Back when I was first arguing the concepts behind Atheism is Not a Belief System my main antagonist on the BBS cited the Big Bang as proof of god’s existence on more than one occasion. It was one of his cherished arguments, one that he was convinced there was no answer to. According to him god willed the creation of existence from nothingness, in his eyes an absolute proof of his Catholic god. The rebuttal to this particular line of argument involves understanding physics and extrapolating data to its ultimate conclusion. Essentially there was existence before there was what we know as spacetime today, and what we see as matter today existed then, perhaps in some other form. We don’t know what that form is or how the concept of before could be measured before there was time, but you can’t get something from nothing without god, ergo there was something before.
Unless you want to posit god, the continuance of existence is a fact due to the law of conservation of energy. In order for the bang to occur the matter had to be there to explode in the first place. You can’t have an explosion of nothing. An explosion of nothing is a miracle of godlike proportions, and positing god just adds the complexity of the creator of god and then his creator’s creator, in an infinite loop of creator beings that mirrors the common expression turtles all the way down. Either existence always was and always will be, or there is something else we don’t yet understand at play here, as far as the cosmos is concerned.
As a baseline, our understanding of what is occurring really is in question. What we casually refer to as dark matter and dark energy makes up most of what we refer to equally as casually as the universe. Dark matter is no more certain to be one simple thing than dark energy is. These are merely placeholders like unobtainium, a number to plug into the missing holes in our understanding of the universe. We don’t know what most of the universe is made up of, and we don’t know what kind of energy is pushing it to expand at the rates that we can measure from astronomical observations. We simply can’t see everything we need to see to understand the universe at a fundamental level.
In much the same fashion, black holes exist both in this spacetime and outside of it. The Schwarzschild boundary marks the point at which normal space ceases to exist. Inside that radius we can’t know what is occurring because spacetime breaks down beyond that point. We can, and do, theorize as to what occurs and maybe, someday, we will be able to test some of these theories. But until we can go and directly measure a black hole what we are left with is mathematical proofs that we must accept as true because the math is valid to the extent that we understand it. In the meantime we have found black holes in our observation of the universe, so their existence is an established fact, much like the matter that we can calculate is present in them even though we can’t see them directly. That is the part of them that is outside of our spacetime, the matter we can’t see because it passed the Schwarzschild radius and is invisible beyond the lensing effect of that radius.
The above is simply the prequel of this entry to the blog. The bare minimum explanation that I feel I need to include before even linking the podcast that spawned this little jaunt down hypothetical lane.
Inquiring Minds is a show that I listen to pretty regularly. There have been two or three episodes that I passed up over the run of the series, but as a rule I try to give them a listen because I find their reliance on science to be pretty solid. This episode though, this episode pushed the limits for me. I liked the conversation, but I disagree with the conclusions that Sean Carroll comes to in the episode. Conclusions that he states with far more certainty than we can possibly justify, even with my limited knowledge of the math involved. We simply don’t know how the universe will end, or even that it will end. We don’t know that it ever began, either. He said as much in the podcast, but then he went on to repeat the heat death story that most physicists fall back on these days.
If any part of string theory is real then there are other dimensions to spacetime than the four dimensions that we currently can measure. In any one of the many other possible dimensions, gravity may have effects that we can’t predict and that gravity might very well exert forces that would explain some of the measurements that we currently mask with the labels dark matter and dark energy. To phrase it the way I prefer to think about it, the universe is currently accelerating into the big bang. The universe is a nearly indescribably complex toroidal shape, in my estimation, but even that is a gross oversimplification. Hawking radiation hasn’t been demonstrated to exist, so black holes don’t necessarily evaporate away. Nor do we know that space without mass and time is really a thing that exists at all. What we can say is that the universe appears to have sprang from what we think is on the other side of a black hole.
Who is to say it isn’t the same one at both ends? I’m certainly not well-versed enough in the math required to argue this conjecture knowledgeably. What I’m attracted to is the poetry, the symmetry of the circular rhythm created by the universe expanding and contracting over eternity, spawning and collapsing the multiverse or many worlds hypothesis that seems to be the most promising explanation for observed quantum effects that we’ve come up with. Maybe, just maybe, they are occurring simultaneously on different dimensions.
This article was inspired by two paragraphs written about this episode on Facebook. I’ve added it to the blog as a demonstration of the fact that I have beliefs, that atheists can and do have beliefs. This is one of the few things that I believe without concrete proof. I’ll generally defer to a scientist to tell me about science. That deference ends at what they can concretely say about what they know and why.
Editor’s note, May 2020. I’ve seen two articles this week on the subject of dethroning the Big Bang Theory. I tried to post this article on a group as a reply to one of those posts, but it was rejected, even as a comment. This blog entry isn’t about god or even the god of the gaps, something I was accused of by the harridan that submitted the original post. The story of my poor benighted Catholic opponent and his mistaking learning for understanding was just the hook to get the reader to the point where they might read and understand my objections to Sean Carroll’s insistence that the heat death of the universe was something that could occur.
I understand that Sean Carroll thinks the evidence points at this, but I still can’t see how there can be existence (the universe) without matter and energy to make existence possible. The moment that the last ounce of energy is expended, the last free electron compressed with the last free proton into neutronium and consumed by a black hole, there isn’t a universe left to die. It simply ceases to exist in any measurable way.
In much the same way that I think scientists don’t understand what their data is telling them, I don’t think that the detractors of the Big Bang Theory understand the weight of the evidence behind the theory.
The point of the book is that the Big Bang theory has a solid track record of explaining well-established facts about the Universe, …If you want to challenge the Big Bang theory, you’d better be able to explain the basics before you have a shot at explaining mysteries like dark matter.Dr Luke A. Barnes (Forbes.com)
If you want to dethrone the Big Bang Theory, you have some heavy lifting to do. Explaining the earliest fraction of a second after the bang? Good luck. How long was that first second? How do you measure time before there was space as we know it to measure it with? Before there was energy at understandable levels?That sort of math is way beyond my pay grade.
The two authors of the book The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook are so tired of answering questions from people who hate the Big Bang Theory that they wrote a primer for all those people who aspire to take the theory down. A more scholarly breakdown of the problem can be found at Astronomy: Is the Big Bang in crisis? It really isn’t a crisis concerning the cyclical nature of the universe we observe. Explain that first second. Go right ahead and try. Don’t tell me about it though. I’ll wait for the scientists to take the theory apart. That is what science is.
The ending is now about the beginning just as the beginning is about the ending. Cyclical, see?