A science article reports the latest estimate of the age of the Universe as 13.7 billion years, "give or take a few hundred thousand years." Now that's a long time. In addition, this news has now penetrated the Jello Curtain, as I'm quoting this AP story from the SL Trib. The story summarizes cosmic inflation and pre-inflationary quantum fluctuations as a key to the present lumpiness of the Universe as we know it. Not only are stars clumped into galaxies, but galaxies come in clusters or sheets too — a fact that was particularly hard to explain at one time. As summed up by a Columbia physicist quoted in the article, "Galaxies are nothing but quantum mechanics writ large across the sky.''
The extraordinarily ancient origin of the Universe isn't just some theory dreamed up by theoretical physicists. It rests on observation and analysis of the cosmic backround radiation that comes from all directions of the sky. And to tie this in to one of the B'nacle's perennially popular topics, a very old universe is a key requirement for a viable theory of evolution. One of the many 19th-century criticisms of incremental evolution as proposed by Darwin was that the Earth simply wasn't old enough. For example, the redoubtable Lord Kelvin, using a thermodynamic model, estimated the age of the Earth to be 100 million years old. Old, but not old enough. By contrast, present estimates put the age of the Earth at about 4.5 billion years, 45 times longer than proposed by Kelvin and plenty of time for evolution to work its gradual magic.
Now I know there are a few conservative Mormons out there (you know who you are) who view modern cosmology and biology as just a form of sophisticated heresy. I don't know quite what to say to these folks — preaching science doesn't seem to have any effect. Maybe preaching Mormon scripture is a better approach. D&C 88 is a good place to start:
[H]e hath given a law unto all things, by which they move in their times and their seasons. And their courses are fixed, even the courses of the heavens and the earth. ... The earth rolls upon her wings, and the sun giveth his light by day, and the moon giveth her light by night, and the stars also give their light, as they roll upon their wings in their glory .... (D&C 88:42-45, punctuation modified)
This divine endorsement of a universe governed by natural law concludes, "[A]ny man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power" (D&C 88:47). Later, Mormons are counseled to "teach ye diligently ... of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth" (D&C 88:78-79). That's a pretty friendly perspective on astronomy, biology, and geology, disciplines at the foundation of the whole scientific view of man and the Universe. There are no Galileos in the Mormon closet. BYU even has a working planetarium on the top floor of its science building.
Now there are some who think the scientific view of the universe excludes God and leads necessarily to despair and existential angst. I suppose it happens, but I dispute the "necessarily" part. People lose hope or spiral into depression for all kinds of reasons. Again, LDS scripture gives a blueprint for grafting Christian hope onto a natural universe: "Worlds without number have I created [says God], and I also created them for mine own purpose," which is later defined as "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:33, 39). Even more upbeat (from the cosmological perspective) is the following LDS scripture, a truly amazing passage considering it was made almost a century before Edwin Hubble figured out the Universe is not limited to the stars grouped together in our own galaxy, but is composed of what came to be recognized as millions upon millions of these "island universes."
The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man. But they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof, even so shall another come, and there is no end to my works, neither to my words. (Moses 1:37-38, punctuation modified)
I'm not one to try and match details of scientific theory to details of scriptural accounts, but the scope of the age and extent of the Universe as depicted in the quoted passage does capture the sense of the age and incomprehensible vastness of the Universe as observed and expounded by modern science.