Big Bangs and Little Bunnies: A Response to zsirrom

Elles has alerted me to a rather interesting comment from one of our readers. The author appears to be a creationist, though I may be seeing things. Where did I put the precious, again? Anyway, here’s the comment:

“This still doesn’t give any evidence for how the “big bang” got started, or how life began. Also the supposed evidence for the “big bang” fails to even come close to convincing me that it is indeed how the universe came to be. If you have taken a high-school level Chemistry class you should know what extrapolation is, but you should also know that when you extrapolate, the amount of data that you assume will continue the pattern must be negligible compared to the total amount of data you have. Extrapolating what happened 12 billion years ago from just decades, maybe a century of gathering data is completely ridiculous. Also it is a very scientifically unsound way to gather data.”

My initial reaction was to turn up the Evil and write a scathing response, but I’ve decided to be nice for now. The following should be read as a response to the above comment. Sort of like email correspondence, or even this mythological “mail” I’ve heard of.

<Not The Earthly Incarnation of Evil> You would be correct in saying that we cannot be 100% certain that the Big Bang theory is correct. In fact, we probably can’t be 100% certain of anything. This is fairly common knowledge, though, so I’ll leave it at that.

To greatly simplify the Big Bang theory, it states that “The universe originated from a single point at some point in the past.” Our existence can be explained by this: “This point is usually considered a singularity, meaning it has infinite density, and would have a mass equivalent to the energy of all the particles in the universe. This singularity explodes, creating a giant ball of stuff. The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics results in there being local abnormalities scattered throughout the new universe. These abnormalities plus time form the nonuniform universe we live in today.”

How do we know this? Science. Theories are tested, predictions are made, stuff blown up, pretty colours made, glow in the dark bunnies made (a short break from reading must be taken to consider the awesomeness that is glow in the dark bunnies)… We know the basic tenets of the Big Bang theory are most likely correct for several reasons: 1. The Universe’s Expansion: The universe has been observed to be expanding in all directions. This means that at some point it was closer together. Given enough time, we have a singularity or single point (a requirement for the big bang).

2. Cosmic Background Radiation: The uniformity of the observed cosmic background radiation is consistent with current models of the Big Bang. The Big Bang also happens to explain this radiation. Thus, we have a theory predicting that something will exist. This thing exists. What does this say about the theory?

3. Steven Hawking’s a Fucking Genius: Yes, this is an appeal to authority. However, it is valid in this case because people like Steven Hawking are actually authorities on their field. They know what they’re talking about because of their extensive education. Arguing with a professional mathematician who says that 0.9… = 1 is not only a bad idea (you’ll lose), but rather antihumble.

I think I’ve addressed the Big Bang issue well enough, so I’ll move on to the origin of life. We know that the universe exists such that there is matter capable of supporting life. The issue is: Could life originate without help in our universe? The answer is yes. All you need is a bit of spontaneous chemistry. If you make a big enough pool of goo, at some point, somewhere in the entirety of the universe, you can expect that an organic molecule will show up. Once you get one that can reproduce itself, you get evolution. A billion or two years later, you have a much larger and more organized bag of mostly water using a tool to communicate to another bag why the aforementioned bags of mostly water exist.

You argue that we “haven’t spent enough time gathering data”. Ignoring the fact that we have many more scientists now than we ever have in the past, you don’t need millions of years to prove a theory. You need an idea, usually a crazy one that explains something. You search for something to prove your crazy idea true. If you find it, congratulations, here’s your Nobel prize. If you can find the required evidence in three seconds, good for you. If it takes 5 000 years, after being checked for ADHD, congratulations, here’s your Nobel Prize adjusted for 5 000 years of inflation.

I hope I’ve been helpful. If not, I’m still a bunny. </Not The Earthly Incarnation of Evil>

For those wondering, the physics I described are from “A Brief History of Time: Tenth Anniversary Updated and Expanded Edition” by Steven Hawking. It’s a very good book if you can find it, and the updated version should be reasonably up to date. Please note that I am by no means an authority on anything other than Snorglology (the study of snorgling, generally of adorable creatures). The biology is just common sense, as is the science bit. Common Sense is (C) 2008 Copyright Holder Name Here.

To avoid giving the impression that I am hostile to these comments, I’d like to thank “zsirrom” for commenting. I enjoyed the opportunity to share a bit of evidence.

Acetylsalicylic acid.

Bunnies.

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9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rdthrawn on June 19, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Another 919 word post, for those interested.

  2. Posted by Mark C. on June 19, 2008 at 6:12 am

    An important detail that you might want to include is that we know the speed and behavior of light such that the redshift we observe implies that everything is moving away from us, which implies that everything was closer together in the past (but in spite of the balloon analogy, I fail to see how there could not be a center of the universe, given a finite amount of matter).

    I’m not actually sure that saying there was a point of infinite density is correct. As far as I can infer from what I’ve heard, the singularity is a mathematical one–e.g., the singular point of 1/(x-3) is x=3. From my extremely limited understanding, and from the sound of what I’ve heard, it sounds like general relativity’s failing is of this type, and that we are currently prevented from reaching t=0 in our theorizing because of it. But again, I have no credentials except those of a first-year physics student (who is just a math student three years later).

  3. Posted by Mark C. on June 19, 2008 at 6:14 am

    When was that book published, by the way? I have “A Briefer History of Time”.

  4. Posted by rdthrawn on June 19, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    The original version of “A Brief History of Time” was published in 1988. The updated version was released in 1998.

    Thank you for pointing that out, Mark C. I was going to say something about redshifting, but my Superphotographicmemoryofdoom failed me in that area. The exact nature of the singularity would be more complicated, of course (especially if one considers the theoretical effects of quantum gravity).

    I believe Hawking described the failing of GR being due to infinite space time curvature. Poor Einstein. What did his equations ever do to deserve having infinity thrown at them?

  5. Posted by neverclear5 on June 19, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Why the aspirin? I’m curious. Did I miss something?

  6. “turn up the Evil” would make an awesome metal song

    (\ /)
    ( . .)
    o(”)(”)
    ~*Bunnies*~

  7. curses! the evil smile has ruined my cute little bunny!

  8. Posted by rdthrawn on June 19, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    I shall never forgive wordpress for harming that poor bunny.

    As to the Aspirin, I thought “acetylsalicylic acid”, thought “Brilliant!”, and included it in the post. It also raised the word count to 919, 616 upside down two posts in a row.

  9. Posted by Alex, FCD on June 20, 2008 at 3:41 am

    If you make a big enough pool of goo, at some point, somewhere in the entirety of the universe, you can expect that an organic molecule will show up.

    And, in fact, pieces of rock that are crawling with amino acids routinely fall to earth from space.

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