This theory of an expanding universe was consistent not only with the second law of thermodynamics but also with Einstein’s theory of relativity. Hubble found that the farther away a galaxy is from us, the faster it is receding from us. This is now called Hubble’s Law, and it fulfills a prediction that was made on the basis of Einstein’s theory. The expanding universe theory also solved an old conundrum that had been frustrating scientists for decades: why the galaxies continued to stay apart from each other. Why had the force of gravity not pulled them together? The reason was that they had been hurled apart in a primordial explosion whose force continued to thrust them farther and farther away from each other. Astronomer John Barrow calls Hubble’s finding “the greatest discovery of twentieth-century science.”
Even so, many scientists were visibly upset by the concept of a Big Bang. Robert Jastrow cites a number of examples in his book God and the Astronomers: Astronomer Arthur Eddington called the concept “preposterous … incredible … repugnant.” Physicist Philip Morrison of MIT confessed, “I find it hard to accept the big bang theory. I would like to reject it.” Allan Sandage of Carnegie Laboratories said the idea was “such a strange conclusion” that “it cannot really be true.” Like Einstein, prominent scientists began to advance theories that would eliminate the need for a beginning. They worked very hard tofind a scientifically credible way for the universe to have existed forever.
Jastrow argues that the reason several leading scientists were troubled by the notion of a big bang is because, if true, it would imply that there was a “moment of creation” in which everything—the universe and its laws—came into existence. It is very important to recognize that before the Big Bang, there were no laws of physics. In fact, the laws of physics cannot be used to explain the Big Bang because the Big Bang itself produced the laws of physics. The laws of science are a kind of grammar that explains the order and relationship of objects in the universe. Just as grammar has no existence outside the words and sentences whose operations it defines, so too the laws of science cannot exist outside the universe of objects whose relationships they describe.
Scientists call the starting moment of the universe a “singularity” an original point at which neither space nor time nor scientific laws are in effect. Nothing can be known scientifically about what came before such a point. Indeed the term before has no meaning since time itself did not exist “prior to” the singularity. Once upon a time there was no time. Jastrow’s implication was that such concepts, which border on the metaphysical, give scientists a very queasy feeling. If the universe was produced outside the laws of physics, then its origin satisfies the basic definition of the term miracle. This term gives scientists the heebie-jeebies.
Imagine the relief of these scientists when astronomers Hermann Bondi, Thomas Gold, and Fred Hoyle advanced what became known as the “steady state” universe. Their theory was that the universe was infinite in age. Basically Bondi, Gold, and Hoyle hypothesized that as energy burns up over time, new energy and new matter are somehow created in intergalactic space. So despite entropy and the second law of thermodynamics, everything remains in balance and on an even keel, and thus it is possible that the universe has always existed. Space and time are also eternal. The steady state theory quickly gained popularity and became the most favored explanation for the universe among scientists in Europe and America. As late as 1959, it commanded the support of two-thirds of astronomers and physicists.