The Worst Birthday Present Ever
“All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”
At least that is what cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin said at a January 2012 conference in Cambridge held in honor of Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday. But in a pre-recorded speech given at the conference Hawking had reiterated why he was uncomfortable with the idea of our universe having an absolute beginning:
“A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.”
As his ‘birthday party’ conference progressed little did Hawking realize that he was going to get, what the author of a New Scientist article about the event called, “the worst birthday present ever.” (“Why Physicists Can’t Avoid a Creation Event,” New Scientist [January 11, 2012]).
In my early thirties I remember becoming persuaded by reading philosopher W. L. Craig and NASA scientist Robert Jastrow that our universe had an absolute beginning! In contrast to science and philosophy’s assumption, at least since the time of Aristotle, that the universe had just always been there, cosmology since the 1930’s lent powerful support to the idea that all matter, energy and even space and time came into being simultaneously a finite time ago. Even more remarkable is that this beginning represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing!
Jastrow wrote about how many scientists struggled with this conclusion because of the obvious theological implications of the universe having a beginning:
- Sir Arthur Eddington, Astronomer – “I have no axe to grind in this discussion but the notion of a beginning is repugnant to me.”
- Walter Nernst, German Chemist – “To deny the infinite duration of time would be to betray the very foundations of science.”
- Philip Morrison, M.I.T. – “I find it hard to accept the Big Bang Theory. I would like to reject it, but I have to accept the facts.”
- Allan Sandage, Palomar Observatory – “It is such a strange conclusion….it cannot really be true.” (all cited by R. Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, 1978, p. 122, 123)
Even the labeling ‘The Big Bang’ by scientist Fred Hoyle in 1950 was an attempt to mock this bizarre new idea that our universe was not eternal, but actually had a beginning. With his Steady State theory, Hoyle began the process of proposing alternative theories that avoided an absolute beginning to the universe.
In the 1970’s the ‘oscillating theory’ emerged popular amongst Russian scientists proposing that our universe is just one of an infinite number of expanding and collapsing universes. Since then numerous different models have been offered. However, one by one, each alternative theory has shown not to fit the data as well as the standard Big Bang model.
In 2003 cosmologists Vilenkin, Guth, and Borde proved that any expanding universe that is on average in a state of cosmic expansion cannot have an infinite past, but must have an absolute beginning. Vilenkin, an atheist and Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, stated, “cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape – they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” (Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. p. 176)
At Hawking’s 2012 ‘birthday party’ conference Vilenkin presented a new paper on two of the latest alternative models that some had hoped would put an end to the idea of the universe having a beginning. But again even these new models failed to avoid a finite past. According to Vilenkin, “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”
This is an incredible conclusion! He is not saying that the evidence for the universe having a beginning is a little stronger than the evidence of its eternal existence. Vilenkin is saying that all the evidence points towards the universe having a beginning!
For Hawking, this truly must have been the worst birthday present ever. Since the publication of his best-selling A Brief History of Time in 1988, he has moved away from the idea that the universe needs a creator. In his pre-recorded speech to the conference Hawking specifically mentions that if the universe had a beginning, or as he puts it “a point of creation,” “one would have to appeal to . . . the hand of God.” And to follow such a statement, Vilenkin shocks everyone, but probably no one more than Hawking, with his conclusion that all evidence points to exactly that – a universe that began a finite time ago!
It sure seems that the more we discover about our universe the more it points to God.
Have you given much thought to the fact that our universe had a beginning and the implications of that fact?
8 Responses to “The Worst Birthday Present Ever”
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Thanks Huseyn, it does look like Google Translate does not clearly communicate your ideas, so I am having difficulty understanding your comment. It looks like you are proposing a formula of how the finite material of the universe emanated from the infinite essence of the infinite God. I am no mathematician or cosmologist so my knowledge is limited but it seems to me that any formula that attempts to define God is going to fall short because of His unlimited nature. We just don’t have the capability to fully explain HIs limitlessness.
Dear Elkay, I fully agree with you. If you do not complicate this, please refer to the more faithful translation of my article.
“Cosmological concept which is complete from logical point of view”
Initial composition of boundless space from the point of view of element:
1.It is suffucient to declare existence of two elements, SIMPLE and COMPLEX, possesing closed systemic appearance in order to imagine different (homogenous) and completed one.
2.It is sufficient to declare existence of Lord and Almighty in other element, possesing non-closed systematic appearance in order to imagine it as different and incomplete as heterogenous (in other words: various type).
It is not difficult to presume that simple and complex compression is happened in possible minimal widening from permanent widening level, first, inclination to descending, from material component of God from non-material component of Divine Spirit/separation happened as maximum possible diversity (1H) on essence of God on minimum possible numeric homogeneity regarding with blockage of start of non-material components, permanently widening, inclined to their increase of essence/God widens minimal possible homogeneity as maximum possible numeric diversity (2H) to His essence on the basis of 1H material components. Closing process starts only from time, known to God, starting from completion of 2 H opening process. Closing process reopens according to initial opening level of Divine Spirit 1H-1H process of God to 2H process and conversion possibilities of 2H process to 1 H process!
Huseyn, thank you for your comment even though it is a bit difficult to follow. I believe that you are in agreement with a very rational aspect of this article and that is our awareness that we live in an ever expanding universe and thus our cosmos cannot have an infinite past, but must have an absolute beginning. Since there is no longer the possibility of a past-eternal universe, there must have been a cosmic beginning.
Logically complete cosmological concept. /due to lack of knowledge of the English language was not able to correct the translation Implemented by Google/
In order to present the unlimited space originally:
1. homogeneous – enough to postulate the presence in it of two elements with Simple and Complex /closed systematically/
2. heterogeneous – enough to postulate the presence in it of one more element – the Most High and Almighty God – with open systematically.
It is easy to assume that even at the lowest possible deployment of the intangible component of the essence of God – the Spirit of God – for the level of the original downwardly directed the permanent deployment of the material component of the essence of God, there is a curtailment of Simple and Complex /i.e.. It is their decay due to blocking of origin upwardly directed constantly deploy intangible components of the entity / as much as possible heterogeneous to God’s essence minimum possible number of cell uniformity (1H), and God on the basis of the material components of the 1H deploys the minimum possible heterogeneous to its essence as possible numerically elemental homogeneity (2H). Coagulation process will begin in 2H known God start time since the completion of its deployment. curtailment of the Spirit of God to the level of initial deployment again unfolds 1H – God potential for transformation 1H into 2H and 1H into 2H limitless!
These scientists remind me of the Pharoah who even though he was presented with signs from God by Moses refused to believe in him even after losing his only son to the angel of death.They also are being reminded that this Universe had a beginning but stubbornly harden their hearts to belief in God and will look for any incredible fantastic way out of this and each time getting knocked down.Now even atheist scientists like Vilenkin are realising and saying the Universe came from nothing but you can bet Dawkins Dennett and other atheists will try and cling on by their fingertips to an infinite past because to admit anything else is having to believe in that ” magic man”they have always ridiculed.
Jamie & Hedy – Thanks for your comments. I do find this evidence for God from cosmology fascinating. And it is so interesting to see how all the attempts since the 1930’s to avoid an absolute beginning of universe have fallen one by one. Even Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s suggestion, that came out last year in their book The Grand Design, that the universe spontaneously created itself from nothing, turns on an equivocation on the word ‘nothing’. As W.L. Craig points out,[http://www.reasonablefaith.org/stephen-hawking-and-god] Hawking and Mlodinow change the meaning of ‘nothing’ from absolutely nothing on page 136 to space filled with vacuum energy on page 180. The result is that they never really answer the question they set out to answer of why there is something rather than nothing. They started with ‘something’ not nothing.
I think you are right Jamie when you suggest that there may be personal issues that are keeping some people from acknowledging God the Creator. So we need to keep praying like you say Hedy.
It was interesting to hear Stephen Hawking describe his Theory of Everything in the Discovery Channel special last year. He talked about how the universe could be capable of spontaneously creating itself. It seems to me to be a larger leap of faith to believe that than to accept that there is a God who has created all that is. I guess the problem is, if you accept that such a God exists you also are then compelled to ask “Why?” and “What involvement does He continue to have?” and “If He has created all this, how do I fit in His plans and what expectations does He have for me?” Those are uncomfortable questions for those who see themselves as master of their own destiny.
I agree Hedy, it is good to pray that such people would allow their hearts to be softened and discover the wonder of being in relationship with the Almighty God and living out His plan and purposes.
I must admit I don`t understand all this science stuff,but I do get excited when they have a break through,especially when it points to them being wrong &…that God is real! So I prayed for they`re Salvation!