Friday, June 06, 2008

The Big Bang: God's Answer To Boredom

When did God get bored with nothing and decide to create something?

Whether you believe any of the thousands of creation stories that have existed for millennia around the world or you prefer the utilitarian approach of science--it all happened by accident--the ever so popular, highly touted and taught-as-fact Big Bang theory was never satisfying for many people.

For so-called creationists, they wondered what the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient and everlasting God did before he spent that time building "what is." For Christian creationists, why would a creator do nothing for infinity before, then spend six days busily creating everything, followed by an endless amount of time trying to patch up what his most devilish creations messed up? That seems pretty lame, when you think about it.

And whose days were the six? Earth days? Earth is a tiny speck in a moderately sized galaxy among billions of galaxies, in one of a possibly incredibly high number of universes. Or were those God-days? God-days could be...infinitely long.

Why would an omnipotent deity need to rest on the seventh day? Why would he need to rest at all, ever?

Was it boredom that caused him to become a creator? Why did he create such an imperfect chief angel (the Devil) that decided to oppose him and become the spiritual father of every human being (see Hebrews in the Bible)?

For those who believe in a Godless creation, what "was" before the Big Bang? Why did it even happen?

Three theories have developed over the past few decades that may lend some credibility and understanding to the nothing-then-something event called the Big Bang.

The first was proposed by Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok, whose 199 theory was improved in 2004 to suggest that the whole of everything is cyclical. What we know as our universe is a "brane" (short for membrane) that is three dimensions floating in a four dimensional reality. (Imagine sheets of paper blowing in the wind to get an idea of the concept.)

Every once in a while, branes would collide. That, they claimed, was our Big Bang. What's more, our brane will collide with other branes again, though not likely soon.

The expansion of the universe is merely the early stages of the events following the explosion. When the universe gets thin enough, its components will find each other attractive again and come together. That whole cycle process should take about one trillion years. In other words, the time since the Big Bang is 0.1 percent of the time until the next cycle begins.

The second theory, proposed by Sean Carroll, suggests that time--especially the single direction of time, not going backwards--is the problem with previous theories. He says that time progresses more like the pendulum of a clock (that's my interpretation, he didn't use those words), moving one way, then the other. What we know as time is nothing more than the pendulum swinging one way.

Each time the pendulum (our universe in time) gets too far away from its position of equilibrium, it slows down then goes the other way. Time appears to reverse, though it's really just the pendulum swinging back toward its straight-down position. Then it goes out the other way.

The third theory, put forward by rebel physicist Julian Barbour in his book The End of Time, suggests that time is an illusion. There is no such thing as time.

Each moment we experience, he says, is like a snapshot. The past is nothing but imagined memory, with no more validity than an imagined future. Put many pictures together and you could flip them like a flipbook, giving the appearance of something happening, specifically the passage of time.

What's more, what we experience is but one snapshot in an infinite number of them in an infinite number of universes. Every possible scenario that could have happened since the Big Bang has happened in a flipbook in some universe, somewhere.

The Steinhardt-Turok theory may be tested as soon as 20 years, when technology allows scientists to study whether the waves left over from the big Bang look the way they would in the cyclic theory or like the ones that would be from the single Big Bang event. Apparently they will behave differently.

The Carroll theory may not be testable, unless we can live several billion more years to see time swing back toward the equilibrium.

The Barbour theory could never be tested because it would have to be tested in some time-oriented framework.

Barbour wants us to simply believe the theory he has worked so hard to develop for the past 40 years. Believe without testing? That sounds like religion, doesn't it?

In any event, if you have been uncomfortable with the Big Bang theory because it began from nothing, be assured that great thinkers are working to ease your mind.

Meanwhile, God must be chuckling.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents who want to teach their children what to believe and what to be suspicious about so that they have the opportunity to make up their own minds.
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