Before the Big Bang

‘Before the Big Bang’

is the title of an article in the February 2004 issue of Discover magazine. The question the article by Michael D. Lemonick asks is: ‘What triggered the Big Bang?’ The new theory Lemonick presents is the brainchild of ‘maverick cosmologists’ Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok. ‘According to a new theory, our universe crashed into another three-dimensional world hidden in higher dimensions.’ The bottom line is that the universe as we know it is ‘simply part of an infinite cycle of titanic collisions between our universe and a parallel world.’ (page 35)

The Big Bang theory has been assumed by physicists for some time to be a satisfactory explanation for the existence and/or structure (not origin) of the universe. (Some Christians acknowledge the possibility that the Big Bang theory may contain some description of the means of God’s creating the universe, other Christians reject the theory as unnecessary, purely wrong, or even demonic. I for one, no scientist by any means, do not object to the theory, do not wholeheartedly embrace it either, but find little problem with it since I know God created all that is and so the means of creating, how it looks to science, is merely a detail.)

Most scientists refuse to deal with the issue of the origin of the ‘singularity’, that incredibly dense point of matter, that exploded to produce all the matter and energy that we know of—as propounded by the Big Bang theory. Christian apologists, who have accepted the theory of the Big Bang, have forcefully brought up the issue of origins since it seems obvious that Someone had to have created all that highly concentrated matter and energy in the first place. This has been a problem to those who recoil at the idea of a God at all, any kind of God, but especially, of course, the Creator God we find in the Bible.

The modification of the Big Bang theory advanced in the article is based on the now famous ‘String Theory’. We must emphasize the ‘theory’ part of it. There is no proof at all for the theory; many in the scientific community oppose the theory proposed by Steinhardt and Turok as Michael Lemonick points out in the article, but as many theories do, they tend to take on a life of their own to the point that they are referred to (almost) as scientific fact.

The new idea is that there are parallel universes, perhaps separated from each other by a distance no larger than the size of a proton. (protons are really, really, small) These universes are imagined to be like membranes (branes for short), illustrated in the article as square or rectangular sheets hung from a clothesline, moving as by a gentle wind, with bumps or indentations on their surfaces. The membranes, or parallel universes, are essentially eternal—thus no need for a God.

How it is that the membranes or parallel universes are to be thought of as eternal, not created, is rather like a magicians slight of hand. Here is the explanation from the article: ‘In this new cyclic model, the universe starts essentially empty each time. That means virtually no matter gets recycled. So entropy doesn’t increase, and there is no beginning or end to time.’ (page 41)

These branes may, the theory goes, interact with each other, crash into each other actually, maybe once every trillion years, and the contacts produce a kind of Big Bang, and, a new universe is created. The new universe then grows and develops, expands enormously, almost to the point of zero density, and then, due to unexplained astrophysics, crash into another one and boom, another Big Bang and a new universe is created–ad naseum. Michael Lemonick therefore concludes, ‘The cycle of such collisions would be eternal.’ (page 40)

Lemonick does point out that not all the experts agree. Joel Primack, a physicist and cosmologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz is quoted as saying, ‘I think it’s silly to make much of a production about this stuff. I’d much rather spend my time working on the really important questions observational cosmology has been handing us about dark matter and dark energy. The ideas in these papers are essentially untestable.’ (page 41)

This cosmology, mainly the string theory, by the way, is embraced by monists, more specifically Hindus, as the very large time frames fit into that theological system. And the parallel universes allow, somehow, for the odd spiritualism demanded by monistic thought.

I cannot help but think that the new improved theory for the origins of the universe, or I should say ‘universes’ is motivated by a desire to once and for all get around the necessity for a Creator God. Apparently the Big Bang theory is too close to the biblical view of creation we find in Genesis. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’—this could just be a poetical way to describe the Big Bang and this would not do. So, the notion of parallel universes only dimensions apart that might tangle with each other to produce Big Bangs–this seems to solve the creator God problem.

What difference does it make, Big Bang, no Big Bang, membranes and parallel universes? However you want it, there still remains the issue of an originator, or a designer, a master programmer–a God. Truly does the Psalmist say, ‘The fool says in his heart, “there is no God”’ (Psalm 14:1). And I suspect, the Psalmists explanation for the foolishness is also correct, ‘They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.’

The next to the last sentence in Lemonick’s article is: ‘This view of creation is far grander than the universe of traditional cosmology or the universe of the Bible.’ Quite a statement, obviously very scientific and without bias—of course. I don’t mean to make fun really because I know many have no doubt already added the argument of the parallel, eternal universes to their armour against the God of creation. Sounds like Michael Lemonick has.

Kent Philpott