Wednesday, November 23, 2011

pigeon droppings and red shift

The Bible starts with, “In the beginning, God created the heavens”. But, what if there was no beginning? Today, we take the “big bang” theory of the universe for granted, but less than a century ago, the steady state theory, indicative of a static universe, was dominant in astrophysics.

An expanding universe is a problem because it leads logically backward to a beginning, which seems uncomfortably close to a creation event. To avoid the possibility of invoking a creator, some physicists have proposed the notion that a steady state theory can still incorporate an expanding universe if new matter is produced, keeping the density of the universe constant. How new matter is produced on a continual basis is unknown and, like the multiverse theory, an attempt to remove the creator with no empirical backing. Evidence is clearly on the side of an ex-nihilo creation event.

To explain very briefly, around 1915, Einstein’s calculations predicted an expanding universe, something which he could not accept and consequently added a cosmological constant to compensate. This renormalized the calculations to show a static universe. When Edwin Hubble discovered the red shift in 1929, indicating the universe is expanding, Einstein retracted the constant, calling it “the greatest blunder of my life.” This was the first major piece of evidence contrary to the steady state model.

In 1964, another highly significant discovery was made which also indicated the universe is expanding following an explosive beginning around 13.7 billion years ago. Two workers at Bell Labs, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, were experimenting with a sensitive radio antenna and detected persistent, faint microwave radiation. Following a thorough check of the equipment and removal of pigeons that had nested in the antenna (including concomitant “white dielectric material”), the noise remained. Furthermore, the faint radiation seemed to emanate evenly from all parts of the sky. [1]

Penzias and Wilson had discovered the remnants of a massive, ancient explosion. These leftovers are photons initially formed as gamma rays which cooled and expanded through the billions of years to what is now microwave length radiation, maintaining a temperature of about 2.7 degrees above absolute zero. [2] For this discovery, a powerful confirmation of the big bang theory, the Bell Lab researchers received a Physics Nobel Prize in 1978.

What does this mean? This discovery provides another pile on the mountain of evidence for the Creator and for the trustworthiness of the Bible. By combining this discovery with fine tuning of numerous astronomical and geological variables, archaeological discoveries, historical evidence, and other evidence (presented on this website as well as others), we can be thankful the Christian faith is not a blind hope, but is belief based on an abundance of evidence. Moses wrote the book of Genesis 3,400 years ago. Modern science is starting to catch up.

[1] Discovery of the Cosmic Background Radiation, University of Illinois, posted 1995, accessed 24 Nov 2011,
[2] University of Oregon, “Cosmic Background Radiation”, accessed 24 Nov 2011,

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