I’ve been wishing I had a reason to write a new post for some time but nothing arose until this evening, when the following news item appeared on my news feed. It even makes reference to Lethbridge, Alberta (L.A., Canada), of all places.
As Rob Waugh reported in his article, “The universe DIDN’T begin with a Big Bang, new theory suggests,” physicists from the University of Lethbridge and Benha University have concluded that the universe has existed forever and will not end. Apparently this “theory” challenges Einstein’s suggestion that the universe exploded from an “infinitely dense point 13.8 billion years ago”, such is Waugh’s paraphrase.
I guess this is awesome news for scientists. As someone without the slightest knowledge of physics or the solar system, however, it fails to excite. The “Big Bang” theory has always struck me as scientific ballyhoo, if only on the basis of logic and language.
Try to imagine the 13.8 billion year old “infinitely dense point” mentioned above. Can you see it? If you can, it probably has space around it, maybe dark grey or a blue kind of emptiness, but in any case I bet you see “space.” You can safely consider that space to be part of a pre-existing “universe.” So the dense point did not create the universe. It already existed within it.
Scientists and religious people are really stuck on the idea that the universe was caused by something or that it had a beginning. That is why Rob Waugh, who wrote the above-mentioned article, quickly noted that the new anti-Big Bang discovery does not mean that the universe was made by “some old guy on a cloud”. There could still be a viable scientific explanation for it. Religious people are sure they know how the universe began whereas scientists are still trying to figure it out, but both groups religiously believe that the universe was caused by someone or something.
David Hume would say that we get our notion of cause and effect from experience — from watching the movement of billiard balls over and over again. Immanuel Kant would disagree and say that causation is a category of pure reason. Friedrich Nietzsche would say that we get our notion of cause and effect — and hence a belief in God as the ultimate cause — from the structure of our language. There is a subject, a verb, and an object. The subject does something. The action or effect, therefore, has a cause in the subject. Although David Hume’s general skepticism is brilliant, as is Immanuel Kant’s transcendental subject, I prefer Nietzsche on this issue.
Ultimately, however, I have always rested my belief that the universe neither began nor will end in the ancient fascination for “infinity.” Yes, it is a word, and therefore a human product, but it is rarely taken seriously for what it implies outside of the “human condition,” for lack of a better expression. I simply take “infinity” to mean without beginning or end, but that very thought is awesome to me. I have no difficulty with the proposition that the universe in which I find myself has existed and will continue to exist “forever,” another concept I cannot picture in my mind. I have no problem with the idea that the universe never “started.” The idea that it “started” is human nonsense. Perhaps one day religious people and scientists will concede as much, but I won’t bet on it.