Three Major Scientific Theories Explaining the Origins of the Universe


Discussion of three major scientific theories explaining the origins of the universe


Three major scientific theories on the origins of the universe

The question of the origins of the universe has concerned humanity for centuries. Understanding the origins of the universe also implies an understanding of creation and leads to insight into humanities place in the universe. Therefore, the various theories discussed in this paper can be seen are prime examples of this need to understand the origins of our universe. The central scientific theory on this subject, known as the Big Bang theory, will be compared to two modern theories that have become popular alternatives to the Big Bang theory.

The analysis of these theories is intended to illustrate the central thesis; namely that the Big Bang theory is essentially inadequate to explain the complexity and mystery of the origins of the universe. More complex theories that also satisfy the innate human perception of the mystery of life and the universe need to be considered. This applies to scientific criteria as well as to personal views about the nature of creation and the universe.

1. Introduction

One of the most fundamental and central questions that have been raised by thinkers and philosophers throughout human history is the question of the origins and the creation of the universe. It could be said that this it is one of the paramount existential questions and an answer to this question leads to many other views and assumptions about human life on this planet. Consequently, there have been many theories put forward as to the creation and origins of the universe. These range from myths from traditional cultures to modern scientific theories.

We live in a world and a culture that is dominated by the scientific mode of critical inquiry. As such, older more traditional and religious views and theories about the origins of creation and of the universe tend to be discounted in favor of more modern theories based on scientific and mathematical premises. In this paper three major scientific theories on the origins of the universe will be discussed. These will include the dominant Big Bang theory and its associated theory of the expansion of the universe. Other theories that will be discussed are more recent scientific theories that tend to provide alternatives to the Big Bang theory.

The central thesis that will be explored in this paper is that the Big Bang theory does not provide a comprehensive and satisfying explanation of the origins of the universe. This theory leaves many questions unanswered and, from a personal perspective, does not provide an adequate enough theory to deal with the obvious mystery and wonder of the universe. Therefore, it is suggested that the other theories that will be referred to provide a more comprehensive and fitting answer to this all -- important question.

2. Major theories

In essence there are two opposing views of the origins of the universe that are reflected in scientific and other theories. These are that the universe has "…either existed eternally with no beginning or end, or it was created at some point in time (Scientific Origins of the Universe). The first is aligned with the more religious and traditional cosmologies, although some recent quantum physics theories of the universe tend to lean towards this perception of reality. The second view that the universe was created at some point in time and that it will come to an end is linked to the dominant scientific and rationalistic trend in thought

2.1. The Big Bang theory of the origins of the universe.

This theory, which has become one of the major theories about the universe, states that the universe was created about fourteen billion years ago as a result of a single cosmic explosion (the Origins of Our Universe). One way of understanding the Big Bang theory is from the point-of-view rational and logical scientific observation. The famous scientist Edward Hubble ascertained that the galaxies in the universe were in fact moving away from one another. This indicated that the universe was in the process of expanding and this in turn implied that there was a particular moment that was the initial point of origin of the universe (God, Genesis and the big bang: The Origin of the Universe).

This was related to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity and to rational scientific thinking. The universe was expanding from a point of origin and "…moving backward in time we eventually come to a point where time equals zero. At the moment T=0, matter and energy become compressed into zero dimensional space" (God, Genesis and the big bang: The Origin of the Universe). The notion of an 'explosive moment' from which the universe had been continually expanding was first suggested by Georges Lemaitre. He based his ideas on Albert Einstein's relativity equations (Origin of the Universe Theories).

It should also be noted that this theory is based on certain assumptions. The first is the universality of physical laws and the second is the important Cosmological Principle. This principle refers to the view that on a larger scale the universe is essentially homogenous.

2.2. Ekpyrotic Theory

This theory is linked to contemporary quantum physics and it suggests that our universe was created by the collision of two three-dimensional worlds moving along a hidden dimension (Steinhardt, para.5). This collision resulted in the release of kinetic energy which was converted into elements such as quarks, electrons, photons and other elements and particles.

This theory is generally understood as being a departure from some of the assumptions that underlie the Big Bang theory; while other scientists see this as an extension of the Big bang theory. In scientific terms, this theory posits the view that the universe did not begin with very high temperatures and density but that it began in coldness and in a vacuum. In term of this theory "…the hot expanding universe resulted from a collision that rose the temperature and density of the universe up to a large, but finite, value" (the Origins of Our Universe). The term "ekpyrotic" has its origins in Greek thought and means conflagration" (Steinhardt, para.5). Interestingly, it refers to ancient stoic philosophy in which the universe is conceived in "… a sudden burst of fire, not unlike the collision between three-dimensional worlds in our model (Steinhardt, para.5).

This theory solves some of criticisms of the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory has been questioned with regard to the homogeneity of the universe. As one pundit states, "The Big Bang model, with no amendments, would tend to produce a universe that is highly inhomogeneous, with a warped and curved space, and no natural mechanism for making stars, galaxies and larger scale structures in the universe" (the Origins of Our Universe, para.3). In terms of Ekpyrotic theory the collision that initiated the Big Bang took place almost simultaneously everywhere and this therefore explains the homogeneity of the universe.

It is also important to note that this theory is based on quantum string theory. Very briefly, string theory is a radical new way of describing the universe where the concept of particles is replaced by the idea of multidimensional strings. These strings vibrate in the same way that a string of a musical instrument vibrates. These vibrations determine the nature of subatomic particles and the nature of our universe ( Theories on the Existence and Origin of the Universe). This theory is also known M-theory or 'brane' theory, where the universe is seen in terms of a number of multidimensional membranes.

2.3. The Split Universe theory.

Another theory that has become popular is the theory that the universe is in fact split into two. This is also based on quantum string theory. According to this view, the universe was at one point ten-dimensional but this was unstable structure. As a result it split into two universes -- one with six dimension and one with four dimensions. We exist in the four-dimensional universe. Therefore, according to this theory, the Big Bang was in fact the breakdown of the ten dimensional universe into two parts ( Theories on the Existence and Origin of the Universe).

This theory was put forward by, among others, Cumrun Vafa, a professor at Harvard University. He has determined that "…the six-dimensional universe is in the shape of an orbifold. The simplest example of an orbifold is a cone, but in this case the universe is a 'twisted torus' -- a doughnut shape" ( Theories on the Existence and Origin of the Universe).

3. Analysis and argument

The Big bang theory has been criticized by many scientists as being inadequate to explain the reality and complexity of the universe. Therefore it is not sufficient to correctly model the origins of the universe. The two other theories that have been discussed above may seem strange and esoteric but are perfectly acceptable in terms of modern physics and quantum theory. These last two theories tend to satisfy the need for a…