by Jonathan Bartlett

Chesterton once said, “The only spiritual or philosophical objection to steam-engines is not that men pay for them or work at them, or make them very ugly, or even that men are killed by them; but merely that men do not play at them.”  I think the same can often be said of science, too.

Cosmology is the study of the origins and development of the universe. A typical cosmology you might have heard of is the “Big Bang” cosmology, where the entire universe came from a single point over the course of billions of years.

Many scientists use modern cosmology as a bludgeon against Christians and many Christians object to cosmological models on the basis that they are different from the biblical account. Still others cling strongly to the modern Big Bang theory because, despite having its differences with Genesis, it carries a strong theistic undertone.

Personally, I have a very different perspective on cosmology. The other day I was having a conversation with a friend regarding cosmology, and he pointed out that, for cosmologists from both the young-earth point of view and the old-earth point of view, cosmology is really like a child with a toy. When we learned about radioactive elements, cosmology focused on the universe acting like a giant radioactive element breaking down. When we learned about relativity, cosmology focused on using Einstein’s equations universe-wide. When we learned about red-shifts, cosmology focused on the expanding universe. Now, with quantum theory, physicists are working on quantum cosmologies. Each time, cosmology is like a kid with a new toy that he or she wants to play with, whether it is an old-earth or a young-earth cosmologist.

As I think about this, I think my friend was entirely correct. However, while he meant this as a criticism of cosmology, I think it is actually a positive feature. Think again about children receiving new toys. What happens when you give a kid a new toy? They play with it, and that is where the real learning happens. If you give a kid Legos, they may build a spaceship, a tower, a car, or a dragon. This is what gets their imagination pumping and helps them in their thinking. We don’t criticize kids because the dragon won’t really fly or because the tower doesn’t meet building-code specifications. Instead, we encourage them to build more, to add a parking garage to their tower or a knight to their dragon.

And so it is with science. Personally, I get frustrated at the amount of animosity people give to scientific ideas they disagree with. Even as a biblical creationist, I applaud the work of people who ask questions like, “What would it mean for life if we all descended from a common ancestor?” or “What would it look like if the earth were billions of years old?”. When kids grow up it is not that they get rid of their toys, it’s just that their toys get bigger. We move from Legos to building actual cars. We move from building a Lego house to maintaining our own.  And, if we have taken time to build a thousand houses with Legos, we might have a better idea of the kind of houses that work well and the kind of houses that don’t.

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