From Big Bang to Big Crunch

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"From Big Bang to Big Crunch" is a document by Istanbul Quran Research Association that purports to show that the Qur'an contains scientific foreknowledge when it "predicted" that the Big Crunch was going to occur.

The following is a side-by-side rebuttal.

Rebuttal[edit]

"From Big Bang to Big Crunch", Istanbul Quran Research Association[1] RationalWiki:

"How could the writers of the Qur'an 1400 years ago know that when the universe reaches its maximum size we will have Judgment Day?"
Well...[ T]he best model we have to account for the data we have is that the universe will continue to expand forever. There has never been evidence that suggests we live in a closed universe slated to recollapse in the future. So, your question is answered by saying that ancient writings either got the right answer or the wrong answer. In this instance they 'guessed' incorrectly so there is really no historical mystery to explain.
—Sten Odenwald[2]
In the verse it is said that God will return it [the universe] to its former state. Therefore, to be able to understand the end of the universe, we have to go back to the first three chapters of our book where the beginning of Creation is described. The fact that they appear in the same [S]ura is meaningful ([t]he beginning is explained in the [S]ura The Prophets; verse 30, in the same [S]ura, verse 104, the end is explained). In a poetic sense, linking creation and destruction together might be meaningful. In a scientific sense, their juxtaposition in the text is irrelevant, because all that matters is whether or not the description of reality is accurate.


[Verses 21:104, 21:30, and 51:47 omitted; see here, here, and here.] We deduce from the above two[note 1] verses[:] 1- that the universe was separated from a whole, and 2- that the universe formed following this separation is expanding. The extraordinary miracle in these verses of the Quran was examined in the first three chapters. Now if we may be allowed to go back to the verse we quoted in this chapter, if the universe is going to regress to its original state, then: 1- the expanding universe will have to contract, and 2- the expanding universe will return to its primordial unity. Experts versed in astrophysics will take cognizance of the magnificence of this verse. The IQRA argues that the Qur'an speaks about the Big Bang, when no such speech exists.


We know today that the universe is expanding. We also know that this expansion is the consequence of the acceleration generated by the Big Bang. We are faced with two alternatives here. According to one of them, the expanding universe will spread out to a vast expanse, all the stars will have exhausted their energies, the temperature will fall and thus the end will be reached. Following the exhaustion of the energy of the stars and the coming to a standstill of all actions, all celestial bodies will break apart and escape from gravitational force. This is called the “Open Universe Model.” Though the IQRA describes the model inaccurately, the model certainly exists. If the density parameter of the universeWikipedia's W.svg, or Ω, is less than 1, then a universe fits the open model of the universeWikipedia's W.svg, which would lead to an unending expansion of the universeWikipedia's W.svg in which space is stretched to such an extent that stars cannot form, light is stretched into progressively less energetic wavesWikipedia's W.svg, until finally no substantial level of energy existsWikipedia's W.svg. However, this description does not fit to the observations of our universe. The scientific consensus is that, due to the strong influence of dark energy, our universe has entered a phase of accelerated expansion which will persist until matter itself may be torn apart.Wikipedia's W.svg Pretty cool, eh?


According to a second alternative, the expanding universe will stop because of the mutual attraction of all bodies, and the universe will contract to return to its primordial state. It seems that the Quran’s implication is inclined toward the second alternative. At a time when people believed that the earth stood on the horns of an ox or on a fish, the Quran’s description of the event was incredible. The IQRA is correct that the Qur'an describes the entire universe being compressed. However there are several key flaws here.

First, the Big Crunch theory is not scientific consensus, because observations show that the expansion of the universe accelerates and will continue to do so. [3][4][5][6][7] Until the Big Crunch theory is scientific consensus (which, given the data, is extremely unlikely), it can hardly be considered scientific fact.

Second, the Qur'an doesn't accurately describe Big Crunch theory. First, their use of the word "heavens" doesn't appear to apply to the universe. Second, in Big Crunch theory, all of matter and space-time would be compressed back into a singularity, similar to the Big Bang. The cited verses compare the end of the world to rolling up a scroll and crushing something in one's hand. Rolling up a scroll doesn't actually compress everything - it just relocates it into cylindrical form. Crushing something in one's hand is inaccurate, as what a successful Big Crunch actually requires is that the gravity within the universe is greater than the force of its expansion, while crushing with one's hand implies that an outside force is pushing inwards. A more accurate representation would be holding a walnut in one's hand, and it suddenly becoming a black hole. Clearly, the Qur'an does not accurately describe the Big Crunch.

Third, the Qur'an's "description" of the Big Crunch is inconsistent. As noted above, the Qur'an describes the Big Crunch both as rolling up a scroll and crushing something in one's hand, both of which are entirely different actions.


There is no way this fact could have been rendered from the scientific knowledge base of the day, or have been a product of fancy or flight of thought. From a logical perspective, this is silly. When considering the size of the universe, there are three options: the universe is either expanding, standing still, or contracting. If one guesses that the universe is expanding, then there are also three options: the universe will continue to expand, the universe will stop expanding and stand still, or the universe will contract. Without any knowledge about the universe, it's entirely possible for "a flight of thought" to have happened upon an expanding-to-contracting universe.


The source of this knowledge is not scientific observation but God’s revelation. The verse under our scrutiny also gives an answer as to which of the two alternatives man should put faith in. The greatness of the Quran, which stated that the universe was created from the one primordial wholeness, that it expanded, and that it would shrink back - at a time when all scientific evidence was lacking - is understood better today with the advance of science and the discovery of the mystery of the universe. Wait, I thought the point was to convert people Islamic by manipulating science, not to hate on it.


The collapse of the universe is referred to as the “Closed Universe Model.” The power to realize this folding up is gravity. As we know, all matter is in mutual attraction. When something is thrown into the air, the object thrown cannot help falling back after some time because of gravity[.] "Collapse of the Universe" is only equivalent with "Closed Universe" in the Friedmann Models of the universe[8]. These models are only accurate if matter is the only relevant energy contribution to the universe, which is [Dark Energynot the case].


[M]atter that has scattered in every possible direction in space following the Big Bang will retrace its steps in a given time to be folded up. Nowhere in this argument does the IQRA actually argue that the Big Crunch is going to happen, instead preferring to cite various Qur'anic verses.


We must remember that at the time of the descent of the Quran, the notion of gravity did not exist and that it was to be known some one thousand years later, thanks to Newton’s discovery. First, this would be relevant if the Qur'an actually mentioned gravity. It does not, in these verses or elsewhere.
Second, it's very likely that ancient people understood that stuff falls down, even if the idea of gravity as something other than "down" didn't exist.


Once the expansion of the universe was established, scientists began to study whether the universe would continue to expand or come to a close by folding up. To this end, they tried to find out the critical density of matter in the universe and arrived at certain ratios that they called “Omega.” If the density in the universe is at a certain level, the process of folding up will begin before the scattering of matter into infinity... Yes. "If."


Humans are born, live and die and eventually return to the dust of which they were made. The same thing holds true for beasts and plants. It appears that the law that governs all living creatures is also applicable in the case of the universe. The fact that we die is pretty much totally irrelevant to how the universe functions (though the reverse isn't).


In the verse we examined, this event is stressed with the word “revert.” Following are the verses in which this word is used. And He is the One who first creates and then reverts it. [Verses 30:27 and 10:34 omitted; see here and here. The Qur'an indeed supports a cyclic idea of creation. However, the cited verses do not in any way explain that cycle, and thus cannot be considered scientific.


[Verse 55:37 omitted; see here.] The Quran speaks of the color of heaven on the day the solar system comes to an end. Heaven’s “split asunder” is also mentioned in other verses of the Quran. The color of the sky on the "day" (more likely, years) that the solar ends is irrelevant, and the IQRA makes no attempt to justify this claim.


[Verses 77:9 and 69:16 omitted; see here and here.] I believe that these verses may be understood in two different ways. If we take heaven for the entire universe, one may think of the decay at the outer extremities of the universe in continuous expansion. (By this the decay in the vacuum structure of the universe may have been meant. However, I am not going to dwell on this long issue.) According to a second alternative, if we take heaven for the atmosphere of our earth, big earthquakes, activities on the surface of the earth will likely affect the atmosphere, which will be split asunder and the protective layer of the atmosphere will be peeled off. As a matter of fact, the atmosphere depends on the fine balance between the earth’s gravitational force and the movement of molecules in the atmosphere. Any alteration in this balance will likely affect the atmosphere. Either of these two alternatives, or both, for that matter, may have been meant by the verses. First, "heavens" cannot realistically be taken to mean the entire universe.
Second, while much of the IQRA's doommongering might actually be valid if the entire universe was being compressed, it's probable that it's not.


[Verse 7:187 omitted; see here.] The Quran says that the process of the end of the world and the universe will begin all of a sudden, at a time which even the Prophet does not know. According to the theory of relativity, the fastest motion in the universe belongs to light, the speed of which is not surpassed by anything. The data we obtain from light-emitting objects and the reflection of light are the limits of our understanding of the phenomena taking place in the universe. If information about the time the Hour will take place is to be transmitted at the speed of light, we can never be informed of it before some time has elapsed. For instance, if the sun explodes this very moment and the beginning of the end has come, we will be aware of it only after the lapse of eight and a half minutes. The same holds true for other phenomena that will likely occur, causing the destruction of the universe. If the process in question has started at some point in the universe, we cannot be aware of it for some time. A series of phenomena will occur before we are conscious of it, up until the time we are suddenly caught by it. This might be true, if the Qur'an was describing the explosion of the Sun. Instead, the Qur'an is describing something that must take billions of years, making it spectacularly difficult to miss.


[Verses 56:1-4 omitted; see here.]The end of the universe and of the world is the most serious event next to its formation. Riches, reputations, situations, families, beauty, ugliness, joy, distress will be no more; the entire universe will be transformed into a small unit. Superiority will no longer be measured by riches, possessions and high offices. Now, “superiority” will depend on the sort of life man has led. From the scenery of the end of the universe and the world described in the Quran, there are lessons to draw in this life of ours. All these are not for the mere sake of knowing. What is communicated has as its objective to move people and guide them to God. If the knowledge that the universe might restart in a few billion years is all that motivates you, then you've got a ridiculously long-sighted view of your impacts on the world for a fatalist.


We must bear in mind the third verse of the 56th [S]ura: [Verse 56:3 omitted; see here.] Expansion is the consequence of the acceleration generated by the Big Bang. This verse is clearly talking about the fact that some people are oppressed in society and others are making it rich, not about gravity.


[Verse "104:21" is stated. Verse 104:21 does not exist, as Sura 104 has only 9 verses. Verse 21:104 (the first verse cited) is intended. See here.] Verse 21:104 is stated again, with no accompanying text.


Relevant verses: Relevant commentary:


"They ask thee of the (destined) Hour, when will it come to port. Say: Knowledge thereof is with my Lord only. He alone will manifest it at its proper time. It is heavy in the heavens and the earth. It cometh not to you save unawares. They question thee as if thou couldst be well informed thereof. Say: Knowledge thereof is with Allah only, but most of mankind know not. Say: For myself I have no power to benefit, nor power to hurt, save that which Allah willeth. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I should have abundance of wealth, and adversity would not touch me. I am but a warner, and a bearer of good tidings unto folk who believe," (Qur'an 7:187).


"Say: Is there of your partners (whom ye ascribe unto Allah) one that produceth Creation and then reproduceth it? Say: Allah produceth Creation, then reproduceth it. How then, are ye misled!" (Qur'an 10:34).


^ "Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe?" (Qur'an 21:30). While this verse does mention the creation of the universe, it adds nothing specific to this Qur'anic end times myth.


^ "The Day when We shall roll up the heavens as a recorder rolleth up a written scroll. As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. (It is) a promise (binding) upon Us. Lo! We are to perform it," (Qur'an 21:104). If the universe actually does crunch, it almost certainly not roll up like a scroll - it's more like ripples in water going the other way. A more apt description would be a scroll's paper shrinking up until it turns into a black hole.


"He it is Who produceth creation, then reproduceth it, and it is easier for Him. His is the Sublime Similitude in the heavens and the earth. He is the Mighty, the Wise," (Qur'an 30:27).


"And they esteem not Allah as He hath the right to be esteemed, when the whole earth is His handful on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens are rolled in His right hand. Glorified is He and High Exalted from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him).", (Qur'an 39:67).


^ "We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who make the vast extent (thereof)." (Qur'an 51:47). While this verse does mention the vast size of the universe, it adds nothing specific to this Qur'anic end times myth.


"And when the heaven splitteth asunder and becometh rosy like red hide - Which is it, of the favours of your Lord, that ye deny?"' (Qur'an 55:37-38).


"When the event befalleth - there is no denying that it will befall - abasing (some), exalting (others); when the earth is shaken with a shock and the hills are ground to powder so that they become a scattered dust, and ye will be three kinds:" (Qur'an 56:1-7).


"And the heaven will split asunder, for that day it will be frail," (Qur'an 69:16).


"So when the stars are put out, and when the sky is riven asunder, and when the mountains are blown away, and when the messengers are brought unto their time appointed For what day is the time appointed?" (Qur'an 77:8-12).


Summary[edit]

Summary of claim: The Qur'an accurately predicts the Big Crunch, which would have been unknowable to contemporary science.
Does this statement meet all criteria necessary for Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge?

  1. Is it correct? Possibly. The Big Crunch is not yet proven or disproven.
  2. Is it in the Qur'an? No. The Qur'an does not mention the Big Crunch, and does not accurately mention the Big Crunch.
  3. Is it unambiguous? No. The Qur'an's "description" of the "Big Crunch" is ambiguous, contradictory, and doesn't correctly detail how and why the Big Crunch would occur.
  4. Was it outside of contemporary knowledge? Yes. Knowledge about the ultimate fate of the universe was not within contemporary Arabian knowledge.
  5. Was it outside of contemporary technology? Yes. The technology required to know the ultimate fate of the universe was not within contemporary Arabian tools.

Thus, this statement is not an example of Qur'anic scientific foreknowledge.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Other sources:
  • Other rebuttals:

Notes[edit]

  1. 3 verses were cited, and apparently morphed into 2.

References[edit]