The Cosmos is Neither All That Is, Nor Ever Was, Nor Ever Will Be

Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the new Cosmos series, is great. But the Carl Sagan quote at the open of the program was a curious choice: “The cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be”. The show contradicts that quote early on by pointing out that the universe wasn’t always here – that it started with the Big Bang some 13.8 billion years ago.

To say that the cosmos “is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be” is so old-school. From Isaac Newton in the 18th century to Albert Einstein in the 20th, scientists subscribed to the “steady state” theory in which they thought the universe always existed and was infinite. But now, cosmologists almost universally agree that the universe started with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. Evidence for that includes Edwin Hubble’s discovery 90 years ago that the universe is expanding, and Penzias and Wilson’s discovery 50 years ago of the cosmic microwave background radiation or CMBR, which scientists think only could have come from the Big Bang. With the confirmation of the Big Bang, evidence was overwhelming that the universe did in fact have a beginning. And there’s a widespread belief among cosmologists that, thanks (or no thanks) to dark energy, the universe will continue to expand to the point that no galaxies will be visible to other galaxies because they’ll be too far away. And that all stars eventually will burn out. And some cosmologists subscribe to the “Big Rip” theory, where everything will be blown apart by dark energy.

So it is not the case that the cosmos is all that ever was or ever will be. Moreover, to say that the cosmos is all that is, is extraordinarily atheistic.