It’s About (Space) Time Google Did Something Like This!
Fr. Georges Lemaître’s calculations were correct. So were his physics and his faith.
I don’t ask for everyone in the world to love Catholics and the Catholic Church. That would be a great Christmas present, I’d admit, but hardly something I’m going to write Santa about. Christ warned us that people would hate us (John 15:18-25) and I’ve steeled myself against that eventuality. Lord knows I’ve had enough practice dealing with the unrepentantly ignorant thus far.
What I ask for, or rather, what I demand, is the truth.
If you’ve got a gripe against the Catholic Church―and it’s legitimate―take a number and stand in line. Today’s not the day we’ll be dealing with your issues. And tomorrow doesn’t look good either.
If someone in their self-inflicted ignorance insists that the Catholic Church is somehow “anti-science,” they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt they’ve never read a book on the history of science. I know this for a fact as on several occasions, I’ve literally handed such books to fundamentalist atheists who’ve literally dropped them to the ground without even bothering to look at their covers, let alone peruse their contents.
And for this reason, I’m extend my warmest thanks and gratitude to Google for finally pointing out a pro-Catholic truth rather than ignoring or actively offending us. Admittedly, on Dec. 17, 2015, Google published one of their Doodles (a temporary interactive logo replacing the normally logo on their home screen) honoring the 245th anniversary of Beethoven's baptism―yes, he was Catholic. Is anyone truly surprised?
Apparently, a few days ago, on July 17, Google honored Fr. Georges Lemaître with yet another Doodle. Fr. Lemaître was the Belgian physicist who came up with the Big Bang Theory without which, we would never have had a fun, interesting title for one of CBS’ best, recent comedies.
July 17 was the 124th anniversary of Fr. Lemaître’s birth.
As Google wrote on their home page:
Most people have heard of the Big Bang theory, but fewer recognize the name Georges Lemaître, the man who came up with the hypothesis that transformed our understanding of astrophysics. Born on this day in 1894, Lemaître was a Belgian Catholic priest who proposed that the universe began as a single primordial atom, which he referred to as the ‘Cosmic Egg.’
Google further correctly pointed out that:
Although [Fr. Lemaître’s] thesis was based on calculations derived from Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Einstein initially dismissed Lemaître’s work, remarking, ‘Your calculations are correct, but your physics is atrocious.’ ["Vos calculs sont corrects, mais votre physique est abominable"] Two years later Einstein changed his mind.
Fr. Lemaître proposed a currently expanding universe, which explains the redshift of galaxies. From this, he extrapolated an initial “creation-like” event must have occurred. In the 1980s, Alan Guth and Andrei Linde modified this theory by including their Theory of Inflation. Unlike Fr. Lemaître’s theory, inflation is no longer considered a serious scientific theory and has been relegated to the dustbins of intellectual history.
In 1931, Fr. Lemaître published an article in Nature describing his theory of the "primeval atom."
In 1933, at the California Institute of Technology, after Lemaître explained his theory, Einstein stood and applauded and is reported to have said, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened."
The title in the scientific journals that day read, “Atheist Einstein Eats Crow Catholic Priest Serves Up!”
Fr. Lemaître studied at the Collège du Sacré-Coeur, in Charleroi, a Jesuit school (not a surprise) and then at the prestigious Catholic University of Leuven then joined the diocesan seminary. He served a stint as an artillery officer in the Belgian army during World War I. He won a scholarship to Cambridge University and, upon graduating, studied at Harvard and earned his doctorate in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1946, he published his book entitled L'Hypothèse de l'Atome Primitif (The Primeval Atom Hypothesis).
In 1951, Pope Pius XII’s exuberance for Fr. Lemaître discovery led the pontiff to the conclusion that the priest had discovered scientific proof of the Genesis creation account and for Catholicism in general. Fr. Lemaître, on his part, demurred, saying, “As far as I see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being,”
This enigmatic rebuttal is often bandied about to belittle Fr. Lemaître’s universe-shaking (literally) paradigm. However, it’s often misinterpreted. If a “Big Bang” could not be pointed out in the history of the universe, it could be said that this would refute the Genesis account. As Fr. Lemaître correctly identified the universe’s origin, though the materialist is free to deny any transcendental Being, he would be foolish to do so.
However, even the most careful examination of the relevant passage shows the Big Bang is referred to in Scriptures:
In the beginning, when God created the universe, the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness, and the Spirit of God was moving over the water. Then God commanded, ‘Let there be light’—and light appeared. (Genesis 1:1-3)
Fr. Lemaître was hardly the first Catholic cleric scientist and he wasn’t the last. But he, of all of our scientific minds remains the biggest fly in the atheist’s chardonnay. They can only insist that the Catholic Church is “anti-science” only if they ignore all history and science books which, unsurprisingly, they do with a great eagerness and fear.
Tellingly, the term “Big Bang” was first used during a 1949 BBC radio broadcast in which atheist astronomer Fred Hoyle dismissed Lemaître theory. Hoyle remained a proponent of the junk science “Steady-State Theory” of the universe and remained so until his death in 2001.
Fr. Lemaître died on June 20, 1966, two years after having learned of the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation. This must have warmed the cockles of his Catholic heart as this was crucial evidence for his Big Bang theory.
His theory was further confirmed in the 1990s through observations of distant Type IA supernova with the Hubble Space Telescope.
And for all his troubles, Fr. Lemaître now has a lunar crater named after him―not too shabby considering they just don’t just give those out willy-nilly. In addition, minor planet 1565 Lemaître was named after him. (Take that, Pluto and Neil DeGrasse-Tyson!)
Fr. Lemaître was always a proponent of both science and the Catholic Church which he said offered the same truth but from different, and complimentary, perspectives. After all, if it is true, then it must be God’s Truth.
God bless, Fr. Lemaître. If I get to Heaven, I’d like to shake your hand.