On the Eternity of the World: (De Aeternitate Mundi)

On the Eternity of the World: (De Aeternitate Mundi)

On the Eternity of the World: (De Aeternitate Mundi)

On the Eternity of the World: (De Aeternitate Mundi)

Excerpt

Thinking men have always been interested in the question of the age of the world. When did the vast history of the universe begin? If we look forward toward the future, we are not aware of any reason that compels us to assert that the material component of the world must have an end. If we roam back in thought toward the past, can we not conceive a universe that never began? Or is a beginning imperative? Scientists, philosophers, and theologians have brought the resources and procedures of their respective disciplines to bear on such questions. The answers they offer not only fluctuate between opinion and confidence of certitude, but vary from affirmative to negative.

I. Duration of the Universe According to Science and Theology

By examining the structure, movements, and laws of the cosmos, the sciences of astronomy, cosmology, and astrophysics have been able to push back into the past until they arrived at a form of the universe which is the origin of the form it exhibits today. They have also been able to calculate the duration of its history. A striking array of proofs, based on studies of radioactive elements, the earth and our solar system, meteorites, double stars and star-clusters, the Milky Way galaxy, and the billions of other galaxies within range of optical and radio telescopes, points to an age of some five or six billion years for the universe. The very convergence of dates arrived at by diverse methods applied to diverse sources of evidence intimates that an order of magnitude of this sort is free from serious error. All the procedures employed to measure the age of the universe flow together toward an initial hour of time. The researches undertaken by astrophysics and cosmologists lead them back to a moment when there were no elements, no plants, no sun, no stars, no galaxies. That moment, the farthest frontier reached by science in its retrogressive tracing of the world's evolution, defines the start of the cosmos.

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