Philosophy Magazine

Two Ways Scientists Justify the Big Bang + Why This Matters

By Stuart_gray @stuartg__uk

Two Ways Scientists Justify the Big Bang + Why this Matters

An important philosophical argument for God’s existence is called the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It is deceptively simple to describe:

1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2 – The universe began to exist.

3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.

When you explore the candidates for the cause of the universe, you find that only God meets the necessary criteria (timeless, spaceless, immaterial, powerful, personal, transcendent).

One of the fascinating things about this argument is that modern science and cosmology give solid support to premise 2 – “The universe began to exist.”

The ancient Greeks supposed that matter was eternal, ordered by the gods, and so the universe was eternal too. Hebrew thought introduced the idea that the universe was created ex nihilo (from nothing). It was a Muslim philosopher, Al Ghazili, who first posited the Kalam in the 12th century to challenge lingering Greek influences around the nature of the universe.

Today, while there are cool philosophical arguments that support both premises of the Kalam, I’m going to highlight some cool scientific supporting evidences in this blog.[1]

Premise 2 of the Kalam says that “The universe began to exist.” Do we know that scientifically?

1 – The Expansion of the Universe

Einstein discovered when forming his General Theory of Relativity that the universe behaves either like it is expanding, like on the surface of an expanding balloon, or contracting as if someone was letting the air out of it. Friedman and Lematre confirmed this with their own theory.

And then – Edwin Hubble made a fascinating discovery. Thru his telescope, as he looked into the sky, he began to notice something. Light waves from the distant galaxies had a red shift. What does this mean?

What happens when you hear an Ambulance in the distance…and it gets closer and closer to you? The sound of the siren changes. What does it do? The pitch gets higher. That’s because the sound waves emanating from the siren that hit your ear are getting squeezed closer together. And when the ambulance passes you…what happens then? The pitch drops again, because the sound waves are extending again.

Well, light also has properties that cause it to behave like a wave. And the red shift is the equivalent to the ambulance passing you and driving away. The red shift is extending of the light waves. And this is evidence that the galaxies are moving away from us. It’s almost as if we are at the center of a cosmic explosion – but we’re not. If space is like an inflating balloon, and all the galaxies sit on the surface, then from the point of any one of those galaxies, everything is moving away as the balloon inflates. If space is expanding, then there must have been a point when this expansion started.

Scientists refer to the initial cosmological singularity, the boundary when both space and time started. Energy and matter were created at that point – the Big Bang. It’s not that something exploded in space at the Big Bang. Rather – at that event, everything came into existence.

Scientists appeal to the red shift evidence to support this theory. And the expansion rate of the universe might be variable too. But none of those negates premise 2 of the Kalam. It supports it. They also observe cosmic background radiation, which seems to be a residue from the Big Bang event. The universe observably had a beginning.

In 2003, Borde Guth and Vilenkin added to this understanding when they observed that any universe that has been expending (such as ours) cannot be infinite in the past. Rather, it must have an initial space time boundary.

2 – The Thermodynamic Properties of the Universe

The second law of thermodynamics states that unless energy is being fed into a system, that system will become increasingly disorderly. You can think of this a little turning on the hot tap in a warm bath. The hot water enters the system and the hot water gradually dissipates, until the temperature is consistent everywhere. When it comes to the universe, the second law suggests that at the initial cosmic singularity, energy was created. And since that point, energy has been dissipating throughout the universe. Eventually, like the water in the bath, the temperature in the universe will reach equilibrium, being consistent everywhere. And at that point, it is believed the heat death of the universe will have occurred.

The question then becomes, “If that’s the case, and the universe is infinitely old, why hasn’t it already reached its inevitable heat death state?” Think of the universe as a bit like a car. You put fuel in there and it will run for a finite time until it runs out of fuel and must then stop. Because our universe is still running, this suggests that we still have fuel in our tank. So – not only is the universe therefore not infinitely old, but in a few billion years, presumably the universe will die.


1 – Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

2 – The universe began to exist.

3 – Therefore the universe has a cause.

Scientific observation supports the claims of the Kalam, particularly premise 2.

There are some interesting ways to object to this evidence and try to refute the Kalam. And – I will summarise some of those in another blog. But – a very common objection might be this. If I am claiming that God created the universe, and God is timeless, then why isn’t the universe eternal and timeless as well? If the universe is clearly NOT timeless, then does that undermine belief in God as creator?

No. To explain how a timeless cause (God) can produce a temporal effect (the universe) requires God to be a personal being with free will. The universe was not brought about by some kind of supernatural, immaterial timeless mechanism. Rather, the immaterial personal and incredibly powerful person God chose spontaneously to create a new thing, the universe. And everything within it. Isn’t it interesting that this basically describes the opening statements in the Bible?

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”[2]

[1] William Lane Craig, On Guard Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision, (Lee Vance View: David C. Cook, 2010), kindle edition, loc 1131 – 1649, synthesised and summarised.

[2] Genesis 1:1, NIV.

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