Big Bang Cosmology Needs Miracles
A leading cosmologist’s account of the current big bang theory makes no sense unless the hearer is already committed to believing it.
In an old B.C. cartoon, Johnny Hart pictured Peter showing B.C. the new telephone he invented. As it hangs on a tree, Peter tells about all the wonderful opportunities it opens up for long-distance communication. Impressed and hopeful, B.C. says, “Great. Let’s call somebody.” Peter responds, “We can’t. I only made one.” Now imagine other problems with Peter’s phone: telephone lines haven’t been invented yet, there is no theory of electromagnetism, no audio-to-electromagnetic conversion device, no infrastructure for switching, and no switchboard operators. The phone just hangs on the tree, useless.
This is the feeling one gets when reading an account of current big bang cosmology by Paul Sutter in New Scientist. Sutter is an astrophysicist at Ohio State University, and a popularizer of astronomy for radio, tours and magazines. He begins with his typical dramatic flair, glamorizing the big bang theory like Peter’s telephone:
The Big Bang model is our most successful explanation for the history of the universe that we live in, and it’s ridiculously easy to encapsulate its core framework in a single, T-shirtable sentence: A long time ago, our universe was a lot smaller. From this simple statement flows major testable predictions that have been verified by decades of observation. The expansion rate of the universe. The cosmic microwave background. The production of the lightest elements. The differences between near and far galaxies. All the juicy lines of evidence that makes cosmology a science.
Maybe you have been in a situation where someone makes a presentation, talks up his project or widget, gets everybody excited, then says, “There’s just one little problem….” He proceeds to mention a difficulty that is fatal to the project, undermining all the prior hype. That’s what Sutter does next:
But there are some issues. The “vanilla” Big Bang model, without any other additions or amendments, can’t explain all the observations.
The extent of Sutter’s “one little problem” will become evident shortly. For now, go back to the cartoon and imagine B.C. complaining to Peter about all the missing infrastructure to make a telephone work. Suppose Peter responds, “Well, we can just imagine these being solved by an imaginary model. I call it Poof Theory.” [We call it the Poof Spoof in the Darwin Dictionary.] This is Sutter’s miracle: an appeal to “inflation” (i.e., poof) to make the problems go away. More on that momentarily.
The Big Banger’s Light-Distance Problem
For now, notice that Sutter confesses that big bang cosmology has a serious light-distance problem of its own, just like creationists point out when critics of Biblical creation attack their light-distance problem (e.g., CMI).
That light comes to us from distant reaches of the cosmos, so distant that it’s now inaccessible to us. And different sections of that background light are inaccessible to each other. In the wonderful jargon of physics, regions of the cosmic microwave background are not causally connected. In other words, for one chunk of the limits of our observable universe to communicate with another chunk in the past 13.8 billion years, they would have had to send signals faster than the speed of light.
Which would be no big deal at all if the cosmic microwave background wasn’t almost perfectly smooth. The infant universe had the same temperature to one part in a million. How did everyone get so well-coordinated when changes in one area didn’t have enough time to affect others?
Sutter also mentions the flatness problem:
But there’s no reason for our universe to be flat. At large scales it could’ve had any old curvature it wanted. Our cosmos could’ve been shaped like a giant, multidimensional beach ball, or a horse-riding saddle. But, no, it picked flat. And not just a little bit flat. For us to measure no curvature to a precision of a few percent in the present-day universe, the young cosmos must’ve been flat to one part in a million.
And the monopole problem: magnetic monopoles should be ubiquitous, according to standard big bang cosmology, but have never been detected.
The Guth Goof Poof Spoof
Like Peter, Sutter has set the stage to introduce his Poof Theory, called inflation. Committing the best-in-field fallacy, and raising the perhapsimaybecouldness index to astronomical levels, he announces,
The best solution we have to these conundrums is a process called inflation. The idea was first proposed — and coined! — by physicist Alan Guth in 1980 when he suggested that the same exotic process that flooded the universe with magnetic monopoles could have sent the cosmos into a period of staggeringly rapid expansion.
Like someone in a Johnny Carson audience, we shout out, “Just how staggeringly rapid was it?” Sutter was prepared for the question.
Imagine if I ballooned you — your body, guts, brain, skeleton, the whole deal — to the size of our entire observable universe. And imagine it took me less than 10^-32 seconds to do it. That’s some serious expansion, and precisely what we mean by inflation. When our universe was incredibly young, Guth proposed, it inflated to such gargantuan scales in less than the blink of an eye.
Sutter claims this solves all the problems of the big bang: the flatness problem, the horizon problem, and the monopole problem – because monopoles would be as difficult to find as pieces of your guts spread throughout the universe.
Nothing like a Poof Spoof (i.e., a miracle) to make your telephone work. What Sutter fails to consider, though, is the Guth Goof, which we define as a solution that is worse than the problem it was invented to solve. Guth thought that inflation would solve the flatness problem, the lumpiness problem (the universe’s incredible smoothness), and the horizon problem (the light-distance problem) in one swell poof. Each of these problems are basically fine-tuning problems. For inflation to work, however, it would require even greater fine-tuning at the beginning. The initial conditions for an inflating universe – even for believers in big bang cosmology – would have to be immensely, incredibly, unimaginably exact, or else the miracle would not occur. And once inflation started, there would be no way to stop it. We wouldn’t even have stars to look at, they would be so far apart.
Who knows; maybe Guth and Sutter are Boltzmann Brains in the emptiness of space cogitating imaginary possibilities within their own realities.
Keep these guys in mind when you hear atheist critics accuse creationists of “denying science” and believing in miracles. Everyone believes in miracles. Some of us prefer to think they were intelligently designed by a cause necessary and sufficient for them: a Universe-Maker.