Center of Science, Policy and Society Programs: AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
News & Events: Public LectureBefore the Beginning...The Return of the Cyclic Universe
16 January 2003
Today Big Bang/Inflationary cosmology is the prevailing theory of the evolution of the Universe. In this view, the Universe (including space and time) sprang into being 15 billion years ago in a 'big bang.' Immediately following in an instant, the Universe underwent a superluminal expansion ('inflation'). The result was a Universe which was homogeneous and flat with fluctuations that seeded the formation of galaxies and large-scale structure. However, recently, a new paradigm has been proposed by Paul Steinhardt (Princeton) and Neil Turok (Cambridge); namely, a cyclic universe theory. In this view space and time exist forever. The big bang is a bridge to a pre-existing contracting era. The Universe undergoes an endless sequence of cycles in which it contracts in a big crunch and re-emerges in an expanding big bang, with trillions of years of evolution in between. It is anticipated that it will be possible to test these two models empirically. In a broader science and religion context, some religious scholars have seen the standard cosmological model as consonant with the religious cosmological views of the Abrahamic traditions, while some classical western philosophies and some eastern religious traditions have cyclic cosmological views more consonant with the emerging alternative paradigm.
- Paul Steinhardt, Ph.D. , Albert Einstein Professor of Science and Professor of Physics , Princeton University
- Francisa Cho, Ph.D. , Associate Professor of Theology , Georgetown University