The Big Bang theory
Good job there was no one around
|Although everyone now calls it the Big Bang, cosmologists caution us that it wasn’t really an explosion in the conventional sense: rather, it was a sudden expansion from nothing—on an unimaginably huge scale. Scientists prefer to call it the singularity, or time t=0, before which there was nothing—no space, no time, no matter, nothing at all.
Within the tiniest split second after the singularity, the temperature hit 100 billion degrees centigrade. Within a minute, the universe was already a million billion miles across. "Within three minutes, 98% of all the matter there is, or ever will be, has been produced. We have a universe," says Bill Bryson in A Short History of Nearly Everything.
Back in 1916, Einstein noted that his field equations of general relativity predicted an expanding universe. At the time, it wasn’t possible to verify this experimentally, and he added a cosmological constant (which students will recognise as a `fudge factor`) to align his theory with the common wisdom of his day—that of a static universe. He later called this fudge ‘the biggest blunder of my life’.
Thirteen years later, observations made by Edwin Hubble (he of the space telescope) established that the velocities of galaxies result from a general expansion of the universe, thus supporting Einstein’s original conclusion. Then, in 1945, George Gamow calculated that only a universe expanding from a near-infinitely hot beginning could account for the existing abundance of the elements.
This was pretty radical stuff, and most scientists had a hard time accepting it, partly because of the implications for a beginning of things, which sounded a bit too creationist for their worldview. The UK`s Professor Fred Hoyle, for example, pushed his ‘continuous creation’ theory as an alternative.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that the notion of a ‘big bang’ became generally accepted, as the empirical evidence began to pile up. One major piece of evidence was the discovery of the existence the background radiation that George Gamow had predicted would be left over from the creation event, and present everywhere throughout the universe.
Empirical data and analysis continues to come in confirming that the Big Bang theory is the best explanation that science currently has for the origin of the universe.
If cosmologists project backwards from the way the universe is now, considering the speed at which it is expanding (plus a bit more physics), they come up with two numbers for when the universe began (with a margin of error, which doesn’t change the scenario very much): the universe was created about 13.5 billion years ago, and Earth came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago.
People of faith and people of science can agree on at least one thing—there was a beginning. Beyond that, Christians take a variety of views, but go on to say `In the beginning, God created...` (Genesis (OT))—however he did it.
Pray: Lord, only you know how the universe came into being! Who are we to try and work out exactly how you did it? Your creation was beautiful and perfect, and now we look forward to a time when that perfection will be restored. Thank you for everything you have done, and help me to appreciate it. Amen.
Visit Reasons to Believe - a science/faith think-thank website
Read the book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Read the book God and the New Physics by P C W Davies
Read the book Three Views on Creation and Evolution by Nelson, Newman, Van Till & Reynolds
Read the book The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross
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