Thursday, October 2, 2014

Did the Universe Have a Beginning?

Up until the beginning of the 20th century, atheists typically argued that the universe was eternal and uncaused, so much so that even Albert Einstein "fudged" his equations and introduced a "cosmological constant" to avoid the conclusion that the universe began. After looking through Hubble's telescope and observing the red-shift in moving galaxies, Einstein acknowledged that the "cosmological constant" was the biggest blunder of his career.


  1. The speaker in the video makes a telling gaffe when he says 'there was a beginning in time' at the five minute mark.

    Scientifically speaking, the observable structures of the known universe exist at certain scales of space/time, and the theory known as the 'Big Bang' simply implies that the universe once existed at a scale for which we currently have no theoretical understanding of the mechanics. This is not an invitation for the theist's god-of-the-gaps goodness, but rather a problem for attempts to speak meaningfully about cosmological origins in terms of classical physics, and thus logic and philosophy as well. Contrary to what this speaker asserts, the 'Big Bang' does not imply a beginning IN time, but rather that space-time altogether expanded. This distinction is important because the theist needs classical physics, especially with regards to laws of causality, to be operating even before the Big Bang, in order to build from logic an argument to a creator. The speaker needs the concept of time to be transcendent so that actions like creation have a context in which to play out; the theist needs classical cause-and-effect so that an Agent can be posited of logical necessity. But the Big Bang has the universe, including time and all of classical physics upon which we have built logic, expanding from the scale of quantum phenomena, or worse, from nothing at all. How can one argue to a being in some space creating for some amount of time, outside of the context in which notions like space and time subsist? Ideas of 'being' and 'creating' are contingent, the logical necessity for them itself ceasing to exist without the operating context of the universe in its current form.

    1. So why did Stephen W. Hawking say, "Today almost everyone believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the big bang"?

  2. There's a number of ways to answer that question actually, so I'd like to try to get to the root of it.

    Hawking himself thinks that space-time is finite in extent and lacks boundaries (with the aid of the scientific hypothesis of imaginary time); he never specifically deals with the topic of what, if any, scale of space-time would be a definition of nothing at all, probably because quantum theory disrupts our ability to predict in the special conditions of a white hole singularity. The 'beginning' which is spoken of then is about the form which space-time and matter-energy have taken, and not a description of the boundary of their entire existence.
    So, to answer your question the way I think it needs to be answered, neither Hawking nor I think it is possible to speak meaningfully about things popping into existence altogether from something that is not in any way related to the form of the universe.

  3. So, in other words, what you an Hawking are saying is that, really, the universe... really isn't finite and is actually eternal as demonstrated in the following:


    Rather than actually being:


  4. To Daniel: