Genesis and the Big Bang

The Story of the Big Bang

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity

In 1915 Albert Einstein completed his famous general theory of relativity and almost immediately he attempted to solve the relativistic equations to in order to describe space-time physics of the whole universe.  His results published in 1917 correctly showed an expanding universe but as pointed out by Gerald Schroeder in Genesis and the Big Bang (1990), the prevailing theory at the time was that the universe was static or isotropic. According to that theory, the universe never at any point in time came into being and had therefore existed from all eternity. 

In order to conform with this, Einstein added what scientists call a ‘fudge factor’.  I believe that any respectable accountant would call it cooking the books.  Say your inventory says you have ten apples but one has gone missing.  For audit purposes, you then multiply the nine by 1.111 reoccurring and the books will theoretically balance! 

Einstein later admitted that it was the worst error of his professional life. Five years later mathematician Alexander Friedmann recalculated Einstein’s figures without the fudge factor.  The result?  A universe in a state of perpetual expansion.

Doppler and Hubble

What has this to do with scientific evidence of God’s existence, you might ask?  Let me take you further along the journey of discovery. 

As far back as 1842, J C Doppler, a professor of mathematics in the Prague discovered why sound waves transmitted from a moving source, e.g. a car hooting which, say, are coming towards one, have a higher pitch but when travelling away from the observer, have a lower pitch.  Simply, it is because the movement of the source towards the listener compresses the pitch of the waves and conversely, as it travels away, the waves become stretched further apart.

The effect was given Doppler’s name. It applies also to light waves.  Using the Doppler effect in the 1930s, Edward Hubble discovered that the velocity or speed of any galaxy in our universe is proportional to its distance from earth. Galaxies that are twice as far from us move twice as fast. This meant that the universe is expanding in every direction. The startling significance is that it has taken every galaxy the same amount of time to move from a common starting position to its current position.  It was this discovery which lead to the big bang theory with Hubble as its founder. 

The theory was not, however, universally accepted by scientists at that time.  Further evidence, it seems, was necessary.

George Gamow and the "Hot"Explosion

A number of theories were developed but in 1948, Russian born scientist George Gamow postulated that the universe started off as an immense explosion.  Significantly, he calculated that although billions of years had passed, there would remain in our time a residual heat or radiation of about 5° Kelvin.

Penzias and Wilson: Microwaves from Space

In 1964, astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, in an attempt to detect microwaves from outer space, by chance discovered an extraterrestrial noise. The noise did not seem to emanate from one place but came from all directions. This at last was overwhelming evidence of radiation from the farthest reaches of the universe: a fossil or relic of the Big Bang.  

The Penzias-Wilson equipment and other earth-bound instruments were hampered in making further progress because of the factors such as the earth’s atmosphere.  Scientists agreed that whilst the existence of this universal radiation was powerful evidence of the Big Bang, calculations showed that the radiation would not be uniform or, in scientific jargon, isotropic.  There would, they predicted, be distinctive ripples which they were able to predict in diagrammatic form. 

COBE

In 1992, NASSA launched a mission code-named COBE [Cosmic Background Explorer] with the express mission of mapping the background radiation to find evidence of these ripples. 

The mission was highly successful and the onboard instruments were able to show some differentiation in the distribution of CMBR. The discovery was a story on the front page of virtually every newspaper in the world. Both the London Times, the New York Times, and others centred on a statement by George Smoot, the team leader from the Lawrence-Berkeley Laboratory. He said, "It's like looking at God."

The picture was, however, still not exactly what had been predicted, but it was acknowledged that this was due mainly to the fact that although the instrument used [a Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer] was sensitive, it was not sufficiently so to get the exact picture.  What it did show was that the temperature of the universe was 2.725 plus or minus 0.002 K (-270.2750 C), astonishingly close to George Gamow’s prediction fifty years earlier

The following is the detailed, all-sky picture of the infant universe created from nine years of WMAP data. The image reveals 13.77 billion year old temperature fluctuations (shown as color differences) that correspond to the seeds that grew to become the galaxies. The signal from the our Galaxy was subtracted using the multi-frequency data. This image shows a temperature range of ± 200 microKelvin.

MAP

On 30th June 2001, NASA launched a Delta II rocket with a spacecraft called the Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) into orbit.  Three months later, MAP was in position and began making measurements of the tiniest fluctuations in the universe’s temperature. 

On 11th February 2002, the results were published.  They were astounding.  There were countless little bumps: seeds for galaxies and stars which formed about 380 000 years after the initial explosion.  The picture which emerged which the scientists called a ‘baby picture of the universe’ was precisely as predicted. (See image above).

Acceptance of the Standard Model

There remain a small number of scientists who still adhere to either a static (and therefore non-created) universe or to an oscillating universe which had no beginning but consists of an eternal series of big bangs, each followed by a collapse, implosion giving rise to the next big bang, the vast majority of the scientific community now accept the standard model: a single Big Bang from which the earth and all life on it eventually came into existence. 

The question then, is how does the Big Bang explanation of the beginning of the universe compare with the bible?  Many people including some highly respected scientists say that the two tell exactly the same story, just in different words. 

Genesis and Big Bang Commonality

The most striking similarity is that in both Genesis and Big Bang cosmology, the universe came into existence ex nihilo (from nothing).  In fact, in scientific terms, both the universe and time were born in that single instant. Ironically, it is this factor which induces the atheists amongst the scientists to deny the Big Bang theory of creation because in the known physical world, matter can neither be created nor destroyed.  Since there would have been nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . before that moment, nothing could come from it.

As Christians, we don’t have this hang up because the bible tells us that God created everything from nothing.

But was there actually a "big bang"? Is there any biblical evidence of such an occurrence? The Psalmist wrote, "By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm" (Ps. 33:6-9).

As we have already read, it is by the Word of the Lord that creation took place:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life..." (John 1:1-4). All life came from the Word, who is Jesus. God sent forth His Word and the world came into being. He spoke and there was life.

When God speaks, things happen. Isaiah wrote,

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it" (Is. 55:10).

As one commentator wrote, “The Scriptures are in complete agreement with the concept of a Creation event. God created the universe from nothing. All of the stars, planets, galaxies, as well as all of the life that covers this earth came to be, because God spoke the word and it came into existence.”