Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Big Bang

*Day 12* I'm blogging everyday till VidCon! What is VidCon? Check it out at

So today I'm going to talk about the Big Bang theory, (the actual theory, not the television show). I feel like my blogs have been kinda lame the past few days, so I figured I should talk about things that I actually know a thing or two about and also that I am passionate about. That's not to say that I'm "passionate" about the Big Bang theory itself. However, I find that many people don't really know what the Big Bang theory actually is. This is frustrating to me on several levels. As a scientist, it irritates me that so many people "think" they know what the Big Bang theory is, but if you ask them, their definitions are incorrect. It also bothers me because I happen to be a Christian and it makes my life as a Christian and a scientist rather difficult because so many Christians understand the wrong definition of the Big Bang and therefore, they become upset when they find that I accept the Big Bang theory.

First, I have to admit that I didn't always know the actual definition of the Big Bang either. Since I was raised as a Christian, all that I ever knew was that there was some scientific theory called the "Big Bang" which suggested that the entire universe suddenly came into being at some point in time that scientists call "the Big Bang". (If you ask around, this is the loose definition that most people attach to the Big Bang, only it's wrong.)

I first read a more correct definiton of the big bang in 2003 when I picked up a copy of Stephen Hawking's book, The Theory of Everything (a really amazing book btw, you should read it some time.) The actual definition of The Big Bang is that at some point, all of the matter in the universe was at the same point (i.e. the distance between galaxies was "zero"). Hawking says it this way, "At that time, which we call the big bang, the density of the universe and the curvature of space-time would have been infinite"(*). Hawking then goes on to explain how all of the theories about space-time would be invalid at the point of the big bang, so that anything happening before the big bang (the time when all matter existed together at a single point) would be irrelevant to anything happening after the big bang. Therefore, since we can not say anything about events that might have happened before the big bang, then as far as science is concerned, we have to say that time began at the big bang.

Now, lets just stop there for a second and review. The big bang theory essentially says two things.
1) at one point, the distance between all matter in the universe was "zero", this is called a singularity, and we call this time the big bang.
2) If there were any events before the big bang, they can not be understood from our position in space-time after the big bang, so we say that time began at the big bang.

Got it? This is the definition of the big bang. If this doesn't sit right with you, go research it for yourself. (I did. I respect Stephen Hawking, but I didn't come to accept all of this just from reading his book. I have a habit of questioning everything. I had very good teachers who taught me to do that.) I do encourage you to research it though, because I do not have space in this blog to explain all of the evidence for why scientists believe that the big bang theory is the most accurate description of how time and space began. (Just for quick reference though I'll tell you, they accept the big bang model because the universe appears to be expanding as if from a single point.)

Now, the rest of this blog concerns Christians and their understanding or lack of understanding of the big bang, although even if you are not a Christian, you might want to keep reading. There are some surprising twists in the history of the big bang theory.

I think many Christians are afraid that scientists are simply trying to find ways to explain away God, and so they simply do not even listen to what scientists say at all. I for one, never wanted to be afraid of anything. I'd rather know the truth, even if the truth is ugly. So I had a look into all of this science stuff. I think I should quote Hawking again here, he explains this so well.

"... if the universe is expanding, there may be physical reasons why there had to be a beginning. One could still believe that God created the universe at the instant of the big bang. He could even have created it at a later time in just such a way as to make it look as though there had been a big bang. But it would be meaningless to suppose that it was created before the big bang. An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when He might have carrioud out his job." (**)

First I just want to say, that, as a Christian, it makes me happy that scientists who are athiests (Stephen Hawking is an athiest) still include in their publications the possibility that God might exist. This is something that I have tried and tried to point out to my Christian friends. They all assume that scientists are all athiests and are hostile toward the church, but they are not. Every scientist has his own personal opinion, but it is his duty to consider all possible theories unless there is sufficient evidence to exclude them. Basically, I'm saying that, if you are a Christian, don't be afraid to look at the science. Scientists are not out to convince you that God does not exist.

Later in Hawkings book, he goes on to say that there were a lot of scientists who did not like the idea of a big bang because it too strongly suggested that something or someone had caused time to begin (something had to trigger the matter to start expanding, it could have just stayed in the singularity) In fact, the Catholic church officially accepts the big bang as being in accordance with the bible. Are you Catholic? Did you know this? Can you believe this? Christians accepted the big bang, and scientists wanted to disprove it. (As far as I know, scientists have still been unable to disprove the necessity of a big bang.) So then, I wonder, how did it all get so twisted and mixed up so that today, the majority of people believe that on the one hand there are Christians who believe that God created the universe and on the other hand there are scientists who say the universe came from an event called "the big bang". Back in the 50's, 60's and 70's Christians were rejoicing and scientist were grumbling. I don't know how I came to be taught that the big bang was an anti-God theory, but I was.

I hope I have enlightened you a little bit. If you are not a Christian, I hope two things for you. One, that you would at least take away from this, the more accurate definition of "the big bang". Two, I hope that if you are an athiest, that you would not be hostile to those who do believe in God. So far in my life as a scientist, I have been encouraged to find that other scientists did not think less of me for believing in God. I only ask that you would do the same.

I know this was a really long blog, I've been wanting to write it for several days. I was afraid I would end up writing forever. I'm sorry, but I hope you enjoyed it. Goodbye till tomorrow. :-)

* the quote above is from page 35 of the The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking.

** the second quote is from page 15 of The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking


  1. well written and very well explained!!! all around well done!!!

  2. I was lucky enough to have a mathmematician/scientist for a dad who has always tried to explain the universe to me in scientific terms. I think I have quite a good understanding of the theories of space although the way you explained the Big Bang is very good - very easy to grasp.

    I am an atheist but I am not hostile to Christians. I believe that everyone has the right to believe what they like. It hadn't even occurred to me to doubt you as a scientist because of your faith :)

  3. I actually read this, and meant to comment because I was blown away by all the work you put into this. I'm glad to finally have a better understanding of the Big Bang Theory. I'm not a scientist, but in my field, I find a lot of academics who are atheists. It's actually pretty rare for me to find other Christians in my field who are pursuing or have received their PhD. As a Christian myself, it's a little discouraging, yet, most people I've encountered are very accepting about people having different beliefs. Anyway, I'm rambling in your comments. Thanks for the enlightenment, and keep up the awesome blogs!