LAFSF Last Talk Of Summer Series Is ‘The Heavens Declare’: The Universe And Judeo Christian Truth Claims With Nels Hoffman, PhD

The last talk in the summer series for the Los Alamos Faith & Science Forum is Wednesday, Aug. 3. Courtesy LAFSF


The writer of the biblical book of Genesis asserted that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” while the Psalmist similarly stated that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” This idea, that the universe had a beginning at a definite point in time, and was the work of an extra-cosmic creator, is a truth-claim firmly fixed in Judeo-Christian thought. But Aristotle, in several places in his Physics, argued that the universe was eternal, and could not have had a beginning. By the early 20th century, Aristotelian and Epicurean ideas of the Eternity of the World, extended by Newton and Descartes, were accepted by most educated people. 

It is one of the reasons that, for example, Einstein felt obliged to introduce a “cosmological constant” into his field equations, to explain why our supposedly infinitely old universe had not collapsed into a gravitational singularity. But an infinitely old universe presented various other problems, such as Olbers’ Paradox (Why is the sky dark at night?) and Kelvin’s Paradox (Why isn’t the entropy of the universe infinite?) Then, in 1912, Slipher observed that many astronomical “nebulae” (actually galaxies) were moving away from the Earth at great speeds. By 1929, Hubble, using Leavitt’s period-luminosity relationship for variable stars, showed that the more distant a galaxy was from earth, the faster it was receding from us. 

Hubble’s discovery confirmed earlier proposals by Friedmann and Lemaître, inspired by Einstein’s 1915 general relativistic theory of gravity, that the universe is expanding. More recent observations and theory have confirmed the idea of cosmic expansion beginning at a well-defined point in the past – the “Big Bang” – with great reliability. Today, most educated people agree that the universe had a Beginning, in harmony with the biblical viewpoint – or, at least, that our particular universe certainly looks that way. 

But the idea of a Beginning has been extremely distasteful to some atheists, notably Hoyle, who pointed out in 1955 that the initial conditions of an instantaneous Beginning, which are crucial for determining the properties of the universe today, cannot be determined by any scientific theory, as they cannot be the physical effect of some earlier physical cause. Thus, Hoyle anticipated a critique of current Multiverse ideas, namely, that the Multiverse implies that there is not, nor can there be, an explanation for why our universe is the way it is, and that we ought not to seek such an explanation. In this talk we’ll look at ideas about the hypothetical Multiverse. We’ll also review the evidence supporting the Big Bang and describe the peculiar properties of our universe which permit the existence of physics, chemistry, life, and us – and why God might want the universe to be the way it is.

Bio – Nelson M. Hoffman is a physicist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in the Plasma Theory and Applications Group of the Computational Physics (XCP) Division. He earned a B.A. in Physics from Rice University in 1970, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Wisconsin in 1974. His research interests are mainly in the areas of laser-driven fusion and plasma physics, currently emphasizing ion-kinetic models for transport in laser-driven capsule implosions, gamma-ray diagnostics of such capsules, and statistical inference (“machine learning”) applied to data analysis. He has authored or co-authored more than 85 technical publications, which have garnered more than 2300 citations. Nels is a member of First United Methodist Church of Los Alamos and is active in the Kairos Prison Ministry. He is a founding member and past president of the Los Alamos Faith & Science Forum (LAF&SF). Influenced by the writings on the history of science and culture by Toby Huff, Lawrence Principe, James Hannam, David Lindberg, Joseph Henrich, and many others, Nels believes it is highly likely that, without the crucial influence of Christianity in human cultural history, modern science would not even exist.

Join us in person this Wednesday, August 3, in Kelly Hall at 3900 Trinity Dr. or via Zoom at

Lecture at 6:30pm,  Free dinner at 6:00pm!

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