Op-ed column: Hubble telescope’s findings make Darwin look like a piker

On the back of my pickup, I’ve got a bumper sticker that I like. It says: “If Darwin gives you troub

On the back of my pickup, I’ve got a bumper sticker that I like. It says: “If Darwin gives you trouble, what about Edwin Hubble?”

No one seems to get it. Sometimes, I even have trouble understanding it myself. So I thought that, this being one of my more lucid moments, I would explain it to Schenectady and its surroundings.

A lot of people think that Edwin Hubble invented the telescope. He didn’t. It was actually invented by a guy named Tom, who had a more than passing interest in the “neighbor ladies.” Well, Tom got into quite a bit of trouble with his telescope, so he gave it to his friend, Galileo, who also got into a bit of trouble when he used it to prove that Earth went around the sun rather than vice versa. At least he claimed that he proved it, but he was prevailed upon to change his mind.

What Hubble saw

Well, some time passed (say 300 years) and eventually Ed Hubble got a hold of that telescope. And where did he point the thing? Not at the neighbor ladies, but at the tiny, blurry specs of light that dotted the edge of the Milky Way galaxy, which was then thought to encompass all of reality. And, holy mackerel, what did Ed come up with using that infernal telescope? All those blurry specks, they were other galaxies and they were all moving away from us and from each other. It was like one gigantic Fourth of July starburst.

Suffice it to say that Edwin Hubble discovered the real size of the reality in which we live. How big is it? It’s bigger than a bread box. Its radius is about 46 billion light years and in it there are between a sextillion and 300 sextillion stars, all formed out of primordial material and each star a furnace constantly changing lighter into heavier elements. (One sextillion written out would be a 1 followed by 21 zeros.)

Well, since everything is moving apart from the center, everything must have been at the center at some point in time. That must have been some explosion, some “Big Bang!” At least that is what someone derogatorily called the theory, and the name stuck. But it could just as accurately have been called “The Theory of the Evolution of the Universe.”

No sticker shock

So, let’s get back to Chuck Darwin and my bumper sticker. What some people don’t seem to like about Chuck’s “Theory of Evolution” is that it says that life on Earth today is the result of a 3.5 billion-year process, which was not about creating human beings. If this upsets people, why don’t they get upset with a theory that says that the current universe is the product of a

14 billion-year process, which was not about creating Earth?

I like the bumper sticker because maybe it will get people to thinking that, if they have a problem with biology, they may have a problem with all of science. Mostly I like it because it rhymes.

Bill MacTiernan lives in Schenectady.

Categories: Opinion

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