Songs about science…?

Following on from last week’s post, I’m looking for material for new worship songs using scientific discoveries, in the hope that someone might take the bait…

What about the amazing discoveries made through the Hubble Telescope? The pictures from this incredible piece of technology in the sky grace our coffee tables, computer monitors and television screens every day. Hubble has filled in many of the gaps in our knowledge about how planets form. Before high-resolution images were available astronomers could only guess some of the details, but now a clearer picture has emerged – quite literally!

Planets form in vast clouds of dust and gas called nebulae. A new planetary system forms when part of the cloud clumps together and begins to collapse under the force of gravity. The compression at the centre of the cloud is so great and causes so much heat to be generated that a new star is formed. The remainder of the dense cloud rotates around the star and begins to flatten into a disc. Planets begin to coalesce within this circulating dust ring. The new planets grow larger and larger, gathering up the remaining dust until a new group of planets is formed orbiting around its own star.

It’s incredible that we can know about star formation in such detail, given that it happens so far away, and over such a long period of time. The discoveries from space telescopes such as Hubble provide plenty of fuel for the imagination, and increase our picture of how big our creator God is. Our universe was created through the same Jesus who appeared to a small nation on the tiny planet that we call home. It’s hard to keep those two things in your head at the same time…

And I can’t write on Hubble without mentioning that Dr Jennifer Wiseman, the chief scientific officer of Hubble Telescope, is a Christian and has written her own thoughts down in a paper for BioLogos about science as an instrument of worship. She also appeared on BBC’s Women’s Hour, speaking about a talk she was about to give at the Faraday Institute on life on other planets.

Worshipping God with science

The writers of the Psalms wrote about stars using the most up to date science of their day. Cutting edge astronomers in Israel in the first millennium BC knew that the stars were created (nothing was known yet about how that might have happened), they had their places, and they (on the whole) kept to those places and danced their set dances every year.

He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
his understanding has no limit.

Psalm 147: 4-5

There is a wealth of hymns and songs that echo this theme but while science has moved on, the language in the songs hasn’t. I’m not suggesting that we do away with the old hymns, or that we use lyrics that might be divisive in a church context, or even that we tie ourselves in knots with technical jargon (I don’t think I could sing about DNA transcription with a straight face!) But what would it look like if we praised God in song for some of the things we have discovered in the last couple of centuries?

Here is an example of a hymn that uses up to date scientific knowledge, written in 1967 when the space race was at its peak.

God, who stretched the spangled heavens,
infinite in time and place,
flung the suns in burning radiance
through the silent fields of space…

We have ventured worlds undreamed of
since the childhood of our race,
known the ecstasy of winging
through untraveled realms of space…

Catherine Arnott Cameron

What would it look like if more writers of worship songs and hymns started to include references to slightly more contemporary science?