End of the Universe: History Channel Series "universe"

On 9/4/07, the History Channel broadcast an interesting two-hour program on the Big Bang theory, where it came from and what the evidence is.

This program was the end of a series on this subject, and it briefly closed with a description of the end of the universe, “billions and billions of years from now.”

The end of the universe, the scientists currently think, will be the unending expansion of the universe, accompanied by the “falling apart” of all the matter in the universe.

Why does this make sense in terms of the governing science? Everything is made of atoms, which in turn are made up principally of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

Sad, sad story: protons decay. Their half-life is about 4 billion years. So, in 4 billions years or so, one half of all the protons will decay. In fact, if the age of the universe is 13.5 billion years, then the universe has been through over 3 half-lives of the proton, and so we now have only about 1/8 of the mass of protons left in the universe since the big bang.

While it may take billions and billions of years to get to the point that the last bit of matter decays, the science says that quite a bit of the universe has already fallen apart (or should have).

The program did not delve into the physics of the decaying proton. But, that’s my point here, to give a little more information about the decaying universe, and why it not only makes sense, but is a certainty from a nuclear decay (scientific) standpoint.

I never put all this together until this evening, but it makes good physical sense.

This may have no practical value to us, especially given our short lifetimes. But, the science makes sense.

Well, then, even more: this proton decay gives off heat, and it is thus thought to be an irreversible process, in itself. So, the future “universe” is dark with all those smaller-than-proton pieces floating around.

Our telescopes allow us to look out and capture images of stars and matter that, in fact, may already no longer exist as we would normally think of them, as they appear to us. Wow.

The universe as it currently exists, based on what we know through science, may very well appear to be on the course these programs suggest. My only problem with these things is that they do not take into consideration the most obvious factor: God.

If He wills the universe to continue on this course, so be it.
If He wills it to go longer or shorter, then He alone has the ability to change that course. He created this universe and everything in it. Nothing is prohibiting him from adding more stars or galaxies or altering the chemisty of the environment such that these protons and such ‘evolve’ to survive (or die off) at a different rate that scientists expect.

The bottom line is that science serves only to help us make sense of what is evident to us. It really cannot explain or predict the past or the future, as only God really knows what happened before we started noticing and recording these these and hypothesizing about ancient ruins and fossils. It’s all fascinating, certainly, but not definite.

I think that’s a pretty ignorant view concerning science.

Science is primarily concerned with explaining and predicting the past and the future. The entire episode of “The End of the Universe” was about predicting how the universe will end. The prediction is based on observation, hypothesizing, testing, and evaluating. This is science. This is what it does.

“God” only really knows what happened before we started noticing and recording these things. But that’s not static. We understand more and more about how the Universe came to be, what happened in the past, what it’s doing now, how it works, and what it will do in the future.

The knowledge that you would prescribe to the exclusive domain of a supreme being is slowly and surely coming to us. Every religious believer from the Renaissance to today has declared that there are things we humans can never know.

In the 1500’s, the Church firmly declared that the workings of the cosmos were the exclusive domain of God and we should attempt to learn them for fear of blasphemy. But scientists like Copernicus and Galileo ignored this doctrine and sought that knowledge … and they got it. The church branded them heretics for their work, even though they were right.

At the opening of the 20th century, the Church said that the workings of existence itself were the exclusive domain of God, and we cannot truly know what they are. But, again, scientists like Bohr and Heisenberg showed us that this thing called matter is made of atoms, which are made of particles. Once again, the church branded them as heretics.

Then and interesting thing happened in the mid-20th: two hypotheses of the Universe that contradicted each other battled for dominance. The big bang universe favored a beginning and an end to the universe. This pissed off religious people like you wouldn’t believe! On the other side, the steady state universe favored an ever-constant universe that has always been and always will be. The Catholic Church officially endorsed this model, because it coincided with their theological views. No study, no testing, it just happened to fit what they wanted to hear, so they went with it.

Unfortunately, Edwin Hubble found evidence that clearly showed a big bang universe. The seady state model was discredited, and guess what? That’s right, the church labeled Hubble … a heretic.

What do all of these events have in common? They all shatter the notion that there is knowledge in this universe (past, present or future) that we cannot know. For the last two thousand years, science has done nothing but gain understanding of how this universe has worked, does work, and will work. We can predict beyond any doubt, both forward and backward. And the church has had no choice but to continuously retreat from dogmatic view after dogmatic view in response to this.

You would think at some point the light bulb would click on and people would finally say, “maybe we can know all these things.”

Was Copernicus branded a heretic? Being a cleric and all. It’s not mentioned in his Wikipedia entry… The Galileo affair was perhaps more nuanced than is indicated here. And neither was “right”, in the sense that Kepler was years later with finally coming up with a model (elliptical orbits) that actually fit the available data better than the older model.

That’s not what Bohr and Heisenberg are known for. Modern atomic theory predates them by quite a bit. Important experimental demonstrations of atomic theory was made by other people. Bohr and Heisenberg made important contributions to quantum mechanics, which so far as I know has never been considered heretical. The most famous “objection” being Einstein saying “God does not play dice with the universe” or something like that, but he was certainly not speaking on behalf of the Catholic church…

Intersting considering that among the original contributors to the notion of an expanding universe that started as a “primeval atom” was Georges Lemaître, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest… interestingly, according to his WIkipedia entry, one of the main critics of the Big Bang notion was once again Einstein, because “it was too strongly reminiscent of the Christian dogma of creation and was unjustifiable from a physical point of view”

Do you have a reference for Hubble being named a heretic? my quick Google search didn’t turn up anything. Interestingly enough, Hubble’s main contributions (c. 1920s) predate widespread acceptance of the Big Bang model (c. 1960s) - other competing theories were also considered in the intervening years. So the “history” you give here is somewhat bogus. Incidentally, it was the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation that tipped scientists in favor of a Big Bang model.

Actually to go back to Heisenberg, whom you mentioned previously, there are very certainly some fundamental things we can not know. Your statements harken back perhaps more to Laplace and the notion of a more deterministic universe, which is not really the 20th century view of things.

Um, okay. Aside from splitting hairs, did you actually have a point?

Now, that’s naive and pretty ignorant, imo. No one can predict the future. No one.

I know enough about science that it isn’t a hard fast rule and it is a continual attempt to explain that which was, which is, and which may come to be. But it is always limited by our human intellect (and the evidence which is around us).

My point, which is not ignorant, is that the future is God’s realm, and He alone knows what that will be. Our human attempts to predict the future place us at risk for trying to become god. We want to know the future so that we can control it, manage it in a manner we deem fitting. But we really don’t know what’s best for mankind on the whole.

There have been visionaries, yes, but keep in mind the visionaries themselves did not predict anything. They were receivers of visions granted to them by God. Man is but a conduit anyway. We are here to do God’s will. If He wants us to cure cancer then somebody out there will receive from God the insight he/she needs to unlock that code and set those wheels in motion. If God wants us to solve the hunger situation then He will send the solution to the right people (let’s pray they weren’t aborted and actually were allowed to be born) to get that ball rolling.

As for the universe, the stars and galaxies, science is there to help man appreciate the vastness and wonder of these things. They can break it down to the very atom if they wish, but the bottom line is they came from God. He can pluck them from the sky any time He wants, He can create more any time He wants. Science’s ‘predictions’ are always based on the most recent data available. Change the data stream and the predictions will need to be reassessed. That’s my point. A television show predicting the future based on current data of the cosmos is only valid so long as none of that data changes. By the time the show aired, chances are something ever so slight, not picked up by scientific tools as of yet, has already altered the course of that prediction.

“God” only really knows what happened before we started noticing and recording these things. But that’s not static.

God isn’t static either. Neither is His creation. Yes, on the seventh day He rested and He looked and declared that all this was Good. But He continues to create our universe, our world, through us. The very fact that humans procreate is evidence that God is not done with creating this world, this universe, this galaxy. It is an ongoing process.

They got a **taste **of it, and what they got, was granted to them by God for God’s purpose. Scientists will discover and be able to explain only that which God wishes to be revealed to mankind. He has a plan.

I think of that movie with Jack Nicholson, “You aren’t ready for the Truth!”

And I think of Joan of Arcadia when she asks God to get a glimpse of what her role in the world was. He touches her and she passes out because the glimpse alone was too much for her mind to take in. It knocked her out.

There is so much to this universe to take in that our minds cannot comprehend it in one fell swoop, but all of it points to God’s awesomeness. He allows us to take in what humanity needs to know at any give point in our evolution. Time does not exist to Him, only to us, so if it takes us centuries to ‘unlock’ another mystery, so be it. Again, any ‘unlocking’ is not due to man’s skills but it is a gift from God directed toward the person He chose to reveal the message.

The Catholic Church officially endorsed this model, because it coincided with their theological views. No study, no testing, it just happened to fit what they wanted to hear, so they went with it.

Somebody doesn’t understand the teachings of the Catholic Church then, because it is from the church that I learned God continues to affect this universe and that He does it through us, His creations.

We can predict beyond any doubt, both forward and backward.

Impossible. The universe is not static. God is the master, not man. Man can only attempt to keep up. Any accurate ‘predictions’ will not be because of scientific methodology. It will be because God reveals to that particular scientist the key to unlock a particular mystery and the Holy Spirit will then guide that scientist down the path of understanding.

YinYangMom, from what I gather, it seems like you’re just reminding everybody that God is in charge.

The Big Bang theory seems to support the Genesis account of God creating ex nihilo so I think the more we know about the origins of the universe, the more we see it supports the existence of God.

You are ascribing abilities to science that it does not possess. Science is locked inside of time and space. We will never have exhaustive knowledge about the universe. We are dealing with a continuum that is infinitely small in one direction and infinitely large in the other. Science gives us a great deal of knowledge crucial to our very survival. People like Bohr and Heisenberg are certainly among my heroes. They simply gave us a better way to look at things. I also believe in the Big Bang because it is the best explanation we have at this point to explain what has been observed.

Science is extremely important and intoxicating…but it is limited.

Science tends to create strawman arguments when commenting on Christianity and, regrettably, Christianity often returns the favor.

Science will find what it will find and we will be dazzled and amazed. But it cannot knock God off the throne because He has His being (whatever that means) outside of time and space. He was here “before” and He will be here “after”.

I’ve never quite understood why it is so necessary to turn one’s guns against God when describing the wonders of science. Science (and anything it discovers) and God are not mutually-exclusive…unless someone on either side has an axe to grind. That’s a whole different subject.

Slamming God in the name of science is very wrong. Slamming scientific discoveries in a needless attempt to justify Him who needs no justification is equally wrong…IMHO.

Is that good or bad :confused:

The sound perception of the ant does not include thunder. (Ayn Rand)

The show is incorrect. The half-life of a proton is about 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years ([/FONT]Source) – that’s a one hundred Nonillion (Source) … or, 25,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (twenty-five septillion TIMES greater than the four billion years that you quoted).

This is true. Many folks questioned how God could have created light on the first day and the sun and stars a few days later. The big bang answers that question. At the moment of the big bang, there were photons flying all over the spectrum including the visible light region.

Here is a current event relating to this topic:


“the Church and her pastors are not opposed to solid and authentic science, both human and divine, but rather they embrace it, drive it and promote it with the utmost dedication,” Pope Leo XIII

Whoever thinks that the Church is afraid of science is wrong.

Science is one way that we can attempt to try to understand God, studying creation can tell us about the Creator.
I personally love the big bang theory; never head the part on proton decay though.

I’m sorry I have to snicker at this, and forgive me for being uncharitable. I read Bobby Jim’s post - and it was an excellent rebuttal - and in response, this was all you could muster. I think maybe Bobby Jim caught you off guard a little bit. Silly Catholics with scientific understanding and all. :wink:

Excellent post Bobby Jim. I will have to do some follow-up reading on points you have mentioned.

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