Tag Archives: big bang theory

And there was light: evidence for the origin of our Universe

“Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light”.

Genesis 1:3

The concept of creation out of nothing was a completely radical idea in antiquity. It was the Jewish religion that first introduced such a radical concept. Most, if not all, creation myths in antiquity parted from the premise that there was something before the formation of the universe. It is very tempting to point that such radical idea most closely resembles what today’s scientist call the Big Bang.

WMAP_skymap

The Big Bang theory states that the observable universe is the result of a massive explosion that occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. It was as if the universe obeyed God’s command “Let there be light,” and there was the Big Bang. Although the Big Bang theory is agnostic whether or not anything existed before the Big Bang, it clearly argues that our observable universe had a beginning.

Unknown

The idea of the Big Bang was not immediately accepted. The Aristotelian view of an eternal and static universe was accepted scientific theory up to the 1930’s. It was a Jesuit priest named Fr. George Lemaitre that first proposed the idea of a “primeval atom”, which today we called the Big Bang theory. Fr. Lemaitre based his theory on Einstein’s theory of relativity that, states the expansion of space and the discovery that galaxies are accelerating away from each other by astronomers Hubble and Humason in 1929. He argued that if galaxies are moving away from each other, then it follows that the further you go back in time the closer those galaxies are going to be and if you go far enough there is going to be a point where the size of the universe is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a sub-atomic particle: a “primeval atom”. Fr. Lemaitre succinctly explains his theory in the abstract for his 1931 publication in the science journal, Nature:

“SIR ARTHUR EDDINGTON states that, philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to him. I would rather be inclined to think that the present state of quantum theory suggests a beginning of the world very different from the present order of Nature. Thermodynamical principles from the point of view of quantum theory may be stated as follows : (1) Energy of constant total amount is distributed in discrete quanta. (2) The number of distinct quanta is ever increasing. If we go back in the course of time we must find fewer and fewer quanta, until we find all the energy of the universe packed in a few or even in a unique quantum”.

Nature 127, 706 (9 May 1931)

penzias_wilson-2

Ironically, his theory was considered to be too religious by some since it pointed towards a beginning and in doing so it pointed to a creation. The Big Bang was confirmed by the finding of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation by Nobel laureate recipients Penzias and Wilson in 1964 (Picture). Cosmologists Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman predicted this radiation in 1948 to be the remnant radiation of the Big Bang. Its temperature is exactly the temperature that physicists estimated it should be if it was from the Big Bang. Moreover the total amount of helium estimated to be present in the universe could only be accounted by the Big Bang because not enough time has passed for it to be produced by nuclear reactions inside of stars.

There is much speculation as to what happen before the Big Bang. At least two theories propose possible scenarios in which the Big Bang is not the beginning of the universe: eternal inflation and ekpyrotic models. It is not the scope of this post to explain in detail these purely mathematical theories other than to make readers aware that they are current working hypothesis. However, independently whether or not these theories are accurate an elegant mathematical theorem, developed by Borde, Vilenkin and Guth (BVG Theorem), demonstrates that any universe that has a Hubble expansion constant greater than zero has to have a beginning:

“We made no assumptions about the material content of the universe…The only assumption that we made was that the expansion rate of the universe never gets below some nonzero value, no matter how small. This assumption should certainly be satisfied in the inflating false vacuum. The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation without a beginning is impossible”.

Vilenki 2006, p 175 (Taken from “New Proof for the Existence of God”)

In other words, any universe or multi-verse has to have a beginning and since according to the principle of sufficient reason any beginning must have a cause, the question remains what caused the universe to begin?

In my next post, I will discuss, how science demonstrates the infinitesimally small probability that the observable universe was caused by random chance. Taken together the evidence from modern physics and philosophical/metaphysical arguments, it is reasonable to believe that God created the universe, out of nothing.

God Bless!

Please note:

I owed the inspiration of this post to Fr. Benedict Groechel talk, God the Father, which until recently could be found at EWTN for free download. The scientific and philosophical arguments were mostly taken from Fr. Robert Spitzer book: New Proof for the Existence of God.

I hope that I did not do any disservice to their work by my poor abilities to articulate it.

Also note, that there is a third hypothesis that states that the Big Bang is the result of an ongoing cycle of expansion and contractions, each one producing a new big bang and thereby a new universe. I did not include this hypothesis for the sake of brevity and the fact that it has been discredited by the observation that galaxy are moving irreversibly away from each other at an increasingly faster pace. Making it impossible for the predicted Big Crunch to happen. Moreover, evidence from the law of thermodynamics clearly indicates that even in this bouncing universe scenario, it must also have to have a beginning.

About the Big Bang and Fundamentalists

The recent debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and Ken Ham, a young earth creationist supporter, reminded me of something that St. Thomas Aquinas said:

“First, the truth of Scripture must be held inviolable. Secondly, when there are different ways of explaining a Scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly that, if convincing arguments show it to be false, anyone dares to insist that it still is the definitive sense of the text. Otherwise unbelievers will scorn Sacred Scripture, and the way to faith will be closed to them.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas

In other words, some fundamentalist interpretation of scripture contradicts our observation of the universe and their staunch literalistic interpretation of the Bible may be a stumbling block for unbelievers, closing faith to them.

God is truth and cannot be deceived or deceive. As Sir Francis Bacon said: “God wrote two books. One is Holy Scripture and the other is nature”. They cannot contradict each other. One reveals how God created the Universe and the other reveals why God created the Universe. They do not oppose each other, but complement each other in reviling the beauty and power of our Creator. It is amazing that not a hundred years ago, scientists like Fred Hoyle mocked the primordial atom theory, the Big Bang Theory, first proposed by Fr. George Lemeitre, a Jesuit priest, as nothing but religious propaganda.

Einstein thought that Fr. Lemeitre’s theory was the most beautiful explanation of creation once he looked at the evidence that support Fr. Lemeitre theory.

The key here is openness to evidence. On one had it seems to me that staunch atheists refuse to look beyond their biases about religion and look closer to the cosmological and philosophical evidence for the existence of God on the other hand
Fundamentalists who hold a literalistic interpretation of the Bible refuse to see irrefutable evidence about the age of the universe. Making their faith look un-reasonable to non-believers and in the process alienating people who are searching for truth.

The result of such public debate between these opposing views is that it foments a caricatured notion that there is no place for reason in faith and no place for faith in reason. The history of science as it was developed in the West begs to disagree with such ill informed notion.

“But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.”

Wisdom 11:20

This verse from the book of Wisdom, often quoted by St. Augustine in the third century, greatly influenced many thinkers during the early and late Middle Ages. It reveals something about creation. The act of creation was not arbitrary but carefully designed “by measure and number and weight” and thus allowed for the investigation of the world because it argues that the world was created by reason and thereby can be understood by reason. This line of thinking led to the creation of the universities, the scientific method and many scientific fields by the Catholic Church, which ultimately led to the scientific revolution.

Fundamentalist creationists staunch advocacy in favor of young earth creation can be a stumbling block for many because it refuses to accept the evidence and change its position. Perhaps St. Thomas anticipated young creationist postures when he caution about rigid Bible interpretation.

Faith properly understood is reasonable and beautiful because it brings us closer to the good, the beautiful and the true.