Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Beginning of the Universe

"He asserts that the universe came from 'nothing' rather than from God. However, the different 'nothings' that Krauss appeals to for his explanations are really 'some things'—'some things' that demand nothing less than the existence and involvement of the biblical God." ~ Dr. Hugh Ross, "Universe from Nothing?: A Critique of Lawrence Krauss' Book, Part 1"

Another set of Big Bang news articles have hit the popular media. This time with headlines like "The Big Bang Didn't Need God to Start Universe, Researchers Say." This is similar to what Stephen Hawking wrote in his book The Grand Design, which I wrote about a while ago. The impetus behind such assertions is the desire to remove God from the equation when it comes to the origins of the universe. This has been a problem for naturalistic scientists ever since the first indications that the universe is expanding. So, let's talk about Big Bang cosmological theory and see if the above claims stand up within that framework.

Why is this such a big deal to Big Bang cosmologists? Well, it is often believed that "Big Bang" automatically means an atheistic world-view, but, while that may seem to be common now, that was not the original response to Big Bang cosmology. In fact, the Big Bang was originally seen by steady-state cosmologists as an inherently religious idea. Geoffrey Burbidge, for example, once lamented that his fellow scientists were running off to join the "First Church of Christ of the Big Bang." Sir Fred Hoyle first coined the phrase "Big Bang" in a 1949 BBC broadcast as a pejorative name because of its religious significance (though he did later recant). Why did they see it as religious? Because saying that the universe has a beginning means that it must have had a Beginner, and they did not want to admit the possibility of a Beginner.

Recently, however, many noted scientists have begun theorizing how the universe could have created itself from nothing. That is, of course, the holy grail of a naturalistic world-view--if you can show that the universe did not need a Beginner, then God is not necessary (at least, that is the assumption). So, we get articles like the one list above and books like Hawking's The Grand Design. As I have already written about Hawking's work, I will make a few comments about the recent articles.

The basic premise of such arguments is that "the Big Bang could've occurred as a result of just the laws of physics being there. With the laws of physics, you can get universes." What I find most interesting about this is that the scientist quoted (Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley) admits that the laws of physics cannot explain themselves. He even admits that they would require a divine Creator, though he goes on to ask who created the divine Creator, which he believes leads to a never-ending chain of causes. But does it really? Basically, Filippenko is showing the validity and necessity of the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is a classic argument for an uncaused Cause or a Creator. Eventually the chain of causality throughout the history of being has to have a beginning. String Theory posits a type of multiverse to explain the beginning of our universe. Filippenko and Hawking posit that the laws of physics cause the universe to create itself. Both of these simply push the need for a Creator back a step. They simply add another link to the chain of causality. Where did the multiverse come from? Where did the laws of physics come from? Believing they are simply "brute realities" takes as much faith as, if not more than it takes to believe in a Creator (I have written about this here, here, here, and here). Such theories do not solve the problem but are basically mathematical ways of skirting the question.

Furthermore, Filippenko positing quantum fluctuations as a creative event has problems. (Warning, this is going to get a little bit technical.) A consequence of the uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics is that quantum fluctuations in the fabric of space-time will generate particles out of "nothing" (it is not really nothing as we will soon see). Seth Shostack from SETI asserts, "Quantum mechanical fluctuations can produce the cosmos." In the article, Filippenko draws on this idea and says, "If you would just, in this room, just twist time and space the right way, you might create an entirely new universe. It's not clear you could get into that universe, but you would create it." The first problem with this, that is not mentioned in the articles, is that while the uncertainty principle allows for the random creation of particles, it also requires that these particles revert back to fluctuations before they can be observed. They will not stick around long enough to create anything, about a quintillionth of a second (that is 0.000000000000000001 seconds)! The second problem is even larger than the first. The article and the scientists call this creation from nothing but it is in no way creation from nothing. It is creation from other "some things" (as the quote from Dr. Hugh Ross above states). When he says, "If you would just, in this room, just twist time and space the right way..." Filippenko reveals a major problem in his theory: quantum fluctuations require space-time (which is something, not nothing) to already exist for any type of particles (or universes) to be created. Rather than coming from nothing, they come from pre-existent physical laws and pre-existent space-time. Space-time must already exist for quantum fluctuations to create anything. So, one must again ask, "Has the need for a divine Creator really been removed from the situation?" Not hardly. If the fabric of space-time is necessary for quantum fluctuations to create anything, then space-time first had to be created by something or Someone else. Again, this pushes the need for a Creator back a step but in no way rids us of that need.

For more on this topic, I would suggest you read Dr. Hugh Ross' review of Lawrence M. Krauss' book A Universe from Nothing. Krauss' book is a much more highly developed argument than the article I have been citing or even Hawking's book. Dr. Hugh Ross does a very good job of laying out the issues with it in part 1 and the theological explanations in part 2.

By His Grace,

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