EVOLUTION: FACT OR PHILOSOPHY?
by Jan Young
CHAPTER 2: THE BIG BANG THEORY
THE CASE FOR EVOLUTION
Has the universe always existed? Did it begin at a certain point in time? How did it begin? How is it possible to study what happened so long ago?
Currently, the most popular explanation of how the universe began is the "Big Bang" theory. According to this theory, the universe began between 10 and 20 billion years ago when a very small, super-dense lump of matter--called the "cosmic egg"--exploded in a "big bang," starting a chain of events that resulted in the universe as we see it today.
THE BIG BANG AND EVOLUTION
Why should a book about evolution begin with a discussion of the Big Bang theory? Isn't evolution about how life began? Isn't it about how a single-celled organism changed into things like plants and fish and birds and reptiles and mammals and humans?
Yes. But if evolution is true, and all life forms came from one single-celled organism, then we must ask: where did that first organism come from? Evolutionists say it came to life from the elements that were present in the early earth.
So then we must ask: where did the earth come from? Evolutionists say it formed from the elements and forces of the early universe.
But where did the universe come from? Evolutionists say it formed in the Big Bang.
The Big Bang theory is the foundation of the theory of evolution. If evolution happened, there must be a naturalistic explanation of how things began. Does the Big Bang theory adequately explain what happened?
To find answers to their questions, scientists generally use what is known as the "scientific method." The five steps of the scientific method are: 1)ask questions, 2)gather information about the question, 3)form a hypothesis--an educated guess, 4)test the hypothesis, 5)report on findings so others may also test the hypothesis and see if they come up with the same result.
The hypothesis must be tested by many different people to see if the same results are always obtained. If the test results don't agree, the hypothesis is discarded or changed. If the results do agree, the hypothesis is confirmed, and may be considered a theory. Scientists publish the results of their tests for others to compare and study further. After long and rigorous testing, the theory may eventually be considered as a proven fact. This is called "the scientific method."
Let's examine some of the data about the Big Bang theory, see how it can be tested, and find out what conclusions can be drawn from this information.
FROM BIG BANG TO A COMPLETE UNIVERSE
According to the Big Bang theory, our universe was born 10 to 20 billion years ago. Scientists have described in detail the events immediately following the Big Bang, starting with what took place 1/100 of a second after the explosion of the "cosmic egg."
In brief, the universe was largely composed of radiation, and a complicated assortment of particle reactions took place at an extremely rapid rate. The tremendous amount of energy released in the explosion was changing into matter, according to certain laws of physics.
Hydrogen and helium, the two lightest elements, formed. (Elements are the fundamental material of which all matter consists; they cannot be broken down into any simpler form of matter.) Roughly 75 percent of the universe was now hydrogen; the other 25 percent was helium.
About four minutes later, there was no longer enough energy to continue triggering the high degree of particle reactions. The beginning of Evolution had created a universe whose conditions were very similar to what exists today.
The universe was now basically uniform--"smooth"--but contained tiny fluctuations in density that were the "seeds" of the galaxies that had not yet formed. Over millions of years, each fluctuation in density caused a slight gravitational force to be exerted on surrounding matter.
As this surrounding matter was drawn in by gravity, galaxies were created. Spinning in a flat disk, the galaxies gradually increased in size. Stars were created in the same way. The heavy elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, aluminum, copper and iron, were created within the stars.
The matter generated in the Big Bang expanded rapidly in every direction as it formed larger and larger masses. As galaxies formed and grew, they raced away from each other. The universe continually grew larger and more complex.
The sun was created when a cloud of dust and gas collapsed under the force of gravity. Most of the dust and gas condensed into a mass. The rest, through gravity and condensation, became the nine planets, which circled around the sun in various orbits. Our own earth was born in this manner 4.5 billion years ago.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE BIG BANG THEORY
The concept of an expanding universe dates back to 1929. Edwin P. Hubble calculated the rate of expansion; this rate is called the "Hubble constant."
When scientists realized that the universe was expanding, they reasoned that it obviously was smaller in the past. Using the Hubble constant as a time frame, the expanding universe could be played backward, like a movie in reverse, until it got smaller and more dense. When it could get no smaller, scientists reasoned that matter was at a point of super-density. This tiny, super-dense bit of matter was called the “cosmic egg.” The cosmic egg must have been the beginning of the universe.
At that moment of super-density, an explosion must have caused the cosmic egg to rapidly expand and form into the universe. Someone referred to this explosion as the "Big Bang," and the name stuck. The Hubble constant allows scientists to date that moment. Most scientists date it between 10 and 20 billion years ago.
In working out their theory of the Big Bang, scientists made a prediction. They should be able to find traces of cosmic background radiation--an "afterglow" of the explosion. In 1964-65, this radiation was discovered by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of Bell Laboratories.
The radiation was found to be "homogeneous" (hu-MOD-juh-nus)--smooth, uniform, even in all directions. This indicated that the universe, at its beginning, must have been homogeneous. So Big Bang theorists predicted that matter must be evenly distributed throughout the universe--in other words, uniform distribution of galaxies in every direction.
However, further studies revealed just the opposite. Instead of being smooth, the universe turned out to be lumpy. Galaxies are not evenly distributed. There are large super-clusters of galaxies in some places, and great voids (empty spaces) in other places.
Because of the contradiction between theory and reality, many became disenchanted with the Big Bang theory. Some wondered if the Big Bang theory was dead. Others began to make a new prediction. Since the universe is not homogeneous, there must have been irregularities in the initial matter following the Big Bang. These tiny initial fluctuations could have developed, over time, into huge fluctuations, which could explain the formation of clumps of matter. Perhaps fluctuations existed that hadn't been found yet.
In April 1992, tiny fluctuations in the cosmic background radiation were discovered by the COBE satellite (Cosmic Background Explorer). It remains to be seen if these measurements can be verified by others, or if they are even significant enough to solve the problem of the lumpy universe.
PROBLEMS WITH THE BIG BANG THEORY
There are many questions that must be asked about the Big Bang theory. What came before the cosmic egg? Could the entire universe have been compressed into a cosmic egg? We will now examine these problems and several others.
1. The Cosmic Egg
Where did the cosmic egg come from? (No, it did not come from the cosmic chicken...) What existed before the moment of the Big Bang?
If the Big Bang theory explains the origin of the universe, it must be able to explain where the original matter came from and how it originated. But it doesn't.
Books about the Big Bang deal with this gaping hole in the theory in various ways. Some ignore it, as if it is not even a problem. Some sound slightly embarrassed that the theory bogs down a little here. A few admit that this is a serious flaw in the theory.
The basic problem is one of logic. Logic is a means of arriving at truth by following principles of correct reasoning. If the cosmic egg was the original matter, how did that original something come from nothing? No matter how scientifically it is explained, everyone knows that something cannot come from nothing. It is not logical. Magic tricks give the illusion that this happens, but we all know that it is only an illusion.
Many scientists have no trouble believing that everything came from nothing. Respected science writer Isaac Asimov said that the universe could create itself by natural means, with no external help (Science Digest, October 1981).
One possibility is that there was something before the cosmic egg, in which case it was not the beginning, as it is claimed to be. Some scientists hold this belief. They claim that the universe is infinite--having no beginning or ending, existing forever. But matter cannot be infinite, because science has proven that all substances decay.
Did the cosmic egg create itself from nothing? Or is matter without beginning or end? Either explanation fails to meet the naturalistic standard that science has set. Neither possibility can be explained according to the laws of nature that we know today, as evolution requires.
Could all the matter in the entire universe have been compressed into an infinitely small, super-dense cosmic egg? National Geographic (January 1994) claims that it was compressed into a speck smaller than an atom. Complex laws of physics are called upon to explain how it could happen.
Is there any solid scientific evidence for a cosmic egg? A theoretical description is not necessarily the same thing as reality. Playing time in reverse until a cosmic egg results is not scientific proof that such a thing did happen, nor is it scientific evidence that it could happen.
Not only does the Big Bang theory fail to adequately explain the origin of matter; it also fails to explain the origin of the forces that exerted themselves on that matter.
If there was a cosmic egg, something caused it to become unstable and explode. What force was this, and how did it originate? These questions have not been answered.
Following the explosion, the force of gravity immediately came into play. Clumps of matter exerted a force of gravity, which caused surrounding matter to be drawn in, creating larger clumps of matter, which eventually became large enough to form stars and galaxies. If the universe did not exist before the Big Bang--if nothing existed--how could there be such a thing as a force of gravity?
Gravity is one of the laws of nature. Such laws behave in an orderly, predictable manner. Orderliness does not happen by itself. It is not the product of chance. Chaos--the opposite of order--is what should have resulted.
Other basic forces also happened by chance. There is no reason that these natural forces should have come into being. But they did.
Science itself is a testimony to the fact that the universe is characterized by order, not chaos. Only an orderly, predictable world can be studied. If things do not behave in predictable ways, then there can be no such things as laws of nature.
Immediately following the Big Bang, "...the numbers and distributions of all particles...were determined by the laws of statistical mechanics..," says Steven Weinberg in his book, The First Three Minutes. Who wrote those laws? How did they originate? Why are the laws of nature always obeyed? The Big Bang theory says they are the product of chance.
2. Method of Study
How can scientists know what happened 10 or 20 billion years ago? How can detailed knowledge of such distant events be possible?
The answer may surprise you: mathematics.
The Big Bang was not an observed event. No human being was there to observe the origin of the universe. This unique event cannot be duplicated and tested over and over by means of direct experimentation. But scientists can construct an artificial model of the Big Bang by using mathematics.
Using complicated mathematical formulas, scientists play time in reverse, bringing the distant galaxies closer and closer together (in their calculations) until they are just one little clump of matter--the cosmic egg. Then they let nature take its course, so to speak.
Astronomy (June 1993) reports that a team of scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, programmed a computer to simulate what they thought were the conditions of the early universe, then let it "evolve" for 24 hours on the computer. After 400 trillion computations, it had simulated 12 billion years of evolution. Based on their knowledge of how things act in our present observable world, and what happened in their imaginary model universe, they describe what must have happened in the early universe.
Are mathematical models the same as reality? Is a computer-simulated universe the real thing? Physicist Eric Lerner calls the Big Bang theory a mathematical myth.
3. Accuracy of Measurements
To come up with the necessary calculations for the Big Bang theory, several basic measurements are needed, such as distance in space, speed of the galaxies as they are moving away from each other, and age of the stars and galaxies.
The problem is that distance in space cannot be measured accurately. Several kinds of indirect measurements are used, but according to Scientific American (November 1992), they are "challenging," "difficult," and scientists aren't in agreement on which methods are the most reliable. A direct physical measurement cannot be taken.
Measurement of light aids in calculating distance in space. If you have ever seen a beam of light passed through a prism, you know that light is made up of the different colors of the spectrum. In nature, you can see the colors of the spectrum when light passes through raindrops to form a rainbow.
Distances greater than 100-200 light years away are calculated by the brightness of stars, especially by a factor called redshift. Redshift is a shifting of the galaxy's light toward the longer wavelengths of the spectrum, in proportion to the speed of the galaxy.
However, there are other possible explanations for redshift. Recent studies by William Tifft (Discover, April 1993) question whether redshift really is a measure of speed. If redshift is not an indicator of galactic movement, then it is possible that the galaxies are not moving away from each other. That could mean that the universe is not expanding.
How can the age of a star be determined? Studies of the star's chemical composition give information about its age. The different elements that make up the star give off different patterns of light in the spectrum. Studies of the earth, the moon and meteorites are the only direct sources of chemical information.
One method used to determine the age of the universe is called radioactive dating. There are several types, one being uranium-to-lead. Measurements are taken of the ratio of uranium to lead in earth rocks, moon rocks and meteorites. This gives an age of billions of years. It then follows that the universe must be much older than the earth, if the Big Bang theory is true.
However, radioactive dating is based on assumptions that cannot be proven. This subject will be discussed in greater detail in a later chapter.
Whether you understand all these calculations is not important. What is important is to recognize that all data must be interpreted. To interpret is to explain the meaning of, or to understand in the light of one’s own beliefs. The same data may yield different interpretations. It all depends on who is doing the interpreting.
4. From Big Bang to Universe
How could the explosion of the cosmic egg result in the complex universe we see today?
In spite of all the explanations based on the laws of physics, the Big Bang could not have created the universe. If it did, it contradicted two of the most well-established laws of science--the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. These laws have to do with how energy is used.
The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy/mass/matter cannot be either created or destroyed. The total amount of energy always remains constant, although it can change forms. In other words, there is no natural process operating today, as evolution requires, capable of creating matter or energy. Yet scientists tell us that this happened.
“Matter was created in a violent explosion, known as the big bang, some 15 billion years ago.” (Scientific American, October 1994)
Scientists explain how the Big Bang created the universe and all its matter according to naturalistic processes. However, mass/energy must have originated at some point in the past by some process that is not continuing to operate today.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all systems, left to themselves, run down. All systems, left to chance, move from order to disorder. Without the help of some outside energy, and a program to channel that energy, all systems tend toward chaos.
But according to the Big Bang theory, the explosion of the cosmic egg resulted in increasing order and organization. This organization happened spontaneously--all by itself, without anything guiding or helping it. The history of the universe is one of continual progress toward greater complexity.
Many scientists claim that raw energy from the sun is sufficient outside energy to overcome the Second Law's effects. However, raw energy by itself is not sufficient. The outside energy must be organized, not random, and there must be a way to convert the energy so it can be used.
For example, a plant uses photosynthesis to convert sunlight into energy for growth. The process of photosynthesis works because the plant has a genetic code that tells it what to do. Without this built-in system, sunlight would harm the plant, not help it.
Some argue that the growth of a plant or animal contradicts the Second Law, or proves the possibility of systems moving toward greater complexity. But organisms do not become more complex as they grow; they are merely following the blueprint of DNA that already exists. The blueprint for growth leading to maturity was there, and did not develop or evolve as the organism grew.
Since the Big Bang was a product of chance, it should have resulted in random activity--chaos. The initial gases and particles should have dispersed randomly, instead of following the laws of physics. The laws of nature could not have existed or come into being. Matter could not have organized itself into galaxies. Elements could not create themselves.
This belief in spontaneous organization is voiced by many who are convinced of the truth of evolution. If evolution requires that known scientific truth be thrown out, perhaps that is an indication that the theory needs to be re-examined.
The theory of evolution, by definition, is naturalistic, operating according to the laws of nature as they continue to function today. The First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics are known, observed, tested laws that govern the fields of physics, chemistry, geology, biology, economic and social systems--their applications are universal. The law that would define a movement toward progress and complexity has yet to be discovered.
So far, a belief in evolution is the only evidence for such a law.
5. The Hubble Constant
In the 1930s, following the establishment of the Hubble constant, the earth and the universe were discovered to be two billion years old. Evidence from different types of tests proved this date. Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, scientists made new measurements of the Hubble constant that indicated both a much larger universe and a much older one.
Why has the Hubble constant not remained constant? How is it determined? What difference does it make which rate is correct?
The Hubble constant is determined by measuring distance and speed of galaxies. Certain types of stars, called "Cepheid variables," are most desirable for calculating distance. Their brightness varies over a certain period of time. Measuring the period of time and the changes in brightness helps to calculate the distance.
But Cepheids aren't bright enough to be observed in distant galaxies. Without accurate measurements of distant galaxies, it isn't possible to correctly calculate the Hubble constant. So other techniques must be used--secondary distance indicators. Disagreement over these techniques have resulted in disagreements concerning the true Hubble constant.
If the Hubble constant is high, the age of the universe could be 8 to 12 billion years old. If it is low, the universe may be 15 to 20 billion years old. But if the Hubble constant is low, then the universe is not as old as its oldest stars, which is of course impossible. The oldest star systems, known as "globular clusters," are 13 to 17 billion years old, if dating of globular clusters is accurate.
The Hubble constant was not the only scientific measurement to contain inaccuracies. Several decades ago, the age of the earth was given as two billion years old. Radioactive dating of rocks, which once yielded that same date, began to yield dates older than two million years. This made it appear that the earth was older than the universe. Obviously, something was wrong--either the results of radioactive dating of the earth, or the calculation of the age of the universe.
The formation of the universe by naturalistic means could only happen if a very long time was available for the process. If research turns up conflicting dates, old dates are favored over young dates, because it is more likely that evolution could have happened if longer periods of time were available. For example, consider this excerpt from the November 1992 Scientific American:
“A high value for the Hubble constant raises another potentially serious problem: it disagrees with standard theories of how galaxies are formed and distributed in space.”
The reason this is a problem is that standard theories favor old dates.
Another example can be found in the August 1992 Scientific American:
“Meanwhile the awkward issue of the disparity between the age of the universe and the age of the earth was resolved in a way that favored the big bang. In 1952, following the lead of Walter Baade of the Mount Wilson Observatory, astronomers revised their scale of galactic distances upward by a factor of two. The estimated age of the universe therefore doubled.”
We see that the problem of conflicting dates is an "awkward issue." Again the issue is settled in favor of the older date. How much did the need for an old date affect the decision to double the age of the universe?
Contrary to our impression of how scientists operate, finding the truth may not always be as important as finding evidence to strengthen a popular theory. According to Lerner:
“...theorists in particular are reluctant to admit the truth of papers that contradict their decades of work.”
“Entire careers in cosmology have now been built on theories which have never been subjected to observational tests, or have failed such tests and been retained nonetheless.”
Among those who hold to the theory of evolution and its offspring, the Big Bang theory, it is not unusual to find that disagreeable dates are changed or discarded. Astronomer Robert Kirshner of Harvard University (Scientific American, October 1994) says that "the rug in most astronomy departments is lumpy from all the discrepancies that have been swept under it."
6. The Term "Create"
Although Big Bang theorists insist that the universe began naturalistically, without the aid of a supernatural power, they constantly use the term "create." According to the dictionary and to common English usage, the word "create" means "to bring into existence," "to make out of nothing." If something is created, it implies that there was a creator. Without a creator, nothing can be created.
Yet books on the Big Bang continually mention that the universe was created, forces were created, stars and galaxies were created, elements were created, etc. The explosion itself is often termed "the moment of creation."
The term "create" is being redefined to mean "self-create," which is a meaningless term. Nothing can create itself out of nothing, as the definition of the word demands. As we will see throughout this book, redefining terms has become one way of supporting the theory of evolution. The concept of self-creation is at the very heart of the Big Bang theory, and also at the heart of the entire theory of evolution.
Although the Big Bang theory is supposed to explain how the universe began, it cannot account for the origin of matter and the basic forces. There is no evidence for the cosmic egg. In this mathematical version of reality, there is little agreement on measurements and what they prove. Accepted laws of science are denied in order to explain how the Big Bang created the universe.
Has the Big Bang theory been proved? How scientific are the methods used to prove it? How scientific are the conclusions that are made about the data? What is meant by the term "scientific"?
Science means knowledge. It is the description and classification of that which can be observed. All scientists agree that a very important aspect of science is testability. In order to test a hypothesis, the scientific method requires objectively measurable data, and testing against known facts, over and over again. This is how scientific truth is established.
If the Big Bang actually happened, it was a unique, non-repeatable, historical event. It was not an observed event. Therefore, it cannot be studied by the scientific method. It cannot be tested over and over again. The question must then be raised, whether the study of unique, non-repeatable, historical events--such as the Big Bang, or evolution--can truly be considered science. This question will be examined in Chapter 8.
There is a great deal of data regarding the Big Bang theory--physical evidence, indirect evidence, test results. But in order for data to yield conclusions, it must be interpreted. To interpret means to explain the meaning of; it also means to understand in the light of individual belief.
Contrary to what most people believe, scientists do not always draw conclusions based strictly on the evidence, according to a leading evolutionist, Stephen Jay Gould.
"We understand that biases, preferences, social values, and psychological attitudes all play a strong role in the process of discovery."
He says that a scientist's personal values will influence how he interprets the data. In other words, if a scientist is already convinced that the Big Bang theory, or the theory of evolution, is true, he will probably hold that view regardless of the evidence. Conflicting data will not shake his belief. Instead, he will somehow interpret that data to fit his belief. This is a common human reaction, but people expect scientists to operate differently--to place the quest for truth above all else.
Undesirable evidence that cannot be re-interpreted is ignored, rejected, covered up or apologized for. Scientific journals do not encourage papers that threaten the Big Bang theory or any aspect of evolution. For example, astronomer William Tifft of the University of Arizona is not so sure that the universe is expanding, as the Big Bang theory requires, based on his interpretation of redshift. According to Discover (April 1993), his position "pits Tifft against nearly all other astronomers and cosmologists." The article goes on to say:
"The editors of the Astrophysical Journal grudgingly published his first quantized-redshift paper in 1976, but they announced in an unusual disclaimer that they couldn't endorse the idea (although they also couldn't find anything wrong with the underlying observations). The reasons for their dislike are not hard to fathom. If the universe isn't expanding, there would be no reason to believe it was ever compressed into a single point--no reason, that is, to believe it began with a Big Bang."
Scientific American (August 1992) tells that shortly after the cosmic background radiation had been discovered in the 1960s, "most cosmologists had either adopted the big bang theory or ceased publishing in the field." If they didn't agree with the Big Bang theory, they no longer had papers published. Why? Perhaps those who disagreed just quit writing and submitting papers, or perhaps the papers they submitted were not accepted for publication.
Who are the people who decide what papers will be accepted and published? Lerner explains that they are those who set forth what is the accepted theory. They are the ones who review grant proposals and papers submitted to the professional journals.
Lerner questions the system of "peer review--having all papers and grant proposals controlled by a small group of 'leading specialists,'" because it tends to discourage new ideas that might contradict "decades of work" by those same individuals. The peer review system is clouded by conflict of interest.
Those who dare to challenge the popular theory are sometimes "punished" with loss of funding for their research, or even loss of their jobs. Newsweek (Special Issue, Fall/Winter 1991) describes this practice in relation to archaeological dating. Because some of the newly calculated dates don't fit the currently popular view, "some researchers say they keep quiet about finds that may undermine the dogma, for fear of being denied grant money doled out by the old school."
“Dogma” is the established, authoritative beliefs. The dogma held by the "old school" would be the popular view of those who are in powerful, well-established positions. This type of pressure discourages the formation of new theories or criticism of the popular theory. That such pressure exists should not be surprising. Myron Lieberman claims that the same type of pressure takes place in the field of education research, in his book Public Education: An Autopsy.
Members of the scientific community have lost their jobs simply for being sympathetic to an unpopular theory, even though they are not actively involved in promoting it. Such situations are documented in Immanuel Velikovsky's book, Stargazers and Gravediggers.
Then there is the case of Forrest Mims III, one-time author of the "Amateur Scientist" column in Scientific American. Once it was learned that Mims was a creationist, he was terminated, even though he never wrote on that subject in his column. Political Correctness has cast its shadow over the realm of science.
The Big Bang theory is by far the most popular explanation for the origin of the universe. But is popularity an accurate measure of truth? Is scientific truth discovered by taking a vote, or rather, by the accumulation of evidence that cannot be refuted? The Big Bang theory is the bedrock on which the theory of evolution is built. If it is weak, then the theory of evolution is on shaky ground.
Copyright 2003 Jan Young
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