Big Bang may have been a Big Bounce, ABC / Discovery News, Larry O'Hanlon, 24 May 2006 ...
[Graphic: Ashtekar's looped spacetime theory, Matthew E. Hogan, Earlham College.]
The Big Bang may have been a Big Bounce, say theorists searching for what preceded the birth of our own universe. ... [Continued from part #1] 'That's not to say we will never learn more about the earlier universe. [Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there was an "earlier universe," as astrophysicist Robert Jastrow pointed out in part #1, in the unimaginable compression and heat of the Big Bang singularity, there was a loss of information of what (if anything) existed before it (also assuming for the sake of argument, that there can be a "before" the Big Bang).
So there is a permanent limit, to what cosmologists can learn about any "earlier universe" (as opposed to what the late Robert M. Gacoigne, an Australian Christian biochemist turned historian of science called "a plethora of theoretical speculations" about it):
"Causes can be very difficult to find however. For the past dozen years or so intense theorizing has been going on about the very earliest instants of the Big Bang and about how it may have originated. [e.g. Davies, P., "The Mind of God," Simon & Schuster: London, 1992] It is very difficult to imagine how such theorizing can be subjected to experimental testing, except perhaps in highly indirect ways and even then the practical difficulties could well be enormous (and enormously expensive). A number of critics have expressed concern about this situation. One of them, after reviewing some of the current theory in this field, remarked: `The above mentioned far reaching speculations, practically removed from observational and experimental scrutiny and often dealing with essentially untestable propositions, are becoming increasingly fashionable in the scientific community, notwithstanding frequent formal declarations that testability and verifiability is the conditio sine qua non of science' [Pacholczyk, A.G., "The Catastrophic Universe," Pachart: Tucson AZ, 1984, p.89]. Another critic predicted that "increasing numbers of theorists will lose track of the essential role that experiment has played in shaping their science, and wander off into uncharted regions of philosophy and pure mathematics." [Chodos, A., "String Fever," American Scientist, 74, 1986, p.254] That seems to be what has happened. Though there is a plethora of theoretical speculations about the origin of the Big Bang there are no findings of any scientific solidity." (Gascoigne, R.M., "The History of the Creation: A Christian View of Inorganic and Organic Evolution," Fast Books: Sydney NSW, Australia, 1993, p.53)]
Astronomers are discovering patterns in the cosmic background radiation that appear to be the inflated remnants of electron-sized irregularities in the first instant of the Big Bang. Could those irregularities, combined with loop quantum gravity, reveal patterns inherited from the earlier universe? "There may be certain hints left behind," says Pullin. ... [See in part #1 on the problem of equifinality. There could be (and no doubt are) many, mutually exclusive theories that start from observed "patterns in the cosmic background radiation," and then theorise that these are "inflated remnants of electron-sized irregularities in the first instant of the Big Bang." But then how could they, when "combined with" another theory of "loop quantum gravity, reveal patterns inherited from the earlier universe"? Even assuming that there can be a meaningful "earlier" than time itself, how could such a series of theories, built on other theories, ever be tested? All the `heavy lifting' is in the theories themselves!
However, having said that, what if there was a universe before (assuming that has any meaning) the Big Bang? Gascoigne, although he thinks the Big Bang was the actual beginning, concedes that, "We cannot say however that the Big Bang was an absolute beginning" and there is a "possibility that the universe may have existed in some completely unknown way before the Big Bang":
"We cannot say however that the Big Bang was an absolute beginning. Science can provide no warrant for such a conception. We have to allow as a conceivable, if remote, possibility that the universe may have existed in some completely unknown way before the Big Bang. All we can say is that in terms of present knowledge it seems very likely that the Big Bang was the beginning of the universe and of time, so there was no 'before'. With this understanding it can now be asked whether the Big Bang has any significance for the Judeo-Christian doctrine of creation. We saw ... that there are several components of the doctrine, the most fundamental of them, and the one most emphasized in the theological tradition, being the ontological dependence of the universe on the Creator. The concept of time is simply not relevant to this article of the doctrine; consequently the fact, if it is a fact, that the universe began with the Big Bang about 15,000 million years ago is not relevant either. We also saw, however, that the idea that the universe had a beginning is also an element of the doctrine. Acceptance of the Big Bang as the beginning of the universe, then, is consistent with this part of the doctrine." (Gascoigne, 1993, pp.50-51. Emphasis original)
It is also worth remembering Gascoigne's point above that Christian theology for most of its history, has emphasised the "ontological dependence of the universe on the Creator," while also affirming "that the universe had a beginning" and that "The concept of time is simply not relevant to this article of the doctrine."
That is why it is not heretical in Christianity to believe that the Universe is ~10,000 years old (Young-Earth Creation) or that the Universe is ~14 billion years old (Old-Earth Creation). Christianity affirms that the Universe was created by God, not when it was created, except that it was "in the beginning" (Genesis 1:1) .
In fact I think there are Biblical reasons for thinking that the Big Bang was not the absolute beginning, but it would make this post too long. So ... to be concluded in part #3]