Illustrations by Jonathan Dyck

How Did the Universe Begin?

Professor Barth Netterfield’s lifelong journey into faith, physics and astronomy

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  1. 20 Responses to “ How Did the Universe Begin? ”

  2. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    This comic by Prof. Barth Netterfield is eloquently phrased, and the illustrations by Jonathan Dyck are ingenuous and will delight all, including small children.

    Growing up in scientific household with a very devout father (Donald S. Ainslie, a 1927 grad who became a physics professor at U of T), I often asked him how science affected his religious beliefs. He always replied that the more he learned about science, the more he believed that the universe was the design of a higher power or “God.”

    Your article reinforces the very ideas that my father talked about many years ago, and I was delighted to be reminded of them.

    Margaret (Ainslie) Tuer
    BA 1955 Trinity

  3. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Like Prof. Netterfield, I’m a lifelong believer in the Creator. And like him, I’ve never felt that my faith has come into conflict with my intelligence, my understanding of science, or my ability to think critically. Bravo for including a view about the creation of the universe that at best is often misunderstood in western countries and at worst condemned.

    Kathryn (Pequegnat) Kuehl
    Dip DH 1973
    Elmvale, Ontario

  4. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Just because you can pose a question doesn’t make it a good one. And not all questions deserve an answer. You could ask: “Where is the edge of the Earth?” or “What’s the colour of fear?” Science can’t answer these questions, but this doesn’t mean that something else must.

    Mohammad Shaban
    Biology student, U of T Mississauga
    Mississauga, Ontario

  5. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Thank you for this excellent article. There are many Christian scientists who find no conflict between their faith and science.

    Mary Gunson
    MEd 1997
    Tara, Ontario

  6. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    The comic by Prof. Netterfield is hilarious. It is very accessible and friendly and clearly shows that science and faith are not in conflict. But, more importantly, it also demonstrates that it is actually a very intelligent activity to appreciate the existence of God.

    Barnabas Emenogu

  7. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I like that this comic counters the misconception that science and religion don't mix. It shows how science, and all the discoveries that have been made, don't diminish God's power but instead magnify it.

    Daberechi Emenogu
    Grade 12, Lorne Park Secondary School
    Mississauga, Ontario

  8. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    It was a treat for eye, as well as mind, to read Barth Netterfield's graphic article on faith and the beginning of the universe. Kudos to the editor, author and illustrator for this imaginative essay.

    Perhaps a sequel is in order. Beginning is one thing, but continuing is another. The question of how the Creator continues to relate to the universe is much debated today, and affects one's understanding of providence and prayer. Since the sciences are invoked in current discussion, it would be stimulating to hear from Prof. Netterfield on how he conceives of divine agency.

    Peter Wyatt
    BA 1966 Victoria
    Magnetawan, Ontario

  9. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Professor Netterfield’s article gives us a lot of the latest scientific theories about the beginning and current state of our universe. The article admits there are still a lot of answers that science can’t supply. One of the most important is whether there is life after death. Can we trust religion to do that?

    Mike Reiter
    Aylmer, Ontario

  10. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    When so many universities and professors are rejecting faith-based messages and student unions are attempting to stifle the rights to free speech of religious groups, it was heartwarming to see this cartoon, which balances science (astronomy) with a positive conclusion about God as Creator in its concluding frame.

    Jim Pigott
    BASc 1970
    Burnaby, B.C.

  11. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    This article was a pleasant surprise because it's rare to find anything published about God (let alone Christianity) in a positive light -- especially in an academic setting.

    Thanks for practicing tolerance and having the courage to publish something that's likely going to offend a few people, but deserves to be heard none the less.

    Gavin Singh
    BASc 2006
    Vaughan, Ontario

  12. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    Thank you so much for this insightful piece. Prof. Netterfield and illustrator Jonathan Dyck are to be commended on a fine and thoughtful presentation of faith, physics and astronomy.

    Eileen Skillen
    BA 1975 Victoria

  13. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    The article on faith and science is maybe the best and most relevant that you have ever published. Thank you and congrats!

    Murray Funk

  14. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I was pleasantly surprised by this very creative and clear presentation of how science and faith can work together in one's life. Thank you for having the courage to write the piece, Dr. Netterfield, and thank you to U of T Magazine for publishing it. Dr. Alvin Plantinga has written a very informative book on the subject called Where the Conflict Really Lies, if anyone is interested.

    Anastasia Lazenkas

  15. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    U of T Magazine is great, but this article should not have been included. It pushes a specific religion and makes me question the professor's credibility.

    Christian Poyo

  16. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    I was shocked to see the comic by Barth Netterfield included in a magazine from an institution that purports to support education and learning. What Prof. Netterfield has done is assume away the question.

    It is wonderful that we have been able to peer back in time and make educated evaluations of the likely origins of the universe. But to overlay god on that simply brings up the question of ... where did god come from?

    To say that we haven't discovered why the universe exists or the purpose it has ... and to answer that with god did it ... simply ignores the question. If you insist on a god belief, then why does god exist and what is his/her/its purpose?

    if one can assume that god came from nothing ... then one can easily see that the universe could expand from nothing as articulated in some theories.

    How would Prof. Netterfield feel if his students made assumptions on their examinations? Would the answer "god did it" be good enough for a passing grade?

    I expect more from your publication.

    David Canham

  17. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    For some strange reason, common perception is that belief in science also includes disbelief in God, this article disproves that and the two are not mutually exclusive. I find amusement with those who are offended in belief in a divine creator, as no scientific method can prove or disprove the existence of God; so why keep complaining?

    So it is with gratitude from those with faith alike that the university published this article, even if it was in a comic book format, and shows what a true open-minded university is capable of doing... the promotion of possibilities.

    John Krim

  18. University of Toronto Magazine says:

    U of T Magazine have done a wonderful job. The knowledge from the comic is really accurate and interesting. Hats off to all the editors and creators.

    Antony Davies

  19. Wayne Hove says:

    Our family discusses this a lot. While we are all cautiously science advocates, the one issue that keeps arising is around the statement, 'the universe is expanding.' I find this statement highly problematic. Any time we put a finite line on something, one can always ask what is on the other side of this line. If the universe is defined as only that which we know, we might be able to say that the masses we know are moving apart. However, if we define the universe to be all that there is, then it must be infinite.

  20. David m mckee says:

    The universe did not have a beginning, nor does it end. Our species runs into the epistemological limitations of the human brain which cannot understand in any profound way concepts like "eternity" or "infinity" and then we impose our limitations on the stupendous colossal dynamic process we call "the universe" when we say "it began" X years ago.

    We recognize quantum phase changes and phase changes at the human Newtonian scale. What happened X years ago was a cosmic phase change in which the existing state of the dynamic process metamorphosed into the current physical state with the constants and properties we observe and with which construct our current models. Note: "current" and "model"; not "permanent" and "reality."

    The universe is an endless process, like the surface of a Möbius strip.

  21. Gordon Gilchrist says:

    The recent loss of my dearly loved wife after 70 years of happy marriage has caused me to think deeply about life, death, creation and the existence of something after life.

    I wonder what today's science has to say about the idea of a continuous, ether-type of "force" after death. From where does the "spark" of life emanate? Would that same spark endure after death?