This week, a group of astronomers announced that they have developed a technique that allows them to see further into space than anyone has ever seen before. The researchers study light and calculate its distance to determine when, on a universal timetable, they believe portions of the universe came into existence. By pointing a massive telescope that acts essentially as a large, natural magnifying glass, the team of scientists was able to look deeper into space in a search to better understand the origin of the universe. One of the researchers told reporters, "These objects we have found are the earliest we believe that have ever been detected … The implication is these are the early generation of stars switched on when the universe was in its infancy."
The discovery is another sign of recent renewed interest in space exploration and theoretical astronomy that centers on uncovering secrets of the big-bang theory. Of course, scientific debate is still largely prominent when it comes to details of how it all started, but, especially in Christian circles, it continues to be a hot-button issue.
Earlier this summer a $25 million “Creation Museum” opened outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. The museum was privately funded and started by a group call Answers in Genesis, who subscribe to a very literal interpretation of the creation account in the book of Genesis. At the museum, exhibits show Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden walking with dinosaurs and visual timelines that display the stories of Genesis. The museum also goes to great lengths to dispute many modern scientists’ claims that the earth is billions of years old and offers alternative theories to answer questions about evidence pointing to a very old universe. Museum founder Ken Ham told MSNBC, “If the Bible is the Word of God, and its history really is true, that’s our presupposition or axiom, and we are starting there.” At the Creation Museum, detailed multimedia presentations offer what they say is evidence that the universe is only 6,000 years old, and that God’s account of a six-day creation is very literal.
Though the museum is a massive undertaking, big-bang scientists are going even further to better understand their own theories about the earth’s origin. At the CERN research labs in Switzerland, scientists have almost completed one of the largest construction projects ever attempted. They’ve built a massive particle accelerator buried deep beneath the earth that spans an astonishing 17 miles. The project has taken 15 years to build and is nearly complete. When scientists flip the switch in 2008, they hope to recreate the conditions that existed just nanoseconds after the big bang. The implications for the test are huge for the scientific community, but will no doubt stir the debate with Christians even further.
As secular scientists and creationists continue to debate the universe’s origin, Christians are forced to evaluate their own understanding of the book of Genesis. Though, even in Christian circles, there are several interpretations of the account of creation, the debate continues to unite some believers while dividing others.