In the first of a series of articles on creation, DR YUSUF NOOR provides a glimpse into how the scientific community viewed how the universe came into being.
WHAT could be more fascinating than wanting to know how our universe came into existence? How did the whole of reality begin?
For centuries, the scientific community proposed that the universe had always existed and will continue to do so into an infinite future. This idea nearly disposes of a creator. Had you asked who created the universe, the answer would have been nobody.
Then, in the 1920s, things began to change. Scientists, with the aid of telescopes, observed that the galaxies were flying apart due to the stretching of space between them. The universe was in a state of violent expansion.
If we rewind the cosmic movie then the galaxies should be moving towards each other. As we move back further into time, they should be getting closer to each other until, at some stage, they should be on top of each other. This points to a beginning. Moreover, the further away a galaxy was in relation to our own Milky Way galaxy, the faster it was moving away. This supported the idea of a beginning.
With this new information, scientists theorised that the universe had an explosive birth 13,8 billion years ago. This explosion generated an enormous amount of heat and energy. This should be detectable today although in a cooler form since the universe has been expanding and cooling for billions of years.
This leftover heat could not escape ‘out’ of the universe since the universe is theoretically all that exists. In 1964, this afterglow of the Big Bang was discovered. For the first time there was hard physical evidence that the universe had a beginning.
Let’s consider the sequence of events in the first three minutes following the instant of creation. It began with a singularity, a dimensionless point that was infinitely small, dense and hot. Since such an entity does not exist in reality, the singularity represents a transition from non-existence to existence.
The singularity erupted, spewing out energy. And space and time began. As the embryonic universe expanded, it cooled and some of the energy converted to matter. As the micro universe continued to expand and cool, different species of matter came into existence – protons, neutrons, electrons and the raw material of all matter.
These particles interact with each other forming the simpler of elements, hydrogen and helium. These two gases would constitute 98 per cent of the visible universe. The rest of the elements, such as oxygen, nitrogen, iron and gold would be cooked much later in the interior of stars.
During those early times (13,8 billion years ago), because of the high energy and blisteringly hot conditions, electrons were prevented from taking up their positions around the hydrogen and helium nuclei; they were displaced by the highly energetic photons (light particles).
This tight interaction of photons and electrons trapped the former, giving the universe an opaque appearance. If you were an observer at that time, the universe would have appeared as a sea of mist.
For the next few hundred thousand years, the mini universe would continue to enlarge, its temperature steadily dropping when something dramatically happens.
About 380 thousand years after the creation event, the temperature of the universe had decreased sufficiently to allow electrons to assume their position around the hydrogen and helium nuclei.
This process released the trapped photons which streamed in all directions, flooding the cosmos with light, and the universe became transparent. This uncoupling of photons and matter particles also freed the latter, which could now begin structure building.
During the first few hundred thousand years before this uncoupling, the universe was structure-less, none of the familiar structures, such as stars, galaxies and planetary systems existed. The universe was gaseous, consisting mainly of hydrogen and helium. It was opaque and hot. This period is known as the cosmic dark ages.
The first cosmic objects, like stars, became recognisable only 400 million years after the Big Bang. It would take another 400 million years for infant galaxies to appear. Modern galaxies began to take shape another 400 million years later.
Our Milky Way evolved 10 billion years ago. The solar system began to form five billion years ago in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way. Earth began its formation 4,5 billion years ago.
As the earth cooled in the cold vacuum of space, the first primitive life forms appeared. It would take another 3,5 billion years before our ancestors appeared i.e. about 200 000 years ago, a mere blink in the cosmic scale of time.
This, in essence, is the Big Bang theory.
In the next article we will focus on the Quran, exploring its breathtaking account of creation in the light of new evidence.
- Dr Yusuf Noor is the author of Document X: Direct Evidence of God’s Existence. More information is available at https://documentx.net/