Monday, August 20, 2012

Reading up on Origins of the Universe

It's been two years since I graduated and I'm starting to feel like I'm out of touch with my knowledge of science. When I participated in that discussion about the logicality of God's existence, I was told that it is absurd that I have this concept of an event BEFORE the Big Bang. It is absurd because, as the commenter stated, spacetime only came about after the Big Bang. He seemed so sure of it that I began to wonder if the scientific community had reached a consensus while I wasn't looking. This is because last time I checked, what Time is and whether it had a 'beginning' is still being debated.

Anyway, I read some recent journals and found out that the widely accepted inflationary model is being questioned. Let's review this theory:
"the universe started from a point of infinite density known as the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, expanded extremely rapidly for a fraction of a second and has continued to expand much more slowly ever since, during which time stars, planets and ultimately humans have emerged. That expansion is now believed to be accelerating and is expected to result in a cold, uniform, featureless universe."- Physics World
Physicist Roger Penrose begs to detract. The Big Bang is not the beginning, according to him. He thus presents us an alternate theory called "conformal cyclic cosmology" or CCC, which is:
"a cyclical universe without beginning or end in which the Big Bang 13.75 billion years ago was simply one of many. [in 2010, he and his team claim to have detected] a pattern in the cosmic microwave background—radiation left over from just after the Big Bang—that represents the echo of events that occurred before the Big Bang itself." - Discover Magazine
Okay, so here we have the possibility that time before our Big Bang probably isn't as absurd as we thought. But this is a pretty young field and is still being polished.

As I continued my search, it seems like physics is also beginning to tread into the world of philosophy. Two eminent physicist tackle the age old question of "Why do things exist?" Using the Anthropic Principle, Paul Davies cries God in quantum physics; meanwhile Stephen Hawking presents his M Theory, which he claims totally removes our need for a god. In Hawking's own words:
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he writes. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.
Thus, here are the two competing theories on the origins of universe (and God's presence or absence):
  1. Stephen Hawking: his M Theory, which is a form of String Theory, suggests that universes are capable of creating themselves, and it is no surprise that life became possible in one of these universes. This concept basically works on the premise that what we have is a multiverse. Read more.
  2. Paul Davies: He suggests that God works within the Laws of Physics, that is, he works through quantum uncertainties. In his words, "the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist." - Taking Science on Faith
I guess whatever field we're in, it is human nature to want to know where we came from. We are not and should not be contented with answers like "God made it" or "It has always existed." I think this affects us in how we find meaning in our lives. Science has and is giving us knowledge of the ways by which we came to exist. But meaning comes from asking ourselves, "Why are we here?" We can simplify the matter by thinking about how we were born. I have parents, therefore I exist. But what does this mean for me? I can do two things to find meaning:
  1. If Hawking is right, a universe that has no need for God has no need for meaning (save for what we make for ourselves). We are the result of natural processes, our parents getting horny and creating a baby in the process. We in turn, will seek out a mate in our lifetimes to reproduce, as is the way of nature.
  2. If Davies is right, someone seems to want me here. Despite the odds, the universe became possible, the Earth became possible, life became possible, my parents met and fell in love. I am the result of love. The meaning of my life is love.

Indeed, this is just me geeking out.
Post a Comment