Much has been written about the Universe, with its alleged big bang origin 13.8 billion years ago,1 with its expansion forcing all galaxies away from each other. And about two decades it was ‘discovered’ that the expansion is accelerating driven by some very strange form of energy – dark energy – that acts like an anti-gravity force, which is stranger than fiction. Yet the big question remains. What is the ultimate fate of the Universe? Secular cosmology does not have a precise answer, and I describe several of their scenarios below. However I believe that the Bible has the answer to this question. That answer may seem to many to be contrary to known science, but the same could be said of the creation of the Universe from nothing, whether it be by the action of the Creator God, or by secular physics invoking some quantum fluctuation of a metastable false vacuum.
Big bang fate of the Universe
Some believe the Universe will eventually die in a ‘big rip’,2 where space is literally ripped apart. This is alleged to result from the unlimited acceleration of the expansion of the Universe due to an unbounded increase in some very strange stuff called dark energy, for which laboratory science knows nothing. In that theory dark energy eventually becomes so strong that it completely overwhelms the effects of the gravitational, electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces, resulting in galaxies, stars and even atoms themselves being literally torn apart, at their core. See Fig. 1.
Others believe that the Universe will end in a ‘big crunch’.3 “Their calculations suggest that the collapse is “imminent”—on the order of a few tens of billions of years or so—which may not keep most people up at night, but for the physicists it’s still much too soon.”4 The big crunch is theorized to occur when the vacuum energy density (cosmological constant) becomes negative due to a change in some hypothetical scalar field changing sign. Details don’t really matter because it is really just ‘scratchings’ on pieces of paper.
Yet another option, they say, is that the Universe will end in some unremarkable heat death, where every physical process just peters out. This is known as the ‘big chill’, ‘big freeze’ or ‘heat death’. In that view, the Universe continues expanding while gradually all thermodynamic free energy is dissipated, meaning that all motion eventually ceases. Over a hundred trillion years or so, they say, it comes to a state of maximum entropy at a temperature very close to absolute zero, when the Universe simply becomes too old and too cold to sustain life. All that they expect to remain are cold dead stars, cold dead planets and black holes.
These three scenarios (Fig. 1) are what comprise the secular belief system, the worldview most widely held by cosmologists today. It is based on pure materialism, that matter and energy is all that there is. The atheists believe there is no Creator, no God who loves us or has any personal interest in our destiny. Their beliefs are really pagan philosophy.5
The Hubble law, determined from the distances and redshifts of galaxies, for the past 80 years, has been used as strong evidence for an expanding universe. In 2011 I reviewed various lines of evidence for and against this claim. It included the lack of evidence for the necessary existence of time dilation in quasar and gamma-ray burst luminosity variations, angular size tests for galaxies as a function of redshift, the Tolman surface brightness test which is sensitive to expansion of the Universe, evidence that the CMB radiation is not from the background, which it should be if from the big bang fireball as alleged, intergalactic absorption lines due to hydrogen clouds and Lyman-α systems, and what they do tell us. Here I present that information again in light of my current understanding.
This review concluded that the observations could be used to describe either a static universe (where the Hubble law results from some as-yet-unknown mechanism) or an expanding universe described by the standard Λ cold-dark-matter model. In the latter case, the imposition of size evolution of galaxies is necessary to get agreement with observations. Yet the simple non-expanding (i.e. static) Euclidean universe fits most data with the least number of assumptions. I made a straw table comparison with the various lines of evidence to see how they stack up. It was found not to be definitive and hence the result equivocal. From this review it became quite apparent that there are still many unanswered questions in cosmology and it would be a mistake to base one’s theology on any particular cosmology. Far better to base you cosmology and theology on the clear narrative historical prescription in the Genesis account and elsewhere in the Scriptures. (This was first published in two parts in the Journal of Creation 25(3):109-120, 2011.)
Ever since the late 1920s, when Edwin Hubble discovered a simple proportionality1 between the redshifts of the light coming from nearby galaxies and their distances, we have been told that the Universe is expanding. This relationship—dubbed the Hubble Law—has since been strengthened and extended to very great distances in the cosmos. Nowadays it is considered to be the established dogma of the expanding big bang universe. This means that the space that contains the galaxies is expanding and that the galaxies are essentially stationary in that space, but being dragged apart as the universe expands.
Hubble initially interpreted his redshifts as a Doppler effect, due to the motion of the galaxies as they rushed away from our location in the Universe. He called it a ‘Doppler effect’ as though the galaxies were moving ‘through space’—the space itself is not expanding but the galaxies are moving through space, and that is how some people, especially astronomers, initially perceived it. This is different to what has now become accepted, but observations alone cannot distinguish between the two concepts. Later in his life Hubble varied from his initial interpretation and said that the Hubble Law was due to some hitherto undiscovered mechanism, but not due to expansion of space—now called cosmological expansion.
The big bang expanding universe model essentially offers a coherent paradigm or explanatory framework which can, in principle, provide answers to a wide range of key cosmological questions; examples are the origin of extragalactic redshifts, the dynamical state of the Universe (i.e. not apparently collapsing under gravity), Olbers’ paradox (why is the night sky dark?), the origin of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, the origin of galaxies, and the origin of the elements. The fact that its answers to some questions are currently unsatisfactory or unconvincing does not change the basic point that such a model will always be preferred to a more limited model such as a static Euclidean universe, which does not attempt to address such questions. In this sense the big bang model is necessarily preferable regardless of one’s theological position.
Why does the night sky appear black? Why isn’t it white-hot? This is an important question.
When we look up on a moonless night, except for the small number of stars we can see with our unaided eyes (about 2500 at any one time), why is it so pitch black? The answer may not be as obvious as you might think.
The 19th century astronomer Olbers posed a paradox. If you imagine as you look out in space, even though galaxies and hence stars are great distances from each other, if space extends far enough, eventually every line of sight in every direction should finish on a star. If the Universe was infinite in size and filled with stars this would have to be the case. Thus why isn’t the night sky burning bright? Why isn’t it white-hot like the sun?
In regards to concepts relating to the Universe being static, that is, it is not expanding as is most commonly believed, I received the following email comment from a friend. His comments are in green text below.
I am curious what you think about Job 37:18:
“Can you, like him, spread [Hebrew: רָקַע raqa`] out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?”
I have been looking at the equations for small bending of a thin plate under distributed load and they look the same as the GR equations in the case of weak fields if you treat the load on the plate as the gravitating mass and treat mechanical strain as the gravitational potential scaled by c-2.
So, could raqia be a thin plate rather than a membrane? A plate supports load due to resistance to bending, while a membrane supports load due to tension and the edges. In contrast, plate does not need such tension. The only challenge is that plates aren’t easy to roll like a tent curtain, but Job 37:18 suggests that bending a hard thing isn’t a problem for God.
Abstract: I speculate on a new cosmological redshift mechanism due to ‘tired light’ in a created static-yet-unstable 6000-year-old finite-size universe. This utilises Lisle’s ASC model, but I show a one-to-one correspondence with the Hartnett-Carmeli model that was so successful when tested against type Ia supernova measurements. This gives a theoretical underpinning to the ASC model with a Hubble law redshift-distance dependence, but not from expansion, yet where, today, we see all sources in the universe only 6000 years after they were created. Article first published by Answers Research Journal 8 (2015):77–83. PDF available here.
In standard cosmology it is normal practice to assume no Creator and that the material world is all that there is. Therefore it follows that only the laws of physics, time and chance are to be considered when formulating a description of the creation and history of the universe we see. This means that within the visible horizon there has been sufficient time for the gravitational and electromagnetic influences2 of the matter elsewhere to be felt locally. Assuming an expanding universe, the only limitation comes from the notion that the universe has expanded faster than the speed of light (c)3 and therefore this has introduced to the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation what is known as the horizon problem.4
Someone writes a book, or develops a theory (or even just presents some speculation), and then a believer in a church uses that information and says something like,
“The YEC position is true and here’s the proof! You are crazy if you can’t believe it because we have this evidence.”
Sadly, sometimes I hear this sort of thing. Folks it just should not happen. And a person who hears it might react, complaining with,
“A (creation ministry) speaker filled their heads with stuff, which isn’t true about the YEC interpretation of the Bible.”
Well that’s how the recipient may have understood the attack on his belief system, which was obviously not a biblical creationist one. Maybe he believes in theistic evolution or big bang or both. (I am not supporting those inconsistent interpretations, but I am talking about our approach.) This sort of thing has led to a division in the fellowship. Some even claim that the whole subject of biblical creation is divisive. That is not what I am talking about, but rather how some well-meaning people use speculations and theories like clubs trying to win an argument, when they should be categorized only as man’s attempts at a solution to a biblical creationist problem.
Expansion of the universe is fundamental to the big bang cosmology. No expansion means no big bang. By projecting cosmological expansion backwards in time, they assert, one will, hypothetically, come to a time where all points are the same. Since these points are all there is, then it logically follows that there is no space or time ‘before’ this moment. It is the singularity, and we cannot use language couched in concepts of time when no time (or space) exists.
Yet there are Christians who use this presumed fact as evidence in support of the Genesis 1 account and even for the existence of God Himself. They argue that only God could have started the big bang. Though it is true the universe does need a first cause it is an enormous leap into the unknown to suppose that the big bang story is that which is described in the Genesis 1 narrative. The sequence of events is nothing like it. See The big bang is not a Reason to Believe!
At the end of the 1920s, Edwin Hubble made a significant discovery. He found a proportionality between the amount by which the spectral lines in the light coming from relatively nearby galaxies are redshifted1 (z) and their distances (r) from Earth. That relationship is now called the Hubble law c z = H0 r, where c is the speed of light and H0 is Hubble’s famous constant of proportionality.
The Hubble law has since been extended to very great redshifts (therefore by inference, distances) in the cosmos, via the redshift-distance relationship. At small redshifts, and by interpretation at small distances, this becomes precisely the Hubble law.
Redshifts have been interpreted as a velocity of recession, i.e. that galaxies are moving through space. And that the recession implies expansion of the universe. But Hubble, up to the time of his death, was not so convinced of this interpretation. He was open to the possibility that there could be another mechanism to explain redshifts.
Biblical texts which have been used by some creationists to argue that Scripture supports expansion of the universe were reviewed. To suggest that these texts describe cosmological expansion of space, with galaxies being spread out like the often quoted rubber sheet analogy, is not justifiable and is pure eisegesis. The straightforward meaning is God constructing the heavens above and the earth below as a description of His preparation of a habitat for man. Once the stars were placed in the heavens they were to remain as a constant for all time. (Edited and updated from an article first published in Journal of Creation25(2):125–127, August 2011, which is also availablehere.)
We have been told, since Hubble’s discovery in the late 1920s, that the universe is expanding. Hubble found a proportionality between the redshift in the light coming from relatively nearby galaxies and their distance from Earth. This relationship has since been strengthened and extended to very great distances in the cosmos. This has been interpreted to mean that the space that contains the galaxies is expanding and that the galaxies are essentially stationary in that space, but being dragged apart as the universe expands. Often, the rubber balloon analogy is used—galaxies stuck on the surface as the balloon is blown up—which illustrates space expanding and the galaxies being pushed apart from each other (and also that there is no centre, no special place uniquely for us in the universe; figure 1). Nowadays, the expanding big bang universe is considered to be established dogma.
After Edwin Hubble published his astronomical observations of the redshifted light from nearby galaxies in 1929 it has almost universally been taught that the Universe is expanding. Hubble observed in the light from most of those galaxies that the spectral lines were shifted towards the red end of the spectrum as compared to a local laboratory source of the same atomic gas species. See illustration below. From this he interpreted that it was a Doppler effect, where the galaxies were receding from us the observer.
The Doppler effect is what you experience when you hear the pitch of the sound coming from a speeding train rushing past you. Also you might have had experience with ultra-sound imagining–there the Doppler effect is used to see the flow rate of blood in your arteries and veins. Those examples employ sound waves but the Doppler effect is real physics applied to electromagnetic waves in police radar or weather radar.
The question needs to be asked though, is this the same effect seen in the light from galaxies around us? Cosmologists today say, No! They interpret the observations differently. They say it results from the expansion of space–called cosmological expansion. The galaxies are actually not moving (except for local motion within their own clusters). The universe is expanding and over time it appears to us that they are moving away from us. Hubble discovered, and it has been confirmed many times since, that the greater the distance to a galaxy the greater the spectral lines are redshifted. This is called the Hubble Law.