In the 1920s, scientists began to obtain data that supports the universe had a beginning or that the universe was created. The supporting evidence for these conclusions comes from web sites at NASA, Harvard, Berkeley and others. This information is simplified into five general subjects on this page as shown a few paragraphs below.
The science-based story about the universe having a beginning started with an astronomer named Edwin Hubble. He aimed the most advanced telescope of the 1920s at star systems with millions or billions of stars called galaxies. Hubble found out that most galaxies are moving away from each other at very high speeds. The further away a galaxy is from earth, the faster it is moving away from us. Other scientists looked at the stars, reviewed the data, and agreed with Hubble. These findings led Hubble to think that the universe is expanding. It soon became a fact that distant galaxies move away from one another at very high speeds. This led to a revolutionary idea that is commonly referred to as the "Big Bang" theory.
Now dream with me. Imagine if you were to make a motion picture of all the galaxies moving apart from one another. After we completed the movie, we could rewind it and watch the galaxies as they move back in time to their beginning. We would see the galaxies moving closer and closer together as the movie approaches its beginning. Our mouths would drop in awe as we watched the entire universe shrink into a small volume and disappear at the speed of light. We may even think that the whole universe came from nothing. Perhaps the easiest way of saying this is that the universe appears to have come from some type of gigantic energy release. This is where the idea of the so-called "BIG BANG" theory came from. The fact that galaxies are moving away from one another supports the Big Bang theory.
What is so important about the Big Bang theory?
The most important idea is that it tells us the universe had a beginning.
|Atheists believe that the universe came to be by chance alone.
Did the universe begin by chance alone, or did a Creator create the universe? This question will be discussed deeper into this page.
In the 1930s to the 1960s, many intelligent people did not like the idea that the universe had a beginning. These scientists "held onto the view" that the universe had always existed (did NOT have a beginning). To make the "Big Bang" theory credible, more evidence and facts were needed to support the idea that the universe had a beginning. A new finding in 1965 gave the Big Bang theory a new boost. This new finding and as well as others in the last 50 years support that the Big Bang theory appears to be true. Just below, five ideas are summarized that support the universe had a beginning.
Evidence Discovered in the 1960s
- Cosmic Microwave Background (the acronym CMB is used after this): In 1948 to 1950, three scientists theorized that if the Big Bang theory were true, then light would have appeared long before the first stars appeared. This seemed to be contrary to logic that light would appear before the stars formed.
In 1965, two scientists working at Princeton (Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson) were the first to discover the CMB. Since then, NASA has designed and built two advanced satellites that confirmed the CMB; in 1992 the COBE satellite and in 2001 by the WMAP satellite. The WMAP satellite produced a sharp focused image of the CMB light.
Hubble Space Telescope Evidence from the 1990s
- Birth Rate of Stars: If the Big Bang theory were true, then the number of stars that are formed would be very high in the beginning. And it is just as certain that number of new stars being formed would decline as time continued. Eventually, new stars would stop forming.
In the 1990s, NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Deep space photography by the Hubble Space Telescope confirms that star birth is steadily declining. To obtain deep space photographs, the Hubble telescope is pointed at a tiny bit of sky that shows total darkness when viewed by human eyes. But the HST picks up the faintest galaxies that have ever been seen. The light from these galaxies began its trip to earth more than 12 billions years ago. The photos show that star birth was ten times higher billions of years ago. As time passes, star birth will someday stop. It is a fact that all the stars will someday stop burning and die out as time moves steadily forward.
Another Hubble Space Telescope Discovery from the 1990s
- Unique Shape of Early Universe Galaxies: Deep space pictures show that baby galaxies looked very different in the early universe compared to current galaxy shapes. Baby galaxies were very small and did not have spiral arms in the beginning. To grow bigger, the galaxies crashed into one another and collected gas and other matter spread across the universe.
- Mind-Boggling Intense Light in Early Universe Galaxies: Another supporting evidence for a universe with a beginning is the mind-boggling intense light coming from quasars. Deep space photos show that the inner cores of distant galaxies give out extremely bright light due to quasars. Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe. The measured brightness of a single quasar is like a thousand galaxies combined. Their super mass attracts and consumes passing stars and other space debris. Quasars only occurred in the early universe.
Based on the evidence above, scientists concluded that galaxies in the early universe appear very different than galaxies of today. Most important, scientist concluded that almost all galaxies came to exist in the early universe. Since almost all galaxies came to exist in the early universe, we have another fact that supports the universe had a beginning.
Atom Smasher Discoveries in the 1950s to 1980s
- Nuclear Chemistry of the Big Bang: Scientists theorized that if the Big Bang theory were true, then about 75% of the material in the universe would be made of hydrogen and 25% would be helium. Observation of light (using a spectroscope) supports that the universe (the sun, stars, and galaxies) is made of about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium. Theory and observation agree in supporting that the universe had a beginning.
Deep Space Discoveries from 1998 to 2003
- Accelerating Universe: In 1998, a new discovery made by two scientific teams revealed that the universe is getting bigger and bigger at an ever increasing rate. This idea is now commonly referred to as the accelerating universe. Scientists were surprised by this new finding since it was directly opposite of what they had expected to find. (Scientists had reasoned that the expanding universe would be slowing down). The response to this new science-based discovery caused a great stir. Consider the following response from a scientist, who expresses his feelings after learning of the discovery.
"This universe is weird, it's creepy"
Brian P. Schmidt, Team Lead, High Z-SN Search Team
NOVA Documentary "Runaway Universe" pbs.org
[Search for "CREEPY" on the transcript]
The two scientific teams were based in Berkeley University and Australia. Each team did their research without knowing the other teams results or conclusion. But each team used the same method to arrive at the same conclusion. Could another method be found that would support the conclusion that the universe is accelerating?
In 2003, a NASA team used a different method to conclude that the universe is accelerating. The NASA scientists used data from the WMAP satellite. Following is a quote from a NASA web site:
"For the theory that fits our data, the universe will expand forever!"
The accelerating universe is very credible. Three distinguished scientific teams have used two unique methods to come to the same conclusion.
How does the accelerating universe relate to the study of religion?
People who thought the universe has always existed believed that the universe would go through cycles of birth and death for eternity. First, the universe would begin with a big bang. Then the universe would expand to a maximum size and then crash back into itself. Then the cycle would begin again and again. This is often referred to as the oscillating universe theory. However, the accelerating universe shows that the oscillating universe is not true.
The accelerating universe means that the universe had only one beginning. And the universe will expand forever. The universe will never crash into itself. Therefore, we can logically conclude that the universe we live in has only existed one time. This evidence destroys the oscillating universe theory (There is only one known universe. It was created one time and it is dying).
How does the universe having a beginning relate to the study of religion?
In general, most religions have always taught that the universe was created or that it had a beginning. In contrast, scientists taught that the universe had existed forever. In this case, scientists changed their view of the universe and now acknowledge that universe did have a beginning. The opposing fields of science and religion now have a common link, the beginning universe.
But an even more important question must be answered. Did the universe begin by chance, or did a Creator create it? This important question will be discussed deeper into the web site. For now, we need to understand that science shows the universe is dying.
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Science Supports that the Universe will End