A fascinating new scientific theory about the beginning of the universe is now floating around: it’s not billions of years old after all.
The new idea? The universe has eternally existed, and has no beginning.
Until now the dominant scientific view is that, somewhere around 13 billion years ago, there was a single point which exploded (AKA, the “Big Bang”). This explosive moment marked the beginning of the universe– everything that exists was born from a single point they call the “singularity.”
However, some scientists are now saying not so fast. The original theory of the Big Bang is based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but as scientists recently applied some quantum corrections to the model, they walked away with a new theory: the universe has existed forever. A big explosion occurred at some point, yes– but not one that essentially arose out of nothingness, or marked an actual beginning.
Instead, all that exists has always existed, according to the new theory.
This new model is being advanced by Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University and Saurya Das at the University of Lethbridge, and has interesting implications.
According to the Richard Dawkins Foundation, some of the problems or limitations with the old understanding of the Big Bang can now be resolved in the Ali/Das model where the “universe has no beginning and no end.”
EarthSky.org summarizes the implications of the new theory this way:
“[W]ithout the singularity, this model predicts that the universe had no beginning. It existed forever as a kind of quantum potential before collapsing into the hot dense state we call the Big Bang.”
For Christians, the idea that the universe may have always existed alongside God invites us to embrace a slightly different narrative than the narrative where God created everything “out of nothing.” In this new narrative (which isn’t new at all, actually), we’re invited to embrace a story where God isn’t so much a creator of something out of nothing, but a God who tames the chaos of the universe to give order, purpose, and to create beauty.
It’s creating– but a different kind of creating.
Thus, when we read the Genesis poem and see the spirit of God “hovering above the waters” we see a God exploring this eternally existing universe, and seeking ways to tame, create, and spring forth new life.
Certainly, the idea that the universe is eternal with no beginning and no end is just in the scientific hypothesis stage. If it were to become widely accepted however, I don’t think it would be earth shattering for many– but it would be to Young Earth Creationists, such as friends like Ken Ham at Answers in Genesis.
For those of us who grew up in Young Earth Creationism (show of hands?), we know that the name is entirely mislabeled. It’s not just “young earth” we were taught to believe in, but young universe. Everything that exists, from the known to the unknown, is just 7,000-10,000 years old. All beliefs, whether scientific or otherwise, are first filtered through this original assumption. Thus, a young universe is the very foundation that holds the entire worldview together.
Very few worldviews are a house of cards where if one falls, they all fall– but Young Earth Creationism actually is a house of cards (season 4 comes out today, BTW). Those who hold this view are often open about this fact (claiming that for them, if the earth is older than 7-10,000 years, the entire Bible is worthless), which is why they will go to any length to defend it.
This theory of an eternal universe, more than any other scientific idea in history, is the most threatening to that belief system.
Whereas before the discussion was debating a universe that’s a few thousand vs. a few billion years old (you say tomato, I say tomaaato), this one is a game changer– because you can’t get further apart than young universe vs. eternally existing universe.