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March 1, 2006

Dear Concerned Citizen,

by Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Kelly Walker
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Verse 1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning--the beginning of what???--The beginning of everything, of time and space and matter. It’s hard to even imagine, but before this amazing beginning that God gave us, there was no light and no dark, no cold and no hot, no trees or grass, not even the earth we live on, and no stars. Not even a sky. Nothing. Not even time. Just God.

If there had been a clock (of course there were no clocks then, but if there had been a clock) the hour hand and the minute hand and the second hand would all be pointing straight up, zero hours, zero minutes, and zero seconds. And then in a giant burst of energy, something like super powerful beams of light but gazillions of times brighter than anything our eyes can see, God created our universe. Scientists call this event the Big Bang. The clock began to tick. That was the beginning of everything. Before this there was only God.

Scientists once believed, as did the ancient Greeks, that the universe had no beginning. The view proposed by Genesis of a beginning to time and matter was seen as a naïve myth. The Genesis Creation may have made a nice bedtime story for children, but most people had believed since the time of the Greek philosopher Aristotle that the universe is static and eternal, without beginning. Twentieth century scientists including Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold and Fred Hoyle called this the “steady state” theory of the universe.

Gradually, though, this view began to change. Measurements from specially built telescopes, especially the one used in California by Edwin Hubble and Milton Humason, had revealed that the universe is expanding. They reported this amazing fact in 1929, less than a hundred years ago. Space, they discovered, is actually stretching, something like a balloon getting bigger by the rubber expanding, even though no new rubber is added. The difference between space and rubber is that eventually the balloon pops, but not space. Space, we believe, can stretch forever.

Then in 1965, two American scientists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, monitoring a giant antenna in New Jersey designed to detect natural radio emissions from the Milky Way, made a discovery that shocked the world! The antenna was receiving a faint scratchy signal from the emptiness of space where no signal should be. At first, they thought the “static” they were hearing came from pigeons roosting on the antenna; but the noise remained, even after they live-trapped all the birds and cleaned off the antenna. For a time, the researchers were puzzled. No matter which direction they pointed their telescope, there it was, the noise. In time, they realized the noise filling the entire universe was coming from very, very weak radiation, now called the cosmic background radiation (CBR).

Another scientist, Professor Jim Peebles, told them that this CBR was actually the echo of light beams, the energy of the Big Bang Creation. It was so very weak because all that hot energy of the Big Bang in the tiny first speck of space at the creation was now diluted in the huge stretched out space of today’s universe.

The discovery of the CBR coupled with the knowledge that the universe is expanding proved there had been a beginning. Why? Because if the universe is getting bigger day by day, then going backwards in time, the universe would have been smaller than today, and even smaller the day before, and years before and eons and eons before. Smaller and smaller and smaller, like the air going out of a balloon. Go back far enough in time and the entire universe, everything, comes to a point. That point brings us to the moment of Creation that we call the "Big Bang." Science came to realize, only about forty years ago, a truth the ancient Bible recorded thousands of years ago: there was a beginning! Sometimes we take the fact that there is a universe for granted. But if we think about it, just the fact of existence, of there being a world, of there being time and space and matter, is amazing.

Clarifying translation: The opening word of the Bible, B’rei’sheet, is usually translated as “In the beginning.” Actually, there is a much deeper meaning tucked within the Hebrew. B’rei’sheet is a compound that also means “With a first cause of wisdom,” as per Proverbs 8:12, 22. Genesis 1:1 therefore also means “With wisdom God [The Hebrew word for God here is Elokiim  the aspect of God made manifest in the forces of nature] created the heavens and the earth.”

Verse 2:  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.

At first the universe was a tiny speck, about the size of a grape seed. The earth mentioned in the first verse had not actually formed yet. As the Bible states, the earth was without form and void. The first two sentences really tell us that God had created the raw materials out of which the heavens, the stars and galaxies, and the earth would be made during the six days to come.

We’ve all heard of black holes. Those are locations in space that have so much stuff, so much matter, that their gravity pulls in even the light. That’s why they are black. Get too close to one and--“whoosh!”--you’d be pulled right in and never get out. Well, you can imagine what a powerful black hole the universe must have been when all the matter and energy that would eventually make billions and billions of stars and galaxies, was squeezed into the size of a grape seed!

Of course there weren’t stars or galaxies yet; there was only the energy of the Big Bang held in this super black hole. Something had to make the “grape seed universe” explode, or else it would never go anywhere. That’s when God brought forth a special force to get things moving. As the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters, the universe expanded outward faster than a blink, as if a sudden magnificent puff had started to inflate a balloon.

Scientists call this very early creation event “inflation.” Now, we can’t prove that the Spirit of God hovering is actually what science calls inflation; but it is intriguing that science calls for a one time force, never again repeated in all the history of the universe, at the same time that Genesis brings a one time force. The phrase, the Spirit of God hovering, is never again repeated in the entire Hebrew Bible. They both occur at the same moment in the making of our magnificent universe.

The Spirit of God hovered, and in that incredible burst, the universe expanded outward. It grew to the size of the solar system in less than a second, and has kept on growing eventually to become immense as we know it today, with the billions of galaxies and trillions of stars. And all this started as a point not larger than a grape seed! Truly amazing, and all the work of God!

Almost a thousand years ago, the ancient Jewish commentator Maimonides wrote that the waters mentioned here, were not waters on the earth--how could they be, since there was no earth yet? The word “waters” in this verse is used to represent the building blocks of matter, the material that would eventually form all the stars and galaxies, and even the earth. (Of course, ancient Hebrew did not have words for modern physics concepts, so descriptive words were used instead.) Only on day three, Maimonides taught, does the word waters come to mean water on the earth.

Clarifying translation: When the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness [black fire] upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered on the surface of the waters [the matter of the universe].

Verse 3: Then God said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

Outward, ever outward, space stretched (and continues to stretch even now). Energy produced at the moment of Creation, and hotter than you can imagine, began to cool as the universe expanded. To understand this, imagine how hot water quickly cools as it stretches out if you pour it from a cup onto a large plate.

Light was created in the first moments, although it was still trapped within the “super black hole” of the Big Bang. As the universe expanded, however, the forces holding in the light began to weaken.

The universe cooled by the same principle of physics that allows snow to persist at the top of a mountain, even though at the base it may be 100 degrees. Since the air pressure gets lower as we climb toward the top, the air expands as it flows up and over the mountain. The expansion makes it cooler as the heat gets more diluted in the bigger volume of air.

The more the universe expands, the more it cools. Right now, the average temperature of the empty space of the entire universe is estimated to be close to 3 degrees Kelvin (That is 3 centigrade degrees above absolute zero or in other units, about minus 270 °C, or minus 450°F). That’s very, very cold, but imagine all the vast stretches of space light years away from any star. Fortunately, we live near a nice warm sun!

Verse 4: And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

Finally after the universe had stretched and expanded, and cooled to about the temperature on the surface of our sun today, about 6000 °C ( 11,000 °F!), light was able to break free from the matter that was holding it in. The universe was then more than a thousand times smaller and hotter than it is today. At that moment, as it escaped from matter, light truly separated from darkness.

The temperature at the center of the sun is millions of degrees. At this high temperature, matter is in the form known as plasma. In a plasma, light literally bounces around among the free electrons of matter, making little headway in any one direction. Imagine rolling a few ping pong balls (representing tiny bits of light; called photons) across a billiard table on which hundreds of heavy billiard balls (the atomically free electrons of matter) are constantly rolling about. The ping pong ball would be knocked all over the table.

When the temperature of the universe had been cooled by the expansion to 6000 °C, the free electrons became bound into orbits around the nuclei of atoms. (Recall that the nuclei of atoms have positively charged protons that attract the negative charge of electrons.) With the electrons now bound into their atomic orbits, space was literally opened for the photons of light to travel in a straight line. Light broke free!

One of the conditions of the early universe is still evident today in the sun. The reason we cannot see into the sun even with advanced telescopes, but only the surface, is not because the sun is so bright. The reason we can not see below the surface of the sun is because below the surface, the sun is so hot that it is plasma, and as we just discussed, light can’t get very far in a consistent straight line in plasma. In fact the bouncing of light in the sun’s plasma is so intense that a particle of light, a photon, formed at the center of the sun takes about 25,000 years to make its way to the surface of the sun. When you realize that light moves at 186,000 miles a second and the radius of the sun is about 400,000 miles, if the light could travel in a straight line it would make it to the sun’s surface in a bit over two seconds. In 25,000 years the photon covers a lot of bouncing!.

Verse 5: God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, day one.

The universe continued to grow in size very quickly, but it wasn’t organized just yet. God’s spirit was shaping matter, preparing the universe for life. Natural laws were created, like the law of gravity, giving perfect order to everything.

Light and energy were the first creations in the space of the new universe, and God would use  these to form all the stars, the planets, everything that would exist, even you! Light waves of energy are the building blocks of all matter; in other words, the book you hold, the chair you’re sitting on, every “thing” is made of light! This light is organized, by the wisdom of creation, into tiny atoms by incredible forces that keep all this energy held together so that they form every bit of  matter from the tiniest grains of sand to the largest of the stars in the heavens!

The famous scientist, Albert Einstein, revealed in 1905 his discovery that matter is another form of energy. This is a true and proven fact, as amazing as it seems. Matter seems totally different from energy, just as ice seems different from steam. Matter we can touch, weigh, handle, but none of this can be done with light beams of energy.  Just try to catch a light beam. You can’t and yet matter we can hold. The sun makes all its light and heat by converting matter, parts of its hydrogen supply, into energy. The famous equation E = mc2 shows the mathematical relationship between the amount of energy, “E,” held within a mass of matter, “m.” The letter “c” is a huge constant value, which means that even a tiny amount of matter has a vast amount of energy in it. This is why it only takes a small amount of matter to fuel the massive explosion of an atomic bomb. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima used only 0.6 a gram, about half a paper clip’s worth, of matter to destroy an entire city!

The first atoms of matter made after the Big Bang Creation were hydrogen and helium, the two lightest of all the 92 elements. Elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were formed in the intense pressures and temperatures of the stars and in the forces of supernovae, the explosions of stars that occur when a star uses up all its hydrogen fuel. With these huge stellar forces, lighter atoms were pressed together so tightly that they connected, actually coupling together--something akin to joining Lego blocks of nature--within the cosmic pressures of the stars and supernovae. An atom of oxygen, for example, weighs 16 times more than an atom of hydrogen. To make oxygen, lighter atoms such as hydrogen and helium and others were joined together within the cosmic pressures of the stars and supernovae.

Now for a crucial piece of data: the numbering of the day. Note that the first day is not referred to as a “first day,” but as “day one.” This will have decisive import when we get to understanding the age of our magnificent universe in terms of the Bible and in terms of science. But first let’s explore some of the subtleties of the other five days in this compelling Creation chapter.

Clarifying translation: God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness. God called to the light: “Day,” and to the darkness He called: “Night.” And there was evening [The Hebrew world  for evening, Erev has as its more basic, root meaning chaos] and there was morning [The Hebrew word for morning, Boker has as its root meaning order, clarity], one day [One, not first].

If we look ahead, we’ll note that the sun and moon are only mentioned on day number four. So how can there be evening and morning before then? The oldest commentaries, literally over a thousand years ago, tell us that the sun was already present by day two, but only became visible on day four. The reason the Bible mentions the sun on day four is to make us look for the golden apple, the deeper meanings in the words evening and morning. The Hebrew for evening, erev, has a root meaning of chaos, mixture. The root meaning of the Hebrew for morning, boker, is orderly, able to be recognized. When the sun sets, vision becomes blurred, chaotic. When the sun rises vision becomes clear, orderly. By mentioning the sun on day four we are forced to also look for the deeper meanings of erev and boker. What the Bible is telling us here is that something amazing is happening. Chaos, erev is giving way to order, boker. Out of the chaotic ball of energy of the Big Bang Creation, orderly laws of nature and of life are about to arise. Six times over, we are told of this fantastic flow from erev to boker, fantastic because this never happens by chance in nature. Never! Order never, never arises spontaneously from a chaotic mix and remains orderly. Order in nature always decays to disorder. That is why mountains wash to the sea and leaves decay on the ground. Only if the world somehow recognizes the newly formed order and then maintains it does the order remain stable and not decay. The wisdom of the world, the Bible is telling us, recognized this flow from chaos to order and locked it in. The world had a purpose for having life and it was developing in that direction. With wisdom God created.


Responses to Rethinking the "Cosmic Wall":

Dr wiker's insight that the constitution's separation of church and state relates to a NATIONALLY IMPOSED religion , not a secularization of the USA is brilliant. Thank you for printing his reply. - G. S.

Greetings. I receive your electronic newsletter. I do enjoy their perspective. I would like to you use the question and the Dr. Wilker for a local letter to the editor. Is it possible to get a release to do so? Also, your letter referenced an earlier web newsletter, but didn't list who Dr. Wilker is. Do you have any material on his credentials. I think his article is perfect answer. - G. W. D.

Dr. Wiker wrote: "Today, in America we are caught in that very struggle that bubbled up in the French Revolution between Christians and radical Secularists. The common moral ground has dropped out, and hence we are torn, as a nation, between those who hold to the moral world of Christianity and those who hold to the moral world of Secularism." However, there is not one "moral world of Christianity." The tearing apart of mainstream denominations in the U.S. is proof of that, unless Dr. Wiker is ready to dismiss as "secularists" all of the Christians in those denominations who do not hold to a traditional view of various moral issues, such as inclusion of gay and lesbian persons in the church. In my book, Moral Values: What I Learned Growing Up in Church, I describe two worlds as well. One world is driven by fear, by exclusion, by strict boundaries of doctrine and behavior. The other world is driven by love, by inclusion, and by an openness to mystery in our world. Neither one is secular. I am convinced that both have firm roots in ancient Christian traditions and faith. - J. R.

Doctr Wiker may be right in most of what he has said about our founding fathers but I can't agree that half of the were commited Deists. A reading of Washington's writing and statements shows a strong Christian influence and my understanding of Franklin is a belief in God but very little interest in theology. - B.

I was assigned to the Selective Service System of 18 years, and during that time came to understand the definition of "religion" in great depth and detail. The Military Selective Service Act (MSSA), from its origin and as amended, specifically states that conscientious objection must be based on religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently interpreted "religious beliefs" to mean "any deeply held moral beliefs" in an early 1970's ruling: Welch v. U.S., I believe, or perhaps Seeger v. U.S. Both rulings are germane to this issue, as one was a decision that an individual did not have to believe in a supreme being for the views to be religious; e.g. Buddhism. My point is that secularism, as the U.S Supreme Court has decided, is, itself, a religion. In fact, if we take the body of Supreme Court decisions regarding the separation of church and state, the exercise clause, establishment clause, and all things together, we find that secularism is the de facto official religion of the U.S., to the exclusion of traditional religions. Perhaps a creative federal legislator will some day soon craft a bill that explicitly recognizes this fact, and remove all doubt. - L. T.

As a religious Jew who grew up in a very secular home, attended public schools, and only later in life became more religiously observant, I must tell you that I think you are seriously wrong in many of your articles encouraging more religious "expressions" in public institutions. You are viewing the issue from the perspective of the "dominant" faith, and you appear totally clueless about the way that this offends people of minority faiths (including atheism). To step back a minute, though, I do agree with you that one of the worst problems in society today is the general antagonism to religion as a whole. This message is communicated nonstop through our entertainment and communications media; the more religious a person is, the more intolerant and closed-minded he is; the more unreligious, the more open and cool and hip he is. This is a problem that goes far beyond our public institutions, and in fact it is wrong to think that we can correct the societal attitude by having our public schools and governmental bodies make professions of religiosity. The articles you publish that address this larger problem are more to the point and helpful. But we cannot use our public schools and government functions to profess our religiosity: it does very little, if any, good in propagating true belief and faith, and it does a lot of harm. Having grown up in the 1950s and 60s, before public schools were cleansed of such things, I can remember many occasions as a child where Christmas carols (not the ambiguous "seasonal" songs but true religious hymns) were sung without any regard for the beliefs of others, where prayers "in Christ's name" were said by a minister or by a teacher or principal at school gatherings, and these truly sent the message home to me that I was a "guest" in a "Christian" country, and that I ought to behave like a polite guest. I am also very amenable to teachers discussing at great length the religious sources of our history, the contributions of religious leaders, and the general ideas of the various religions in substantive courses. But starting school or a football game or a graduation ceremony with a prayer that is inevitably a specific expression of an individual's religious belief is just wrong, and it makes the "nonbelievers" feel like second class citizens. - R. P.

Dr Wiker wrote: "In all thirteen, there was some kind of establishment by law; if not on the state level, it occurred on the level of the town." How can Dr Wiker ignore Pennsylvania and Rhode Island? Pennsylvania had an Edict of Toleration, the only church it established was toleration itself. And there was no no iron wall tween church and state; all parties were welcome to bring their faith into their political life, this included such pariahs at the time as Jews and radical Anabaptists. Please do not forget this extradinary and inspiring contibution by the Society of Friends. The writers of both the Declaration and the Constitution surely didn't, and couldn't, since they met in Philadelphia, a large, prosperous, tolerant city(3rd largest in the British Empire at the time of the Declaration.) Toleration obviously worked and still worked. The point is that faith itself can not, should not and was never meant to be divorced from political life. In order to ensure this no single church was established -- meaning, all churches were welcome. The Secularists are still wrong in wanting their iron wall, but do not minimize the importance of toleration. It is the cornerstone of the keystone state, one the builders never meant to reject. - K. W.

Dr Wilker obviously needs to read about john Leland and the Virginia Baptists who championed the first amendment to the Constitution and even stated something about a persons religious beliefs including pagans should not hinder public service. - L. A.

I am a strong proponent for "separation" because of the clear record of Baptist support that lobbied hard for the First Amendment. My ancestors knew only too well the harsh persecution of those who dared to practice their "illegal" Christian faith in England and the early colonies. Yes, the Puritans had a yearning for "the city on the hill" but that vision did not include anyone but themselves. Their intolerance mimicked the intolerance and persecution of the English crown. The earliest Baptist writings reflect a strong conviction that all religions should be tolerated, except any form that produced violence or social disintegration. Thomas Jefferson was not reacting against the religious intolerance of an England across the Atlantic, but against the religious injustice of his own Virginia government. He feared more than federal religious intolerance. He feared the pattern of intolerance reflected in states like Virginia and Massachusetts that would divide this new nation. The idea that religion should be excluded from the marketplace or the political arena is bogus. BUT the idea that any single religious group should determine policy or have primary control is exactly what the founders did not have in mind. Faith must shape individuals whether they be business people or politicians. There is room in the world of politics for moral and religious convictions. What we have in our nation today is an unhealthy marriage of one particular religious viewpoint with an equally strong political agenda ... the result more often resembles intolerance and imperialism than the ideals of democracy. If we cannot or will not learn from the tragedies of the past, we are doomed to an infectious division that will destroy the dream of freedom and render party affiliations meaningless. Freedom of religion is the foundation of all our other freedoms. - M. O.

Dr. Wiker's response, a special pleading, is faulty in its logic, contemptuous of history and, strangest of all - unconstitutional ! - J. B. S.

I tremendously enjoy the thought-provoking articles on current social issues. I forward many tothesource articles to friends. Keep up the excellent work! - M. S.

Responses to other tothesource articles:

Using "love" to define itself leaves me with unanswered questions. It is only when I asked, "If God is love, what is He essentially?" that I began to piece the answer together. The answer that came to me is that He is "Giver". Love to me is seen only in giving, selflessly, unconditionally, for the benefit of another. From His act of creation through His gift of His Son, to His actively pursuing us and the restoration of His kingdom, God is "Giver/Love". He is all about relationship, and His relationship is all about giving. - J. Y.

On Love: No man has greater love than one who lays down his life for a friend. God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son. Love isn't a hedonistic feeling, it's a self-sacrificing action. - J. W.

Very interesting article (Blasphemy!), thank you very much for sending it. - F. H.

Hi, does your qouting of various opinions of love from peopleof vaious faiths mean that that they understand my God : JESUS CHRIST's definition of love as revealed to us in His word(KJV)? - T. M.

Thank you for sending such a wonderful articles. God bless and more power. - C. R.

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We live complex lives. We strive to sort out priorities that sometimes conflict or seem incompatible. A moral framework is needed to help us understand the reality around us. Our Judeo-Christian heritage provides a framework to help us comprehend the choices we make and the conflicts that arise over them. It is not only the main source of our spiritual values, but also many of the secular values we depend on.

tothesource is a forum for integrating thinking and action within a moral framework that takes into account our contemporary situation. We will report the insights of cultural experts to the specific issues we face believing these sources will embolden people to greater faith and action.
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that features informed opinion on current cultural issues.
Gerald Schroeder   Gerald Schroeder
BSc, MSc, and PhD all earned at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD in two fields: Earth and Planetary Sciences; and, Nuclear Physics. Formal theological training includes fifteen years of study under the late Rabbi Herman Pollack, Rabbi Chaim Brovender and Rabbi Noah Weinberg.

Seven years on the staff of the M.I.T. Physics Department prior to moving to Israel and joining the staff of the Weizmann Institute of Science and then the Volcani Research Institute and the Hebrew University Isotope Separation Mass Spectrometer facility. Currently teaches at the Aish HaTorah College of Jewish studies in Jerusalem.

Author of GENESIS AND THE BIG BANG THE SCIENCE OF GOD and THE HIDDEN FACE OF GOD. In the first full year of its publication, The Science Of God was on the Barnes & Noble list of non-fiction best sellers and was Amazon.com’s best selling book in the field of physics/cosmology for that entire year. Dr. Schroeder has approximately 60 publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 5 children.
Kelly Walker   Kelly Walker
Kelly Walker, M.S. has been a writer and editor for the past 18 years. Walker studied environmental science at New Mexico State University after receiving his bachelor's degree in English and theology. Walker taught for a year at Waterfield Institute in Sri Lanka, where he created the reading curricula for five levels of students, aged 17-23.

He was a bilingual elementary teacher in El Paso, Texas before stepping into the environmental sciences field where he worked as a conservation professional for seven years. Walker, father of two young boys, currently works for Sublime Design, a creative agency in Bend, Oregon that he and his wife own.

Kelly enjoys teaching, writing and “dressing and keeping the garden.” He continues to write, teach and advocate good stewardship of natural resources.
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