Beginning (Part 1): Did The Universe Have A Beginning?

Actor Gabriel Byrne:
“When the sun is shining I don’t believe in God,” he told the Guardian. “When I get on a plane I think there might be one.”

THE UNIVERSE: A BEGINNING OR “PAST ETERNAL”?

A book in the Bible called Genesis says that the universe had a beginning. Is there any evidence for such a thing?

Very simply, the word “universe” refers to four things: space, time, matter and energy.

The question that everyone argues about is:
1. Did the universe begin? or
2. Has it always existed?

This has been a subject of debate for centuries:
1. People who believed in God said the universe began at a certain point.
2. Most people who didn’t believe in God said the universe had just existed forever.

EINSTEIN’S THEORY OF GENERAL RELATIVITY

Like many scientists, theoretical physicist Albert Einstein had always just believed that the universe:
• was static (not expanding or contracting)
• was past eternal (had always been there forever)
• had no cause or explanation for its existence.

But then something changed. In 1915, Einstein presented his theory of general relativity to the world, and he realized for the first time that the universe could not possibly be static. It had to be expanding or contracting.

WILLEM DE SITTER: THE UNIVERSE IS EXPANDING (IN THEORY)

A Dutch astronomer named Willem de Sitter looked at Albert’s calculations and told him it definitely had to be expanding!

This made Albert angry because, even though he believed in “a spirit vastly superior to that of men,” an expanding universe meant there had to be a beginning (if you run the movie of the expanding universe in reverse). Albert didn’t like his theory being used to prove a beginning because it sounded too much like Genesis.

FRIEDMANN-LEMAÎTRE MODEL OF THE UNIVERSE (STILL THEORY)

In the 1920s, Russian physicist Alexander Friedmann (“FREED-mahn”)and Belgian physicist Georges LeMaître (“le-MET”)looked at Einstein’s equations, did a bunch of math calculations of their own and told Einstein that his general theory of relativity proved that the universe actually BEGAN TO EXIST in an explosion that occurred billions of years ago!

Einstein still didn’t believe it and he struggled to come up with an alternative explanation so his theory wouldn’t be highjacked by religious zealouts who just wanted to prove that Genesis was true.

HUBBLE PROVES THAT THE UNIVERSE IS EXPANDING (BECOMES FACT)

However, Einstein gave this up in 1929 when an American astronomer named Edwin Hubble made a startling discovery that every single galaxy he examined was moving rapidly away from us. This was empirical evidence that the universe was expanding!

Einstein actually visited the astronomer’s observatory northeast of Los Angeles, and he finally admitted that the universe really was expanding!

What started as the Friedmann-LeMaitre model eventually became the Standard Model of the Universe or what some nicknamed the big bang model. It is the predominant theory in the science field today about how the universe got started. It says the explosion occurred about 13.8 billion years ago.

So was Genesis right about a beginning? It appears so.

THE WORLD’S MOST NOTORIOUS ATHEIST

Prior to Richard Dawkins, for many decades, philosopher Antony Flew was the world’s most well-known atheist. Because of scientific advancements like the Standard Model of the Universe, he was convinced and became a theist.

Philosopher Antony Flew:
“When I first met the big-bang theory as an atheist, it seemed to me the theory made a big difference because it suggested that the universe had a beginning and that the first sentence in Genesis (“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”) was related to an event in the universe. If the universe had a beginning, it became entirely sensible, almost inevitable, to ask what produced this beginning. This radically altered the situation.”
Antony Flew, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (New York, HarperCollins, 2007), 88.

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