“The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.” -H. L. Mencken
If you went back 100 years in time, you could rightfully claim that, scientifically, we had no convincing evidence as to where our Universe came from. After all, when we looked up at the night sky and saw the Milky Way, we thought that was pretty much the full extent of the Universe.
Thankfully, times have changed, and the scientific discoveries coupled with the theoretical advances we’ve made have given us a consistent, accurate picture of a Universe that is:
- Huge, with hundreds of billions of galaxies comparable to our Milky Way.
- Expanding, with galaxies farther away speeding away from us ever faster.
- Cooling, where the light in the Universe loses energy as the expansion of space stretches its wavelength.
- And old, but not infinitely so.
In fact, we have multiple ways of measuring these things and many more, including the Age of the Universe, which comes in at around 13.7 Billion Years. The more evidence comes out, the more the Big Bang framework of the Universe becomes validated, so much so that it’s the only scientifically respectable theory out there concerning the history of the Universe today.
It tells us what the Universe was like when it was only a tiny fraction of a second old,
and it tells us how, physically, we get the Universe we have today.
It is, to me, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and the inspiration for the title of this site.
And then I came across this page, claiming that not only won’t the Big Bang work, but enumerating 10 reasons why the Big Bang won’t work.
Let’s go through these reasons, and see if there’s any scientific validity in any of them. After all, scrutinizing the claims of your dearest, most strongly supported theories and searching for cracks in it (and new answers) is the spirit of science, isn’t it?
Here’s the deal, though. I’m going to be completely honest about what we do and don’t know, what our best interpretations of it are, and I will call out statements that are cherry-picked. Let’s begin.
Why the Big Bang Won’t Work
The Big Bang theory has been accepted by a majority of scientists today. It theorizes that a large quantity of nothing decided to pack tightly together,–and then explode outward into hydrogen and helium. This gas is said to have flowed outward through frictionless space (“frictionless,” so the out-flowing gas cannot stop or slow down) to eventually form stars, galaxies, planets, and moons. It all sounds so simple, just as you would find in a science fiction novel. And that is all it is.
Well, first off, it isn’t “nothing”, and it didn’t “decide” anything. The Big Bang states that all of the matter and energy in the Universe (which is definitely something!) was, in the distant past, packed together in a very hot, dense state. And like any hot, dense thing, it expands. (Don’t believe me? Go take a beach ball, inflate it most of the way in the morning, and leave it out in the Sun.
See if it hasn’t expanded by 2 PM.) It wasn’t that “nothing” was turned into hydrogen and helium, either. It’s that the building blocks of hydrogen and helium — along with a whole bunch of other stuff — were created in the Big Bang. We even understand how they assembled to create these light elements.
And as for space being “frictionless”, that’s true. So there are a few misleading statements at the outset, but nothing so heinous. Yet.
What it is all about?
The originators–George Lemaitre, a Belgium, struck on the basic idea in 1927; and George Gamow, R.A. Alpher, and R. Herman devised the basic Big Bang model in 1948. But it was Gamow, a well-known scientist and science fiction writer, that gave it its present name and then popularized it. Campaigning for the idea enthusiastically, he was able to convince many other scientists. He used quaint little cartoons to emphasize the details. The cartoons really helped sell the theory.
There were a lot of people involved in the development of the Big Bang who aren’t credited (Friedmann, Robertson, Walker, etc.), but that’s not such a big deal. Gamow didn’t name it “The Big Bang”, though, Fred Hoyle, the most famous detractor of the Big Bang, derogatorily referred to it as such. Gamow, incidentally, didn’t really convince anyone that the Big Bang was correct. An experimental result did, when the “leftover glow” from the Big Bang was discovered! (For what it’s worth, that didn’t happen until the mid-1960s.)
As for the cartoon used and cited?
Cartoons have always been an integral part of physics explanations, and this wasn’t even Gamow’s cartoon!
But then we get into the meat of this article, which… well, let’s go through it!
The Big Bang Theory
According to this theory, in the beginning, there was no matter, just nothingness. Then this nothingness condensed by gravity into a single, tiny spot; and it decided to explode! That explosion produced protons, neutrons, and electrons which flowed outward at incredible speed throughout empty space; for there was no other matter in the universe.
As these protons, neutrons, and electrons hurled themselves outward at supersonic speed, they are said to have formed themselves into typical atomic structures of mutually orbiting hydrogen and helium atoms. Gradually, the outward-racing atoms are said to have begun circling one another, producing gas clouds which then pushed together into stars.
Or, as Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us (and this is what Lemaitre and the others I mentioned discovered in the 1920s), space itself was expanding. In addition to protons, neutrons, and electrons (which do make up what we refer to as “normal matter” today), there were also neutrinos and, most importantly, photons. Photons, known better as light, were the most dominant form of energy in the Universe for the first few thousand years.
And although the hydrogen and helium atoms didn’t orbit or circle one another, they did gravitationally collapse to form the first stars in the Universe.
Let’s go ahead again.
These first stars only contained lighter elements (hydrogen and helium). Then all of the stars repeatedly exploded. It took at least two explosions of each star to produce our heavier elements.
This, actually, is kind of true! The first stars in the Universe did only contain Hydrogen and Helium, which they burned for fuel. When you burn up all of your fuel, your star — if massive enough — will explode, recycling its material for use in future stars. Our Sun, as best as we can tell, is a third generation star, meaning that not only did these stars need to live and die, but an entire second generation needed to as well.
Of course, with a Universe that’s 13.7 Billion Years old and a Sun that’s about 4.5 Billion Years old, that doesn’t pose a problem. But the following does.
Gamow described it in scientific terms: In violation of physical law, emptiness fled from the vacuum of space–and rushed into a superdense core, that had a density of 1094 gm/cm and a temperature in excess of 1039 degrees absolute. That is a lot of density and heat for a gigantic pile of nothingness! (Especially when we realize that it is impossible for nothing to get hot. Although air gets hot, air is matter, not an absence of it.)
None of this is accurate, except perhaps the part that says “Gamow described it in scientific terms.” Emptiness doesn’t flee from anywhere or rush to anywhere. The density or temperature of any point in space were never that high at any point during the Big Bang, and, like I said, it wasn’t a pile of nothing, it was a tremendous concentration of matter and energy.
Furthermore, even if this were what Gamow said (which it isn’t), it’s unfair to attack the 1948 model. It’s 2010. We’ve done 62 years of learning and discovering since then, and we understand a lot more.
But perhaps there are good things ahead. Let’s continue.
Where did this “superdense core” come from? Gamow solemnly came up with a scientific answer for this; he said it came as a result of “the big squeeze,” when the emptiness made up its mind to crowd together. Then, with true scientific aplomb, he named this solid core of nothing, “ylem” (pronounced “ee-lum”). With a name like that, many people thought this must be a great scientific truth of some kind. In addition, numbers were provided to add an additional scientific flair: This remarkable lack-of-anything was said by Gamow to have a density of 10145 g/cc, or one hundred trillion times the density of water!
Then all that packed-in blankness went boom!
None of this is true, nor does any of this describe the Big Bang. Gamow’s associate, Alpher, did hypothesize something called the ylem, but it referred to this very hot, dense, expanding state that happened very early on, towards the beginning of the Universe. It doesn’t have anything to do with nothingness, as one can discover by checking wikipedia. We know now at these high temperatures and densities that protons and neutrons break down into even tinier particles known as quarks and gluons.
But 10145 g/cm3 isn’t 100 trillion times the density of water; it’s a billion trillion trillion trillion googol times the density of water, and a far greater density than the Universe ever reached.
But I can assume that these are all just honest misunderstandings. Let’s continue.
That is the theory. It all sounds so simple, just as you would find in a science fiction novel. And that is all it is. The theory stands in clear violation of physical laws, celestial mechanics, and common sense. Here are a number of scientific reasons why the Big Bang theory is unworkable and fallacious.
Okay. So this redux of the Big Bang Theory is mostly bogus, although there is that one impressively correct fact about the Sun being a third-generation star. The Big Bang is totally consistent with Physical Laws (being derived from them and all), has nothing to do with celestial mechanics except that they both operate under the same law of gravity (Einstein’s general relativity), although it may violate common sense.
Why will I concede that? Because what we call “common sense” is based in our common experiences as human beings, which (fortunately) does not include being around during the Big Bang!
So, now what? Should we go through the 10 “scientific” objections? Even though the person who wrote these objections has no scientific experience or qualifications to make them?
1. The Big Bang theory is based on theoretical extremes. It may look good in math calculations, but it can’t actually happen. A tiny bit of nothing packed so tightly together that it blew up and produced all the matter in the universe. Seriously now, this is a fairy tale. It is a bunch of armchair calculations, and nothing else. It is easy to theorize on paper. The Big Bang is a theoretical extreme, just as is a black hole. It is easy to theorize that something is true, when it has never been seen and there is no definitive evidence that it exists or ever happened. But let us not mistake Disneyland theories for science.
Theoretical extremes happen all the time. The one example used to show how ridiculous the Big Bang is — black holes — definitely exist. (I’ve even written about that, too.)
But this isn’t even a scientific objection; it’s just a repetition of earlier inaccuracies coupled with the lie that “there is no definitive evidence that it… ever happened.” Check out this article for some simple, straightforward, but comprehensive evidence for the Big Bang, which no alternative has successfully explained.
2. Nothingness cannot pack together. It would have no way to push itself into a pile.
It sounds like the author is upset, in his own particular words, as to how the Big Bang got started in the first place. That’s actually a good question, and one that we didn’t have a reasonable answer to until 1979.
Although we aren’t 100% sure of it, our best theory for that is called cosmic inflation, which details what happened before the Big Bang and tells us how the Big Bang resulted from it. The one major test that’s been done of the theory — detailed measurement of the scalar spectral index — is as close to a smoking gun for inflation as we’ve gotten so far. But it isn’t a problem with the Big Bang, its a limit to the scope of the theory.
3. A vacuum has no density. It is said that the nothingness got very dense, and that is why it exploded. But a total vacuum is the opposite of total density.
A vacuum does have no density. (No matter density, at any rate.) A total vacuum is the opposite of infinite density. But it is not said, by anyone, that “the nothingness got very dense, and that it why it exploded.” Rather, the very hot and dense stuff, the moment it began to exist, was hot and dense, and that forced it to expand.
4. There would be no ignition to explode nothingness. No fire and no match. It could not be a chemical explosion, for no chemicals existed. It could not be a nuclear explosion, for there were no atoms!
As people have been stating for nearly a century, it isn’t an “explosion” at all. It’s called the “expanding” Universe for a reason.
It was neither a chemical nor a nuclear explosion, it’s a continuous and rapid (but gradual) expansion. This has been known since the 1920s, thanks to Edwin Hubble’s great discovery.
5. There is no way to expand it. How can you expand what isn’t there? Even if that magical vacuum could somehow be pulled together by gravity, what would then cause the pile of emptiness to push outward? The “gravity” which brought it together would keep it from expanding.
It isn’t magic, it isn’t a push, and it isn’t a pile of emptiness. The Universe expands due to the definition of space. And this is one of the most fascinating things about it: if you take General Relativity as your theory of gravity, and you say that space is — on average — full of stuff (matter and energy) everywhere, you only have two possibilities. Either your Universe is expanding or it’s contracting. Nothing else is even theoretically allowed.
Ever since the observation of the 1920s, it’s been demonstrated that the Universe is expanding. Although there’s still some uncertainty about how it’s going to end,
every single one of the possibilities starts with a Big Bang, and comes forward in time to give us an expanding, cooling Universe. So there’s not only a way to expand it, the expansion of your Universe is unavoidable.
6. Nothingness cannot produce heat. The intense heat caused by the exploding nothingness is said to have changed the nothingness into protons, neutrons, and electrons. First, an empty vacuum in the extreme cold of outer space cannot get hot by itself. Second, an empty void cannot magically change itself into matter. Third, there can be no heat without an energy source.
Of course there can’t be heat without energy; heat by definition is a form of energy transfer! But the question you’re asking, in other words, is “why is the early Universe so hot?” This goes back to the same question we answered earlier: where did the Big Bang come from? The Big Bang will take us all the way back to the beginning of what we call “the radiation era”, which is where matter flying around at ultra-relativistic speeds and photons — particles of light — were the dominant constituents of the Universe.
So where did all the energy that started the Big Bang come from? We know, from the answer to question #2, that we’ll want to look at what cosmic inflation says. (And if you want something that violates “common sense,” you’ll love inflation!)
And it says that, while the Universe was undergoing its period of exponential expansion (i.e., inflation), it wasn’t matter or radiation that was driving it. Rather, there was energy in the vacuum itself that caused it. But there isn’t anywhere near that amount of energy in the vacuum today. So what happened?
That vacuum energy (on the vertical axis) decreased down to zero (or almost zero), but that energy had to go somewhere! Where did it go? Into matter, photons, radiation, etc., but there was so much of it! So the matter and energy that was created was born hot, and hence sometimes we call it not just the Big Bang, but the Hot Big Bang. (And the process by which inflation ends and the Universe gets hot is called Reheating.)
7. The calculations are too exacting. Too perfect an explosion would be required. On many points, the theoretical mathematical calculations needed to turn a Big Bang into stars and our planet cannot be worked out; in others they are too exacting. Knowledgeable scientists call them “too perfect.” Mathematical limitations would have to be met which would be next to impossible to achieve. The limits for success are simply too narrow. Most aspects of the theory are impossible, and some require parameters that would require miracles to fulfill. One example of this is the expansion of the original fireball from the Big Bang, which they place precisely within the narrowest of limits. An evolutionist astronomer, R.H. Dicke, says it well: “If the fireball had expanded only .1 percent faster, the present rate of expansion would have been 3 x 103 times as great. Had the initial expansion rate been 0.1 percent less, the Universe would have expanded to only 3 x 10-6 of its present radius before collapsing. At this maximum radius the density of ordinary matter would have been 10-12 grm/m3, over 1016 times as great as the present mass density. No stars could have formed in such a Universe, for it would not have existed long enough to form stars.”
Bob Dicke (who was my advisor’s advisor’s advisor, for whatever that’s worth) wrote this in 1969, and it’s still true. If the Universe were born with the same amount of energy but expanded at a slightly faster rate, nothing of interest would ever have happened. Not only would clusters, galaxies, and stars never have formed, but the expansion rate would have outdistanced gravity by such an amount that nuclei and electrons would never have found one another! This means that there wouldn’t even be any neutral atoms in the Universe.
On the other hand, if the Universe were born with the same amount of energy but expanded at a slightly slower rate, nothing of interest would ever have happened for very different reasons! Universes that have more energy than their expansions can tolerate will stop expanding, turn around and recollapse!
Fortunately, our Universe doesn’t do either. The expansion rate and the overall energy density seem to be perfectly balanced, giving us a Universe that appears to be spatially flat.
Not open (where expansion defeats gravity) or closed (where gravity defeats the expansion), but this “Goldilocks” case, where everything is just right. Why would it be this perfectly flat, “just right” case?
Again, the answer is given by cosmic inflation, something Dicke had no way of knowing about when he wrote about the flatness problem in 1969. Take a sphere, for instance, and blow it up. Blow it up larger and larger still, but keep looking at the same sized region you started looking at. Eventually, it will appear flat to you, the same way your backyard appears flat (even though it’s a part of the spherical Earth.)
Well, inflation takes any Universe, regardless of its shape or curvature, and stretches it flat. Perfectly flat means that the energy density (which determines gravity) and the expansion rate are perfectly balanced. The fact that they are so perfectly balanced tells us more about how good inflation is than anything else.
8. Such an equation would have produced not a universe but a hole. *Roger L. St. Peter in 1974 developed a complicated mathematical equation that showed that the theorized Big Bang could not have exploded outward into hydrogen and helium. In reality, St. Peter says the theoretical explosion (if one could possibly take place) would fall back on itself and make a theoretical black hole! This means that one imaginary object would swallow another one!
Well, I earnestly tried to look this one up. I’ve never heard of Roger L. St. Peter before, nor of this work. But after an exhaustive google search, I found this. It’s a set of abstracts from “Creation Research Science Quarterly” from 1974, and it contains an abstract written by Roger L. St. Peter, then an undergraduate student at Bob Jones University. Here’s what it says:
LET’S DEFLATE THE BIG-BANG HYPOTHESISROGER L. ST. PETER
The hypothesis that the universe is the product of a BIG BANG about ten billion years ago is challenged from several standpoints. It is shown to be in conflict with Einstein’s special theory of relativity, and counter to the law of the conservation of mass-energy. In addition to this, semi-Newtonian calculations are submitted which indicate that the so-called PRIMORDIAL FIREBALL would vigorously collapse rather than violently explode. The gravitational collapse is irreversible by any known natural process, and a BLACK HOLE results. The big bang hypothesis is seen to fail as an explanation of the general expansion of the universe inferred from the galactic red-shift phenomenon.
Well, there’s only so much I can do to answer this challenge without the actual paper at hand, but the three main points seem to be that the Big Bang conflicts with Special Relativity (it most certainly does not), it violates the Conservation of Energy (as energy is not defined in General Relativity, this doesn’t pose a problem), and it asserts that the Universe would recollapse if the Big Bang were correct.
The Universe could have recollapsed, if conditions were right for it, but it also could have expanded and cooled for an arbitrary amount of time. Seeing as how our Universe is still expanding and cooling, I’ll go with that for now, but if anyone has a copy of this, I’d be curious to see whether there are any valid objections.
9. There is not enough antimatter in the universe. This is a big problem for the theorists. The original Big Bang would have produced equal amounts of positive matter (matter) and negative matter (antimatter). But only small amounts of antimatter exist. There should be as much antimatter as matter–if the Big Bang was true. “Since matter and antimatter are equivalent in all respects but that of electromagnetic charge oppositeness, any force [the Big Bang] that would create one should have to create the other, and the universe should be made of equal quantities of each. This is a dilemma. Theory tells us there should be antimatter out there, and observation refuses to back it up.” “We are pretty sure from our observations that the universe today contains matter, but very little if any antimatter.”
(The first quote comes from Isaac Asimov, the second from an American Scientist article.) The Big Bang is thought to produce nearly equal amounts of matter and antimatter; that’s true. And yet, our Universe is 99.9% matter with only a trace of antimatter. How did this happen?
I’ve got two articles on it: here and here. The gist of it is that, in general, you do start with equal amounts of matter and antimatter, but, from that, you need to make slightly more matter (or slightly less antimatter). It turns out that if you have the following three things in place, making different amounts of matter and antimatter is unavoidable:
- You need to be able to create or destroy baryons (protons, neutrons, etc.),
- You need particles and antiparticles to have slightly different properties from one another (called C-violation and CP-violation), and
- You need to be out of thermal equilibrium.
Guess what? The Big Bang is like a factory for these three things. The description of the particles we have in nature — the Standard Model — not only allows for the first one, it happens much more easily at higher energies. (And we’ve never had higher energies in the Universe than the Hot Big Bang gave us!)
The second one was first observed experimentally in 1964, and we now know of many instances that cause it.
And the third one — being out of thermal equilibrium — is exactly what happens when you have a hot, dense Universe that expands and cools! So while we don’t know everything about how to make more matter than antimatter, we have no doubts that this happened, and that it happened perfectly consistently with the Big Bang.
10. The antimatter from the Big Bang would have destroyed all the regular matter. This fact is well-known to physicists. As soon as the two are produced in the laboratory, they instantly come together and annihilate one another.
If you read the answer to #9, you know that this isn’t a problem at all. But let’s see what Einstein said on the matter.
“For every one billion particles of antimatter there were one billion and one particles of matter. And when the mutual annihilation was complete, one billionth remained – and that’s our present universe.” -Albert Einstein
The facts are, of course, that the Big Bang is an incredibly robust theory, and it easily stands up to these objections. In fact, in my opinion, the fact that the Big Bang has something intelligent to say about each of these objections illustrates just what a powerful and consistent idea it is! Of course, you’re free to do what you want with this information. It is my great hope that if you’ve found this page, you’ve come here with a mind open enough to listen and learn.
Whatever beliefs divide us, we all inhabit the same Universe, and its story is the same for all of us. This isn’t my story or yours, it’s the story the Universe tells us about itself. Don’t let misinformation (or even worse, dishonesty) prevent any one of you from enjoying every truth and discovery about it to the fullest! (And send your friends here, too! The information is free!) And I’ll keep playing my part, and doing my best — to the best of my knowledge and abilities — to bring its story to you!