(Robert Jastrow was Founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute and director of Mt.Wilson
Institute and Observatories)
" … we know now that the universe had a beginning, and that all things that
exist in this universe?life, planets, stars?can be traced back to that beginning,
and it’s a curiously theological result to come out of science."
For this interview Fred Heeren, president of the Day Star Network , visited
Dr. Jastrow in his home in Pasadena, California. Here is a portion of their
HEEREN: This century’s greatest leaps of knowledge in astronomy, and some would
say in all of science, were made by Edwin Hubble in your observatory at Mount
Wilson. Can you describe for us what Edwin Hubble discovered here?
?JASTROW: Two great things. First of all, he discovered the evidence that confirmed
the big bang. The initial big bang was discovered with the 100-inch telescope
by Hubble in the 1930s. He settled the old argument as to how big the universe
is. A lot of people, a lot of astronomers, thought the universe was identical
to our Milky Way Galaxy, and that was the end of it. He showed that there were
billions of galaxies, each one of them containing billions of stars, that populate
the true universe, and that was the last step in the Copernican revolution of
thought about man’s place in the cosmos.
?HEEREN: Now, throughout history, philosophers and scientists thought our universe
was eternal, that there was no beginning point. How does the Hubble expansion
lead to the idea of a beginning point for our universe?
?JASTROW: Well if you think of a movie strip that shows the expansion of the
galaxies, that’s what he found, you see: the galaxies are moving away from us
and from one another at very high speeds. And if you think of that as a movie
strip and you run it in reverse, going backward in time they come closer and
closer together until finally they meet in a flash of light and heat, and that’s
the big bang and the beginning of the universe.
?HEEREN: Albert Einstein traveled across the country just to come here to Mt.
Wilson and visit Hubble and see the evidence of redshifted galaxies. What influence
did this have on Einstein’s general theory of relativity?
?JASTROW: Einstein never liked the idea of a big bang because it suggested a
beginning and a creation, and a creation suggested a Creator. And Einstein didn’t
believe in that concept of a deity, as the Creator. He thought the existence
of the deity was expressed in the laws of nature, something as Spinoza did. But
he came out here, and he looked through the hundred-inch?of course he had made
up his mind long ago already to accept this, but he turned around to the reporters,
who were admiring the scene, and he said, "Yes, I believe it, there was a big
?HEEREN: You’re well known for the comments you’ve made about this beginning
for the universe. What does our discovery of a beginning for our universe mean
to the scientific enterprise?
JASTROW: It’s the question then arises as to what created the beginning and
what came before the beginning, and these are questions science can’t answer.
And so they indicate that there are limits to the reach of scientific inquiry,
which is a sobering and humbling result to come out of science itself.
?HEEREN: Can you recall the statement that you made at the end of your book,
God and the Astronomers, about scientists trying to find?they’re climbing for
more and more knowledge, and then?
?JASTROW: Oh yes, the metaphor there was that we know now that the universe
had a beginning, and that all things that exist in this universe?life, planets,
stars?can be traced back to that beginning, and it’s a curiously theological
result to come out of science. The image that I had in my mind as I wrote about
this was a group of scientists and astronomers who are climbing up a range of
mountain peaks and they come to the highest peak and the very top, and there
they meet a band of theologians who have been sitting for centuries waiting for
?HEEREN: Speaking of Einstein a second ago, Einstein said that "the harmony
of natural law … reveals an intelligence," and he went on to say that it must
be far superior to our own. Do you know what might have prompted him to say
something like that?
?JASTROW: I imagine that he was thinking of the laws of gravity, of relativity,
the beauty and simplicity of those laws, and the fact that they suggest a design.
A design suggests a designer. That was his, I would call, almost back door approach
to the question of belief in God.
?Copyright ? 1997 Day Star? You’ll find the whole history of these twentieth
century cosmological discoveries, and the bigger implications for everyday life,
in Day Star’s new book, Show Me God. The Day Star Network is a division of Day
Star Productions, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Wheeling, Illinois.
Its mission is to encourage people to seek answers to life’s big questions–and
to provide the best information possible to aid in the quest. The Day Star Network
is an informal network of interested individuals of all beliefs and educational
backgrounds, organized by Day Star Productions. For membership information,
contact Day Star at www.daystarcom.org or call 1-800-743-7700.??