A Short History of Everything

It’s now time to see if science and logic can answer one of the “Ultimate Questions” (asked by the Campus Crusaders for Christ) to supposedly justify belief in god.

What the Big Bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.

We as humans don’t really ‘get’ time. Thus, when we are presented with the observational reality of a finite universe, we automatically ask ‘what came before’. The thing is, before and after are both temporal concepts, so to ask about temporal causality in the context of a time-less world is logically contradictory. At any rate, any discussion of ‘causation’ or ‘first-movers’, or really anything involving ‘the beginning’, or t=0 is currently impossible to have empirical evidence for, even in theory. Seriously.

Despite their ‘insistence’ that infinities are impossible things, we can look back to an infinite redshift and see the end of the observable universe. Hell, we even took a picture of it, and did some serious science with it that led us to learn about our whole universe. The End of the Universe:

in all its awesomeness

This is the photo of where there was more or less pre-stellar hydrogen collecting. It was created in an flash that literally engulfed the entire universe at once, so those red and blue spots are indications of tiny density variations in this

before-star soup. Before that, all the stuff in the universe was too hot for the electrons to stick to the protons, so everything was a chaotic, violent mess. Unfortunately for our quest to answer ‘ultimate questions’, this mess presents a major inconvenience: it’s completely black to our telescopes. Any photons (I.E. light that we could possibly see from an early time) would get absorbed and re-emitted randomly by these hot before-atoms. That universe-wide hell is an inescapable curtain for every (currently) possible kind of telescope. Even in theory.

The universe stretched out after that flash, and all that light from the explosion got stretched too. In fact, you can see and hear the flash if you turn on a TV to static. Some the static is actually from this universal atomic creation event.

Now, this may be the end of our observational quest with telescopes, but we do know much about what the universe would have been like. The unimaginably vast amounts of energy present before can be perfectly simulated in particle accelerators that we build today. Like the LHC,(the most complicated anything ever) for example. But even the biggest ones we can build today can only confirm our theories about the nature of everything with any certainty up until until about 10-12 seconds after t=0. That’s pretty damned close, but to get even CLOSER, we’d need to build particle accelerators bigger and bigger, even larger than the orbit of earth around the sun. And that would still be a mathematical ‘infinity’ away from t=0. And that’s the end of any possible experimental verification that anybody can think of.

The news is worse for the answers to the ultimate questions. Our very very best physics is only really capable of dealing with energy densities and universe sizes after the Planck Time. That’s about t=10-43 seconds after the big bang. But it ain’t t=0. In fact, it’s still an infinity away from zero!

So really, until we can come up with better physics (and no one knows if that is even possible), we can’t ever know what happened at t=0. Or even if there was a t=0. The only verifiable (in legal terms, justifiable) answer to any questions regarding t=0 is I don’t know.

That being said, you can always speculate. Religions have made ungodly amounts of money boldy asserting their beliefs regarding t=0. Famous physicists have done the same. Now, getting back to the Ultimate Questions, they in fact try to build an argument using t=0:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause

2. The universe began to exist

3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

Note, how premises 1 and 2 invoke t=0 as well as a temporal event, when time can’t be shown to exist at t=0, so any conclusions by this are logically fallacious, or at least unjustifiable. Regardless, this is a straight up invocation of the tired old ‘kalam cosmological argument’ which is logically disproven here (and how!).

At any rate, even if I assume a need for  prime movers, and that they must exist, that does nothing to explain where THEY came from (ad infinitum).Iff you accept that this ‘prime cause’ is itself uncaused, than you must also agree that it is logically consistent to conclude that the universe itself could be uncaused. It’s the same logic, but does not require an unnecessary and infinitely more complex ’causer’ to exist.

As for whether our current laws of physics are adequate to account for the universe as we scientifically understand it,especially in how supposedly ‘complex’ the universe is, Stephen Hawking has weighed in with his new book:

Modern physics leaves no place for God in the creation of the Universe, Stephen Hawking has concluded.

In his forthcoming book […] Professor Hawking sets out to answer the question: “Did the Universe need a creator?” The answer he gives is a resounding “no”.

Far from being a once-in-a-million event that could only be accounted for by extraordinary serendipity or a divine hand, the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics, Hawking says.

“Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist,” he writes.

It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going,” he finds.

So look, despite the fact that invoking any prominent scientists to support your case can be a logical fallacy, we must remember that even Hawking’s book is only speculation. It, like anything else involved with t=0, is fundamentally beyond knowing. Nobody knows.

However, from t= 10-43 onward, science has much to say. Admittedly, we still know how only a tiny fraction the cosmos works, but that is more than uninformed speculation. Still, even the story of that 4% is enough to completely account for the essential story of our cosmos, and us. But I’ll save that for another post.


~ by Andrew on September 3, 2010.

3 Responses to “A Short History of Everything”

  1. The answer they’re looking for is 42. Unfortunately, the Earth will be destroyed right before they discover what the question is. Really, what I’m trying to say is: We will likely never understand the beginning of the universe, and we should really get over it. We have far more pressing questions to deal with that actually HAVE answers within our grasp.

  2. […] it should be noted that we are beyond any experimental evidence regarding the ‘creation’ event, even in theory.  As for the ‘why’ bit, that implies intentionality, which is straight up silly. Try […]

  3. […] that happens to support our kind of life and allows these questions.Now, it should be noted that we are beyond any experimental evidence regarding the ‘creation’ event, even in theory.  As for the ‘why’ bit, that implies intentionality, which is straight up silly. Try […]

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