Father Coyne, Pope Benedict and me

“There is no before the big bang. Space and time are parameters of the universe. So time began with the big bang, and it makes no sense to talk about before because there was no time.”

This is how Father George Coyne, an astronomer and former director of the Vatican Observatory, answered a question about what existed before the big bang, at a lecture in the NASA Ames Research Center in California last week.

The universe is 13.7 billion years old. If you reduced this to a year, he said, humans have only been alive, and trying to puzzle out the universe, for one second.

I find all this oddly comforting. Our minds, existing only in space and time, can’t possibly conceive anything beyond our limiting parameters.

There could be a “god” after all, is what it says to me.

Pope Benedict apparently doesn’t see Father Coyne as a potential agent of my conversion. He fired him a year ago because of his public support for evolution.

Update: I have hardly any readers, but in my spam folder one day I discovered somebody swearing about my reference to St. Paul starting out as a terrorist; so for this touchy person, or maybe other spam artists who may come upon this meek little blog, I will say that I have learned Father Coyne’s firing is controversial, among the faithful at least, and that he himself has denied it; although his successor, interestingly, has said he does not intend to make any statements about biology or evolution.

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