God Doesn't Need the Big Bang
A Brief History
There was a time, not all that long ago, when cosmologists believed there was no beginning At that time it was generally believed among cosmologists that the universe consisted solely of our galaxy and that it had always existed, and that it was relatively constant. When Albert Einstein proposed his Theory of Relativity he made it conform to this belief with a Cosmological Constant. Then some years later, the astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that some of the stars were actually galaxies. Up until that time the Milky Way was the only galaxy in the universe. Along with discovering galaxies, Hubble discovered that the galaxies were moving, the vast majority of them away from our galaxy, causing a red shift in their spectrums (a few have blue shifts indicating that they are moving toward us).
This discovery changed the way cosmologists thought about the universe. The universe was bigger than they had realized, and for most galaxies to be moving away, it meant that at some time in the past they were all considerably closer together. A re-examination of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity revealed that without the factor called the Cosmological Constant it actually required a changing universe, but whether that change was expansion or contracting could only be decided by observation. Either way, the implication was that the Universe had a beginning.
In order to explain the beginning cosmologists produced the Big Bang Theory. To be fair, the name was actually provided by detractors from the Steady State camp (one Fred Hoyle to be precise, famous for discovering Black Holes), but it was an exciting and easy name to remember and it stuck.
The Big Bang Theory proposes that, for reasons unknown, energy, which has no explicable origin, exploded into space, time, and energy. What we need to be clear on is that the Big Bang was brought about by a need for a beginning rather than the other way around. Many Christians were happy with the Big Bang Theory because it provided evidence for a beginning.
Like all theories, the Big Bang Theory soon faced difficulties. Newtonian physics required a twin for Mercury on the other side of the sun, an anomaly removed by the Theory of Relativity. For the Big Bang Theory one of the disconcerting difficulties is getting the Hubble Constant (the rate of Expansion) to actually be constant. In 1929 Hubble determined the constant to have a value of 500, today it is considered to be 71, and that value is in dispute. The values have fluctuated from Hubble’s high to a low of to a low of 26. Depending on how the value is calculated and what it turns out as, the age of the universe varies from 2 billion years (in Hubble’s time) to 25 billion years. When I went to school 20 billion years was the accepted age of the universe, whereas it is 13.7 Billion years today.
The big question is, is the universe expanding? If the redshift of galaxies can be explained by Doppler effect then the universe is not expanding. And how do you tell whether the red shift is caused by the Doppler effect or by expansion? You can’t, observationally there is no difference between redshifts. This has led to research, primarily by Steady State theorists, into other possible causes of galactic redshift. For creationists the problem is more complex. Steady State theorists deny the Big Bang because they don’t believe in a beginning to the universe, for them denying expansion is a straightforward issue, no expansion, no Big Bang. For creationists, there are at least two creationist cosmology theories that accept expansion, so for us we cannot simply dismiss the Big Bang by dismissing expansion.
In 1964 two electrical engineers attempting to determine the origin of noise in microwave signal transmissions stumbled upon the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB). In 1896 this had been proposed as the noise from stars and was predicted to be 5-6 K. Later (1926), Arthur Eddington would estimate the value at 2.8K, attributing it to radiation from all heat sources in the universe. In the 1950s George Gamow would predict a CMB of 5 K as the leftover radiation of the Big Bang, he would also suggest a figure of 50 K. The actual value is 2.728 K. What is now in dispute is, is this the characteristic radiation of space or the leftover radiation of the Big Bang? The earlier calculations of characteristic radiation were very close to the measured value, the two values suggested by Big Bang theorist, 5 K and 50 K are both substantially larger. Both creationists and Steady State theorists point to the discrepancy as showing that the Big Bang cannot be true. In the popular press Big Bang theorists simply claim credit for being right.
One of the things that they claimed to be right about was the homogeneity of the universe. Homogeneity means that everything is the same everywhere, it is also known as the Cosmological Principle. In theory homogeneity seems to work, but observationally it runs into great problems. First there are you and me, we are not homogenous, on a larger scale there are galaxies and galaxies don’t come as individuals, they occur in clusters and super clusters. This clumping together of matter into structures is not predicted by the Big Bang Theory.
What the Big Bang Theory does predict is that there will be monopoles, large particles having only a single magnetic pole. To date these have not been observed. It also predicts that equal amounts of matter and anti-matter were created at the beginning, today we observe only matter and have great difficulty in creating anti-matter in particle accelerators. It also predicts that the elements hydrogen, helium, and lithium would be created, and those elements are indeed observed. It then goes on to predict that these elements will coalesce to form stars, these are referred to as Population III stars. There are no known Population III stars in the observable universe.
The Big Bang is believed to be capable of only producing the three lightest elements, all other elements must then be created when a star dies, or goes nova/supernova. The next generation of stars will then be “contaminated” by the heavier elements created by the death of the earlier star. The designation of a star is decided by how much heavy elements it contains. Population I stars contain the most, Population II contain some and the non-existent Population III should have no elements heavier than lithium. The fact there are no Population III stars is suggestive that the Big Bang Theory has at least a problem in stellar evolution.
Theology or Theory?
The biggest problem with the Big Bang Theory is that it is a theory. That is not to say that theories are bad things, they are essential to the way science is done. The problem with theories is that they change and are discarded over time. It is one thing to hitch a theory to your theology, when the theory becomes outdated you can unhitch it and keep going. When you hitch your theology to a theory, however, when the theory becomes outdated so does the theology. Since the 1990’s articles have been appearing in scientific journals declaring (or at least hinting at) the death of the Big Bang Theory. Today there is M-Theory (formerly String Theory), Brane Theory (multiple dimensions and universes), Bubble Universes and so on.
The Big Bang Theory has developed as a theory which supports evolution and therefore does not require God. The only assumption which the Big Bang Theory has in common with scripture and therefore creationism, is that there was a beginning. It is not a theory that is required by creationists and there have been several proposed to replace it (Time Dilation, Galactocentric, and Anisotropic to mention a few). When we consider that the Big Bang Theory has scientific as well as theological problems, holding fast to our theology which doesn’t change, and loosely to scientific theories which do, it is best to say that God doesn’t need the Big Bang.
A concise review by an astrophysicist
- The Big Bang - Answers in Genesis
How did this universe come into existence? Did God use “natural” methods to create the universe, or did He create everything supernaturally?