Gravitational-Wave Astronomy and Religious Implications

Light of truth

Job Kozhamthadam

The Nobel Prize in physics for this year was awarded last week to the lead scientists involved in the discovery of the gravitational waves. Gravitational waves were discovered on 14 September 2015. The event lasted only a paltry 200 milliseconds, but it opened a new chapter in the annals of human’s relentless pursuit to unravel the innermost secrets of nature. Gravitational astronomy was ushered in. This event will go down in the history of human achievements, not only for the unprecedented exhilaration it has generated among the scientific fraternity, but also for the incredible ingenuity, practical wisdom, unyielding tenacity and unparalleled courage that went into making this event happen as well as the new avenues of possibilities it has opened up for generations to come. Hailed by many as “the discovery of the century,” this was the result of over a century of creative ideas, ingenious insights, persistent pursuit and unrelenting optimism.

The event has far-reaching implications for future developments in religion and theology too. Religion can be considered an effort at bridging the divine and the human – the divine coming down to meet humans and they rising up to embrace the divine. This meeting is mediated primarily in and through the universe. Since the universe is science’s field of action, in so far as science is human’s effort to understand and appreciate the mystery and complexity of the universe, this mediation implies that whatever happens in science has its impact on religion. The history of science reveals that the more humans know what the universe is and the more they fathom the depth of the universe, the more they appreciate the amazing complexity and intricacy of the universe and consequent need to go beyond it to the divine in order to find its meaning and purpose. Today the awareness is gradually growing that true religion and genuine science cannot be divorced from each other for humans who look for a richer and more complete life. The future dynamics of the discovery of the gravitational waves will further substantiate the positive view on the relationship between science and religion.

The “Two-Book View” by St Augustine says that God reveals to us through two books: The Book of Scripture (God’s word of mouth) and the Book of Nature (God’s deed of hands). Both are to be taken seriously if we want to get the fuller and richer message of God. Several founders of modern science in the 17th century took this view seriously and applied it in their life and work, most notably Johannes Kepler, the founder of modern astronomy. They saw a complementary role between the two books. In their view nature in some ways served as the stage in which the script of the Book of Scripture was played out. The two-book view will be confirmed in the context of the discovery of gravitational waves since, as we have seen, many points presented in the Bible are shown to be scientifically displayed in nature.

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