Monday, October 13, 2008

That horrible atheistic idea: the Big Bang!

I recently dropped by the website of a young Christian teenager who had paid a visit of his own to OutsideTheBox. In one of his posts, in typical fundamentalist form, he had scoffed at the notion of the Big Bang, no doubt parroting the diatribe of an ill-informed Sunday school teacher. Of course, he assumed that the Big Bang is nothing but an atheists dream forwarded to dispel the idea of Creation. I briefly responded to his post with a comment. It later occurred to me that the thoughts I shared with this young man, brief and simple as they were, may be of benefit to some of my own readers....

Be careful. The Big Bang is merely a description of what apparently happened 13.7 billion years (or so) ago in light of what is happening right now in the cosmos. Hubble demonstrated that everything in the universe is moving away from everything else at a constant speed. We have only one model to fit this data: an explosion. Later studies determined the rate at which galaxies are diverging. So the Big Bang and its timing are a simple math problem.

The Big Bang is not atheistic. To the contrary, the initial reaction to the Big Bang among most materialistic scientists (and Einstein) was abhorrence. They did not like it because it necessitated a point of beginning, and thus a First Cause (a Creator). Ever since, atheistic scientists have been running to find cover in speculative notions like "Eternal Inflation-deflation", or "Membrane Multiverse" etc.

I, and many other serious followers of Jesus, accept the current state of astrophysics and cosmology as described by the Big Bang. And we see the fingerprints of God all over it! If the universe did not start from a point of singularity roughly 13.7 billions years, then God took extreme measures to make it look like it did. Of course, that is possible. But I'm uncomfortable with the idea that God would create a universe which tells stories that are not true. If God makes things appear as they are not, that would render all scientific inquiry as a colossal waste of our time. I much prefer to think of God as creating an honest universe for us to explore to learn about reality, and about his glory!


Psiloiordinary said...

Just about the only "fact" I can spot i.e. that Hubble demonstrated that everything is moving away from everything else at a constant speed, is not true.

Hubble's measurements showed that everything (apart from the local group) is moving away from us and that the further away you get then the faster it is moving.

The comments about atheists running for cover are quite funny ;-)

Pete said...

Psiloiordinary is right, things are moving at speeds proportional to their distance from us. This leads to the effect that no matter where you were in the universe, you would report that everything is moving away from you in every direction.

In addition, this movement is accelerating, a fact that I don't think is explained yet.

The Big Bang, which is not an explosion but an expansion, is more then just rewinding the clock to see everything move closer together. If everything was once much more dense, and moving apart, there would be certain artifacts left over from this history, such as the background radiation. This model predicts this radiation and such radiation is indeed found, given more support that the universe was once much more dense and has been expanding since.

And atheists aren't running for cover from the big bang, they are running for cover from me! So feared I am when I bless these blogs with my comments:)

Cliff Martin said...

Yes, Psi is correct. Sometimes in an effort to speak simply, we stumble into error. The point I was trying to make was that the rate of expansion gives us dependable data to accurately extrapolate back in time to a point of beginning.

Psi, I knew you would enjoy my comment about atheists. I'm sure your take would be different. But it is hard to argue against what has happened. Early on in the life of the theory, secular scientists (including Einstein, Hoyle and others) did not like the Big Bang implication of a point of beginning, and thus a First Cause. Einstein indeed ran for cover with his "Cosmological Constant" theory. And since then, many plausible explanations of a Big Bang sans First Cause have been forwarded.

Have I misconstrued this bit of history, Psi?

And indeed, the big bang is not technically an explosion in the sense of a bomb going off. Again, it can be dangerous to try to state scientific concepts in simple terms. I know that many object to the term, but "explosion" is often used to describe the Big Bang (I am hardly the first or only one to do so), and the second definition of explosion in my dictionary fits the model quite well:
technical: a violent expansion in which energy is transmitted outward as a shock wave.

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Folks,

I think the facts are correct - Hoyle died still un-persuaded by the big bang evidence - but your perjorative characterisation is funny.

The CMBR detection made big bang much more widely accepted.

Pete - Dark Energy looks like the current favourite explanation for the accelerating expansion at the moment - this is pretty close to "god did it" I suppose ;-).

But please both bear in mind that;

Science prefers to say "we don't know" and is of course never sure about anything. Science thrives on unknowns.



Romans 12:2 said...

Thank you very much for the advice and for including me in your post. I will do my homework next time. - Bob

RBH said...

Cliff, I'm not entranced with that dictionary definition:

...the second definition of explosion in my dictionary fits the model quite well: technical: a violent expansion in which energy is transmitted outward as a shock wave.

The " transmitted outward" carries the connotation that there's a space into which the expansion is occurring. That's the hardest part to wrap one's head around: it is not an expansion into a (larger) space; it's an expansion of space.

Dodgy as it is in some ways, a rapidly inflating balloon as perceived by a resident on the surface of the balloon, where the resident is able to 'see' only the surface of the balloon, is about as good an analogy as I can think of. The phrase "is able to 'see' only the surface" is the important bit. The balloon is not observable (or even imaginable) from the outside because there is no "outside." There's just the surface of an expanding universe.