Redshift, Expansion, God, and Mr. Bang.
Updated: Mar 1
Was there a Big Bang, though?
Is the universe really expanding like they say?
How do we account for its existence?
And has the James Webb Space Telescope reinforced or undermined the Big Bang?
Let’s review the evidence:
The light from stars and galaxies is redshifted (see below). That is viewed as a Doppler effect, which suggests they are flying away from us. If so, the universe is expanding, and if we run that concept backwards in time to its extreme conclusion, it used to be very very small.
There is a field of microwave energy that fills the universe. It has a temperature equivalent of about 2.7K (-270.5°C), and is known as the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR). Some believe it to be the leftover energy of an explosive Big Bang event that occurred some 13.8 billion years ago.
The James Webb Space Telescope has found images of half a dozen galaxies that were already formed 13.5 billion years ago. That should not be possible, according to the standard model of cosmology, because there would simply not have been enough time. (See 'universe breakers' article.)
A Big Bang event violates many of the laws of physics that seem to hold consistently everywhere (and everywhen) else throughout the observable universe. It is therefore impossible to understand what the conditions at such a 'beginning' might have been like, and we can therefore certainly not extrapolate them forward in time with any degree of confidence. In addition, science is meant to flow from observation to explanation. It is never meant to start from a preconceived notion or starting constraint. In this case, it is about looking at the universe now and extrapolating backwards in time, not the reverse.
As such, if the pillars of the Big Bang theory are either found to be untrue, or if they can be explained through physical reasons that do not require a physics-defying Big Bang, this theory is no longer on a solid foundation. Scientific rigor would then demand that we relinquish our dogmatic hold on it. In its wake, we may indeed find a stable, steady-state universe in which the laws of physics remain consistent. That will then invite further questions for both the physicist and the metaphysicist (that we will investigate further below).
Let's therefore consider the two pieces of evidence mentioned above — the redshift and the CMBR.
Definition: Redshift occurs when the wavelength of light (literally, the length of the wave) becomes stretched, as shown below. This gives the impression that the light is closer in color to the red end of the rainbow — that it has a longer wavelength than it had when it was emitted. (The wavelengths of light get longer as we move down the rainbow in color from violet towards red.) By way of example, a photon of green light, after being redshifted, may appear yellow, orange or even red, depending on the amount of the redshift. A red or infrared photon, after being redshifted, may appear to be a microwave or even a radio wave.
The redshift of photons can be a real physical effect or only a perceived effect.
The standard model of cosmology views redshift as a perceived effect — a Doppler effect. The ambulance siren is not really changing pitch as it passes; it is only changing in the perception of the stationary observer on the sidewalk. In such a Doppler-style expanding universe, photons are not actually losing energy as they traverse space. It is only our relativistic perception of them that gives the appearance of a redshift. It is therefore believed that the redshift effect is caused by the expansion of the universe, and that we are indeed getting further and further away from other stars and galaxies by the second.
In his book How To Build A Universe: Beyond The Standard Models (ETP Semra, 2021, chapters 8-11), Vivian Robinson explains redshift differently, using an approach that focuses on the physical mechanism at work (see below). In this approach, cosmic photon redshift is an actual physical effect, one in which photons actually do lose energy as they traverse space. (This is also a relativistic effect because it is necessitated by the constancy of the speed of light.)
According to the Robinson approach, the redshift of cosmic photons has two primary mechanisms:
Photons are redshifted as soon as they leave their star because they are climbing the star’s gravity well. (While photons do not have rest mass, they certainly do have inertial mass.) As energy is drained from the photon by the star’s gravity, it loses this energy from its frequency since its velocity must remain fixed. This means its wavelength must increase proportionally, which results in an actual redshift rather than a perceived redshift. The redshift will be greater for light from stars with larger masses since their gravity wells will be more powerful. This is the reason that different objects in the same distant galaxy can have very different redshifts, as has been observed (and as has been ignored by many).
Photons then continue to be redshifted along their journey by the viscosity of space itself. Space is nowhere completely empty of electromagnetic energy, just as the ocean surface, up close, is nowhere completely empty of a wave disturbance. Even apart from radiation and cosmic rays, space is pervaded by cosmic neutrinos, whose density is so high in every cubic centimeter of space that, given their De Broglie (pronounced: de broyi) wavelength, their electromagnetic energy, in actuality, fills all of space. This is a real universal quantum field. Photons therefore lose tiny amounts of their momentum to this background matrix of field disturbances as they travel through it, like a boat moving through choppy waters, resulting in an actual redshift proportional to the distance traveled.
Redshift, therefore, does not need to be caused by a universal expansion.
(For more detail on redshift and the nature and mechanism of gravity, visit https://quicycle.com/breakthroughs/ )
THE AGE OF THE UNIVERSE
Another consequence of this approach to redshift is that, since photons actually do lose energy as they traverse space, it gives them a limited distance of travel before they become redshifted into oblivion, as shown below.
According to this model, that is why our perception of the universe does not reach beyond a distance of 13.8 billion light years. It is not necessarily because that is all that exists in space or time; such an assumption would not be scientifically defensible. It could be, however, because, by analogy, that is the limit imposed by the physics of using a photon-based 'looking glass' to look through a universe with a 'refractive index.'
This is also the reason that redshift increases with distance. It is not because the universe's expansion is enigmatically accelerating the further from Earth we go. It is simply because redshift is a cumulative effect over distance.
In addition, since we can see 13.8 billion light years in all directions, it means that we are either at the precise center of the universe, or else that is merely the limit of our sight in all directions. The former may satisfy our egos (and perhaps our Creation narratives) but it is certainly not very likely, from a statistical standpoint. The latter is therefore more scientifically defensible.
Significantly, given that the JWST has imaged multiple galaxies that did not have enough time to form in the short time after the proposed 'beginning,' this could well provide the final nail in the coffin of the Big Bang theory. (At least, for those willing to give primacy to observation rather than clinging to favored though failing theories.)
BACKGROUND RADIATION (CMBR)
A universe that runs on electromagnetic energy should, logically, contain some baseline static of electromagnetic energy — a universal electromagnetic quantum field, if you will. This is all the more true if it is comprised of nothing but such energy — linear photons radiating and rotating photons comprising matter particles. (See https://quicycle.com/breakthroughs/.) The presence of background radiation, however, does not provide proof of an initial explosive event. It provides unequivocal evidence of the presence of an electromagnetic energy baseline, but it does not have to result from an explosive event. There may be other explanations.
In 1926, Eddington calculated that the background temperature of space for an infinite, steady-state universe should be about 3.12 degrees Kelvin. In 1933, Regner suggested the temperature should be about 2.8K. That is not far from the observed 2.7K of the CMBR.
According to the Robinson Model, neutrinos are the smallest stable particles because they form the lowest-energy stable electromagnetic particle resonances. At rest, their mass is of the order of 10⁻⁴ eV/c², which is roughly equivalent in energy to the temperature of the 2.7K CMBR. That is one alternative explanation of the origin of the CMBR.
Eric J. Lerner provides another. In his book The Big Bang Never Happened (Vintage, 1992, pages 30-51), he explains that electrons in intergalactic magnetic fields can absorb and re-emit microwaves. The jets emitted from galactic nuclei contain both the required field strength and the energetic electrons. In so doing, the directions of absorption and emission will randomize the direction of intergalactic radiation, similar to the way the droplets in a fog scatter light. It gives the appearance that the radiation is coming from every direction equally.
Furthermore, this type of scattering occurs in local intergalactic regions, and it would indeed cause any Big Bang remnant energy, should it exist, to become distinctly non-uniform, which is not observed. (This presents yet another challenge to the Big Bang concept.) Lerner also published an article explaining how this scattering effect should cause galaxies that are equally bright in the infrared spectrum to appear fainter and fainter in the radio spectrum with greater distance, and this is indeed observed.
Lerner draws additional evidence from the fact that the CMBR exhibits a perfect black-body radiation curve, something that would be inconsistent with the formation of the large-scale structures in the observable part of the universe if they were the result of a Big Bang-type beginning. Indeed, there are large-scale structures that are simply too large to have formed in the span of 13.8 billion years. These include, for example, the Pisces-Cetus galaxy supercluster. (See his book for the details.)
The Robinson and Lerner approaches are not mutually exclusive.
As such, without evidence that must (or can only) point to the expansion of the universe, without the universe having a 13.8 billion year age-limit, and without the CMBR having to be leftover energy from an explosion… the foundation upon which the Big Bang Theory rests has become substantially eroded. Is it not time that the theory — which violates the known laws of physics at its core — be allowed to die an honorable death? Perhaps it is time that it went the way of all theories that emerged, rose to prominence, and were then relinquished for their lack of standing up to long-term scrutiny or the power of innovation.
It does seem far more intuitive, to this author at least, that we live in a stable, steady-state universe in which the laws of physics have remained, do remain, and will remain consistent. Of course, this does rob us of a convenient origin story, but that should not be the measure of good science, as comforting as it may be to the (all-too human) psyche of the scientist. That is not the purpose of science.
Currently, the nature of the origin of the universe is inaccessible to our science. It violates the laws of the conservation of matter and energy. It is non-causative. We have no scientific tools to deal with or describe the origination of matter or energy. The nature of the universe's dynamics, however, is accessible to us. They lie before us in all their awe-inspiring electromagnetic detail. We have but to interpret what we see correctly.
For those with a spiritual or religious bent, fear not. The physical universe does not need an origin event.
For those with a scientific bent, the same is true!
As we mentioned, an origination of matter or energy from nothing violates the laws of the conservation of matter and energy. This is the reason that the nature of the origin of the universe is inaccessible to our science. It is also the reason that physicists are virtually wed to the idea of an infinite universe, whether they like it or not. That is, assuming they want to continue to believe in the consistency and primacy of physical laws. If they choose to step outside of that construct, they may of course do so. But then the onus is upon them, either to acknowledge that they also entertain a philosophical or spiritual bent, or to explain how, why, and when the laws of physics break down, and according to what mechanism.
The origin remains inaccessible to science because it deals with the bridging of this realm to another that does not share its limits — a meeting of the non-causative and the causative, the tangible and the intangible. The question of origins is therefore necessarily relegated to the sphere of the philosopher and, dare we say it, the spiritualist. While the question may be of interest to the scientist, a beginning is not required for the scientific method to operate or for humans to use its observations to successfully engineer technology.
If there is a spiritual realm and/or a creative Source, it must exist outside of both space and time, since spacetime is the created thing. Such a source will therefore be subject to neither space nor time. From outside of the spacetime construct, an energetic Source that is infinitely beyond space and time could conceivably create a universe that is infinite within the constraints of space and time. This seems philosophically plausible, even if outside of the purview of the scientific method.
As such, a 'beginning' is no longer relevant, neither for the scientist nor for the spiritualist. Neither needs it in order to remain self-consistent, nor to explain the workings of their construct. Furthermore — and perhaps most significantly — neither science nor religion is qualified to make claims about the other, whether to validate or invalidate, with any degree of integrity. One deals with a reality that is firmly within the bounds of spacetime and physical laws; the other, outside of these bounds. For both to maintain their intellectual integrity, they must remain within the appropriate boundaries of their constructs.
And their constructs are not mutually exclusive for this reason. There is no inherent contradiction in believing in both science and spirituality. One can believe in a non-physical origin while also believing in the primacy of physical laws within the infinite universe — if for no other reason — than because neither construct can disprove the other. While science has no access to the physical origin of the universe, it also cannot preclude the possibility of it having a non-physical origin that is beyond space and time. Similarly, religion cannot use the scientific method to validate any of their own concepts that are not accessible to be physically measured, nor their philosophical concepts to explain scientific observables.
It would serve both scientist and religionist well to remember this when they apprehend one another in contemplation or discussion.
From a purely scientific and observational point of view, the universe appears to be infinite and in a steady, dynamic state of equilibrium (assuming that the observed redshift is real and not perceived). It may well have no beginning in time and no end in extent, and nor does it require them. (For more on why gravitational collapse is not a concern in an infinite steady-state universe, see Robinson's book referenced above.)
Instead, we can apprehend the larger cosmological questions by looking at the observed dynamics of the universe. Rather than investigating a universal beginning or ending in time, which is not possible, we might look at the nodal points within the observed cosmic energy dynamics.
But that is a topic for a different discussion, one involving entropy, neutron stars, the recycling of matter in the universe, and with a little antimatter thrown in for good measure.
"A pleasure that waits," as Dr. John Williamson likes to say.