The life and times of now

By Anthony Molyneaux

On the 17th of March 2014, scientists and radio astronomers made a spectacular breakthrough. The big bang made a giant leap toward unquestionable evidence of its existence, lending itself toward our existence. Radio astronomers detected ripples in the fabric of space-time. These ripples are called gravitational waves and show proof of a catastrophic event happening 13.8 billion years ago which created our universe.

Debates over the Earth’s age and how it was formed have undergone many changes over the past 200 years due to scientific discoveries and works by scientists. Questions of how long human beings have been on Earth and how we came about have also been discussed.

On the 24th November 1859, Charles Darwin’s book called “On the Origin of Species” was published. This publication spoke of natural selection and was the one of the biggest players in evolutionary biology.

People’s ideas of time and the universe have grossly changed since the mid-19th century due to findings and scientific studies such as these. With science came change as the proof of something measurable was paramount against the theories and teachings of some churches and leaders. Our perceptions of time and the importance of the Earth in the make-up of the universe have altered immensely.

We now know that the universe is 13.8 billion years old. Our solar system is probably 4-5 billion years old and that Earth is definitely not at the centre of the universe. So how did the concept of time change? And what has it done for our societies?

A simple example given to us as the life span of Earth and humans relative to the big bang exists in University of Rochester’s detailed Department of Physics and Astronomy website.

“If we compress the time since the Big Bang into one year, and make the time of the Big Bang January 1, then the Earth was formed in mid-September. The mammals would arrive just after Christmas (25 December) and all of human prehistory (from the first known stone tools) and current history have occurred in the last 1/2 hour of New Year’s Eve.”

Creationists have fought hard against the big bang theory and evolution – They have taught that the Earth is 6000 years old, that Earth is at the centre of the universe and man was created by the power of God. Throughout time there have been many ideas and beliefs over the creation of the cosmos. Creation stories all have similar backgrounds. The Hebrews, for example, believed the universe was created by God in 6 days, beginning from a formless void.

In the twenty-first century things have changed. The research from ‘Opinions on evolution from ten countries July 2nd, 2009, National Center for Science Education’ and the BBC’s Survey, “On The Origins Of Life” recorded figures in areas such as Canada, India, Norway and the U.K. 48% and above of the population believe in evolution and the big bang theory.

According to a 2007 Gallup poll, about 43% of Americans believe that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Time, being a human construct, is a difficult thing to define, yet it provides us with a framework to live by. In 2014 we know now that we as a species have been in existence for a frightfully short period of time in the bigger scale of things.

Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, also made his feelings known about creationists. He stated that he believed the creationist view “threaten science education and innovations in The United States.” Schools have undergone changes due to the discoveries of science. People for the American Way polled 1500 North Americans about the teaching of evolution and creation in 1999. The results showed that 29% believed that creationism can be discussed in class as a belief, not a scientific theory. Twenty percent believed only evolution should be taught in public schools.

Humans were seen as the superior being across the galaxies, a chosen people, just a few hundred years ago. Times are changing; excuse the pun, yet our importance shouldn’t be underestimated due to further knowledge, says the famous astrophysicist Dr Neil Degrasse Tyson. He speaks of our worthiness in our universe,

“When I look up at the night sky, I know that we are a part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps most important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us. Many people look up and feel small as the universe is so big. Yet, I feel big because my atoms came from those stars. There is a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want from life, you want to feel connected. You want to feel relevant. That’s precisely what you are, just by being alive.”