And now for something completely different — yes, that’s an obscure reference to the random craziness of Monty Python — we jump from the political and social deceptions of today to something that in the big scheme of things swamps them all. But still regarding seeking truth.
Where did we come from and how? It’s an age-old, universal query. Everyone has wondered about this. Many have sought for the answer
Of course, we have the Big Bang Theory as the working idea for the origins of the universe. We’ll place aside for a moment the something-from-nothing conundrum predating the Big Bang, and consider this working theory that is largely accepted in scientific circles and in the broader culture.
There is a huge, nagging massive black hole in the theory that is essentially philosophic, and as such cannot by definition be solved through science. The only question is whether it is fatal to the theory. You decide.
The theory of the Big Bang
Here’s a brief layman’s rundown on the Big Bang Theory.
During the first second or so of the universe, protons, neutrons, and electrons — the building blocks of atoms — were formed. Photons collided, turned their energy into mass, and the four forces split into their separate identities. The temperature of the universe cooled during this second from 100 million trillion trillion degrees to about 10 billion degrees.
Things continued to cool and drift apart. At about 300,000 years after the initial second of the big bang, the universe cooled to 3,000 degrees. This allowed the formation of neutral atoms. About one billion years later, stars and galaxies began to form. Since then, the universe continued to grow larger and cooler and created the right conditions for life, as the theory goes.
Professor Stephen Hawking, one of the top physicists in the world, sums it up this way:
“The Big Bang theory describes how the universe was created from the Big Bang singularity, where all matter and space is contained in a single point of infinite density. At the moment of creation of the universe — the Big Bang — all matter, space and time came into existence, before that time did not exist. Our universe could not exist without time, and time could not exist without the universe, they are different components of the one entity.”
So it all begins with the singularity — a word now ubiquitous in science fiction shows.
It’s widely accepted and taught as accepted in schools everywhere. Should it be?
Supermassive theory black hole
But this is the question. It’s just so obvious, yet everyone stares blankly at me when I ask it.
Where exactly was the singularity?
Remember, Professor Hawking said, “…the universe was created from the Big Bang singularity, where all matter and space is contained in a single point of infinite density.”
All matter. That means everything, the entirety of the universe, all of physical reality. A single point. There was nothing except the singularity. So, where was it? Where was it located? It in itself was physical matter. All of physical matter, according to the theory. So it had to be located somewhere. But if it contained all of material existence within it, where could that have possibly been?
It is a conundrum. Perhaps scientifically, it’s a paradox.
Further, all of time is theorized to be contained in the singularity. Hawking: “At the moment of creation of the universe — the Big Bang — all matter, space and time came into existence, before that time did not exist.”
We can use the math within the general theory of relativity to work backwards from the expanding universe to come up with the beginning of the universe at 13.8 billion years. The time forward is easy at least to understand. But in addition to where was the singularity located comes the question: How long had it been there? For no time? For all of time?
Or did it exist outside of time? This actually seems to fit best, if time was contained within the singularity and there was no time before it.
Perhaps the laws of physics break down for a reason
The question of what was before the Big Bang of course has been a ponderment since the theory was first proposed nearly 100 years ago. We always run into this, “But where did that come from?”
It would appear that science definitionally cannot determine that, if indeed time and space were contained within the Big Bang. Remember, the requirement for science — and it absolutely must do this to be considered science — is to explain what we can observe, measure it, predict accurately with it and do this consistently in every case.
“Before” and “outside” the singularity of the Big Bang would seem to be beyond the pale of science. Physicists around the world can see this.
“The Big Bang singularity is the most serious problem of general relativity because the laws of physics appear to break down there,” said Ahmed Farag Ali, of Egypt’s respected Benha University and the Zewail City of Science and Technology.
Perhaps the laws of physics “break down” there because they were not in place there. If the laws flow from the existence of the physical, and there was no physical, then there were no laws. And without any such laws, science has nothing to work with.
A paradox solution
There is one conceptual “beginning” that does work, and must be the answer in the most general sense. The only true beginning must be from something which could not even philosophically, theoretically have had a beginning — something which by definition would have no beginning, could have no beginning. That definition would inevitably have to be: something which always existed.
The claim by atheists and others for many years was that the universe always existed. Albert Einstein held to that thought for the self-admitted reason that he wanted to. But science rescued us from that apparent error by discovering how the universe is seemingly expanding outward in all directions. Extrapolating backwards gives us the Big Bang Theory and an approximate timeline, but also eliminates the idea that the universe always existed.
If it always existed, then it could not have a beginning, and that would be the only way to not go further back to find a “beginning.” As long as there is a Big Bang, there is a definite beginning, meaning something preceded it, making it not the ultimate beginning.
If the solution is something that could not have a beginning, then that alone must be the beginning — inasmuch as the word “beginning” has much meaning in this context. Such backwards-eternalness benefits from being a logical point from which time and space would come.
Because time and space could not truly come from nothing — hence the singularity is posited — but they could theoretically come from something which always has been, and itself required no beginning, there is a pathway to solving this paradox.
Maybe not ironically, the Judeo-Christian Bible defines God in exactly this way,
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2).
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in The Revolutionary Act.