God and the Astronomer

Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the universe began abruptly in an act of creation.   ~ Robert Jastrow

There are a lot of things to like about filmmaking, including the people you meet and the places you sometimes get to go. This month’s John 10:10 Project featured film grew out of two memorable experiences Jerry Harned and I had in 2003.

First, we traveled to the Mt. Wilson Observatory overlooking Los Angeles. Mt. Wilson was the site of two of the most important discoveries in the history of science. In 1923, astronomer Edwin Hubble used what was then the most powerful telescope in the world to confirm that the boundaries of the cosmos extended far beyond our Milky Way galaxy.

Then, in1929, he presented compelling evidence that the universe was expanding. This discovery ultimately led to the realization that the cosmos had a beginning in the finite past. And, as logic dictates, anything that began to exist must have had a creator.

A couple of weeks after our trip to Mt. Wilson, we interviewed astronomer Robert Jastrow near the campus of UCLA. Jastrow was the founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a professor at Columbia University, and the director emeritus of the Mt. Wilson Observatory. He was also a best-selling author and one of the world’s great popularizers of 20th century science.

I started the interview with questions about Edwin Hubble’s work and its impact on astronomy. Dr. Jastrow’s insights were intriguing. Then, near the end of our time together, I decided to ask him about his best selling book God and the Astronomers. Why had he written it?

Jastrow began by telling me he was “an agnostic.” As a scientist he had been trained as a materialist. His worldview was based on the premise that matter and energy were all that existed. As a result, there was no need for a Creator.

Then the floodgates opened. Jastrow acknowledged that scientific evidence (including Hubble’s discoveries) pointed quite clearly to the existence of a supernatural Creator. Yet, the materialistic philosophy he had long embraced rebelled at such a conclusion. He ended with an admission I’ll never forget: I’m in a completely hopeless bind.

I remember being struck by his honesty. Dr. Jastrow was clearly torn between what he wanted to believe (there is no Creator) and what the scientific evidence had actually revealed. It was one of the most memorable interviews of my career and the basis for a fascinating short film that we’re pleased to premier this month.

I hope you enjoy it.