It would take a larger space than I have (or could fill for that matter) to chronicle the many views of the universe’s origins that have existed through history. Suffice it to say that, because there was no scientific way to analyze or verify any of them, they stood as philosophical speculations. Plato thought that experimental science was unworthy of the attention of great intellects (like himself). Aristotle, Plato’s student, thought it self-evidentially obvious that the Earth could not move because it had already found its way to the center of the universe.
Newton, who tried to apply scientific evidence to the issue, determined that gravity, because it entails the attraction of all particles toward one another, would have caused the edges of the universe to collapse toward the center. Because this obviously was not going on the universe could not be finite. He therefore deduced that the universe must be infinitely large and matter evenly distributed within it. In the mid 18th century Kant’s cosmology added that, for various reasons, the universe had to have no beginning in time and be infinite in extent.
For a couple of centuries there were no scientific cosmological developments that could unseat these dogmatic views. So, as Hugh Ross points out in The Fingerprint of God, Newton’s static, eternal, infinite universe was “cast in concrete” and readily accepted by all thinking people, most notably those who saw this fact as removing any need for a cosmological First Cause — or what some of us might call, “God.”
That’s when Einstein came along and upset the apple cart. Struggling to put forth a theory to explain gravity, Einstein published his Theory of General Relativity in 1915. Part of his struggle was with the rascally, inconvenient implication his equations kept bringing up. No matter how many times he recalculated things, he continued to be bothered by the fact that, if he was correct, the universe had to be expanding. Scientific dogma disallowed such an implication so, in an effort to maintain professional respectability, Einstein inserted a cosmological constant into his equations to cancel out the expansion.
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