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What Came Before The Big Bang?

The other day, a Christian sent me a two part video series that he made about how his 4 month study of Cosmology proves that God exists. Like most fundamentalist Christians and many mainstream religious believers, he starts off with his dogmatic conclusion that God exists and then works his way into finding evidence to support this already determined conclusion. This quite honestly is not how science works.

In any case, he proceeded to reassert the First Cause Argument by dressing it up with scientific terminology. He even quoted Dr. Stephen Hawking at one point so that he could “prove” that God exists.

The basic question that religious people tend to exploit is that of the First Cause. When scientific observation discovered the Big Bang Theory, many religious people where quite beside themselves. Still today, there are many fundamentalist Christians who can’t accept the Big Bang Theory as being an accurate model for the beginning of the Universe. On the other hand, many do accept the overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang, but then ask the next logical question, what came before the Big Bang. This was the central question in that two part video that was sent to me.

Interestingly enough, in 2007, Dr. Stephen Hawking gave the Berkeley Physics Oppenheimer Lecture which addresses this very question. In that lecture, Hawking starts the lecture with an ancient Creation myth. While he didn’t use the one in the Bible, he could have easily swapped creation myths.

Fairly early in the lecture, Hawking states, “it made no sense to talk of a time before the universe began. It would be like asking for a point south of the South Pole. It is not defined.” Hawking clarifies this statement later in the lecture, “Suppose the beginning of the universe, was like the south pole of the Earth, with degrees of latitude, playing the role of time. The universe would start as a point at the South Pole. As one moves north, the circles of constant latitude, representing the size of the universe, would expand. To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe, would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole.”

So what is before the Universe? Incase you could not follow what Hawking is saying from my limited excerpts, if space and time are linked (See Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity) than before the Universe, there was no time. Since the word “before” denotes time, that basically means that there was no before the Universe as we understand time.

But that is not an answer that sits well with the god crowd. Hawking tries to then explain his own theory which is currently the best scientific model for how our Universe began.

“The idea is that the most probable histories of the universe, would be like the surfaces of the bubbles. Many small bubbles would appear, and then disappear again. These would correspond to mini universes that would expand, but would collapse again while still of microscopic size. They are possible alternative universes, but they are not of much interest since they do not last long enough to develop galaxies and stars, let alone intelligent life. A few of the little bubbles, however, will grow to a certain size at which they are safe from recollapse. They will continue to expand at an ever increasing rate, and will form the bubbles we see. They will correspond to universes that would start off expanding at an ever increasing rate.”

Hawking jokingly concludes that, “We are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe. God really does play dice.” This of course is a play on the famous Einstein quote and not an endorsement of the concept of god as religious people understand the term.
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  • Matt

    Well… I have one thing to say to this… IT’S A TRAP!

    Remember that Theists already assume God to be timeless and immaterial. Therefore God still could have existed before the universe, and from their arguments (From nothing, nothing comes), God necessarily had to exist before the universe started.

    In fact dumb asses, such as William Lane Craig, use these findings to their very advantage. The only way to beat the Theist at this Cosmological game of Chess, is to prove that the universe is infinite.

    • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

      We have two Matts, lol.

      Unlike Admiral Akbar, we can easily refute firepower of this magnitude.

      • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

        Ha ha!

    • http://myspace.com/blackhawk089 Matt

      another me!!! Except possibly more evil….lolz

  • aldoric

    Hawking isn’t God and make mistakes (I am an atheist by the way). As Einstein already stated: time does not exist as an empirical entity. How can he say: “it made no sense to talk of a time before the universe began”. His example of the South pole is very bad, because everybody understands that he is mixing up things to make his point.

    • http://www.myspace.com/DD_NU4EVER Diana

      I couldn’t possibly assume to be a smarter or a greater person than Doctor Hawking, but I thinking a better answer would have been, Your Mamma.

      What came before the Big Bang?
      Your Mamma came before the big bang!

      In all seriousness, since the good doctor concludes that time and space are connected and thus there was no time before the big bang, making the question: What came before the Big Bang? A contradiction in terms. It might have been easier for people to understand without the analogy. All he had to do was say nothing, nothing existed for the big bang, and thus nothing came before the big bang. The big bang created time and space and before it there was nothing, nil, bunkums.

  • http:///www.information-entertainment.com Judi Copeland

    I would also argue that perhaps there are other universes. If it happened by chance this universe came into being, why could it not happen again or why not before us? If that were the case, there could have been a “before” the big bang, but it has little to do with us. I don’t really think much of time/space has anything to really do with us as we are just here by chance and when we are gone it doesn’t really matter to the cosmos around us. The human race will vanish and some other life form will become the dominant one that may not even understand what we meant – and they, too will vanish as will this earth, galaxy, and universe. Any meaning we had will no longer matter…so even if there were a before and if there will be an after, or concurrently existing universe, does it matter what happened “before” the big bang?

  • http://profile.myspace.com/eschersand Spacetime

    The Existence/Non-Existence “paradox” is _before_ anything so complex as a entity consciousness. Regardless of how much you wish to regress. _ i’m not really happy with the modern vision of BBT, that uses a picture of a bubble expanding. It might be ok if it was understood that the bubble is inside out, but a better picture is of a cloud chamber. Time and Space faded into existence, as matter coalesced out of Quantum Reality, and not from a point but from everywhere’s. Back ground radiation is currently understood to be the left over birth crys of the birth of the universe. This is wrong. It is literally the universe being born out of Quantum Reality, that is still happening today. Understanding this, and Dark Energy becomes less of a mystery.

    • existential blues

      So the you dispute the generally-accepted cause of the background radiation? Interesting. Do you have some lovely nonlinear differential equations to explain/back up your hypothesis?

  • Hmmm

    Even though I am not religious, I too have difficulties with the lack of “the time before time” so to speak – I just can’t imagine that. It seems utterly intuitive to me that there can be no beginning and that we exist within something infinite, indeed that we ourselves are infinite. Whenever I hear of ultimate limits in science something within me just starts screaming, “NOOOOOOO!” Of course, there could be infinite bubbles I suppose and that makes me feel more at ease. Are we really capable of being entirely logical? I wonder why I feel this notion of infinity with such.. . .

  • Hmmm

    One more thing; If nothing else, infinity exists within our heads and if no other way then with numbers. What exists within our heads does in fact exist at the very least as thought. Is a thought any less real, really? It isn’t even all that confined as long as it can be spread from mind to mind.

    Because of this, we can concede any and all points with a truthful and knowing chuckle. If you can think it, it exists and only to what extent is left to be debated.

  • Loic Phoenix

    What you have to understand is that space and time dwells within the capacity of the human mind. We as a species can not understand nothing being before something. Its like 0+0=1 Which is theoretically impossible.,.Theoretically.,.} Based on our laws of phsyics and understanding of the world e=mc^ but of course gamma blast rays proved that formula to not be 100% correct. So the point im getting across here is that we can not find out what existed before the big bang because you can not go back in time and look for ‘nothing’.

    • existential blues

      > but of course gamma blast rays proved that formula to not be 100% correct

      What? What are you talking about?

  • existential blues

    Nothing at all authoritative can be said about what happened before the Big Bang (i.e., before the start of the universe), to the extent that the question even has meaning.

    One point that most non-scientists don’t understand is that the singularity that the universe started with (if the Big Bang theory is correct) was not infinitesimally small. It was not a point in the formal geometric sense. It had to be at least a Heisenberg distance in diameter, and could have been much larger than that.

    The idea that the universe started from nothing is a straw man that fundamentalist myth lovers are very fond of. It’s not correct.

  • http://www.myspace.com/rothtalltales Tralf

    Keep in mind that it takes more energy for there to be “nothing” than something (“nothing” is not a very stable system, and would, ironically, take divine intervention to be maintained). So isn’t possible what we call the Universe is one incarnation of an infinite number of similar universes, some that lasted a long time, some that fizzled out in seconds and so on. I think it is the finite nature of humans which interferes with our ability to grasp that there has always been something, however chaotic and soupy, rather than “nothing”. I put “nothing” in quotes because the concept is elusive. After all, if there is “nothing” then how can we quantify it, even as a word?


  • http://poweressence.com/ Maxwell Jennings

    It’s too bad there is so much dogma in science. The key word in all this Big Bang talk is that it is just a theory in that it has not been proved. The actual evidence we have gathered so far points to several theories, and one of these models fits the evidence better (still doesn’t prove it’s true!) and this other theory does not require extravagant and exotic ad-hoc theories to support it. When scientists use computer models to bolster their theories, and they pile on more theories in attempts to keep their original theories as the accepted norm, then think dogma in science. Comments such as “We now know…” should really be changed to “We don’t know for sure, but we think that…”

    Even if the Big Bang model turns out to be correct, there is absolutely no way for us to know what happened before that event. We cannot send probes to the event or source-point to gather data. For all we know, it could be cyclical and previous and upcoming versions of physical universes might be the norm.

    I find it funny that with lack of real evidence in general, religion-pushers automatically claim that it is proof of their creator’s existence and activities, when lack of evidence is just that – lack of evidence, and doesn’t give credence to any creator. Using theory to prove concepts or other theories is lame. Religious theory is not really theory, but simply concepts – and poor concepts at best.

    • existential blues

      Science itself proves NOTHING. While dogmatic people come and go, science itself is anything but dogmatic.

      Sorry, but a SCIENTIFIC theory is as good as it gets in science.

      Religious “theory” has nothing to do with science. If no falsifiable hypothesis is presented, then what you have is mythology, not science.

  • http://www.michaelwharton.co.uk/ Synonymous

    I really like the bubbles analogy, but of course you will get Theists asking who is blowing the bubbles? They’re a tricksy lot them Theists, especially Christians! If nothing can’t exist for any length of time, then maybe if there is no time or matter you have infinite “Potential Energy”. I don’t know, just a theory.

    • existential blues

      Yeah, if there are bubbles, then there must be someone blowing them. Or blowing me.

      There are zillions of particle/antiparticle pairs popping into and out of existence throughout space at any given time. God keeps so busy running that show that he hardly has the time to worry about our earthquakes and such.

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    I think it is a luxury that in Judaism, you can stay Jewish even if you no longer believe. Definitely not the case in Islam-if you stop believing, like I did, you are an apostate, and you are by definition not longer a Muslim, even though, in contrast to you, I stopped calling myself a Muslim before I stopped believing every last bit of lie I was told.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gojaejin Jeremy J. Goard

    Funny, I was just talking openly for the first time last night about a view that’s grown in me over the last few years, that religious food taboos are not merely silly or unnecessary, but downright poisonous. I’ve long realized that one of my strongest ethical impulses is against xenophobia, that I think racial and cultural and linguistic mixing is an actively good thing — but if you’d ask me about Jews avoiding pork ten years ago, I’d have said that it was a possibly reasonable health code in the ancient Middle East, preserved as a taboo through inertia. But studying the psychology of disgust and its relations with political and social attitudes has led me to believe that what those taboos are *primarily* about is marking outgroup members as “unclean” by association, at some deep level, implanted in childhood. I can no longer think of someone “keeping kosher” without thinking about “avoiding miscegenation”. Otherwise, why use the language of avoiding uncleanliness and impurity to describe mere signals of a particular tradition?