New evidence confirming and expanding on the Big Bang theory:

In the beginning, the universe got very big very fast, transforming itself in a fraction of an instant from something almost infinitesimally small to something imponderably vast, a cosmos so huge that no one will ever be able to see it all.

This is the premise of an idea called cosmic inflation — a powerful twist on the big-bang theory — and Monday it received a major boost from an experiment at the South Pole called BICEP2. A team of astronomers led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced that it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time.“We’re very excited to present our results because they seem to match the prediction of the theory so closely,” Kovac said in an interview. “But it’s the case that science can never actually prove a theory to be true. There could always be an alternative explanation that we haven’t been clever enough to think of.”

The reaction in the scientific community was cautiously exultant. The new result was hailed as potentially one of the biggest discoveries of the past two decades.

There was nothing, and then, in an instant, there was something. It’s almost like somebody created the cosmos out of nothing.

UPDATE: Um, guys, I know this doesn’t prove God’s existence, or that God created the universe, etc. Let me state here without fear of contradiction that I do not believe science can ever prove such a thing, though astrophysics and cosmology can make (and is making, I think) belief in an intelligent designer more credible. See the work, for example, of cosmologist Paul Davies (here and here), comfortable neither with theism nor atheism, but whose work is helpful to the theist case. I was baiting you secularists, and it tickles me to see that some of you took the bait. Don’t y’all ever wonder sometimes if you’re wrong?

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120 Responses to Nailing The Big Bang

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  1. Helena R. Criswell says:

    I have had at least three ghostly experiences, with physical manifestations that were experienced by others, including people who didn’t believe in the supernatural.

    What were these physical manifestations? Did anyone record them with a smartphone?

    [NFR: Physical objects being moved without anyone nearby; a woman thrown backwards over a chair; banging on walls and windows with no one visible; inexplicable sounds (e.g., human voices, without humans present); apparitions; smells that could not be accounted for by science. These things were experienced by a number of people present. They all happened in the 1990s and early 2000s, before smartphones. Had someone recorded them with smartphones, I’ve no doubt you’d find a reason to deny that. I could be wrong. I don’t think I’m wrong. — RD]

  2. The Wet One says:

    ” Carlo says:
    March 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm
    The Wet One:

    “Also day and night before the sun and moon (how does that work exactly?). ”

    Sigh. You never read St. Augustine’s Confessions, did you?”

    Nope. Never did. I guess it was obvious wasn’t it? Well, whatever. I’m pretty sure I’ve lived well enough without reading it. Maybe one day though. Till then, whatevs.

  3. Helena R. Criswell says:

    Did the universe pop out of nothing or not? Was there a beginning or not?

    As a physics professor, I assume you understand that the everyday expression “pop out of nothing” is nonsensical. There are many viable self-contained finite space-time models. On the recent threat on Linde, I mention the example of Vilenkin’s “Creation of universes from nothing,” Phys. Lett. B 117:25–28 (1982), which applies a quantum tunneling instanton model to the Friedmann–Lemaître–Robertson–Walker metric. This produces a finite space-time universe for which it is nonsensical to talk about a “before” or “pop out of nothing”.

  4. Classicist says:

    @Chris 1 – “It was secular scientists who greeted a Priest’s mathematics”

    Indeed, although similar mathematics from secular sources were similarly criticized until Hubble’s discovery. Furthermore, Lemaitre distanced himself from Rome’s claims that he had proven the existence of God and Creation.

  5. WorldWideProfessor says:

    …..smells that could not be accounted for by science. [conclusion: ghosts]

    *facepalm*

    Various responses leap to mind:

    1. Are you sure it wasn’t an example of this?

    2. “Science” tried to “account for” the smells? How? Did they happen to occur in a lab someplace?

    3. How does the peer review that is essential to science evaluate proposed accounts of a smell? Do papers in Nature or the Proceedings of the Royal Society come with scratch’n’sniffs? 🙂

    4. So, are we saying here that there are some smells that may be Intelligently Designed? 🙂 🙂

    Fun times….

  6. I assume you understand that the everyday expression “pop out of nothing” is nonsensical.

    I would agree that the phrase doesn’t adequately describe the empirical evidence. What would be accurate is, there seems to have been an infinitely small point from which all that we can empirically observe expanded, and we can measure the time duration and dilation of our universe back to that single point. Thus, there is an observable beginning, much as a ray has a beginning (unlike a line). What we don’t know is whether anything existed outside that point or, in our limited frame of reference “before” that point (albeit there was no time, rendering “before” an inadequate term). Preceding might still have some meaning, divorced from temporal reference.

    Creation ex nihilo is not inconsistent with the available evidence.

  7. Carlo says:

    Helena:

    yes I am familiar with that kind of model. I would take it with a pinch of salt. But in any case case I will always be happy to change the time of the verb for you: it appears that the universe POPS out of nothing.

    As I already mentioned the philosophical question of creation has very little to do with the question whether there was a beginning in any meaningful sense.

  8. Carlo says:

    Classicist:

    “Furthermore, Lemaitre distanced himself from Rome’s claims that he had proven the existence of God and Creation.”

    As far as I recall, there were no such formal claims. Pius XII just got excited because he thought that Lemaitre’s “primeval atom” fit nicely with the popular imagery about creation ex nihilo. Lemaitre was not happy about the possible misunderstandings that would follow, and that was the end of it.

  9. Socrates says:

    Carlo:

    Did the universe god pop out of nothing or not?

    Start asking yourself some questions, it will do you good.

  10. Socrates says:

    One’s opinion on the existence of god depends a great deal on the definition of god. Spinoza’s god is very different from the Christian god. Which god are you trying to prove or disprove?

    But there’s no evidence that any of the various notions of “god” are true. Personally, I think people believe what they want to believe.

    (I think there’s overwhelming evidence that a personal all-loving god does not exist.)

    One question I have about the Christian god (and similar gods) is, why doesn’t god just appear and end all of this speculation? Why is god silent, hidden? Is this some sort of game? A test?

    [Yes, I know! We can’t understand the mind of god.]

    Any question that you can ask about the cosmos, you can also ask about god. And the answers are equally mysterious. How could the universe appear out of nothing? How could god appear out of nothing? How could anything, god or the cosmos, not have a beginning?

    Religion and science both fail to explain the most fundamental question. I think Thomas Nagel is right when he says that the true nature of reality is far stranger than anything anyone has ever imagined. Robert Nozick says, if your answer to “Why is there something rather than nothing?” isn’t very strange, it only shows that you do not understand the question.

    Explaining existence by adding a god does nothing to explain anything. Now we can ask the very same questions about god. And the questions still don’t have answers.

    [Someone mentioned Jim Holt’s book “Why Does the World Exist?” It’s a terrific book.]

    Finally, Jerry Coyne says, if you want to be taken seriously, you need to be able to answer this question when you make truth claims:

    How do you know?

  11. MBrown says:

    @Socrates

    The question of the First Cause isn’t a question to prove that “there must be a god, because something must have caused there to be something rather than nothing” – your critique is quite correct – “what then caused god?”. The question of the First Cause is intended to demonstrate the limits of materialist worldview. That is to say, materialism must necessarily be inadequate to explain the existence of the universe, and so it can not rule out non-materialist possibilities. It’s a negative argument, not a positive one.

  12. Socrates says:

    MBrown says:

    “The question of the First Cause is intended to demonstrate the limits of materialist worldview.”

    Actually it demonstrates the limits of all worldviews, including Christianity.

  13. MBrown says:

    @Socrates – Indeed, that is true. However, I don’t think that Christianity posits that the question of the First Cause is settled, but rather that it is a mystery beyond our comprehension. Many materialists fail to do the same, and draw conclusions which are incompatible with their asserted worldview.

  14. Chris 1 says:

    Furthermore, Lemaitre distanced himself from Rome’s claims that he had proven the existence of God and Creation.

    True.

    The dividing line between science done well and science done badly is still more a matter of humility or arrogance than of religiosity or secularism. Arrogance warps the ability to see clearly without regard to belief or unbelief.

  15. Pope Leo XIII remarked enthusiastically that the Big Bang is entirely consistent with church teachings — not that it proves church teachings to be either correct or accurate.

    The problem with the fundamentalist view is the claim that EITHER science or the Bible are true, but both cannot be true because they are mutually inconsistent. That is also the Dawkins error.

  16. Confanity says:

    “There was nothing, and then, in an instant, there was something. It’s almost like somebody created the cosmos out of nothing.”

    –Okay, I get that this is “bait,” but it also rehashes a fundamental misunderstanding about how the universe works. Please allow me to attempt to explain.

    Time is part of the universe. Time and spaces are dimensions of the universe. They are properties of the universe, and therefore, by definition, only exist within it.

    Imagine a stone, approximately the shape of an American football: it has length, and width, and depth. Let’s say I point to the air next to the stone and ask, “But what about this length of the stone”? You would be perfectly justified in pointing out that the question is meaningless, that the length of the stone does not extend outside of the stone itself.

    Now imagine that instead of a stone, we are looking at a universe. Re-label the long axis from “length” to “time”; we can do that just fine because both “length” and “time,” as Einstein showed us, are dimensions. The universe, like the stone, is a self-contained entity; if you are inside you may look at one of the edges of the stone and observe that the stone appears to “start” there and “expand” away from that point in a certain way… but the “length” of the universe does not extend beyond the universe itself.

    Just as a stone’s length does not extend beyond the stone, so time does not extend beyond the universe. There is no “before.” There is no “start,” either, just an edge. Seen from outside of time, the universe doesn’t “expand” either, any more than a stone “expands” when you compare different parts – the dimensions are simply different. The term “expand,” after all, implies a change in size over time (a change in one dimension relative to another dimension), but as soon as you start discussing the universe itself as a whole, you can’t separate time out: we already established that time is part of the universe.

    So no, no amount of discovery about the nature of the edge of the universe we call the Big Bang offers even the slightest shred of evidence for any religious claim. Finding a stone lying on the beach does not mean somebody built it by hand and dropped it there! Discovering properties of the stone does not give license to claim that somebody designed the stone that way! Measuring the stone’s edge does not allow the stone’s “length” to exist, independently, outside of the stone itself!

  17. Please read The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking.

  18. Mike Alexander says:

    Here’s what I don’t get about this debate.

    Imagine to situations. (1) An intelligent creator created an *interesting* universe(2) the same interesting universe exists without a creator.

    From a human point of view, I cannot see a *relevant* difference between these two.

    From the standpoint of empirical reality, a creator god that is empirically undetectable is indistinguishable from no god at all

    This leaves open the possibly of subjective experience. Subjective experience is fundamentally unverifiable. All scientific hypotheses must be falsifiable and so God is outside of science.

  19. So no, no amount of discovery about the nature of the edge of the universe we call the Big Bang offers even the slightest shred of evidence for any religious claim.

    Sorry, that just doesn’t follow. What we can detect INSIDE our universe is rapid expansion of all four dimensions (including time) from an infinitesmally tiny point. That corresponds reasonably well to the opening verses of Genesis — without of course proving them to be true. (Personally, I think whatever glimpse God showed to Moses blew his mind, and only the general impressions are reliable). What might lie OUTSIDE that universe is beyond our comprehension. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

    From the standpoint of empirical reality, a creator god that is empirically undetectable is indistinguishable from no god at all

    Not if that empirically undetectable God talks to us now and then, in a manner that conveys overwhelming power and scope, but lacks empirical verification. Then we have to sort out, is this something I want to buy into, or is it hallucination or machination?

    As Albert Einstein said, “The Lord God is subtle, but malicious he is not.” So, if this empirically undetectable God has some plans for us, and intervenes in subtle, emprically undetectable ways, such a God may still have considerable significance. There is just no empirical PROOF.

  20. Rusty says:

    What we can detect INSIDE our universe is rapid expansion of all four dimensions (including time) from an infinitesmally tiny point. That corresponds reasonably well to the opening verses of Genesis…

    It’s worth pointing out that, with the possible exception of the very first sentence, the opening verses of Genesis are exclusively concerned with the formation of a single planet; our own. Waters, days, nights, skies. Land, seas, vegetation, and then some stars… but just “to give light on the earth.” Then right on to fish and birds, with nary a mention of galaxies or stellar nurseries or globular clusters or black holes.

    To read Genesis as mapping convincingly —‚ or even reasonably well — to a model of an expanding singularity really requires a leap, but it’s a leap that believers will always be ready and willing to make.

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