The other night I was talking with some young adults. Two out of the three mentioned being dubious about the Big Bang. This really took me by surprise. Why were they skeptical about such a well-evidenced theory? Not only that, why were they skeptical about a theory that provides evidence for God’s existence?
All three grew up in church. Their parents attend regularly. I think we can all agree, nobody just happens to be skeptical about the Big Bang. I remember my own parents being prejudiced against it. We were taught that the Big Bang is “man’s attempt to do away with God.” The Earth is not millions of years old–scientists are utterly confused when they assert such things.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, listen up: the Big Bang is not evidence against God. In fact, it’s evidence for God.
Did it Actually Happen?
Before looking at its implications, we first should look at the evidence it actually happened. William Lane Craig is a fine example of a Christian that thinks Genesis 1 teaches creatio ex nihilo, which is latin for “creation out of nothing.” In scripture we see something very similar to the Big Bang. According to Craig, Genesis tells us that God is the Big Banger. If you agree with him, you’ll agree that the biblical data actually raises the probability of the universe having a beginning. In other words, the Bible is evidence for a Big Bang. Think about that for a second.
Let’s now turn to the scientific evidence.
The Universe is Expanding
One of the most astonishing features of our universe is that it is expanding. Prior to Einstein, most scientists believed that the universe was steady–objects in space have always been where they are, fixed, and will remain there forever. This has all changed. Physicists now believe that galaxies, stars, and planets are all moving away from each other at incredible speeds. Importantly, these bodies aren’t expanding into empty space that already exists, rather, space itself is expanding. How do we know that space is expanding? One of the ways we’ve established this is the observation that stars are redder than they should be.
Have you ever wondered why ambulances and police cars sound lower in pitch after they pass you? I remember learning about this in college. The technical name for it is the “Doppler Effect.” Basically, the sound waves from the siren are compressed as the ambulance speeds toward you and get stretched as it races away. We perceive this compressing and stretching as higher and lower pitch. If you’re an audio-visual person, check out this helpful video demonstration.
Since sound and light are both made up of waves, the same kind of doppler effect happens with light. When objects are moving away at high speeds, they appear redder than they would otherwise be. Edward Hubble was able to confirm this redshift was happening in 1929. He also discovered that galaxies further away from us had a deeper redshift. Meaning, the further away these galaxies are, the faster they are traveling (that’s because velocity can be deduced from the amount of redshift). But why do further galaxies travel faster? And how is any of this evidence of a Big Bang?
If the universe is growing larger at every moment, as these redshift observations confirm, then it was smaller each moment in the past. As we go further back in time, the amount of space only gets smaller and smaller until eventually we reach a point. That point, referred to as the initial singularity, is what scientists call the Big Bang. This also makes perfect sense of why further galaxies are traveling faster. If we assume that everything in the universe arose initially from a singularity, then it makes perfect sense why galaxies furthest from us are traveling faster. Think of the first moment after an explosion–debris furthest away from the center are all traveling the fastest.
For more evidence of the Big Bang, check out this fun article (also note how the author arbitrarily excludes God from the causal alternatives).
It’s clear that both the biblical (if you agree with Craig) and scientific evidence support the Big Bang. The biblical picture is that God is the efficient cause of the universe. He’s the Big Banger. He brought the universe into being (see Genesis 1:1). Science also bears this out. The universe is expanding. As we trace the expansion of the universe back in time, we eventually reach the beginning. So, where’s the conflict?
Some Christians will object at this point on temporal grounds. Science tells us that the amount of time elapsed since the Big Bang, within the standard Lambda-CDM model, is ~13.7 billion years. But that’s incompatible with the Bible; it tells us that the Universe is 6,000-10,000 years old. What can be said of this alleged conflict? Three points.
First, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: does the Bible actually teach the universe is young? We may have been taught that growing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. We–and by ‘we’ I mean many of us, including myself–were also taught the Rapture view. Does that mean it’s true? Not at all. The Rapture view is most likely false–something I never would have realized had I not looked into it.
Second, most Old Testament scholars, the actual experts in this area, are Old Earth Creationists. They are convinced Genesis doesn’t teach a young universe. In the book Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, four out of the five experts (all Christians, btw) defend an Old Earth reading of Genesis. This is important. Only one author defends the view this objection is based on. In fact, most of the authors explain how they were once Young Earthers and eventually changed their minds after looking deeper at the text–Averbeck’s essay is a perfect example. (For some of the reasons scholars prefer Old Earth readings, see here and here.)
As a photographer, I don’t study Hebrew or Ancient Near Eastern texts for a living–so I am more than happy to defer to the experts. These people have devoted their lives to investigating the very questions we are asking, why wouldn’t I care about what they have to say? If you are persuaded the Bible teaches a Young Earth view, what you need to do is give the scholarship a fair hearing. Don’t be dogmatic. Broaden your horizons a little. If after a careful investigation you come away maintaining a Young Earth view, which some have, that’s fine–but at least you’ve done your due diligence.
Third, this objection is incredibly limited in scope. Even if it were sound, it only works against a subset of Theists, namely Christians, that hold a specific interpretation of Genesis, namely Young Earth. Christians that aren’t Young Earthers won’t be affected; Theists that aren’t Christians won’t be affected. If we want to get technical about it, this objection doesn’t actually do anything to disprove Theism. Also important to note is that a young Earth doesn’t entail a young universe. And in fact, I consider this a good argument against a young universe interpretation of the creation narrative.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
I mentioned at the outset that the Big Bang is actually powerful evidence for God’s existence. Here’s why. The same evidence in support of the Big Bang (e.g., expansion), when combined with additional evidence and philosophical argument, leads to the conclusion that the universe had an absolute beginning. And since everything that begins to exist requires a cause–things don’t just pop into being for no reason–then the universe itself requires a cause. But what kind of thing could create a universe? Well, God could.
Let’s unpack this a bit further. There’s a fairly well-known argument for God called “The Kalam Cosmological Argument.” It goes like this:
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) The universe has a cause.
The argument is logically valid. That just means that if the first two premises are true, the conclusion follows necessarily. The evidence we have of the expansion of the universe (redshift, cosmic microwave background, etc.) is pretty solid empirical evidence that the universe had a beginning. Since we know the universe is expanding at every moment, the further we go into the past, the smaller the universe gets, until eventually it reaches a point. (For advanced readers, see .) Combined with additional lines of evidence (from thermodynamics, philosophical arguments against an actual infinity, etc.), premise (2) above is most likely true.
But what about premise (1)? If you think, like I do, that things can’t just pop into being uncaused out of nothing, then you’ll agree that (1) is true. Anything that comes into being must have a cause (note that this doesn’t apply to God since God is, by definition, perfect and uncreated). Moreover, if things can come into being for no reason, why aren’t they doing so all the time? Why don’t we see Nikon cameras popping into existence for no reason? If things can do that, why aren’t they doing it all the time? The simplest answer is: they can’t; everything that begins to exist has a cause. So, premise (1) is true.
If (1) and (2) are true, then it follows that (3) is also true. We return to this question of what kind of thing could create a universe. In analyzing what can cause the universe, we need to get clear on what “the universe” is referring to. By ‘the universe,’ I mean ‘all physical reality.’ So what we’re really asking is this: what kind of thing could create all physical reality? Well, physical reality can’t cause itself to exist, so, the cause of the universe must be transcendent; it must go above and beyond physical reality. It must also be pretty powerful (powerful enough to create a complex universe). The available alternatives are starting to narrow down. What kind of thing is non-physical, causeless, immaterial, spaceless, timeless, and immensely powerful? God fits the bill pretty nicely.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument doesn’t by itself prove the existence of God, but it is a pretty good start. It gets the wheels turning. The evidence for the Big Bang is therefore evidence for God, not against God.
The reason for objecting to the Big Bang has less to do with the fact that it involves a “beginning” and more to do with the inconvenient numbers that come with it. If you were to take the age 13.8 billion year age of the universe on a pie chart and try to colour in the portion where humans have existed, or perhaps the proportion of stars which have orbiting planets where there are creatures God with which God is in a relationship, you would need thousands of 5K screens before the first coloured pixel would appear. So you may… Read more »
The Big bang and KCA do, however, lower the likelihood that atheistic naturalism is correct. This is no small feat. The rest of your concerns are just details.
That isn’t actually true. And won’t be until the theist can start demonstrating that their claims about the argument are actuality true.
All the argument itself does is say that our observable universe had a beginning. Cosmologists generally agree with that already and think that beginning is some sort of quantum state.
Where did the quantum state come from?
Why did it have to come from anywhere?
If you can just make up a god and declare that he just always existed (with zero evidence to support your claim), why can’t I use your same method and just declare that the quantum state has just always been there?
The quantum state is a contingent reality. As such it has not always been there. And as Alan Guth, Lawrence Krauss and other physicists will tell you, the quantum vaccuum is not eternally existing. It is an unstable physical reality. That’s why I ask where it came from.
Theists aren’t just making up a god, as you say. A necessary, uncaused being is the *conclusion* of the cosmological argument. As for the evidence, the article offers some.
How can the quantum state be contingent? I’ve already defined it as always being here. Therefore it can’t be contingent. None of those people would tell you that the quantum vacuum is not eternally existing. Besides which I’ve already defined the quantum vacuum as eternally existing,. Remember we are playing by your rules, so I get to make up any definition I want to. Actually the conclusion of the cosmological argument is that the universe had a beginning. That is the third premise. The conclusion you are talking about is a bunch of declarations that theists can’t actually demonstrate are… Read more »
” I’ve already defined it as always being here. Therefore it can’t be contingent.” And I should accept your definition because….? According to Alan Guth, inflation, while positing a prehistory to the universe, still requires a beginning. See his interview with Robert Kuhn here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbj-mQVmfgs&feature=share (from 10:00 to 14:00) To clarify, the scientific evidence supports the second premise that the universe began to exist. It’s a matter of logical inference that leads us to a cause of the universe. And since all space, matter and time came into being, the cause must be spaceless, immaterial and timeless. These properties are… Read more »
“And I should accept your definition because….?” Lol, now you know how the atheist feels when you declare that god has a certain definition. If you are going to be making up definitions for god with no real reason to accept them, you can’t complain or ask why you should accept anyone else’s definitions. When you provide a compelling reason to accept your definition of god, I will do the same for my definition. “According to Alan Guth, inflation, while positing a prehistory to the universe, still requires a beginning.” That’s not actually true. All he is saying is that… Read more »
Hi Darren. What is true about God? Would you recognize the evidence of His handiwork if it existed?
“What is true about God?” As far as I can tell there isn’t anything true about god. I have yet to find anyone that can demonstrate that such a being exists. “Would you recognize the evidence of His handiwork if it existed?” At this point probably not. But that is only because no one can describe what his handiwork would even look like. There are lots of stories that people make up that give such an answer, but no one seems to be able to demonstrate that those stories are accurate. Until the stories, that were made up, can be… Read more »
Hi Darren! Thanks for taking the time to reply. Ok, so if you’re not sure you’d recognize the evidence, it seems then you wouldn’t be at liberty to say God has not demonstrated or proven He exists, but only that you are not convinced he has not, and therefore, God likely doesn’t exist? If that’s the case, that’s simply an argument from incredulity. That’d be like me saying, “Well, Darwin doesn’t convince me, therefore evolution is false.” By no means! You seem to be a priori assuming the “stories” are “inaccurate” – but let’s say you’re correct. That can only… Read more »
“……but only that you are not convinced he has not, and therefore, God likely doesn’t exist?” Depends on the god concept. For most god concepts your description of where I am at would be accurate. But there are some god concepts that are logically impossible that I would say can’t possibly exist. For example a loving, all powerful, all knowing god is logically incompatible with natural disasters and cancer. And any god that created time is logically impossible since creation is an action and action is necessarily dependent on time existing before it can take place. “If that’s the case,… Read more »
Thanks, Darren! Your last statement first. We’re still deadlocked. “Verified to be accurate” is still assuming a standard of accuracy (what would that be and from where does it come?) and is still assuming that the stories are inaccurate, a priori. “Evidence” If you think the evidence is lacking or insufficient, this also implies a standard of your own of some kind. Who or what determines what counts as acceptable evidence? If you say, “Well, I do,” ok. But that’s not finally evidence any more than my hypothetical incredulity toward evolution would be evidence against evolution. Omni qualities. The only… Read more »
“We’re still deadlocked. “Verified to be accurate” is still assuming a standard of accuracy (what would that be and from where does it come?) and is still assuming that the stories are inaccurate, a priori.” That isn’t actually the case, and as long as you insist on taking this view of it, you just aren’t going to understand what I am saying and I am going to be doing a lot of correcting your mischaracterizations of my position. In order to move forward, you really do have to understand that just because something hasn’t been verified to be accurate doesn’t… Read more »
Hi Darren You’ve assumed the mind of God on the matters at hand and that your thoughts and definitions and perspectives are in accordance with what those of a divine being would be. While I do not wish to misrepresent your position, Darren, in order for your points to have validity, you’ve got to assume the mind of God on most of them. For the most part, they’re straw men reducing God’s omniscience to your own imaginative constructs. What you know of “love” is not omnibenevolent knowledge. You must concede there is more to love in the mind of an… Read more »
“You’ve assumed the mind of God on the matters at hand and that your thoughts and definitions and perspectives are in accordance with what those of a divine being would be.” Well, if you are arguing that god isn’t loving because his definition of love is different than any humans is, then you have just gone to prove my point for me. “While I do not wish to misrepresent your position, Darren, in order for your points to have validity, you’ve got to assume the mind of God on most of them.” No I don’t. I’m not assuming the mind… Read more »
I have to admit, I’ve always found the Kalam Cosmological Argument to be the worst and most dishonest arguments that theists put forth. “If you think, like I do, that things can’t just pop into being uncaused out of nothing, then you’ll agree that (1) is true.” Several points here. 1. There are some interpretations of quantum physics where things do pop into existence without a cause. 2. If you have a rule of nothing that something can’t come from it, then you are not talking about nothing. You are talking about something with rules and properties that govern how… Read more »
Quantum physics is based on probability. Nothing is ever sure and deterministic in the quantum physics of our time and therefore I personally don’t think that it belongs to the category of pure science. Because, the goal of science is to eliminate,or at least explain the ‘natural phenomena’ of our observations. And, I am sure you work agree with me that quantum physics is much harder to understand.
The scientists that study quantum physics would probably disagree with you on whether it is a science or not. We can, and have, made great strides in technology because of what we learned to be true about quantum mechanics and how the world really works.
And, it has more verifiable evidence for it than god does. So if you want to discard quantum physics from possible explanations because you feel it isn’t a real science and hard to understand, then god would have to be thrown out under the same criteria.
To begin with, what does it mean to say that an argument is dishonest? That is not an objection; that is just slander and, furthermore, nonsensical, as arguments are a series of premises, not agents with intentions. I would suggest dropping the polemics and simply voicing your objections if you do not think the argument is sound. In any case, your confusions regarding the usage of ‘nothingness’ in the argument are pervasive. When the theist recites the slogan, “something cannot come from nothing,” they are not ascribing properties to nothingness, tacitly assuming that ‘nothingness’ is a thing; rather, they are… Read more »
“To begin with, what does it mean to say that an argument is dishonest? ” In this case it means that the person creating the argument is intentionally misrepresenting what is being said by changing the definition of words mid-argument. I used to think it was just a mistake, but I’ve talked with too many apologists who know they are doing it and still insist on doing it as it is the only way they can make the argument work. I just can’t believe it is just a mistake any more. “……things that come into existence, or more specifically, states… Read more »
Hey, Jacob. Sorry if you felt intimidated for some reason. Actually your explanations regarding socialism are quit concise, just fairly length: which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Do you have a list of books on socialism, communism and anarchism which you could recommend to me?
Hi Cameron. I think the age question cuts both ways. Science should not force an exegetic on the text in either direction. There is no age mentioned in the Bible. Genesis teaches neither old or young. We can’t take millions or thousands of years and impose our particular chronology onto a text that does not specify it. The proper hermeneutic of Genesis is Christ, not Chronos. Saturn ate his children, Jesus does not.
The scientific paradigms are always shifting.
Im sorry but what you say is not correct, Scientists who actually work in early universe cosmology tend to think of the big bang as the evolution of the universe from a hot dense state not from an initial singularity. What was before the hot dense state? According to most early universe cosmologists before the big bang was inflation. They dont take the idea of an initial singularity very seriously. So the big bang is not evidence of an ultimate beginning.