The First Minutes of the Universe

By Raed T. Zawaideh

Is there any contradiction between the Creation of the World by God and the Big Bang?


Did this universe exist an infinity of years ago?...will it continue in existence forever? or was there a point in time when and where every thing started!

We know that the planet earth lives in the solar system that has less than 10 other planets and only one star, (our sun) which is one of millions of stars in the galaxy we belong to (Milky Way). There are millions of galaxies that form clusters and super clusters that fill the vast void of the universe. It takes one thousand years for a light beam to travel throughout our galaxy, comparatively it takes only eight minutes for sunlight to reach us, so imagine how big the universe is.

The reason we have a dark sky at night is the rotation of earth around itself. But what about all these stars that have been shining for billions of years, why don't they light that dark sky? "At first, the problem seemed trivial.The night sky is dark because the stars are situated at immense distances from us and so appear dim. But suppose that the space has no limit. In this case, there could be an infinity of stars. An infinite number of dim stars would add up to a lot of light. The brightness of stars diminishes with distance, according to an inverse square law. This means that at twice the distance the star is as one - quarter as bright, at three times the distance, it is one - ninth as bright, and so on.

On the other hand the number of stars increases the farther you look away. In fact, simple Geometry shows that the number of stars, say, 200 light years away is four times the number one hundred light years away, while the number three hundred light years away is nine times the latter. So the number of stars goes up as the square law of the distance while the brightness goes down as the square law of the distance. The two effects cancel each other out, and the result is that the total light coming from all stars at a given distance does not depend on the distance. The problem comes when we add up the light from all the stars from all possible distances. If the universe has no boundary, there seems to be no limit to the total amount of light received on earth.

Far from being dark, the night sky ought to be infinitely bright. Heinrich Olbers, noting the existence of large amount of dust in the sky, suggested that this material would absorb most of the starlight and thus darken the sky.Unfortunately, this idea, was fundamentally flawed: The dust would eventually heat up and start to glow with the same intensity as the radiation it absorbs.

If the stars have been shining forever, then the universe would have reached a state of equilibrium where the temperature of the heat radiation would equal that of the surface of the stars, few thousand degrees, and the night sky instead of being dark, should glow at this temperature.

Another possible resolution is that to assume that the stars are many but finite in number, so that the universe consists of a huge assemblage of stars surrounded by an infinite dark void; then most of the light will flow away into the space beyond, can be lost. But this simple resolution, has a fatal flaw , one that was, in fact already familiar to Isaac Newton in the 17th century: Every star attracts every other star with a force of gravity, therefore all the stars in the assemblage would tend to fall together, congregating at the center of gravity.

If the universe has a definite center and edge, it seems that it must collapse in on itself. We are back with an infinite universe and the dark sky paradox. It is not the assumption that the universe is infinite in space that is wrong but that it is infinite in time. This paradox arose because astronomers assumed that the universe was unchanging, that the stars were static and have been burning with undiminished intensity for all eternity. First the universe is not static but expanding. Second, the stars cannot have been burning forever, because they would have long since ran out of fuel.

The fact that they are burning now implies that the universe must have come into existence at a finite time in the past. Because light travels at a finite speed (300,000 kilometers a second) we don't see the stars as it is today but as it was when the light left it. For example, if the star is 650 light years away it appears to us as it was 650 years ago. If the universe came into existence, say, 10 billion years ago, then we wouldn't see any star located more than 10 billion light years away. The universe may be infinite in spatial extent , but if it has a finite age we cannot see beyond a finite distance. So the cumulative starlight from an infinite number of stars of finite age will be finite, and possibly insignificantly small.

The time taken for all stars to fill space with heat radiation and reach a common temperature or thermodynamic equilibrium(where temperature flows from the hot stars to the cold universe until they both have the same temperature) is immense, because there is so much empty space in the universe. There has simply been insufficient time since the beginning of the universe to reach thermo-dynamic equilibrium by now. So the universe has a limited life span. It came into existence at some finite time in the past, it is currently vibrant with activity, but it is inevitably degenerating towards a heat death at some stage in the future.

There is almost a unanimous opinion among scientists that the entire cosmos originated between 10 to 20 billion years ago in a big bang. The scientific case for an abrupt origin in a big bang is compelling. The most direct evidence is that the universe is still expanding. Which means that it must have been compressed in the past. Some scientists provided a measure of the rate of this expansion. If we could run the cosmic movie backward, we would find all the galaxies merging together in the remote past. From the knowledge of the present rate of expansion we can deduce that this merge state must have occurred many billions of years ago. The rate of expansion slows down the nature of antigravitational forces between galaxies, which means that the expansion was much faster in the past and the density of matter had steadily declined over time as the universe has grown. It is suggested that the universe originated with zero size and an infinite rate of expansion. In other words the material that makes up all the galaxies we see today emerged from a single point , explosively fast. This is an idealized description of the so called big bang. Let's look at this figure that is deduced from the rate of expansion we see today:

Zero size means that matter is squashed into no space or nothing. So the big bang is the origin of matter and space itself, so there was no preexisting void in which the big bang happened. The same basic idea applies to time. The big bang mark a boundary to time. The reason is that time as well as space are stretched in gravity. This is a consequence of Einstein's general theory of relativity. The conditions at the big bang imply an infinite distortion of time and space so that the very concept of time and space cannot be extended back beyond the big bang.

The conclusion that seams to force itself upon us is that the big bang was the ultimate beginning of all physical things: space, time and energy. It is meaningless to ask (as many people do) what happened before the big bang or what caused the explosion to occur. There was no before. And where there is no time, there can be no causation in the ordinary sense. There are many scientific evidences to rest the big bang theory upon, but there is no space here for me to mention it. Scientists calculated that the basic structure and physical contents of the universe were completed by far more less than one second. And the postuniverse underwent many additional changes at the subatomic level, as the primeval material developed into the particles and atoms that constitutes the cosmic stuff of our universe, but most of the additional processing of matter was complete after only three minutes.

I personally, as an Arab American Catholic scientist, believe that there is a harmony between the Genesis and the big bang theory. What we are trying here to do is to understand what happened when God created the universe and gave us time and space. I 'd like to mention that the expected end of the universe or at least our planet agrees very much with the description that came in our religion about the end of the world. We are called to see the Bible, not as a book of science, God did not want to say scientific things to the world, he gave to man to find that; The Bible is a book where God wanted to tell us about himself, his love for the world and his way of saving us. The Bible didn't tell us how God created the world; it tells us that the world did not exist by itself and that He, God, is the Creator.

We scientists are called to look at the world from an other point of view -as already created by God- and try to study it and see how that could be possible. And believe me it is so beautiful to look to the world form the two points of view: faith and science, they meet. always.