January 11, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Cosmologists Forced to “In the Beginning”

The late astronomer Robert Jastrow detailed in his 1978 book God and the Astronomers how cosmologists were repulsed by the idea the universe had a beginning.  He found it quizzical that they would have such an emotional reaction.  They all realized that a beginning out of nothing was implausible without a Creator.  Since then, various models allowing for an eternal universe brought secular cosmologists relief from their emotional pains.  It now appears that relief was premature.

In New Scientist today, Lisa Grossman reported on ideas presented at a conference entitled “State of the Universe” convened last week in honor of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday.  Some birthday; he got “the worst presents ever,” she said: “two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos.”  Of the two, the latter is most serious: a presentation showing reasons why “the universe is not eternal, resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator.”

It is well-known that Hawking has preferred a self-existing universe.  Grossman quotes him saying, “‘A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God,’ Hawking told the meeting, at the University of Cambridge, in a pre-recorded speech.”

In her article, “Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event,” Grossman explains that “For a while it looked like it might be possible to dodge this problem, by relying on models such as an eternally inflating or cyclic universe, both of which seemed to continue infinitely in the past as well as the future.”  These models were consistent with the big bang, she notes.  Unfortunately, “as cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston explained last week, that hope has been gradually fading and may now be dead.”  Here are the models in brief and why they don’t work:

  1. Eternal inflation:  Built on Alan Guth’s 1981 inflation proposal, this model imagines bubble universes forming and inflating spontaneously forever.  Vilenkin and Guth had debunked this idea as recently as 2003.  The equations still require a boundary in the past.
  2. Eternal cycles:  A universe that bounces endlessly from expansion to contraction has a certain appeal to some, but it won’t work either.  “Disorder increases with time,” Grossman explained.  “So following each cycle, the universe must get more and more disordered.”  Logically, then, if there had already been an infinite number of cycles, the universe would already been in a state of maximum disorder, even if the universe gets bigger with each bounce.  Scratch that model.
  3. Eternal egg:  One last holdout was the “cosmic egg” model that has the universe hatching out of some eternally-existing static state.  “Late last year Vilenkin and graduate student Audrey Mithani showed that the egg could not have existed forever after all, as quantum instabilities would force it to collapse after a finite amount of time (arxiv.org/abs/1110.4096).”  No way could the egg be eternal.

The upshot of this is clear.  No model of an eternal universe works.  Vilenkin concluded, “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”  An editorial at New Scientist called this, “The Genesis Problem.

Genesis problem?  What problem?  I don’t see a problem.  You got a problem?  Genesis 1:1 makes perfect sense, just like it always has: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  What’s the problem?  The problem is not with Genesis, but with unbelieving man running from the light of God’s revelation for the darkness of their own imagination.  The problem is that it keeps taking thousands of years for them to realize their imaginary escape hatches from “In the beginning” do not comport with reality.

Notice that the pro-Darwin, anti-creation forces in the sciences repeatedly attack “intelligent design” as necessarily requiring a supernatural Creator.  They ply their talking points endlessly that one cannot talk about “design” without delving into religion, which they love to portray as completely separate, hostile to, and inferior to “science” (their religion).  Well, look here.  Some of the greatest of them, gathered together to proudly discuss the “State of the Universe,” cannot escape the obvious.  If hostile witnesses declare the universe had to have a beginning, and that this implies an appeal to religion and the hand of God, then so be it.  Now the problem is whether or not they will follow the evidence where it leads and believe in the Creator they have so unscientifically rejected.

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  • Jon Saboe says:

    Amazing bias. Why in the world would an appeal to “…the hand of God” be so anathama?
    Actually an astounding admission. Imagine one’s life’s work being an endless endeavour to avoid the aforementioned hand.
    More prayers for Hawking are in order. One can almost sense him finally scratching at the surface of truth.

  • coreysan says:

    This gets to the heart of it. In the last year I’ve listened to about 20 debates with unbelieving scientists, and I’ve listened closely to the presentations by W. Lane Craig, John Lennox, Keith Ward, et. al.
    In most cases, the so-called Christian rebuttal had almost nothing to do with Scripture. To this day, the misplaced passion for the so called power of reason and intellect still very much overrides the clear special revelation by our Creator.
    It pains me that ICR authors are depicted as buffoons that should for some reason be smarter than that.
    The emphasis is more on what Martin Reiss said, or what the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem says, rather than what YHWH said.
    I have great admiration for critical thinkers, but I’ve yet to observe a born-again scientist present the Biblical story on a major radio station or debate at Oxford. I’m still waiting.

  • 67mim67 says:

    Excellent article. Sooner or later atheists will be forced to admit only GOD could be the first cause.

  • Jon Saboe says:

    If you recall, the phrase “Big Bang” was a term of derision that Hoyle and other steady-staters leveled against the idea that the universe had a beginning. At the time this “new” theory was based on Hubble’s emperical proof that the universe was expanding–and therefore, at some point in the past, required a point of origin. It’s such a shame (and controversy) when science actually supports a Biblical world view.

  • rockyway says:

    ‘It is well-known that Hawking has preferred a self-existing universe. Grossman quotes him saying, “‘A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God…”

    – It makes no sense to me to speak of science breaking down. Hawking is reifying science. It would have made more sense to say ‘our naturalistic method has come to an end… and can tell us no more.’

    He doesn’t have to ‘resort’ to God (something that appears to be quite painful for him) as he can accept mystery; but it seems as if mystery is something people like Hawking can’t abide.
    As I see it we’re swimming in an ocean of mystery. Does Hawking even understand himself? I sure don’t. (But then again, I don’t always understand myself either.)

  • Buho says:

    coreysan, I hear you. Evidential apologetics, fascinating—and devastating—as they are, rely on contingent science. Where are the presuppositional apologists that defend the rationality of the Christian message from scripture alone?

    For instance, as strong as William Craig Lane is, the scientific evidence for his cosmological argument rests on the “reasonableness” of the Big Bang, which has an Achilles heel. (He’s so successful only because his opponents fall for the Big Bang.)

  • Editor says:

    Note to commenters:
    This post is not about how best to approach Christian apologetics. It’s about the evidence of cosmology for a beginning, and what that means for those with a naturalistic world view — they cannot escape religious implications. Please stick to the topic at hand.

  • pbecke says:

    The interminable, intellectual(!) contortions of the Darwinian, secular fundamentalists would be comical, were the implications of their current hegemony so dire. They seem completely without shame.

    In fact, they seem to have the obdurate, ‘slippery’ mindset of the religious establishment of Christ’s day, and I’m put in mind of Christ’s words alluding to their capricious, infantile whining: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

    When an assertion of theirs is authoritatively rebutted, they simply move on to another fatuous, misconceived conjecture, always seemingly without a thought for the demonstrated veracity of the rebuttal.

  • pbecke says:

    By the way, I love the robust derision meted out here at the manifold follies of the myrmidons of our secular, fundamentalist establishment. No reason why Old Nick should have the best, smart cracks, any more than the best tunes.

  • perpetualhope says:

    Charles Kingsley wrote in 1874 on Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’, “We knew of old that God was so wise that He could make all things: but behold, He is so much wiser than even that, that He can make all things make themselves”

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol.”

    Owen Gingerich paraphrase, “There is tons of evidence for the existence of God, but no proof.”

    Theology’s main preoccupation since the beginning of the modern era has been the quandary of whether or not God exists. So much theology continues to presuppose the deistic assumption that the first step in theology is to convince modern people that God exists. Christian theology should be preoccupied with the more biblical question, What kind of God exists? Even if contempoary theology could prove that God exists, such a god would probably not be the God we are called to worship — the God of Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Mary and Jesus. Idolatory is probably a much more interesting dilemma to biblical people than atheism. Resident Aliens, pg 95

    Why is it so hard for people to realise that the Bible is not a science text book and that creationism and ID are philosophical positions. Just because the eternal cosmogonies have not been fruitful does not mean that there is no cosmological model that would hide divine action within naturalistic interpretations. Hawking’s eternal cosmology or evidence of a Creator is a false dichotomy. There are other alternatives and I am quite sure that they will be just as imaginative as the adoption of the classic Hindu cosmogony was.

    Evolution drives you to a fervent and holistic discipleship mainly due to the nature that God as far as we are able to discover in Jesus is not coercive. Rolston Holmes also says that the suffering in nature is an antitype for the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross.

    I am glad that there is a critical look at evolution, but what about the critical look at creationism and ID? Creationism and ID are not viable alternatives to evolution because they are gleaned from Scripture in a literalist view that the ancients knew how the cosmos began which is just not true as the poetic account in Genesis implies and is a counter myth to the creation narratives that dominated in that place and time. So I hope that Christians mature to a view of evolution that is honest. Are we doubting that God can implement evolution as a means to our existence? I think that all things are possible for God. Science is not an absolute science so there are missing pieces. We need to learn to understand science from the perspectives of the natural sciences as they are so that we may call scientists to account when they argue beyond the scope of science.

  • Editor says:

    Dear perpetualhope:
    The splattergun approach to commenting does not work here. You just unloaded an array of unrelated assertions based on your own theological views that are not all relevant to the article. Stick to the article. This is an article about what cosmologists themselves are saying about needing a beginning to the universe– that is all. Your comments drift far afield into theistic evolution, creationism, ID, Christians, Christ on the cross, Hinduism, and all kinds of off-topic things. Worse, you speak in generalities and loaded words, making bald assertions as if they are facts.

    For instance, you lump “creationism” with ID (a favorite tactic of evolutionists, theistic or secular), as if saying it makes it so. It does not. ID is not tied to Scripture or literalism of any sacred text. ID was argued by Plato and ancient Greeks, and was part and parcel of philosophy for millennia. The current “ID movement” is simply a resurgence of an ancient tradition of design arguments. Moreover, ID is already used in many sciences (archaeology, forensics, cryptography, SETI to name a few); the controversy is whether the exact same logical inferences can be applied to biology and cosmology. Before portraying yourself as the mature one, the honest one, the one impervious to mythology, do a little homework, OK?

    As the rules state, Comments are not a platform for spouting your own views. If you want to do that, create a blog or get a soapbox. Comments are for commenting on the article. So if you want to participate in the discussion, stick to the subject, and refrain from making bald assertions unsupported by logic or evidence.

  • KBCid says:

    There is a problem with Hawkings rationale that “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down”. The assumptions by scientists that the ‘universe’ had a beginning includes the belief that it is also the beginning of matter, energy and natural laws.
    Prior to the creation event of the model A car was there no matter, energy or natural laws?
    Why couldn’t the ‘universe’ have always existed? Why couldn’t the Big bang have simply been the Big beginning of specific arrangements of matter?
    For scientists who have an a priori commitment to materialism such a scenario is not logically feasible as it would require a first cause that can make a choice. Our ‘universe’ has very specific rules for how it operates and one of the big things we know is that energy cannot be created or destroyed. Based on this understanding no one should be able to posit a beginning of energy or matter or natural laws.

    Energy has always existed…. at some point in the past it was arranged into the observable design of the universe we see. How that arrangement occurred is the actual root of contention. What could cause energy to pool into the arrangements of matter we can observe and begin the slide from pooled energy to equally arrayed energy we understand as heat death? In my experience intelligence has the capbility of performing such feats.

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