While watching a rerun of Cosmos the other day I began to wonder what the latest thinking is about what happened pre-Big Bang and if that is still the general concensus on the start of the Universe.
The standard answer I’ve always heard is “Well, we don’t know and have no way of knowing so it doesn’t matter.” That, to me, seems like just as much a “take it on faith” answer as “God created the heaven and earth” but I’m open-minded on the subject.
So, what’s the dope? What do scientists today say happened before things got started?
Typically, the answer to your question has been that since time started at the big bang, there is no “before” the big bang. The oft-used analogy is that it’s like asking what’s North of the North Pole.
However, and I have no cite, I read recently (likely in New Scientist) that some new theories actually have time values for during and I think before the big bang. I doubt these are mainstream though.
The usual response is that there was no “before the Big Bang.” (Our notion of) Time started at the Big Bang. Asking what happened before the Big Bang is like asking what’s north of the North Pole (Stephen Hawking).
The Big Bang created space/time, so there was no “before”. Time doesn’t exist without space, and space did not exist before the big bang. Most people think of space as pre-existing and that the Big Bang created matter that expanded into the pre-existing space. But that’s wrong, as far as our knowledge tells us. Now, there are other models the postulate a never ending sequence of expansions and contractions, and that we’re just in one of the expansion phases now, but that is not the consensus view.
It would be more accurate to say that our understanding/models for the universe don’t extend before a certain point and so nothing meaningful can be stated about the universe at that time. Basically we don’t know, can’t model it, can’t test it and so it’s largely meaningless to discuss it with any rigour.
Which is actually a lot like God when you think about it.
Only in a vaguely deist sense. Most religions make specific claims about god that are decidedly not “we don’t know… and so it’s largely meaningless to discuss it.” God having notions about how people should act isn’t analogous in the least.
How is “We don’t know” a matter of faith? Isn’t that just honestly stating that you don’t know rather than just making up some hoky pokey and pretending you know? IMO faith is about beleiving in something without solid proof, but “I don’t know” isn’t making any particular statement about it at all.
I was going to say “I don’t know” doesn’t require any faith at all, but then I remembered Alberto Gonzales. Still, unless you think that these poeple telling you this actually do know but are keeping it a secret for some reason, I don’t see where faith comes into play for the answer.
My badly bent old brain started trying to sing a song it had never heard before.
(She didn’t believe me, but)
I lit the fuse on the Big Bang.
(She said I was crazy, but)
I lit the fuse on the Big Bang.
If anybody asks you, you can tell 'em it was meeee,
I lit the fuse, baybaaay.
Billy Joel said it wasn’t him,
And you can believe him.
I had to strike a big match,
We all had a rough patch.
(Insane but thoughtful guitar and saxophone bridge)
Um, where was I? I’ll get back to you, OK? Where’d you put those pretzels?
Not only did time and space come into being with the big bang, but so did our laws of physics, and the constants we use to explore them (Speed of light, weak and strong nuclear forces, all of chromodynamics, and a bunch of other stuff)… As these are the tools that are used to both measure and describe physical processes, even if there was a “Before” the big bang, it is unlikely that those conditions would be describable or relatable in a meaningful way.
By the way Asknott, You may have lit the fuse on the big bang, but I was the one you borrowed the match from…(GRIN)
Not at all the same thing, epistemologically. Scientists have never had a problem admitting that they don’t have all the answers … that some questions will be answered in the future, and possibly some will never be answered. After all, scientists aren’t omniscient, and all fields of knowledge have their limits. But we know what we know today, because of reality-tested theories and evidence. That’s not at all the same as taking something on faith, and not at all the same as falling back on “God did it.”
There is nothing which requires something to have existed prior to the Big Bang. If the Big Bang is defined to be the start of Everything–and essentially, that’s exactly how most mainstream cosmologists today view it–then not only did nothing exist before the Big Bang, there was, in fact, no “before” for anything to have existed at all.
No, but it doesn’t mean it ***does ***exist either. And nothing “had to” exist, prior to the BB. Our brains are incapable of comprehending total non-existence, so it’s natural to conclude that something “had to” exist … but reality isn’t dependent on our ability to comprehend it. If there was nothing “before” the BB, that’s an immutable fact, regardless of our inability to understand it.