The various answers to the basic questions that cosmology and cosmogony ask about the origin and structure of the universe have always contained implications for philosophic and religious systems. Usually the connections between empirical investigations of the universe on the one hand and metaphysical systems on the other have been much less direct than the defenders or opponents of the systems have supposed, but intense controversies have arisen nonetheless. It is quite difficult to imagine, for example, any scientific evidence that could "prove" or "disprove" the position of a person asserting the existence of God, given at least a moderate degree of sophistication in that person's arguments. Similarly, it would be difficult to imagine a confirmation or refutation of the position of a knowledgeable materialist asserting an entirely naturalistic origin and evolution of the cosmos. Nonetheless, certain kinds of evidence have, with time, significantly affected the plausibility of versions of these differing arguments, and they have, in turn, evolved in response to the challenges thrown up to them. Here I would like to examine the responses of certain Soviet astronomers and philosophers -- those who have actively defended the position of dialectical materialism -- to astronomical evidence of recent decades. This attempt will require a very brief review of some of the most important findings of astronomers and of several resulting hypotheses.
Although modern cosmological theories are frequently discussed in popular articles as if there were only two competing models -- "big bang" and "steady state" -- there have been proposed in the last half-