Reflections on the Origin of the Universe


Daniel Shyles

Dad sent me an article:

My response:

In the beginning, before the Big Bang theory was postulated due to the observation of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) of the observable universe, many scientists thought that the universe was never ending and was always here... When that observation was made, it was still not the whole picture of our universe's timeline... What we could observe suggested that earlier in time the universe was smaller... The galaxies continue to move apart at an accelerating rate (due to an obscure pressure in the universe which we call dark energy, about which we are completely ignorant) telling us the inevitable end of our universe in cold darkness when the last star burns out. Using the same method and the observations of the CMB we can reverse the model of the universe to the point when that radiation was generated, before matter coalesced from energy from some catastrophic event even further in the past... At this point there was nothing else to observe (in light radiation)... Was that the beginning? Well, what if we keep reversing the model... We notice the universe collapses even further (~384,000 years), to a single point, a concentration of all energy in the universe teetering on the edge of some unstable equilibrium to become everything we are.

The inflation epoch was theorized to be an unimaginably short period of time (10^-36 after the Big Bang to 10^-33 seconds after the Big Bang) when the universe expanded faster than the speed of light to near the size that we can see today (though I've also heard that it could be possible that the actual size of the universe is smaller than what we observe: ).

It was theorized by Alan Guth, an MIT prof of physics, initially in 1979. The big story, and the source of the Aish article, is that the inflation theory has left the realm of speculation, as his predictions are now supported by evidence.

There are earlier speculative epochs in the cosmological timeline... This one has just graduated to serious plausibility. Here is a fascinating outline of what is thought to be our universe's history in modern cosmology.

You'll see Inflation epoch is nestled into the "Very Early Universe" section still claiming to be speculative, but I think as the story develops it will be updated.

Until this discovery of gravitational waves and inflation we had little idea of what was happening during that time. Think about this, playing the model forward from "the beginning". When this supposed Big Bang happened it was a huge expansion of energy into nothingness What's that? Basically no one knows, but possibly a region in higher dimensions that holds all universes? These are the frontiers...

We cannot see energy... As Dad would put it, "You would never see Energy walking down the street carrying a violin case." However, you can see energy in action, evidence of its presence in how it affects what we can see. The math and observations agree that about 384,000 Earth years (an arbitrary unit of time in the cosmic perspective, established by our planet around our sun) after this event some of this energy coalesced into photons, subatomic particles that carry (and are) light radiation. Suddenly, there was light... We could see our universe for the first time. Everything since then has been observable in the light spectrum. The inflation discovery was made by observation of gravitation, I suppose by how it affected the radiation that we are able to see, making ripples in the radiation.

Science has never had the need to invoke a creator. Humans did. Humans, in the recent past, before these discoveries were made, have looked for an answer to unknowable questions of the time. In our natural and often hubristic way, many of us want badly for there to be some intelligence, thought and intent behind the amazing place we live... Many of us want something like us behind it all. What I find much more powerful is the opposite. We don't have to be here for the universe to have continued on happily as it is... And we won't be here to see the end of it all. In truth, religion, at its core, is but an ever receding veil of uncertainty.

To say that scientists climb up a hill to find the theologians at the top with all of the answers is ridiculous. In Judeo-Christian theology, only one of many religions, and one that likely carries the most controversy with the scientific community, asserts without proof that a creator made everything, and that's that. That's a cop-out. These scientific observations have provided us something much more valuable... evidence. The evidence suggests something much more profound, substantial, detailed and believable than a simple assertion. Why is it that science is ever changing, current truths can be broken and rebuilt better than before, yet religion clings with an iron grip to notions that make little sense? I know not all religious folk are like that, and any with half a brain cell understands that the Earth is certainly older than the fossil record, and humans were not riding dinosaurs, and the Earth is not the center of the universe, nor is it flat, perched atop a tower of turtles extending to infinity... I'll allow people to wonder how it all happened, because no one really knows... yet. Scientists are looking, though, never finished, showing the true nature of humans, that separates us as a species, that not only do we wonder, but we figure it out... It's our survival instinct that we have evolved through trials of natural selection... pattern recognition and problem solving.

No, I don't think this discovery validates the belief that there was a creator, nor that there was a beginning to existence. My thought is only that there is now further evidence to suggest that at once the universe in which we live was small a really long time ago, and that the story science tells makes more sense all the time.

The long and short of the controversy in the religious community over things like this that it is self-inflicted. Science doesn't care if there is or is not a beginning, or a creator. Why would the evidence making the inflation theory more plausible than it was before have anything to do with an arbitrary assertion that a deity was involved? How do they know? Why is it okay to look at someone else's work and say that their random claim must also be true? Their claim remains in the realm of speculation.

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