God & Atheism in Cosmology

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Today’s question: Does Big Bang theory support God or Atheism? 

Very good question. Does Big Bang theory support God or Atheism? Most of us rush through life without thinking about the universe. Day to day needs occupy most of our time. Getting up in the morning, eating breakfast, going to work, playing games, paying bills, going to sleep etc. Yet, simple things in life are not isolated from the structure of the universe. 

   Cosmologist Carl Sagan once said, ‘If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe’. To make an apple pie, you must have the universe. When you make an apple pie, or when you make an omelet, you don’t think about the universe. But you need the whole universe to make an omelet. 

    It is fascinating. It is so fascinating to think about these matters. Simple things in life make us think about cosmology. Why am I here? To answer that question, we must answer, ‘Why is the universe here?’. Why are you here? To answer that question, first we must answer, ‘Why is the universe here?’.  

    Philosophy of life is intimately connected to the philosophy of the universe. Physics of life is also intimately connected to the physics of the universe. There is no biology without cosmology. All life needs a stable universe. 

   Astrophysicist Sean Carroll in his book, From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the ultimate theory of time, wrote these words: 

“The puzzle of the arrow of time doesn’t begin with giant telescopes or powerful particle accelerators; it’s in our kitchens, every time we break an egg. Or stir milk into coffee, or put an ice cube into warm water, or spill wine onto the carpet, or let aromas drift through a room, or shuffle a new deck of cards, or turn a delicious meal into biological energy, or experience an event that leaves a lasting memory, or give birth to a new generation. All of these commonplace occurrences exhibit the fundamental irreversibility that is the hallmark of the arrow of time. 

   The chain of reasoning that started with an attempt to understand that arrow led us inexorably to cosmology – to eternity. Boltzmann provided us with an elegant and compelling microscopic understanding of entropy in terms of statistical mechanics. But that understanding does not explain the Second Law of Thermodynamics unless we also invoke a boundary condition – why was the entropy ever low to start with?

    The entropy of an unbroken egg is much lower than it could be, but such eggs are nevertheless common, because the overall entropy of the universe is much lower than it could be. And that’s because it used to be even lower, all the way back to the beginning of what we can observe. What happens here, in our kitchen, is intimately connected with what happens in eternity, at the beginning of the universe.

   Figures such as Galileo, Newton, and Einstein are celebrated for proposing laws of physics that hadn’t previously been appreciated. But their accomplishments also share a common theme: They illuminate the universality of Nature. What happens here happens everywhere – as Richard Feynman put it, “The entire universe is in a glass of wine, if we look at it closely enough”. 

       Note those words: What happens here, in our kitchen, is intimately connected to what happens in eternity, at the beginning of the universe. 

Every time we break an egg

Every time we stir milk into coffee 

when we put an ice cube into warm water 

when we spill wine onto the carpet

when aromas drift through a room 

when we shuffle a new deck of cards 

when we eat a meal 

when we experience an event that leaves a lasting memory 

when we give birth to a new generation. 

    These things look so mundane and ordinary. Yet, they are all connected to the irreversible arrow of time that leads us to the beginning of the universe and eternity. 

The Bible recognizes this truth. It starts with the words, ‘In the beginning’. Genesis 1:1. In the beginning God created the universe. Then this God created plants, animals and human beings. Since the first human being, this God developed interest in the affairs of humans. This God spoke to humanity. This God is interested in the daily, mundane lives of human beings.  

    Thus, theology also is intimately connected to cosmology. Physics is connected to cosmology. Chemistry is connected to cosmology. Biology is connected to cosmology. Philosophy is connected to cosmology. Theology is also connected to cosmology. Similarly, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not just a human story. It is the story of the cosmos. 

    Man’s sin affected the whole universe. Today, the whole universe is groaning for redemption. Romans 8:22. So, the gospel of Christ is not just about the salvation of a human soul. It is also about the salvation of the whole universe. They are all interconnected. 

   When Einstein developed his theories of relativity, he was looking at falling leaves, running trains and ticking clocks. Then he looked at the whole universe. How does relativity impact the universe itself? 

     Cosmology is a heavy subject. Just an overview of it boggles our minds: The Andromeda galaxy is about 2.5 million light-years away. A single light-year is about 6 trillion miles, the distance light travels in one year. There are billions of galaxies with billions of light years of distance between them. 

    Those numbers are too tantalizing to wrap our minds around them. Yet, mathematics and physics gave us great insights into the origin, structure and function of the universe. This is Cosmic Math. This is Cosmic Geometry. The application of mathematics to the universe itself. We are going to construct a cosmic triangle. Each side of this triangle is like billions of light years in distance. 

Cosmic Geometry helps us to understand the structure of the universe

        There is no way to talk about modern cosmology without Albert Einstein. His theory of relativity brought excitement to mathematicians and restlessness to the cosmologists. What are the cosmological ramifications of the general theory of relativity? Einstein himself believed in a static, eternal universe. He was not alone. Back in the 18th century, Isaac Newton believed in a universe created by God. 

    Every science started with a Creator God and his creation of the universe. Then  naturalism took over the Western academia and they detached the universe from a Creator God. They wanted to create a universe without a Creator God. In the footsteps of David Hume, cosmology was detached from the Book of Genesis and the universe was thought to be an eternal, static entity.

Then great mathematicians took Einstein’s theory of relativity and drew conclusions that would shock even Einstein. First, let us talk about three mathematicians who drew fascinating conclusions in cosmology. Willem de Sitter, Aleksandr Friedmann and Georges Lemaître. 

De Sitter 

   Dutch mathematician and astronomer Willem de Sitter (1872 – 1934) developed a model of the universe based on Einstein’s general theory of relativity. De Sitter argued that Einstein’s relativity implied that the universe was constantly expanding. In 1917, he had informed Einstein that the equations of general theory of relativity pointed to an expanding universe. Einstein was not pleased by this finding because the scientific establishment believed in an eternal universe.  Einstein came up with a solution: He modified his gravitational equations to remove any room for expansion. He invented ‘cosmological constant’ to get rid of expansion and contraction of the universe. 

Aleksandr Friedmann 

    However, Einstein was not going to be left alone. Aleksandr Friedmann (1888 – 1925) enters the picture. He was a Russian mathematician and physical scientist. He believed that Einstein’s general theory of relativity required a theory of the universe in motion. 

A universe in motion? That disturbed many cosmologists. Where are you going with this, Aleksandr? Friedmann proposed three possible geometries for the universe: flat, open, and closed. Three cosmic triangles. 

-A flat universe obeys Euclidean geometry. 

The angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. 

-An open universe obeys a geometry

 in which the angles of a triangle

 add up to less than 180 degrees. 

-A closed universe obeys a geometry 

in which the angles of a triangle 

add up to more than 180 degrees. 

   Euclidean geometry is named after Euclide, the most prominent mathematician of the ancient world. His geometry was the only geometry until modern times. Then, non-Euclidean geometries were developed by mathematicians like Bernhard Riemann and Nikolay Lobachevsky. They studied the universe both in terms of Euclidean and Non-Euclidean terms. Surprisingly, the universe as a whole is still Euclidean. Another instance of connecting kitchen table geometry to the cosmos itself. Friedmann’s efforts led to the development of Big Bang Cosmology. Friedmann’s equations showed us an expanding universe. 

Georges Lemaître

     Now, we should also talk about another important figure in Big Bang cosmology. His name is Georges Lemaître. He was a Belgian physicist. He was also a Catholic priest at the Catholic University of Leuven, in Belgium. He was ordained a priest in 1923. He was at MIT between the years 1925 – 1927. Independently of Alexander Friedmann, in 1927, Lemaître found the general theory of relativity to require an expanding universe. 

    Williem De Sitter, Aleksandr Friedmann and Georges Lemaître: Three mathematicians making similar predictions based on the mathematical equations of the theory of relativity. That is the power of mathematics in physics. 

    But Einstein refused to accept Lemaître’s findings. He wanted to believe in a stable universe. Lemaître showed mathematically that the speed at which a galaxy moves away from us would be proportional to its distance from us. 

      Einstein was so irritated by Lemaitre and said, ‘your physics is abominable’. But just two years later, in 1929, Edwin Hubble found out that galaxies were moving away from us at speeds proportional to their distances. Lematre’s mathematics were vindicated. 

Lemaître’s mathematics and Hubble’s observations: Einstein had to swallow his pride and accept the evidence staring at him. Lemaitre’s predictions and Hubble’s observations matched with fascinating accuracy. A new physical law was born: Hubble-Lemaître law. It says that galaxies are moving away from Earth at speeds proportional to their distance. The farther they are the faster they are moving away from us. 

   In 1931 Lemaître created another sensation. He published a paper stating that the universe has a finite age. It has a beginning. It started from a cosmic point,  which he called the primeval super- atom. It happened on the first day of creation, Lemaitre called it ‘a day without yesterday’. This ‘Primeval Atom’ theory became ‘Big Bang theory’ down the road. 

     In the Big Bang model, our observable universe began at a singular moment about 13.7 billion years ago. Universe has a beginning. That became a scientific idea and immediately captured the attention of other leading thinkers. Pope Pius XII identified the Primeval Atom with ‘Let there be light’ from the Book of Genesis. In China, Mao Zedong prohibited the teaching of the Big Bang model in public schools because it would inevitably make people think about a Creator God. 

Steady-State Universe

        Some great minds would not want to give up on the steady-state universe. They argued that the universe, with whatever changes it was going through, was still eternal. Fred Hoyle

 Now, we should also look at the life of Fred Hoyle. Fred Hoyle (1915 – 2001) was a British mathematician and astronomer. He is best remembered as the defender of the steady-state theory of the universe. It holds that while the universe is expanding its matter is being continuously created to keep the mean density of matter in space constant.

 In 1948 in collaboration with the astronomer Thomas Gold and the mathematician Hermann Bondi, Hoyle developed the steady-state theory. They called it the perfect cosmological principle. Whatever happens happens, the universe expands, galaxies move, matter is created, but there was no creation event. We got an eternal, steady-state universe with no origin in time. 

    Fred Hoyle was like Richard Dawkins of our time. He was railing against Christian faith on every available media platform. He was on the BBC radio network. Christians believe in a purposeful universe. He mocked it. Christians believe in a created universe. He mocked it. Christians believe in heaven. He mocked it. 

    In 1949, Fred Hoyle ridiculed the idea of the creation of the universe in a ‘big bang’. The phrase ‘Big Bang’ was invented by Fred Hoyle. So, the theory of the big bang was invented by Lemaître, but the name was invented by Fred Hoyle.

 He was making fun of the priest’s ideas, ‘Did the universe burst out like a party girl jumping out of a cake?’. But the more he tried to ridicule it, the more it sank into public imagination. 

       Fred Hoyle told in his broadcast on February 25, 1950, titled ‘Man’s Place in the Expanding Universe’. Space was infinite, time was infinite, there was no biblical creation. In his last 5 minutes, Hoyle went unhinged on “how the New Cosmology affects me personally”. He noted that, historically, cosmology had undergone a succession of intellectual revolutions. Would that happen as a result of the New Cosmology within, say, 500 years? 

   “I think that our (i.e.my) present picture will turn out to bear an appreciable resemblance to the cosmologies of the future. There are no new fields to be opened up by the telescopes of the future.” 

     There are no new fields to be opened up by the telescopes of the future? He made such silly statements on public radio. 

   In “A Personal View”, he answered the question, ‘What is man’s place in the Universe?’. He wrote, “It seems to me that religion is but a blind attempt to find an escape from the truly dreadful state in which we find ourselves”. He claimed that Christian belief in an immortal soul existing without physical connections was nonsense. 

      This is an eternal universe. Human beings are trapped in a dreadful state. Christianity provides an exit route from this dreadful state? I won’t accept that. That was Fred Hoyle’s view of man’s place in the universe. 

Big Bang theory 

    Fred Hoyle’s tantrums notwithstanding, the Big Bang theory won the day. Scientific evidence like Cosmic microwave background radiation, laws of thermodynamics, expansion of the universe, general relativity, Newton’s laws of motion, gravitational waves, Quasars and quantum mechanics strongly support the Big Bang model. They point to a created universe. 

  The Big Bang theory can only take us to the earliest moment in time. It cannot take us to the birth of the universe. No scientist or cosmetologist can tell you what happened before the Big Bang. We have innumerable speculative theories which contradict each other. 

   We have only one source to tell us what happened before the Big Bang. That is the Bible. Only God was there when the universe was created. There was no Newton, no Einstein, no Richard Dawkins when the universe was created. 

    We read in the Gospel of John, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him. and without him was not anything that was made. 

     Who is this Word? That is Jesus. That is Lord Jesus Christ. He created all things. He created the universe. He also came to this world to save us from our sins. Lived a sinless and perfect life. Then died on the cross to save us from our sins. He was buried and rose victoriously from the grave. We should trust him to be saved. 

   Fred Hoyle lamented:  “It seems to me that religion is but a blind attempt to find an escape from the truly dreadful state in which we find ourselves”. Yes, religion is a blind attempt to escape from the truly dreadful state in which we find ourselves.  But, Lord Jesus Christ did not start a blind religion. He is our God and our Savior. If you are with Jesus, there is no such thing as a dreadful state. He is with you in life, death and eternity. 

The death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ gives us hope

So, my answer to your question is, Big Bang Cosmology only points us to a Creator God. It takes us towards Genesis chapter 1:1. From there, we should go to Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Image Credits: 

By Unknown photographer Wide World Photos – Photographic Archive University of Chicago, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48944541

By Unknown author – Cropped From, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2630080

By Unknown author – https://i.pinimg.com/originals/d9/37/6b/d9376b98145ce554b17179249bc84b2a.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80464911

By Johan Hagemeyer (1884-1962) – http://hdl.huntington.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15150coll2/id/129, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53878391

By http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=28158, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3660333

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