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Does the big bang, which serves as the scientific creation myth of our culture, have anything to do with God? What was God doing for all those eons before He created the world and why did He wait so long? St. Augustine notes his own temptation to give the jesting answer: “He was getting Hell ready for people who pry too deep.”

Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

“The term “big bang” was coined by a bitter opponent of the theory: the English astronomer and physicist Fred Hoyle. In 1950, Hoyle gave a series of Saturday night radio talks for the BBC on “The Nature of the Universe.” Detesting the notion that the universe had a beginning, he held a different theory, according to which the universe is eternal. In his concluding talk, Hoyle, striving for a visual image of the theory he opposed, called it “this big bang idea.” The name gradually stuck, without any of the pejorative overtones Hoyle may have intended.”


Dr. Daniel C. Matt


In 1993, however, a contest sponsored by Shy and Telescope, a popular astronomy magazine, yearned for a different, more evocative name. Not one of the 13,000 entries impressed the panel of judges enough to warrant replacing Hoyle’s phrase.



A Day Without Yesterday


Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

“The first big bang theorist was an obscure Belgian priest and mathematician named Georges Lemaitre. Between 1927 and 1933, he proposed that the eruption of a “primordial atom” had given birth to the universe. Lemaitre described the beginning of the universe as a burst of fireworks, comparing galaxies to the burning embers spreading out in a growing sphere from the center of the burst. He believed this burst of fireworks was the beginning of time, taking place on "a day without yesterday."

In January 1933, Lemaitre traveled with Albert Einstein to California for a series of seminars. After the Belgian detailed his Big Bang theory, Einstein stood up applauded, and said, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.”



Monsignor Georges Lemaître

& Albert Einstein, 1933


Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

"Indeed, the big bang is a theory, not a fact. To cosmologists, it offers the most convincing explanation of the evolution of the universe, “the best approximation to truth that we currently possess.”


Dr. Mario Livio:

“Three major observational results have led to the Big Bang theory. First, there was the discovery by astronomers Vesto Slipher, Georges Lemaître, and Edwin Hubble that our universe is expanding. Every distant galaxy is moving away from any other galaxy. Second, there was the remarkable detection of the "afterglow of creation" – the cosmic microwave background.”


Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

“In the 1940s, the physicist George Gamov theorized that this “afterglow” was still circulating through the universe. Someday, he predicted, scientists would detect it. That someday arrived in 1965, when cosmic microwave background radiation was discovered by accident in New Jersey.”


Dr. Mario Livio:

“In 1964-1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson of the Bell Telephone Laboratories discovered that rather than being completely cold, intergalactic space was filled with microwave radiation (like that emitted by microwave ovens) arriving with equal intensity from all directions. This was later identified as the unmistakable relic of the initial, dense cosmic fireball, from which our expanding universe sprouted. The third piece of evidence for the Big Bang came from the abundance of the element helium, which comprises about a quarter of the mass of all stars and gaseous nebulae. The point is that most of the elements heavier than helium are fused in the hot nuclear furnaces at the centers of stars.”

The universe merged out of a singularity –an infinitely small point of space packed with infinitely matter density and infinite curvature. At a singularity, gravity, too, is infinite. The image is mind-boggling, but its depiction of a primordial instant harmonized with traditional religious belief regarding a definite beginning of the universe.

In 1951, indeed, the Catholic Church endorsed the big bang model, claiming it accorded with the Bible.


Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

“Scientists, meanwhile, sought to demonstrate accordance between the expansion of the universe from a singularity and their own sacred teaching: Einstein’s theory of relativity.”

When Albert Einstein first published his theory of relativity in 1916, most scientists thought that the universe was infinite in age and constant in its general appearance. The work of Isaac Newton and James C. Maxwell suggested an eternal universe. Einstein’s theory of relativity seemed to confirm that the universe had gone on forever, stable and unchanging.


Dr. Mario Livio:

In 1982 my colleague Alex Vilenkin, a physicist at Tufts University, suddenly had a brilliant realization. In quantum mechanics – the theory of the subatomic world – even processes that are forbidden by classical physics have a certain probability of occurring. This phenomenon is known as quantum tunneling, and it is being routinely observed in radioactive decays and in solid-state physics. Because of its probabilistic nature, quantum mechanics reveals that even a universe that would have been destined to collapse in classical General Relativity could actually tunnel (albeit with a small probability) to the other side, and emerge as an inflating universe.”

“That is, our universe could have started out as a speck doomed to collapse to a singularity, but instead it tunneled through the energy barrier to a larger radius, initiating inflation (Figure 1). But this was not all. Vilenkin demonstrated mathematically that the probability for tunneling did not vanish even when he took the initial size of the universe to be zero. In other words, the universe could tunnel to some radius that allowed it to inflate from literally nothing!”


Stephen Hawking:

“So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?”


Did the Universe Appear Out of Nothing?


Dr. Mario Livio:

“There is something I need to explain here; “Nothing” is not the same as the vacuum. The physical vacuum, or empty space, is very rich. It has energy, and virtual particles and anti-particles continually appear and disappear in it. Einstein taught us that it can also warp and stretch. By "nothing" I mean that neither space nor time exist. Put differently, if we were to go back in time from the present, Vilenkin's scenario demonstrated that we would reach a beginning – a point beyond which space-time did not exist.”


Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

“We can imagine time stretching back forever, even before the universe existed. But time is simply something that enables us to label events in the universe. It is a parameter. Where such a parameter begins is artificial. Time is defined only within the universe. Outside of space time, before the beginning of the universe, time has no meaning. For hawking, time itself began at the moment of the big bang.”

In confining time within the universe, Hawking follows Philo of Alexandria, the first-century Hellenistic Jewish Philosopher, and St. Augustine, the fifth century father of the Church.



What Happened Before the Big Bang?

It is simply not defined. Philo suggested that time began after creation, with the start of motion; Augustine concluded that God created time.


Saint Augustine:

“How, then, shall I respond to him who asks, "What was God doing before he made heaven and earth?" I do not answer, as a certain one is reported to have done facetiously (shrugging off the force of the question). "He was preparing hell," he said, "for those who pry too deep." It is one thing to see the answer; it is another to laugh at the questioner – and for myself I do not answer these things thus. More willingly would I have answered, "I do not know what I do not know," than cause one who asked a deep question to be ridiculed – and by such tactics gain praise for a worthless answer. Rather, I say that you, our God, art the Creator of every creature. And if in the term "heaven and earth" every creature is included, I make bold to say further: "Before God made heaven and earth, he did not make anything at all. For if he did, what did he make unless it were a creature?" I do indeed wish that I knew all that I desire to know to my profit as surely as I know that no creature was made before any creature was made.”


St. Augustine


Dr. Daniel C. Matt:

“Science has no consensus on the ultimate origin. Some theories espouse a well-defined beginning; others, like Hawking’s do not. But both suggest a radically new reading of Genesis. If God spoke the world into being, the divine language is energy; the alphabet, elementary particles; God’s grammar, the laws of nature. Many scientists have senses a spiritual dimension in the search for these laws. For Einstein, discerning the laws of nature was a way to discover how God thinks.”


Stephen Hawking:

“If we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason –for then we would know the mind of God.”


The End


Dr. Daniel C. Matt is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Jewish mysticism. For over twenty years Dr. Matt served as Professor of Jewish Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

Dr. Mario Livio is a senior astrophysicist at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute.

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...their own, very particular and specific myth must be correct.

They've had centuries of just your-myth-against-my-myth. It was fairly easy: the strongest's myth won. Now they are all facing a growing no-myth option, and that is worrisome.

There seems to be a related psychological phenomenon with climate science denial, where the denier's conviction only grows when concfronted with proof that they are wrong. How do you reason with someone who doesn't believe in reason?

the term “fornication against God,” he explains in his Confessions (1:21), applies to any act whatever, sexual or not, which expresses the soul’s attachment to a creature in preference to God.

This is stupendous! Attachment to other creatures is the very fabric of our sustenance. Physical, sexual, emotional and intellectual sustenance. We absolutely need the others to live, and attachment is the essential glue.

How warped it is to make that a sin! It even defies common sense.

I think I prefer this to having to fear a tyrannous god! 

  1. Right viewpoint.
  2. Right values - Commitment to mental and ethical growth in proper measure.
  3. Right speech - One speaks in a non hurtful, not exaggerated, truthful way.
  4. Right actions, conduct - Wholesome action, avoiding action that would do harm.
  5. Right livelihood - One's job does not harm in any way oneself or others; directly or indirectly.
  6. Right effort - One makes an effort to improve.
  7. Right mindfulness - Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness.
  8. Right meditation - State where one reaches enlightenment.

It seems clear that these saints prefer us to turn away from what is real, and focus on what they would have us believe is truth instead. Reminds me of The Wizard of Oz: "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" The question is why do they want us to believe them? Why the hard sell? For our own salvation? No, that's the bait. Followers bring power and money, reason enough to proselytize.

Yes, what we are dealing with are models of reality. We cannot comprehend reality itself, the best we can comprehend is our own model of it. I think St Augustine wants us to believe him because it gives him authority. It validates his point of view. It empowers his religious order. It sells his model of reality.  

I disagree with your statement that the concept of material reality is absurd. Another term that we use for this is objective reality and it so happens to be what we study with science. Objective reality is what all consciousness strives to model. The scientific method yields the same result whenever and wherever it is practiced, indicating that there is one objective reality, but religious faith diverges from objective reality in all directions in direct proportion to the gullibility and ignorance of it's practitioners.  Interestingly, scientists all have a very similar model of reality, while those of religious believers diverge wildly. 

The  scientific model has brought us space exploration and millions of other fantastic achievements. Religious models bring us suicide bombers, proselytizers and witch-doctors. 

We are both in the business of selling maps. Mine was made by Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and all the other scientists of the world. Yours was made by bronze age middle-easterners who largely occupied themselves by herding goats and sheep.

Your map shows fantastical destinations, which no one has ever traveled to and returned, much like the maps of a flat earth which showed the sea falling off the edge. And just like the maps of a flat earth, the scientific map of reality has rendered all previous maps obsolete.  

Who am I? An old toddler.

What substance am I? I am of animal matter.

Why have I come? My parents had sex.

Where am I going? The terminus.

Whence is my root? An ancestral organic need to overcome death.

At this time what am I doing? Reaching out to others like me.

Toward what have I turned my face? The Sun and its creation.

So far, you have not given expression to any clear, sound, or suggestive theory on human nature.

Neither have you, Claudia. Or St Augustine, for that matter. Or Daniel Matt or Mario Livio. I don't even know what "a clear, sound, or suggestive theory on human nature" means. What does human nature mean? 

It is impossible to overcome death.

Yet it is my species' imperative.
My children are the proof of that.

Human nature? A very fancy flavor of 'animal' nature. We make tools, we use names and are curious. We ask questions and invent schemes to answer them. We're ideas-growing mammals.

You can't, however reassuring it would be, examine 'human nature' outside of its animal context.

Without death there would be no evolution of multicellular life as the first multicellular life would have eternal life therefore would not have the drive to procreate itself, Because in that drive for it to procreate lies the seeds of the multicellular life to evolve! Since it has that drive to procreate would mean that should it had an eternal life the populations of both the parents and the offspring's would soon out strip the available means of support for its continuance.  Therefore by the multicellular life-form once it reached a period in its adulthood ceases to live allows room for its offspring surviving without placing a burden on its food supply! This process is called aging!!

Who did create god ?  Besides people, that is.


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