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Philosophical and Religious Interpretations of the Big Bang Theory

There are a number of interpretations of the Big Bang theory that are entirely speculative or extra-scientific. Some of these ideas purport to explain the cause of the Big Bang itself (first cause), and have been criticized by some naturalist philosophers as being modern creation myths. Some people believe that the Big Bang theory lends support to traditional views of creation, for example as given in Genesis, while others believe that all Big Bang theories are inconsistent with such views.

The Big Bang as a scientific theory is not associated with any religion. While certain fundamentalist interpretations of religions conflict with the Big Bang history of the universe, there are more liberal interpretations that do not.

The following is a list of various religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory:

  • A number of Christian apologists, the Roman Catholic Church in particular, have accepted the Big Bang as a description of the origin of the universe, interpreting it to allow for a philosophical first cause. Pope Pius XII was an enthusiastic proponent of the Big Bang even before the theory was scientifically well established.
  • Some students of Kabbalah, deism and other non-anthropomorphic faiths concord with the Big Bang theory, for example connecting it with the theory of "divine retraction" (tzimtzum) as explained by the Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides.
  • Some modern Islamic scholars believe that the Qur'an parallels the Big Bang in its account of creation, described as follows: "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit of creation, before We clove them asunder? We have made every living thing out of the water." (Ch:21,Ver:30). The Qur'an also appears to describe an expanding universe: "The heaven, We have built it with power. And verily, We are expanding it." (Ch:51,Ver:47).
  • Certain theistic branches of Hinduism, such as the Vaishnava-traditions, conceive of a theory of creation with similarities to the theory of the Big Bang. The Hindu mythos, narrated for example in the third book of the Bhagavata Purana (primarily, chapters 10 and 26), describes a primordial state which bursts forth as the Great Vishnu glances over it, transforming into the active state of the sum-total of matter ("prakriti").
  • Buddhism has a concept of a universe that has no creation event. The Big Bang, however, is not seen to be in conflict with this since there are ways to get an eternal universe within the paradigm. A number of popular Zen philosophers were intrigued, in particular, by the concept of the oscillating universe.
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