Monday, October 21, 2013

The Cause of the Big Bang

At it’s heart, the cosmological argument for God says that anything that begins to exist must have a cause. Used in conjunction with the Big Bang Theory, apologists can rightly argue that our universe at least seems to have a point of origin and therefore a cause. As an atheist, I reject a supernatural creator that did not begin to, what caused the Big Bang? Well, I don’t know (which is a valid response.) I only know of scientifically informed options.

Quantum foam. I can’t explain this better than Lawrence Krauss so I prefer that you come back after reading the book A Universe from Nothing or after watching a relevant lecture. The best layman explanation I can provide is that “nothing” (the absence of conventional matter, energy, space & time) is an unstable state and quantum fluctuations will give rise to something--even the singularity that became our universe.

Self-Causation. Violated causality is a logic no-no, however, it is a valid interpretation of quantum mechanics. If A can cause B which can cause A--then the first instants of the universe, while it was still at the quantum scale, could be it’s own catalyst. It’s counter-intuitive, but that’s the name of the quantum game and why we shouldn’t assume we know how things work at the literal dawn of time.

Result of a Collapsing Star on a Higher Dimension. I'll be honest, astrophysics is even less my area than quantum mechanics. Read this.

Result of a Multiversal Event. It has been theorized that bubble universes interacting could cause a new universe. Or a simulated universe could become complex enough to program a nested simulated universe. Or something. Theoretical physicist Brian Greene has suggested that there is a chance every mathematically possible universe exists.

Big Bang/Big Crunch Cycle. It’s the idea that the universe expands then contracts back into a singularity which expands into a new universe. The cycle is an older hypothesis that is now less likely than once thought.

The universe is essentially eternal and therefore causeless. Yes, there is a point of origin, but I’m not so sure we can regard the movement of time at it’s birth to our standards. For instance, if time moved exponentially slower the closer to it’s point of origin, the 13.8 billion years we think the universe has been around is only correct judging time from our perspective. In fact, it’s essentially eternal.

Magic. Theists draw upon the supernatural in support of their preferred god all the time, so I can just as easily suppose the supernatural as an option that abolishes the need for a god. I firmly believe there is a natural process that resulted in our universe, but even if there isn't, that doesn’t rule out that the supernatural process involved is unguided and spontaneous. Any argument against this can be dismissed with one word: magic.

*Events that precede space and time are nonsensical to our experience. Some of the above options require both a time-like dimension and a space-like dimension independent of our universe, but then so would an eternal deity.

**If you understand the latest in quantum mechanics or cosmology or theoretical physics, please comment with citations. I’ll gladly update this post with more accurate information.


  1. Result of a Collapsing Star on a Higher Dimension. I'll be honest, astrophysics is even less my area than quantum mechanics.

    If the universe spewed out of a black hole you could say the big bang was actually the big fart.

    1. Heh, I was actually going to title that one "Black Hole Vomit."

  2. "The universe is essentially eternal and therefore causeless"

    I asked a physicist about this idea once and he basically said it won't work that way. As I recall, the explanation was something along the lines of, the 13.8 billion years is the maximum across all possible frames of reference. I'm sure this explanation isn't quite right, if there are any physicists out there who can better explain what I'm trying to get at, that would be cool.

    1. I'm trying to find a way to ask physicists questions on Quora and Google+, but real physicists must be very busy.

    2. Is there a good subreddit for that? do any physicists hang out on /r/askscience?

      Also, what's Quora? I seem to need to sign up before I can even explore what it is

    3. I don't know about Reddit. Quora is a question answer site I used to be into.


      Although I would say you should beware of expert forums. One of the problems is that it is a serious platform that people use for work, and so they might find simple questions annoying and downvote them into kingdom come. Maybe physicists are super nice though. There is also physics forums, a website you will find if do a google search.

  3. The Cosmological Argument assumes the same cause-and-effect law which allegedly exists in our universe also exists outside of said universe or was somehow present during the Big Bang.

    It infers from our universe (Everything that exists has a cause of its existence) to outside our universe (The universe has a cause of its existence). I don't think that is valid. It's like a fish infering everything outside his bowl is water because everything inside the bowl is water.

    1. Well, despite Hume pointing this out in his Dialogues Concerning Natural religion in 1779 some theists still use it at its most basic and fallacious form. I would hazard a guess though that Craig deals with it somewhere in his published work.

  4. Nice post Grundy, I have been thinking along the lines of doing something similar. What irritates me more is theists who use quantum to "prove" god, after all its a very weak argument for the existence of God. I think they forget that there are as many interpretations of quantum mechanics as there are gods.

  5. From what I recall, the universe could indeed be seen as eternal and therefore causeless, if we work under the framework of inflation theory (I'd have to look it up to be more specific than that).

  6. I don't think these "scientifically informed options" are useful options to explain your question of "What caused the Big Bang":

    1. Quantum Foam: what causes quantum fluxuations: God!
    2. Self-Causation: as you said, "logic no-no", then so is God!
    3. Collapsing Star: What caused that? God !
    4. Multi-universe Event: Yeah, well guess who made the multiuniverse. God!
    5. Big Bounce: God started the motion.
    6. Eternal: So is God
    7: Magic: sounds like the first 6, well, if trying to answer "What caused the Big Bang."

    I think you were totally correct when you said, "I don't know (which is a valid response)"
    Jumping to these as "explanations" don't solve anything against the cosmological argument.

    I think there is only one argument that works against the cosmological argument so far:

    "God!" is no different than "I don't know." That is the key.

    Thus, I find Atheists who are Deists. They are OK with a non-personal, non-intervening, non-moral generating creator "force" who then totally backout of the scene, but reject all Theist stuff.

  7. I disagree, at least these explanations have a mathematical basis. The existence of god has no basis whatsoever beside an ancient book written by people that did not understand the beginnings of quantum mechanics.

  8. @ Christian,
    Sorry, I'm not sure who or what are you disagreeing with. I agree that we have no empirical evidence for the existence of any god(s).
    And I'd be shocked if anyone commenting here has any real understanding of quantum mechanics either -- well, at least smart people claim few of us really do get it. :-)