Pharyngula

The Big Bang for Dummies

I’m not a cosmologist and I don’t even pretend to be one on the internet, but as an evolutionist I hear far more about the Big Bang from creationists than I should…and it’s everything from the Big Bang never happened to the Big Bang disproves evolution, and often both opinions are held by the same person, who will often also tell me both that the Cambrian is proof of sudden creation and that the earth is less than 10,000 years old (consistency is not a quality valued by most creationists). It’s therefore rather handy to have a summary of misconceptions about the Big Bang all in one place.

Comments

  1. #1 PeteK
    July 29, 2006

    The Big Bang is pretty much the only place creationists can place God or gods now, since science can explain everything that occured after t=0.01s. Even this obliges the Creator to be deistic

    It’s generally easier for creationists to raise false doubts about biological evolution than about Big Bang cosmology, mostly because comsology involves much more mathematics. They go into much more detail when Notice the Index to Creationist Claims is much fatter in the biology and geology sections than in the cosmology and physis sections.

    However, notice also that it’s easier to teach high school physics without Big Bang cosmology, than it is to teach high school biology without evolution by natural selection. Biological evolution has more implications for everday life than cosmic evolution does.

  2. #2 Chris Hallquist
    July 29, 2006

    You missed my favorite: the Big Bang happened–10,000 years ago. Seriously.

  3. #3 complex_field
    July 29, 2006

    In the letters section our local paper there was a U of Illinois engineering student who tried to make the cliam that there was no evidence for the big bang (UofI !! sheesh.) Some letter writers rightly idiot-smacked this guy down.

  4. #4 complex_field
    July 29, 2006

    I suck with tags. sorry.

  5. #5 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 29, 2006

    “The Big Bang is pretty much the only place creationists can place God or gods now, since science can explain everything that occured after t=0.01s. Even this obliges the Creator to be deistic”

    I don’t see how that is possible. The lastest WMAP measurements favored slightly the Lambda-CDM cosmology, which for the first time verified inflation with enough standard confidence from measurements. But there is no definite theory on inflation. Some of them implies an infinite universe without first cause (cosmological argument) or parameter setting (teleological argument). Since “don’t know yet” is acceptable in science, there is today no scientifically acceptable place left for creationists that I know of.

    Presumably deists can say that they nevertheless have faith until proven wrong. But I can’t see that it is obliged by a scientific view.

    “It’s generally easier for creationists to raise false doubts about biological evolution than about Big Bang cosmology, mostly because comsology involves much more mathematics.”

    The number crunching allow the data to come forth, much as in some disciplines in biology. The accepted formal theory of cosmology contains much verifiable math. However, the structure of the theory is easier to grasp than all the evolutionary mechanisms. As observations they seem to be equally easily grasped: “common descent with modification” vs “expanding universe”.

    “Biological evolution has more implications for everday life than cosmic evolution does.”

    Everyday biological evolution:
    – Life.
    – Breeding.
    – Antibiotic resistance.
    – Relatedness in sicknesses, organs, genes.
    – Humans evolve.

    Everyday cosmological evolution:
    – Large universe.
    – Flat universe.
    – Sky cold and dark.
    – Entropy increases without eventual conflict with QM.
    – CMBR.
    – Nucleosynthesis.
    – Galaxy formation.
    – Redshift.

  6. #6 Dan
    July 29, 2006

    Torbjörn, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can apply the size of the universe, cosmic background radiation, nucleosynthesis, and galaxy formation to their everyday life.

  7. #7 Jon Voisey
    July 30, 2006


    Since “don’t know yet” is acceptable in science, there is today no scientifically acceptable place left for creationists that I know of.

    Actually, that “don’t know yet” is where creationists to hide. In fact, I’d venture to say it’s their favourite place to hide: The argument from ignorance.

  8. #8 Julia
    July 30, 2006

    Thanks for the links. Interesting and very helpful.

  9. #9 David
    July 30, 2006

    God said “Let there be light”

    And BANG there was light. I beleive in both……. and no, neither one of us can explain what happend before that.

  10. #10 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 30, 2006

    Dan:

    “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can apply the size of the universe, cosmic background radiation, nucleosynthesis, and galaxy formation to their everyday life.”

    It is a matter of judgement, sure.

    Without inflation our universe would have never expanded, so that is comparable to realising that evolution makes life possible. The same goes for nucleosynthesis and galaxies vs matter and life. And galaxies are quite visible, comparable to seeing species in nature perhaps.

    CMBR is measurable. IIRC, Feynman used to say that television sets showed ~5 % CMBR flicker when the channel is empty. Of course, now we can watch nice CMBR pictures.

    My judgement is that these are as much everyday as evolution implications. You can live a whole life without knowing about evolution or cosmology. But some (most) of the implications bears upon life as we know it IMO.

    David:
    “neither one of us can explain what happend before that.”

    There are (so far) unsupported theories about that.

    BANG is not POOF – huge difference. 😉

  11. #11 George
    July 30, 2006

    God said “Let there be light.”

    1) When exactly did he say “let there be language,” because he appears to have invented words before he invented the universe.
    2) Why did he need to “say” anything at that point? Was he giving himself instructions? Why?
    3) If you want a creator involved on the creation of the universe, don’t you have to have a creator of the creator, and a creator of that creator, etc.? In other words, who said “let there be a creator”?

    It seems a stretch to suggest that the Genesis writer is talking about the big bang. It’s more like a regurgitation of other handed-down creation myths.

  12. #12 PeteK
    July 30, 2006

    But, David, there WERE no before’s, since time didn’t exist before the Big Bang. At t=0, (or the “Planck time”, t=10e-43 second, the smallest unit of time that has any meaning), one couldn’t go back in time, any more than one could go north when standing at the North Pole. And if another universe or multiverse or whatever existed “before” or whatever, then its “time” dimension may have been totally different, rendering the very notion of time meaningless!

  13. #13 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 30, 2006

    PeteK:

    I have tentatively pictured for myself the same time leading through endless inflation multiversas with wormholes, since QM so far (still waiting for that QG theory) privilegies time as always there and always locally ordered (I think). Common descent. 🙂

    But your north pole analogy is rather similar to Hawkings no-boundary universes BANGing up from nothing (I think), and have independent times.
    With variation. 🙂 🙂

  14. #14 386sx
    July 30, 2006

    God said “Let there be light.” … Why did he need to “say” anything at that point? Was he giving himself instructions? Why?

    I believe that’s part of the superstition. Some people thought, and probably still do think, that things can be “spoken” into happening. Kind of like “abracadabra”.

    “Make it so.” — Jean-Luc Picard

  15. #15 Peter
    July 30, 2006

    The big problem with either believing in god, or not believing in god, is defining what the word god actually means. Spinoza put it best, basically what he said was “God did not create the universe, God *IS* the universe”.

    This is pantheism. Einstein was a pantheist.

    The problem is, by saying one does not believe in god, in a sense, one is saying nothing means anything, which promotes nihilism. Spiritual equates to emotional and how one feels about reality.

  16. #16 Blake Stacey
    July 30, 2006

    Peter wrote as follows:

    The problem is, by saying one does not believe in god, in a sense, one is saying nothing means anything, which promotes nihilism.

    Non sequitur? But the kitchen’s on fire!

    Or, in the wise words of Nomad the space probe, “Your facts are un-coordinated.”

  17. #17 George
    July 30, 2006

    Spinoza is often the last refuge of a mind about to liberate itself from all the God hokum.

  18. #18 Keith Douglas
    July 30, 2006

    There’s no warrant in assuming that the big bang is anything but the “origin” of the local Hubble volume. Even a lot of physicists make this mistake when they equivocate on the meaning of the word “universe”. Adolf Grünbaum has a paper about this and other mistakes … I forget the title, so I can’t say more I’m afraid. I think the Internet Infidels might have a link to it.

  19. #19 Peter
    July 30, 2006

    physicist Tony Rothman:

    “When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it”.

    Freeman Dyson:

    “As we look out into the Universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the Universe must in some sense have known that we were coming”.

  20. #20 naturalist
    July 30, 2006

    Yeah the whole universe revolves around humans on this one miniscule planet that is in the midst of an almost incomprehensible time-space. And it all happened just so we could ultimately discover “the truth” of one religion. Yeah right…Hubris is not a flattering quality of our species

  21. #21 mark
    July 30, 2006

    Don’t forget how frequently Michael Behe cited the Big Bang when testifying at Kitzmiller v. Dover. That’s another favorite Inedible Design argument–that eventually, scientists will come around to accept ID just as they commonly accept the Big Bang despite early ridicule and claims of religious connections. Of course, what they don’t bother to mention, is that the Big Bang was accepted because scientists continued to investigate related cosmological properties and consequences until scientific evidence made it credible.

  22. #22 peter
    July 30, 2006

    fair enough, punks run the planet

  23. #23 Pete K
    July 30, 2006

    Torbjörn Larsson: 😎

    Yes and the neat thing, creationism-wise, about Hawking-Hartle’s no-boundary models is that the Big Bang is probably not really a “creation event” at all – just as the Pole is not the start of the Earth’s surface. This surely makes nonsense out of many theistic assumptions. I think I remember physicists such as Paul Davies and John Gribbin discussing this… 🙂

  24. #24 quantum
    July 30, 2006

    To say anything like “let there…” you need a voice box.
    But where does the voice box come about?

  25. #25 Pete K
    July 30, 2006

    According to John, “the word” IS God, and is with God. So God reduces to just a word. God as depicted in Genesis is like a human artist, frequently anthropomorphically stepping back and admiring his creation as it is processing. This is how Bronze Age people would have done it. A more scientific way of putting the John verses might be, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was ‘ACGT'”

  26. #26 Jon Voisey
    July 31, 2006

    And here I was thinking it went something like “In the beginning was the word, and that word was ‘….Er…. LINE?!'”

  27. #27 Torbjörn Larsson
    July 31, 2006

    Keith:

    “There’s no warrant in assuming that the big bang is anything but the “origin” of the local Hubble volume.”

    Not observationally, but as part of a cosmology it may make sense. I should probably take a gander at your reference though.

    quantum:
    Even worse, you need air. And its hard to picture language occurring for asocial beings, so either there was a host of angels around, or the christian god is certifiably schizo. Where did the angels come from, starting from a god without voice and thought?

    Where is the evolution theory of gods, and the supernatural physics, when you need it? Creationists are sure lazy, if they can’t be troubled to develop such obvious ideas. They have had more than 2000 years to work with, shouldn’t that be enough?

  28. #28 Keith Douglas
    July 31, 2006

    Actually, John 1:1-8 involves a pun. “Logos” means both something like “rational principle of the universe” and “word, discourse, account”. So it does connect Greek philosophy to the “let there be [blank]” of Genesis.

  29. #29 God
    February 28, 2008

    63.3.223.2253.52…253639633223
    663636363636363636363636363636363636396396396369396396396396396396396963963963963939636939396396396396369396396396396352052052052052052052052052052063.36.63….63.6363.323202563.3.25.2502563.2.25.5.5.25.2511102811020036.965223639.25052
    36.5205202505263.522222222252963..52.253621501014014016352522563+522.25052052036.520410410402506263.63.63.63.5201014023.52041025.3.3
    520.4010.012.2.52.2.45104104104102.8401425.632.510412.45210..05462.0240.45.0
    ..520.520.

  30. #30 MAJeff, OM
    February 28, 2008

    42

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