Has the Big Bang recently been proven?

[Warning:  This is a bit technical, but then again, many of you would probably like more detail from time-to-time.  I just have to be careful not to lose the rest of my readers!  I usually have a knack for making complex things simple, but I fear that this is not my "knackiest" attempt.]

 

The origin of the universe has long been a controversial subject and certainly a point of contention between atheists and Christians.

Atheists and many other skeptics generally hold to the “Big Bang” view regarding the origin of the universe.  However, many Christians also believe in the Big Bang and feel that it is simply the method God used to create everything.  There are many reasons why Big Bang cosmology does not fit with the Genesis creation narrative (and many scientific problems with the Big Bang itself), but that is not the focus of this particular article.

It seems that every time cosmologists discover something, they hail it as being further evidence (or even “proof”) of their views and often snidely comment that it is further indication that God is not necessary.

Background

Last month (March 2014), astronomers once again discovered what they claim is strong evidence for the Big Bang.  It has to do with something called “gravity waves”.

Without getting bogged down in all the technical details, when the Big Bang was first proposed, it suffered from some significant problems.  One of those challenges is referred to as the “horizon” problem.  Succinctly put, even in the supposed 13.7 billion year time frame of the Big Bang, there isn’t enough time for light to have traveled from one side of the universe to the other.  The problem is that it appears, however, that light must have done so, because the temperature of the universe in all directions, seems to be virtually identical.  Let’s bring it down to Earth for a second.  If you place a hot cup of coffee on the counter in the kitchen, initially the coffee is very hot and the air in the kitchen is 70 degrees.  If you wait long enough, eventually, the temperature of the coffee and the temperature of the room will be the same (the coffee cooling way down and the room slightly warming up).  The heat from the coffee dissipates into the air until everything is the same temperature.  It’s a similar situation with the universe.  Temperature is transmitted by light travel, so for everything to be the same temperature, light would have had to been able to reach from one side to the other.  As mentioned, however, there hasn’t been enough time, even in the alleged billions of years, for this to have happened.  Scientists added an element to the Big Bang model, called “inflation” in order to address this problem. This ad hoc element has the universe inflating much faster than the speed of light during the very early stages of the Big Bang event.  This “tweak” in the standard model lies outside the realm of proof, since it involves a one-time event that happened in the distant past, but there also had been no evidence for it either… just something that would be necessary to salvage the “theory” (I use the term loosely, because ideas regarding origins do not technically qualify as theories).

Tying this into our current news item, if “inflation” actually occurred, they would expect to detect “gravity waves” that would have been produced as a result of this event.  Up until recently, there has been no such evidence.  It is now claimed that last month’s discovery is the long sought after evidence.

Issues with the New Evidence

Sensational news is always, well… sensational!  The tendency is to overstate what it is you’ve actually found.  It works well to convince the uncritical audience that your beliefs are water-tight. And even if the evidence eventually falls out of favor (upon further evaluation), chances are, the discrediting will not make the headlines or be heralded with the fervor of the initial more favorable announcement.  Therefore, the public is always left with the impression that they just keep finding more and more evidence for these evolutionary theories, making it harder and harder to continue to believe the Bible.

So is this really (as they say) the “smoking gun” evidence they claim it is?  My original (unpublished) version of this article went into a fair amount of detail, but then I decided it was too technical and would not likely be useful to most readers, so I opted for this simpler summary:

  • If there truly was something like the “Big Bang”, it would need something like an initial “inflation” period (that they invented) to help overcome serious physical constraints.
  • If there truly was something like the “inflation” event, it should have produced something called “gravity waves”.
  • If there truly were (and are) gravity waves, it should polarize photons (light) a certain way.
  • They now think they have detected this polarization.
Here’s the catch…
  • There are too many variables in order for them to know that the polarization they think they see is exactly what they expect.
  • They also cannot rule out the fact that the polarization could be the result of some other phenomenon (i.e. other than gravity waves).
  • They also cannot rule out the fact that the alleged gravity waves themselves could be the result of some other event, such as the expansion of the universe when God created it.  (Scripture states seven times that God “stretched out the heavens"!  Very interesting in light of modern astronomy.)
  • Since this new discovery is ultimately alleged to be support for the inflation theory, it is important to note again that one of the problems inflation was supposed to solve was the smoothness in the cosmic background radiation (the “horizon” problem mentioned earlier).  This assumes that the background radiation actually came from the Big Bang, which is one of the things they are trying to prove. (i.e. they are assuming something they are trying to prove!)  This radiation could have come from another source and there’s actually good evidence that it could not have come from the Big Bang. One reason is that there isn’t any “shadow” associated with this radiation.  If the radiation truly came from the Big Bang, it would have to travel through all of the cosmic dust that exists in space to reach us, thus creating a “shadow” much like is created when a light source is placed behind an object… you see a silhouette of the object, because it is blocking the light.  In reality, we don’t see that “shadow” indicating that there must be another source for the actual radiation.
If I had more time and space, I could try to confuse you a little more!  It’s fairly difficult to tackle a technical topic like this one in a short article, but it was such a big news item, that I felt I needed to at least say something about it.

Conclusion

The recent discovery, as interesting as it may be, does not confirm the Big Bang and is actually dependent upon which Big Bang model is being considered (there a few different versions).

You could summarize it this way.  [Take a deep breath…] If there was a “Big Bang”, there must have been a very complex period of “inflation” in order to solve numerous problems with the Big Bang.  However, if there was an inflation period, it should have caused “gravity waves” and if there were gravity waves, it would polarize photons a certain way as a result.  What they found seems to possibly be similar to the polarized photons that may be the result of gravity waves, but could possibly be from something else, but if they really are gravity waves, they could be from the inflation event, unless there’s something else causing them, but if not, then it would be consistent with at least one of the Big Bang models.  Wow… can’t get much better “proof” than that, can you?

In reality, this latest discovery will most likely continue to be heralded as further powerful evidence of their supposed already well-established theory.

For those who still want further detail, see the article by physicist Dr. John Hartnett: "Has the ‘smoking gun’ of the ‘big bang’ been found?"

I’ll end with an interesting comment from a very prominent secular astronomer:

“‘Cosmology may look like a science, but it isn’t a science,’ says James Gunn of Princeton University, co-founder of the Sloan survey. ‘A basic tenet of science is that you can do repeatable experiments, and you can’t do that in cosmology.’”

Cho, Adrian, A singular conundrum: How odd is our universe? Science 317:1848–1850, 2007.

 

As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions at about this article or any other issues, please don’t hesitate to contact us any time. We'd love to hear from you! You can even arrange a FREE ENGAGEMENT at your church, school, conference or camp.

Jay Seegert (Co-Founder & Principal Lecturer, Creation Education Center)

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