When Pope Francis was in America he became engaged in a charming and somewhat humorous conversation with a six-year old boy at the front of a huge crowd, who asked Pope Francis, "Mr. Pope, what did God do before he created the universe?" The boy's mother instantly put her hand over her son's mouth in order to keep him from saying anything else she judged to be scandalous. However, the Pope started to chuckle and patted the boy on the head, as he said, "Do you know, I haven't the slightest idea what God did before He created the universe!" Yet, today, Pope Francis is a staunch supporter of the Church's positive relationship with modern science ("modern" for this article is 1914-2016). This is shown by his backing the 20th Century Church's promotion and full acceptance of a marvelous scientific accomplishment called "The Catholic Astronomer," located at the University of Arizona and supervised by a Jesuit Brother.
The Expanding Universe, Still Being Created, As Announced by Hubble and "Hubble"
This is an article on previously incredible advances in the exploration of the universe led by Professor Edwin Hubble and by the creation of his Super-Telescope, named "Hubble" by the world's scientific community. The second half of this article, then, shows the world's scientists, who were largely, previously opposed to anything religious -- especially including Catholicism -- have started considering God's role in astronomy and astrophysics (defined in Part 2). But before we get to the 25 years of "Hubble's" amazing discoveries (1990-2015), we must first present where the Catholic Church generally stood on scientific discoveries seventy-six years before Edwin Hubble. We cannot discuss "The Church's Relation to Science" without first understanding Catholicism's negative and backward stance on not only science, but on politics and culture before the year 1914.
Pre-1914 Catholicism's Rejection of Modern Science
So let's balance comments about the Church's negative views on scientific progress in the 19th (1800 & up) Century & pre-1914, 20th Century, with science as an independent discipline. Science had sometimes led the world, not just to negativity and backwardness as some 19th Century popes did, but to the most heinous of crimes (these popes, of course, did not commit heinous crimes) resulting in mass murders of large numbers of innocent people. The Nazi regime in Germany for example, was made up of many distinguished scientists and intellectuals, who had no hesitation in carrying out the genocide they practiced against the Jews. We can think, for example, of Hitler's propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945), who earned two Ph.D.'s from the best German universities. Yet, he and his wife murdered their six children before taking their own lives. Intellectual advancement regarding science hardly deterred him from living an absolutely evil and demonic life. Hence scientific progress in the 20th Century, in the western democracies at least, led to great advances in people's lives, especially in the medical and psychological sciences. Nonetheless, science had its charlatans and deceivers that characterized a minority of scientists who contributed to the abuse of human beings.
The principal horror within the mid-20th Century was Fascism and Communism, (1.) Nazi Germany, which was condemned by the Catholic hierarchy in Germany, with a letter written to all German churches by Pope Pius XI (1857-1939), delivered by Eugenio Pacelli, Papal Secretary of State and successor Pope (1939-1958) to Pius XI. The letter was duly read in all German churches on Palm Sunday, 1937. It condemned Nazism in no uncertain terms, thereby causing Hitler to regard Catholicism as anti-Nazi (which of course it was). (2.) Franco's Spain (backed by the Spanish Catholic Church, was largely made up of Catholic bigots against Jews and Moslems in Spain.), Stalin's Russia, led to his murder of all the original Communists, Communism, including all military figures, except for General Zhukov, who led the Russian Army to victory in WWII. In addition, when Russian peasants refused to be "Communized," because for centuries they had always owned their farms independently and as neighbors one to another. This was conduct threatening to Stalin, who interpreted Communism as having only one leader over millions of pawns in a totally unified humanity (contrary to the theories of Marx and Lenin). Stalin then had a huge number of peasants murdered, ranging from 18 million to 20 million.
Why do we say this in an article on science? It is because the 20th Century was the Century of science overtaking so many vestiges of earlier theories of state. However, on the Catholic scene, a new momentum took place that supported scientific achievements, especially as these achievements led the Church to faith in God's creation of the ongoing creation of universe. However, we would be re-writing history if we did not discuss the Church's starchy backwardness in the growth of the coming modern science-- prior to 1914 and earlier for at least three-hundred years. Yet the new science was coming to birth everywhere in the democratic West. The problem of the Church's hostility to and disregard for the growth of positive scientific movements paralleled its consistently negative view toward such things as the new democracies appearing in various countries, which had long been subjected to rule either by monarchs or dictators. This political hardline that the Church took against newly developing democracies and republics even marked Catholicism's negative attacks on the very country in which the Vatican existed: namely, the newly united nation of Italy.
Yet, the Church's rejection of scientific advancements had grown out of the starting point of the Church's threats to the very lives of new scientists, as shown 383 years ago through the terror of the Inquisition. We will discuss these Church-directed threats below with the cases of Copernicus and Galileo in the 16th and 17th Centuries, respectively. Beginning with those two major innovators, the Church took a suspicious position in its relationship to nearly every major scientific achievement. That had tended to cause the Church's hierarchy to question science as a whole when they thought it contradicted the Church's teaching of its dogma. However the Church gradually succeeded in allowing the modernizing of scientific advances, in spite of the fact that the popes during the years 1846 through 1903 (see below) were mainly atavistic Catholic fundamentalists.
Pope Pius IX: "Pio No-No," "Prisoner of the Vatican"
The most reactionary fundamentalist of popes, possibly in the entire history of Catholicism, was Pope Pius IX (pope from 1846 to 1878). He made his pockmarked reign even worse by living as pope for thirty-two years -- the longest papacy in the history of the Church. Only one ruler in all of European history, Queen Victoria of England and Empress of India, reigned longer than Pius IX -- for sixty-four years, doubling Pius IX's reign. Pius IX was as unscientific a man as can possibly be imagined. He prohibited Cardinals, bishops, and all priests in the world from committing the horrible crime of installing electricity or Alexander Graham Bell's newly invented telephone (1875) in any of their buildings, and not to ride on trolley cars or trains, especially those with steam engines. Likewise, Pius feared for his life the lightning rod, and thus had to command that no Churchman would stick one on the roof of a church. He then transferred his fear of "modern" inventions to another enemy -- the newly progressive political and societal realities for which people, including Catholics were voting.
The land in which Pius lived had finally, after centuries of attempts, succeeded in uniting its scattered provinces into a single nation called Italy. But Pius refused to recognize the new nation because it practiced democracy in a new Republic. He did this because he considered the United States as the leading example of "heretical democracy" in the world, which, worse than Communism according to Pius, would outlaw Catholicism in all countries that were democratic republics. This anti-American bias certainly created misgivings and unrest among bishops and other American servants of the Church, mostly in religious congregations, particularly Jesuits and Dominicans. These "surreptitious infidels" started referring to him as Pius "No-No." This was not offensive to him because he was too dim-witted to know that the "No-No" he kept hearing was not a tag on his papacy. He thought he was being called nono in Italian, which meant nine. He thus liked the idea that clergy and religious were adding nono after his name.
Yet, because of the massive number of rejections he placed on people, events and institutions, which in turn were lobbied back against him, he feared leaving his Vatican apartment. He then gave himself a nickname, referring to himself as "The Prisoner of the Vatican." All of this led, in the latter part of the 19th Century, to a movement within the American Church started by Isaac Thomas Hecker (1819-88), who was ordained a priest under Pius' rule in 1849, and who founded a new religious congregation called the "Paulists" Hecker greatly extended Catholicism in America, through his efforts to democratize Catholicism. The Prisoner of the Vatican fumed about Hecker's democratic motives, for the American Church, root and branch, including the activities of Catholic scientists and intellectuals becoming too independent of the Church, when their academic research and publishing turned out to be accurate.
Pius looked again at the now "apostate" American Church and coined a new synonym for heresy which he labelled "Americanism." The American Catholic hierarchy felt deserted by Church leadership in Rome. Notice that none of them was appointed as a Cardinal. The first American theologian to become a Cardinal, and the first Jesuit, would be Avery Dulles, S.J.(Cardinal from 2001 to his death in 2008). He was chosen by his friend and fellow intellectual, Pope St. John Paul II. Dulles wrote a popular book on Catholicism called Models of the Church. In that popular book, which was easy reading, he described the six models or active examples of Catholicism: (1) Institution; (2) Mystical Communion; (3) Herald; (4) Sacrament; (5) Servant; (6) (added later to another publication of the book; (Community of Disciples.)
It is doubtful that anyone could have detested the United States as greatly as Pius IX. He evidently intentionally decided to show American Church leaders who was boss. In 1854, he instituted as a dogma of faith in the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception. This was the first time a pope had ever instituted a major dogmatic belief and devotion all by himself, without first calling a Council to approve his doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. He acted individually again at the First Vatican Council, leading the bishops at that Council to promote him as Infallible.
Pius also convened The First Vatican Council, held at Rome in 1869-70, at which some 700 bishops attended. The major issue of the Council was whether papal infallibility was to be considered and voted upon. On July 13, 1870, the infallibility document was voted on. It passed under the title, Pastor Aeternus. The document stated plainly the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff (not just Pius, but all future popes as well). The doctrine stressed that papal definitions are "irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church." But it restricted this infallibility only to those occasions "when he speaks ex cathedra. That meant, when he speaks in discharge of the office of Pastor and Doctor of all Christians. He was given this power by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, and, importantly, when he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church."
Finally, and at Last, What has 1914 Meant In All these Discussions?
After Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII served as Pope (1878-1903. Leo had followed many of Pius IX's decrees and commands, and even helped him write some parts of them. However, he was not an enemy of democracy. He praised and favored the Catholic Labor movement, and looked closely at the new political reality on the scene -- Socialism. To address the conditions of the working class and encourage them to support the Church and be paid a living wage, he debunked Socialism, but instead wrote his most famous encyclical, Rerum Novarum. It reaffirmed traditional Catholic teaching that the family was the basic unit of society. But the encyclical's most daring innovation was its support for workers' associations and collective bargaining. This was not a call for unions, but was a step on the road for the Church eventually to support them.
Following Leo XIII Pius X served as Pope (1903-1914). Like Pius IX before him, Pius X was a thoroughgoing reactionary. Also, he condemned "Modernism" and "Americanism." In 1911 he wrote that "the error spreading these days is much more murderous than that of Luther."
At last, a thaw: Beginning in 1914 there were three popes entering the modern age: Benedict XV (1914-1922), who guided and directed the Church through the worst war of any preceding 1914, WWI. He adopted a policy of strict neutrality, and ministering to the victims.
After Benedict came Pope Pius XI (1922-39), who had to deal carefully with the dictators who were preparing for World War II. We have already discussed Pius XI's letter to be read to all German churches on Palm Sunday, 1937, in order to condemn Nazism. Pius XII (1938-58) succeeded Pius XI. Pius XII wrote two pivotal, important encyclicals: (1) Divino Afflante Spiritu (1943), in which he encouraged modern biblical scholarship and (2) Munificentissimus Deus, (1950) in which he taught as a matter of infallible dogma that Jesus' mother, Mary, "having completed her earthly course, was in body and soul assumed into heavenly glory."
Copernicus and Galileo
The first time the Church, by way of the Inquisition three centuries before Pius IX, had tried to stifle two newcomers who were founding geniuses in the world of science. Consider for example, the first two astronomers in history: First was Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543), the founder of modern astronomy, who was born in Poland. He wrote a treatise entitled, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, in which he put forward the theory of the Earth rotating daily about its own axis and annually about the Sun. This discovery received a hostile reception from the Church when this treatise was published in the year of his death, 1543, as it challenged the Church's ancient teaching of the Earth as the center of the universe. The Church's conclusion was, of course, inaccurate about the Earth's central location in outer space, and Copernicus' treatise was condemned by the Inquisition. Although his theory was condemned by the Church, his death and his great geographical distance from Rome prevented his punishment by the Inquisition.
On the other hand, consider the unfortunate Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who taught mathematics at the University of Padua. He improved the refracting telescope (1610), and was the first to use it for astronomy. He advanced Copernicus' theory by studying the paths of the heavenly bodies, and developed mathematical calculations of the movements of such bodies as he could see through his telescope. He Nevertheless, he was forced to retract his theories by the Inquisition and was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment, under house arrest. He was ordered to perform no more studies of the heavenly bodies -- which he continued to do secretly anyway -- after being warned of his death. This act of disobedience nonetheless found Galileo colleagues who supported his investigation of the universe.
Thankfully, the Church, although consigning Galileo to the ranks of scientific heretics 383 years after his astonomical findings, the modern Church finally stated that Galileo, a good Catholic, should have been permitted, all during his 383 years of ouster, to practice his Catholic faith. The Holy Office formally recognized Galileo and his scientific conclusions, one of the most important of which was proof of the existence of Jupiter's four moons -- still valid today. His work was then expressly praised by the Church in 1993, when Pope Saint John Paul II, in essence, virtually "apologized" to Galileo posthumously. He then confessed that the Church had erred in its treatment of him by rejecting his great scientific achievements. Saint John Paul II, of course, who held two Ph.D.'s from the finest Polish universities, was much too intelligent and educated to have this anti-intellectual stupidity endorsed any further by the Church. However, the Church as a whole could hardly be praised for keeping Galileo's name in a fallen state of abuse for 383 years, after the Inquisition threatened to kill him for teaching his scientific discoveries in Padua.
This late verification of the Church's revolution in thinking about vastly important scientific discoveries, such as Galileo's, has resulted in the 20th Century Church's promotion and full acceptance of a marvelous scientific accomplishment called "The Catholic Astronomer." The Catholic Astronomer is operated under the management of a "Catholic Scientific Foundation" located at Castle Gandolfo. It oversees operation of "The Vatican Observatory," a 1.8 meter telescope (large for earth-bound telescopes), which is located at and largely staffed by professors of the University of Arizona. However, the leader of the Observatory team is a Jesuit brother. His name is Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. Brother Consolmagno is likewise President of the Catholic Scientific Foundation.
If one were to study the gender of the professors running The Vatican Observatory, one would find that likely a majority of them are women, such as Dr. Brenda Frye, a cosmologist with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics (more about that title below) from the University of California at Berkeley. What a change in the Catholic Church: From Pius IX to Dr. Brenda Frye!
Who and What Has Created The Incredible Probing of the Observable Universe
Actually we can answer both the "who and what" questions above with absolute certainty. And it is a certainty that today's Church has completely withdrawn wholeheartedly from its ancient rejection of science to today's complete acceptance of the best advancement of that discipline. We have pointed out that the first revolution of the study of astronomy was created by both Copernicus and Galileo. Fortunately scientists after Galileo followed his findings, gradually developing what today has grown into the major scientific study ever undertaken of our universe. At this point we need to recount the long and difficult work performed by one of the world's greatest scientists
His name was Edwin Hubble (1889-1953). He first received a law degree, but then shifted his vocation to astronomy. Eventually he got permission to use the Mount Wilson Observatory in California. He spent his entire nights for years peering through Mount Wilson's powerful earth-bound telescope into the distant reaches of space inside of the earth's atmosphere. He would soon push astronomy and astrophysics forward into an exciting, revolutionary new era. Astronomy has to do with attempting to study the universe from earth, using the large number of powerful earth-bound telescopes scattered around the world. Astrophysics has to do with the major innovation in astronomy that Hubble's pioneering, eye-straining, back-stiffening career eventually brought about -- as he looked outward in the eyesight lens of the Mount Wilson Observatory -- .
Let's look first at what Hubble accomplished through his ground-breaking discoveries, as in the future such discoveries had huge ramifications for the role that Christianity was to play in the lives of the greatest astrophysicists in the world. These great scientists for years had little or no place for God in their scientific study of the universe. But by using their backgrounds in engineering and construction of Hubble's recommended powerful instruments to push our observation of outer space farther out than ever before in the earth's history, they would soon open up an era where science and religion meet each other. Hubble's measurements and calculations of the activity of stars and planets, which he discovered existing far beyond visibility by the use of earth-bound telescopes, led to the invention of what many scientists have considered the greatest technological invention in history.
The principle achievement of "Hubble" insofar as Astronomy and Astrophysics are concerned is that Edwin Hubble single-handedly overcame the enormous rejection by mainstream scientists of Hubble's argument for developing "Hubble" -- not called that at first. "Hubble" is the first observatory object to look into the deep university beyond the Earth's atmosphere, which had always kept all Astronomy on earth restricted to peering through a choking gaseous dust from exploding stars. "Hubble's" invention has taken humankind beyond Earth's atmosphere to look at far-distant stars as something of a "neighbor" to them. As a result, the puny efforts of previous Astronomy has now -- with "Hubble" -- ceased straining at star-gazing from earth and instead is discovering, photographing and naming not just trillions of stars, but trillions of galaxies and constellations. (See definitions of "galaxies" and "constellations" in the following paragraph). We human beings as a whole otherwise have absolutely no awareness of the size of the universe in which we live.
Hubble's discoveries also opened up for scientists the concept of the "pillars of creation." That was because Hubble's images showed much of the creation and status of the trillions of stars in the universe to be an enormous stacking of stars and galaxies on top of each other (galaxies are a group of related stars clumped together on top of each other, resembling millions of combinations of elongated pillars.) Groups of these related galaxies are called constellations. We here on earth live in an even smaller unit -- our solar system of nine planets, and then in a grander phenomenon -- the Milky Way Galaxy. Next, our Galaxy is part of the Andromena Constellation, named after the Andromena star, which is the closest star to Earth except of course our Sun, which is an unbelievably close to Earth at a mere 93 million miles.
Incredibly, the ancient Greeks saw all of these pillars with absolutely no observatory, whether Earth-bound, or, of course neither beyond Earth's atmosphere. When astronomers in the past have looked, these pillars were the very foundation that held up the world and all that is in it. "Hubble's" discoveries reverberated significantly with the Christian tradition. William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) in 1906 wrote his The World's Famous Orations in which he included an 1857 sermon by London pastor, Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892), entitled The Condescension of Christ. In that sermon he wrote a phrase that conveyed not only the physical world but also the force that keeps it all together emanating from the divine with the birth of Chris, as follows:
"And now wonder, ye angels, the Infinite has become an infant; he upon whose shoulders the universe doth hang, hangs at his mother's breast; he who created all things, and bears up the pillars of creation." (Emphasis added).The redshift is a staggeringly accurate method of calculating both the distance and the velocity of stars. Now we know that the redshift's distance from Earth is useful for calculating the distance of the stars from Earth. If the redshift doubles, the distance to the star has doubled, and so on. This discovery came to be called, "Hubble's Law." What's more, Hubble calculated that the redshift's distance also gives us the velocity of the star as it zips outside of the "dark energy," which pulls the star into "dark matter." "Hubble's Constant" tells us the velocity of the star, as well the velocity of "dark matter" at the outer reaches of the universe, where objects simply leave the universe. Then what happens? Do the stars going into "dark matter" blow up after exiting our universe, creating a "black hole," which Einstein said was just the function of gravity, where the gravitational energy of the black hole even bends light.
Or do they find more dark-matter after they leave the universe? Or here's a real conundrum. What if after they zip out of our universe they get sucked into another universe? And how many universes are there? Even "Hubble” can’t answer that question because it doesn't have a gigantic "Spotlight" to follow a star through dark matter. This "universal" (a pun) question came to be estimated by "Hubble's Constant," These are important means of calculations. Have you ever wondered how an astronomer can say that one star is 2,000 or some other number of "light-years" from Earth, and another one is 1,000 light-years from Earth. Well, "Hubble's Law" and "Hubble's Constant," should teach you how it's done. What is a "light-year?" It's a combination of the speed of light and the passage of time, multiplied together. It's the number of years you'll spend going at the speed of light squared, times your mass. "Mass" means more than weight. Actually to call mass "weight" would drive Einstein bats.
By the way, the heavenly object suggested that only by sending a super-telescope into space beyond the earth's atmosphere, at some 430 miles above that atmosphere, and created to rotate with the earth at the same speed as the earth rotated on its axis, namely 24 hours per day, would let mankind finally study the outer vistas of the universe. Copernicus and Galileo, both good Catholics, would have cheered Hubble's scientific conclusions. Only his solution would allow the possibility for study of the previously considered, infinitely universal outer reaches of the universe, opening up the heretofore absolutely unknown universal boundaries previously theorized -- and guessed at -- by earth-bound scientists. Hubble knew that his namesake the super-telescope, in order actually to study the fringes of the universe, was the only solution to getting observers on earth the observational power to penetrate enormously farther than anything scientists had previously studied, or even considered studying.
Fortunately for astrophysicists, the United State government got in on this movement. In 1958 a new government agency was formed to encompass Hubble's argument for finally seeing the ends of the universe -- if it even had an end. This agency was the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA"). Hubble, by 1946, had convinced a leading astrophysicist, Lyman Spitzer, a 75-year old astronomer, to lead the charge for the construction of Hubble's brainchild. Bringing NASA's acceptance of Hubble's founding leadership into the dream of penetrating outer space, instantly overcame one impediment to starting such an enormous super-telescope: money. Before NASA, only the U.S. government could afford the project. After NASA the astrophysicists no longer had any doubts that Hubble's dream could be achieved.
All the scientists involved in this project, like all good Americans, had to give the super-telescope a name. Can you guess what they named it? Of course they unanimously named it "HUBBLE." So the answers to the above questions heading this section, namely, "Who or What Was and Still Is Responsible For the Incredible Probing of the Farthest Limits of the Observable Universe," are as follows. The "Who" was Edwin Hubble. The "What" was "Hubble." And so America had found another Thomas Edison, another Wright Brother(s), another Henry Ford, and like those men of genius, America had embarked on a radically new scientific era, thanks to Professor Hubble. The super-telescope promoted by him through much argument, and through his years of weary eyes staring through the Mount Wilson telescope, and his stiff back, from sitting in a plain brown card-table chair every night for years of his life, allowed Hubble to achieve what he predicted it would -- namely, opening up humanity to the far reaches of a universe that conceivably had life just as planet Earth had.
So, now after all this moaning and complaining about Pius IX and his apartment with no electricity nor telephone in the middle of winter, let us wave good-bye instead to a truly good man who happened to be a very good scientist, of which we need more in this world. Now, speaking of the world, it's time to get back to the main subject of this article, i.e., namely, that God is continually creating the universe/world (call it what you want) with the help of His good servant, Edwin Hubble, and Professor Hubble's masterpiece, the super telescope that has pulled us closer to the end of the universe.