Cosmologist George Ellis at IAI News:
Most people today believe in The Big Bang theory when it comes to the origins of the cosmos. Can we be certain that the universe had a beginning? The history of the universe involves various stages. At very early times, it went through an extraordinarily rapid period of accelerating expansion when it became hugely bigger in a very short time; this is called inflation. At the end of inflation, that expansion had caused all the matter and radiation to dilute to almost zero, but then the field that had caused inflation decayed into very hot matter and radiation that continued expanding, but at a slower rate; that was the start of what we call the Hot Big Bang Era. The physical processes that occurred during this era are well understood, and all cosmologists agree on what happened then.
What we do not know is what happened before inflation began. The universe may or may not have had a beginning in that pre-inflationary era. The singularity theorems that Stephen Hawking developed do not apply, because the required energy conditions are now known to not be satisfied at that pre-inflationary time. In any case, a theory of quantum gravity is expected to apply at early enough times, but we don’t know what that theory is. To sum up: we do not know if the universe had a start, but we do know there was a Hot Big Bang.
Well, if the universe did not have a start, it must always have existed. And that’s the dreaded territory of Hilbert’s Hotel and infinity apart from mathematics.
You may also wish to read: Yes, you can manipulate infinity in math. The hyperreals are bigger (and smaller) than your average number — and better! (Jonathan Bartlett)
25 Replies to “George Ellis argues: We can’t know if the universe had a beginning”
The laws of physics requires a beginning to all matter. The universe had a beginning, since the laws are absolute.
If everything can be reduced to information for which there is a conservation law then it can be neither created nor destroyed. In that case, it must have existed forever. There was no beginning so no Creator required.
Does George Ellis not know the details of the BGV theorem?
In the BGV theorem, Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin show that, “Our argument shows that null and time- like geodesics are, in general, past-incomplete in inflationary models, whether or not energy conditions hold,”
And as Stephen Meyer explains, the BGV theorem for a beginning to the universe is much stronger than the singularity theorem that Stephen Hawking developed since the singularity theorem that Stephen Hawking developed was based on General Relativity whereas the BGV theorem is based on Special Relativity.
Vilenken, in a presentation he delivered at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday party, stated that “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”
In his book, Vilenken was quite adamant as to what the BGV theorem ‘proves’,
Moreover, Ellis spoke of inflation theory with a degree of certainty that gave the impression that inflation theory is an empirically proven fact. Yet, inflation theory is not an empirically proven fact. Far from it. In fact, empirical evidence has now come forward that “has all but ruled out several popular models of inflation”
Contrary to what George Ellis implied, far from inflation being a empirically proven fact, inflation theory is an ad hoc theory that was postulated, (i.e. ‘imagined out of thin air’), simply to ‘explain away’ the finely-tuned flatness of the universe, as well as the finely-tuned uniformity of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR).
Moroever, Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, who helped develop inflationary theory but is now scathing of it, stated that inflation theory does not even predict ‘flatness’ for the universe in the first place, i.e. “it doesn’t make any sense to say what inflation predicts, except to say it predicts everything.”
It is important to note just how finely-tuned the flatness of the universe actually is,
The failure of inflation theory to actually predict the finely-tuned flatness of the universe is NOT a minor failing for the theory. If it were not for the exceptional finely-tuned flatness of the universe, it would be all but impossible to apply mathematics to the universe, and therefore science itself would be all but impossible for us. i.e. “We say that the universe is flat, and this means that parallel lines will always remain parallel. 90-degree turns behave as true 90-degree turns, and everything makes sense.”
Simply put, without some remarkable degree of exceptional, and stable, flatness for the universe, (as well as exceptional stability for all the other constants), Euclidean (3-Dimensional) geometry simply would not have been applicable to the universe at large, and this would make modern science, (particularly the mathematical analysis of the universe), for all practical purposes, all but impossible for humans to achieve.
For instance, Sir Isaac Newton himself, the father of modern physics, was crucially dependent on Euclidean geometry in order for him to make his crucial breakthrough into modern physics.
Thus without some remarkable degree of ‘flatness’ to the universe, (where parallel lines will always remain parallel. 90-degree turns behave as true 90-degree turns, and everything makes sense), Newton would have never been able to make his crucial breakthrough into modern physics.
Moreover, both Einstein and Eugene Wigner are on record as to regarding the applicability of mathematics to the universe to be a ‘miracle’
And whereas physicists, (especially with their ‘ad hoc’ inflation model), have no realistic clue exactly why the universe is as flat as it is, Christian Theists have no problem whatsoever finding the answer for why the universe is as fact as it is.
In fact, I also hold the exceptional 1 in 10^57 finely-tuned flatness of the universe, which enables the universe to be ‘mathematically intelligible’ to us in the first place, is rather strong empirical confirmation for the Judeo-Christian presupposition of ‘intelligibility’ of the universe. Which was an essential Judeo-Christian presupposition that lay behind the founding of modern science itself.
Of supplemental note, and as to Ellis’s claim that “a theory of quantum gravity is expected to apply at early enough times, but we don’t know what that theory is.”
George Ellis is referring to the fact that there is no mathematical ‘theory of everything’ that unifies gravity with quantum mechanics. Yet when we rightly allow the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, (as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Max Planck, to name a few of the Christian founders,,,, and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands with the closing of the ‘freedom of choice’ loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company), then rightly allowing the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics provides us with a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead bridges the infinite mathematical divide that exists between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics and provides us with a very plausible, empirically backed, reconciliation, (via the Shroud of Turin), between Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”.
– Oct. 2022
Of semi-related note, Brain Miller just posted a refutation of Steinhardt’s attempt to avoid a cosmic beginning.
Cyclic cosmology? They, meaning scientists in general, appear to be running out of ideas. In the days when dinosaurs roamed… I mean early illustrations of the universe showed a flattened sphere, which suggests, to me, a rapidly spinning ball. That’s right. Even if the Big Bang involved no actual explosion – making it a really stupid name – then a sphere or something close, is its shape.
Let’s look at what we can observe. Planets orbit the sun. Our solar system orbits the center of the Milky Way galaxy. We’re near the outer edge. That suggests that the universe encloses all galaxies, so it is subject to the gravitational pull of all galaxies, so it’s a flattened sphere.
I was shocked by this statement:
“The physical processes that occurred during this era are well understood, and all cosmologists agree on what happened then.”
At first, I assumed he was referring to what happened AFTER inflation, but the next paragraph makes it clear he meant the inflation process itself. Forgive my doubt (and possible ignorance), but I understood that the inflation hypothesis was still considered questionable by many, and that “all cosmologists” certainly do NOT accept the inflation paradigm. Indeed, I have read that “inflation” is hard to specify in a way that matches the data. Is George Ellis just blowing smoke or is he a poor writer and did not mean what the writing appears to say?
The dinosaurs roamed 6000 years ago. In his haste to embark, it wasn’t until after The Flood completely covered the earth and he shook off his previous night’s bender, that Moses realized, with horror, that he had left them behind…..
Roger Penrose believes in cyclical cosmology. He has a Nobel Prize. You have what, exactly??????? A misspelled tag???????
CD@9, I think you mean Noah, not Moses.
CD at 9,
Hey. You should drop this site and post on pro-evolution sites. I mean, it make sense. You can avoid those annoying IDers and a good time would be had by all.
And an attitude problem. 🙂
But seriously, there is nothing ruling out a cyclic cosmology. All we know is that we have no idea what existed or what happened at the first few microseconds of the Big Bang. I have heard arguments that thermodynamics would not allow this, but without knowing what happens at the exact moment of the Big Bang (Big Crunch) we just can’t say for sure. And may never be able to.
Good catch, thanks. A senior moment. It’s hard to keep all those OT patriarchs straight sometimes…..
But I’m having such a good time here—guaranteed humor 24/7……….
“Roger Penrose believes in cyclical cosmology. He has a Nobel Prize.”,,,
Not that a Nobel Prize insures the truth of an idea, but Penrose’s Nobel was not for his empirically unsupported speculations about cyclical cosmology but he was awarded the Nobel for his pioneering work on black holes.
Of related note:
Of related note: Roger Penrose himself, a staunch agnostic, used the supposedly forbidden word “Creator” when he talked of the extreme 1 in 10^10^123 fine-tuning of the initial entropy of the universe.
It is interesting that Roger Penrose, a staunch agnostic, would feel compelled to use the word “Creator”. I hold that Penrose, a staunch agnostic, simply would never use the word ‘Creator’ unless the extreme nature of the fine-tuning of the initial entropy of the universe, i.e. 1 in 10^10^123, compelled him to do so.
Moreover, this extreme 1 in 10^10^123 fine-tuning for the initial entropy of the universe creates a fairly embarrassing theoretical problem, (i.e. Boltzmann brain), for atheistic naturalists when they try to explain, purely by chance, the origin of such extreme fine-tuning for entropy,
As Dr. Bruce Gordon further commented, “we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.”
Moreover, advances in quantum information theory have now shown that “entropy is (not) a property of a system, but a property of an observer who describes a system.”,,,
To state the obvious, this finding from quantum information theory of entropy being “a property of an observer who describes a system” is very friendly to a Mind First, and/or to a Theistic view of reality.
For instance Romans chapter 8: verses 20 and 21 itself states, (long before entropy was even defined as a fundamental scientific principle) that, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
You are such a party pooper. I know that Penrose got his Nobel for prior work on black holes and GR. That really wasn’t the point of my post re Relatd. But then you are smart enough to know that, you simply have a compulsive need to rain on everyone else’s parade…….
But alas ChuckyD, you referenced the fact that Penrose has a Nobel prize in order to imply that we should not question his empirically unsupported speculations about cyclical cosmology.
Yet, as my posts made clear, we have ample reason to question his empirically unsupported speculations about cyclical cosmology.
The only thing that is truly sad, i.e. truly ‘party pooping’, in the whole thing is that you, apparently, find joy in people being led into error by your misleading rhetoric rather than you rightly finding joy in people being led to a firmer grasp of the truth..
CD at 19,
And you have a chance to avoid all this by going to a pro-evo site. Lots of praise for Darwin and/or Dawkins. Instead, you elected to stay here…
Ba77 at 20,
But if your assignment here includes such things, well…
Like I said, I’m here for the entertainment, not to learn physics from you or BA77. That would truly be a waste of time……..
CD at 23,
And a rational person like you deciding to waste his time here. Tsk, tsk…
I have a theory: You’re a bit of a masochist. If that’s not the case, I have some physics I’d like to tell you about…
Thanks, I’ve never run across the In the BGV theorem.
Currently, there seems to be multiple problems with the current and alternative cosmologies. This makes things interesting for nearly everyone except doctrinaire and ideologically poisoned academics and those people who think science has all the answers. I dislike theories with infinities baked into them–if one gets an infinity, it’s most likely due to a divide-by-zero error.
The big problem is that physics doesn’t handle purported infinities or zero points very well, not to mention science fantasies such as the multiverse, which is logically equivalent to a cosmic turtle whose eggs are universes.
Speaking of fantasies, here are some other wild theories:
Left out of the list was the Many Worlds theory, the most egregious violation of parsimony I can think of.