The appearance of Rem B. Edwards's What Caused the Big Bang? marks the introduction of the first title in the Philosophy and Religion (PAR) special series. I cannot imagine a better way to introduce the special series to the academic world than to do so through the thought of a frequently cited scholar. This is PAR's first book, Edwards's sixteenth.
Edwards's erudition is everywhere in evidence as he devours the pages of Big Bang literature, separating fact from fancy, the examined from the unexamined. Socrates would recognize his sting as belonging to the most energetic of gadflies, unrelenting, pestering those who would readily ascribe the origin of the universe to anything less than disciplined reason requires. What caused the Big Bang? Now that the 15 billion-year-old cosmic dust has settled, several likely explanations emerge from the cosmic broth. But not all explanations are proven equal, as Edwards amply demonstrates: Steady State and Plasma Cosmologies; Antecedent Universe Cosmologies; Big Fizz and Big Divide Quantum Cosmologies; Quantum Observership Cosmology; Big Accident Quantum Cosmology; Atheistic Anthropic Cosmology; the Final Anthropic Principle-each view contains fatal flaws.
Edwards's thesis that God caused the Big Bang follows a detailed deconstruction of alternate models showing their weakness: where and how they commit fallacies. The burden of proof now falls squarely on the shoulders of those who do not accept the claim that God caused the Big Bang. Critics must point to the deficiencies in Edwards's argument and defend the superiority of their own view. This is a hard sell, given the breadth and depth of his work. But if God created the universe, what is our place in it? Who is God, why did God create, is God responsible for the suffering of innocent victims, and since the universe is contingent, does God sustain creation? Like all good philosophy, Edwards's answer to questions raises more questions!
In my own work on death and immortality, the mysterious nature of the nothing has long beckoned forth, inviting me to visit the nurturing intelligibilities it incloses. In discussions on death and dying, I find useful the distinction between the absence of something and the removal of ground in which the possibility of this absence arises. For instance, is death the absence of life or is it the removal of the possibility in which the possibility of absence arises? The simple answer is that it is both. The complex answer is that one distinction (ontological) raises the question of what death might be like to the dead (if post mortem states exist), while the other (epistemic) addresses the ordinary-language view of death as absence of life. The investigation into the ontological character of death (death as such), then is conducted from the perspective of the nothing as reversal in the possibility of temporal existence. Death is a return to the conditions that existed before the Big Bang. In part, my thesis depends on the existence of a state in the likeness of the nothing. Edwards's What Caused
the Big Bang? provides solid evidence and confirms my own belief that God is at work in this domain.
If God caused the Big Bang, then, the universe had a beginning. It might not have had a beginning in time (the universe could be eternal), but it must have had a beginning in the order of existence (thereby providing an answer to the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?"). If matter has a beginning, science cannot reach that far. The laws of the universe only become applicable at Planck Time and Planck Space or length; at 10-43rd of a second, the size of the universe was 10-33rd centimeter in diameter (see pp. 98-99 of this volume). This is as close to the moment of creation as science can get. So how can the Big Bang have a cause? Philosophy and/or religion take over at that point. Edwards's inquiry reveals that the gap separating the before and the after of existence (beyond scientific measurement) is not nothing at all since it is pregnant with the divine laws and patterns of existence. How else would the universe know to open the first act of existence in a scene of well-orchestrated expansion and contraction? Planets could not have formed in the absence of laws and patterns. The existence of the law implies structure. And structure points beyond contingency to the existence of a Necessary Being-or God at work in the ex nihilo.
Edwards's book is powerful and timely. His cogent analysis of quantum physics provides at least one indubitable truth that cannot be deconstructed-God exists! The current crisis in Ethics is due to the excesses of relativism. Once we accepted Hume's invitation to skepticism, Heidegger's critique of the Absolute, Nietzsche's death-of-God movement, and the genetic secularization of our species, nothing special was left to unite us. We found ourselves doing moral theory in the absence of a unified ethical vision of our common origin, nature, and destiny. Edwards's book provides the ontological grounding required for a fresh start. It should be required reading, not only where physics is taught, but whenever Philosophy and Religion matter.
Kenneth A. Bryson
Editor, Philosophy and Religion
University College of Cape Breton
Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
In 1988, Stephen W. Hawking wrote,
Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is to ask the question why? On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories. 1
My professional training as a philosopher has contributed immensely to my preparation for writing this book; and I have done my best to try to understand those scientific theories which have a direct bearing on my central question: What caused the Big Bang? I hope that my inquiry brings together successfully both the what and the why of the origin of the universe. This topic has long fascinated me, and I have read and thought extensively about it. My considerable reading about the Big Bang, my background in Process Philosophy, with its emphasis on uniting philosophy and science, and my training, teaching, and writing in the philosophy of religion have all helped to prepare me for this enterprise.
Almost everyone is curious about the origin of the universe; and my intended audience is philosophers, theologians, scientists, and all inquisitive persons who wonder how and why it all began. I agree with George Smoot that there is a "deep public interest in understanding the origin of the universe and our place in it;" 2 so this book is written for the average literate person, not just for professionals. In places, however, the subject matter is difficult. To quote Hawking again:
...If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason-for then we would know the mind of God. 3
With Smoot and Hawking, I share this ultimate goal and address this broad audience. My contribution will be to ask and try to answer philosophical questions of scientists, who are usually at least as naive about philosophy as philosophers are about science. I also want to show ordinary people what the best scientific minds are saying about the origin of the universe, and how to think critically and philosophically about their theories. In thinking about the ultimate origin of the universe, we are in the borderlands between science, philosophy, and religion.
I will try to present the major answers that contemporary scientific cosmologists are giving to: What caused the Big Bang? For many persons, this question has a simple and direct answer: God did it. When the Belgian astronomer/priest George Lemaitre first understood the evidence for the Big Bang, he was probably convinced personally that science had discovered the moment when God created the world;4 but he tended to keep his views on how religion relates to astronomy to himself. In a 1951 address, Pope Pius XII claimed that "True science discovers God in an ever-increasing degree-as though God were waiting behind every door opened by science .... Science has provided proof of the beginning of time .... Hence, creation took place in time. Therefore, there is a Creator; therefore, God exists."5
Those who believe that things are so easy will be surprised to learn that most contemporary scientific cosmologists are doing their best to avoid the hypothesis that God created or caused the Big Bang. Most presuppose a Naturalistic metaphysics, according to which the universe has been around in some form from eternity with no conceivable dependence on Deity. Many scientists believe that the Big Bang, which initiated our cosmic epoch, was caused by an antecedently existing universe, not by God's creative activity. Some scientific cosmologists try to avoid God by maintaining that the Big Bang had no cause at all. Coming chapters will survey both secular and religious accounts of cosmic origins and evaluate them on their own merits.
Chapter One of this book reviews the overwhelming evidence that convinces most scientists today that our universe began with a Big Bang somewhere between eight and twenty billion years ago; and it charts the course of the evolution of the universe from an initiating Big Bang to where we are today. It explores the possibility that science cannot answer the question of ultimate origins because the topic lies beyond the proper bounds of legitimate science. Good science involves both theory and empirical confirmation, but many contemporary scientific cosmologists are producing only content-less theories about what caused the Big Bang. Scientific Cosmological Agnostics deny that our question is properly scientific and indicate that the pseudoscientific theories which try to answer it cannot be verified, even indirectly. Only experience can separate actualities from abstruse possibilities, reality from wild speculation; yet we have no experience of worlds creating other worlds.
In Chapter Two, Naturalistic Humanistic theories of reality (metaphysics), of knowledge (epistemology), and of human origins (humanistic anthropology) and well-being (ethics and axiology) are introduced, subjected to thorough philosophical analysis and criticism, and shown definitively to be untenable. All the non-theistic answers to: What caused the Big Bang? examined in Chapters Three through Nine are deeply embedded within an indefensible Naturalistic Humanistic philosophical outlook.
Chapter Three explores significant challenges to the idea that our universe originated in a Big Bang. Steady State Cosmology, developed by Fred Hoyle
and his associates in the 1940s and 1950s, affirms that the universe is uncreated and that it maintains its present general appearance from eternity; so there was no Big Bang. The Hubble expansion of the universe results from the continuous creation of hydrogen atoms out of nothing by matter. New atoms fill in the blanks left by the Hubble expansion of the universe. Steady State Cosmology is not alone in affirming that the physical universe is spatially and temporally infinite. In The Big Bang Never Happened,6 Eric Lerner offers seemingly powerful objections to the evidence that convinces most scientists that the Big Bang really happened, and he presents his own Plasma Cosmology which, when all is said and done, relies upon a local Mini-Bang to explain what is happening in the finite part of the infinite universe that is observable to us. Decisive objections to his position are developed.
In Chapter Four, two versions of the theory that our universe was created by the collapse of an antecedently existing universe are discussed. George Gamow thought that a shrinking universe infinitely preceded our own in a time before our time and finally collapsed in a Big Crunch. It then rebounded, and our resulting universe will expand forever. We exist in a life-supporting phase of the endless rebound period. Where Gamow's Cosmology postulates only one contraction, one crunch, one Bang, and one rebound, Oscillation Cosmology conjures up an infinite number of antecedent universes, each of which began in a Big Bang, expanded to a maximal state, recontracted, then renewed the whole process with another Big Bang. Oscillationists propose that an influx of energy from an antecedently existing universe caused the Big Bang and our resulting cosmos, but the position is fatally flawed, as this chapter shows.
Quantum theory has powerfully influenced cosmological speculation since the early 1980s. Chapters Five through Eight explore a variety of Quantum Cosmologies, each of which has its own peculiar answer to the question of cosmic origins.
Big Fizz Cosmology covered in Chapter Five says that our Big Bang was created when energy bubbles formed through spontaneous quantum fluctuations in the womb of an antecedently existing Superspacetime or Mother Spacetime. Infinitely many bubbles form spontaneously to make infinitely many universes, which co-exist within Mother Spacetime. Our bubble inflated fifteen billion or so years ago, so here we are! Big Divide Cosmology says that every universe sub-divides itself into infinitely many universes at every tum of events, so we are here for a brief moment within a universe that looks like it began in a Big Bang, but it really began only a fraction of a second ago when an antecedent universe sub-divided to actualize all possibilities. But these cosmologies are utterly implausible, as demonstrated.
Quantum Observership examined in Chapter Six emphasizes the important role that some interpreters of quantum mechanics assign to scientific observers, measurers, and experimenters. It maintains that the indefinite and indeterminate domain of quantum events takes on definiteness and determinateness only when
observers view it. Evidence for the Big Bang exists only as human observers find it-and thereby create it. So what created the Big Bang? We did! (But we didn't, as the concluding critique proves.)
Big Accident Cosmology contends, as explained in Chapter Seven, that the question of what caused the Big Bang presupposes something that supposedly is not true, namely that everything which comes into being has a cause. Quantum physics denies this, we are told, and discloses that our universe originated out of nothing, was caused by nothing, exists for no purpose, and is nothing. Nothing caused the Big Bang. It is so easy for nothing to cause nothing! Just why our universe did not originate this way is carefully explained.
Chapter Eight considers Atheistic Anthropic Cosmology. Many recent scientific cosmologists note that our universe is exceptionally fine-tuned for the creation of life, including intelligent forms of life. Tiny changes in any of the initial conditions, constants, and Jaws of nature would have resulted in a universe inhospitable to life. For every successful way of creating a life-supporting universe, there are infinitely many futile ways to get it wrong. Lifeless universes are infinitely probable, and life-supporting universes are infinitely improbable. Why, then, do we live in a life-supporting universe? The Anthropic Principle says that we live in a life-supporting universe because we are here, that is, because if the universe were not life-supporting, we would not be here to ask questions about it. Even atheists do not deny the remarkable life-supporting design of our universe, but they think that they can account for this without having to appeal to God. Atheistic Anthropic Cosmology explains that if infinitely many worlds exist, as many Quantum Cosmologies profess, then universes as rare as our own will just happen occasionally. Given an infinite number of shoes, one will fit now and then by pure chance. The metaphysical Principle of Plenitude, that all possibilities must be actual somewhere, guarantees the existence of an infinite number of universes. For Atheistic Quantum Cosmologists, the Principle of Plenitude is the ultimate cause of our Big Bang plus infinitely many other universes, very few of which life-sustaining. The innumerable flaws of Atheistic Anthropic Cosmology are spelled out in detail.
Chapter Nine deals with the bizarre claims made by the Final Anthropic Principle, according to which our universe and an infinite number of others will ultimately coalesce into a single omniscient and omnipotent Omega Point that will be God. God does not now exist and did not create the world; but the world, which began without God, now exists and will ultimately create God. Human life is meaningful because through our android descendants we can contribute to the development of the Omega Point by traveling in space and ultimately inhabiting our entire universe. The position borders on madness, as explained!
These atheistic theories and a few theistic accounts of what caused the Big Bang are explained and critically examined in significant depth in chapters to follow. When considered critically and seriously, much of the atheistic cosmological speculation being done by today's astronomers, astrophysicists, and
other scientists is quite outlandish, as the preceding paragraphs suggest. Once this is fully understood and appreciated, the door is open to reexamine the possibility that God caused the Big Bang. Still, some ways of conceiving of the nature of God and of God's relations with the world are much more intelligible than others, and much easier to relate to the universe disclosed to us in Big Bang Cosmology.
Two quite different concepts of God are examined in Chapter Ten. Classical Theism is committed to the absolute changelessness of God in every conceivable respect. Process Theism, by contrast, affirms that God is indeed changeless in certain desirable respects but is in process in other highly desirable respects. It is desirable both that God be changelessly good and that God's experiences change as God interacts with created worlds and their creatures as they come in to being in spacetime and history. A comprehensive but modified Process Theology best reconciles science and religion. Chapter Ten also discusses several senses in which God may be said to "exist" and develops and justifies several changes in Process Theism that seem desirable, upon examination, if it is to be rationally and religiously appealing.
Chapter Eleven presents a revitalized Biopic Teleological Argument for the existence of God, based upon massive evidence for the fine tuning of the universe for life, as disclosed by contemporary scientific cosmology. Note that when masculine pronouns are used occasionally in reference to God in this chapter and elsewhere, this is done merely from convention and for economy or convenience of expression; but it in no way implies that God is masculine in any intelligible or defensible sense.
Chapter Twelve further develops the case for Theism with a refurbished Cosmological Argument from Contingency for the existence of God, again based upon what contemporary physics and astrophysics have revealed about the radically contingent nature of physical reality.
To my knowledge, no existing book covers and critically examines philosophically all the major options for explaining the origin of the Big Bang. The astute debate between William L. Craig and Quentin Smith in their Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology7 focuses almost exclusively on the Standard Model of the Big Bang, with its initial singularity, and on the quantum Big Accident option; but it neglects all the other theories of origin explored here. M. A. Corey's God and the New Cosmology: The Anthropic Design Argument deals mainly with the teleological but not in depth with the cosmological argument for God's existence. As endnotes for each following chapter will indicate, numerous books and articles examine and defend one particular theory or another. Yet, no previous book takes a hard philosophical look at all the basic options presented here while critically examining the Naturalistic assumptions that underlie the non-theistic scientific (or pseudoscientific) cosmologies covered in Chapters Three through Nine. Many cosmologists emphasize scientific
data and theories. While not neglecting these, I also introduce relevant philosophical questions, analysis, and theories.
I wish to express special appreciation to The University of Tennessee for the Faculty Development Grant which it awarded to me to work on this project,
and to my former Department Heads, George Brenkert and Kathy Bohstedt, for their substantial support for my efforts. Kenneth A. Bryson, editor of the Religion and Philosophy special series of the Value Inquiry Book Series, was
immensely helpful in spotting defects that I was not able to see, but final responsibility for imperfections in the book rests with me. And many, many
thanks to my wife Louise who managed to tolerate my existence while I was so
deeply immersed in the project of figuring out the universe.
I thank the following publishers for their kind permission to reprint or paraphrase copyrighted materials, especially Barry Whitney, editor of Process Studies, which previously published my discussion of "How Process Theology Can Affirm Creation Ex Nihilo," 29: I (Spring-Summer 2000), pp. 77-96 that appears here as a section of Chapter Ten. Short quotations and references in this volume should fall within the realm of "fair use," but for permission to use more detailed material, I thank the following:
Cambridge University Press: James Cornell, ed., Bubbles, Voids, and Bumps in Time: The New Cosmology, 1989.
Clarendon Press, a division of Oxford University Press: William L. Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, 1993.
Mind, an Oxford University Press publication: Ian Hacking, "The Inverse Gambler's Fallacy," 96 (1987), pp. 331-340.
Open Court Publishing Company: Charles Hartshorne, Creative Synthesis and Philosophic Method, 1970.
Oxford University Press: John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tipler, The Anthropic Principle, 1989.
Process and Faith: John B. Cobb, Jr., "Is God Creator Ex Nihilo?" Web site, July-August, 1999.
Prometheus Books: Kai Nielsen, Naturalism without Foundations, 1996; Victor J. Stenger, The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology, 1995.
Random House, Alfred A. Knopf: Eric J. Lerner, The Big Bang Never Happened, 1991.
Random House, Bantam Dell Publishing Group: Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 1988, 1996.
Sky & Telescope: Cheryl J. Beatty and Richard T. Fienberg, "Participatory Cosmology: The Big Bang Challenge" (March 1994), pp. 20-22; "Extrasolar Planet Seen Transiting Its Star" (February 2000), pp. 16-17; "The Great Attractor's Hidden Heart" (December 1999), p. 12; Robert Jastrow, "What Are the Chances for Life?" (June 1997), p. 63; Alan M. MacRobert, "Beyond the Big Bang" (March 1983), pp. 211-213; Sten Oldenwald, "Spacetime: The Final
Frontier" (February 1996), pp 24-29; "The Primordial Soup: A Recipe for Life" (February 1998), p. 20; Joshua Roth and Joel R. Primack, "Cosmology: All Sewn Up or Coming Apart at the Seams" (January 1996), pp. 20--26; Gary H. Sanders and David Beckett, "LIGO: An Antenna Tuned to the Songs of Gravity" (October 2000), pp. 41-48.
Yale University Divinity School: Robert Jastrow, "Science and the Creation," in Creation (a special issue of Reflection), edited by Thomas Schattauer, 1980.
Writers House LLC: Stephen W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time, 1988, 1996.
Zygon, a Blackwell publication: Joel Friedman, "The Natural God: A God Even an Atheist Can Believe In" (September 1986), pp. 369-388; Fred W. Hallberg, "Barrow and Tipler's Anthropic Cosmological Principle" (June 1988), pp. 139-157; Frank J. Tipler, "The Omega Point as Eschaton: Answers to Pannenberg's Questions for Scientists" (June 1989), pp. 217-253; Patricia A. Williams, "Christianity and Evolutionary Ethics: Sketch Toward a Reconciliation" (June 1996), pp. 253-268.
1. From A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, by Stephen W. Hawking, copyright © 1988, 1996 by Stephen W. Hawking, p. 174. Used by permission of Bantam Books, a division of Random House, Inc. and Writers House LLC.
2. George Smoot and Keay Davidson, Wrinkles in Time (New York: Avon Books, 1993), p. 289.
3. Hawking, p. 175.
4. George Lemaitre, The Primeval Atom (New York: Van Nostrand, 1950).
5. Pope Pius XII, "Modern Science and the Existence of God," The Catholic Mind, (March 1952), pp. 182-192.
6. Eric Lerner, The Big Bang Never Happened (New York: Random House, 1991).
7. William L. Craig and Quentin Smith, Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993 ), p. 197. By permission of Oxford University Press.
8. M. A. Corey, God and the New Cosmology: The Anthropic Design Argument (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1993).