Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Gregg Easterbrook in the December issue of Wired:

In 1965, another sort of big bang echo—the cosmic background radiation—was discovered. Soon, it was assumed, cosmologists would be able to say, "Here's how everything happened, steps one, two, and three." Today cosmologists do think they know a fair amount about steps two and three—what the incipient cosmos was like in the instant after the genesis, how matter and energy later separated and formed the first galaxies. But as for step one, no dice. Nobody knows beyond foggy conjecture what caused the big bang, what (if anything) was present before that event, or how there could have been a prior condition in which nothing existed.

Well, er, of course no one knows what was present before that event. Nor could they, since by very nature such conditions could not be testable. Which is why, as Easterbrook writes, that long-scorned subject of metaphysics is coming back into vogue.

I've certainly noticed that long out-of-print classics, such as Etienne Gilson's Being and Some Philosophers, are once again available as paperbacks. And even Tommy Aquinas has made a reappearance in such places as Harvard Book Store.

Addendum: I myself am not sanguine about vaunted rapprochements between science and religion. As historian of science Stanley Jaki once quipped, what God has separated, let no man join together. He was speaking more of philosophy and science, but the point is well taken regarding religion and science as well, in my opinion.

No comments: