The Origin of the Universe
Genesis and the big bang
Young Earth - Old Earth, what does it matter?
Science and the Bible can be harmonized
The Bible and Science in Conflict
Understanding Genesis Chapter 1
Scriptural Evidence for Long Days
The Origin of the Universe
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 1
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 2
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 3
The Creation / Evolution Controversy Part 4
Entropy, the Fall, and Adam
The Tree Of Life
What I learned at an Answers in Genesis Conference
What's Wrong With This Picture?
Science finds a purpose for the appendix
Flat Earth - A lesson to all of us
Why are young people leaving the church?
Why Does God Hate Me?
Links to the World and Beyond
In this article we will look very briefly at the science of the big bang theory. We’ll consider some of the history of the developing theory. We will also consider its theological significance.
Marilyn Vos Savant stated in Parade magazine, February 4, 1996, “I think that if it had been a religion that first maintained the notion that all the matter in the entire universe had once been contained in an area smaller than the point of a pin, scientists probably would have laughed at the idea."
In fact the Bible does say something remarkably similar, and yes it has been laughed at by many. “ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1), “ He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8 NIV), and “ Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” (Heb 11:3 KJV) In these verses we see God creating an expanding universe which from our perspective was made visible from the invisible.
The big bang theory like any scientific theory is best understood as subject to change. It will undoubtedly be revised as new data is collected. This is good. It shows our understanding is growing. Any new theory will have to satisfy all the existing data better than the theory it replaces. For now the big bang does the best job.
From the Christian perspective a theory of origins for the cosmos must also agree with scripture. The big bang theory does this by acknowledging the universe had a beginning. It is interesting that until the last hundred years the Christian had no evidence to support believing Genesis 1:1. More interesting is the amount of resistance to the evidence by many believers today. Why? Probably because they do not understand the big bang theory and this lack of understanding has led them to the false conclusion that naturalistic evolution must be accepted if the universe is billions of years old. This is unfortunate because it means some of the best apologetic information available today is being rejected by the church. I recently read on an evolution web site that the best evidence against creationism is creationism. Sadly, I am often inclined to agree. Enough about that, let’s get started.
Random Thoughts Coming Together
The First Law of Thermodynamics, also known as the law of conservation, states that matter or energy cannot be destroyed. It can revert to forms difficult to utilize (Second Law of Thermodynamics) or be converted to each other (e=mc^2). No completely new matter or energy has been created since the big bang. (Thermodynamics is a field of physics on whose principles much of science and engineering is based.) As an example of this law consider a piece of wood. If you were to burn it you might think it has been destroyed, but what has actually happened is that it has been converted into ash, heat and other chemical reactions. It still exists but in another form.
Einstein concluded that energy and mass are actually different states of a single energy-matter continuum. Energy is matter in its intangible form; matter is energy in its tangible form. What this means is that all the matter and all the energy that exist in the universe have existed since it’s creation in one form or another.
From the time of Plato and Aristotle through the beginning of the 20th century it made perfectly logical sense to believe the universe was eternal. Science seemed to support this conclusion.
Einstein’s theory of special relativity changed all that. From it we learned that the universe had a beginning. That beginning includes not only matter and energy, but space and time as well. This obviously presents a problem cooperating with the first law of thermodynamics. The universe could not suddenly exist where nothing had existed before at least not by natural means. This truth was so apparent to Einstein that he inserted a fudge factor into his theory to force the equations to reinstate the eternal universe.
Edwin Hubble discovered that the galaxies were moving away from each other. The more distant the object the faster it was moving away. This indicated the universe was expanding. It took some effort on Hubble's part but Einstein became convinced of this evidence and removed the fudge factor from his theory. The result was the sobering conclusion that moving backward in time we eventually come to a point where time equals zero. At the moment T=0, matter and energy become compressed into zero dimensional space. Don't misunderstand that to mean a tiny speck floating in empty space. In fact space itself becomes infinitely small.
There were many theories proposed to explain how the universe came into existence. One of them was the steady state theory. If I understand it correctly, it denied special relativity demanded an absolute beginning to the universe (I assume Einstein's fudge factor was left in the equation). The universe was still considered eternal. One problem with an eternal universe is that it would eventually fall victim to entropy (the second law of thermodynamics). It would eventually run out of energy. Adherents of the steady state theory attempted to overcome this problem by acknowledging the universe was expanding and proposed that matter and energy were continually coming into existence to replenish the universe. Though this theory was still in high school textbooks in the early 1970's it was never overwhelmingly accepted by scientists. Why? There simply was never any proof to back it up. That is the way science works.
Another popular theory was the oscillating universe theory, a kind of eastern mystical theory of birth, death, rebirth, where the universe would expand then collapse on itself and then explode into existence again. Again the universe was thought to be eternal. This theory, even if it were true, does not eliminate God from creation for several reasons but it doesn't matter because the theory falls victim to the laws of gravity and entropy. Basically the universe could only expand a couple of times before it ran out of energy and stopped expanding and contracting. Our universe is not eternal. Therefore our universe had a beginning. See Genesis 1:1 for more on this subject.
George Gamow first proposed the hot big bang theory. It claimed the universe began as a singularity of extreme density and intense heat that expanded and cooled until particles of matter formed from the energy of the big bang. One of the results of this beginning would be that it would leave a trail of uniform radiation throughout the universe that would still be evident today. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the proof of this background radiation. Supporting evidence made this the leading theory explaining the how of creation. In fact this is now known as the standard cosmology.
There were also problems with the theory. The universe appeared to be too perfect. It might even be appropriate to call it " very good ." All measurements suggested the universe was too perfectly balanced between open and closed. An open universe would expand forever. A closed universe would eventually collapse on itself. Theologically speaking, this is not a problem. Scientifically, it appears to mean the universe had to begin with unbelievable precision and balance. There was also a problem with the cosmic background radiation. It was just too perfectly smooth. Such uniformity would not allow stars and galaxies to form.
Alan Guth came up with a solution that has so far been touted as having met and beat all competition. He theorized that the universe underwent super inflation (marked by exponentially accelerating expansion) very early in its existence. This period of super inflation is theorized as very short (10-34 seconds) just long enough to resolve the open/closed problem just mentioned. If correct, the universe did not have to start with such precision as is measured today. In fact the inflation theory predicts the measurements would tend towards balance, as the universe grew bigger. This theory like the hot big bang also predicted ripples in the background radiation that would allow for the formation of galaxies. These ripples have since been observationally confirmed.
Theology and science collide
Accepting our universe is not eternal forces scientists to deal with a big puzzle. How can they explain the origin of the universe without violating their own sacred first commandment; the first law of thermodynamics? Remember earlier I said, "The universe could not suddenly exist where nothing had existed before at least not by natural means." Well, it turns out there is a loophole that many in physics are attempting to exploit. The laws of Newtonian physics cannot be used to explain what happened in the first 10-43 seconds after the big bang (that's the first 0.000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds). Scientists using quantum mechanics have proposed it is possible to explain the beginning of the universe where in that first 10-43 seconds a birth date is not necessary.
Alan Guth (of the inflation theory) is one of them. In DISCOVER Vol. 23 No. 4 (April 2002) Alan states, "We no longer have to rely on stories we were told when we were young." He was referring to the Genesis account of creation. I normally avoid quoting individuals in this manner for concern that I will misrepresent what they have said. I make an exception here because his statement is a faith statement. He is convinced it is a fact statement.
Why would he make such a statement? It is possible he is uncomfortable with the obvious theological implications of the universe having a beginning. It is more likely he simply feels theology is irrelevant when it comes to the mathematics of the universe. First we need to try and understand the science behind his view. Then we need to decide if his statement is valid.
Quantum mechanics deals with physics at the sub-atomic level. It gets really weird at this level of physics. In the world we know and love, 1+1=2. In the quantum physics world it is just as logical that zero can become 1. This does not make sense if you are trying to relate it to the laws of the observable world around you. The mathematics of quantum physics are ruled by probability. In the 'real' world we know something cannot come from nothing. In the quantum world nothing is subject to the same probabilities as something. What this means is that it is perfectly logical to accept the universe could just appear out of nothing. Further, this theoretically could happen as a completely random unguided event.
Guth theorizes that prior to the big bang there was a repulsive gravitational field - a "false vacuum" - that erupted spewing forth the energy that created our universe. Guth further believes this may not have violated the first law of thermodynamics. It was in his words a "free lunch". The reason for this belief is that the theory of relativity states the gravitational field was negative energy and the energy that would form matter was positive. Basically the two balance each other so the law is not violated.
Your first reaction to this may be, "so what". Logically looking at this, one should be inclined to ask, where did the false vacuum come from? That is what makes quantum physics so peculiar. According to probability it could come from nowhere. Sure doesn't sound good for the theist. Mathematics and pure unguided random chance have just eliminated God. Or have they?
Allowing an infinite number of possible attempts per second and enough time probability says the universe can create itself out of nothing. The problem with this is that until the universe is created there is no time in which probability applies. Remember our timeline is a created dimension within our universe. The law of causality states that a cause must precede an event and the event cannot be the cause. If time was part of the creation event it cannot be the cause of the creation.
Any attempt to circumvent this reality requires moving the time needed for the false vacuum to occur into a time dimension outside of our measurable universe. Steven Hawking has proposed what he labeled ‘imaginary time’ to overcome this barrier. He admits it is speculation. Therein lies the rub. At this point science moves into the realm of metaphysics. It becomes a belief to be accepted. It cannot be tested or proven. It is therefore not science. It requires faith.
Theologians have been accused for years of relying on a ‘God of the gaps’ approach. What we are seeing with quantum physics is just the opposite. Metaphysics is being used to avoid a beginning. Critics have correctly labeled this a ‘probability of the gaps’ approach.
Resolving the conflict
Ockham’s razor states that the simplest of two or more competing theories is preferable. It is questionable whether this can be applied in this situation. All the testable parts of the big bang model fit as a piece of a puzzle into the Christian theory of creation, just as inflation fits as a part of the big bang theory. It is not the science of the big bang that is in question. It is only when we try to grasp the metaphysical cause that we have divergent views. How then should we proceed?
We could appeal to another of Ockham’s postulates for help. He used logic to show that many beliefs of Christian philosophers could not be proved by philosophical reason, but only by divine revelation. While a good case for divine revelation could be made, this is not likely to convince someone approaching this from a science perspective. Actually, we cannot prove either view with science or revelation, but we can offer logical evidence from which informed conclusions can be drawn. Yes, in the end it will require a leap of faith, but it does not have to be blind or uninformed faith.
Both the Christian and the natural worldview demand a reality separate from our physical universe in order to explain the beginning. Carl Sagan’s belief that the cosmos is all there is, all there was, and all there ever will be, was not correct. Both views demand an eternal reality beyond our own. For the natural cause view it is necessary in order to avoid a deity. In the Christian view it is precisely because God does exist.
Only an eternal alternate reality will solve the problem of origins in the natural cause worldview because anything less begs the question where did it come from. Since we can never verify the properties of the alternate reality through science it is a mute point. But, for the record, the Christian view clearly states God is eternal.
In the natural worldview, the alternate reality must work in a manner that consistently allows the laws of quantum physics to operate as in our universe for the false vacuum to be possible. In the Christian view the rules of the alternate reality may work in the same manner but it is not mandatory. Why? Because, in the Christian view the alternate reality is guided by intelligence. In the natural worldview it is guided by random unguided probability and chance.
The Christian view explicitly states God created. The natural worldview may give the appearance of creating but that is not what would actually happen. Everything would occur as a response to physical properties and particle laws. It comes back to the problem of intelligence.
Where did the properties and laws of the universe come from? How does a negative gravitational field know to give birth to positive matter? How does the super inflation know to stop at 10-34 seconds? If we accept that it was inevitable given probability that the alternate reality would spawn our universe, we must still deal with massive intelligence questions. The primordial soup of our universe would have to contain all the knowledge necessary to build everything in the universe including you sitting at your computer reading this article. You can’t get order out of chaos. How could it happen? The natural science view cannot answer these questions. The Christian view can.
When you view man from the universe’s perspective man seems pretty unimportant. We live on a small planet circling an ordinary middle-aged star on the outskirts of an ordinary galaxy; one of millions of other ordinary galaxies. It is not hard to see why many people misinterpret this to mean God does not exist. If you are willing to open your eyes to the possibilities there are many signs of God’s hand at work in the creation. Examine the fine-tuning seen throughout our universe. Consider the fine-tuning of our solar system. Even our earth and moon show signs of fine-tuning. Non-theistic scientists do not deny this, but they see it as an incredible set of coincidences. The "coincidences" are amazing. See "The Creator and the Cosmos" by Dr. Hugh Ross for more information.
The universe is not eternal. It had a beginning. The big bang is an interesting explanation of origins but upon closer examination it can’t adequately explain how you came to be a part of it. It can’t explain how you happened by merely natural means. The universe is too young and too small for life to have developed from the primordial soup of the big bang on its own. The earliest forming rocks on Earth contain fossils of life. Insufficient time has passed for evolution to explain life's abundant presence on earth. The fossil record shows species suddenly appearing and remaining stable throughout their existence on earth. The conclusion I came to by studying the scientific record is that God must have been active in the creation of the universe.
Feel free to disagree with my conclusion, but do ask yourself how the universe knew to give you the intelligence to make that decision.
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