SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
The Inflating, Expanding Universe and the Creator
By Dr. Christopher Plumberg
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Continued from Page One
The other major difference between inflation and expansion in cosmology is the role that these two concepts play in the theory itself. Expansion is something which we have good reason to think we can observe: subject to some very reasonable assumptions, we can read off the "speeds" of the other galaxies (relative to ours) in the same way that our hypothetical policewoman can read the speeds of other cars (relative to her own). Inflation, on the other hand, is something which has not been observed directly. Rather, the only "evidence" which currently supports the inflationary hypothesis is the fact that it ostensibly resolves the "constant-temperature" problem I mentioned a bit ago (as well as a few similar problems that I haven't mentioned). It would therefore be inaccurate to characterize both expansion and inflation as being equally confirmed by the available evidence: although the expansion of the universe observed today is virtually certain, the inflationary hypothesis is not at all so well justified. The expansion of the universe is an example of "observational science," which depends to a minimal extent on background assumptions for interpretation of the observation in question. The inflationary hypothesis, on the other hand, is an example of "historical science," which depends on background assumptions (like the truth of the Big Bang theory), and not merely on direct observations alone. Clearly, modern cosmology is a mix of both historical and observational science, and Christians seeking to understand the significance of new results in this field should pay close attention to the distinction between these two concepts.
The Big Bang theory (and its companion, the inflationary hypothesis) originated in part from the kind of historical reasoning that we have been considering: take the observed expansion of the universe and rewind it as far back as it will go. Of course, in order for this to make sense, you need to assume that the universe could have existed for that long. This assumption seems plausible if one assumes, in turn, that the laws of nature provide us with an exhaustive description of reality, and that there is no need to believe in a Creator to understand the universe we inhabit. It's crucial to realize the direction that the logic here is flowing: science has in no way required us to stop believing in a Creator. Rather, the Big Bang Theory itself has been essentially constructed on the foundation that God is at least unnecessary for explaining the history of the universe, if He exists at all. Science has not disproved God's existence; it has simply been constructed on the implicit assumption that God cannot play an operative role in any true, scientifically legitimate description of the universe's history.
From a Christian perspective, we ought to recognize that the universe requires an explanation for its existence. The singularity I mentioned earlier is actually a major problem for physicists: it is where physics stops working altogether (or, at least, the rules we know of cease to apply or make sense). As I explained above, the singularity is the point we eventually hit if we try to "rewind" the expansion of the universe as far back as we can: the further back in time we go, the smaller the universe becomes, and the higher the temperatures go. Eventually, the temperatures get so high that even our best knowledge of physics is unable to predict what should have happened. Either something in our knowledge of physics must change before we reach that point, or the universe must simply have had a beginning which was caused by something (or Someone) nonphysical.
Moreover, there are some cosmologists who have suggested that even the theories which do involve some fundamental change to our understanding of physics cannot sustain a universe which is infinitely old. A paper by Mithani and Vilenkin (2012) has pointed out that, in three of the most popular models which purport to explain what happened "before" the Big Bang, none of the three can be extended infinitely far into the past, but must eventually hit a point where they also must stop "rewinding," or collapse before they have gotten very far at all. So even the proposed modifications to physics which would help cosmologists "get around" the Big Bang's apparent requirement of a beginning to the universe would ultimately seem to encounter the same problems as the Big Bang model itself.
There are many technical details here, of course, and I haven't even attempted to address all of them. Nevertheless, what we appear to be seeing in all of this is an instance of the basic principle that we find in Scripture: in Romans 1:19-20 that "that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (NASB). In particular, creation screams that it was, in fact, created, in no small part because its very existence requires Someone to have brought its existence about. And this is exactly what we read in Genesis 1:1: "[i]n the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (NASB). Cosmologists appear to be bumping up against what Christians have known for centuries: that the universe cannot have existed from eternity past, but that it must have had a beginning, and that there must have been a Creator to bring it about.
Image Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center; "A Mini-Supermassive Black Hole"; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Truth | Controversial-Issues | Current-Issues | History-Apologetics | Science-Creation
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