Prior to the discovery in the 20th century of the Big Bang creation event it had been assumed by people of all faiths, even the Abrahamic faiths, that the universe was, is and so always would be eternal. It was not created. It just is.
The only real creation story, poem or myth that refers to the universe being created by God, rather than fashioned out of eternally existing chaos by various gods, was Genesis 1:1
According to Hebrew scholars the expression 'heavens and earth' is ancient Hebrew for everything, i.e. the universe. It is extraordinary that some 3 thousand years ago the author of Genesis could make this statement and others equally prophetic. He was writing in a pre-science culture. Genesis is not written as a scientific document. It is written poetically and historically to yield, when read with humility and after prayer, divine truths about humankind and its relationship to God.
It is now established by theory and observation that not only did all energy and matter originate from one infinitesimally small point which then expanded at an unimaginably high rate to give us the stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies which we see today on Hubble photographs, but something else had to be created. Mass and energy cannot exist without somewhere to exist in. They have to have extent; so God provided the three dimensions of space. For things to exist they had to have space to extend in. But for things to happen there needed to be time. Only with coexistent matter, energy, time and space could God bring about humanity and the universe we see today, 13.8 billion years later.
Our space-time realm is well named. Even what sight and touch deem solid, like the wall in front of you or the chair you sit on, is actually ethereal, consisting of well over 99.99% space permeated by configurations of energy. Things have been set up to give us the experience or illusion of living in a solid world. You could call it a stage, as did Shakespeare ('the world is a stage on which every man must play his part').
This space and energy filled universe is often visualised as the surface of an expanding balloon. The curved surface is a visual metaphor of a mathematical equation, which is itself a kind of metaphor describing an underlying reality. It represents the fact that the actual space we are living in is curved, but because the scale is so large it doesn't directly reveal its curvature to us. In fact it is only in the last few decades that this has been measured and deduced by cosmologists.
In this model one could draw dots on the surface to represent stars. Every point in this universe, including the sun, is a centre, and as it expands (at an accelerating rate) all the surrounding stars move further and further away as this balloon universe expands. The beginning is represented by the completely uninflated balloon.
So we are a centre of the universe but not, in any visual sense, the centre.
However, as future posts will strongly suggest, we could well be the only centre with conscious observers. If that is the case, then humankind can go back to thinking of itself as the centre of creation.
How fast is this space-time regime expanding? The answer is very fast, several times the speed of light. When Einstein said that nothing can travel faster than light he was talking about entities inside the universe, not the edge of the observable universe itself, some 46.5 billion light years from earth in any direction.
Beyond this boundary there is no time or space. It is the eternal realm where any human concept of cause and effect is meaningless and so beyond present or future science.
author of 2077: Knights of Peace (SciFi)
I am a layman who follows science. As far as I know the above is factually correct. Please let me know if you find an error or have issues.