As I have mentioned in a previous blog entry, I describe myself as being an atheist leaning agnostic. When examining arguments for or against the existence of God, I’m generally more persuaded by those arguments against God’s existence. I also generally believe in what science is able to reveal about the nature, and past, of our Universe.
As such, I believe that our Universe came into being around 14 billion years ago, in an event known as the Big Bang, where all of the matter and energy (which are two sides of the same coin) in the Universe came into being. However, one question that is often asked about the Big Bang (and has never conclusively been answered) is what caused it? And a related question is “what came before the Big Bang?”
One answer to this question is that nothing came before the Big Bang – that time itself was created at the same time as all of the matter and energy in the Universe. In this scenario the concept of there being something before the Big Bang can’t be conceived.
One way to think of this is through an analogy. Take a book, and open it on any random page. Say that page represents the present day. The pages before the book are the past, and the pages after it are the future. Now, turn the pages back. As you do so, you’re going further back in time. Eventually, you’ll get to the first page of the book. What comes before the first page? Well, you might say “the front cover”, so now close the book. Now, what comes before the front cover? The answer is, nothing does. You can’t go any further back in the book. In this analogy, the front cover represents the Big Bang, where nothing comes before it.
Now, let’s think about what might have caused the Big Bang. There are some scientists who believe that the Universe simply popped into existence out of nothing, and that there is nothing within the laws of physics which prevents this from happening. The Universe’s existence is therefore a random occurrence. Another theory believes that there is more to Existence than just our Universe, and that our three dimensional Universe exists on a membrane, and that there are other membranes out there. Part of this theory states that the Big Bang was caused by two of these membranes coming into contact with each other.
There are also plenty of theists who believe that the Universe was created in the Big Bang. They will normally put the cause of the Big Bang down to being the work of God himself, that he caused the Big Bang to happen.
One argument that atheists have used against this is something which I’m going to call “The Time Argument”. (The person I first saw use this argument was Prof. Stephen Hawking in a Channel 4 documentary.) People who use the Time Argument take the position that there was nothing before the Big Bang (so, no membranes), and that time itself was created in the Big Bang. If someone wishes to attribute the Big Bang as being the work of God, then they need to find a place for God in this scenario. But atheists using the Time Argument would say that there is no place in this scenario for God to possibly exist. If time was created in the Big Bang, and therefore there is no time “before the Big Bang”, then there is nowhere for God to exist before the Big Bang in order for him to be the cause of it. Therefore, people using the Time Argument would say that as God can’t possibly be the cause of the Big Bang due to this issue of when time started, there is therefore no God.
Now, whilst I have atheist leaning tendencies, I see a serious flaw in this argument. As well as taking the position that time was created in the Big Bang, a person using this argument would also appear to be taking the position that our Universe constitutes the whole of Existence, that there is nothing outside of our Universe. But this may not necessarily be the case. To take another analogy, a fish in a pond might think that the pond they are in is the whole Universe, but be completely oblivious to all of the other ponds out there. Therefore, we in our Universe may be oblivious to the existence of other universe’s out there.
There are numerous theories as to how our Universe might fit in to the whole of Existence. One is the membrane theory mentioned above – although that raises the question as to how the membranes came to exist in the first place. (Personally, I don’t subscribe to the membrane theory. But nor do I subscribe to the theory that our Universe is all there is in Existence – I’ll explain how I think our Universe fits in to everything else in a later blog post.) In many of these theories, there is room for God to exist. Whether he does actually exist or not, and whether or not he was the cause of the Big Bang, may be hard to say in some of these theories. But I feel that the Time Argument is seriously flawed in its premises, and that it, on its own, is not enough to disprove the existence of God. When you consider theories that see our Universe as part of a greater whole, there is still plenty of room for God.
Next Week: Letting Go