One of my early memories, probably when I was about seven, was of lying on a cot with my siblings in the open air, looking up at the starry sky with the wild imaginings of a child. We would try to spot the constellations and memorize their names. My father, who was a college professor, would give us big reference books on the stars and we enjoyed locating the constellations and showing them to our friends. We were all fascinated by the richness and splendour of the skies. I used to often gaze into the night sky, being amazed at the vastness of the universe, which holds more than a 100 billion galaxies, each of which contains a 100 billion suns/ stars. Grappling with the idea of billions of galaxies brought chills to my spine as the very thought inspired awe in me. When I understood that it takes 100000 light years to travel from one end of our Milky Way galaxy to the other end, it was very difficult to fathom it.
Though astronomy is so fascinating, gazing at the night sky also raised profound questions in my mind- Why is the night sky dark? What powers the stars in the galaxy? Is the universe static and eternal or is it dynamically changing and finite? How did it start and who created it? How did the laws and constants of Physics come into existence and who controls it? If the universe had a beginning, then, who created it? If it was God, why did He create this vast universe? How and why was I created? These questions eventually solidified into an interest in flight and space exploration. So, I took up Aerospace Engineering for my master’s and doctorate, even though my bachelor’s degree was in the field of Electronics and Communication.
The study of space technology and the vastness of space also made me to feel obscure and insignificant and wonder whether someone invented this thing called religion. I was unable to understand how a God who created this vast universe could be so concerned about my life, hear my cries or care for and love a tiny speck like me. This question was of paramount importance to me at that time. I was deeply depressed because of the many unanswered prayers in my personal life and had presumed that the Creator was a distant one, unconcerned with my life. I started to investigate all the major Holy books to find the truth about a creator, if one existed, and so, I expanded my search from science to religion. I decided that any God who created the universe and everything that existed beyond must satisfy scientific enquiry as well as spiritual seeking.
I picked up the Bible that was lying untouched after my mom gave it to me, many years ago. Deeply intrigued by the creation account of the Bible, which to me seemed very consistent with science, I wanted to understand the creation accounts of other faiths as well. Just then, I received a Quran from a Muslim, who came to meet me personally, with his fiancée, to convert me. While doing a few readings of the Quran, I found that there were many contradictions, especially with the creation accounts. I was confused and wondered at the multiple options given for the origin of man by the Quran, namely creation by blood clot, water, clay and dust. It made me consider the possibility of human authorship behind the Quran. Hindu cosmology, Buddhist cosmology and Bahai teachings supported the oscillating universe topology, the idea that the universe and everything within it followed a cyclic pattern (birth-death-rebirth). Space and time are considered to be an illusion and this universe revolves indefinitely through successive cycles of creation and destruction.
I moved onto science to try and understand the happy median between science and religion, anything that would point to a rational explanation of a supernatural God. Never in all the history of science has there been a period like the 20th century, when the progress made in understanding the cosmos has especially been nothing short of stunning. All these revolutionary discoveries started with the General Theory of Relativity published by Albert Einstein, a Jew who changed the realms of theoretical Physics for years to come. This theory not only earned Einstein the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922, but later facilitated two major discoveries: the atomic bomb and the big bang theory. His equation E=mc², commonly known as the “death equation,” because of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, can also be termed as the life equation, as it has become the underlying principle of the “Big Bang,” and the origin of the universe.
Until the dawn of the 20th century, the entire scientific community was holding on to Aristotle’s view of the “eternal universe” called the Steady State model, which explained that the universe had no beginning and no end. For Einstein, who had a strong belief in the steady state theory, it was rather a shock initially when his equation predicted that the universe, in fact, had a beginning. So, he introduced a “fudge factor”, a cosmological constant to his equations and theoretically retrofitted to keep the universe in steady eternal equilibrium. However, very soon, he had to recant his cosmological constant, famously calling it the greatest blunder of his career, due to the dramatic discovery of the American astronomer Edwin Hubble. With the benefit of improved telescopes, Hubble found that the light coming from far away galaxies was shifted a little towards the red end of the spectrum known as “redshift”, indicating that the galaxies were moving away from us with a speed which is in direct proportion to their distance. If the galaxies were flying apart, then clearly, at some earlier time, the universe was smaller than at present and so, it must have had some beginning which had sparked the idea of the Big Bang theory.
A powerful blow against the steady state theory was struck in 1965, when Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson noticed an excess of noise in a radio antenna at the seven centimetres wavelength. They found it coming from all directions in the sky and interpreted this finding as the long sought relic microwave radiation from the Big Bang. The Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy probe, the space craft launched by NASA has measured the microwave radiation with unprecedented precision. This discovery eventually sounded the death knell for the steady state theory and this became crucial evidence in favour of the Big Bang model.
In 1970’s some cosmologists suggested an oscillating universe model, to avoid the absolute beginning predicted by the big bang model. This model suggests that the universe follows an expansion-contraction-expansion pattern. If this process is repeated indefinitely, then the idea of an absolute beginning and an all-powerful deity is dispensable. However, this model was proved false by the Singularity Theorem formulated by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. The scientific community has come to a common conclusion now that the universe and time itself had a beginning at the big bang, which resonates powerfully with the Christian narrative of creation.The Bible has been quietly asserting and clearly pointing to this in its opening verse – In the beginning, God…..
I finally realised that the dark skies, the constellations and the billions of stars and their galaxies have all found their origins with the God of the Bible. I was astonished at the fact that God has made such an orderly and beautiful universe in which nearly all physical phenomena can be understood from a few simple mathematical equations. Even a small variation in the fundamental physical forces, would never have given birth to stars and planets and would be conducive for life to thrive. Only an intelligent, all powerful God could have created the universe with such beautiful, simple, and life-giving properties. Dr Allan Sandage, widely regarded as the father of modern astronomy, discoverer of quasars and winner of the Crawford Prize says, “God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence – why there is something rather than nothing.
As beautiful and as conclusive as science can be in indicating the existence of a Creator, my heart questioned the person of God in Jesus Christ. If the God of the Bible, who created the universe and everything beyond, was who He said He was, then I needed to know Him for myself. I just didn’t know how.
It was exactly at that time, when all areas of my life had collapsed. I wept and agonised by calling out to God, but He seemed to not hear or respond. The torment and depression slowly ate away at me. My prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling and fall back down lifelessly. Suicide seemed the only option. But when I was dying of pneumonia and was hooked onto a ventilator, Jesus came looking for me. I saw a vision where I was falling from a great height and something stopped my fall and I saw the Cross of Jesus Christ. My life with its myriad record of my sins flashed before my eyes like a movie. The Blood of Jesus was poured over those sins and I saw them wash away before my very eyes. I heard a voice say, “I am giving you new life.” I heard this voice thrice and over a period of 5 days, God engulfed me with His presence and His love. My recovery was swift and I returned home a renewed person. Just as God healed me of my pneumonia, He healed the brokenness of my heart.
I met the God who created the vast expansive skies. Actually, He came to find me. This journey of discovery has not ended. The more I know and follow Jesus, the more I am awakened to the glories of science, the very handiwork of God. It was a journey that began with the dark night sky which led to Jesus Christ, my life’s greatest discovery. Now I can say with confidence that the Biblical God is not the god of gaps, like the Greek gods, who are being replaced with every new scientific discovery. Every new scientific discovery points to the Biblical God. The more I study science, the more it points to the God of the Bible and I grow in awe and amazement at the beauty of God’s Creation. Faith and science are not at odds. They are interdependent. Science like nature is a means of revelation of the greatness of God.