an appeasement of cosmic proportions

Creationists and theologians often call the Big Bang theory an origin story for atheists. But that comparison ignores the easily confirmed evidence that it more than likely happened.

cmbr cutaway
Illustration: cutaway of different maps of the cosmic background microwave radiation (ESA)

Do you want to seem really open-minded and deep in that post-modernist, well-everything-is-just-an-opinion kind of way? If you do, then the next time someone discusses his doubts about the Big Bang theory and how the fact that we seem to know relatively little about such a complex and important event must mean that all the science behind it is no more reliable than a religious tenet, just agree. For those who speak out of both sides of their mouths it’s the perfect way to show that they’re really worried about scientific accuracy and rigor, while not angering those who want to render all this evidence and investigative work meaningless by ignoring how the scientific method works.

If you’re going to have a singularity sitting somewhere in infinity carve out space, start time and catapult far more material than will ever actually be present in the universe we know today into the new cavity of space and time, you’re going to have a lot of questions about the fine mechanics of the event. Why was there slightly more matter than antimatter during baryogenesis? How did magnetism, gravity and nuclear forces separate? And even more profoundly, what caused the Big Bang to actually happen and what does this event say about our place in the grandest scheme of things? Is there just one universe or are there countless more and if the latter option is the case, how did they come to be? Could there have been more than one Big Bang?

Well, we don’t know the definitive answers to these questions and it will take decades of experiments, theoretical work, and even some scientific dead ends for cosmologists as we learn more about the dynamics of space-time to come up with something truly concrete. But that’s science for you. It always has questions to try and answer.

However, what we know so far from observational evidence points to the universe being denser and hotter as we look deeper in time. Then, everything goes dark and all we can get is an echo from something really big in the form of CMBR, or Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. And interestingly enough, the distortions we see in this radiation seem to be a pretty decent fit as a starting point for all the webs of galaxies and galactic clusters we can see by looking through our telescopes. So from actually looking and measuring, we know the following. Something big happened about 13.7 billion years ago and it left an echo which ties it to the galaxies we see today.

Whatever it was, happened during a kind of cosmic dark age and when try to peer inside it, we get some evidence of giant stars being formed and collapsing into black holes, and potentially, some hints of nebulae creating the next generation of early suns. When you consider this evidence, it becomes very clear that something like the Big Bang or something very much like it must’ve happened and the goal is to clear up the fuzzy details rather than just throwing away the whole concept because big questions remain.

And yet, this is exactly what those who want to equate the Big Bang with a religious tenet want to do. Instead of trying to weigh the evidence, they retreat into a creation story written in holy books and varying from one culture to another. Where’s the CMBR of an omnipotent, magical creator? Where is the booming voice across space? Where is the snapshot of a deity building a planet with his own hands, sculpting the oblate spheroid like we’d expect a potter to do on a wheel? In other words, where’s the evidence? So really, when you say that Big Bang is just a way for scientists to refer to magic, you’re ignoring a vast body of evidence and equating it with a wild guess by our ancestors, followed by thousands of years of belief in the lack of any evidence otherwise.

But we have new evidence now and our knowledge of the universe is changing. For those who’d rather pretend they have it all figured out, it’s easy to point to the questions, ignore the evidence and drag one of the biggest and most important scientific questions of all time into the same realm as ancient parables. And for those worried about being liked and appeasing those who ignore science, engaging in hypocritical doublespeak, either just pitch the evidence overboard and agree or find some courage to say no. You can’t have it both ways.

# space // astronomy / big bang / cosmology

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