Recent observations of CMB by WMAP are being hailed, yet again, as proof of the Big Bang theory. Is this is the case? Dr. James Wanliss challenges us that there is a great difference between fact and speculation…
Think of a crime scene investigation (CSI) team, studying data. They carefully place yellow tape around the scene and begin to investigate, dusting, touching, taking pictures, but otherwise not disturbing evidence. They may have some hypothesis as to what occurred but reserve judgment while collecting data. Then they see if those data fit their hypothesis. As others come up with different ideas, hypotheses are eliminated one by one when they don’t fit the data.
This is the same kind of situation we face as we stare into space. Physicists who study stars are called astronomers, probing, stretching, striving to see further with ever bigger instruments. First we used our eyes. Later telescopes, which revealed that the pinpricks of light in the satin night, dark as a wolf’s mouth, were raging balls of burning plasma. Instruments such as the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) look in a different way, still measuring light radiation, but now in the microwave range of frequencies, beyond what eye or conventional telescope can discern.
Every human glows in the dark, each one putting off 100 Joules of infrared light radiation every second. Each one is radioactive, blasting out about one gamma ray each second. Any room filled with people is a cup running over with the light that we are burning off. We are whirlwinds of tempestuous fire. The universe glows too, and even the ‘empty’ space, with what is called cosmic microwave background (CMB). It is this latter glow that WMAP looks at, with unprecedented clarity.
Recent observations of CMB by WMAP are being hailed, yet again, as proof of the Big Bang theory. But let us be clear about the difference between data and speculation. Journalists, and not a few scientists, have the tendency to conclude too much from cosmology – the attempt to reconstruct the distant history of the cosmos.
In fact, though there is some interaction with data, some astronomers have concluded that cosmology is not science at all, since the historical knowledge sought in cosmology is essentially, by definition, always out of reach. One has, in essence, a snapshot of the way things look at the present, and from this, the CSI team tries to make a just-so story to reconstruct events a week, month, billion years, ago. They try to stretch this as proof of the Big Bang Theory. Given that cosmology has available for investigation only snapshots from the recent time, that repeatable experiments are impossible, it seems preposterous to conclude that any one theoretical reconstruction of the dusty past is ‘fact’. Interesting speculation, perhaps, yes.
But back to our CSI team, now in the court trial- and what does this have to do with whether there is proof of the Big Bang Theory. Perhaps someone is accused and arguments fly like feathers. Someone may be imprisoned. Sometimes the evidence is unclear and it is difficult, perhaps impossible to know what happened. But still, the judgment must be made. The jury might judge inaccurately because they are unduly swayed by prejudice. Or they might judge inaccurately because of insufficient data, or because somebody lied about those data. The lawyers have a story for everything.
I liken this to a jury seeing a few recent pictures of a lovely woman, from which to speculate as to the color socks her grandparents wore the first time they met. How would they tell from the grainy snapshots, the only data available, what color socks her grandparents wore? Were her grandparents conceived in a test tube, or naturally? A lawyer comes with snapshots of the lady’s wrinkles in the best resolution yet, claiming triumphantly that this proves his story. He shows complicated models that run backwards in time, like a reverse Rube Goldberg machine, ending up in pink socks for both. All very impressive. The jury laughs, for to pretend to speak with authority is preposterous. Perhaps they did not wear socks!
However plausible a just-so story sounds, however big the computer used to make it, however twisted things become in the attempt for proof of the Big Bang Theory, everything comes to a grinding halt when … well, when? When a trustworthy eyewitness is found! Our eyewitness is God. And it is even more exciting to know that he’s willing to speak and explain to us what went on! He does not give us the details, but enough details for us to eliminate certain stories that the lawyers manufacture.
God’s Word makes us vicarious observers of what actually did happen. So we do not need to rely on imaginative myths inspired by pagan religions, or even scientific considerations from brilliant men. Without the witness of the past, the most excellent modern cosmological theories science can develop are just so many stimulating speculations.
The details of WMAP’s latest images are lovely and they are, in some sense, an echo of creation. But the debate over whether it was by divine fiat, or by random big bang can’t be resolved by WMAP, for this is not a matter of ‘faith versus reason,’ but a matter of which faith. That is why James Gunn, a founder of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, and a professor at Princeton University, said this: “Cosmology may look like a science, but it isn’t a science.”
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You might also like God’s Creative Work Displayed in the Elephant’s Trunk.
James Wanliss, Ph.D., is Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College, Clinton, SC. He has published over 55 peer-reviewed physics articles, has held the NSF CAREER award, and does research in space science and nonlinear dynamical systems under grants from NASA and NSF. Dr. Wanliss is an ordained ruling elder in his church and he has lectured on diverse topics including homeschooling, global warming, chronobiology, Christian apologetics, Creation, space weather, earthquake dynamics, and the relation of theology to science.
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