Friday, January 03, 2003

The Big Bang

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1).

God initiated His creation by holy fiat. Physically, the manifestation of His speaking the universe into existence was what we all know as the Big Bang.

The Bing Bang was a massive burst of hot energy, initially confined to a small if not infinitesimal region, which ultimately expanded, cooled down, and coalesced into the matter of which all things are made.

There is a great deal of evidence for the Big Bang. Let me mention just two fairly easy to understand characteristics, the second of which has profound theological significance.

Visualize videos you have seen of explosions. There is a fireball which starts out small and hot, and as it expands you can tell by the color change, and also intuitively, that it is also cooling down. Eventually the fireball dissipates and the space around the explosion returns to a normal temperature.

The Bing Bang was like that, but not quite. There is still a remnant of heat from the explosion. Princeton physicist Robert H. Dicke calculated that if the universe resulted from the Big Bang, a background radiation of about 3 degrees Kelvin (-454 ºF) would exist throughout the universe. A few years later, in 1965, Bell Lab physicists Penzias and Wilson, using an ultra-sensitive microwave telescope, found an unexpected background of radiation (heat) coming from all directions. It persisted after repeated equipment and procedural checks (at one point they thought it was most likely due to bird droppings on their dish).

The temperature of this uniform background was 2.7 degrees Kelvin. It was the predicted remnant heat from the Big Bang. Penzias and Wison won a Nobel Prize. Dicke should have shared in it.

The universe is something like a big oven, with the temperature currently set to -454.8 ºF. This temperature fits the Big Bang model precisely. If there was no Big Bang, where did this radiation come from, what is its purpose, and why the conspiracy to make it turn out to be exactly what the big bang predicts.
The other aspect of the Big Bang that is truly fascinating is that all the galaxies in the universe are moving away from one another, but in a sort of peculiar way. We cannot project them back in time and pinpoint the location of the Big Bang. This is because the big bang is not what you think, and the analogy to a conventional explosion is not perfect.

A conventional explosion fills the space around it; the Big Bang created the space as it expanded. If went back to a time before the big bang, you could not fly around an empty vast universe. There was no universe—it’s not that space was empty but rather that there was no space whatsoever.

To understand this, you need to think of a 2D analogy—thinking in 3D is too difficult. Get a balloon, one that expands spherically. Blow it up about half size (don’t tie it) and use a marker to put dots more or less uniformly on the surface. Imagine the dots are galaxies, and our universe is 2D, that is we are confined to stay on the surface of the balloon. We not only cannot go “up”, off the surface or “down” into the balloon, we cannot even conceive of what that means, just like we cannot imagine a fourth spatial dimension in addition to the three we live in.

So the surface is our universe, our space. If we travel in one direction forever, we don’t bump up against the edge of the universe. We get back to where we started. There is no space outside the universe. So it is with our 3D universe.

There is also no center to our universe. In 3D, we have a notion of the center of the balloon, but for the 2D universe of the balloon’s surface, we cannot even think about an invisible dimension like “radially inward”. As far as we can tell, there is no privileged spot on our surface.

No blow the balloon up a bit. What happens to the dots? They all move apart from each other, just as we observe with the galaxies of our 3D universe.
The 2D universe is expanding. More space is being created. It now would take longer to walk around the universe.

Let the air out, in a controlled manner. The universe is shrinking; we are heading back in time toward the big bang. The dots are getting closer together; depending on how many you drew they may even begin to “collide”. You can’t do this until the balloon becomes a point, but you can probably visualize it. The dots converge in a small region; all matter is highly concentrated, the density is high, the temperature is high. We are at the big bang. There is no space beyond our tiny universe. If we set out in any direction we would quickly return to where we started.

It is mind boggling. It is awe inspiring. And it came from somewhere, and that somewhere is so clearly God.

Liberals routinely remake God in their own image. They don’t like a God who condemns abortion, divorce, and homosexuality. They especially don’t like a God who provides only a narrow, exclusive path to salvation. So they make a new god, always a nicer, more tolerant god; one like they would be, if they were god.

Conservatives also remake God. They assume that any God worthy of the title couldn’t possibly spend billions of years preparing the earth for the penultimate act of His creation: mankind. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, He wouldn’t use the extinction of millions of species to provide the natural resources (oil, coal, etc.) for mankind to use, he simply would create them in place.

It is awfully presumptuous to decide how God would carry out His own creative work.

It is an appealing God, but the so is the tolerant god to the liberals who manufacture him (or her). God’s awesome creative power is not challenged by scientific investigation into how he carried out His work. Science is, in an ever-increasing fashion, demonstrating God’s miracles, how He tailored the universe and the earth for the arrival of man. How He intervened time and time again, as conditions changed, to create new species, or allow others to become extinct, in a clear progression that created the conditions necessary for human life.

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