Two Ways Scientists Justify the Big Bang + Why this Matters

An important philosophical argument for God’s existence is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It is deceptively simple to describe:

1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2 – The universe began to exist.

3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.

When you explore the candidates for the cause of the universe, you find that only God meets the necessary criteria (timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, personal, transcendent).

One of the fascinating things about this argument is that modern science and cosmology give solid support to premise 2 – “The universe began to exist.”

The ancient Greeks supposed that matter was eternal, ordered by the gods, and so the universe was eternal too. Hebrew thought introduced the idea that the universe was created ex nihilo (from nothing). It was a Muslim philosopher, Al Ghazili, who first posited the Kalam in the 12th century to challenge lingering Greek influences around the nature of the universe.

Today, while there are cool philosophical arguments that support both premises of the Kalam, I’m going to highlight some cool scientific supporting evidences in this blog.[1]

 

Premise 2 of the Kalam says that “The universe began to exist.” Do we know that scientifically?

 

1 – The Expansion of the Universe

Einstein discovered when forming his General Theory of Relativity that the universe behaves either like it is expanding, like on the surface of an expanding balloon, or contracting as if someone was letting the air out of it. Friedman and Lematre confirmed this with their own theory.

And then – Edwin Hubble made a fascinating discovery. Thru his telescope, as he looked into the sky, he began to notice something. Light waves from the distant galaxies had a red shift. What does this mean?

What happens when you hear an Ambulance in the distance…and it gets closer and closer to you? The sound of the siren changes. What does it do? The pitch gets higher. That’s because the sound waves emanating from the siren that hit your ear are getting squeezed closer together. And when the ambulance passes you…what happens then? The pitch drops again, because the sound waves are extending again.

Well, light also has properties that cause it to behave like a wave. And the red shift is the equivalent to the ambulance passing you and driving away. The red shift is extending of the light waves. And this is evidence that the galaxies are moving away from us. It’s almost as if we are at the centre of a cosmic explosion – but we’re not. If space is like an inflating balloon, and all the galaxies sit on the surface, then from the point of any one of those galaxies, everything is moving away as the balloon inflates. If space is expanding, then there must have been a point when this expansion started.

Scientists refer to the initial cosmological singularity, the boundary when both space and time started. Energy and matter were created at that point – the Big Bang. It’s not that something exploded in space at the Big Bang. Rather – at that event, everything came into existence.

Scientists appeal to the red shift evidence to support this theory. And the expansion rate of the universe might be variable too. But none of those negates premise 2 of the Kalam. It supports it. They also observe cosmic background radiation, which seems to be a residue from the Big Bang event. The universe observably had a beginning.

In 2003, Borde Guth and Vilenkin added to this understanding when they observed that any universe that has been expending (such as ours) cannot be infinite in the past. Rather, it must have an initial space time boundary.

 

2 – The Thermodynamic Properties of the Universe

The second law of thermodynamics states that unless energy is being fed into a system, that system will become increasingly disorderly. You can think of this a little turning on the hot tap in a warm bath. The hot water enters the system and the hot water gradually dissipates, until the temperature is consistent everywhere. When it comes to the universe, the second law suggests that at the initial cosmic singularity, energy was created. And since that point, energy has been dissipating throughout the universe. Eventually, like the water in the bath, the temperature in the universe will reach equilibrium, being consistent everywhere. And at that point, it is believed the heat death of the universe will have occurred.

The question then becomes, “If that’s the case, and the universe is infinitely old, why hasn’t it already reached its inevitable heat death state?” Think of the universe as a bit like a car. You put fuel in there and it will run for a finite time until it runs out of fuel and must then stop. Because our universe is still running, this suggests that we still have fuel in our tank. So – not only is the universe therefore not infinitely old, but in a few billion years, presumably the universe will die.

 

Conclusion

1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2 – The universe began to exist.

3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.

 

Scientific observation supports the claims of the Kalam, particularly premise 2.

There are some interesting ways to object to this evidence and try to refute the Kalam. And – I will summarise some of those in another blog. But – a very common objection might be this. If I am claiming that God created the universe, and God is timeless, then why isn’t the universe eternal and timeless as well? If the universe is clearly NOT timeless, then does that undermine belief in God as creator?

No. To explain how a timeless cause (God) can produce a temporal effect (the universe) requires God to be a personal being with free will. The universe was not brought about by some kind of supernatural, immaterial timeless mechanism. Rather, the immaterial personal and incredibly powerful person God chose spontaneously to create a new thing, the universe. And everything within it. Isn’t it interesting that this basically describes the opening statements in the Bible?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[2]

[1] William Lane Craig, On Guard Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, (Lee Vance View: David C. Cook, 2010), kindle edition, loc 1131 – 1649, synthesised and summarised.

[2] Genesis 1:1, NIV.

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Respond

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

63 thoughts on “Two Ways Scientists Justify the Big Bang + Why this Matters”

  1. “1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

    2 – The universe began to exist.

    3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.”

    This is an attempt to get around the problem of god existing, by trying to declare that it always existed. The laws of physics may have always existed. There is nothing that shows that they haven’t. So, why do we need your version of your god?

    “Rather, the immaterial personal and incredibly powerful person God chose spontaneously to create a new thing, the universe. And everything within it. Isn’t it interesting that this basically describes the opening statements in the Bible?”

    How can something that outside of time decide to do anything? There is no past and no future and no “now” to decide to do something.

    1. I’m very open to consider evidence that:

      1 – The laws of physics have always existed
      2 – God went thru a sequence of thoughts before creating space and time.

      Point me in that direction and I’ll be happy to review – thanks!

      1. No – by definition, the cause of the universe is timeless because time and space were created together. I don’t have to show that – it’s clear from the argument.

        And – again – if your question about a sequence of events without time is relevant, you’ll have to convince me why it’s relevant. Can you?

      2. Special Pleading is an informal fallacy where one deliberately ignores important aspects that are unfavourable to their view. I am not doing that – what I am doing is I am asking you why you think your personal creative process must be the same as Gods? This is quite a presumption on your part, I think.

        Thanks for the link on the eternal universe. I’ll be sure to take a read.

      3. yep, that is what special pleading is. You have declared that your god is eternal and doesnt’ need a beginning though you claim everything else must. That’s is a textbook example of special pleading. My one thing doesnt’ have to folllow the rules I want for everything else.

        And you haven’t shown that your god creates anything at all, so exactly how do *you* know its creative process?

      4. They are only supposedly “illogical” to someone who is willfully ignorant like you, Stuart. Your arguments from personal incredulity are just pathetic, no different from any other theist who doesn’t believe in your nonsense.

        “Yikes” indeed. You have no problem when the sciences make your life comfortable, but you try to claim that they are wrong when they show that your personal myths are nonsense. Such a hypocrite.

  2. “When you explore the candidates for the cause of the universe, you find that only God meets the necessary criteria (timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, personal, transcendent).”

    First off, you havent established that a god actually IS a candidate for having created the universe, because you haven’t demonstrated that a god actually exists to BE a candidate.
    Because you say its Necessary doesn’t demonstrate that God actually exists. It just assumes and defines that he does. Circular.

    1. The Kalam demonstrates the need for a cause to the universe – and on further exploration (not in this blog) you find that properties of that cause – match the general properties that mono-theistic religions understand to be owned by God.

      What ABSOLUTELY IS circular here is that you and I have had this discussion before.

      1. The prob is that Kalam is used this way dishonestly to smuggle in the God you haven’t provided evidence for his actual existence, and has the unspoken argument from Ignorance fallacy of “how else could it have happened?” Or a blatant assertion “it couldn’t have happened otherwise”.
        Dishonest, special pleading, argument from Ignorance and Incredulity.
        Circular and dishonest

      2. You really need to pay more attention. That’s exactly the point my second comment was making. If there’s even one alternative, no matter how ridiculous you may feel it is, you can not merely claim ‘God,’ without doing what you demand of others; Prove it false. 🙄

      3. Sorry – you’ve misunderstood the Kalam’s conclusions which point to the necessary properties of the cause of the universe. The properties sound like they are owned by God. The argument simply does this. You don’t like those conclusions. So what? I’m happy with that.

      4. I have misunderstood nothing. I quote from you own post
        1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
        2 – The universe began to exist.
        3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.
        Short and sweet – crystal clear – 18 words
        It says (without proof) that the Universe has a cause. It does not specify God, or give any description of what the cause may/must be. Any such definition is simply your presupposition. Watch the closing scene of the original ‘Men In Black’ movie for a possible cause. 😯

      5. Why do you need proof that whatever begins to exist has a cause? Have you seen things spontaneously appear with no cause? Wow. Tell me more!!

        You are on the right lines. You just need now to start to explore what the necessary properties of the cause are. I’m not imposing those properties, I’m deducing them from the argument. That’s all the Kalam is about.

      6. I don’t need (or expect) proof,, but apparently you do. There are 18 words. You can not “deduce” from that. You are making too much blessed, Holy stew from too few secular oysters. 👿

      7. I’m asking you why you require proof that things begin to exist. I don’t need that demons treated to me – it’s a reasonable assumption of the Kalam. Also – no – the Kalam doesn’t get you all the way to “blessed or holy” – and 18 words are enough for those willing to think deeply. Judging by the Men in Black comparison…perhaps that doesn’t apply in this case. BUT – I could be wrong 😉 You could be having an off day

      8. Also – kalam is not an argument from ignorance. This is – “You cannot prove God does not exist, therefore God exists” That is not what the kalam is doing at all – it’s arguing for a cause to the universe and identifying properties that are required. It is very thoughtful indeed as an argument.

      9. this is what Craig has

        “1. The universe has a cause;

        2. If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists who sans (without) the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful;
        Therefore,
        An uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and infinitely powerful.”

        #1 is a baseless claim.

        #2 is an assumption that only his defined entity is the creator. No need for the creator to be “personal” at all. No need for it to be changeless, no need for it to be any of the definition of “god” that Craig invents.

        #3 is a result based on two baseless premises.

      10. I have no idea what you are responding to here. If the universe having a cause is baseless – then you must think the universe is eternal or self caused. Yikes.

      11. yep. Please do show evidence for your version of your god, or any god, Stuart. We first need that to even start thinking of this supposed being doing anything like creation.

        How does this being decide to make a creation if it lives without time? It has to go from not thinking of a creation to thinking of one. When does that change happen?

        There is no evidence one needs an intelligent being to create a ordered universe. the laws of physics can be just as eternal as your magical god. If they can’t be, then that is up to you to show why.

    2. The correct answer is, “I don’t know.” not “God did it,” with only wishful thinking for proof. Why does it have to be a who?? Why can’t it be a what?? Perhaps some creature, existing in the 23rd dimension, took a crap, and the universe popped into existence. 😯

      1. Well – the Kalam deduces the cause of the universe would have to be immaterial, timeless, space less, personal and immensely powerful. What you call a purple dragon, others might call “God.”

      2. The words “logically” and “deducing” are a better – and less insulting – way of putting it. Why attack my character? Properly explore the Kalam argument instead?

      3. When someone’s been told that they are saying something that is incorrect, like that the Kalam deduces a particular creator when it only states that the universe had a beginning, and they still persist in saying it, one can only “deduce” intentionality. You know what Kalam says and doesn’t yet you attach something the Kalam doesn’t say, and say that it includes it.
        Dishonest intentionally.

      4. The Kalam concludes there was a cause to the Universe and the deduced properties of that cause – which are an extension to the argument’s conclusion as I have said – fit most religion’s ideas of God. You just don’t like that logical deduction. And so you choose to attack my character. Hilarious.

        We make logical deductions in life ALL THE TIME. How strange that – when there’s a deduction pointing in a particularly important direction you dislike – you are suddenly unwilling to go there.

      5. It’s a critical misunderstanding of our discussion. Sigh. Bless you guys – I can’t keep repeating myself here. I’ve made a logical case which you reject. And that’s just fine with me.

      6. I’m prepping a post on my understanding of Kalam. What it says, what it doesn’t that some try to “stretch” it to say, and why.
        No worries, I won’t be linking or referring to you or your blog at all.

      7. Let’s see….
        You make a foolish, unprovable claim.
        I rebut it.
        You make the same foolish claim, again.
        I rebut it somewhat differently.
        You make a silly assumption, and ask a question.
        I answer it.
        You ask the same silly question.
        I make a snide comment.
        You “Like” it, and chuckle.
        By deduction – of more than 18 words: you are not an honest, if mistaken, fundamentalist Christian Apologist. You are an Internet troll, living under a WordPress bridge. Begone, foul creature! You shall not devour this Billy Goat Gruff! 😈

    1. “what else you got?”
      And there’s the hidden argument from Ignorance and Incredulity that attempts to shift the burden of proof. Dishonest. I’ve told you this several times now.

      1. Because to exist – without beginning to exist – is the very issue being addressed by the argument. To suppose that things pop into existence uncaused is simply absurd. This is why the argument was first formed in the 12th century to respond to Ancient Greek thinking around the eternity of matter. The Kalam is about showing that this idea does not make sense. If you are claiming the universe IS self caused or eternal – then you need to posit a different sort of argument. Why do you object to things beginning to exist?

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