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Creation 37(3):48–51, July 2015

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Big bang beliefs: busted



The commonly accepted big bang model supposedly determines the history of the universe precisely (see Figure 1). Yet to do so, it is filled with unprovable fudge factors. That may sound like an exaggerated claim, but it seems to be the state of cosmology today.

This situation has come about because the unverifiable starting assumptions are inherently wrong! Some brave physicists have had the temerity to challenge the ruling paradigm—the standard big bang ΛCDM inflation cosmology.1 One of those is Prof. Richard Lieu, Department Chair, Astrophysics, University of Alabama, who wrote:

Cosmology is not even astrophysics: all the principal assumptions in this field are unverified (or unverifiable) in the laboratory … .”2 [emphasis added]

He goes on to say that this is “because the Universe offers no control experiment, …” He means that the same observations can be interpreted in several different ways. Because there are no other universes to compare ours with, you can’t determine absolutely which is the correct answer. That means, we do not know what a typical universe should look like. As a result cosmologists today are inventing all sorts of stuff that has just the right properties to make their theories work, but it is stuff that has never been observed in the lab. They have become “comfortable with inventing unknowns to explain the unknown”, says Lieu.

Figure 1. Alleged history of the universe.

Dark matter and dark energy

Cosmologists tell us we live in a universe filled with invisible, unobserved stuff—about 74% dark energy and 22% dark matter (see Figure 2). But what is this stuff that we cannot detect yet should be all around us? Only 4% of the matter/energy content of the Universe is supposed to be the ordinary atoms that we are familiar with.

In June 2013, after the release of the first results from the Planck satellite, the fractions of dark energy and dark matter were significantly changed to 68% dark energy and 27% dark matter, leaving 5% normal atomic matter.3

Yet we are told that now we are in a period of precision cosmology.4 But we see a total disagreement between the determination of these fractions from high redshift supernova measurements and Planck CMB measurements. Even the claimed errors do not help the values to coincide.5

For 40 years, one form or another of dark matter has been sought in the laboratory, e.g. the axion (named after a popular US brand of laundry detergent, because they thought its discovery would clean up some problems with particle physics). Recently a claim was made alleging the detection of a dark matter particle in a lab experiment, but that claim requires rigorous verification.6

Figure 2. Alleged mass/energy content of universe3

Now we also have dark energy— some sort of anti-gravity that is supposedly driving the universe apart at an even faster pace than in the past. It was reported that,

“It is an irony of nature that the most abundant form of energy in the universe is also the most mysterious. Since the breakthrough discovery that the cosmic expansion is accelerating, a consistent picture has emerged indicating that two-thirds of the cosmos is made of ‘dark energy’—some sort of gravitationally repulsive material.”7 [emphasis added]

Supposedly, dark energy is a confirmed fact. But does the evidence confirm that the universal expansion is accelerating? They are right about the irony; even though this energy is allegedly so abundant, it cannot be observed locally in the laboratory. In 2011, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for the discovery of the accelerating universe, which means dark energy must be real stuff (it would seem that science’s ‘gatekeepers’ can’t ever renege on that now). But it has no correspondence to anything we know in the laboratory today, which hardly makes sense.

As Lieu points out,

“… astronomical observations can never by themselves be used to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ a physical theory. This is because we live in only one Universe—the indispensible ‘control experiment’ is not available.”8

There is no way to interact with and get a response from the Universe to test the theory under question, as an experimentalist might do in a laboratory experiment. At most, the cosmologist collects as much data as he can, and uses statistical arguments to try to show that his conclusion is likely. Says Lieu (emphasis added):

“Hence the promise of using the Universe as a laboratory from which new incorruptible physical laws may be established without the support of laboratory experiments is preposterous …”.8

Unknowns to explain unknowns

Lieu lists five evidences where cos­mologists use ‘unknowns’ to explain ‘unknowns’, and hence he says they are not really doing astrophysics. Yet these evidences are claimed to be all explained (and in the case of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB)9 radiation even predicted10) by the ΛCDM inflation model of the big bang. None of them are based on laboratory experiments, and they are unlikely to ever be explained this way. The ‘unknowns’ in the lab (meaning not known to physics today) are listed in italics. They are:

  1. The redshift of light from galaxies, explained by expansion of space,11
  2. The Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, explained as the afterglow of the Big Bang,
  3. The perceived motion of stars and gases in the disks of spiral galaxies,12 explained by dark matter,
  4. Distant supernovae 13 being dimmer than they should be, hence an accelerating universe, explained by dark energy,
  5. Flatness (space has Euclidean geometry) and isotropy (uniformity in all directions), explained by faster-than-light inflation (see box)

As an experimentalist, I know the standards used in so-called ‘cosmology experiments’ would never pass muster in my lab. Yet it has been said we are now living in the era of ‘precision cosmology’.14

Cosmologist Max Tegmark said,

“… 30 years ago, cosmology was largely viewed as somewhere out there between philosophy and metaphysics. You could speculate over a bunch of beers about what happened, and then you could go home, because there wasn’t a whole lot else to do.” [But now they are closing in on a] “consistent picture of how the universe evolved from the earliest moment to the present.”4

How can that be true if none of Lieu’s five observations listed above can be explained by ‘knowns’? They have been explained by resorting to ‘unknowns’ with a sleight of hand that allows the writer to say, ‘We are closing in on the truth.’

What this leads to

I recall Nobel Laureate Steven Chu speaking to a large gathering of high school children on the occasion of the Australian Institute of Physics National Congress at the Australian National University in Canberra in 2005. He said that we now understand nearly all there is to know about the Universe, except for a few small details; like what is dark energy and dark matter which [allegedly] make up 96% of the stuff in the Universe.

Cosmologists may have their objectives—to shore up their faith in a model based on false and unverifiable assumptions—but it is a leaky bucket that cannot hold back the evidence that ultimately will be published against it.

The fact is that the history of the universe cannot be determined from a model which cannot be independently tested. And many fudge factors are needed for the present model to describe the observations. The Big Bang cosmology is verified in the minds of those who already hold to that belief—that the Universe created itself about 14 billion years ago—ex nihilo. To me the biblical big picture is far more believable—we are only left to fill in the details.

Why the big bang needs faster-than-light inflation to work

Inflation is the extremely rapid exponential expansion of the early universe by a factor of at least 1078 in volume, driven by a negative-pressure vacuum energy density. The inflationary epoch comprises the first part of the electroweak epoch following the grand unification epoch. It supposedly lasted from 10−36 seconds after the big bang to sometime between 10−33 and 10−32 seconds. Following the inflationary period, the universe continued to expand, but at a slower rate.

Inflation is invoked because the big bang would otherwise not explain the observations. There are two1 main problems for an inflation-free big bang:

  1. Flatness’: the fact that all we ever measure in the universe is Euclidean, i.e. space is not curved. This depends on the mass density represented by Ω (capital omega). Ω > 1 means that the universe has enough mass to cause an eventual collapse, and it would have elliptical geometry or positively curved space. Ω < 1 means it would expand forever, which entails negative curvature or hyperbolic geometry. However, the observations show flatness, which means Ω = 1—the density is minutely below the threshold required for collapse. This is a cosmological fine-tuning problem, where the force of the expansion matched the force of gravity to one part in 1060. Furthermore, since the universe has departed from the needed critical density over cosmic time, it must have been even closer to perfect flatness soon after the big bang.

  2. Horizon problem: light has not had enough time since the big bang to travel between what should be causally coherent regions of the visible universe, which means they are not causally connected (i.e. beyond the ‘horizon’). For example, light from diametrically opposite sides of the Universe. Then why is it generally isotropic in every direction we look? This is particularly true for the temperature of CMB radiation where we see the same thing—the Universe is isotropic, the same in all directions to within 1 part in 100,000. This is called the smoothness problem and it is even more incredible, because as the Universe expanded, the isotropy supposedly lessened, starting at the level of 1 part in 1040.

However, there is no good mechanism to cause this faster-than-light expansion, or to stop it once it began. And the infamous ‘Higgs Boson’ or ‘God particle’, is incompatible with the version of inflation allowed by recent investigations.2,3 However that version of inflation may have won a reprieve because the claimed detection has formally been found to be wrong.4 However, misguided Christians who believe in the big bang must desperately defend inflation.5

References and notes

  1. Many cosmologists point to a third major problem: the lack of magnetic monopoles. These are hypothetical particles containing a north pole but not a south pole, etc. and many models of particle physics predict that they should be formed in the initial enormous temperatures of the big bang. However, the lack of a hypothetical particle is not such convincing evidence for a hypothetical model.
  2. Fairbairn, M. and Hogan, R., Electroweak Vacuum Stability in Light of BICEP2, Physical Review Letters 112:201801, 20 May 2014 | doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.201801. See also Should the Higgs boson have caused our Universe to collapse? Royal Astronomical Society, ras.org.uk, 24 June 2014.
  3. Hartnett, J.G., Inflation—all in the ‘Dark’: The Higgs boson messes with cosmic inflation, creation.com/inflation-higgs, 31 July 2014.
  4. Hartnett, J.G., New study confirms BICEP2 detection of cosmic inflation wrong, creation.com/inflation-wrong, 5 February 2015.
  5. Hartnett, J.G., The big bang is not a Reason to Believe! creation.com/bang-not-reason, 20 May 2014.

References and notes

  1. ΛCDM = cold dark matter cosmology with a non-zero cosmological constant, that also involves a faster-than-light Inflation stage to smooth out the clumpiness of the early density variations and solve numerous other problems, including the lack of monopoles etc. For further details see box and Lisle, J., Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang, Creation 25(4):48–49, 2003; creation.com/lighttravel. Return to text.
  2. Lieu, R., ΛCDM cosmology: how much suppression of credible evidence, and does the model really lead its competitors, using all evidence? 17 May 2007; arxiv.org/pdf/0705.2462v1.pdf. Return to text.
  3. Cosmologist have changed their fractions of the mass/energy content of the Universe since this graphic was made. From June 2013 they claim 68% dark energy, 27% dark matter and 5% normal atomic matter. See https://darkmatterdarkenergy.com/2013/06/18/more-dark-matter-first-planck-results/. Return to text.
  4. Tegmark M., Precision Cosmology (lecture), MIT World, 7 June 2008. Return to text.
  5. Hartnett, J.G., Claimed dark matter ‘find’ won’t help end ‘big bang’ crisis, creation.com/dark-matter-crisis, 25 January 2014. Return to text.
  6.  See Table I and Fig. 1 in “A missing neutrino–dark radiation;” https://biblescienceforum.com/2014/09/25/a-missing-neutrino-dark-radiation. Return to text.
  7. Caldwell, R.R., Dark energy, Physics World—the member magazine of the Institute of Physics, 29 May 2004; physicsworld.com. Return to text.
  8. Lieu, Ref. 2. Return to text.
  9. CMB=cosmic microwave background radiation. See also Hartnett, J., The Big Bang fails another test, creation.com/cmb, 15 September 2006. Return to text.
  10. But for the logical and scientific fallacies of this claim, see Sarfati, J., Nobel Prize for alleged big bang proof, creation.com/bigbangnobel, 8 October 2006. Return to text.
  11. The metric expansion of space is the increase of the distance between two distant parts of the universe with time. It is an intrinsic expansion whereby the scale of space itself is changed. That is, a metric expansion is defined by an increase in distance between parts of the universe even without those parts “moving” anywhere. Return to text.
  12. The speeds of gases (and stars) in the outer regions of the disk in spiral galaxies are inferred from Doppler line redshifts or blueshifts and they don’t obey Kepler’s laws of motion as predicted by Newton’s law of gravitation. Because those ‘speeds’ are anomalous I use the word ‘perceived’ here as it is an interpretation of the observational data, yet I am not saying it is an unreasonable one, but that it is unproven. Return to text.
  13. Supernova = exploding star. A certain class, type Ia, is used as a standard light source to measure distance in the cosmos. Return to text.
  14. For example, Ellis, R., New age of precision cosmology, physicsworld.com, 1 July 1999; Primack, J.R., Precision Cosmology, New Astron. Rev. 49:25–34, 2005. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Jonathan D.
Thank you for a wonderful article! It is real and relevant. Cosmology is one of the fields that has charged on over the past few decades, mostly unhindered and unchallenged, due to its "grand and mysterious" nature. As a student of cosmology (I completed a Master's degree in Cosmology, Astrophysics and Relativity in 2004), despite my interest in the subject, it always seemed to me like there was a significant amount of "magic" and hand-waving involved. I had not yet learned of the concept of a YEC, and so I just assumed the Big Bang cosmology and associated theories were the describing science of Genesis 1. I didn't yet understand the theological falacies of the Big Bang. But I was always dissatisfied by the science of cosmology, both in terms of introducing so many unknowns, and in its inability to explain fundamental concepts. For example, the "Big Bang science" takes us back to the tiniest fraction of a second after the beginning, but absolutely cannot go all the way back to t=0. I would say, as opposed to our Something Holy in which we place our faith, Big Bang science is something holey to put faith in, and dissatisfying to say the least. Thank you for bringing a valid and relevant challenge to cosmology, and for continuing to uphold and defend the Word of God. I would absolutely love to assist in your endeavors in whatever ways possible. Please contact me if I could be of any assistance!
Luke F.
Dr. Hartnett, thank you for this article. It helped me grasp a few concepts I have struggled to understand before. I have a question; you talk about us not being able to experimentally verify these unknowns in cosmology, but is there any substance to the idea that they have a "best fit" for the evidence? And if we do change the initial assumptions, as you claim, do we also have equal footing to say that we have a best/better fit for the evidence? Could we put our cosmology side by side with theirs and show a better model? Thanks
Jerry M.
What sold me--4 or 5 yrs ago--was a published story where Radio-Telescopes "Discovered a 80 Billion Light-Year 'Hole' on 1-side of the Universe"-! (It completely "Blows" the "Explosion of equal-sided radians of force" in a Vacuum-!) If it had only been 80 billion miles--'they' might of--"had a chance"-!
Andrew P.
Dark matter has been detected: neutrinos fit the definition of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, as they have such small probabilities of interacting with atomic matter that it takes several moles of neutrinos to achieve the same probability of a single interaction as a single neutron or photon. Though individually nearly massless and invisible to matter, the sheer number of neutrinos surrounding us makes it possible to detect them, and makes their combined energy a significant component of the mass of the Universe.

Likewise, Massive Compact Halo Objects are quite ordinary matter. They are planetary and sub-planetary bodies, producing little or no light, and so hard to detect. To these, we add black holes, neutron stars, and brown dwarfs, which also emit little or no light, despite their mass.

Neither should the existence of dark energy be any surprise to Christians. After all, the Bible say, "The heavens are stretched out like a curtain." Dark energy is the energy of the vacuum state, less than 1 microjoule per cubic meter, distributed uniformly. Only because of the vastness of space are we able to observe its effects. Even so, were this tremendous amount of energy somehow liberated, "the elements shall be consumed by fire." The decay of the vacuum state, unleashing the tremendous amount of energy stored in it, could very well be the means by which the Lord transforms the Universe at the end of the age.
John Hartnett
Neutrinos have been considered as a candidate dark matter particle. But because of their extremely small mass (< 1 eV), the three known neutrinos travel near the speed of light and are thus too “hot” (i.e. have too much energy) to comprise Cold Dark Matter (CDM). Cosmologist and astrophysicists need a cold dense form of matter that does not interact with electromagnetic energy but which can form into a halo around galaxies and in clusters to hold them together. It would be simply false to state categorically that neutrino are cold dark matter. There is another alleged neutrino -- the putative sterile neutrino -- which some believe could be the source of dark radiation, but still that would not be dark matter. See Dark radiation in big bang cosmology.

On MACHOs, very few were ever detected by the MACHO survey. On their own "MACHO Project Overview & Status" website they write: "Our primary aim is to test the hypothesis that a significant fraction of the dark matter in the halo of the Milky Way is made up of objects like brown dwarfs or planets: these objects have come to be known as MACHOs, for MAssive Compact Halo Objects. The signature of these objects is the occasional amplification of the light from extragalactic stars by the gravitational lens effect. ... We have taken ~27,000 images with this system since June 1992. Analysis of a subset of these data has yielded databases containing light curves in two colors for 8 million stars in the LMC and 10 million in the bulge of the Milky Way. A search for microlensing has turned up four candidates toward the Large Magellanic Cloud and 45 toward the Galactic Bulge."

I personally know the leader of the MACHO project and he has told me that MACHOs are no longer expected to comprise much of the dark matter content of the Galaxy.

On Dark Energy: The calculation of the vacuum energy content of the universe and that from big bang cosmology are different by 120 orders of magnitude. This is called the cosmological constant problem. It is the biggest discrepancy ever encountered in physics when theory was compared with an observational/experimental result. There currently is no agreement what dark energy is. Some think it is an evolving scalar field, others believe it to be a universal constant. But no one knows what it is. It behaves like nothing ever experienced in physics. It is only derived from cosmology and has no experimental laboratory support.

Some big bang cosmologists have shown that it is not even necessary if you allow for a non-uniform density of matter as a function of epoch in the universe. You can still have an accelerating expansion but dark energy is not needed. In the article "Explaining the accelerating expansion of the universe without dark energy" on the UK Royal astronomical Society website it says, "The researchers believe that standard models of the universe fail to take account of its changing structure, but that once this is done the need for dark energy disappears."

Others do away with both acceleration and dark energy. A recent study by Subir Sarkar of Oxford University (and I am sure he is a big bang believer) found that if you use all the currently available data no acceleration of the expansion of the universe is needed, hence there is no need to assume dark energy. They used type Ia supernova data more than ten times the original sample size. They found that the evidence for acceleration may be flimsier than previously thought, with the data being consistent with a constant rate of expansion of the universe. See my article "Now the expansion of the universe is not accelerating" on the Bible Science Forum website for more information.
jan J.
I think with the Big Bang the secular world has pretty much reached the end of the road. The Steady State universe has been discredited, digital simulation is too speculative and supernatural is a definite no no. The scientists will continue to express their doubts but then there’s not much else to suggest instead. So the Big Bang patched and re-patched is here to stay and to be taught as a fact.
A. S.
Great article. This clearly illustrates how not just cosmology, but I would suggest much of science, bases their conclusions on speculation. How true are Paul's words to Timothy, written almost 2,000 years ago, about the “oppositions of science falsely so called” (I Timothy 6:20). This is in stark contrast to the captive children of Israel in Babylon who were “skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science” (Daniel 1:4) and thereby eventually glorified God.

So, there are “profane and vain babblings” of “false science” in order to explain away the facts regarding God and His wonderful creation, or there is the witness of "true science" whose conclusions always point to the Creator of the universe and all that is in it—including us.
Jonathan Sarfati
Thank you for your generous comments on Dr Hartnett’s article. See also this discussion about 1 Timothy 6:20.
Gary C.
Not so fast ! "However, misguided Christians who believe in the big bang must desperately defend inflation."
It seems to me that the Science World and Creationists (myself) are still coming to terms, and trying to figure out the implications of an "Event Horizon" as Hawking attempts to describe.
There was nothing... then there is something... in a totally new realm. In any attempt to describe or understand we have to admit there was some form of acceleration, or expansion... don't we ?
John H.
It is often asserted that the Big Bang model is a scientific ‘fact’. I like to repeatedly point out that the Big Bang can never ever be regarded as a ‘fact’ when over 95% of the ‘fact’ that makes up the Big Bang model is still missing and undetected—Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

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