Thursday, March 20, 2014

Lemaître principle on religion and science

Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)
image wikimedia
The eminent Belgian Catholic priest Monseigneur Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (1894-1966) is the Father of the Big Bang Theory. Today it is generally recognized that was the first to present the theory of a Primordial Atom in 1931. Cumulative evidence from various branches of physical cosmology had consequently strengthened the idea that the entire universe has a definite beginning rather than being static and eternal.

In early 1950'ies Lemaître was at the height of his fame and celebrated as one of the top cosmologists of all times. Not only had the scientific community adopted the Big Bang theory, as mockingly named by Sir Fred Hoyle, but King Leopold III of Belgium had bestowed on him the highest scientific honors his country could give. He was honorary member of a number of international academic societies and associations. Even more than that, the Vatican had invited the Belgian priest to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and eventually he became its director.

Dedicated to the search for truth
Lemaître and Einstein in 1933
image Catholic Education Resource Center
Georges Lemaître is an exceptional character who was consumed by intensive search for truth. As a highly gifted student he had many opportunities to join the leading universities in United Kingdom or United States for glorious career as researcher and teacher from Cambridge to Harvard and MIT. Instead, he faithfully took care of his responsibilities as a lecturer and then as a professor in the Catholic University of Louvain.

No less adversary than Albert Einstein himself attacked Lemaître's views on expanding universe saying

Vos calculs sont corrects, mais votre physique est abominable

The father of General Theory of Relativity upon which Lemaître's calculations were founded opposed him! I say, a number of prelates and lesser physicians would have returned home to check the facts once more. Not so Lemaître and the battle of the Titans ended in 1933 when they traveled together to California to a set of seminars. On the way the two had a chance to chat and it is told that after Lemaître's lecture Albert Einstein stood up applauding

This is the most beautiful and satisfying explanation of creation I have ever heard! 

That is quite a compliment as we know how important the beauty of a theory was to Einstein.

Pope Pius XII
Vatican was clearly pleased and wanted also to contribute to the success of Father Georges Lemaître. In 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that Lemaître's theory had scientifically proved Creation and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

What a startling statement! That would put most of the Catholic priests, bishops and even cardinals on knees praising God and the Church - what a vindication!

Not so Georges Lemaître who was very close to the Vatican as a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science.

Lemaître immediately send a message through his friend Daniel O'Connell, Pope's scientific advisor, begging the Pope not to repeat that statement and asked His Holiness not to comment at all on cosmology. 


A devote Catholic priest, a scholar in search of the truth, opposed the Holy See and dared to ask the Pope not to talk about cosmology at all.

And what is quite remarkable, Pope Pius XII humbly took the advice of his dear priest scientist.  

Lemaître principle on religion and science
We can use the above history to formulate a fundamental hermeneutical rule about making science and studying the theological significance of scientific research

Do not mix science with religion.


  1. "Don't mix science with religion." Sound like one of those remarks made by a stupid atheist that doesn't know enough about reality to differentiate between facts and opinions.

    1. Well, Lemaître was a priest and he was thus advising the Pope who was so excited about the reintroduction of a Beginning to Cosmology.

      BTW the Atheist Sir Fred Hoyle never really accepted the Big Bang theory and believed in eternal space. Hoyle actually considered the Beginning to be some kind of Christian conspiracy to introduce religious views into science!

  2. Not sure if you were aware of this Mikko. but you should have been given an invitation. :)

    I couldn't post the URL but if you google this article by dated 24 September should come up...."Will ET Be Here Soon? NASA Brings Scientists, Theologians Together To Prepare"

  3. Ben D, thank you for the interesting link to an article by Lee Speigel, I did not know about the symposium nor about this reporter.

    Speigel describes himself in his homepage:

    "Over the past couple years, I’ve written hundreds of stories for AOL News and The Huffington Post, dealing with the often-overlapping worlds of UFOs, science and unexplained phenomena. You can check out my ongoing articles at my Huffington Post Archive Page."

    And here is a quote from his article about the symposium. It is taken fromthe link you provided:

    "A few days ago, NASA tried closing the gap between life on Earth and the possibilities of life elsewhere. The space agency and the Library of Congress brought together scientists, historians, philosophers and theologians from around the world for a two-day symposium, "Preparing For Discovery." Their agenda: To explore how we prepare for the inevitable discovery of extraterrestrial life, be it simple microbial organisms or intelligent beings."

    1. You may have noticed, Ben D, that National Geographic published in 2011 an interesting "What if" documentary on alien invasion. They told, for example, about the studies conducted by US Army where they used computer simulations to analyse alien attacks.

      The core of the documentary seemed to be inspired by the movie Independence Day and the idea of massive space ships hovering over major capitals of us earthlings. However, it was scientific and more serious than the movie. In all simulations the aliens won hands down in the first place but humanity had chance with long term low tech tactics after much of our civilizations had been destroyed.