God? Or The Big Bang?
Summary: Many scientists have argued that cosmology has rendered theism obsolete. But does the Big Bang truly hold up under scrutiny? A careful examination proves that the Big Bang Theory is logically impossible, like the infamous "square circle" or the equally silly "married bachelor." To sign up to receive future updates, click here.
Keywords: Cosmology, Big Bang, Singularity.
The End of Experiment
In a September 2014 issue of Scientific American, renowned physicists and cosmologist, George Ellis, wrote the following: “many of the possible high-energy physics experiments and astronomy observations relevant to cosmology are nearly ... complete” (Ellis 2014)
George Ellis is a leading thinker in our study of the universe. His heightened expertise has brought him spectacular public attention. His stature as a scientist is virtually unparalleled, surpassed only by the genius of the now late, Stephen Hawking. His most formative work, The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime, was jointly authored with the deceased legend, and is now considered a classic. Today, Ellis serves as the emeritus distinguished professor of complex systems at the University of Cape Town.
Commenting on the status of modern science, Ellis writes: “Astronomical observations … are now probing the most distant … events that will ever be ‘seeable’” He then proceeds: “I know this kind of thing has been said before. [But] [t]hat was before we had explored the entire … universe at all … wavelengths.” Continuing, Ellis writes: “we have seen right back to the last scattering surface in the early universe.” Concluding, he describes a parallel problem for particle physics, predicting, as he does, a coming “end to all experiment.” (Ellis 2014)
George Ellis’s words carry a ring of ominous finality. The notion that science is reaching its limits, to some, is eerie and foreboding. Proponents of strict naturalism have long held out hope that science will one day somehow discover a “grand unified theory of everything.” However, in the recent interview, Ellis candidly wrote: “it is in my view unlikely there is a unified theory of [everything].” He then noted that interest in the concept will likely slowly diminish, adding: “Such a theory may not exist.” (Ellis 2014)
What does such a startling admission mean for modern science? How do Ellis’s comments affect the broader field of physics? Given that experts currently lack the language to fully describe our universe, cosmology, as a project, is fundamentally incomplete. No physical theory can thus account for the birth of the cosmos, uniting every primitive force and founding law of nature. Contrarily, there may be no way to describe a self-contained universe which never again resorts to crying out for God’s intervention.
The big question is: Will Ellis’s argument receive a proper hearing? Will naturalism, in particular, learn to amend its expectations? Or, will modern science simply ignore Ellis’s comments, only to turn and accuse the celebrated professor of misjudging the situation? Given that atheism refuses to admit a divine Creator, it is unlikely that many will choose to accept the recent prognosis. Then again, one wonders what other choice do atheists have? Due to the limits of our observations, there may be no other alternative.
The God Of The Gaps
Recently, I engaged with an atheist on this point. He had accused Christianity of being guilty of farcical reasoning. Believing modern physics to be near to achieving its grand ambitions, he criticized Christians for naively “seeing” God in nature. “You see a gap in science,” he said, “then you claim that God did it—only to become ashamed when science discovers the explanation! You presume upon reality, but without a critical basis. And how is this different from merely assuming your own beliefs?”
Taking in the argument, I grasped the man’s point: Christians often use God to explain the unexplainable. Thus gaps in human knowledge become places to worship God, with many Christians expecting science to routinely encounter such mysteries. Conversely, physicists have often sought to argue the very opposite, expecting science to elicit a more physical explanation. Historically, the later has fueled our vast pursuit of natural knowledge, leading to numerous breakthroughs in both technology and modern medicine.
But can such a pattern of physical discovery continue forever? Will science hurtle forward, eternally unabated? Today, there are a several important reasons why Ellis is absolutely right—given our situation. As a sailor perched in a crow’s nest, so the earth is set in space, with a panoramic view which curves and dips beyond our sight range. Such a fundamental problem means that no human being will ever be able to see beyond the earth’s current celestial horizons.
The significance of this point is truly difficult to overstate. It implies that we have seen virtually all that is feasibly visible. Taken together with Ellis’s comments about the limits of particle physics, and it indeed becomes reasonable to conclude that science is reaching its limits. But perhaps the greatest challenge for the state of astrophysics lies within the very heart of its own faulty theoretical predictions. Given the severity of these problems, there may now be no way to prevent modern cosmology from imploding its own foundations.
The Big Bang
I therefore sought to clarify the central point at issue—a pan-popular concept known today as the Big Bang. Here, my atheist offender was thoroughly persuaded that our current descriptive models have successfully dis-employed religion. As leading physicists have argued, the Big Bang Theory explains how the universe evolved from absolutely nothing. But what problems lie at the heart of this murky concept? The answer is related to the principle theory’s initial conditions.
According to Albert Einstein, the progenitor of quantum physics, our classical views of gravity necessitate a cosmic beginning. This fact has lead many scientists (including George Ellis), to theorize that the universe evolved from a single point. Today, this conventional concept has become a core doctrine of science, and is appropriately referred to as “The Singularity Theory.” However, what most scientists seem wholly unaware of is that the Singularity Theory cannot account for cosmic creation.
A simple math problem demonstrates the reason why—namely; what is the solution to infinity minus one? The answer would be the same if we asked the question oppositely: What is the solution to infinity plus one? In either case, the solution is identical because the answer has been determined through the laws of mathematics. Simply put: Infinity plus or minus any number is infinity. As it turns out, no other answer, for any reason, can be accepted.
This profound problem poses a threat to cosmology, which is the theoretical branch of modern astrophysics. The reason why is that our various models of physical origins are based upon the universe’s expanding from a point of infinite smallness. But we’ve just shown that an infinitely small object cannot increase in size—even to that of a tiny electron! Such a quandary raises doubts about the Big Bang Theory itself which, in turn, presents a threat to the viability of modern scientism.
Unfortunately, the present point is easily lost on lay people. Atheists, in particular, are prone to see it as suspicious. Perhaps the singularity is only potentially infinitesimal, rather than representing a sort of “literal” infinite measure. However, such notions fail to recognize that singularities, by definition, lack a true, surveyable geometry. In other words, singularities simply have “no size.” This would therefore mean that no physical measurements can be derived from them.
About this, well known cosmologist, P. C. W. Davies, affirms that a singularity is a point at which all distances have “shrunk to zero.” (Davies 1978, 78-79) In fact, a singularity which is said to have a “size” would simply be a gross contradiction in terms. The very fact that no finite measures can be derived from such an object is a clear indication that we are dealing with the item in question. As physicist Frank Tipler urges: “At the singularity, space … came into existence; literally nothing existed before [it].” (Barrow and Tipler 1986, 442)
"To Infinity And Beyond!"
But this is not the only obvious problem with the theory. Other pressing issues trouble the heart of this abstraction. Instead, it is the prediction of additional infinite quantities which make the Big Bang seem more like science fiction. As astrophysicists J. Richard Gott and James E. Gunn have written: “The universe began from a state of infinite density.” (Gott, et al., 1976, 65) An application of the previous mathematical principle proves the problem: Infinite density cannot be downwardly adjusted.
Sadly, most atheists seem unwilling to admit this. They normally attempt to argue that our cosmic models are merely incomplete. Vowing future discoveries will one day solve these looming issues, they hold that religion will soon be consigned to a place of utter defeat. But such a hopeful forecast fails due to Ellis’s recent statement: Our ability to test physics on the smallest scales is virtually ended. (Ellis 2014) Thus the only hope of our somehow avoiding this puzzling problem is to do away with the cosmic singularity completely.
However, it is doubtful that such a goal is realizable. In fact, no scientist has ever proposed a solution. The closest possible candidate would be the famous “Quantum Gravity Model” jointly conceived and published by Stephen Hawking and James Hartle. This strange proposal seeks to remove the singularity by cleverly leveraging the use of “imaginary time.” The troubling question is, what could possibly be meant by such a concept? Can anyone even conceive of a form of time which is merely imaginary?
Commenting on this point, renowned philosopher of time, professor William Lane Craig, wrote the following statement: “there is no intelligible physical interpretation of imaginary time…. What for example would it mean to speak of the lapse of an imaginary second?” Craig thus seems to see here considerable grounds for doubt that imaginary time could be construed realistically. He therefore states: “[imaginary time] is most plausibly … a mathematical contrivance.” (Craig 2008, 136) Indeed, it seems difficult to reasonably disagree.
But by a long shot, the strongest reason to fault the quantum model comes from the pen of professor Hawking himself. In his intriguing popular volume, A Brief History of Time, Hawking admitted to the doubtful nature of his proposal. “Only if we picture the universe [with] imaginary time,” he noted, “would there be no singularities…. [However] [w]hen one goes back to the real time in which we live … there will still appear to be singularities.” (Hawking 1988, 138-139)
Up to this point, my atheist friend had patiently listened. The argument was so convincing that even he reluctantly conceded it. The Big Bang proposal, no matter how one describes it, could not have occurred—at any time—in all of cosmic history. Furthermore, without the Big Bang, there simply is no way to estimate, with absolute certainty, the age of our expanding universe. Nor is there a way to posit a physical cause to creation. But the loop gets even tighter as we consider our most recent evidence…
The B-G-V Theorem
In 2003, renowned scientific trio, Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin proposed a theory. Now called the “Borde-Guth-Vilenkin Theorem,” the proposal entitles the previous argument to even further reaching applications. Various predictions at its center suggest that any universe which exists, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past, but must have a beginning, at a singularity, a finite time ago.
Commenting on the theory in 1994, Borde and Vilenkin wrote the following statement: “A model [of the universe] in which the [expansion] has no end … naturally leads to this question: Can this model [avoid] ... the problem of the initial singularity?” They then comment, “This is in fact not possible in future-eternal … spacetimes[.] [A]s long as they obey some reasonable physical conditions: such models must necessarily possess initial singularities.” (A. Borde and A. Vilenkin 1994, 3305-3307)
Therefore, no cosmogonical model, however grand, can avoid the present point at issue. The problem under review will continue to plague cosmology, and will potentially forever remain as a thorn in the side of modern scientism. Whether Vacuum Fluctuation models or Chaotic Inflationary models, whether Oscillating models or even String scenarios, no proposal will ever be able to posit a physical or natural cause for the expansion of our universe.
With these points established, we will now consider objections. The first is, how exactly should we grapple with the existence of “black body” radiation? Such a startling novel prediction, which is classically derived from the theory, has convinced most physicists that the Big Bang did indeed historically happen. Those familiar with science history will easily recall the great shock delivered at the discovery of this strange new radiation which was immediately identified as a relic of the Big Bang—a sort of leftover glow from the universe’s early primordial eruption.
The trouble, however, with such a hasty inference is that the cosmic radiation, naturally scattered, would share in all the same origins. For the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (or CMB for short) is conventionally understood as implying a singularity. Thus Hawking and Ellis argued, some time ago: “past-directed closed trapped surfaces exist if the [CMB] … has been partially thermalized by scattering.” (Hawking and Ellis, 1973, 348) The CMB itself would thus depend upon the very phenomenon in question. Hence, it would seem that we have circled back to our initial objection.
For this reason, discoveries like the CMB do not prove the Big Bang. Rather, “closed trapped surfaces” are required to account for the phenomenon naturally. Unfortunately, this would simply be another way of saying that the CMB must be caused by a cosmic singularity. As philosopher of science, John Earman has noted: “A … spacetime is singular … if it contains an inextendible path of finite … length.” (Earman 1995, 36) Accordingly, Hawking and Ellis have characterized space and time as “closed,” since they cannot be somehow temporally extended.
Thus the last remaining hope for reversing the present problem would be the discovery of some serendipitous miscalculation at the heart of the singularity. At this, it must be frankly stated that the century long war against the Big Bang proposal would itself be the proof that no such miscalculation exists. As Hawking and Ellis state: “The theorems on the existence of singularities could possibly be refined somewhat, but in our view they are already adequate.” (Hawking and Ellis, 1973, 363) Hence neither of these objections can rescue the Big Bang.
For this reason, Christian theism clearly has the higher ground. No one can avoid the irksome singularity! By extension, this would mean that no physical cause can be shown to give account for the universe’s existence. Indeed, the now dated comments of astronomer, Sir Arthur Eddington, seem all the more appropriate, given what we have seen: “The beginning of the universe seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.” (Eddington 1933, 178)
Sadly, in response, my atheist friend did not convert. He rather clung to his unbelief, but now for purely “emotional” reasons. He remained inwardly bitter, but was more self-aware that there were no scientific grounds for maintaining his atheism. Such a crucial revelation is necessary for those who are intellectually resistant before eventually turning to God. They must become fully convinced that science is simply mistaken when it claims to hold in hand a firm basis for modern atheism.
In conclusion, it is important that both believers and skeptics are open to evidence for creation from astrophysics. Deductive inferences can help us to build credible scientific models which can adequately explain creation. But modern science cannot expect defenders of biblical creation to be intimidated by cosmogonical models which are axiomatically defective. Rather, rational Christians are logically justified in rejecting the Big Bang as being a spurious interpretation of the evidence.
Thus, in review, I have argued that cosmic expansion from a singularity is axiomatically impossible. On the basis of this startling problem, I have introduced a set of four critical and illuminating points: (1) The Big Bang never historically happened; (2) No cosmological model can presently repair the problem; (3) The Big Bang cannot provide a basis for fixing a precise age of our universe, and (4) Only a supernatural cause of our universe is truly possible.
These unavoidable conclusions, if sound, wholly preclude modern science from supplanting biblical creationism. They also open up new possibilities for contemplating the biblical and supernatural origins of our spacetime universe.
Therefore, may you be all the more prepared to offer an answer to everyone who inquires of the reason for your faith. And may God grant that the answer of your lips would draw people closer to receiving faith in Jesus. Amen.
Bio: Benjamin Fischer (M.Div) is a fourth generation preacher and a full-time missionary evangelist and apologist. He runs an apologetics website (www.benfischerministries.com) where he answers tough gospel questions related to subjects such as science, philosophy and theology. Ministerially, Ben has delivered talks on apologetical topics in local churches, conference events and has also lectured as an adjunct faculty member at Teen Challenge Leadership Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ben can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ellis, George. 2014. “Physicist George Ellis Knocks Physicists For Knocking Philosophy, Falsification, Free Will.” Scientific American. (July 22, 2014). https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/physicist-george-ellis-knocks-physicists-for-knocking-philosophy-falsification-free-will/
Davies, P. C. W. 1978. “Spacetime Singularities in Cosmology,” in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser, Berlin: Springer Verkag, 1978.
John Barrow and Frank Tipler, 1986. The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon, 1986).
J. Richard Gott III, James E. Gunn, David N. Schramm, and Beatrice M. Tinsely, 1976. “Will the Universe Expand Forever?” Scientific American, (March 1976).
Craig, William Lane. 2008. Reasonable Faith, Third Edition (Crossway, Wheaton, 2008).Hawking, Stephen. 1988. A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam).
Eddington, Arthur. 1933. The Expanding Universe (Cambridge University Press; 1933).
Arvind Borde and Alexander Vilenkin. 1994. “Eternal Inflation and the Initial Singularity,” Physical Review Letters 72 (1994).
S. W. Hawking and G. F. R. Ellis, 1973. The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1973).
Earman, J., 1995, Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers, and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes, (New York: Oxford University Press; 1994).