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THERE IS one point at which both atheists and theists converge in a big Question Mark: the origin of the universe.
The ‘Big Bang’ is usually posited as the explanation for the formation of the universe. Although not without its detractors, it is generally regarded as the standard cosmological model. In vogue since the late 1960s,[fn1] it is an admittedly tricky concept to understand and efforts to explain it vary.[fn2] In essence, the theory asserts that all known matter, even space itself, was formed during the immeasurably quick expansion from a single, dense, fiery point, about fourteen thousand million years ago (14,000,000,000). The theory underpins the calculations which are applied to planetary motion, distance, and the speed at which the universe is expanding.
Whether or not the universe began with the Big Bang, the theory is usually presented in an atheistic context and thus suffers from the hubris of the assumption that an intervening mind had nothing whatever to do with it.
The When? and Why? of this Big Bang are queries for which no one has a scientifically demonstrated answer. In the absence of matter – or, to put it another way, the prevalence of Nothing – the question of Time is irrelevant. No sequence of events or external cause existed to frame the schedule by which the Big Bang should be set in motion. There was no Before, only an After.
To Atheism the Big Bang is the closest approach it can make to the First Cause. It insists that there is no purposeful originator, no creator. Such a being cannot exist, it says, for if it did this would presuppose a cause for its own existence. That is, there must needs be a maker of the maker, and ad infinitum backwards into the void of Time.
‘So fix it’, says she.
‘With what shall I fix it?’
‘With a straw.’
‘But the straw is too long.’
Liza, sarcastically, ‘Then cut it, dear Henry.’
‘With what shall I cut it?’
‘With a hatchet.’
Henry doggedly persists. ‘But the hatchet’s too dull, dear Liza.’
‘Then sharpen it, dear Henry.’
‘With what shall I sharpen it?’
‘Use the stone.’
‘But the stone is too dry.’
‘Then wet it.’
Henry cries out plaintively, ‘With what shall I wet it, dear Liza?’
Liza, exasperated, shouting, ‘With water, dear Henry.’
‘In what shall I fetch it?’
‘In a bucket, dear Henry.’
Yes. . . you do know what’s coming . . .
‘There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza.’
The irony in this exchange tickles the funny bone. So there’s still a hole in the First Cause bucket but the atheist sees nothing to laugh at. But why is it intelligent and scientific to believe in an uncaused Big Bang, yet stupid and gullible to believe in an uncaused creator? Doesn’t it mean anything that we, as human beings, have minds competent to ask these questions in the first place? Could this not also imply the existence of some directing action operating in the formation and distribution of matter? Without it, we might suppose that every manifestation of intelligence, human or animal, is a mere accident – uncaused aberrations so numerous as to stretch credulity to breaking point. For even assuming the accidental formation of matter there is no satisfactory, testable explanation for the formation of the self-conscious mind, itself an agent of creation. The philosopher or architect invents ideas or designs buildings entirely in the sphere of imagination, an intangible world which bears little resemblance to the hard nuts and bolts of the material world around us. Only after imagination has laboured does it commit its product to the material world of ink and paper. This secondary sphere of cause and effect mirrors the Christian’s assumption that intelligent mind brought forth the material world: the God ‘said’ of Genesis 1: 3, etc.
[fn2] The sources below explain the theory in laymen’s terms.
1. BBC Science and Nature: Space:
2. Cambridge Relativity Group:
3. All About Science:
4. All About Science: Explanatory video
[fn3] The song was popularised in the 1960s by the Jamaican singer, Harry Belafonte, and the American folk singer, Odetta.
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