by Trevor J. Major, M.Sc.

"There's no crisis." ---P.J.E. Peebles

"Recent articles saying the big bang is in trouble are wrong."

---Alan Guth

For over twenty years, most scientists studying the origin of the

Universe have held one truth sacrosanct: that the Cosmos created itself

in an outpouring of energy called the Big Bang. This belief is

preserved by continual refinement and embellishment, and its champions

have been successful in sending usurpers and naysayers into virtual

scientific exile. "Nearly all serious cosmologists operate in the

framework of the Big Bang," declares David N. Schramm, one of the

theory's fiercest supporters (Peterson, 1991b, 139:232).

Yet, in the face of this stalwart front, the Big Bang is being

challenged at every turn. For the most part, this challenge is coming,

not from hostile scientists, but from the fruits of efforts to test,

refine, and quantify the theory's most cherished arguments. In the last

few years, cosmic explorers have launched satellites, built telescopes,

and pointed sophisticated monitoring devices at the sky. Often, they

are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of data. Citizens, in turn, are

often overwhelmed by the nine and ten figure price tags these gadgets

can carry. Apparently, the cost of uncovering the secret of creation

is not cheap, and governments are willing to spend tax dollars


What have scientists discovered that is so perplexing? First, they

have found that the Universe has the same temperature in every

direction. Second, they have found that matter in the Universe is

distributed very unevenly. How do these findings affect the Big Bang

theory? Before answering these questions, it would be useful to review

the theory, and how it came to dominate the study of evolutionary



No one said "Eureka" at the birth of the Big Bang idea. It had many

parents, and a long gestation period. As happens so often, it was the

product of theory, speculation, observation, and luck, all converging

at the right time and in the right place.


The story of modern cosmology begins in the early twentieth

century---a time when astronomers viewed the Universe as static,

eternal, and limited in space to our own Milky Way galaxy. Their views

began to change in the 1920s with the work of Edwin Hubble. Using one

of the most powerful telescopes available, Hubble concluded that the

Universe was much bigger than our galaxy. He determined that spiral

nebulae, occurring millions of light-years away, were not part of the

Milky Way at all, but were galaxies in their own right.

Then, in 1929, Hubble found a relationship between his distance

information and some special analyses of light obtained by Vesto

Slipher. These analyses showed that most galaxies (44 of 46 then

studied) were emitting light "shifted" toward the red end of the

optical spectrum; only two were shifted toward the opposite, blue end

of the spectrum. From the very beginning, astronomers have attributed

these shifts to the Doppler effect. Using this interpretation, a

redshifted galaxy is one which is getting further away from its

neighbors. By 1935, Hubble and his colleague, Milton Humason, added

another 150 points to Slipher's data. Today, the idea that redshift is

proportional to distance, also known as Hubble's Law, is a crucial part

of distance measurement in modern astronomy.

So, Hubble and Humason's work gave cosmologists clues to the size

of the Universe, and the movement of objects within it. But while the

astronomers were looking through their telescopes, theorists were

describing the Universe in new ways. The first two models came from

Albert Einstein and Willem de Sitter in 1917. Although arrived at

independently, both ideas were based on Einstein's General Theory of

Relativity, and both scientists made adjustments to prevent expansion,

even though expansion seemed a natural outcome of General Relativity.

However, as redshifts became common knowledge, expansion was introduced

as a matter of fact. This was the case in 1922 with a set of solutions

produced by Alexander Friedman. Five years later, Georges LemaŚtre made

a model incorporating a redshift-distance relation very close to that

found by Hubble. If the Universe is expanding now, Lema tre observed,

then there must have been a time in the past when the Universe was in a

state of contraction. It was in this state that the "primeval atom," as

he called it, exploded to form atoms, stars, and galaxies. LemaŚtre had

described, in its essential form, what is known today as the Big Bang.


Meanwhile, in 1948, Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, and Fred Hoyle gave

the static Universe credibility with their Steady State theory. This

model incorporated redshift data by having galaxies move away from each

other and, in a strange twist, allowing matter to be created, out of

nothing, in the gaps left behind. Despite this activity, their Universe

was essentially unchanging through eternity; it was without a

beginning, or an end.

The Steady State theory was widely accepted for the next decade or

more, but 1948 was also a good time for the competing Big Bang theory.

The first boost came from George Gamow and Ralph Alpher. They applied

quantum physics to see how the Big Bang could make hydrogen and

helium---the two elements thought to form 99% of the visible Universe--

-in a process called nucleosynthesis. (Gribbin, 1986, p 154). However,

their theory could not account for elements heavier than helium; these

would have to be made somewhere else. Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge,

Willy Fowler, and Fred Hoyle obliged by suggesting that the other

elements were made in stars. To cap it all off, Fowler, Hoyle, and

Robert Wagoner showed that the proportions of certain lighter-weight

elements produced by the Big Bang matched almost exactly the

proportions thought to exist in the Solar System. This result,

published in 1967, convinced many astronomers that the Big Bang was the

correct description of creation.

Background Radiation

It was also in 1948 that Alpher and Robert Herman, tying in their

work on nucleosynthesis, estimated that the Universe should have cooled

from the original hot flash to around five degrees Celsius above

absolute zero (i.e., 5<|>K). Other Big Bangers came up with various

figures, but not many higher than 50<|>K. Steady Staters like Hoyle

expected no residual or background temperature, for there was no

similar outpouring of radiation in their model.

These predictions were fulfilled in 1965 by a famous, unplanned

discovery. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were working on a former

satellite communications receiver at Bell Labs. They wanted to use the

antenna to detect very weak radio signals from space, but first they

had to eliminate all excess radio noise. However, they got to a point

where they couldn't explain an "annoying" background noise equivalent

to radiation with a temperature of around 3 K. They contacted Robert

Dicke at Princeton University who, with his colleagues, immediately

latched on to this noise as the echo of the Big Bang.


It is easy to see from this story how cosmologists can cling so

strongly to such a seemingly cohesive theory. As Paul J. Steinhardt

comments, "An expanding universe, the microwave background radiation

and nucleosynthesis---these are the three key elements of the Big Bang

model that seem to be very well verified observationally. They set a

standard for any competing model" (Peterson, 1991b, 139:232). However,

none of them is without problems.

For example, not everyone believes that redshifts should be

attributed to the Doppler effect (see Amato, 1986; Bird, 1987, pp 5,8).

Halton Arp, for one, has found "enigmatic and disturbing cases" where

two apparently connected objects show dissimilar redshifts (Sagan,

1980, p 255; also see Cowan, 1990a, 137:181). Many astronomers ignore

Arp's work, and he has been denied telescope time for pursuing this

line of research (Marshall, 1990). If Arp is correct, then the Universe

is not expanding, or at least, it is not acting in a way consistent

with a Big Bang.

Too Good to be True?

Skepticism of nucleosynthesis comes from its requirement to fit a

very special set of conditions. The Big Bang needs to proceed at the

right pace with the right starting conditions, or else the Universe

would be very different. If the early fireball cooled too quickly, the

Universe would be nearly all helium; if it cooled too slowly, the

Universe would have no helium (Gribbin, 1986, p 207). David Wilkinson

(1986) suggests that while calculations and observations seem to agree,

other processes have not been eliminated.

A related problem involves the production of just the right amount

of matter. A fraction too much, and the Universe would have collapsed

on itself in a "big crunch"; a fraction too little, and it would have

flown apart before galaxies and stars could form (Horgan, 1990, p 112).

Actually, this requirement turns out to be one of the biggest snags in

the modern version of the Big Bang theory.

Some scientists "explain" these coincidences by saying that the

Universe is the way it is because if it were not, man wouldn't be here

to observe it (Barrow and Tipler, 1986). For most evolutionists, this

so-called Anthropic Principle smacks too much of theology for comfort

(for a review, see Thompson, 1990). Indeed, physicist John C.

Polkinghorne suggests that these coincidences provide evidence of a

Universe purposefully designed for man by God the Creator (1990,


Most cosmologists would rather avoid the Anthropic Principle.

Instead, they put their faith in Alan Guth's inflationary hypothesis to

solve troublesome details, like having just the right amount of matter

at all times. In this modification of the standard Big Bang theory, the

Universe begins from practically nothing---actually, ten pounds of

"false vacuum" (Peterson, 1990c). A split second later, expansion

speeds, reducing density and thus avoiding collapse. Another fraction

of a second later, expansion slows before the density gets too low for

atoms to form. To quote Schramm again, "A lot of people think inflation

smells too good not to be right in some form" (Horgan, 1990, p 112).

Maybe, but what sounds too good to be true, often is.

Through a Glass, Darkly

The problem is that inflation can only occur when the amount of

newly created matter reaches a certain critical level. Unfortunately,

90-99% of this matter is missing from the Universe. At this point, the

Big Bang starts to bear striking similarities to the fable of the

emperor's invisible new clothes.

Cosmologists suggest that the missing mass consists of cold dark

matter. They say this matter cannot be hot, otherwise galaxies would

take too long to evolve. It must be dark, of course, otherwise it would

be visible and thus readily observed. As yet, no one knows what makes

up this matter, although scientists seem to be having fun making

suggestions. CHAMPs (CHArged Massive Particles), WIMPs (Weakly

Interacting Massive Particles), and MACHOs (MAssive Compact Halo

Objects) are some of the contenders (Glashow, 1989; Palca, 1991; Silk,


So, cold dark matter is an unknown, unseen substance that is,

nonetheless, essential to the process of self-creation. Proving the

existence of this cosmic stuff is going to be difficult enough, but the

accompanying theory is being challenged by new observations. The most

popular version of the theory suggests that invisible matter could help

ordinary matter clump together in tiny fluctuations or "defects" of the

expanding space fabric. These clumps would later form collections of

galaxies, called clusters, on a scale no bigger than about 65 million

light-years. Researchers have found much bigger clusters, however. In

a survey covering one hundred-thousandth of the visible Universe,

Margaret Geller and John Huchra (1989) identified a huge sheet-like

structure, the "Great Wall," containing thousands of galaxies and

extending at least 550 million light-years across the sky. Another

survey, covering one two-thousandth of visible space, shows that the

Universe only begins to look uniform on scales larger than 150 million

light-years (Cowan, 1990b). A recent report based on data from the

Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS) proves, beyond doubt, that the

Universe is structured on very large scales (Saunders, et al., 1991).

This led the group of ten authors to disavow the standard cold-dark-

matter theory. What has shocked the scientific community is that the

group includes researchers who were once ardent supporters of the


Compounding the problem of scale is a problem which might be termed

"premature aging." Most cosmologists place the Big Bang event around 13

billion years ago, and the beginnings of galaxy formation about one

million years after that. Hence, radiation coming from an object 12

billion light-years away began its journey only a billion years after

the Big Bang, when the object was less than a billion years old. Such

distant objects should show few signs of development, but new

observations threaten these assumptions. For example, the new Roentgen

Satellite may have found giant clusters of quasars up to 12 billion

light-years away (Cowan, 1991a), and astronomers on Earth may have

detected single quasars at a little more than 12 billion light-years

away (Cowan, 1991b). These quasars are mysterious, very bright, super

energetic star-like objects which are thought to form after their

resident galaxies and hypothetical energy sources emerge. Hence, very

distant quasars and quasar clusters represent too much organization too

early in the history of the Universe. The cold-dark-matter theorist

finds himself in the position of a cement supplier who arrives after

the house is already built.

Despite such difficulties, advocates of the cold-dark-matter theory

do not give up easily. Following the IRAS findings, Laurence M. Krauss

was reported to say: "As of now, there is no model that explains why

the universe should be the way it is. Until now, cold dark matter

provided the best possible model that was consistent with all the

observations. It remains the best model that we have" (Peterson,

1991a). Repairs include adding a cosmological constant (a baseless

"fudge factor) to the cold-dark-matter equations (Efstathiou, et al.,


In 1990, Changbon Park and J. Richard Gott reported computer

simulations using cold dark matter which produced large-scale

structures resembling Geller and Huchra's pictures. However, this study

took many liberties with the early Universe (Peterson, 1990a, 137:185),

including questionable assumptions about the formation of galaxies---

questionable because no one really knows how to make galaxies from the

Big Bang. Cosmologists are also excited about laboratory experiments on

liquid crystals---the same type of material used in digital calculator

and watch displays. Producing defects in these liquid crystals is

meant to resemble the process of "seeding" large-scale structure in the

early phases of the Big Bang (Chuang, et al., 1991).

While simulations are useful for visualizing theory, they do not

represent reality necessarily. Both these experiments require early

variation in the distribution of matter which, in turn, requires

distortions, however slight, in background radiation (Lipkin, 1991, p

23). Yet, background radiation seems more pristine with each new look

at the skies. COBE, the 230 million-dollar Cosmic Background Explorer

launched by NASA on November 18, 1989, has finished its first survey

(Peterson, 1990b). It found a perfect 2.735 ñ 0.06 K temperature to an

accuracy of one part in 10,000. If no variations are found when COBE

increases its accuracy to one part in 100,000, cold-dark-matter

theorists may finally admit that something is wrong (Folger, 1991).


The smoothness of background radiation, and the lumpiness of matter

distribution, remove two crucial supports from the Big Bang house of

cards. These findings bury the standard cold-dark-matter theory which,

in turn, cripples the inflationary theory which, in turn, sends the Big

Bangers scurrying for new ideas to patch up their theory. John Maddox

(1989) writes, "The Big Bang itself is the pinnacle of a chain of

inference which provides no explanation at present for quasars and the

source of the known hidden mass in the Universe."

But the Big Bang theory is a survivor: it is never falsified, only

modified. David Lindley (1991) compares the efforts to revive existing

cosmological theories with Ptolemy's work-around and fix-it solutions

to an Earth-centered Solar System. Equations can be manipulated ad

infinitum to make "messy" theories work, but Lindley warns, "skepticism

is bound to arise."

And the skeptics are having a field day. In an article with a

byline that reads like a `Who's Who' of Big Bang dissidents, Arp and

his allies introduce a modified Steady State theory. Not being able to

resist taking a jab at their competitors, they write: "As a general

scientific principle, it is undesirable to depend crucially on what is

unobservable to explain what is observable, as happens frequently in

Big Bang cosmology" (1990, p 812). Elsewhere, Geoffrey Burbidge quips:

"To the zeroth order [at the simplest level], the Big Bang is fine, but

it doesn't account for the existence of us and stars, planets and

galaxies" (Peterson, 1991b, 139:233).

If the prevailing theory doesn't account for much, what is left?

John Horgan suggests that we "forgo attempts at understanding the

universe and simply marvel at its infinite complexity and strangeness"

(1990, p 117). Bible believers will marvel at the Universe alright.

Yet they are convinced, more than ever, that the Creator God is the

only sufficient, necessary Cause of this marvelous effect.



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(C) 1991 Apologetics Press, Inc All Rights Reserved

Apologetics Press

230 Landmark Drive

Montgomery, AL 36117-2752

Index - Evolution or Creation

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