Read out Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, in the heart of the US capital Washington: The Baird Auditorium attracts a lot of attention. It is clear to listeners in the baroque-style lecture theater: This is about the whole: the universe, the fundamental laws of nature, and other universes. And: "Two physicists debated about God, the good, the bad, and what if, " as the Washington Times front page said the next day. "Is our universe a planned, purposeful creation?" Was the question. "No, " said physics Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg. "Yes, " replied John Polkinghorne, also an elementary particle physicist and an Anglican pastor. When Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei pushed the earth out of the center, it was not just a scientific breakthrough. It was the overthrow of a world view and at the same time a clash between a new method of gaining knowledge on the one hand and religious traditions and doctrines on the other. Initially the church had followed and even supported astronomical research with interest - Copernicus was a canon in Polish women's castle and had his main work Pope Paul III. Kepler had studied theology and even understood his research as a service - she now went on a confrontation course.

Galileo was forced to renounce his heliocentric view of the world in 1633 and put under house arrest for the rest of his life, for the earth had to stand firmly in the room, after all, it was considered the footstool of God. And Giordano Bruno also died at the stake in 1600 because he claimed that the universe was infinitely large and contained countless planets - a blasphemy that made God homeless because his residence was supposed to be behind the fixed star sphere, the solar system in the old world view enclosed in a spherical shell.

The progress of science has continued to disenchanted the world. Although there are still gaps in the scientific world view, and this will never change, because we can not find any final explanations for epistemological reasons.

However, most of the people have refrained from the previously widespread view that God is in these gaps as the solution to the riddle. Too striking was the story of the expulsions, and a God who remains home only outside the universe - for example, "before" the Big Bang - is not a comforting thought to many. display

It had Pope Pius XII. In 1951 the Big Bang model even saw an indication of the creation of the universe - and thus also an indication of the existence of God, as he wrote in an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. As its leader he had called the Belgian physicist and priest Georges Lemaître.

He had already assumed in 1927 on the basis of Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity that our universe, with all its matter and energy as well as space and time, arose in a kind of explosion from a point or "primal atom".

In the meantime cosmologists and high-energy particle physicists have very precise conceptions of the processes a billionth of a second after the big bang and can even partially experiment with particle accelerators. But at the same time the difficulties are growing. At even higher energies, the possibility of direct verification fails - the accelerators would need to grow hundreds of light-years.

Even the theoretical equipment is missing: a unified theory of gravitation and the other natural forces. There are proposals, but they are still crude, unexamined and completely unimaginative. (The string theory, for example, requires the existence of six additional "somehow rolled-up" space dimensions, the supergravity theory even needs seven.) Nevertheless, some theorists are confident that they may soon find a "world formula" and possibly the big bang as well to explain.

"If the universe could be described exhaustively by a unified theory, it would have profound implications for God's role as the Creator, " says Stephen Hawking, who was recently crowned the most famous living scientist of the millennium in a BBC poll. He has developed a world model that describes a universe without the mysterious initial singularity of the classic Big Bang theory.

Where would there be room for a creator? Quantum cosmologists do not need a "first mover" to understand how a universe could emerge from an amorphous, timeless quantum vacuum. The nothingness would be unstable, and possibly, infinitely many universes will bubble out of him like eternal bubbles. "It is conceivable that everything originated from nothing, " says Alan Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for whom the laws of nature provide a cosmos for free. "There is good reason to say today that the universe is the most generous of all the free meals ever served."

=== Rüdiger Vaas


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