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Meditation 218
The Time Before Time

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In Meditation 1 - Creation and the Universe, I wrote "there is no such thing as 'before the Universe' within time." When I wrote that in the mid-90s, it was consistent with scientific theory. Now, in the May 2004 issue of the Scientific American, there is an article[1] suggesting that this assertion may be wrong.

This is not a challenge to the "Big Bang." The material universe we live in is still considered to have arisen some 13.7 billion years ago. But some cosmologists consider certain features[2] of the universe are best explained by considering there may have been earlier events.

There are two theories, greatly simplified below,[footnote 2 again] which address this:

  • a collapsing universe with matter falling into a black hole which gave rise to the Big Bang;
  • a higher dimensional universe with multiple universes (called branes) drifting about in it; two of these branes collided and the energy of impact gave rise to the Big Bang;.

We await with interest to see which theory wins out, or if the current one remains the scientifically accepted one.

What does this imply about the existence of a deity:

Fundamentalists will continue to regard scripture as inerrant. They will continue to regard scientific findings as "just a theory." Changes in theories are just ammunition for them to point out what they see as the superiority of their unchanging view of creation. They will remain certain of the existence of their God.

For rational believers who combine what they consider the spiritual truth of scriptures with an acceptance of the findings of science, the idea of time before the universe gives them a place to put their God to do his work. It will have no impact on their belief.

As for non-believers, we should just recognize it as the normal workings of science. Theories are developed in response to observations. Theories are tested. And when the theories fail the tests, alternate theories are proposed. And step by step, we approach the truth.

And whether or not time began with the Big Bang, or time is eternal, scientific theory still does not require a deity to account for creation. So we can remain firm in our disbelief.


  1. The Myth of the Beginning of Time by Gabriele Veneziano,
    Scientific American, May 2004
  2. I'm going to keep this simple. If you want the details, read the original Scientific American article.