With the full force of infinite combinations and diversity that surely exists in the Universe. Could other alien life forms experienced or observed the Universe’s creation differently than we do? Could a sentient mind based on elements and events from a completely independent evolutionary lineage see the creation of the Universe differently? I don’t mean in more detail or complexity (as more advanced minds tend to do) but as a completely different phenomenon? Could there be competing theoretical entries in the Encyclopedia Galactica?
There are no competing theories with the Big Bang Theory because there is no such thing as the Big Bang Theory (other than the pop culture television show, that is.)
The discipline is called physical cosmology. Its theoretical foundations include general relativity and the standard model of particle physics, and additional assumptions about the conditions in the very early universe and about additional, yet-to-be-discovered fields that may have played a role, especially in the very early universe (e.g., during inflation).
As to the Big Bang itself: the idea that the early universe was hot and dense is no longer really subject to debate. The reason is that it is no longer a far-fetched conjecture supported only by the luminosity-redshift relationship (Hubble relationship) of distant objects. We now have direct observational evidence of very early galaxies, the composition of which is very different from galaxies of the present day: they contain virtually no heavy elements, for instance. We also have very detailed maps of the cosmic microwave background, which provide very specific constraints on the evolution of the universe. In particular, the so-called concordance or CDM model of cosmology actually predicted the shape of the curve that characterizes temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background; these predictions were confirmed.
Now it is a good question if the early, dense phase of the universe really marked the beginning of it all (initial singularity) or if there was a prior state, e.g., a universe that contracted before it “bounced” back and started expanding again. Such bounce models are frequently proposed, though they are not without issues and shortcomings. There is also the concept of eternal inflation, in which our “pocket” of the universe (a “pocket” that is much larger than the observable universe, but still just a “pocket” in the big scheme of things) is just one region of something much larger, a universe in which rapid expansion (inflation) takes place all the time, forming pockets like ours, in a never-ending process.
And there are many other possibilities. The existence of dark matter, a core concept in the concordance model (CDM stands for Cold Dark Matter), is questioned by those who attempt to attribute the same effects that dark matter is supposed to explain to modifications of Einstein’s gravity instead. The acceleration of the universe, deduced from the luminosity-distance relationship of Type Ia supernovae, is questioned by those who attribute these observations to large-scale inhomogeneities in our universe (so-called “void cosmology” models.) And so on.
Physical cosmology is still a young science, and there are many unknowns (which makes it all the more exciting). Not even the most ardent advocates of the concordance model suggest that it is the last word on the topic. There are many alternatives. But there are a few things we (think we) know already, and the idea that the early universe was hot and dense is one of them.
This wasn’t always so. Before the observational discovery of the cosmic microwave background, there was another widely favored model: steady-state cosmology, in which the expansion of the universe is balanced by the continuous, spontaneous creation of matter so that on the largest of scales, the universe is eternal and unchanging. One of the best-known advocates of steady state cosmology was Sir Fred Hoyle, who, incidentally, was also the person who coined the term, “Big Bang”, when he ridiculed Big Bang cosmology on a BBC radio show. The Hubble redshift also had an explanation in the form of “tired light”, the idea that over cosmic distances, photons lose energy, e.g., by interacting with the intergalactic medium. These alternatives have since been discredited by data; as I mentioned, very little doubt exists that the early universe was in a hot and dense state, which is what the Big Bang is all about.
It is in the truth of science and shared experienced that understanding and a common ground can be found between us and the sentient unknown. We and alien life will be more different than we can imagine. At least we can appreciate and understand (in our own degree) some of the same things.
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