We frequently hear creationists assert that we evolutionists believe that “everything came from nothing”. Here’s a fun(di) site. Apparently magically. Nothing could be further from the truth. While a quantum physicist, or even a good astronomy textbook, could provide a more thorough explanation I’ll take a crack at a basic explanation here.
A note before I begin, “evolutionists” is the term used by the Creation Science political movement for their opponents. I use it only because they have, not because it is accurate. Apparently it applies to everyone who believes in science, not just those particularly involved with evolutionary biology. In this case the people they are labeling as “evolutionists” are physicists and astronomers, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that these scientists are particularly strong supporters of Darwin’s theory, or that it even crosses their minds very often. On a side note it’s always amusing to me to see the invective the Creation Science movement unleashes on poor Darwin when their primary objection is not to natural selection but to abiogenesis, which Darwin had nothing to do with.
So do “evolutionists” believe that everything arose spontaneously from nothing? Not at all. We believe that approximately 14 billion years ago an infinitely small speck of infinitely dense matter reached a critical density and exploded. The matter previously contained in this singularity was spread outward from the point of the explosion and gradually cooled and accreted into the features that can be observed to day in our universe, i.e. nebulae, galaxies, stars, planets, etc. Why do we believe this fantastical story? Simply because we can observe that all the matter in the universe is moving away from a central point. If we plot the trajectories of every star, galaxy, etc. back in time they intersect. This is an observable fact that is not open to interpretation or refutation.
The rest of the “big bang” theory is a little difficult for people without advanced math skills to understand. I will report it as well as I understand it but keep in mind I’m not qualified to teach this materiel. So, apparently, time and space are not the separate concepts that one might think. Various experiments have determined that time does funny things, like slow down, at high speeds or densities. This means that near the infinitely dense singularity that occurred before the big bang time practically stood still. This has led certain physicists to say things like, “time began with the big bang,” or, “the universe began with the big bang.” Naturally this leads the extremely literal minded among us to identify the big bang as a moment of “creation” in the same terms in which they think. There is a new adenda to the “big bang” theory which is gaining adherents among experts that is called “big bounce”. Simply put this says that even though it is practically impossible to say what occurred prior to the big bang because of the whole funky time thing that doesn’t mean that nothing occurred before it. It also suggests that the universe experiences periods of expansion followed by periods of contraction, ad infinitum. There is some question about this because right now we can observe that not only is everything else in the cosmos moving away from us, i.e. the universe is expanding, but that that expansion is accelerating. This calls into question the power of gravity to eventually begin to contract the universe again. Big Bounce makes more sense to me than Big Bang intuitively and I hope that it might clear up what science believes about the “creation” of the universe. From this point in the conversation on I am rapidly out of my depth because from here we begin to get into discussions of dark matter and string theory and a bunch of other hairy concepts I don’t have the math to understand. I hope one day to have the time to study these issues in more depth but for now I have to take a pass.
So in conclusion, you can see that it is patently false that “evolutionists” believe that everything spontaneously arose from nothing. Where the matter of the universe originally came from, or what may have existed before it or might exist outside of it are separate questions that science has no answers for, and may never. In fact, science does not have answers for many things, yet, but when faced with these unknowns instead of saying that a magical invisible super Santa did it, we “evolutionists” prefer to say “we don’t know” and set to studying the matter. This seems more reasonable to us because we simply follow the evidence and there is no evidence for the aforementioned magical creator. This is the fundamental difference between the adherents of “Creation Science” and those of real science.
By the way, what do the creationists believe about the creation of the universe?
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. ~Genesis 1:1
Hmmm, it would appear that they believe everything was created from nothing. Go figure.