Preliminary results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) have stirred great excitement among physicists.1 Radiometers on board the satellite are sending NASA researchers by far the most detailed maps to date of the radiation left over from the cosmic creation event—specifically of the temperature fluctuations in that radiation.
Astronomers have now refined their calculations of the time back to the creation event to three significant figures. Their measurements say the universe is 13.7 ± 0.1 billion years. The date when light first separated from darkness has been pinned down to two significant figures: 0.00038 billion (i.e., 380,000) years after that event. The new maps confirm the three density parameters of the universe and the geometry of the universe to two significant figures. According to these latest readings, the universe is 4 percent ordinary matter (protons, neutrons, and electrons that strongly interact with photons or light), 23 percent exotic matter (matter such as neutrinos that weakly interact with photons), and 73 percent space energy density (a self-stretching property of the space fabric of the universe); and the universe’s geometry is flat to within 1 percent.
What delights astronomers most about the new maps is that they provide the first accurate date for the formation of the first stars. By measuring polarization in the cosmic background radiation (see p. 2), WMAP records the birth of the first stars at 0.2 billion years after the big bang.
The theological significance of the WMAP measures is huge. Here’s why: The most spectacular evidence for supernatural design of the cosmos resides in its density characteristics. For physical life to be possible—anywhere, anytime—the mass density of the universe can differ by no more than one part in 1060, and the space energy density by no more than one part in 10120.2 Thus, achieving confirmation of these density parameters strengthens the observational case for a Creator, one who is orders of magnitude more intelligent, more knowledgeable, more creative, and more powerful than humans can even imagine.
When big bang predictions can be refined to the degree of accuracy manifested in the WMAP results, the argument for a transcendent creation event grows tighter than ever. Not only can we point to potent evidence that the Creator must transcend matter, energy, space, and time, but we can also demonstrate the reliability of Scripture. The Bible accurately predicted three fundamental features of all current big bang models (initial singularity, continuous expansion, continuous cooling) thousands of years before any scientist had discovered these cosmic features.3
As mentioned on a recent Creation Update Webcast (February 18, 2003, available at https://c450903.r3.cf2.rackcdn.com/2003/cu161.mp3), evidences for the big bang are now so voluminous and powerful that to oppose them, as some creationists (and atheists) do,4 harms the reputation of the Christian community. Worse yet, it throws away one of the best opportunities God has given His people for drawing people to consider the truth-claims on which the gospel stands.
- NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, “Top Story: New Image of Infant Universe Reveals Era of First Stars, Age of Cosmos, and More,” February 11, 2003, www.gsfc.nasa.gov/topstory/2003/0206mapresults.html; Sean Carroll, “Filling in the Background,” Nature 422 (2003), 26-27; Geoff Brumfiel, “Cosmology Gets Real,” Nature 422 (2003), 108-110.
- Lawrence M. Krauss, “The End of the Age Problem and the Case for a Cosmological Constant Revisited,” Astrophysical Journal 501 (1998), 461, 465.
- Hugh Ross, “Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First,” in The Creator and the Cosmos, 3d ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 23-29.
- AiG editors, “Surprise? NASA ‘Confirms’ the Big Bang,” 14 February, 2003, www.answersingenesis.org/docs3003/0214nasa_bigbang.asp; Russell Humphreys, “Light from Creation Illuminates Cosmic Axis,” March 17, 2003, www.icr.org/headlines/cmbaxis.html.