The Big Bang theory discusses the "beginning of time" and the "expansion of the universe" as it were. Sure, there is "evidence" that people claim backs this up, but must it not be a misinterpretation of the evidence? Because this theory seems to contradict the meaning of the concepts of existence and time. Since this theory obviously has philosophical implications, what would be an Objectivist position on this issue?
I don't think the "beginning of time" and "expansion of the universe" that Big Bang cosmologists discuss pose any necessary problems from the perspective of the Objectivist metaphysics.
First, there's a terminological wrinkle to appreciate: There is the "universe" of the physicists, and then there is the "universe" of the philosophers. While these use the same word, they refer to different things -- physicists are talking about this spacetimethingamajiggie with matter and energy and so on that we find ourselves in, while the philosophers refer to existence as such, which is broader. So the universe (of the physicists) is in existence, but existence is not in the universe.
Similarly, existence per se is not in space and time, which refer to relationships among things and their motions. Rather, space and time are in existence -- more specifically, in the universe of the physicists, since these are concepts rooted in our experience of things and their motions as they relate to one another.
So it is not a given (nor a requirement) that the concepts of space and time be meaningful in all contexts. For example, if there are no things as is posited when matter and energy were quite dense and undifferentiated, then there would be no motions of things or positional relationships of things to speak of -- so time and space may not be meaningful in such a context. Similarly, if there were a series of bangs alternating with crunches as some scientists posit, then time and space might be meaningful within each expansion/contraction, but might not be meaningful at or across the boundaries between them.
One of Objectivism's virtues is that it has an extremely thin, essentialized metaphysics and doesn't import much in the way of cosmology, as that would be an unnecessary intrusion on the proper domain of science. So the Objectivist metaphysics only says that whatever is, is (the axiom of Existence) -- and that whatever is, is whatever it is (the axiom of Identity). Further, causality is seen as an application of Identity in the actions of things: they necessarily act always and only in accordance with what they are (but of course this is only relevant if one is discussing things, which may not always be possible -- see above :^).
There is no conflict between Objectivism and the Big Bang as a theory of the history of the observable universe -- that is, the stars, planets, galaxies, interstellar gas and radiation that we observe from Earth. Philosophy does not dictate the content of scientific theories.
There is a difference, however, between the observable universe versus existence as such. The former is a subject for scientific study; the latter, for the branch of philosophy called metaphysics. If any scientists claim to have a theory for the origin of existence, they are making an error. Existence is a basic fact and a philosophical axiom. It does not demand an explanation (contrary to the religionists) and in fact cannot have one.
answered Nov 09 '10 at 15:47
Andrew Dalton ♦
Here are my preliminary thoughts for a somewhat vague question.
(1) Beginning of time
If one thinks of "time" in terms of change, i.e., of one or more existents changing somehow into one or more other (or alterned) existents (as in "past, present, future"), then a "Big Bang" could only be a beginning of time if there was no change before the first change, i.e., the "Bang." Does Big Bang Theory hold that the sum total of all matter in the universe began as a single gigantic (how big?) "black hole" and never had any other form prior to that? I.e., it just "was," somehow, with no prior source or form other than the form in which it allegedly existed at "instant zero"? If so, what induced it to go "Bang!" when it did, rather than sooner or later? -- assuming we could somehow measure durations prior to "instant zero." Surely all that matter must have been "churning and simmering" in some way, or else why would it ever have exploded? What does Big Bang Theory claim about the causal mechanism of the "Bang"?
(2) Expansion of the universe
I see this terminoloogy as a continuing example of confusion among physicists about what the term "universe" means. If it subsumes only matter, then it's a conceptual error to equate it to "existence." Existence includes many types of existents that do not qualify as matter. Furthermore, if a ball of matter is expanding, what is it expanding into? Is it expanding into some region that doesn't exist?
More information on the "Big Bang" idea in general can be found on Wikipedia. One significant observation is that the theory itself cannot say anything about what existed prior to the Big Bang. So maybe there were other Bangs. Maybe the "universe" is really a bubbling "stew" of endless Big Bangs occurring over and over, with contractions as well as expansions of the material that comprises each Bang. (Just a little speculation.)
answered Nov 09 '10 at 16:12
Ideas for Life ♦