Understanding Modern Cosmology

Understanding Modern Cosmology


As one of the most fascinating branches of astronomy, cosmology got its origins in the observation and investigation of the universe. Defined as the study of the large-scale attributes of the cosmos, NASA and other global space exploring entities typically head this enthralling discipline which includes the study of things such as dark matter, string theory, the multi-universe concept, and various mind-bending scientific philosophies. Generally speaking, cosmology concentrates mainly on the life span of the known universe, as opposed to astronomy which typically deals with cosmic objects and the phenomena therein.

The History of the Discipline of Cosmology

Mankind’s interest in space goes back much farther than written history does, but it wasn’t until the late 1400’s that humanity had the knowledge to begin properly examining it. Notable mathematician, Nicolaus Copernicus, was among the first to propose a heliocentric model instead of a geocentric one. This shift in understanding drastically changed the face of science, leading to even more discoveries including Isaac Newton’s gravitational theory later in the 17th century.

At the turn of the century, a vast influx of scientists began exploring the possibilities of the origins of the universe, setting the stage for the discoveries which now define how we comprehend the world in which we live. The popular physicist, Albert Einstein, later theorized the unification of space and time with this famous equation: E=MC2 (or the General Theory of Relativity). Since then, the modern scientific boom has set a precedence for long-distance space travel as well as provided a keen understanding of the universe itself.

Cosmology Today

It was Edwin Hubble who first calculated the distance to the Milky Way, thereby illustrating how our planet was but a small speck in an enormous span of space. Using Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which is still without perfection, Hubble and his colleagues built the framework for modern-day cosmology. By measuring other visible galaxies, he determined the expansion of the universe, thus supporting the theory of the Big Bang.

The Hubble Space Telescope mission was largely cosmological and is today known as the best source for universe imagery. This revolutionary piece of high-tech equipment was able to refine various measurements on its journey, thereby refining modern-day understanding of the cosmos. However, new tools are still being developed to help scientists better understand the nature of dark matter, dark energy, and the like.

Most recently, cosmologists such as Stephen Hawking have used the same scientific principles to discover that the universe is of definite size, not of infinite capacity as was once believed. Like the Earth, however, the universe is without definite boundaries, further leading cosmologists to believe that the universe is a sphere which reflects the shape of the planets in it.  Through continued research, Hawking also proposed that the universe would not exist forever, but would eventually come to an indeterminate end.

The Future of Cosmology

In 2013, based solely on information discovered by the Planck crew, the known universe is theorized to be as much as 13-14 billion years old. While numerous doubts about the accuracy of existing measurements has existed for decades, previously developed instruments and the improvements therein have helped to substantiate several theories which paint an ever-clearer picture of the known universe. For example, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) that was operational between 2001 and 2010 tracked the cosmic fluctuations of microwave waves in space. This new discovery helped cosmologists determine that dark matter accounts for nearly a quarter of the universe as we know it. Meanwhile, the European Space Administration is working to develop the Euclid mission – a study which will help to further refine our understanding while tracing the distribution of dark matter and its affects on evolution throughout the cosmos.


#Einstein100 – General Relativity from Eoin Duffy on Vimeo.

Intelligent Design, Creation, and Evolution in Public Education

large empty courtroom

Religion and scientific theory don’t necessarily have to exclude each other, nevertheless it’s in public schools where you’ll find the battlefield between opposing groups that tend to see this as an either/or scenario. Many faiths hold strong convictions on particular scientific doctrine and have worked to alter or altogether do away with any curriculum that may contain those ideas. Opponents in education and science have fought against the attempts of religious groups to shut down any teaching that runs contrary to their faith-based understanding of the world, usually citing this country’s historic separation of church and state.

Evolutionary theory finds itself at the forefront of this debate.  Or specifically, a dogmatic and lockstep version of Darwinian evolution generally adhered to by schools and scientific bodies, which generally asserts that life developed through millennia of natural mutations and even genetic mistakes that resulted in species adaptation and development over eons. Church organizations opposing evolution or at least the fact that evolution teaching is treated as some dogma beyond discussion, usually promote intelligent design or creation science, the concept that life began and then morphed with the assistance of a conscious creator.

Evolution Under Fire

The Supreme Court case of Epperson v. Arkansas from 1968 stemmed from a law that forbade public schools from teaching of evolution in the classroom. The public school teacher Epperson filed suit, claiming that the law prohibiting evolution scientific theory was a violation of his 1st Amendment right of free speech. Epperson found agreement from the courts and further it was determined that the section of the law allowing the teaching of creation violated the 14th Amendment’s protections for Due Process and even the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment, which bar the state from promoting or advancing any religion.

Creationism Requiring Equal Time in the Classroom?

In 1982 parents and teachers sued in the case of McLean v. Arkansas because of the ruling that made it so public schools would have to provide equal teaching time to evolution-based and creation-based scientific theories. The law was then overturned as unconstitutional – a violation of Due Process, Free Speech, and Equal Protection guarantees covered by the 1st and 14th Amendments.  Epperson was frequently cited by the court in explaining its ruling.

Other court cases filed in Louisiana and other states also mirrored the McLean decision.  In 1987 the Supreme Court ruled against laws requiring biology instructors to teach creation in addition to evolution, still citing the nature of such a policy as “unconstitutional” and sometimes condemned as a veiled attempt to bring religious teaching into the classroom.

Intelligent Design

The concept of intelligent design has been picking up momentum in the education science and even finds some favor among scientists – including theoretical physicists, generally a very non-religious group.  It could be argued that what intelligent design does right is that it is not beholden to an Abrahamic monopoly on the understanding of what a “creator” is or could be.  A conscious entity assisting in the creative process of the universe and life on Earth is not necessarily constrained to biblical prescriptions and understandings.

Proponents of ID as it’s known argue that Darwinian Evolution is only a theory itself and no more provable than their conjecture that life began via the intercession of an intelligent designer. The instances of “irreducible complexity” they argue, are not explainable without the inclusion of a greater consciousness. Although, those opposed to ID claim that it does not follow the scientific method and so therefore is not really science – it’s not based upon the new discovery of causes of natural occurrence through testing and observation. Evolutionists also tend to get rankled when their doctrine is referred to as only a “theory”, claiming that it’s merely technicalities that keep it from being presented as a scientific law.

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District was the first time Federal courts got involved in the intelligent design debate back in 2005. Dover, Pennsylvania was the center of the action where the school board voted to make it a requirement that teachers had to read a statement on intelligent design before starting lessons on evolution in high school biology classes. In this case the judge ruled against the school district.

Creationist Wins and Losses

In many of the court cases that rule against intelligent design and creationism being taught in schools we can see that it’s often the approach of the pro-ID forces that ultimately shuts down their progress.  What we argue for is not the promotion of theories that don’t fit the scientific protocol – not at all!  That’s a loser every time!  Instead we at OriginsEducation.org are saying that neo-Darwinian evolution can not be elevated to some status of dogma that can never be challenged.

We should note that not all actions designed to make greater influence on how schools teach evolution have been unsuccessful. Pennsylvania, Alabama, Texas, Minnesota, Missouri, and South Carolina now require that students critically analyse the major tenants of evolutionary theory within their science curriculum. Furthermore, states like Mississippi and Louisiana have laws allowing students and teachers to discuss scientific evidence that is critical of, or even refutes, the standard theory of evolution.  New Mexico has been pushing for a resolution on this as well since 2010.

darwins diagram of apes to men