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The big bang theory
The big bang theory is the name given to the most popular of the scientific theories put forward by
cosmologists to explain how the universe came into being. The theory began as a result of the
observation that other galaxies are apparently moving away from each other. The universe seems to
be expanding, with the stars and the planets getting further and further apart, in the same sort of
ways that dots drawn on a deflated balloon will move away from each other when the balloon is
Scientists realised that they could use this observation to gain insights into how the universe began.
By imagining the expansion of the universe in reverse, they concluded that there must have been a
time when matter was tightly packed together in an unimaginably hot, small zone of infinite destiny,
as what scientists call a singularity. Using Einstein's theory of relativity, the conclusion was reached
that matter had to be thrown outward by a massive inflation of energy and heat, about 14 billion
years ago. Before the Big Bang, there was nothing- no space, and no time. The big bang did not
send matter out into pre-existent space, but both space and time were caused at the same instant as
the Big Bang.
No one is sure why the Big bang happened at all- why this singularity should have started to expand,
rather than remaining a singularity. What caused this change, and why at that moment? In some
ways this is a nonsensical question, because there was no before the Big bang, according to the
theory. There was no time in which anything before could have happened. Space and time came
within that singularity. It is a difficult idea for us to comprehend. Some conclude that the big bang
just happened, causelessly, while others are drawn to the conclusion that there must have been
some kind of reason for it.
The big bang is supported by fairly strong empirical evidence. Astronomers and physicists generally
agree that the evidence for the universe having some kind of beginning is convincing. Edwin Hubble
observed the speeds at which galaxies are moving away from us, which supports the idea that the
universe is expanding, and the hypothesis that in the beginning matter was extremely hot is
supported by the discovery of cosmic background radiation.
Some scientists, such as Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins, claim that scientific theories which account
for the origins of the universe have removed the need for God. They argue that it might be difficult
for us, at the moment, to understand how and why the universe came into existence of human life.
However, this difficulty does not mean that we need to assume the existence of God, or use the
concept of God as part of the explanation. We may not have found the right scientific explanation
yet to account for the universe, but we can be confident that one day we will work it out without
having to resort to the supernatural, just as we have worked out the answers to other difficult
The cosmological argument depends on the notion that the existence of the universe and everything
in it is contingent, and therefore there must be something with necessary existence to bring it all into
being, and to provide an explanation of why anything exists at all. However, the argument of
Dawkins and Atkins is that we now know with some degree of certainty how the world came into
being. We have discovered the cause, which is a physical cause explicable in scientific terms: Big
bang- Gases- Stars- Stars explode- Planets, stars and solar systems form. Therefore, we have no
need of the idea of God.
The phrase God of the gaps has frequently been used to signify the kind of belief which puts in God
as an explanation for those questions to which we have not yet found an answer. Some Christians,
particularly in the nineteenth century, claimed that although scientists were finding answers to
previously unexplained phenomena, these answers would never be more than partial, and only God
could really understand how everything came to be. But this line of argument has resulting in a
shrinking God, needed to plug fewer and fewer gaps until eventually, perhaps with the dawn of the
grand unified theory, God is no longer necessary at all.