Does science lead people away from God? In at least one scientific discipline – cosmology – the answer is, no.
In the early 20th century, Albert Einstein developed his theory of general relativity in such a way that it required a static universe; that is, the universe was neither expanding nor contracting. However, a Roman Catholic priest named Georges Lemaître, found that Einstein’s theory could be formulated so that the universe was expanding, and that it began as a “primeval atom.” Shortly thereafter, the American astronomer, Edwin Hubble, used his state-of-the-art telescope to discover that distant galaxies were receding from the earth. This provided empirical evidence for both the universe’s expansion and, by implication, its beginning.
In the mid-20th century, the atheist cosmologist, Sir Fred Hoyle, opposed this new view with his “steady state” theory. Hoyle, who was at least partially motivated by his atheism, derisively named the opposing view the “Big Bang” theory. But what started as a pejorative (i.e. negative) label eventually became accepted as standard terminology. And over the next few decades, evidence for the Big Bang theory continued to develop so that it is now the consensus view within the scientific community.
Robert Jastrow, who worked for many years as a NASA scientist, described this development as follows,
“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”