Missing Links of Big Bang Theory
From the September 2013 issue of Creation Answers
by Wayne Spencer
Creationists have long mentioned the problem of “missing links” in fossil evidence supporting evolution. Though many have been proposed, there are still a lack of the transitional forms evolution requires. I see Big Bang Theory as having a similar problem though the details are very different.
In previous articles on the Big Bang, we have looked at assumptions made by scientists about the universe. We addressed the universe coming into existence as a spontaneous event as the Big Bang claims, versus God creating it from nothing. The biggest weaknesses of the Big Bang idea to me are the unprovable assumptions it is built on. But to understand the issues we need to look at the science and get the “big picture” of what science can and cannot explain.
The book, Dismantling the Big Bang by Alex Williams and John Hartnett has many great insights into the problems with Big Bang theory. There is a fundamental question to consider before delving into the science of the Big Bang. What does it mean for science to explain something? In origins science you deal with one-time events of the past which you cannot go back in time to measure or take pictures of. So the events of the past are an unknown. How then do you explain such an event or events? What science does is to explain the unknown from the past in terms of something known in the present. Because the events of the past are not repeatable, you cannot be as conclusive about past processes as you can about processes occurring today. Today we can do experiments and repeatably confirm what actually happens. But in the science of origins you cannot be as certain. You have to try to show the plausibility or likelihood of a certain event or process in the past. You cannot really prove scientifically that a certain event in the past happened.
Does Big Bang Theory explain the unknown from the past in terms of something known in the present? In many cases the answer is clearly no. It often explains the unknown in terms of another unknown. A number of theories have been proposed to support Big Bang ideas that are totally theoretical and have no observational evidence to support them. Many aspects of the Big Bang are completely outside anything human beings could expect to demonstrate by experiment.
Big Bang theories often ignore one important scientific law that is well known and well understood, in order to propose that something happened in a special way in the origin of the universe. So for example, it is proposed that the universe could come about from a quantum fluctuation in space, in a manner similar to some particle physics experiments where certain particles may come into existence spontaneously. There is some experimental evidence that may support the existence of what are called “virtual particles” in space that come into existence briefly and go back out of existence but interact with photons and electrons. These virtual particles can seem to cause a sort of temporary violation of conservation of energy. But these virtual particles do not explain where the vast amount of energy came from in the Big Bang. Some physicists think that the universe could start somehow out of this seething “quantum foam” of particles in empty space. But quantum effects on a tiny subatomic scale do not apply on a larger scale according to any known physics. One of the main reasons is that these quantum processes and the virtual particles, are extremely short-lived. So how could it provide a vast energy to sustain the formation of the universe? Scientists do not really have an answer to this.
Thus Conservation of Energy is an unsolved problem in Big Bang Theory. The Big Bang really just ignores Conservation of Energy. Conservation of Energy says that though matter and energy can be interconverted from one form to another, the total amount of matter-energy in the universe is a constant. Applying quantum theory and virtual particles as above is applying quantum physics inappropriately in my opinion. In a particle physics experiment where you are dealing with a limited amount of energy and events on the atomic scale, certain spontaneous events are possible. The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle allows for certain small scale events that would seem to normally be impossible. But for the universe to form, somehow a vast amount of energy must be given to the expansion. The small scale events observed by scientists in particle experiments are the known from today, but the spontaneous origin of matter and energy in the Big Bang is an unknown. So the known from today, the particle physics experiments, are not really a valid analog for explaining the origin of the universe in the beginning. It is only hoped to be a valid analog. That it is a valid analog is something taken by faith by physicists.
Another example is the issue of how did the universe start to expand when it was a singularity? Note that there is significant debate over whether the Big Bang did begin with a singularity. But many scientists would agree that projecting the matter of the universe backward in time to the beginning necessarily implies it would start with a singularity, in Big Bang theory. There are singularities we observe in the universe, they are called Black Holes. There is well known theory on Black Holes and there is very good observational evidence for their existence. Black Hole theory does not really presume anything about origins, it comes out of the physics of gravity. Sometimes reality really is strange. But if the universe began as a singularity and it acted like a Black Hole, it couldn’t possibly expand. So why would the initial universe expand? Scientists call the initial universe a “naked singularity” because it has to have properties different from any known phenomena we can observe, in order to expand. So again, they attempt to explain the unknown in terms of another unknown, because there is nothing known like the theory proposes. This is not really a scientific explanation.
Stages in the Big Bang
Below are a list of stages in the Big Bang as listed in Williams and Hartnett’s book on the Big Bang.
Stage A - The Primordial Singularity
I have already mentioned the singularity. This is really beyond what science can investigate. It is the starting point of the Big Bang. It is not known how expansion would start, it is just assumed to start.
Stage B - Inflation
This is a period of extreme expansion, to get the universe going. The universe is believed to expand in size by about 1026 times, which means 100 million billion billion times (by some estimates). This incredible expansion is believed to have happened in a time from about 10-36 second to about 10-32 second. This is an extremely tiny moment of time. It’s a kind of instant universe. To me it seems like a secular unbeliever’s equivalent of a Christian believing God just spoke the universe into existence with a word. However inflation does not complete the universe. Some Big Bang models propose this expansion was made possible by the Higgs Boson (or “God Particle"), which was in the news in July of 2012. To see an article I wrote on the God particle CLICK HERE. The inflation process is believed to explain how the universe could be so uniform in density. It also cools the universe down dramatically. The inflation concept is accepted by many cosmologists and physicists today.
The book by Williams and Hartnett says the following about the inflation theory: ‘It appears that the big bang was not big enough–another “bang” was needed, which accelerated an unimaginable process into an unimaginably unimaginable process.’
(For this quote see Williams and Hartnett's book mentioned below, Dismantling the Big Bang ... page 117.)
Stage C - From Energy to Matter
After the Inflation period ends the universe is still much too hot for atoms to be stable. But, some nuclei begin to form, including hydrogen, helium, and lithium. These are the three smallest atoms and the first three elements in the periodic table. Protons and Neutrons join together first, then after a few hundred thousand years, the temperatures drop to the point that electrons can remain in atoms without flying apart. Stage C is the process by which energy is converted into atoms.
Stage D - Decoupling and the CMBR
This stage refers to the decoupling of radiation and matter. Before this the light and radiation make the expanding universe look like a sort of fireball. After this stage the “fireball” cools down, the radiation dims out, and the universe becomes transparent. After the radiation has dissipated, what you have is mostly hydrogen gas, and some helium, and traces of lithium expanding. The expansion continues and a faint “glow” is left from the primeval fireball that comes to be known as the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation, or CMBR. The CMBR is sometimes called the 3 degree radiation because it is like the radiation that would be given off by atoms at a temperature of about 3 degrees above Absolute Zero. There is very clear and unambiguous evidence that the CMBR radiation exists. The CMBR is believed to be evidence for the Big Bang. I would say there may be other explanations so I do not consider it evidence for the Big Bang.
Big Bang scientists tend to take the CMBR as a confirmation of the ideas of Physicist George Gamow from 1961. But Gamow actually proposed something different. He originally proposed the background radiation would have an effective temperature of 5 Kelvin, then he revised the number to 50 Kelvin. But somehow when it was first measured in 1964 at near 3 Kelvin that was taken as agreeing with Gamow. On the other hand, earlier, in 1926, Sir Arthur Eddington argued that because all of space is essentially bathed in starlight, intersteller space would have an effective temperature of about 3 degrees Kelvin. So the CMBR may agree better with the older concept from Eddington. Eddington’s idea does not explain everything about background radiation in space but the point is the Big Bang is not necessarily the only possible explanation. Other explanations have sometimes been proposed by astronomers.
Stage E - Origin of the Galaxies and Stars
After the Big Bang expansion has led to great diffuse clouds of gas, what happens then? The Big Bang expansion does not really explain how matter becomes organized into large structures. It does not explain how galaxies or stars form. In fact, the uniform idealistic expansion of the universe in the Big Bang is not really conducive to forming anything. Not only are many stars organized into galaxies, but there are clusters of clusters of clusters of galaxies. There are large filament-like structures and great voids, as well as great “walls” of galaxies. There are also large clusters of galaxies moving at unusually high speeds. More could be said about the structure of the universe.
These structures are difficult to explain when the universe is assumed to have had an extremely uniform beginning. Even the simple observation that galaxies and stars are all spinning is a challenge to Big Bang Theory. Uniform expansion would not produce rapid spins or large superclusters. So what organized the matter of the universe? Gravity alone is not sufficient to explain all the structure in the universe. Thus various exotic ideas have been proposed. Once again these are unknowns that cannot be verified. So one unknown is put forward to explain another unknown.
One famous physicist, James Trefil, said “There shouldn’t be galaxies out there at all, and even if there are galaxies, they shouldn’t be grouped together the way they are....”
(Quote above is from James Trefil, The Dark Side of the Universe, published by Macmillan, 1988. Also mentioned in Creation magazine by Werner Gitt, What About the 'Big Bang?', Creation 20(3):42-44, 1998.)
If a hot cloud of gas in space cools it will contract, but there is a limit to how much it can contract. Gravity may cause it to pull together to a point, but again there is a limit because as it compresses by gravity, the gas pressure will stop the collapse. Thus it is well known that gas left to itself in space, is “stable against collapse.” This means gravity alone will never form a star from free gas. So, something else must happen to compress the gas strongly so that it would be dense enough to form a planet or a star.
For it to become a star, the gas must be compressed a great deal so that the internal temperature rises to millions of degrees. This can allow nuclear fusion to start, thus forming a star. But what could cause the gas to compress enough to form a star? One possibility proposed is a supernova explosion of another star. A supernova shockwave can be very powerful, so it is thought these shockwaves striking clouds of dust and gas could trigger star formation. Whether this works is not certain because in such clouds you cannot actually observe a star forming, since the cloud hides it.
Stage F - Origin of Planets
The formation of planets is an issue I have spent much time studying. Click here to go to a list of some of my papers on this topic. In addition to the limits on what gravity can do against gas pressure mentioned above, there are other problems with planet formation theories. They require unrealistic assumptions about the dust disks around stars. The disks tend to dissipate before the planet can form. Today there are many known examples of planets around other stars (called exoplanets). But these systems are different from our own solar system and they actually show how special our own solar system is. Our system was designed to be a safe and stable “neighborhood” for our planet to reside in. For a planet to support life, not only does the planet have to have just the right properties, but it seems the star has to be essentially matched to the planet. If both the star and the planet do not have the right properties, there could be no life.
Missing Links in Astronomy
I believe there are missing links in astronomy. They are not about fossils, but they are unsolved problems about many different steps in Big Bang theory. Other issues could be thought of as missing links or unsolved problems. Origins theories based on naturalistic assumptions that leave out the possibility of Creator tend to lead to an overestimate of what science can actually explain.
You could say that as a Christian I am trying to explain an unknown also, in thinking about how the universe began. But there is a difference because I have another source of information from the One who was there in the beginning–the Bible. The Bible is not a cosmology textbook, though it has certain implications that are related. As a Christian, I am trying to explain an unknown in terms of something known. What is known is the starting assumptions that we get from Scripture. Then when we do science from that foundation, it can guide science in a more profitable direction. In many ways a prevailing Christian worldview had important influence on the development of modern science. This doesn’t mean Christians cannot make mistakes in science but it can help move science in the right direction.
Williams, Alex and Hartnett, John, Dismantling the Big Bang - God's Universe Rediscovered, Master Books, 2005, available from Creation Ministries International at creation.com
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