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The singularity—a ‘Dark’ beginning

Did the universe form spontaneously from nothing?


Published: 15 July 2014 (GMT+10)
“The universe burst into something from absolutely nothing––zero, nada. And as it got bigger, it became filled with even more stuff that came from absolutely nowhere. How is that possible? Ask Alan Guth. His theory of inflation helps explain everything.”—front cover of the April 2002 issue of Discover magazine.
Figure 1: The first several hundred million years after the big bang is when the universe was in its Dark Ages. No ionized hydrogen meant that no sources of light were available during that period. Larger image available from www.astro.caltech.edu/~george/reion/.

“Spontaneous creation of the universe from nothing”1 is the title of a 2014 paper authored by He, Gao and Cai, published in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review D, one of America’s most prestigious journals dealing with physical theory. It purports to outline a so-called mathematical proof that the universe did indeed burst into something from nothing.

There is also a website extolling the wonders of this discovery in an item titled, ‘A Mathematical Proof That The Universe Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing’ with the subtitle, ‘Cosmologists assume that natural quantum fluctuations allowed the Big Bang to happen spontaneously. Now they have a mathematical proof.’2

That website lists the evidence in support of the big bang cosmogony:

  1. the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation often claimed as an ‘echo of the big bang’ or ‘fossil radiation’ from that explosion;3
  2. the expansion of the cosmos or space itself, which, when imagined by extrapolating it backwards, suggests its origin in a big bang, i.e. a dimensionless point or a singularity;4 and
  3. the abundances of the primordial elements, such as hydrogen, helium-4, helium-3, deuterium and a few others, can all be calculated using the theory.5

Evolutionary cosmology is very much like evolutionary biology which tries to establish the origin of all living things over the past 3.8 billion years by an appeal to circumstantial evidence. The strongest parallel I see here is the fossils in the sedimentary layers that are supposed to represent millions to billions of years of history, yielding a sequence of organisms that allegedly evolved one from another over time.

This ‘fossil radiation’ (the CMB) is meant to be the leftover radiation from the big bang fireball, called the ‘last scattering surface’, after which light was freed from being trapped in the hot plasma, and travelled unimpeded throughout the universe. The expansion of space and the elemental abundances are more such circumstantial evidence. Though the CMB radiation was a prediction of George Gamow in 1948 (at 5 K later revised to 50 K) in support of the big bang, the elemental abundances could hardly be claimed as one. This is because the hydrogen/helium ratio for the universe had already been measured and was well known before Gamow’s students Alpher and Herman calculated what they should be, using a knowledge of declassified nuclear parameters after the close of World War II. This has been more correctly called a post-diction.

But there remains a truly huge puzzle. If there ever were a big bang, what caused it to bang? What started it off in the first place? For many years, cosmologists have believed that the universe just formed spontaneously, that the big bang was the result of some quantum fluctuations in which the universe just popped into existence from nothing. And I mean nothing; no space, no time, no energy, nothing.

The authors write in their article (bold emphases added):

“…we present such a proof based on the analytic solutions of the Wheeler-DeWitt equation…once a small true vacuum bubble is created by quantum fluctuations of the metastable false vacuum, it can expand exponentially no matter whether the bubble is closed, flat or open.”6

The proof they offer is a mathematical one. It is not the type of proof you might be expecting where a physical theory has been tested by development of a hypothesis which then is tested by an experiment through predictions the model makes. Not at all. In this case it relies totally on the unproven assumption that the mathematical model used somehow describes the universe an extremely short while after the big bang expansion was supposed to have begun. It also relies on the assumption that the real universe can be described by the mathematics and physical laws they assume in a putative past epoch where it is impossible to test anything.

The new approach extends the work of John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt who developed a mathematical formalism, combining general relativity and quantum mechanics, in an effort to develop a quantum gravity theory for the early universe. This resulted in the famous Wheeler-DeWitt equation (WDWE),


Here the parameter a is the scale factor for the universe in a minisuperspace model; k is the spatial curvature, chosen as 1, 0, or-1 for positive (closed and finite), flat (Euclidean and infinite) or negative (open and infinite) bubbles respectively; and ψ is the wave function for the bubble universe. There is an infinite number of potential solutions, and additional information is needed to solve it for a particular system.

This model assumes the total energy content of the universe is zero, i.e. sum up all the matter and all forms of energy in the universe and the total will be zero. So it has been famously said that the big bang is the ‘ultimate free lunch’.

Paul Davies wrote:

“So science has done away with the need for a button-pushing creator who lives for eternity before making a Universe at a certain moment in time.”7

This new paper carries on the work of people like Hartle and Hawking8 who in 1983 mathematically showed that it is possible for time to be bounded in the past without there being a specific first moment. This comes from Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. It indicates that there is a sort of fuzziness to the beginning of time and space. In this way time takes on an imaginary quality and becomes a spatial coordinate. And they claim that the universe had many possible histories and we sample some of them, but none is unique.

What He et al. have done is mathematically show that once a small true vacuum bubble is created, it has a chance to expand exponentially, creating the observed universe. Note the use of the word ‘chance’. So you must understand they are talking about an ensemble of probable universes that might result from their model. Quantum theory deals only with probabilities of realising a possible outcome and in this sense the probability of a universe like ours might be very small indeed.

The obvious fact that this is mathematics and not testable on the real universe—the problem of cosmic variance—is not dealt with. That is the problem of the need to take an ensemble of real universes and see what the likely outcome of many possible creation episodes might be.

This new claim of spontaneous creation from nothing described by the WDWE is only valid for a > 0. The fact that the scale factor is positive and non-zero means this approach is only valid in a metastable quantum vacuum, i.e. such a vacuum must already exist. And this formulation presupposes the existence of the laws of physics, which are used in the derivation of the equation in the first instance.

So, as elegant as it might seem, the He et al. approach has not done away with a first cause. It has only assumed, quite explicitly actually, a certain form of the Hamiltonian for a bubble universe,


A Hamiltonian is the operator that corresponds to the total (kinetic and potential) energy in the system. In their universe the Hamiltonian is assumed to equal zero, i.e. that there is no energy there in the beginning, nothing! Their approach makes the presumption to use the current laws of physics. Also the analysis only applies in an ‘existing’ state as the scale factor is assumed to be time dependent and always non-zero.

The appeal to existing physics does not end there. To get an understanding of how the bubble universe explodes into the real universe a guidance relation is added. This comes from Bohmian quantum theory, by analogy with nonrelativistic particle physics and quantum field theory in flat space-time, where quantum trajectories are obtained. This ultimately tells you how the quantum potential changes as the bubble exponentially expands.

But for a universe like ours to come into existence by itself, without a Creator, it must create its own laws of physics as well as generate space and time and matter and energy from nothing, not from a pre-existing quantum vacuum, metastable or not. Even with their approach, the appearance of a universe would still require a pre-existing, intelligent agency/power.

No doubt their solution to this is to say that an infinite number of universes could probabilistically be created from the vacuum and it is only in this one that these laws of physics apply, etc. But that does not solve it because then you could not claim that all the laws used to explain this universe also explain the others of the multiverse coming into existence. How could you justify using our laws of physics to describe another universe where you have no knowledge of its physics? And you could not use our current laws to generate all those other universes which have different laws. It is sort of a Malmquist bias9 in choice of physics.

For others the solution to the problem of the first cause for this universe is:10

… that the universe is a three-dimensional “membrane” floating through a four-dimensional “bulk universe”.

They invoke higher dimensions and String theory to explain how their universe began and why it is. This is an appeal to new physics way beyond what we know now and can even hope to test experimentally, because it involves many more dimensions and takes place in some hypothetical past epoch and space.

This approach has been proposed with M theory, a form of String theory in as many as 11 dimensions (or even 28 in one form). Famously Leonard Susskind labelled the “M” in M theory as meaning ‘monstrous’. M Theory and its cousin, String theory, are not physics but mathematics, which lack any predictive power in the real world and hence are untestable. This seems to me to be a grab for a solution, to find an uncaused cause, because the big bang (with its unbiblical sequence of events) needs a first cause.

For the last 40 years String theory has gone on without a single experimental test or astronomical observation to verify any prediction. I once asked Prof. James Gates (Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland) what he would say if no verifiable test of String theory were ever achieved. He answered that he would have just wasted the past 40 years of his life.

So, what caused the universe to explode? Alan Guth says:11

“In spite of the fact that we call it the big bang theory, ah, it really says absolutely nothing about the big bang. Ah, it doesn’t tell us what banged, why it banged, what caused it to bang. Ah, it doesn’t even describe—it doesn’t really allow us to predict what the conditions are immediately after this big bang.”

Paul Davies adds (bold emphases added):12

“Yet the laws [of physics] that permit a Universe to create itself are even more impressive than a cosmic magician. If there is a meaning or purpose beneath physical existence, then it is to those laws rather than to the big bang that we should direct our attention.”

‘Worship the creation’ is what comes across; the new religion of the scientific elite.

Some professing Christians have unwisely said this big bang creator must have been God, the biblical Creator. He started it off. Many such ideas have Him as a very impotent god, who had nothing much to do after that. It seems they are proposing Him as some sort of ‘god of the gaps.’ Modern big bang theory is an attempt to describe the universe without the Creator. It has no God. Therefore the universe supposedly begins in not only physical darkness (the Dark Ages occurring before the Reionization Era where galaxies were created, with the aid of dark matter, see Figure 1) but also spiritual darkness without any Creator.

Don’t be taken in by the technical bluff and bluster of the big bang proponents. It is not science in the usual repeatable laboratory experimental sense and it is very weak as one can never be certain one’s model actually describes reality. This is story-telling at its best. Figure 1 illustrates the story that is told, but all of it after the universe has begun. How did it begin?

The big God theory, from Genesis chapter 1 in the Bible, describes the origin of the universe as the work of the Creator (see Psalm 19:1), who has a great interest in His Creation. He divided the light from the darkness, which has both physical and spiritual meaning. The darkness later in the Creation symbolized those wicked angels and humans who rebelled against His wise counsel. The Creator is a God whom we can know personally. He is the great I AM, who was always there, the uncreated First Cause, and we can trust what He says, because He never lies (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2). He says He created the universe, in a particular historical sequence that differs from big bang philosophy. And there is nothing in the observations of the cosmos which is inconsistent with that account. I believe Him because He does not lie.

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. D. He, D. Gao, and Q-yu Cai, Spontaneous creation of the universe from nothing, Physical Review D, 89, 083510 (2014); arxiv.org/pdf/1404.1207v1.pdf. Return to text.
  2. See medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/ed7ed0f304a3. Return to text.
  3. The expansion is not considered amongst cosmologists to be an explosion; more on that is planned in a later article. The CMB radiation is claimed as a prediction of the big bang model, though it is now acknowledged that McKellar measured it in 1941 before Gamow made his prediction (at a temperature of 5 K) in 1948 and before Penzias and Wilson discovered it again in 1964/1965 (at 3 K). Robert Dicke, P. J. E. Peebles, P. G. Roll, and D. T. Wilkinson interpret this radiation as a signature of the big bang. In 1952 Gamow predicted a temperature of 50 K (See A. McKellar, J. Kan-Mitchell, P.S. Conti, (1941). “Molecular Lines from the Lowest States of Diatomic Molecules Composed of Atoms Probably Present in Interstellar Space”, Publication of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (Victoria, BC) 7(6): 251–272. Gamow, G. (2004) [1961], The Creation of the Universe, Courier Dover Publications, New York, p. 40, 1961, 2004. Return to text.
  4. A later article is planned to deal with the issue of the expansion of space. Return to text.
  5. This is often claimed as a prediction of the big bang nucleosynthesis theory. Return to text.
  6. Ref. 1. Return to text.
  7. Davies, P., Is the Universe a free lunch?, 3 March 1996; independent.co.uk. Return to text.
  8. The Hartle and Hawking No-Boundary Proposal, web.uvic.ca. Return to text.
  9. Malmquist bias is an effect in observational astronomy which leads to the preferential detection of intrinsically bright objects. The parallel is that if humans are able to describe the laws in another universe they are naturally biased to use our current laws to describe them. But if there is no God and those universes were randomly created with arbitrary laws why would our laws work in any sort of a description? The theorist has no choice and can only see those universes through our current laws of physics. Return to text.
  10. Has the Big Bang theory been busted?, 18 September 2013, news.com.au. Return to text.
  11. Alan Guth, Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at MIT, “Before, Meanwhile and After the BIG BANG—(M-Theory)”, youtube.com/watch?v=HOkAagw6iug, 11 September 2007. Return to text.
  12. Ref. 7. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Paul S.
The article stating the [big bang universe] started by itself from absolutely nothing is not within the bounds of real science and math. The basis for [that] article is junk science and junk mathematics. You see in science all is based on established laws. [That] is based on unproven theories. The amount of energy it would take for the [big bang universe to come into existence] is close to 10 to the power infinity. This is a number so high that it is also beyond scientific laws. That being said I am a life long Christian who has spent a goodly amount of time apposing Darwinian evolution. (Edited.)
John Hartnett
Paul, I hope you don't mind, but when reading your comment I realized the readers might misunderstand what you were referring to, so I replaced in square brackets, your word 'evolution' with 'big bang universe' etc as shown. I would not refer to the origin in the big bang 'explosion' as evolution. We can use the term 'evolution' in a cosmic sense when we speak of change of elemental abundances, growth of structure, formation of stars and galaxies, even expansion of the universe, but the spontaneous origin of the universe from nothing is not evolution but a miracle without a Miracle Maker, in their worldview.
Geoff C. W.
I very much enjoyed this article and the comments. I particularly liked:
"I will spot them all the absolute nothingness they want, and if they can produce even one atom, one molecule, then I'll lend an ear :>)" (it made me LOL), and
"It has been said that Christianity is a crutch for people who are afraid of the dark. The truth is, atheism is a crutch for people who are afraid of the Light." Excellent.
For my part, I'd like to suggest that, philosophically, if something has remained unchanged for infinite time, or for infinite anything, it stands to reason that it will continue to remain that way, n'est-ce pas? For if we say that it changed after infinite time plus one day, we are wrong - that is still just infinite time, and it did not change in infinite time. Hence, the origin of the universe had to be through an external influence.
Andrew M.
Is it my imagination, or is this mathematical universe far more complicated than the observable universe? Anyhow, when there are not just degrees of freedom, but an infinite number of universes of freedom, then the chance that the model means anything at all approaches zero.
Jim G.
The evolution answer to me seems like what I will call, "Cart Pushing" (perhaps this is already a labeled logical fallacy, but I like my name better! :). You drum up ridiculous ideas to explain origins (pushing the horse cart) rather than simply accepting the simplest, most obvious choice (the horse standing right next to you)! What do you think? Seriously, like others have said on here already, it is amazing what desperation for godless selfishness will drive thinking, sensible people to believe!
Hiskia M.
I quickly Google'd the earth's population: 7.046 billion (2012). That's the amount of souls, not just numbers!! Sometimes I keep thinking why is it so long for Jesus' second coming, then I picture in my mind Him crying from above, seeing how preposterous, rebellious, pretentious, and self-fulfilling we became. We failed to understand His patience and forged ourselves with evils. God please save us from ourselves; our stubbornness is more than Israel's, our blindness is more than the blind. We need Your universal love, not Your universal wrath.

Keep upholding CMI for the blessed work and your indispensable intelligence support. Let's pray for our fellow brothers and others. Let's support one another to prepare us for Jesus' second coming.
Seathrun M.
Dear Sir,
The attempt to provide a plausible mathematical "proof" for such a theory reminds me of examples of false mathematical proofs discussed by my maths teacher at school. The first one was the case of a race between a hare and a tortoise where the tortoise is given a 100m start and we assume that the hare runs ten times as fast as the tortoise. Then we proceed to deduce that:
when the hare has run the 100 metres, the tortoise will still be 10m ahead;
when the hare has run those 10m, tortoise will still be 1m ahead;
when the hare has run that 1m, the tortoise will still be 0.1m (= 10cm) ahead.
We then conclude that the hare will be constantly closing the gap but will never actually overtake the tortoise!
The maths seems sound, but any practical experiment will disprove this so-called "proof" - as will most people's common sense!
His second example concerns an apparent proof that 1=2, but this is not only false but rests on flawed assumptions: as near as I remember it involved infinity and it seems that somehow infinity+1= infinity+2 - which is not an everyday case!
His point was that seemingly sound mathematics does not always result in correct conclusions!
God bless your important work,
Larry K.
Thank you Dr. Hartnett for your physics based creation cosmology. Your articles are an invaluable defense against the atheist claim that the universe created itself out of nothing. Also, you provide insight into what the actual observable data confirms, refuting their "fossil" evidence for the big bang. I eagerly look forward to reading more of your articles, as well as every CMI article I receive daily. Thanks CMI for your ministry!
Curtis C.
All these imaginary "something from nothing" arguments fail in a way that to me is so obvious, it's almost shocking they don't think of it (but not that shocking, knowing Romans 1) -- if anything can come into existence with no cause, then why not God? Why not infinite, beyond our universe's linear time, alive, infinite thinking ability (so infallible), etc.? If they were to take the underlying premise behind all of these attempts to its logical conclusion, that conclusion is God. (The God of the Bible as proven with the prophecies, miracles, etc.)

I'm not saying God used any of these methods -- not at all -- but that their own reasoning does not validly lead to atheism, even though that is their emotional goal. And so all such arguments are doomed to failure from the start. They can dress them up with technical terms and math all they want, but the logic of it will fail every time.
John Hartnett
"He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end." Ecclesiastes 3:11
Kenneth L.
Thanks, Dr. Hartnett, for this article and others you have written, and your lectures on DVD from which I have learned much about the universe, and the fallacy of futile attempts to explain how NOTHING could create matter, energy and the laws that govern them. Truly, the proponents of these untestable theories are floundering in the dark, worshipping NOTHING as their creator. No wonder they are "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." II Tim 3:7

I suspect that, any time now, an announcement will be made that esoteric 'evidence' or 'proof' of multiple universes has been discovered. And just as in the recent case of such 'evidence' for big bang 'inflation', there will be great media fanfare to ensure that the public will accept this 'evidence' as 'scientific proof' that God doesn't exist. And the public will accept is as such, because 'all' the scientists will say it is true.

Then, scientists like yourself will critique this new fabulous 'discovery' with logic and evidence that doesn't fit the narrative, but by then the secular media will have already ensured that the science community and the public have been indoctrinated in the paradigm of the multiverse, so anyone daring to challenge this paradigm will be labeled as an eccentric or worse, a crackpot, as usual.

True science investigates and debates without prejudice in a sincere effort to uncover truth about the natural realm. Today's secular science establishment suppresses data that doesn't fit the atheist narrative.

It has been said that Christianity is a crutch for people who are afraid of the dark. The truth is, atheism is a crutch for people who are afraid of the Light. The dark doesn't appeal to me, but I am not afraid of it, because I walk in the Light, the Lord Jesus Christ.
John Hartnett
A very nice assessment indeed!
John S.
They are showing their entire hand. “So science has done away with the need for a button-pushing creator who lives for eternity before making a Universe at a certain moment in time." Why would a scientist have any need of this thought, let alone to make this statement? The motive of doing away with God, which is often invoked by Christians, is laid out in full view. So much for allowing science to lead to truth, these men and women have their own truth in mind and cause (rather try to cause) Science to be their servant and do as they please.

I will spot them all the absolute nothingness they want, and if they can produce even one atom, one molecule, then I'll lend an ear :>)
Besides the question of how did the laws of physics and mathematics arise from nothingness, we have the evidence of every observation and experiment through all history (plus just plain common sense) that you never get something from nothing, let alone an almost infinite amount of material.
Sandor P.
Am I right, that in this case the atheistic creation myth starts like:

"In the beginning was the law of quantum mechanics in the form of M theory. Through it all things were made; without it nothing was made that has been made. In it was life, as this law is essential for life as we know it..."

It is funny that their creator is in fact an eternal non-material entity, essentially information...
Todd B.
Talk about paleo babbling...I've never heard so much eloquent verbalization of nothingness! The lengths some will go to deny a creator. If they can explain away God...they also have the explain away the historical evidences for the Resurrection..and, if the Resurrection happened...their explanation of beginnings, incl. evolution fails.
Paul N.
I call this type of mathematics "Hindsight mathematics". While I am impressed with their mathematical prowess in reducing a complex topic to such a relatively simple equation, they are doing so based on their observation of the current state of being. Ptolemy used his observational and mathematical skills and created a mathematical formula to account for the movement of all the (known at the time) planets as they revolved around the Earth and Geocentricity was born! While I do not advocate geocentricity, it has its place. Scientists use more advanced forms of Ptolemaic math to determine flight paths for space exploration vehicles since Earth is the necessary point of reference. Conversely, I do not advocate Heliocentricity either since the Sun is a star in a galaxy which has its center of movement very far away from us. For simpler minds like mine, I remember in High-School math classes being given a figure on graph paper and having to create the mathematical formula to describe it. Sometimes there were several correct answers because they could describe it but obviously only one was used to create it.

As more scientific discoveries are made, their math will improve and some day they may actually be able to describe how the universe was created. I say that God already has that math!
John Hartnett
I seriously doubt that they will discover how the universe was born when they are looking in the wrong place and they are applying the wrong assumptions. If they started with what God's said they would have a better chance.
Bob S.
There is actually one tangled story told, the Big-Bang-Billions-of-Years-No-Flood-Molecules-to-Man story, that consists of many smaller, incomplete stories. But they are all stories. And people spend their entire careers crafting these stories and calling them science. This is tooth fairy science. Tooth fairy science occurs when research is done on a phenomenon before establishing that the phenomenon exists.
Steve C.
I am amazed at the lengths people will go to to avoid a Creator.

Am I right in believing that mathematics requires certain presumptions to work? Hence they are arguing in a circle – unlike the kalaam argument.
John Hartnett
Yes, the assumption is that the laws of the quantum theory they use are valid. It is circular reasoning. Assume it to prove it.
R. D.
Dr. Hartnett writes: "How could you justify using our laws of physics to describe another universe where you have no knowledge of its physics? And you could not use our current laws to generate all those other universes which have different laws."

I noted this myself a while back. Effectively, naturalistic cosmogony simply selects the laws of physics which the proponents need in order for cosmoses to be created randomly and proposes that those which would prevent it from happening are not in effect elsewhere. It's special pleading at its worst.

As a logician, and admitting that I'm not fully conversant in all the physics, I remain enormously sceptical of this whole "quantum fluctuations" stuff, never mind the whole "string theory" and its derivatives. How can the uncertainty principle "allow" anything when it's nothing more than a limit on human power to make a measurement? I truly believe that eventually we'll find a satisfactory deterministic quantum interpretation and all this relativistic nonsense will be a thing of the past and looked back on with as much embarrassment as the Ptolemaic SS model.

As the first commenter notes as well, naturalists cannot get away from the fact that something (whether God or the laws of physics) needs to be eternal, however much incompetent logicians like Krauss, Guth et al state it's "something from nothing". Come what may, it's something from something. And an omnipotent God is an infinitely more logically sound hypothesis than all of this crazy metaphysical and mathematical speculation. I regularly note to anyone who's willing to listen that it really takes some nerve to call this "science".

Thanks Dr. Hartnett for this exposition. I know enough to understand it from you, but could not do it myself. So this is hugely valuable.
M. K.
It just goes to show you that regardless of what you believe you must have something or someone eternal and necessary to generate the world we live in. These guys have mathematics (just like the Pythagoreans, Stoics and maybe even the Platonists), the usual brand of evolutionists have matter (just like the Epicureans), while we have an eternal Personal Being.

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