians, to theists who believe in the Bible, to a relatively small number of fundamentalist Christians who believe the Bible is the literal word of God. He combines these three diverse groups into one and proves the Bible cannot be literally true, therefore the theologians must be wrong. It is false that all theologians are theists, some are theists, some are agnostics, and some are atheists. Theologians are philosophers who work in the area of philosophy in relation to God and hold a wide variety of beliefs. If they didn’t disagree they’d have nothing to write papers about.
Asimov next points out that in essence, theologians and astronomers agree on one thing, “The Bible says the universe had a beginning. The astronomer thinks the universe had a beginning (150). This is precisely the point Jastrow made.
Asimov now tells the reader what he has at stake. He is concerned about the processes people use to come to conclusions. He believes the process, not the opinion is what is important, “What counts is the long chain of investigation … that supports that opinion” (151).
I understand Asimov’s point of view. I imagine that if I had spent a hard day climbing a mounting, only to arrive at the top and find a blacktopped parking full of RVs, I might be upset perhaps even angry like Asimov. I think though I would be amused at what I had done. Just as Jastrow was amused.
Isaac Asimov has divided people into two groups: scientists and non-scientists. This is an unusually black and white distinction for someone with as much education as Asimov has. Generally, as people mature, their black and white beliefs tend to blur into gray as they recognize that more than one opinion may have merit.
This doesn’t seemed to have happened to Asimov. He has divided humanity in two and believes it is the scientist using his scientific methods that “… gives meaning to live and mind and thought” (151).
I for one think Asimov has unfairly overstated his case and I believe that somewhere, the life of at least one non-scientist has meaning.
Note: I don’t have the information to do a works cited page should you need one. It should be in the following form:
Asimov, Isaac. “God is Not the Creator.” Name of book underlined. Edited Editors name. Copyright date. 144-147
Jastrow, Robert. “God May Be the Creator.” “Debate: How Did the Universe Begin?” Name of book underlined. Ed. Name of editor. Copyright date. 147-151.