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The Big Bang and the Big Question: A Universe without God?
Aish ^ | Lawrence Kelemen

Posted on 06/23/2003 11:31:49 AM PDT by yonif$.asp

The Big Bang and the Big Question: A Universe without God?
by Lawrence Kelemen

The history of scientific search for the origins of the Universe gives us permission to believe in God.

Until the early twentieth century, astronomers entertained three possible models of the universe:

1. The universe could be static.

According to this theory, though the mutual gravitational attractions of stars and planets might hold them together in the form of solar systems and galaxies, each of these stellar-terrestrial groups slide through space along its own random trajectory, unrelated to the courses tracked by other groups of stars and planets.

The static model works for atheists and believers: Such a universe could have been created by God at some point in history, but it also could have existed forever without God.

2. The universe could be oscillating.

It might be a cosmic balloon alternately expanding and contracting. For a few billion years it would inflate, expanding into absolute nothingness. But the gravitational attraction of every star and planet pulling on every other would eventually slow this expansion until the whole process would reverse and the balloon would come crashing back in upon itself. All that existed would eventually smash together at the universe's center, releasing huge amounts of heat and light, spewing everything back out in all directions and beginning the expansion phase all over again.

Such a universe could also have been created by God or could have existed forever without God.

3. Finally, the universe could be open.

It might be a cosmic balloon that never implodes. If the total gravitational attraction of all stars and planets could not halt the initial expansion, as in the oscillating model, the universe would spill out into nothingness forever. Eventually the stars would burn out and a curtain of frozen darkness would enshroud all existence. Such a universe could never bring itself back to life. It would come into existence at a moment in history, blaze gloriously, and then pass into irrevocable night.

Crucially, the latter model proposes that before the one-time explosion, all the universe's matter and energy was contained in a singularity, a tiny dot that sat stable in space for eternity before it detonated.

This model proposes a paradox: Objects at rest -- like the initial singularity -- remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force; and yet, since the initial dot contained all matter and energy, nothing (at least, nothing natural) existed outside of this singularity that could have caused it to explode.

The simplest resolution of the paradox is to posit that something supernatural kicked the universe into being. The open model of the universe thus implies a supernatural Creator -- a God.


In 1916 Albert Einstein released the first drafts of his general theory of relativity, and the scientific world went wild. It appeared that Einstein had revealed the deepest secrets of the universe. His equations also caused a few problems -- technical dilemmas, mathematical snags -- but not the sort of thing to interest newspapers or even popular science journals.

Two scientists noticed the glitches. Late in 1917 the Danish astronomer Willem de Sitter reviewed general relativity and returned a detailed response to Einstein, outlining the problem and proposing a radical solution: general relativity could work only if the entire universe was exploding, erupting out in all directions from a central point.

Einstein never responded to de Sitter's critique. Then, in 1922, Soviet mathematician Alexander Friedmann independently derived de Sitter's solution. If Einstein was right, Friedmann predicted, the universe must be expanding in all directions at high speed.

Meanwhile, across the sea, American astronomer Vesto Slipher actually witnessed the universe's explosive outward movement. Using the powerful telescope at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, Slipher discovered that dozens of galaxies were indeed rocketing away from a central point.

Between 1918 and 1922, de Sitter, Friedmann, and Slipher independently shared their findings with Einstein, but he strangely resisted their solution -- as if, in his brilliance, he realized the theological implications of an exploding universe.

Einstein even wrote a letter to Zeitschrift fur Physik, a prestigious technical journal, calling Friedmann's suggestions "suspicious," and to de Sitter Einstein jotted a note, "This circumstance [of an expanding universe] irritates me." In another note, Einstein reassured one of his colleagues, "I have not yet fallen in the hands of priests," a veiled reference to de Sitter, Friedmann, and Slipher.


In 1925, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble dealt the static model of the universe a fatal blow. Using what was then the largest telescope in the world, Hubble revealed that every galaxy within 6 x 1017 miles of the Earth was receding.

Einstein tenaciously refused to acknowledge Hubble's work. He continued teaching the static model for five more years, until, at Hubble's request, he traveled from Berlin to Pasadena to personally examine the evidence. At the trip's conclusion, Einstein reluctantly admitted, "New observations by Hubble ... make it appear likely that the general structure of the universe is not static."

Einstein died in 1955, swayed but still not fully convinced that the universe was expanding.


Ten years later, in 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were calibrating a supersensitive microwave detector at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey. No matter where the two scientists aimed the instrument, it picked up the same unidentified background noise -- a steady, three-degree Kelvin (3K) hum. On a hunch, the two Bell Labs employees looked over an essay on general relativity by a student of Alexander Friedmann. The essay predicted that the remnants of the universe's most recent explosion should be detectable in the form of weak microwave radiation, "around 5K or thereabouts."

The two scientists realized they had discovered the echo of the biggest explosion in history: "the Big Bang." For this discovery, Penzias and Wilson received the Nobel Prize.

The discovery of the "3K hum" undermined the static model of the universe. There were only two models left: one that worked without God and one that did not.

The last issue to be settled was: Had the primordial universe exploded an infinite number of times (the oscillating model) or only once (the open model)?

Researchers knew the issue could be settled by determining the average density of the universe. If the universe contained the equivalent of about one hydrogen atom per ten cubic feet of space, then the gravitational attraction among all the universe's particles would be strong enough to stop and reverse the expansion. Eventually there would be a "big crunch," which would lead to another big bang (and then to another big crunch, etc.). If, on the other hand, the universe contained less than this density, then the big bang's explosive force would overcome all the gravitational pulls, and everything would sail out into nothingness forever.


Curiously, the death of the static model inspired panic in many quarters of the scientific world. Mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers joined forces to prove the eternity of the universe.

Dr. Robert Jastrow, arguably the greatest astrophysicist of the time and director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Goddard Center for Space Studies, was named head of the research project. For fifteen years Jastrow and his team tried to demonstrate the validity of the oscillating model, but the data told a different story.

In 1978 Jastrow released NASA's definitive report, shocking the public with his announcement that the open model was probably correct. On June 25 of that year, Jastrow wrote about his findings to the New York Times Magazine:

This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth." ... [But] for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; [and] as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

Dr. James Trefil, a physicist at the University of Virginia, independently confirmed Jastrow's discovery in 1983. Drs. John Barrow, an astronomer at the University of Sussex, and Frank Tipler, a mathematician and physicist at Tulane University, published similar results in 1986.


At the 1990 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Professor John Mather of Columbia University, an astrophysicist who also serves on the staff of NASA's Goddard Center, presented "the most dramatic support ever" for an open universe.

According to the Boston Globe reporter covering the conference, Mather's keynote address was greeted with thunderous applause, which led the meeting's chairman, Dr. Geoffrey Burbridge, to comment: "It seems clear that the audience is in favor of the book of Genesis - at least, the first verse or so, which seems to have been confirmed."

In 1998, Drs. Ruth Daly, Erick Guerra, and Lin Wan of Princeton University announced to the American Astronomical Society, "We can state with 97.5 percent confidence that the universe will continue to expand forever."

Later that year, Dr. Allan Sandage, a world-renowned astrophysicist on the staff of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, was quoted in The New Republic saying, "The big bang is best understood as a miracle triggered by some kind of transcendent power."

Newsweek columnist George Will began his November 9, 1998, column with this quip: "Soon the American Civil Liberties Union or People for the American Way, or some similar faction of litigious secularism, will file suit against NASA, charging that the Hubble Space Telescope unconstitutionally gives comfort to the religiously inclined."


The same year, Newsweek reported a recent and unexpected swing of opinion among the once passionately agnostic: "Forty percent of American scientists now believe in a personal God - not merely an ineffable power and presence in the world, but a deity to whom they can pray."

There are, of course, mathematicians, physicists, astronomers, and cosmologists who choose not to believe in God today. For a variety of reasons, they choose instead to have faith that new natural laws will be discovered or that new evidence will appear and overturn the current model of an open, created universe.

But for many in the scientific community, the evidence is persuasive. For many, modern cosmology offers permission to believe.

LAWRENCE KELEMEN is the author of Permission to Believe: Four Rational Approaches to God's Existence (Targum/Feldheim, 1990) and Permission to Receive: Four Rational Approaches to the Torah's Divine Origin (Targum Press, 1996). He studied at U.C.L.A., Yeshiva University of Los Angeles, and Harvard University. He was also a downhill skiing instructor on the staff of the Mammoth Mountain Ski School in California and served as news director and anchorman for KMMT-FM radio station. Currently he teaches medieval and modern Jewish philosophy at Neve Yerushalayim College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

Jewish Matters This essay is excerpted from "Jewish Matters: A pocketbook of knowledge and inspiration." "Jewish Matters" includes short essays on topics from relationships, prayer, happiness, and Shabbat, written by top male and female educators from around the world. Deep, funny, and fascinating, "JM" is available in Jewish bookstores, and on , and More information and excerpts can be seen at

Author Biography:
Lawrence Kelemen is Professor of Education at Neve Yerushalayim College of Jewish Studies for Women in Jerusalem. He is the author of Permission to Believe and Permission to Receive; and his most recent book, To Kindle a Soul: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Parents and Teachers, was recently ranked the 48th best-selling book in the United States. His website is

This article can also be read at:$.asp

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KEYWORDS: bigbang; colossalcrash; crevolist; steadystate; stephenhawking; stringtheory
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To: plain talk
Unfortunately some people are just too lazy to study and accept the revealed word of God in the Bible but yet will accept such a sloppy notion of science which amounts to throwing a bunch of stuff together and sh!t happens.

I LOVE IT! Excellant post! Thanks!

161 posted on 06/24/2003 12:56:37 AM PDT by Loose_Cannon1 (Part French and hating myself for it!!)
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To: Loose_Cannon1
["They are working on it, and coming closer and closer. I understand that the experts feel that it will happen this century."]

As they have since Darwin first wrote the "Origin of the Species".

And we've made enormous amounts of progress, thanks for asking.

And exactly how close are they??

Getting pretty darned close, actually. If you think there hasn't been any progress since the Miller-Urey experiment, you're *way* behind on the literature (about half a century behind, in fact).

Most folks just don't hear about it because the "popular science" news channels don't usually go for articles with titles like:

Obcells as Proto-Organisms: Membrane Heredity, Lithophosphorylation, and the Origins of the Genetic Code, the First Cells, and Photosynthesis (Journal of Molecular Evolution, Volume 53 - Number 4/5, 2001)

N-Carbamoyl Amino Acid Solid-Gas Nitrosation by NO/NOx: A New Route to Oligopeptides via alpha-Amino Acid N-Carboxyanhydride. Prebiotic Implications (Journal of Molecular Evolution, Volume 48 - Number 6, 1999

Chemical interactions between amino acid and RNA: multiplicity of the levels of specificity explains origin of the genetic code (Naturwissenschaften, Volume 89 Number 12 December 2002)

The Nicotinamide Biosynthetic Pathway Is a By-Product of the RNA World (Journal of Molecular Evolution, Volume 52 - Number 1, 2001)

On the RNA World: Evidence in Favor of an Early Ribonucleopeptide World

Inhibition of Ribozymes by Deoxyribonucleotides and the Origin of DNA

Genetic Code Origin: Are the Pathways of Type Glu-tRNAGln to Gln-tRNAGln Molecular Fossils or Not?

Did the vermicelli wiggle?

No, pasta was not involved.

Listen closely, Frankenstein; we're as close to spontaneously creating life today, as was Darwin.

And you've done exactly how much original research on this topic, please?

If you think that reconstructing the molecular mechanisms of the RNA world is no advance over the state of the art in 1859, there's no hope for you.

Furthermore, the issue is not "spontaneously creating life" in a laboratory, it's reconstructing the process by which life on Earth originally originated.

We don't need to consolidate a new 8000-mile diameter planet out of interstellar material in order to learn how the Earth was formed in the early days of this solar system, and we don't need to "spontaneously" create life in order to learn how that happened either (and we're pretty unlikely to ever have a beaker the size of the Earth itself to try it in, since that's what it would likely take to let life "spontaneously" start again).

The chances of creating life in a laboratory is the same chance that life on Earth would happen.

Right. See above. There are 20 different Amino Acids that make up every living being on Earth, and the chances of them coming together, in such a sequence, along with the other ideal conditions, at the exact premier moment in Earth's history are so remote as to be impossible.

Feel free to show your calcuations, and the premises that underly them, and explain why your model is arguably the correct one versus other proposed models. we'll wait.

Some scientists have concluded that if the history of the Earth were rewound on tape to the point before life started, and played again a trillion times, you still wouldn't have life.

"Some scientists" recommend eating lots of oat bran. So?

More over, there were at least 5 major extinction's, and several minor ones that took place that ensured you would be sitting here reading this post.

No one says we haven't been lucky. On the flip side, the dinosaurs are pretty ticked off.

In short, your chances of being here are very, very slim, OUTSIDE of a Divine Being.

1. Non sequitur.

2. Again, feel free to provide your odds calculations. Show your work.

3. Even if the odds were slim, what of it? Every lottery winner marvels at his win against enormous odds (and many credit God for their luck), but with enough people playing the lottery (or enough planets in the galaxy), *someone's* going to win.

In philosophy, the anthropic principle boils down to, "whatever the odds, if we hadn't made it we wouldn't be here to ponder the question of how we got lucky enough to be here asking the question".

162 posted on 06/24/2003 2:15:35 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: plain talk
yet will accept such a sloppy notion of science which amounts to throwing a bunch of stuff together and sh!t happens.

I'm sure I won't be the first to inform you that if that's truly what you think science actually states (and/or is as good a theory as science has on these matters), then you really need a better science education.

163 posted on 06/24/2003 2:19:35 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Loose_Cannon1
That the 20 Amino Acids that make every living being on Earth should come together at the precisely correct sequence, at precisely the right moment in time so as to form life. It would be like having a large slot machine with 20 wheels on it, coming together into a perfect payout sequence.

Yes, it would, if that were actually an accurate model of how it probably happened. But since it's not, that's a pretty empty straw man you've got there.

We can't explain how exactly everything came together at precisely the correct moment, place and time, and the explanation of all of it, except by divine being, is so remote as to be impossible

Again, feel free to show your work. "It's really unlikely, I swear it" just doesn't seem rigorous enough. Try again.

If the Reel of Life were to be played over a trillion, trillion times, most scientists agree life would have never have happen.

Provide a citation for this amazing claim, or retract it. We'll wait.

164 posted on 06/24/2003 2:23:28 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Loose_Cannon1
However the chances of life simply forming out of nothing at all are very, very, very--did I say VERy?, slim.

And you know this how, please? Show your calculations, and list your premises.

165 posted on 06/24/2003 2:24:15 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Loose_Cannon1
Well, our athiest experts on the board would disagree. If it moves, it's alive, I guess. ROFL!

Bearing false witness so soon in the discussion?

166 posted on 06/24/2003 2:25:58 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Ichneumon
"Retract it" ...

Shock (( soon )) -- revelations (( designed universe )) ... awe --- you haven't seen anything - yet !

167 posted on 06/24/2003 2:33:02 AM PDT by f.Christian (( Shock -- revelations (( designed universe )) ... AWE --- you haven't seen anything - yet ))
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To: Loose_Cannon1
This just goes to further prove that searching for proof of God's work is as easy as looking into the eyes of another human being. If evolution is the answer, and science the key--we have all the materials we need to make life, why hasn't science achieved this yet?

We had the materials (matter) on earth to create an aircraft for the entire existence of man on this earth. Before the Wright brothers' flight there were plenty of religous zealots scoffing at the idea that man would ever fly.

Any real educated person would have to admit that the beginning of life is beyond our capability to create spontaneously.

Of coarse, only at the present time.

168 posted on 06/24/2003 2:44:59 AM PDT by rmmcdaniell
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To: Loose_Cannon1
[Unfortunately some people are just too lazy to study and accept the revealed word of God in the Bible but yet will accept such a sloppy notion of science which amounts to throwing a bunch of stuff together and sh!t happens.]

I LOVE IT! Excellant post! Thanks!

You love straw man fallacies? Duly noted.

169 posted on 06/24/2003 2:48:15 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: VRWC_minion
170 posted on 06/24/2003 2:49:45 AM PDT by dennisw (G-d is at war with Amalek for all generations)
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To: Loose_Cannon1
[That's *your* theory.]

No, actually, that's the majorities feeling.

Nice non sequitur. Are you under the impression that that somehow makes it *not* a theory (yours, and theirs)? You are mistaken. You've got your theory, I've got mine, Bob has his.

More people believe in a divine being then are atheist.

That's sweet, but why are you suddenly fixating on "atheism"? We were discussing *your* personal "just a theory". And if you really want to play the "truth is determined by the number of people who believe a thing" -- and obviously you do, since you just brought it up out of nowhere -- then note that your "divine being" theory is actually in the minority overall:

Source: Gallup International Millennium Survey

("Personal God" means the belief that there is a God who is some sort of "being")

But in any case, so what? Are you *really* stooping to the implication that if more people believe a thing, it must be true (or that this somehow raises it above the status of being *their* theory on the matter)?

Ncie try, and thanks for playing.

You have yet to even the balls I'm throwing, much less get on base.

171 posted on 06/24/2003 3:03:55 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Loose_Cannon1
Dimensio wrote: "My stance is that I have not seen sufficient evidence for the existence of gods"

You replied, "Tell you what--just explain to why it COULDN'T be a "God"."

I submit that you obviously didn't bother to read what he wrote very carefully, as you have gone flying off on a non sequitur. (And your "eating an apple" analogy was also way off base from what he actually wrote.)

He very clearly said that his position is based on the lack of evidence *for* a god or gods.

This is a very different thing from anyone, much less him, claiming to have any reason to declare that there "COULDN'T" be a god or gods.

The first requirement for being able to critique someone's argument is that you must *understand* it first.

172 posted on 06/24/2003 3:10:28 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: Victoria Delsoul
1.Everything which has a beginning has a cause.
2.The universe has a beginning.
3.Therefore the universe has a cause.

Good post. A few quibbles, however. The customary expression for your first premise (which goes back at least to Aquinas) is that "everything has a cause." Your restatement of the syllogism adds a qualification: "everything which has a beginning ..." This qualification seems contrived to avoid the age-old issue of what caused God. (After all, if everything has a cause, then ... )

Therefore, built into your syllogism is the flat-out a priori assumption that there are two kinds of things, those with a beginning (the universe) and those with no beginning (God). In other words, you've put your conclusions right smack into your very first premise. The outcome is quite predictable, but it strikes me as being a wee bit tautological.

You do a good job on the "beginning" of the universe. But due to a lack of evidence, it's not totally persuasive. The universe *could* be eternal, with just its current configuration having the beginning we observe (the Big Bang). Were that so, the prior state of the universe would be, perhaps, forever hidden from observation, as its evidence would have been obliterated by the BB. Convenient, perhaps, for those who may wish to cling to the idea of an eternal universe, but its something we can't totally rule out.

Therefore it's a possibility (a seemingly remote possibility) that the universe has no cause -- in the sense that it has no beginning. And while this possibility exists, your syllogism is charming, but not conclusive.

173 posted on 06/24/2003 4:38:24 AM PDT by PatrickHenry (Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas.)
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To: Sir Francis Dashwood
I never said anything about "sin" or religion. Immaculate conception, as it is advocated, denotes fertilization of an ovum without sperm.

Uh, no. Look into it.

As for the Big Bang, I've explained that it doesn't mathematically require a cause, causes presupposing the existence of time, and time presupposing the existence of the universe. Is that what you're after?

174 posted on 06/24/2003 4:43:37 AM PDT by Physicist (Sometimes I think I should teach a course in remedial Christianity on FR.)
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To: RightWhale
Oh I thought it was the eternally unconscious Vishnu, ripping gas and thru that rent in his holy behind, the universe sprang forth.....the only momentary pause in his eternal dream state....(<sarcasm)(talk about your "discontinuity")
177 posted on 06/24/2003 4:51:44 AM PDT by mdmathis6
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To: TonyRo76
We really must choose wisely.

I don't believe it's possible to think rationally when you're governed by fear.

179 posted on 06/24/2003 5:12:43 AM PDT by Physicist
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Comment #180 Removed by Moderator

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