Reflections in Cosmology 20: Cosmogeny and the Birth of the Universe

Cosmogeny (as opposed to Cosmogony in the previous post) is the study of the birth or creation of the universe, and has long been accepted as a domain of philosophy, mythology and theology. Nowadays however, scientific enquiry intrudes upon this once sacred turf, and may even have something to contribute.

Are there a multitude of universes, each with its own laws of physics and fundamental constants?

The universe is a unified four-dimensional continuum; why should it have a ‘beginning’ at an instant in time any more than a beginning at a point in space? The universe contains space and time, but is itself spaceless and timeless, and words such as ‘begin’ and ‘end’ seem inappropriate. Space and time are the most basic elements of the physical universe, and we must realize that it is created neither at a place in space nor at a moment in time (unless that place and moment are in the space and time of another universe occupied by the creating agent). We may say the universe began – in the sense of evolving – at the earliest moment in its time, but cannot say that it was created at that moment, or at any other moment in its time. Creation of the universe involves the creation of space and time including everything in space and time. The physical universe, if created, is created in one stupendous spaceless and timeless act. ~ Edward Harrison, Cosmology: The Science of the Universe

From the countless ancient mythologies that arose in various cultures around the world, to the many recent scientific hypotheses that attempt to provide naturalistic explanations, humanity has never stopped pondering about questions regarding our existence. One thing’s for sure, any cosmogenesis theory must also be able to explain why the universe seems just right for life. The laws of the universe, including the fundamental constants of nature (i.e. the gravitational constant, the speed of light, the charge and mass of an electron, the Planck constant) all seem incredibly fine-tuned for the development of intelligent life. Miniscule changes in any of these values would be disastrous – resulting in a universe totally devoid of life. What’s even more interesting is this:

The constants, when combined, yield dimensionless numbers that occupy two widely separated numerical groups: a ‘unity group’ (close to the value of 1) and a ‘large number group’ (close to the value 10^40). The observable universe is also 10^40 times larger than the characteristic size of an elementary particle. This coincidence between two very large and unrelated numbers is all the more striking because the ‘large number group’ values stay constant at 10^40, but the scale of the universe in subatomic units steadily increases, and now is 10^40. Robert Dicke showed that the present coincidence is the natural consequence of stellar evolution. Not until the first stars have evolved and synthesized and expelled into interstellar space elements, such as carbon, oxygen, and silicon, can planets form and life evolve. By that time, both numbers are in approximate agreement. ~ Edward Harrison, Cosmology: The Science of the Universe

The theistic explanation, is that God (or a bunch of gods and goddesses, depending on your beliefs) made it this way. For those who don’t like the notion of gods, there is absolutely nothing wrong in believing that the universe was created by extraterrestrial (or should I say, extra-dimensional) intelligent beings. Others, who subscribe to the weak anthropic principle, think that our universe could be only one of a multitude of universes in a multiverse, and we happen to live in one whose laws and constants are suitable for life. It is possible that our universe was spontaneously created out of quantum fluctuations in another universe, with a host of universes being created this way, but only some are able to harbour life. Or maybe, the constants of nature had to have these values, there was no other way the universe could have been, and science will find out why once we have an ultimate theory of the universe. Some cosmologists have even borrowed ideas from other fields, including natural selection – new universes are created in black holes, and therefore universes whose laws and fundamental constants favour the production of black holes will produce more offspring universes.

Bubble universes giving birth to other bubble universes...

All these explanations run into the same problem – in providing an explanation for the birth of our universe, we end up with the need to provide an explanation for something else possibly even more complex. The point of terminus of our questioning has only been extended backwards by another step. If God created the universe, who created God? Why does God exist? What universe does He/She exist in? Where do some of these multiverses or transcendent universes come from, and what kind of universe do they exist in? Will such lines of questioning ever reach an end? Or will we eventually arrive at a closed causal loop in which the reason for the existence of the universe lies within the universe itself? Even if there is such a solution, we still have to contend with the question of why the universe exists at all. Why is there something rather than nothing?

If universes create universes, what created the multiverse that consists of a population of reproducing universes? Have we merely enlarged the scope of cosmologenesis and must now explain the origin of an indefinitely large number of universes? Notice that this question is similar in some respects to asking: If God created the universe, who created God? ~ Edward Harrison, Cosmology: The Science of the Universe


3 thoughts on “Reflections in Cosmology 20: Cosmogeny and the Birth of the Universe

  1. With regard to the positing of an infinity of multiverses, each having different physics, there is no doubt that this is to some extent a device proposed to avoid the invokation of deities to account for the “fine tuning” we observe. The existence of multiverses of this kind is not, of course, inconceivable, nor is the similarly extravagant Everett parallel universes model. There is, however, a better and possibly more useful explanation.

    As detailed in chapter 11 of my recent book “Unusual Perspectives, this fine tuning is actually far stronger and more extensive than is generally recognised and extends beyond the “wow” numbers to the chemistry of the observed universe. This also being “just right” to allow (and in fact make inevitable) the exponential evolution of technology for which our species has been the vehicle.

    But,to address the theistic reconciliation aspect, why should one expect any connection whatsoever between mythology (of which the many and varied religions are a major subset) and science?

    “Science” (I prefer the terms “Common Sense” or “cognos”) is an empirical discipline grounded in the acceptance that the information provided to us by our senses is generally a true representation of the real world. In that sense is must be admitted that it is a “faith”.

    It differs significantly from other “faiths” (systems of axioms) in that, for practical purposes, it is one that we all share. Furthermore it is not based entirely on hearsay as are all mythologies. Its precepts are essentially checkable,

    It is interesting to note that the vast assortment of deities and “spirits” that our species has dreamed up over millennia all show characteristics of our own mental processes and sometimes even, our own bodily forms.

    Man invents gods in his own image!

    This is the great trap of anthropocentrism. Unfortunately it catches not only those who lean to mythologies but also to most practitioners of the sciences.

    Only by casting off the shackles of human arrogance can we be sufficiently objective to appreciate that we are just part of an ongoing stochastic life process that extends both before and after the present biological phase.

    We silly little bipeds are, after all, but very tiny cogs in an extraordinarily complex universal machine. And the “fine tuning” we observe just the feature of that machine which happens to impart directionality to the process.

    This, together with closely related topics, is discussed in detail in my recent work “Unusual Perspectives” The electronic edition of can be freely downloaded from the eponymous website

  2. Hi Peter:

    That looks like an interesting book you’ve got there. I’ll definitely download it and take a look.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. The connection between science and religion is something that I am still exploring. There are those like Steven J. Gould who (like you) don’t expect any form of connection between these two diverse ways of looking at our world, seeing them as ‘non-overlapping magisteria’. On the other hand, there are those who think they may have at least something to say to each other.

    While science attempts to explore the world in an objective manner, religion seeks to understand something that transcends the physical (if ever such a thing exists). And I believe it all boils down to the issue of epistemology. Is scientific objectivity and empiricism the only way by which we can know about the world around us?

    I agree with you that all too often, anthropocentrism and anthropomorphism lead us to make deities and gods in our own image. And it is true also that scientists sometimes fall into the same trap when trying to describe the world. Will there be such a thing as ‘absolute objectivity’? Postmodern philosophy, while having its own flaws, reminds us that we all look at the world through various lenses. As Heisenberg pointed out, even the natural sciences are themselves a part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our method of questioning.

    And yes, a little humility in the face of the complexity and vastness of this cosmos is something we all need at this point in history – theist, agnostic or atheist alike.

    Earlier it was impossible for us to give any satisfactory answer to this question. But modern science, rather we should say that Einstein, has made it an easy task for us. And Stephen Hawking has provided us with the clue necessary for solving this riddle. Actually scientists in their infinite wisdom have already kept the ground well-prepared for us believers so that one day we can give a most plausible and logically consistent answer to this age-old question. Let me first quote from the book “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking:
    “The idea of inflation could also explain why there is so much matter in the universe. There is something like ten million million million million million million million million million million million million million million (1 with eighty zeroes after it) particles in the region of the universe that we can observe. Where did they all come from? The answer is that, in quantum theory, particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But that just raises the question of where the energy came from. The answer is that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero.”
    Here the question stops. So the clue is this: if we can ultimately arrive at zero, then no further question will be raised, and there will be no infinite regression. What I intend to do here is something similar to that. I want to show that our God is a bunch of several zeroes, and that therefore no further question need be raised about His origin. And here comes Einstein with his special theory of relativity for giving us the necessary empirical support to our project.
    God is a Being. Therefore God will have existence as well as essence. So I will have to show that both from the point of view of existence as well as from the point of view of essence God is zero. It is almost a common parlance that God is spaceless, timeless, changeless, immortal, and all-pervading. Here we are getting three zeroes; space is zero, time is zero, change is zero. But how to prove that if there is a God, then that God will be spaceless, timeless, and changeless? From special theory of relativity we come to know that for light both distance and time become unreal. For light even an infinite distance is infinitely contracted to zero. The volume of an infinite universe full of light only will be simply zero due to this property of light. A universe with zero volume is a spaceless universe. Again at the speed of light time totally stops. So a universe full of light only is a spaceless, timeless universe. But these are the properties of light only! How do we come to know that God is also having the same properties of light so that God can also be spaceless, timeless? Scientists have shown that if there is a God, then that God can only be light, and nothing else, and that therefore He will have all the properties of light. Here is the proof.
    Scientists have shown that total energy of the universe is always zero. If total energy is zero, then total mass will also be zero due to energy-mass equivalence. Now if there is a God, then scientists have calculated the total energy and mass of the universe by taking into consideration the fact that there is also a God. In other words, if there is a God, then this total energy-mass calculation by the scientists is God-inclusive, not God-exclusive. This is due to two reasons. First of all, even if there is a God, they are not aware of the fact that there is a God. Secondly, they do not admit that there is a God. So, if there is a God, then they have not been able to keep that God aside before making this calculation, because they do not know that there is a God. They cannot say that they have kept Him aside and then made this calculation, because by saying that they will admit that there is a God. At most they can say that there is no God. But we are not going to accept that statement as the final verdict on God-issue, because we are disputing that statement. So the matter of the fact is this: if God is really there, then total mass and total energy of the universe including that God are both zero. Therefore mass and energy of God will also be zero. God is without any mass, without any energy. And Einstein has already shown that anything having zero rest-mass will have the speed of light. In other words, it will be light. So, if God is there, then God will also be light, and therefore He will be spaceless, timeless. So from the point of view of existence God is zero, because he is spaceless, timeless, without any mass, without any energy.
    Now we will have to show that from the point of view of essence also God is zero. If there is only one being in the universe, and if there is no second being other than that being, then that being cannot have any such property as love, hate, cruelty, compassion, benevolence, etc. Let us say that God is cruel. Now to whom can He be cruel if there is no other being other than God Himself? So, if God is cruel, then is He cruel to Himself? Therefore if we say that God is all-loving, merciful, benevolent, etc., then we are also admitting that God is not alone, that there is another being co-eternal with God to whom He can show His love, benevolence, goodness, mercy, compassion, etc. If we say that God is all-loving, then we are also saying that this “all” is co-eternal with God. Thus we are admitting that God has not created the universe at all, and that therefore we need not have to revere Him, for the simple reason that He is not our creator!
    It is usually said that God is good. But Bertrand Russell has shown that God cannot be good for the simple reason that if God is good, then there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will. Therefore, if God is the ultimate Being, then that God cannot be good. But neither can He be evil. God is beyond good and evil. Like Hindu’s Brahma, a real God can only be nirguna, nirupadhik; without any name, without any quality. From the point of view of essence also, a real God is a zero. Mystics usually say that God is a no-thing. This is the real God, not the God of the scriptures.
    So, why should there be any need for creation here, if God is existentially, as well as essentially, zero?
    But if there is someone who is intelligent and clever enough, then he will not stop arguing here. He will point out to another infinite regression. If God is light, then He will no doubt be spaceless, timeless, etc. Therefore one infinite regression is thus arrested. But what about the second regression? How, and from whom, does light get its own peculiar properties by means of which we have successfully arrested the first regression? So, here is another infinite regression. But we need not have to worry much about this regression, because this problem has already been solved. A whole thing, by virtue of its being the whole thing, will have all the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness. It need not have to depend on any other external source for getting these properties. Thus no further infinite regression will be there.
    H. S. Pal

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