Did the Universe Really Begin with a Big Bang? — Further Developments
I have discussed this question in earlier articles¹. As a non-scientist I obviously have to be cautious, and not make definitive claims, given the almost total unanimity in favour of the Big Bang model among cosmologists and physicists². On Medium we even have one writer with the pseudonym Starts With A Bang; the author Ethan Siegel has written an article beginning: “There are a few fundamental facts about the Universe … One of them is the Big Bang…”³.
What encourages me to resist this trend is that scientists do sometimes get things completely wrong. For example, many biologists believe that Darwinian evolutionary theory is a complete explanation for life on Earth. It is slightly easier to argue against the Big Bang, because the arguments, on the whole, are scientific, whereas Darwinism is motivated by atheism, hostility to the alternative religious explanations, and that debate arouses strong passions. With the Big Bang theory, however, we have merely to deal with the materialist, physicalist assumptions that the basic laws of the universe, as understood by physicists, are all that need to be taken into account in the calculations. However, as the esotericist Manly P. Hall once pointed out: “The wise men of all ages have claimed that Nature works through intelligent forces and not through mechanical laws”⁴. (This may be the explanation for cosmologists’ inability to detect dark matter and energy.)
One thing that can be said is that, even if the Big Bang is the correct explanation for the origin of the universe, that conclusion was reached via some very poor science. The most obvious point is that the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) was hastily claimed to be evidence for the Big Bang, when there was an alternative, better explanation for it (described in footnote 5. For more details, see the articles in footnote 1).
What is the alternative to the Big Bang model? Spiritual traditions speak of the emergence of the material universe as the culmination of a process of gradual densification of spirit from higher levels of reality. This is hinted at in the first chapter of Genesis , which mentions different levels of waters, obviously referring to fluid, less dense levels of reality. And then “God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’ ”(v9). ‘Dry land’ is a fairly obvious allegorical reference to the material universe which, according to the text, emerges from a less dense, fluid level, under the influence of a Divine Mind.
This idea of progressive densification of spirit, and the emergence of matter from higher levels, is also the understanding of esoteric secret societies (as described, for example, in The Secret History of the World, by Jonathan Black⁶).
The same idea has been expressed in scientific language by various quantum physicists, perhaps most explicitly by David Bohm, whose concept of implicate and explicate orders seems to refer to the lower waters and the physical universe respectively⁷. The physicists Werner Heisenberg, Sir James Jeans, and Sir Arthur Eddington have made interesting statements on this theme, suggesting that the material universe, as we perceive it, is an illusion, rather a manifestation of consciousness⁸. Even more eye-catching, however, was a statement by Max Planck: “There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together… We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter”⁹. Thus, according to Planck and the other three physicists, matter emerges from a mental level, and is therefore a densification of consciousness. This modern scientific understanding seems surprisingly close to that of Genesis 1.
With all this as background, it was interesting to note a recent surge of articles in New Scientist magazine casting doubts upon Big Bang theory. The first was entitled ‘What if there was no big bang and we live in an ever-cycling universe?’, and the subtitle was ‘There is no good evidence that our universe even had a beginning…’ (my italics)¹⁰. The article went on to say: “The answer, thrillingly, may be that there never was a big bang, but instead a universe with no beginning or end, repeatedly bouncing from an epoch of contraction to expansion, and back again”. This statement is interestingly in accordance with the Hindu understanding of the universe as the breathing out and breathing back in of the creator god Brahma: “In Hindu metaphor this process is expressed as the great breath of Brahma which creates and destroys worlds in an incessant cyclical rhythm. God breathes out and the universe proceeds from the appearance of laya, or neutral centre, or else from the primordial meeting point of forces: the field of aggregation. With the intake of breath the universe is called back to the source and ceases to exist, but on the act of breathing out again manifestation begins anew”¹¹.
Then in November a front cover dramatically announced: ‘Dark Matter. We still haven’t found it. Our theories are falling apart. Is it time to rethink the universe?’ The title of the relevant article by astrophysicist Dan Hooper was ‘Why dark matter’s no-show could mean a big bang rethink’, with the subtitle ‘We can’t find any trace of cosmic dark matter — perhaps because our models of the early universe are missing a crucial piece’¹². The article went on to say: “Our failure to detect the particles that make up dark matter suggests that the beginning of the universe may have been very different from what we imagined”.
There followed an article by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein entitled ‘Studying the universe’s origins hint that its beginning has no end’, with the subtitle ‘The cosmos is stranger than we ever imagined and new bubbles of space-time may pop up and grow continuously with no beginning or end’¹³. The article opens: “There may not have been a beginning to the thing we understand as ‘the universe’ ”. (Some spiritual traditions say that the universe is indeed eternal.)
Also interesting was a later article by Daniel Cossins entitled ‘Big bang retold: The weird twists in the story of the universe’s birth’, with the subtitle ‘It certainly wasn’t big, and probably didn’t bang — and the surprises in the conventional story of the universe’s origins don’t end there’¹⁴. This was not an attempt to cast doubt upon Big Bang theory per se, rather to try to understand better what it actually means.
The first of these articles described the conventional story which led to the theory of the Big Bang: “In the 1920s, the Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann and the Belgian priest and astronomer George Lemaître independently proposed that the universe was expanding. Extrapolating backwards in time, Lemaître reasoned that it ought to have started off as a small ‘primeval atom’. When Edwin Hubble provided compelling empirical evidence in favour of cosmic expansion based on his observation of the motions of distant galaxies, the case was settled. The expansion theory implied that the cold, vast universe we see today had once been a tiny, hot patch of space. Keep going further back, assuming the same laws apply, and the hot patch shrinks to a pinpoint containing an ultra-high concentration of energy”.
If this account is correct, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it should in theory be possible to identify a point away from which all galaxies are expanding. It would be hard to find a cosmologist who says that, however. The fourth article opens: “Whatever you do, don’t ask where it happened”. Soon afterwards, Cossins says: “Everywhere in today’s universe was where the big bang was”, and then quotes Dan Hooper (author of the second article): “It’s not something that happened somewhere, but something that happened everywhere, including the space you happen to be occupying now”. This would seem to be closer to the idea that the material universe emerged everywhere simultaneously from a higher level.
Have we really reached the point where Big Bang theory is no longer credible? If so, many physicists and cosmologists would have egg on their face, given their dogmatic insistence on the truth of this model. They may be reluctant to acknowledge their error. However, fingers in the dyke cannot hold out forever.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I have written in the past about other topics, including spirituality, metaphysics, psychology, science, Christianity, politics, and astrology. All these articles are on Medium, but the simplest way to see a guide to them is to visit my website (click here and here).
- A discussion of the Big Bang was the centrepiece of a talk I gave in June 2019 (the Big Bang material starts about half way through. For the full text of the talk, see: https://email@example.com/time-for-a-new-paradigm-the-reunification-of-science-and-religion-a5526edad13)
I then extracted the content relevant to the Big Bang in a series of articles:
Did the Universe Begin with a Big Bang? — part 1 , What the ‘Experts’ Say
A discussion of the Big Bang theory was the centrepiece of a talk which I gave recently on the subject of science and…
Did the Universe Begin with a Big Bang? — part 2, Possibly (Probably?) Not
This article follows on from part 1, and I strongly advise anyone not familiar with the conventional history of Big…
Did the Universe Begin with a Big Bang? — Part 3
I assume that readers are familiar with part 1, and part 2.
Did the Universe Begin with a Big Bang? — part 4, a Spiritual Alternative
This article follows on from part 1, part 2, and part 3. These were all extracted from a longer article on the theme of…
2. Two significant dissenting physicists are Eric J. Lerner, who wrote Big Bang Never Happened (Simon & Schuster, 1992), and Paul LaViolette, who wrote Beyond the Big Bang (Park Street Press, 1995, republished as Genesis of the Cosmos). He uses as inspiration ancient Egyptian religion, astrology, and the Tarot, which is very brave for a modern scientist, and ok with me, but obviously means that he won’t be taken seriously by orthodoxy.
4. Unseen Forces, Philosophical Research Society Press, 1936, p3, available in the Kessinger Legacy Reprints series
5. In 1933, the German physicist Erich Regener had predicted the existence of a microwave background produced from the warming of interstellar dust particles by high-energy cosmic rays, thus not a product of a Big Bang. His prediction for its temperature was far more accurate than that of Big Bang theorists Alpher and Herman. Regener was therefore the first to predict the existence of the CMBR, but also the one who predicted it with the greatest accuracy, but for reasons unconnected with a Big Bang.
6. Quercus, 2010
7. see Wholeness and the Implicate Order, Routledge 1995, first published 1980
8. Werner Heisenberg: “Modern physics has definitely decided for Plato. The smallest units of matter are not physical objects… They are forms, structures, or — in Plato’s sense — Ideas” (in Quantum Questions, Ken Wilber, Shambala, 1984, p51).
Sir James Jeans: “The universe is looking less like a great machine, and more like a great thought” (The Mysterious Universe, CUP, 1947, p137, first published 1930).
Sir Arthur Eddington: “Matter and all else that is in the physical world have been reduced to a shadowy symbolism”. “That environment of space and time and matter, of light and colour and concrete things, which seems so vividly real to us is probed deeply by every device of physical science and at bottom we reach symbols. Its substance has melted into shadow” (Science and the Unseen World, Quaker Books, 2007, p21, p23).
9. lecture given in Florence, quoted by John Davidson in The Secret of the Creative Vacuum.
10. By Anna Ijjas, magazine issue 3243, published 17 August 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24332430-800-what-if-there-was-no-big-bang-and-we-live-in-an-ever-cycling-universe/
12. Magazine issue 3256, published 16 November 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24432560-600-why-dark-matters-no-show-could-mean-a-big-bang-rethink/
13. Magazine issue 3258, published 30 November 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24432584-900-studying-the-universes-origins-hint-that-its-beginning-has-no-end/
14. Magazine issue 3260, published 14 December 2019, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24432601-200-big-bang-retold-the-weird-twists-in-the-story-of-the-universes-birth/