The current theory of cosmological creation is that of the big bang and is decidedly at odds with at least one fundamentalist interpretation of the bible as outlined in Genesis. There are interpretations of Genesis that are compatible with the big bang but it comes as no surprise that creationists claim it did not happen. Creationists typically maintain this theory is, at best, hard to believe as no known cataclysmic events have ever formed order out of their chaos. A good example, typical of the "straw-man" arguments often used by creationists, is that of a cyclone in a junkyard and the likelihood (or not) that it would change the junk into an ordered object such as an aircraft or car. In lay terminology, the big bang theory describes how the universe started from a huge "explosion" many billions of years ago and that all the material subsequently thrown from it eventually condensed to form galaxies, stars and planets. The supposedly analogous situation, that of the cyclone in a junkyard producing an aircraft and its subsequent ridicule are used in an attempt to demonstrate that the universe could not have come about except by way of intelligent (presumably divine) assistance. In this article, I hope to demonstrate what happened following the big bang, provide evidence supporting this theory of the origin of the universe and answer some of the questions/criticisms usually levelled at it by creationists.
Creationist Questions and Assertions
- Where did the laws of the universe come from (gravity, inertia etc.)?
- How did matter get so perfectly organised (increasing complexity following the "Big Bang" is contrary to the Second Law of Thermodynamics)?
- How were galaxies formed (where did they come from)?
- The law of "The Conservation of Angular Momentum" dictates that when objects are thrown from a spinning object (as the mass of the universe is claimed to have been thrown out from the "Big-Bang") will retain the same spin as their parent body. Many celestial bodies have spins that go in opposite directions to others thus proving that the universe cannot have been formed from a "big-bang".
- The moon is evidence that the universe was formed within the last 10,000 years ... if it was billions of years old there would be a deep layer of dust on the surface but when Apollo 11 landed there was only a few centimetre (enough for a mere 8000 years).
- The Earth (along with the universe) was divinely created the world 6,000-10,000 years ago (corollary: The Earth is not 4.5 billion years old).
The Universe ExplodesApproximately 13½ billion years ago the universe was compressed to a point with no dimensions. This, in lay terminology, was the moment before time and space existed ... there was no matter/energy, time, or space, literally NOTHING. Then the universe started. At this point the universe was highly ordered, immensely hot and spinning ... it was in the lowest state of entropy the universe has ever been and ever will be again. The entity, known as a singularity, expanded very rapidly. Sometimes this is called an "explosion", but this is misleading. In a typical explosion, matter and energy expand into space. But there was no space to expand into. Instead, space itself expanded very rapidly. Although there is evidence (background radiation and more) there is no way that we mere humans can conceive of the immensity of that "explosion" or the energies and temperatures involved. Suffice it to say that in the first thousandth of a second the universe expanded from sub-atomic to something just over a thousand metres in width The major forces (strong & weak nuclear, electromagnetic and gravity) didn't exist initially and only in the first fractions of the first second (10^–43) did they appear forming themselves into a combined super-force. The first particles began to form photons, positrons, neutrinos and their corresponding anti-particles began to form and most of these were destroyed in the fury around them. It is sobering to consider that the surviving particles (less than 1 in a billion) went on to form the physical universe we know today. With matter and radiation inseparable (an ionised plasma) the universe expanded until, at 100th of a second old, neutrino decay began on a massive scale, allowing for free electrons and protons to combine with other particles and the formation of deuterium (heavy hydrogen). Few of these particles could survive long (a few nanoseconds at best) due to intense bombardment from electrons. Due to the density of the exploding mass no light was visible in the "cloud." Finally, during the "epoch of last scattering," the major forces could exert their unique influences. With matter and radiation inseparable (an ionised plasma) the universe expanded until it was 100th second old at which point neutrinos began decaying on a massive scale, allowing for free electrons and protons to combine with other particles and the formation of deuterium (heavy hydrogen). Few of these particles could survive long (a few nanoseconds at best) due to intense bombardment from electrons and the density of the exploding mass means that no light was visible in the "cloud". Finally, during the "epoch of last scattering", the major forces are allowed to exert their unique influences. At the end of its first second, the universe having cooled to a mere 10 billion degrees, photons and electrons are no longer capable of disintegrating newly formed particles and by the end of the third second, at a billion degrees Kelvin, nucleosynthesis is able to start. Helium nuclei begin to form at a rate that will eventually form our universe with around 25% helium. Thirty minutes later conditions dictated that electron-positron pair annihilation allowed for an increase in the rate of formation of photons and some scientists believe that our universe could not have formed the way it has if it weren't for the fact that the universe contains slightly more electrons than positrons. Over the next 300,000 years the universe cools to around 10,000 Kelvin, helium nuclei acquire electrons and form helium atoms, hydrogen undergoes fusion with helium to form lithium. Radiation and matter can now separate and visible light can now be seen.
Evidence Supporting the Big BangSo, what evidence do we have to support the theory of the big bang? After its invention in the early 19th century, spectroscopic analysis revealed that the sun and nearby stars have similar spectral lines (Huggins, 1863). Meanwhile others were able to detect hydrogen, sodium and magnesium in many stars (Kirchhoff and Bunsen). Another physicist theorised that, like sound, light waves would vary in frequency dependent on the motion of the observer relative to the object in question (the Doppler shift) and in 1848 the French physicist Armand Fizeau demonstrated that as cosmological objects moved away their visible spectrums were shifted towards the red. It was established that cosmological "red-shift" is not Doppler shift but, like it, is measurable. Doppler shift is caused by the expansion of light emitted by an object that is moving rapidly away from us. Red-shift is caused by the expansion of space itself (and the light that moves through the expanding space) so the more distant an object is the faster it appears to be moving away from us. Using the same techniques Huggins demonstrated that Sirius' spectrum was "red-shifted" and moving away from us at around 30 miles per second. As part of research carried out by the Lick Laboratories at the end of the 19th century the relative speeds of some 400 stars and other celestial objects were measured and a few years later papers were published revealing the relative speeds of 14 nebulae. Nearly all of them were moving away and featured red-shifted spectra (Slipher, 1910). Research continued and in 1924 Hubble demonstrated that the galaxy M31 was separate from our own and very distant. Later Hubble reported that the Andromeda galaxy was some 900,000 light years distant and also noted correlations between the radial velocities of galaxies and their relative distances. He confirmed previous astronomers' findings that galaxies in general were moving away from us and the light we received from them was red-shifted. He noted that the greater the relative distance of these galaxies the greater their relative speed and logically concluded that if then they were moving away, at some point in the distant past they must have been closer. Hubble had finally obtained conclusive proof that the universe was expanding. Astronomers began to build their models of the universe taking into account Einstein's recently developed general/special theories of relativity. Despite his personal beliefs that the universe was of heterogeneous, uniform nature Einstein calculated that the universe was an oscillating one with the potential to expand or contract. His calculations revealed the universe to be a four-dimensional closed construct. More astronomical models were developed: a universe without matter but predicting red-shift (de Sitter); a forever-expanding universe (Lemaitre) and a static universe based on Einstein's cosmological constant (Friedmann). Friedmann's work was dismissed by Einstein until Hubble, in 1932, proved beyond doubt that the universe was expanding. An expanding universe begged the question of a beginning, an origin for the expansion and, in 1931, Lemaitre published a paper incorporating Einstein's General/Special Theories of Relativity, based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics and an assumption of an increasingly disordered universe originating in a singularity. It was not well received. Gamow (1947) expanded on Lemaitre's work using recent discoveries in quantum theory and developed the concept of a giant nucleus that rapidly broke down and expanded allowing all the universe's elements to form very early in the universe's life. Flaws were found in this theory (notably that the atomic masses 5 and 8 could not have been constructed in this way). Now known as "the big bang", a term coined by Fred Hoyle, Gamow's universe began to lose ground to the religiously adopted steady-state theory. Steady State defined a universe where young galaxies formed in the voids between the more mature ones and it was only abandoned when evidence of radioactivity was found in galaxies and was consistent with an expanding universe based on a big-bang cosmology. Refinements of George Gamow's (1947) calculations indicated that if the universe were compressed to the size theorised in the "big bang," "explode" and then cool, some 13 billion years later the temperature would be around 3 Kelvin. According to Planck's law all bodies emit energy and, depending on the length of the wave, can register any radiation between X rays and radio waves. A celestial body's energy emission depends on its constituent elements, the surface area and the surface temperature. The body that emits the greatest amount of energy is termed a black body. Penzias & Wilson (1965), whilst tuning a new antenna, detected static (persistent radio noise) where there should have been none. In a paper, for which they won the Nobel Prize in Physics, the two scientists revealed data showing the universe glowing in the microwave spectrum. They interpreted these findings as the remnant glow of the "big bang". Essentially, that the "big bang" actually occurred is supported by observable phenomena i.e. an expanding universe, a background radiation of around 3 Kelvin, ratios of hydrogen to helium etc.
Current ThoughtAccording to modern cosmological theory (based on Einstein's Theory of General Relativity) at the time of the Big Bang space did not exist or rather the big bang occupied the whole of space. Subsequent to the big bang the universe has expanded and as it does so it creates (becomes) the space into which it is expanding. Evidence of this is that distant galaxies are not moving at high-speed through space but move slowly relative to their neighbouring counterparts and as space expands the wavelength of light lengthens (as earlier stated this is commonly referred to as "red-shift"). Space is therefore considered infinitely elastic and does not expand into anything. One scientist, Robert Dicke theorised that a temperature in excess of a billion Kelvin would be required to create our universe. Using Planck's Black Body Curve as a guide he calculated that the Cosmic Background Radiation of the Big Bang should be about 3° above absolute zero (Dicke). Dicke also suggested that our universe may have been created from the remains of a previous one and that infinitesimal amounts of radiation would be detectable if this were so. This possibility represents a modification to the big bang theory and also suggests that one day our universe may stop expanding and begin to contract. If so, it is possible that our universe may contract to a point as small as the original singularity that formed our universe, an event that has been termed "the big crunch". Returning to the early expanding universe ... at 3000 Kelvin, helium and hydrogen (25% to 75%) would have been the major constituents of the galaxy and that is reflected in the constituents of stars today (Peebles). Peebles further predicted that had the big bang occurred in the manner described its background temperature would be around 3 Kelvin and more recent precision measurements have revealed that the universe is bathed in radiation that fitted a "black body curve" for an object with a temperature of 2.735K.
The Age of the UniverseMany of the evidences pointing towards the age of our universe have been discussed above. It is possible to calculate (based on their relative speeds and the resultant Hubble Constant) the relative paths of the celestial objects of the universe to an origin some 15 billion years ago. Hubble's Constant is still under debate but ranges somewhere from 50Km/second per Megaparsec (Mpc) to 100Km/second per Mpc. The temperature measurements fall in line with a universe that originated in a single point (and huge explosion) approximately 15 billion years ago but there are other evidences. This background radiation has since been confirmed using spaceborne information on satellites such as COBE & FIRAS and the experiment continues today on satellites such as the DIRBE project. The data from COBE falls within 1% of that predicted for universal background radiation ... in total 67 separate data points fit the universe's "Black Body Curve" precisely.
The Formation of Galaxies, Stars and Planets.The law of "The Conservation of Angular Momentum" dictates that when objects are thrown from a spinning object (as the mass of the universe is claimed to have been thrown out from the "Big-Bang") will retain the same spin as their parent body. A major creationist claim concerns this law and attempts to destroy the big bang theory on the basis that many celestial bodies have spins that go in opposite directions to others thus proving that the universe cannot have been formed from a "big-bang". In answering this question, it is important to remember that the total angular momentum of a system is conserved if there are no external torques acting upon the system (torque being a rotational force). But even if there are no external torques acting upon a system, this says nothing about the angular momentum of bodies within the system. A body in such a system may experience a change in angular momentum as long as the rest of the system experiences an equal and opposite change in angular momentum. The coalescing spheres of material that would eventually form galaxies, stars and planets may have been given retrograde rotations through collisions or near collisions with other bodies whose angular momentums were similarly affected and the likely mechanism by which this might occur is known as "magnetic braking". Wagner (1991) hypothesised that the Sun, during the early stages of the solar system's formation, pulled ionised atoms along with it so that the atoms accelerated whilst the suns rotation slowed. To deal specifically with our local star, Sol, and it's associated orbiting bodies ... the Solar system originally formed as a disc, spinning on a roughly flat plane (imperfect because of density variation). This disc consisted of unbound matter, in other words, the only thing that kept it together was gravity. As the disc spun, certain rotational speed levels were segregated by gravity into rough bands and those bands partly defined by the gravitational forces acting upon them, partly by magnetic interference (just like Saturn's rings). The nature of gravity is that the steady appearance of defined bands of higher mass will lead to other bands of higher mass forming nearby, deflected from being accreted into the sun or another planet by the attraction of the forming protoplanet but not actually absorbed into it. This is an equilibrium point. Mathematically it is somewhat more likely that such accretion will happen in a slightly lower energy orbit for the protoplanet than for protomoons so the majority form that way. If the protoplanets had protomoons then, as the protomoons formed, they did so in orbits either slightly inside or outside that of the protoplanet they would eventually orbit (remember they were still orbiting the sun only). If a protomoon formed in an outside orbit then the planets higher speed would allow it to 'catch up' on an orbital path and, by means of gravity, snag it. If such an action caused the protomoon to slow significantly then it would fall into the planet to get added to its mass. If it was snagged on the other side (inside the protoplanets orbit) then it would have fallen into a stable planetary orbit. Because, in this example, the protomoon started at higher energy the only way this could have happened was for it to fall 'behind' the orbit of the planet to be picked up by its gravitational wake. If that happened then its motion would be in the other direction to that of the orbital direction around the sun. Protomoons that formed at lower energy than their protoplanets would almost certainly orbit in the same direction as the planet they were orbiting, the chance of it happening the other way around would have been very slim. In short, the answer is this. If the only gravitational force acting upon the disc were the centre of it (mean centre of mass) then differentiated orbits could not occur, but as all the matter which forms the disc begins to differentiate, it also has mass and therefore can form its own orbital systems. It is slightly more likely that the orbit will be in the same direction as that of the system as a whole, but not massively so. To put it simply ... when the "big bang" occurred and material was "thrown" outwards that material did not exist in isolation. Had it done so nothing could have condensed into planets, systems & galaxies. All materials exhibit gravitational attraction so, given time, galaxies, systems and planets (over many billions of years) coalesced, each interacting with other and imparting some of their spin to them. The result is a universe filled with a diversity of celestial objects, none of which exhibit exactly the same spin as any other. So exactly why did the celestial bodies form in the first place? Data from the COBE, FIRAS and DMR projects have been analysed and a picture of the universe's background temperature has been painted. It can be seen that the background temperature of the universe varies, albeit by only a fraction of a Kelvin, but in huge regions 500 million light-years in width (Smoot). These are reflections of the minuscule perturbations in the big bang itself and it is due to these perturbations that inconsistencies in the early universes ionised plasma first formed and allowed for the formation of celestial bodies.
The 2nd Law of ThermodynamicsAs mentioned above a favourite creationist argument is that of a cyclone in a junkyard and the likelihood (or not) that it would change the junk into an ordered object such as an aircraft or car. This argument is based on their belief that changes in living things are of extremely low probability and could not occur without "intelligent design" which overcomes the physical limitations, in this case the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. In essence, the creationist 2nd Law of Thermodynamics argument is contradictory. They claim evolution & the big bang are inconsistent with the law because thermodynamics doesn't permit order to spontaneously arise from disorder, but creationism (in the guise of intelligent design) doesn't have to be consistent with the same law at all! The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a fundamental law of physics that states that there is a general tendency of all observed systems to go from order to disorder (or more accurately, move towards a higher state of entropy) and the claim is often made by creationists that the big bang (if it occurred) would violate this law. Creationists often abuse the Second Law of Thermodynamics (apparently) not realising that it explicitly states, "...in a closed system..." By definition, a closed system cannot contain anything external to itself and planets, stars & stellar systems are not closed as they feature elements external to themselves. In raising this question creationists assume that a change characterised by a decrease in entropy cannot occur under any circumstances. However, thermodynamic experiments are carried out in laboratories in near-perfect closed systems and spontaneous entropy decreases can, and do, occur all the time in nature, providing sufficient energy is available (Steiger, 1997). The ONLY example of a perfect closed system is the universe itself. A simpler analogy to the aeroplane/junkyard scenario would be the stacking of a number of blocks neatly atop each other which, common sense dictates, requires intelligent design however stacking per se does not violate the laws of thermodynamics. Since same relations hold any activity involving thermodynamic energy change the blocks will not stack themselves but, as far as thermodynamics is concerned, all that is required is the energy to pick them up and place them one on top of the other. Thermodynamics merely dictates the energy changes required getting from state A to state B but, if the energy relationships permit, that change may occur whereas, if they don't permit it, the change cannot occur. On the other hand, thermodynamics does not rule out the possibility of intelligent design; it (whether design is intelligent or not) is just not a factor that is considered with respect to the calculation of thermodynamic probability. Considering the earth as a system, any change that is accompanied by an entropy decrease is possible as long as sufficient energy is available. The ultimate source of most of that energy, is of course, the sun. The numerical calculation of entropy changes accompanying physical and chemical changes are well understood and are the basis of the mathematical determination of free energy and many of the parameters involved in much of our technology. Creationists would necessarily discard the entire mathematical framework of thermodynamics and provide no basis for the engineering design of turbines, refrigeration units, industrial pumps, etc. They would do away with the well-developed mathematical relationships of physical chemistry, including the effect of temperature and pressure on equilibrium constants and phase changes.
The Age of the MoonCreationists claim that the moon is evidence that the universe was formed within the last 10,000 years. If it, the moon (and by implication Earth & the universe), was billions of years old there would be a deep layer of dust on the moon's surface. When Apollo 11 landed there was only a few centimetre ... enough, creationists claim, for a mere 8000 years. "The most amazing thing about the cosmic dust argument is that it is still being used!" Matson (1994). This argument is based on evidence obsolete for the last 25 years. First highlighted by creationists in "Scientific Creationism" (Morris, 1974) it quoted estimates from a Scientific American article (H. Petterson, 1960) in which the author measured the influx of cosmic dust collected at the top of Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawaii (39,150 tons/day). According to Morris (1974) "The best measurements have been made by Hans Petterson, who obtained the figure of 14 million tons per year." What Morris failed to mention was that this figure was the upper estimate and that Petterson actually favoured a figure about a third of that value. Further Petterson warned that his calculations be treated with caution as they might be too high. In actuality the quoted figure by Morris represented what Petterson would have considered an absolute upper limit to the cosmic dust accumulation on the Earth. Today, however, we no longer have to rely on estimates but use instead data gained from space-bourne satellites. Four years before "Age of the Cosmos" (Slusher, 1980) devoted an entire chapter to the subject (quoting a massive 700,000 tons/day) a paper was published detailing how cosmic dust had been measured from satellites and giving a figure of 48 tons/day. This figure, a factor of 3 less than originally quoted, totally destroyed Petterson's work and Morris's & Slusher's claims. Recent figures (1990) from the LDEF satellite show this figure to be slightly higher at 40,000 metric tons/year (121 tons/day) for the entire surface of the Earth. Morris continued to claim (though without quoted source) figures as high as 200,000 tons/day and has been stated as being "... incorrectly cited, outdated, from a non-referenced symposium publication, based on unreliable data" (Matson, 1994). Dohnanyi (1972), basing his figures on data from satellite-borne detectors estimated cosmic dust on the moon to be (2 x 10^-9 grams/square centimetre/year or 2.3 tons/day). So in the 4½ billion years since the Earth's formation a layer of about one and a half inches of cosmic dust would accumulate on the moon (approximately the level that was found by the Apollo crews). Despite such data being thoroughly "debunked" creation "scientists" such as Mr Kent Hovind continue to claim cosmic dust should (if the Earth were really 4½ billion years old) be around 182 feet deep (based on an accumulation of 1 inch every 10,000 years). His claims look even more ludicrous in light of the fact that, had he checked his figures properly, the quoted rates and depths represent two very different rates of accumulation. It is also surprising that Mr Hovind and others continue to use this argument since, in a recent creationist "technical" paper (Snelling and Rush, 1993) it was admitted that the depth of dust on the moon was in line with mainstream scientific beliefs. "It thus appears that the amount of meteoritic dust and meteorite debris in the lunar regolith and surface dust layer, even taking into account the postulated early intense bombardment, does not contradict the evolutionists' multi-billion-year timescale (while not proving it). Unfortunately, attempted counter-responses by creationists have so far failed because of spurious arguments or faulty calculations. Thus, until new evidence is forthcoming, creationists should not continue to use the dust on the moon as evidence against an old age for the moon and the solar system."
A Receding MoonLet us assume, for the sake of argument, that the Moon is receding at 6 inches per year. If we go back a million years, then the Moon was 6 million inches closer to the earth. That comes to about 95 miles! Since the Moon is about 240,000 miles away, that is utterly insignificant! Indeed, since the Moon doesn't orbit in a perfect circle it varies more than that on its own. A more accurate estimate, based on the present rate of lunar recession, puts the Moon within the Roche limit around 1 or 2 billion years ago. That is the argument most creationists use. It is believed that the tides act as a brake which slows down the earth's rotation. The earth's lost energy can't simply disappear, and it goes into speeding up the Moon. As it speeds up, the Moon moves to a higher orbit. Thus, the energy of the Earth-Moon system is conserved. The effectiveness of the tidal brake on the earth's rotation strongly depends on the configuration of the oceans. Thus, we should inquire as to whether the current arrangement is an average value or not. The present rate of tidal dissipation is anomalously high because the tidal force is close to a resonance in the response function of the oceans; a more realistic calculation shows that dissipation must have been much smaller in the past and that 4.5 billion years ago the moon was well outside the Roche limit, at a distance of at least thirty-eight earth radii (Hansen 1982; see also Finch 1982).(Brush, 1983, p.78) Thus, our moon was probably never closer than 151,000 miles. A modern astronomy text gives an estimate of 250,000 kilometres (155,000 miles), which agrees very closely with Brush's figure (Chaisson and McMillan, 1993, p.173).
ConclusionCurrent thought is that the universe is approximately 13 billion years old and the current theory covering its inception is that of the big bang and, closely related, the inflation theory. Evidence to support this includes:
- Variations in background microwave radiation of the universe demonstrating the cosmological equivalent of "fossil relics" of micro-miniature perturbations in the original big bang without which the universe, in its present state, might never have been formed.
- The expanding universe and the fact that objects further away from us are moving away faster than those closer to us.
- Einstein's General Theory of Relativity & Quantum physics.
- The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states that systems cannot move from a high state of entropy (high order/energy) to one of low entropy (high order/energy).
- The Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum which dictates that all objects thrown from a spinning object should retain the same spin as the parent object from which they were thrown.
- The apparently low levels of dust present on the moon.
- Queries concerning the creation of laws and attributes of the universe such as gravity, inertia, time etc.
- Scott, 1998
- Jim Merrit, 1997
- "Matson vs. Hovind", Dave Matson, 1994
- "Asimov's New Guide to Science, 4th Edition" Isaac Asimov, 1987
- "Creation of a Cosmology: Big Bang Theory", xxxx, 1998
- "NASA: Microwave Anisotropy Probe", NASA, 1999
- "Intelligent Design: Humans, Cockroaches, and the Laws of Physics", Victor Stenger, 1997