During my school days in Vancouver, B.C., I met some really brilliant students, but none of them aced every test. I can say, though, that I have met a theory that does.
The big bang has scored well on every test devised and applied by researchers over several decades,1 and it has just sailed through another one with flying colors.
Why is this fact relevant to the Christian faith? The big bang’s success not only advances science but also provides a huge boost for establishing the accuracy of the Bible. How? The Bible describes the fundamentals of big bang cosmology—a transcendent cosmic origin, a continuous cosmic expansion, and continuously increasing entropy—though it was written thousands of years before any physicist or astronomer even hinted at such notions.2
This latest test sought to explain the apparent “dipole” structure in the cosmic background radiation—the observation that the cosmic background radiation measures 0.1% hotter on one side of the sky than on the other (see figure).
The big bang’s ideological opponents seized upon this temperature difference as the basis for a challenge. They recognized that if the dipolarity really resides in the background radiation itself, the big bang model fails. The high uniformity of that background radiation is a pillar of big bang cosmology.
Defenders of the big bang (most astronomers) hypothesized that Earth’s motion, relative to the uniform expansion of the universe, causes this dipolarity. In other words, the temperature difference exists not in the background radiation but simply in Earth-bound measurements of that radiation. The difference is really an artifact of measurement since Earth is moving in two directions at once: 1) in the direction of the generalized expansion, and 2) by gravity, in the direction of the Great Attractor, a massive aggregate of galaxy superclusters.
Earth’s movement toward the Attractor would impact temperature measurements the way the Doppler effect changes the pitch of a train’s horn as the train passes by a human observer. The pitch is higher as the train approaches because the sound waves get pushed together by the train’s movement toward the observer, and the pitch is lower after the train passes because the sound waves get stretched by the train’s movement away from the observer. Similarly, measurements of the cosmic background radiation would read higher in the direction of Earth’s motion toward the Attractor and lower in the opposite direction.
Tests done in the mid 1990s supported astronomers’ hypothesis about the motion effect but were not adequately conclusive to satisfy all big bang critics. However, two British astronomers recently completed a more definitive test. They performed a deep-sky survey of radio (high-energy emitting) galaxies, selecting only radio galaxies with active galactic nuclei (because most are located at great distances), and eliminating nearby radio sources that might contaminate their findings.3
Their observations proved that the dipole structure comes from Earth’s secondary motion. Test data showed perfect consistency with what the big bang-supporting hypothesis predicted. To borrow the words of George Ellis, “With yet another observational success behind them, theoretical cosmologists can be pleased that their basic model remains intact.”4 Christians, too, can be pleased that a biblical model for cosmic creation gains resounding affirmation.
- Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 31-67, 77-108.
- Ross, 23-29.
- Chris Blake and Jasper Wall, “A Velocity Dipole in the Distribution of Radio Galaxies,” Nature 416 (2002): 150-52.
- George F. R. Ellis, “Maintaining the Standard,” Nature 416 (2002): 133.