What came before the Big Bang?
April 11, 2012 10 Comments
The Cosmological argument is one often put forward by the religious as logical proof of the existence of God. For anyone unfamiliar with the argument I’d suggest taking a quick look over the Wikipedia article of the topic:
In a nutshell, the argument is as follows (from Wikipedia):
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
- The Universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the Universe had a cause.
Naturally religious people put forward this argument and then call whatever caused the universe to exist, God.
Now there are all sorts of arguments that have been put forward to discredit this argument (most of which can be found in the Wikipedia article), but for the past month or so I’ve been working over my own argument that I hadn’t heard before. At no point did I think this argument was a new one (and reading Wikipedia now I can see that it isn’t) but it’s one I hadn’t heard and I thought was worth writing up a post about.
Arguments against the Cosmological argument usually take one of two forms. Either the question is asked “What caused the first cause?” or “How do you know the first cause is God?” Both of these are legitimate questions and worth pondering, but in this post I’m going to tackle something a little different, namely point 2 in the above definition, “The Universe began to exist”.
What makes people think that statement is true? Well the obvious answer is ’cause and effect’, whereby if ‘Y’ caused ‘Z’, and ‘X’ caused ‘Y’, then eventually we must get back ‘A’ (which is usually the Big Bang) and something beyond time and space must have caused that.
But here’s the thing people usually don’t realise when making this argument (and I’ve been making this mistake for years). Cause and effect only applies when transferring energy. Think about it. Every cause and effect event we’ve ever witnesses has been a transfer of energy, not the creation of energy. Now that’s not to say cause and effect doesn’t apply to a creation event, only that we’ve never seen one and have no reason to assume it does. Heck, we don’t even know if a creation event is possible!
Another phrase often put forward by the religious is “Something can’t come from nothing”. Well firstly, how do you know? When was the last time you saw a nothing? But more to the point “Something can’t come from anything!” Yes energy can be changed from one state to another, but to the best of our knowledge it’s never created.
This thought first occurred to me when I pondered the question of the post “What came before the Big Bang?” For the sake of argument let’s ignore String Theory and assume there is only one Universe and the Big Bang is at its beginning. The Multiverse Theory only pushes the question back after all.
The Singularity is said to be at the heart of the Big Bang and it is the point where all matter in the Universe is collected and when time = 0. Now if you want to talk about ‘before’ the Big Bang, how does this make any sense? To be able to have a past, present or future you need to have time. Without time there is no ‘before. So to ask about ‘before the Big Bang’ is basically asking what happened before time, which makes no sense as there is no time and therefore no ‘before’.
But that’s just the second part of the question. What about the first part. “What came before the Big Bang?” The ‘what’ here implies there is a ‘something’. But generally when asking this the questioner is asking what came before time and space. If there is no space, where exactly do you intend to put the ‘something’? This part of the question doesn’t make sense either!
So what can we figure out from this. Well honestly not a lot because it’s all hypothetical and based upon data from the forefront of science so it’s still all pretty up in the air. What we can derive from it though is that for the moment at least, there is no room for God in the equations. We can all but get back to the Singularity via math and observation and that logically, asking what came before ‘time=0’ doesn’t make any sense. Logically then, until additional information is presented we need to assume that the First Cause is in fact the Singularity, followed by its expansion, otherwise known as the Big Bang.
This is the point where we need to return to subjects like String Theory and Quantum Mechanics to get any further. These theories really are the forefront of science and honestly we’re not even sure yet whether they’re in fact true or just mathematical masturbation.
What can be sure though is that the answer won’t be found by postulating an ancient sky man as a beginning. It will be found the same way we arrived at the Big Bang theory. By careful investigation and observation.
EDIT: And on a related topic, here’s a video I found about a year ago, lost and found again. It’s a lecture by Laurence Krauss in which, among other things, he tries to explain how something can come from nothing. It’s roughly an hour long, so strap on your thinking cap and get comfortable. It’s a long listen, but it’s a lecture that changed the way I see the Universe. Definitely a must see.
-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.