After examining the origin of the universe according to the biblical-rabbinic cosmogony (WHO), let us now consider the scientific explanations on the origin of the Universe. It is good to remember right from the start that theology explains the why of things, while science explains the how, starting precisely from the laws that govern the Universe. Science can prove that the Universe has a Start, that is, which is not eternal. Philosophy and theology, on the other hand, have the task of understanding the beginning of everything, that is, to answer the question of what happened before this Start. Although the epistemological path is different, at the end of our investigation we will see some points of contact emerge between biblical theological-philosophical speculation and contemporary cosmological models.
General theory of relativity
In 1915, Albert Einstein published an article, entitled General theory of relativity. According to this theory, the Universe is not an empty box but an enormous one clam – just so Einstein called it![i] – that envelops everything. Everything is immersed in a “gravitational field”, that is, between one body and another there is no vacuum, but matter. Space is a bit like a blanket, which if you pull it on one side, it withdraws on the other, dragging everything on it.
Einstein understood that the space that surrounds all celestial bodies and therefore separates the masses is like a subtle web that connects the bodies. Let’s imagine we take a fishing net and place two objects on it. The latter communicate with each other because the hollow of the net due to the presence of the heavier of the two makes the lighter one slide into that same hollow, thus bringing it closer to the first. To an outside observer, it will appear that the lighter body has been attracted to the heavier one. The net represents the texture of Space, the deformation of the net represents the effect of the gravity of the bodies.[ii]
A new confirmation of the validity of Einstein’s theory has recently arrived (February 2016 and September 2017) with the detection of gravitational waves. These are waves comparable to those generated by a stone falling into a pond, which create ripples in the texture of spacetime. These waves can be generated by a very strong catastrophic event, such as the big bang or from the collision of two black holes.
Gravitational waves could allow us to record, in a not too distant future, the first cries of the nascent Universe, that is, the moments immediately following the Big Bang, elittle in which large fossil gravitational waves would have been produced that travel in the Universe, in which we are immersed, but of which we have never noticed.[iii]
According to the theory of relativity, therefore, the Earth revolves around the Sun, since it is in its own gravitational field, that is, it is affected by the curvature of spacetime produced by the Sun.
The Sun bends space around itself and the Earth does not revolve around it because it is being pulled by a mysterious force from a distance, but because it is running straight in a tilting space. Like a ball rolling into a funnel: there are no mysterious forces generated by the center of the funnel, it is the curved nature of the walls that makes the ball rotate. Planets revolve around the Sun and things fall because space is curved around them.[iv]
Similarly, the Moon revolves around the Earth, because the Earth curves the surrounding spacetime, drawing the Moon to itself, like a bowling ball, which generates a dip on a latex mattress, attracting a tennis ball to it. The central idea of Einstein’s theory, then, is that there is a four-dimensional spacetime that curves. It is not just about space but also about time. Time and space are merged into a single reality: lo space time. Time, therefore, is not absolute, but it too “bends”, that is, it is affected by the curvature. This means that time flows differently in every point of space.
From the initial singularity …
In 1922, the Russian cosmologist and mathematician Aleksandr Aleksandrovič Friedmann, starting from Einstein’s General Relativity, discovered that the Universe is expanding. In 1927, Georges Edouard Lemaître came to the same results and published his famous article “A homogeneous universe of constant mass and increasing radius accounting for the radial speed of extra-galactic nebulae”, where he presented the hypothesis of the “primordial atom”, later known as big bang.
According to the Belgian astronomer and priest, if the galaxies moved further and further away, it meant that the Universe was expanding. By reversing the time line, the galaxies would get closer and closer, until their merger. In other words, the Universe would have compressed to the size of a point with very high density, temperature and curvature, called initial singularity, a state in which the same theory of Relativity loses all validity.
The picture of an expanding universe implies that something like a cataclysm happened in the past. If we reverse the expansion process of the cosmos and take it back in time, we come across a “beginning” in which everything presses against all others: the entire mass of the universe is compressed into a state of infinite density. This state takes the name of “initial singularity”.[v]
The singularity seems, therefore, to be inevitable, as demonstrated by mathematical physicists Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking. Even Alexander Vilenkin, professor of Physics and director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University, as well as one of the creators of the multiverse (the theory that the universe is eternal and comes from chance and not from an Intelligent Design), had to admit that a beginningless universe is not possible. The inflation of the universe can, therefore, be mathematically infinite only towards the future, but not towards the past. Vilenkin writes:
If you read them [della fisica] describe the creation of the universe, this assumes that they existed before the universe. The question that no one is able to raise is: where do these laws come from and why these laws in particular? There are many mysteries to work on.[vi]
According to science, therefore, the laws that regulate the Universe pre-exist the Universe itself and constitute its origin. For the physicist Antonino Zichichi, there is a logic that governs the world, a logic that necessarily implies an Author. Denying the existence of God, therefore, would be tantamount to denying the existence of the author of the logic that sustains the world.[vii]
… al big bang
According to the theory of big bang, the Universe would have gushed from a very high density point, about 13 billion years ago, continuing to expand until today, but we can only know it from a certain stage onwards, that is, after the so-called Planck time. In the beginning, the big bang has a very high temperature, which drops as the Universe expands. We therefore pass from a chaotic state, an expression of the turbulence induced by the very high temperature, to an increasingly orderly state.
Only after about 370,000 years did the first atoms begin to form and photons separated from matter, forming the cosmic background radiation, of which we still have traces today. It is the residual glow of the very high temperature of the early Universe, light that becomes visible in the Universe, as this becomes “transparent”. Before this event, the Universe was, in fact, “opaque”.
The cosmos organizes itself by disintegrating
For the philosopher of complexity Edgar Morin, the big bang it is an event that must be framed in the notion of catastrophe, understood as the breaking of the form.
The big bang in reality it is a subtonion that eludes the problem of a formidable transformation under the onomatopoeia of a great bang. […] Its insufficiency is to reduce the origin to the single dimension of the thermal explosion. It is therefore necessary to overcome the big bang in a truly theoretical notion: the notion of catastrophe [come] change / rupture of form in conditions of irreducible singularity. The fundamentally complex and rich idea that Thom brings us is to connect any morphogenesis or creation of form to a rupture of form or catastrophe. It therefore allows us to read disintegration and Genesis in the same processes. […] Metamorphic idea, the catastrophe […] it helps to make people understand that the organization and order of the world are built in imbalance and instability, and through them.[viii]
The process of cosmogenesis is therefore characterized by an “organizing disintegration”, that is, “the cosmos organizes itself by disintegrating”.[ix] It is in this context that the idea of chaos needs to be rethought. In a “singular and original” Universe, the chaos it is an integral part of it. Cosmogenesis takes place in chaos and through the chaos, which is “organizational disintegration”. Here is what the theorist writes of complex thought:
Post-Hubble astronomy explicitly regenerated the idea of the cosmos by showing that the Universe was singular and original. […] It has implicitly rehabilitated the idea of chaos. What is the idea of chaos? He forgot what a Genesian idea was. In it one sees only destruction or disorganization. The idea of chaos, on the other hand, is above all an energetic idea; it is accompanied by boiling, flaming, turbulence. Chaos is an idea that pre-exists the distinction, separation, opposition, an idea, therefore, of indistinction, of confusion between destructive power and creative power, between order and disorder, between disintegration and organization, between Hybris and Dike. It then becomes manifest that cosmogenesis takes place in, and through, chaos. Chaos is exactly what is inseparable in the two-faced phenomenon through which the Universe simultaneously disintegrates and organizes itself, disperses and forms itself around many nuclei. Chaos is the organizational disintegration. It is the antagonistic unity of the explosion, of the dispersion, of the crumbling of the cosmos, and of its nucleation, its organizations, its programming. The genesis of particles, atoms, stars is carried out in and through agitations, turbulences, upheavals, dismemberments, collisions, explosions.[x]
The primordial matter, therefore, is confused and concentrated in a point of very high density and temperature. It is high-potential matter, which then goes to make up every reality in the Universe.
[i] Einstein, A., Relativity: The Special And General Theory, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1921, p. 118.
[ii] Tom’s Hardware interview with Valerio Rossi Albertini, What are gravitational waves? Taken from: https://www.tomshw.it/onde-gravitazionali-finalmente-ci-siamo-74250-p5
[iii] In the same place.
[iv] Rovelli C., Reality is not what it appears to us. The elementary structure of things, Raffaello Cortina, Milan, 2014, pp. 73-74.
[v] Barrow, J., D., The origins of the universe. A brief history of the beginning, BUR. Milan, 2001, p. 24.
[vi] Mitchell J., In the Beginning Was the Beginning, TuftsNow, http://now.tufts.edu/articles/beginning-was-beginning (May 29, 2012).
[vii] Zichichi, A., Dear Veronesi God exists and the proof is the universe, The newspaper, 18/11/2014.
[viii] Morin, E., The method. 1. The nature of nature, Raffaello Cortina, Milan, 2001, p. 47.
[ix] Ibid, p. 48.
[x] Ibid, pp. 62-63.