History of time - Beginning of time
“Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not.” Isiah Berlin
The origin of the universe has been a topic of debate for millennia. It seems to be human nature to want to trace our ancestry back to its roots. Even the ancient Greeks tried to figure out where our universe came from. Aristotle argued that nothing can come from nothing, and therefore something had to have always existed. He believed there was never a time when the world did not exist. Many philosophers and scientists agree with this stand today, arguing that it is impossible to find such roots because we can reach backwards in time eternally without ever reaching the very beginning. Others say that there was a defining moment when the universe was created, whether it was through divine intervention (creationism) or through a cataclysmic explosion (evolution).
A leading theory concerning the origin of the universe today, takes the latter approach. The Big Bang Theory explains the existence of the universe by arguing that at some point, approximately fifteen billion years ago, an explosion of cosmic proportions sent matter flying in different directions. This matter would then become the building blocks of the universe – galaxies, stars, and ultimately planets. The Big Bang Theory can, at least in part, be traced back to the ideas of Einstein in the early 1900’s. The theory rests on the foundations of the Cosmological Principle and general relativity. The Cosmological Principle suggests that matter in the universe is spread out somewhat evenly across the galaxies in a stable way and that one part of the universe looks pretty much like any other part. Einstein’s concept of general relativity transformed gravity from a field into something able to bend time and space, changing the world from a three dimensional entity to a four dimensional one, with the addition of time as the fourth dimension.
In 1927, Georges Lemaitre unveiled his Big Bang theory proposing that the universe was created through the cataclysmic explosion of a cosmic egg or super atom. He theorized that this explosion launched the expansion of space and the beginning of time. Hubble found proof to support Lemaitre's theory when he determined that other galaxies are indeed moving away from us, which is in line with the idea that at some point in the past, there was an explosion that sent all matter flying away from some point of origin. In addition, radiation left over from this hypothesized explosion was found in 1964 by Nobel Prize winners Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias.
Not everyone looks at the beginning of the world from a strictly scientific point of view. Then again, those who oppose the Big Bang theory (mainly those who believe in creationism) do not all agree either. There are many different versions of creationism, some closely associated with religious beliefs and some not. Three of the most closely associated with religious beliefs are: Old-Earth creationists, Young-Earth creationists, and Gap creationists. Old-Earth creationists believe in the Big Bang theory and in evolution, with God's intervention. That is they believe God created the world in 6 days but that God's days lasted thousands, maybe millions of our years. In essence, they believed that God created the universe over time. Young-Earth creationists do not believe in evolution nor the Big Bang theory. They believe that the universe is less than 10000 years old and that God created it in six 24-hour days. Gap Creationism places a long period of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. Genesis 1:1 says that God created the heaven and the earth in the beginning and Genesis 1:2 talks of an empty, formless earth with dark waters. They believe that God created the universe and filled it with angels. The angels, led by Satan, rebelled so God destroyed the earth and allowed it to remain barren for eons. They hold that the six-day period of creation came after this long gap. So, though everything was created in six days, it was not created in the first six days.
There are also a number of non-Christian creationist beliefs held by members of different cultures. One named the Scientific View proposes that the universe was created over 15 billion years ago. Parts of the universe came together to form the earth 4.5 billion years ago. Life then evolved on earth, probably from bacteria found in rocks, into the life forms we see about us today with no help or intervention from God. Another similar creationist belief called Panspermia, supports the Big Bang theory and evolution but disavows any deity intervention. They believe that life came from spores that could survive space travel. They hypothesized that these spores came from distant galaxies and once they reached earth, life forms evolved from them over time.
All of these ideas, some compatible with the Big Bang Theory and some incompatible with it, have helped mold our perspectives on the way that life as we know it came into being. We have tried in this article to bring you back in time by visiting theories like these, not only to figure out how and why it all started, but also to envision what it might have been like back "then".
There is no measurement for “time zero”, the exact moment when time was essentially created. How do you measure a moment that had no previous moment to measure it from? The search for the origin of the universe and life's beginning continues to be a mystifying journey. How much of what we "know" today is fact, fiction, or theory? The experts still don’t agree so we continue the journey and hope that you will come along.