Home » Cosmology, News » A real beginning to the universe? Cosmologist Vilenkin didn’t always give “the worst birthday gifts ever” …

A real beginning to the universe? Cosmologist Vilenkin didn’t always give “the worst birthday gifts ever” …

In “Why physicists can’t avoid a creation event” (New Scientist, January 11, 2012), we learn (and V. J. Torley discusses here),

While many of us may be OK with the idea of the big bang simply starting everything, physicists, including Hawking, tend to shy away from cosmic genesis. “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God,” Hawking told the meeting, at the University of Cambridge, in a pre-recorded speech.

For a while it looked like it might be possible to dodge this problem, by relying on models such as an eternally inflating or cyclic universe, both of which seemed to continue infinitely in the past as well as the future. Perhaps surprisingly, these were also both compatible with the big bang, the idea that the universe most likely burst forth from an extremely dense, hot state about 13.7 billion years ago.

However, as cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston explained last week, that hope has been gradually fading and may now be dead. He showed that all these theories still demand a beginning.

It’s interesting that Vilenkin would be bearing this news. A trip through the files turned up:

“Welcome to the Multiverse: in Alexander Vilenkin and Max Tegmark, “The Case for Parallel Universes: Why the multiverse, crazy as it sounds, is a solid scientific idea” (July 19, 2011).

Also A. Vilenkin, “Birth of Inflationary Universes,” Physical Review D 27 (1983): 2854, and A. Vilenkin, “Creation of the Universe from Nothing,” Physical Letters 117B (1982): 25–8.

Change of mind, it seems.

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5 Responses to A real beginning to the universe? Cosmologist Vilenkin didn’t always give “the worst birthday gifts ever” …

  1. 1

    This begrudging foot dragging and pouting when confronted with the evidence for t=0 goes back nearly a century. Starting with Monsignor Lemaître, the catholic priest that first introduced the idea of “a beginning” in a scientific framework. He was accused of trying to smuggle religion into science. He was later vindicated by the observations from the hubble telescope.

    (Wiki):

    In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state Universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory.[83] This perception was enhanced by the fact that the originator of the Big Bang theory, Monsignor Georges Lemaître, was a Roman Catholic priest.[84] Pope Pius XII declared, at the November 22, 1951 opening meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that the Big Bang theory accorded with the Catholic concept of creation.[

    However, despite reluctantly accepting big bang cosmology, the craving to smudge t=0 never eroded. As Hawking admits:

    Many people do not like the idea that time has a begining, probably because it smacks of divine intervention. (The Catholic Church, on the other hand, seized on the big bang model and in 1951 officially pronounced it in accordance with the Bible.) There were therefore a number of attempts to avoid the conclusion that there had been a big bang.”
    A Brief History of Time, pg.49

    (Hawking himself later in the same book attempts to smudge the singularity point using the mathematical trick of imaginary time.)

  2. Hawking’s ‘worst birthday present’ from Vilenkin, for his 70th birthday, is reminiscent of the ‘worst birthday present’ that Godel gave Einstein for his 70th birthday:

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: Gödel’s personal God is under no obligation to behave in a predictable orderly fashion, and Gödel produced what may be the most damaging critique of general relativity. In a Festschrift, (a book honoring Einstein), for Einstein’s seventieth birthday in 1949, Gödel demonstrated the possibility of a special case in which, as Palle Yourgrau described the result, “the large-scale geometry of the world is so warped that there exist space-time curves that bend back on themselves so far that they close; that is, they return to their starting point.” This means that “a highly accelerated spaceship journey along such a closed path, or world line, could only be described as time travel.” In fact, “Gödel worked out the length and time for the journey, as well as the exact speed and fuel requirements.” Gödel, of course, did not actually believe in time travel, but he understood his paper to undermine the Einsteinian worldview from within.
    http://www.firstthings.com/art.....ematicians

    The ‘undermining of the Eisenstein worldview’ is now complete:

    The Cauchy Problem In General Relativity – Igor Rodnianski
    Excerpt: 2.2 Large Data Problem In General Relativity – While the result of Choquet-Bruhat and its subsequent refinements guarantee the existence and uniqueness of a (maximal) Cauchy development, they provide no information about its geodesic completeness and thus, in the language of partial differential equations, constitutes a local existence. ,,, More generally, there are a number of conditions that will guarantee the space-time will be geodesically incomplete.,,, In the language of partial differential equations this means an impossibility of a large data global existence result for all initial data in General Relativity.
    http://www.icm2006.org/proceed.....l_3_22.pdf

    Quantum Entanglement – The Failure Of Local Realism – Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    The falsification for local realism (materialism) was recently greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

    This following study also added to Alain Aspect’s work in Quantum Mechanics and solidly refutes the ‘hidden variable’ argument, put forth by Einstein and company, that had been used by materialists to try to get around the Theistic implications of the instantaneous ‘spooky action at a distance’, as Einstein termed entanglement, found in quantum mechanics.

    Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
    Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm

    (of note: hidden variables were postulated to remove the need for ‘spooky’ forces, as Einstein termed them — forces that act instantaneously at great distances, thereby breaking the most cherished rule of relativity theory, that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.)

    Quantum Mechanics has now been extended by Anton Zeilinger, and team, to falsify local realism (reductive materialism) without even using quantum entanglement to do it:

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    Falsification of Local Realism without using Quantum Entanglement – Anton Zeilinger
    http://vimeo.com/34168474

  3. Hi bornagain77,

    Thanks very much for the link to the article in First Things on Godel: The God of the Mathematicians . It was well worth reading, and contained lots of really good food for thought. Thanks again.

  4. Vilenkin has not had a change of heart. He still holds to a a ‘tunneling from nothing’ view, and a Level II Tegmark multiverse. I believe his work in showing that the universe has a beginning is in keeping arguing for the continued relevancy of his original research.

    He seems to take no side with regard to who or what is responsible for creation. In his popular level book “Many Worlds from One”, he suggests that creation is an unsolvable paradox.

  5. “He seems to take no side with regard to who or what is responsible for creation. In his popular level book “Many Worlds from One”, he suggests that creation is an unsolvable paradox.”

    What other side – other than an omnipotent God – is there to take, with regard to who or what is responsible for Creation, sinclairjd? He seems to be just eschewing metaphysics, perhaps for fear of offending against the secular-fundamentalist, scientism zeitgeist.

    Moreover, Creation is an unsolvable paradox from the sole viewpoint of the analytical intelligence. The more fundamental spiritual truths, like their empirical counterparts, are paradoxes, which latter, by definition, are all absolutely imponderable, whatever the sphere of knowledge. If they were untrue, of course, they would be simply oxymorons.

    The primary means of accessing spiritual truths was described by Aldous Huxley in his essay on comparative religion, as the ‘unitive intelligence’, in some measure, achievable by modifying ones goals and behaviour.

    I doubt, however, its applicability, at least proximately, to the paradoxes of physics, which physicists are nevertheless able to accept as part of their world-view in relation to their field, using them as staging posts towards further discoveries.

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