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Big Bang or Big Bloom?

Big Bloom

In science today, we are under the tyranny of an image, the image of an explosion—the Big Bang. Ironically, this term was not derived from evidence but from contempt. Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), the celebrated astronomer, was so incensed at the notion that the universe might have a beginning that he began to refer to proponents of this view as believing that the universe started in some kind of a “big bang.”

He was quite surprised when the fires of his sarcasm, rather than withering his opponents, inadvertently coined the now commonly accepted term.

Interestingly enough, the astronomy magazine Sky and Telescope had a contest in 1994 to rename the Big Bang. There were over 10,000 entries, but the judges were unable to find a more golden term to coin. Thus, they declared the “Big Bang” it shall remain.

But what if the Big Bang was really a Big Bloom—not an enormous explosion, but a rapid and wondrous unfolding like a flower emerging from a densely-packed bud? Then the term “Big Bang” would be disastrously inaccurate. Happily, scientists are gathering more and more evidence that Bloom should replace Bang as the most accurate image of our cosmic origin.

To give ourselves a metaphor, imagine being invited to two events. The first is called “The Big Bang: See a House Blown Up!” You arrive at the address, a house sitting in a field, and settle into a lawn chair a comfortable distance away. The host announces: “Behold! The Big Bang!” and immediately the 3-bedroom brick farmhouse explodes into a cloud of smoke. As the wind slowly dissipates the smoke, you see a large pile of debris—glass shards, jagged pieces of wood, broken bricks, and dust.

The second event is called “The Big Bang: See a House Blown Up!” You arrive at the address, fully expecting a repeat, but in the field, instead of a house, you find a large pile of debris—glass shards, jagged pieces of wood, broken bricks, and dust. You settle into your lawn chair a little bemused. Just then, the host announces: “Behold! The Big Bang!” and immediately the pile of debris explodes into a cloud of smoke. As the wind clears away the smoke, you see a 3-bedroom brick farmhouse.

Obviously the first event conforms to what we mean by “bang,” because an explosion increases disorder (what scientists call “entropy”). But what of the second event? There was an explosion, but we would justly accuse the second host of great irony in the use of the term and great cleverness in his use of explosives. Obviously, he somehow rigged the whole thing in the finest detail, and we would rightly conclude his mastery of physics, chemistry, and architecture bordered on the divine.

Now what if you received an invitation: “The Big Bang: See the Universe Blown Up!” What would you witness? As it turns out, the more scientists dig into the complexities of the cosmos, the more it appears to be like the second event.

The evidence? To begin with the beginning, if the universe originated in an explosion, it was very precisely and very suspiciously calibrated down to the finest details. And further, this cosmic fine-tuning seems to be defined by a goal, the eventual existence of complex, biological life. Indeed, scientists are going even further, and arguing that the fundamental laws and forces of nature, the chemical elements and basic compounds, the 3-dimensionality of space, and more, all lead to the strange and welcome conclusion that we may well be the goal of the universe. Thus, the science of cosmology has become not just biocentric, but anthropic (from the Greek anthropos, human being).

If we could replay the cosmic tape, then, we would not see a chaotic explosion that merely scatters debris, but a well-orchestrated unfolding, a Big Bloom governed by humanly unimaginable precision. If the Bloom were compressed into a fourteen-minute tape, the first third of a minute would be dark and brooding anticipation, like the buds of flowers waiting to burst. Suddenly, there would be blinding light, and the first stable elements that had been kneaded in darkness, would emerge as the initial unfolding of the infinitely dense original bud. Over the next ten minutes, we would see the universe bloom at the speed of light, expanding in every direction even as the elements swirled and condensed into the first stars, the fiery furnaces that would forge the heavier elements needed for the ultimate intricacies of complex life.

Near the end of this phase, we would see our own solar system form. In the last three minutes of the tape, we would witness a dizzyingly rapid crescendo of creation upon Earth, with the most intricate, spiraling integration of biologic complexity in the last half minute, as species after species of living being arose, bursting forth with staccato regularity in every imaginable form occupying every imaginable nook. In the last fraction of a fraction of a second, human beings would arrive, somehow the crown and glory of the bloom, the only known creature capable of science.

Scientists now admit, almost universally, the existence of the fine-tuning that allows the bang to end in a bloom. The commonsense conclusion: our universe was “rigged” from the beginning by a very clever Master of physics, chemistry, and architecture. As physicist John Polkinghorne has said, such cosmological fine-tuning means that “the universe is indeed not ‘any old world’ but the carefully calculated construct of its Creator.”

Others resist the commonsense conclusion that the theologians were right all along. Some, like Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal at Cambridge, avoid this conclusion only by exchanging commonsense for nonsense, and conjecturing that there are a multitude of universes, and we just happen to be the lucky one.

Let us hope that, as more and more evidence of the extraordinary, providential ordering of the universe and earth itself is uncovered, that common sense will prevail.
Originally printed in To the Source. Used with author's permission.)
(Image credit: Fan Pop)

Dr. Benjamin Wiker

Written by

Dr. Benjamin Wiker is, first of all, a husband and a father of seven children. He graduated from Furman University with a B.A. in Political Philosophy. He has an M.A. in Religion and a Ph.D. in Theological Ethics, both from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Wiker taught full time for thirteen years, first at Marquette University, then St. Mary's University (MN), Thomas Aquinas College (CA), and finally Franciscan University (OH). During these many years, he offered a wide variety of courses in philosophy, theology, history, the history and philosophy of science, the history of ethics, the Great Books, Latin, and even mathematics. He is now a full-time writer and speaker, with eleven books published including 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn't Help (Regnery, 2008); The Darwin Myth: The Life and Lies of Charles Darwin (Regnery, 2009); and Answering the New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case Against God (Emmaus Road, 2008). Some of Benjamin's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Dr. Wiker at BenjaminWiker.com.

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  • I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

    "...the commonsense conclusion [is] that the theologians were right all along."

    I see a problem with this:

    "All along" the theologians have maintained that the earth, seas, and even plants existed before the sun and stars, not afterward, as the Big Bloom/Bang both imply. The philosophical root of the controversy between believers and unbelievers, and even among believers, has always been the mechanism of Creation, not the highest purpose (or product) of it.

    Our theology tells us that the universe was produced by a Designer, and the traditional understanding was that it was instantaneous (or took six natural days, which basically amounts to the same thing). But, according to the Big Bang Theory, the universe was produced by Chance, the exact opposite of Design. The difficulty of proving this has lead to the current state of affairs, namely, that "Scientists now admit, almost universally" that "the universe is indeed not ‘any old world’ but the carefully calculated construct of its Creator."

    Thus, Chance is out, Design is in, and the Big Bang becomes the Big Bloom.

    But, wait a second. The "Big Bloom" doesn't really discard Chance, at least not completely. The author used the example of a pile of debris which "explodes" and becomes a 3 bedroom house, and likens this to the formation of the universe. Now, in order for this to work, it would obviously have to be a very particular explosion. The motion imparted on each brick would have to be specific and exact to produce the house, thus it would have to be a "Designed explosion," if you catch my meaning.

    As a matter of fact, the emergence of the house could more easily be described as the destruction of the house played in reverse. It is like watching a video-tape of an explosion, but running it backward. The entire scene is one of disorder and chaos, until at the final scene the viewer sees the house and realizes, with a shock, that it was Designed from the very beginning.

    Or, to use the author's phrase, it was not a "Bang," but a "Bloom." Thus, what was previously thought to be "disorder and chaos" turns out to be nothing of the sort. It was a mere illusion. Chance exists within the greater sphere of Design.

    You might even say that the Big Bloom has baptized Chance, and made it a servant of God!

    My question is this: is this the right thing to do? If Chance has proven to be an insufficient explanation, should we really force it into it's complete opposite? Or would it be better to simply discard it altogether? Should we merely rename the Big Bang, while leaving it more or less unchanged? Or should we just scrap it completely and come up with something else entirely?

    After all, to have to speak of chaos "unfolding" into order seems to me an indication that the whole thing might really be unsalvageable.

    • Rick DeLano

      Well, all I can say is that the universe is looking more medieval by the day:


      Those of us who have intuited the absurdity of nothing gathering itself up into an infinitely dense point mass and exploding, coalescing randomly, over time, into all that exists, are about to have a very nice stretch of "I told you so", courtesy of those wonderful astronomers :-)

  • AshleyWB

    You make a lot of extravagant claims with very few citations of evidence, such as "And further, this cosmic fine-tuning seems to be defined by a goal, the eventual existence of complex, biological life.". You need evidence to support that claim, and the statement that it's just the "commonsense conclusion" is not evidence. Applying "commonsense", the intuition notions we acquire from our everyday lives, to the origin of the universe where physics, space and time most likely behaved in ways completely beyond human experience, is crazy.

    The underlying question here is "Why do we have this particular universe, and not some other one?". As I've stated on several other articles on this site, we do not have an answer to that question, because we don't have any evidence to guide us in answering it. Until we do, you're simply engaging in gap reasoning.

    • solus vistor

      You do not need evidence to support a claim that something seems to be … whatever. The same for commonsense which nobody uses to mean evidence.

  • Yes, seeing the "Big Bang" as the same as an explosion in our world is misleading, and we do have to keep explaining that every time we talk to the public about cosmology. There is no simple way to get the picture of expanding space-time into words that carry enough meaning.

    However, the idea of "fine tuning" is simply backwards. Physicists have to "fine tune" their mathematical models to get them to produce results that match experimental observations. This does not mean that the Universe is "fine tuned." Sticking a pin in a voodoo doll is not the same as sticking a pin in the person that the doll is made to represent. I have written more about the hoax of "fine tuning" here: http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/2008/06/anthropomorphizing-fine-tuning.html

    • solus vistor

      Martin Rees, the cosmologist and astrophysicist who popularized the metaphor "fine-tuned universe" in his book Cosmic Coincidences (1989) coathored with John Gribbin, is not a theist.

  • Scott McPherson

    There are many objections to the fine-tuning argument, the multiverse being just one. As I am running out of time today, I will just leave the wikipedia link, which is better than nothing.


  • > Obviously the first event conforms to what we mean by “bang,” because an explosion increases disorder (what scientists call “entropy”). But what of the second event? ... As it turns out, the more scientists dig into the complexities of the cosmos, the more it appears to be like the second event.

    The Big Bang was not an explosion, so making analogies to explosions looks, as an argument, like just hoping that someone in the audience is ignorant enough to take the argument at face value. The truth of the Big Bang doesn't support the argument at all.

    That's because the conclusion quoted above from the article is unambiguously, literally false. The universe is now much more disordered than it did in its early moments. When you look around you, the order you see is mostly in the Earth's biosphere, not so much in anything else about the universe. And as it happens, the order that we see in the biosphere has been extraordinarily well explained in theories that have no need for a God to fill roles or plug holes.