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Posts Tagged ‘science vs creation’

PART I — THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

Is it sensible that natural processes, unaided, can make something entirely unique, something that never existed before, something never possessed by matter? First life — here, or anywhere — how did it come to be? Science insists that given just the right physical and chemical conditions, life will spontaneously emerge. The Bible, and most of the world’s religions, states that life can only be bestowed by the sole keeper of life: The Creator God. These are more than technical positions, they are fundamental worldviews.

The worldview a person holds does a lot for them, but it also carries baggage that can be not so good. The Wikipedia encyclopedia says that a worldview “is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society” and is the perception one holds of reality. “Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual interprets the world and interacts with it.”[1] This last phrase is especially important to today’s topic.

Science, by definition, can only deal with the physical. The scientific method has no way of mixing metaphysical causes with physical causes and effects. Indeed, good science strenuously rejects data that cannot be verified by direct observation. Consciously or unconsciously, scientists tend to adopt this scientific approach as their personal philosophy of living or worldview. Many disdain the existence of God.

Theist proponents of a biblical Creator are no less closed minded and biased. While devoted protection of the inerrancy of the Bible’s account of creation is understandable, even laudable, the resulting position is no less intractable as that of science. A cornerstone of Scripture is that God created both the universe and the Bible. Isn’t it sensible, therefore, that the study of both Scripture and nature (science) must be in harmony? Why isn’t it? I have come to conclude worldviews get in the way.

Concept of early Earth

The concept that life began as a simple one-celled organism originated with Charles Darwin. “Darwin’s theory presupposes that non-living chemicals, if given the right amount of time and circumstances, could develop by themselves into living matter.”[2] Guillermo Gonzalez, Ph.D., assistant research professor in astronomy and physics, and Jay Richards, Ph.D. philosophy and theology, write, “In the nineteenth century, many thought life at the microscopic level was simple. The nineteenth-century Darwinist Ernst Haeckel, for instance, characterized cells as simple “homogeneous globules of protoplasm.” Despite what we now know about the mesmerizing complexity of cells, and the fundamental difference between chemistry and the biological information encoded in chemicals,[3] many still assume that where there’s liquid water, there may very well be life.”[4] (regarding note 3 , see the discussion later in this article on DNA encoding).

So how could life have begun? The National Academy of Sciences in their 2008 publication, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, tells us that “For life to begin, three conditions had to be met. First, groups of molecules [intricately formed from amino acids] that could reproduce themselves had to come together. Second, copies of these molecular assemblages had to exhibit variation, so that some were better able to take advantage of resources and withstand challenges in the environment. Third, the variations had to be heritable, so that some variants would increase in number under favorable environmental conditions. … No one yet knows which combination of molecules first met these conditions, …”[5]

Far be it for me to question the esteemed National Academy of Sciences, but as I read this explanation, it seems that these conditions might be necessary for the kind of first life that could proceed to develop according to the process of biological evolution (which is the topic for the next article in this series). However, conditions two and three don’t appear to be requisite to life if there are other explanations for the subsequent development of higher life forms (granted I have left out context in my quotation, but the full text does not help me with my question). Could their worldview be biasing the scientists?

After the Late Heavy Bombardment

What are we certain of about how long life has existed on Planet Earth? Although slim it is possible the first life on Earth may have occurred after the Earth cooled following formation of the Sun and the Solar System’s planets — including Earth — some 4.6 billion years ago. If life and its prerequisite water existed then all signs of it were obliterated during the subsequent period of intense meteor, asteroid, and comet strikes termed the Late Heavy Bombardment. Earth’s surface once again became molten. When the planet cooled after these collisions subsided about 3.8 billion years ago … Dr. Schroeder narrates: “In the 1970s, Elso Barghoorn, a paleontologist, discovered micro-fossils of bacteria and algae in rocks close to 3.5 billion years old. Deposits representative of organic carbon appear in formations 3.8 billion years old. That is also when the first liquid water appeared on Earth, and hence the first time life could survive. All life on Earth is water based. No water, no life, but with water life is possible. It had only to develop, and develop it did, immediately in the presence of water. There were no “billions of years” for amino acids to combine randomly into life.”[6] Dr. Peter D. Ward, Professor of Geological Sciences and Curator of Paleontology, and Dr. Donald Brownlee, of the National Academy of Sciences and Professor of Astronomy, both of the University of Washington, in their landmark book, Rare Earth, echo Dr. Schroeder’s conclusion, “Life seems to have appeared simultaneously with the cessation of the heavy bombardment. As soon as the rain of asteroids ceased and the surface temperatures on Earth permanently fell below the boiling point of water, life seems to have appeared.”[7] (emphasis added)

As indicated above, a single living cell – once thought to be so simple and, therefore, so easy to emerge by natural processes – is extraordinarily complex. In 1953, science was able to produce, in an early-Earth simulation, amino acids – the most basic building blocks of a living cell (that experiment has since proven to be invalid because of errors in the laboratory simulation.[8])

Complexity of a living cell

Jonathan Wells, Ph.D., geology, physics, and biology, gives us the best description I could find of the complex structure of a single cell. In answer to the hypothetical question that if amino acids were present, “… how far would that be from creating a living cell,” Dr. Wells responded, “Very far. Incredibly far. That would be the first step in an extremely complicated process. You would have to get the right number of the right kinds of amino acids to link up to create a protein molecule — and that would still be a long way from a living cell. Then you’d need dozens of protein molecules, again in the right sequence, to create a living cell. The odds against this are astonishing.”

To illustrate the impossibility of a living cell occurring by natural processes, Dr. Wells continued, “Put a sterile, balanced salt solution in a test tube. Then put in a single living cell and poke a hole in it so that its contents leak into the solution. Now the test tube has all the molecules you would need to create a living cell … [but] you can’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. So even if you could accomplish the thousands of steps between amino acids … and [just] the components you need for a living cell — all the enzymes, the DNA, and so forth — you’re still immeasurably far from life.”[9] (emphasis added) Even under optimized conditions, the odds of producing, naturally, just one of the dozens of functional protein molecules needed for life is estimated to be one chance in 10 with 60 zeros behind it.[10]

Science – not theists – seems to making a sensible case that a Creator God must have initiated life. However for me, the strongest evidence for creation of life lies in understanding a little bit about the DNA molecules in every living cell. Without DNA no cell can replicate itself — an essential in the very definition of life. For a technical description of the DNA molecule and what has to occur for one to come into existence, see Ward and Brownlee’s Rare Earth, pages 60 through 66.[11] Also note 3 cites several excellent sources on the subject. For our purposes here I’ll quote Perry Marshall, a computer science expert,[12] author, and consultant in communications theory.

“DNA is not merely a molecule.  Nor is it simply a “pattern.” Yes, it contains chemicals and proteins, but those chemicals are arranged to form an intricate language, in the exact same way that English and Chinese and HTML are languages. …But non-living things cannot create language. They cannot create codes. … DNA has a four-letter alphabet, and structures very similar to words, sentences and paragraphs.”

Intricate coding in DNA

Marshall continues: With very precise instructions and systems that check for errors and correct them, it is formally and scientifically a code. Whether I use the simplest possible explanation, such as the one I’m giving you here, or if we analyze language with advanced mathematics and engineering communication theory, we can say this with total confidence: Messages, languages and coded information never, ever come from anything else besides a mind.”[13]

Astronomer Hugh Ross, Ph.D., agrees. “Genomics [DNA] research reveals that no organism, not even a simple parasite (dependent on other species for some of its life-critical functions), can survive without at least 250 functioning gene products.[14] It came as a shock, then, when geochemists found uranium oxide precipitates in rocks older than 3.7 billion years [remember the above discussion on how long life has existed]. This discovery revealed that oxygen-exploiting photosynthetic bacteria were already prolific at that early date.[15] Such bacteria require more than 2,000 gene products—500 more than the simplest independent (nonparasitic) organisms alive today.[16] … The sudden simultaneous appearance of highly diverse and not-so-simple life-forms as early as 3.8 billion years ago would be consistent with the work of a supernatural super-intelligent Being …”[17]

Have all these scientific findings and astronomical odds against naturally occurring life moderated the worldview of science to a more sensible position? “Some scientists have argued that, given enough time, even apparently miraculous events become possible—such as the spontaneous emergence of a single cell organism from random couplings of chemicals. Sir Fred Hoyle, the British astronomer, has said such an occurrence is about as likely as the assemblage of a [Boeing] 747 by a tornado whirling through a junkyard.[18] Reflect on the timing: as I quoted Dr. Schroeder above, “There were no “billions of years” for amino acids to combine randomly into life.”[19] Life, in surprising variety, originated virtually at the same time as the first water appeared on Earth following the cessation of the late Heavy Bombardment.

Does it seem to you that faith in the Creator God is sensible?

W

W

Next: article #3g “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” — Part II — EVOLUTION AND DARWINISM


[1] Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, re: worldview.

[2] Lee Strobel, (2000), The Case for Faith, (92), Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervon Publishing.

[3] On the importance of information in biology, see Hubert Hockey, Information Theory and Molecular Biology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press); Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, Information and the Origin of Life (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990); Bernd-Olaf Kuppers, Molecular Theory of Evolution (Heidelberg: Springer, 1983); W. Loewenstein, The Touchstone of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). On the difference between biological information and chemical structures that carry no information, see Michael Polanyi, “Life’s Irreducible Structure,” Science 160 (1968):1308, and Michael Polanyi, “Life Transcending Physics and Chemistry,” Chemical and Engineering News (Aug. 21, 1967), 54-66.

[4] Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, (2004), The Privileged Planet, (285), Washington, D. C. , Regency Publishing.

[5] National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine, (2008), Science, Evolution, and Creationism, (21-22), Washington, D. C., The National Academies Press

[6] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (86), New York, NY, Double Dell

[7] Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, (2000), Rare Earth, (61), New York, NY, Copernicus Books

[8] The gases chosen to represent ancient Earth’s atmosphere in which the experiment was conducted were significantly in error, invalidating the results. Walter L. Bradley, Ph.D., quoted by Lee Strobel. (2000), The Case for Faith, (92), Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervon Publishing.

[9] Lee Strobel, (2004), The Case for a Creator, (38-39), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan

[10] ibid, Strobel, The Case for Faith, (101)

[11] ibid, Ward and Brownlee, (60-66)

[12] Perry Marshall, (2010), Cosmic Fingerprints, http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/blog/prove-god-exists/

[13] ibid, Marshall

[14] Arcady R. Mushegian and Eugene V. Loonin, “A Minimum Gene Set for Cellular Life Derived by Comparison of Complete Bacterial Genomes,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 93 (1996): 10268-10273; and others.

[15] Minik T. Rosing and Robert Frei, “U-Rich Archaen Sea-Floor Sediments from Greenland — Indications of >3700 Ma Oxygenic Photosynthesis,” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 6907 (2003); 1-8.

[16] Don Cowan, “Use Your Neighbour’s Genes,” Nature 407 (2000); 466-467

[17] Hugh Ross, (2006), Creation as Science, (127-128), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress

[18] ibid, Schroeder, (85)

[19] ibid, Schroeder (86)

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The point of this article is the suggestion that the cosmological events following the Big Bang together with Earth’s geophysical record reconcile to a surprising degree with the happenings described on each of the six days of Genesis. My previous article on the age of the universe (#3c “God, Are You There?” – Old Or Young Rocks?) drew from Dr. Gerald Schroeder’s work. It gives a reconciliation of the Bible/science difference in the age of the universe according to Einstein’s Law of Relativity and the expansion of space and time.[1] Similarly, this article leans heavily on Dr. Schroeder’s excellent work which, significantly, has been scientifically peer reviewed. Hopefully you, the reader, will find these thoughts sufficiently sensible that you might reconsider any previously held “proof” that science contradicts the Bible and vice-versa.

Perhaps Table 1 is familiar from my earlier article. It compares Earth time, from the present day looking backward, to biblical time looking forward to the time of Adam. After that the Bible always uses Earth time. Table 1 also shows, in present Earth time, the duration of each Genesis day – the events during which are the focus of this article.

Table 1[2]

The Duration of the Six Days of Genesis WWBlueshift, z+1

From the Bible’s per­spec­tive looking forward in time from the start of day one From Earth’s perspec­tive looking backward in time from the present From Bible’s perspective at the start of day one Approximate years before Adam at start of each day
Day one 24 hrs 8 billion yrs 1 15 ¾ billion yrs
Day two 24 hrs 4 billion yrs 2.0 x 1012 7 ¾ billion yrs
Day three 24 hrs 2 billion yrs 3.0 x 1012 3 ¾ billion yrs
Day four 24 hrs 1 billion yrs 3.5 x 1012 1 ¾ billion yrs
Day five 24 hrs ½ billion yrs 3.7 x 1012 ¾ billion yrs
Day six 24 hrs ¼ billion yrs 3.9 x 1012 ¼ billion yrs
Near end of day six 4.0 x 1012
Total: Six 24-hr days 15 ¾ billion yrs

Dr. Schroeder notes that “as the universe expanded, its size (scale) and temperature, and therefore its clock, were becoming ever more similar to that of our current universe. Because of this, the “duration” of each successive twenty-four-hour Genesis day encompassed a span of time ever more similar to time as reckoned from our Earth-based perspective. Each doubling in size “slowed” the cosmic clock by a factor of 2. Since the time required for the universe to double in size increased exponentially as its size increased, the fractional rate of change in the cosmic clock (relative to Earth time) decreased exponentially.”

He continues: “The opening chapter of Genesis acts like a zoom lens of a camera. Day by day it focuses with increasing detail on less and less time and space. The first day of Genesis encompasses the entire universe. By the third day, only Earth is discussed. After day six, only that line of humanity leading to the patriarch Abraham is in biblical view.”[3]

So let’s look at each successive day.

Biblically, “The First Day”

Genesis 1:1-5 tells us of the creation event – the big bang – followed by the separation of light from darkness. To those of us without a background in cosmology this idea of “darkness” might suggest a biblical contradiction with science; that is, on the first day — we might reason — our Sun and Earth must have existed so that there could be day and night as we know it. Verse 2 even mentions “earth,” “waters,” and “deep,” which adds to the misinterpretation. However, this is not the meaning. Science shows that the extreme temperatures of the big bang were so great that matter could not exist; that is, quark confinement could not occur, therefore, electrons and atom nuclei could neither exist nor bond, and photons – light – did not exist either! Only after the universe cooled could light exist, even though this initial cooling occurred very rapidly in a hundred-thousandth of a second or so. However, this is almost surely not the darkness the Bible is speaking of. Science speaks of the “Dark Ages” — that earliest period of about 400 million Earth years in which the first matter condensed, becoming hydrogen and helium. Gravitational forces pulled these gases into ever more dense clouds until conditions were right for the first stars to shine: the first light!

Galaxies began to form

Very quickly after the big bang, during a one-time phenomena science calls “inflation,” time, space, matter expanded almost instantaneously to roughly the size of our present day solar system. During “the first Day” (literal Hebrew, and significant because previously there had never been a “day”), a period extending from 15 ¾ billion years to 7 ¾ billion Earth years, stars continued to form and began to gather into what would become galaxies. As more time passed space-time expansion continued. Surprisingly, the rate of expansion accelerated and continues to accelerate as astronomers measure today. “Each doubling in the size of the universe “slowed” the cosmic clock by a factor of 2.”[4]

Day 2

Genesis 1:6-8 extends from 7 ¾ billion before present (B.P.) to 3 ¾ billion years B.P. Dr. Schroeder describes the happenings: “During that period most of the stars of the Milky Way’s spiral formed. The Sun, a main sequence star located in the spiral, formed 4.6 billion years ago.”[5] Gas and rocky matter not pulled into the Sun by its gravitational forces began to collide and accrete into planets, including Earth. And later: “From geophysical evidence of weathered rocks, we learn that Earth had cooled [from high temperatures caused by heavy bombardment of meteorsl]

The Late Heavy Bombardment

and liquid water appeared on it 3.8 billion years ago.”[6]

Verses 6 and 7 speak to ‘separation of the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth’ which has given rise to some speculation of a canopy of water surrounding the earth. This view was held for a short time some years ago in early concepts of “creation science.” Since there is no physical evidence of such a model of the earth, and with the wide variance of biblical commentary on these verses, I have to conclude that much remains to be understood about the original Hebrew meaning.

In verse 8, the Bible continues to describe events in our Milky Way galaxy – “the heavenly firmament took shape. From our vantage, the heavens we see are almost totally composed of stars of the Milky Way’s main spiral disk.”[7]

Day 3

Genesis 1:9-13 clearly describes the “land and seas” of Earth. The period is from 3 ¾ billion years ago to 1 ¾ billion years – a reasonable match with the 3.8 billion years concluded from geophysical findings for the first liquid water. This is followed by plant life (Gen 1:11). “Contrary to scientific opinion held until recently, fossil data have demonstrated the first simple plant life appeared immediately after liquid water and not billions of years later”.[8] New plant life continued, however, to appear across several of the succeeding Genesis days according to early Jewish kabalah scholars. This seems to be unique, since all other appearances of new life occur in a very short period of time. Understanding this apparent discrepancy in the arrival of plant life seems to dispel another supposed science/biblical contradiction.

Day 4

"…the greater light to rule the day…"

Genesis 1:14-19. These verses seem to describe the creation of the sun and the moon – apparently contradicting the time of formation of planet Earth and the rest of the Solar System in verses 6-8 (Day 2). Day 4 covers the period from 1¾ billion years B.P. to 750 million years B.P. Dr. Schroeder explains: “The earth sciences have revealed data indicating that during this period the atmospheric concentration of photosynthentically produced oxygen rose to concentrations comparable to today’s atmosphere. There are indications that with the further cooling of Earth and the rise of atmospheric oxygen, the atmosphere, formerly translucent, became transparent.”[9] This primitive, oxygen producing plant life must have received its photosynthesis enabling solar radiation through this early translucent atmosphere. Even before that the sun and moon would have been blocked from view (at Earth’s surface) by dense black clouds of dust remaining from Earth’s accretion disk and from volcanic ash.   Therefore, the sun and the moon, which came into existence during Day 2, would become distinctly visible for the first time during Day 4. This is confirmed in the Talmud.[10]

Day 5

Genesis 1:20-23. In these verses the Bible first describes sea life and birds. This Day began 750 million years ago and extends to 250 million years B.P. during which we have entered the Cambrian period. “Paleontology now becomes the dominant science related to biblical commentary. The fossil record reveals the sudden, explosive appearance of animal life as it flourished in the oceans, 530 million years ago, simultaneously bringing into being all basic body plans of modern life.[11],[12],[13] Then approximately 360 million years ago in rapid succession amphibian reptiles and winged (insect) life appeared.”[14]

Here the Bible uses emphatic language – swarms of swarms – of creatures in the waters, followed by the appearance of reptiles and winged animals (verses 20 and 21). The fossil record also confirms this sudden profusion of life.

Day 6

Genesis 1:24-31 covers the period from 250 million years ago to the time of Adam, about 6,000 years ago. These verses relate the appearance of “livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth.” Finally, verse 26 states God creates man (see my next article, #3g, Origin of Life, Evolution and Darwinism). I cannot find a way to summarize Dr. Schroeder’s writing here, and certainly I cannot improve on his work. From his book, he writes:

“Paleontology records that approximately 250 million years ago, there was a mass extinction of 90 percent of life followed by repopulation. Animal life then flourished on dry land, leading to mammals and culminating with hominids. … Thus ends the account of the six days, all of it packed into thirty-one verses.”

“The biblical choice for the timing of each Genesis day is in itself interesting. The opening of each day is heralded by a cosmic or global punctuation of major significance. The start of day one, some sixteen billion years ago, marks the creation of the universe, the big bang. Day two opens at approximately eight billion years B.P., one of the dates estimated for the shaping of the galactic disk of the Milky Way. (The date is speculative and not all cosmologists agree on it.) The third day begins 3.8 billion years ago. This date betokened the close of an era during which Earth was bombarded by a rain of meteors so intense as to have made the start or survival of life highly improbable. Immediately, at that date, the first liquid water and the first traces of life appear.”

“At 1.8 billion years ago, the start of day four marked the beginning of eukaryotic life—life forms having cells with an inner nucleus containing most of the cell’s genetic material (DNA). Prior to this time all life was prokaryotic—having cells without nuclei. All life forms larger than one-celled organisms such as bacteria are eukaryotic. Day five, starting 750 million years ago, timed the appearance of the first clearly multicellular organisms. Decimation, in the fullest meaning of the word, occurred at the start of day six, 250 million years B.P. Between 90 and 95 percent of all marine life disappeared from the fossil record at that date, setting the stage for the flourishing of animal life on dry land.”

All He had made was very good. (Gen 1:31)

“The Bible relates in thirty-one verses, in a few hundred words, events spanning sixteen billion years. These are events about which scientists have written literally millions of words. The entire development of animal life is summarized in eight biblical sentences. Considering the brevity of the biblical narrative, the match between the statements and timing of Genesis 1 and the discoveries of modern science is phenomenal, especially when we realize that all biblical interpretation used here was recorded centuries, even millennium, in the past and so was not in any way influenced by the discoveries of modern science. It is modern science that has come to match the account of our genesis.”[15]

The match between science and the biblical account is “truly phenomenal”! In studying for this article I have probably focused more intensely on these “phenomenal” details than you, the reader can possible take time to do. In that, surely I benefit more from this than you. I come away from the task more convinced than ever that both science and the Bible are eminently sensible, with neither precluding a truly sensible faith.

A summary chart may be useful at this point.

Table 2[16]

The Six Days of Genesis

Day number

Start of day

(years B.P.)

End of day

(years B.P.)

Bible’s description

Scientific description

One 15,750,000,000 7,750,000,000 The creation of the universe; light separates from dark(Gen 1:1-5) The big bang marks the crea­tion of the universe; light literally breaks free as electrons bond to atomic nuclei; galaxies start to form.
Two 7,750,000,000 3,750,000,000 The heavenly firmament forms (Gen 1:6-8) Disk of Milky Way galaxy forms; Sun, a main sequence star, forms
Three 3,750,000,000 1,750,000,000 Oceans and dry land appear; the first life, plants, appear (Gen 1:9-13); kabalah states this marked only the start of plant life, which then developed during the following days The earth has cooled and liquid water appears 3.8 billion years ago, followed almost immediately by the first forms of life: bacteria and photosynthetic algae.
Four 1,750,000,000 750,000,000 Sun, Moon and stars become visible in the heavens (Talmud Hagigah 12a) (Gen 1:14-19) Earth’s atmosphere becomes transparent; photosynthesis produces oxygen-rich atmosphere
Five 750,000,000 250,000,000 First animal life swarms abundantly in waters; followed by reptiles and winged animals (Gen 1:20-23) First multicellular animals; waters swarm with animal life having the basic body parts of all future animals; winged insects appear
Six 250,000,000 apprx 6,000 Land animals; mammals; humankind (Gen 1:24-31) Massive extinction destroys over 90 % of life. Land is repopulated; hominids and then humans

After using so much of Dr. Schroeder’s work in this article, I must defer to him for the closing thoughts:

“Though the Bible is eerily true and filled with wisdom that would not have been known widely, if at all, when it was written, nowhere does it claim to have all the answers [of the physical laws of science]. The Bible may be the primary source for claiming that a purpose underlies our existence. But understanding the cause of that purpose can only be found, as Maimonides stated so many centuries ago, in a knowledge of the physical world. For that knowledge, the theologian must turn to the scientist.”[17]

W

Next: article #3g “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” — Part I — THE ORIGIN OF LIFE

W

End Notes

[1] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (41-59), New York, NY, Double Dell Publishing.

[2] ibid, (60).

[3] ibid, (62)

[4] ibid, (62)

[5] ibid, (68)

[6] ibid, (68), from P. Cloud, (1988), Oasis in Space, (167), W. W. Norton, New York.

[7] ibid, (68)

[8] ibid, (68), from Weinberg, “Life in the Universe.”

[9] Ibid, (68)

[10] Talmud Hagigah 12A; Rashi

[11] S. Gould, (1994), “The Evolution of Life on Earth,” Scientific American, October 1994.

[12] J. Levinton, (1992), “The Big Bang of Animal Evolution,” Scientific American, November 1992.

[13] M. Nash, (1995), “When Life Exploded,” Time, 4 December 1995.

[14] Ibid, Schroeder, (69)

[15] ibid, (70)

[16] ibid, (67)

[17] ibid, (70)

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ITS TIME TO REVISIT why I’m writing these articles — and why you are reading them.

Every one of us lives by faith! The question is — is the faith we live by sensible?

Each of us navigate the decisions in life in a framework of beliefs. Each of us, even the most accomplished scholars, face life with many solid, testable facts at his/her command and an even larger inventory of things we don’t know. So how do we handle life when it hinges on factors we don’t understand? Now resist self-defensiveness for a moment. Pull together the pieces of your answer fairly, objectively. Criticism is not intended here.

Don’t we decide by drawing from the sum total of our life experiences everything that bears on the issue at hand and make reasonable guesses at what we don’t know? For the scientist, the guessing part is one or more hypotheses. For the businessman, maybe a hunch or a risk/reward calculation. For the engineer, it’s a probability. For others perhaps intuition is the right word. But for all of us, we have to acknowledge we act on faith, faith in our guesses. For each of us, we conduct our science, run our businesses, build, invest, and care for our families on, what is to us, sensible thinking — sensible faith. It may be very difficult to admit to ourselves (no one else is looking right now) but consciously or unconsciously, every single one of us is a person controlled by faith!

So, why is this and the other articles numbered “#3x” seemingly about the so-called “war” between science and religion? Why am I writing these, as well as all the articles I have in mind for the future?

Because I’d like to persuade you, the reader, to be certain your faith is sensible! I’d like to persuade the scientist and the engineer that maybe science and religion are not really in conflict. I’d like to persuade the theologian that perhaps some doctrines, while not in error, maybe we’re not thinking about them as was intended. I’d like to persuade every reader to consciously think about what’s guiding his/her life — rejecting subconscious servitude to self-indulgence, peer pressure, and partial/misunderstandings.

I’ve just waded into a hornets’ nest. What intellectual arrogance! What vitriolic personal attacks on others for no reason other than they offer different thoughts!! That’s what made me stop and rethink this whole undertaking from which you are reading the early articles, and caused me to express the opening thoughts above.

This particular article is about the amazing uniqueness – or apparent uniqueness – of planet Earth. It’s about how “finely tuned” it and, in fact, the whole universe (see previous article) seems to be for life. In my research, those of you who know this subject know it was inevitable that I would run into two important principles: The Anthropic Principle and The Copernican Principle.

The Anthropic Principle – the idea that the physical, chemical, and biological laws of nature are so fine tuned that they could not have happened by chance — Random House Unabridged Dictionary

The Copernican Principle – in physical cosmology, the Copernican Principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, states that the earth is not in a central, specially favored position. More recently the principle has been generalized to the relativistic concept that humans are not privileged observers of the universe. In this sense it is equivalent to the mediocrity principle, with important implications for the philosophy of science. — Wikipedia Encyclopedia

As I always try to do, I looked for other than one source on any given topic. That’s when it happened. The Wikipedia information on The Anthropic Principle carries the note that its “neutrality” had been “questioned,” and offers a link to the “talk” section. I encourage you to go there if you wish. I found it interesting and informative, but I can’t recall when I have read anything that disappointed me more about our human condition.

So, there are many critics of religion who have placed their faith in the belief that natural cause-and-effect relationships will be found in the future to explain this incredible “fine tuning” of the universe and this planet for life without the need for a transcendent super-intellect to “design” it all. There are also many who are convinced that — although circumstantial — this fine tuning is unbelievably improbable unless guided/designed supernaturally.

Interestingly, one side of the debate is science — the other philosophy. How these intelligent, highly educated people can think that science will ever settle a philosophy (metaphysical) issue, or philosophy can ever settle a science question strains my comprehension.

If you, the reader, would like to peruse samples of the “fine tuning” all this intellectual tempest swirls around, please go to Appendix B to this article, Evidence for the Design of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support[1]. A similar sampling regarding the fine tuning of the universe is provided at Appendix A.

About this fine tuning, Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, PhD, astronomy and physics, who coauthored the highly rigorous book, The Privileged Planet, said in an interview with Lee Strobel:[2]

When I took this together with all the various “serendipitous” circumstances involving our privileged location in the universe, I was left without a vocabulary to describe my sense of wonder. The suggestion that all of this was based on fortuitous chance had become absurd to me. The tell-tale signs of design are evident from the far reaches of the Milky Way down to the inner core of our planet.

Commenting on just one of these “serendipitous” factors, astronomer and applied theologian Gerald Schroeder, PhD, says:[3]

“A just-right Earth with just the needed gravity, radioactivity, magnetic field, and volcanic activity to support life is located at just the right distance from the Sun to nurture the inception and development of life. But Earth should not be where it is. Among the planets circling the Sun, Earth is the oddball. The distribution of matter initially spiraling in toward a central attractor may reach an equilibrium that clusters along what is known as an exponential curve. In this curve, each successive swirl is a given factor farther out than its predecessor. The distances of the planets from the Sun fall on an exponential distribution. Each planet is approximately two times farther from the Sun than the preceding planet, except for Earth. Earth should not be where it is. . . . Yet here we are in all our life-giving splendor and awe. A miracle, perhaps, or just a fortunate quirk of nature.

So what are we, the ordinary introspective skeptic or religious believer, to conclude about is our faith sensible? Is this undeniable “fine tuning” an accident of natural processes or has it happened by Divine design? Perhaps Timothy Keller, pastor of the 6,000 member Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, NY, has some helpful thoughts:[4]

“It is the conflict model [science vs. religion], however, that gets the most publicity. Fortunately, this view is losing credibility with a growing number of scholars. The history of the secularization of American institutions is treated in an important and influential book edited by Christian Smith.[5] In it Smith argues that the conflict model of the relationship of science to religion was a deliberate exaggeration used by both scientists and education leaders at the end of the nineteenth century to undermine the church’s control of their institutions and increase their own cultural power. The absolute warfare model of science and reason was the product not so much of intellectual necessity but rather of a particular cultural strategy. Many scientists see no incompatibility between faith in God and their work.”

This is a lot to think about. So until next time …

W

Appendix B, Evidence for the Design of the Galaxy-Sun-Earth-Moon System for Life Support[6]

Next: article #3f “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” – THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS (pending)

W

End Notes


[1] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

[2] Lee Strobel, (2004), The Case For A Creator, (184-185), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan

[3] Gerald L. Schroeder, (1998), The Science of God, (185-186), New York, NY, Double Dell Publishing.

[4] Timothy Keller, (2009), The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism, (92), New York, NY, Riverhead Books.

[5] Christian Smith, ed, (2003), The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life, (1-12), University of California Press

[6] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, (138-141), Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress.

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The following are 26 of the estimated 50 constants and quantities, which, had there been any variation in their primordial values, our universe – at least as we know it – would not exist (ref 1: The Creator and the Cosmos, Hugh Ross, PhD, astronomy, p 118-119)

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1. Strong nuclear force constant
if larger: no hydrogen; nuclei essential for life would be unstable
if smaller: no elements other than hydrogen

2. Weak nuclear force constant
if larger: too much hydrogen converted to helium in big bang, hence too much heavy element material made by star burning; no expulsion of heavy elements from stars
if smaller: too little helium produced from big bang, hence too little heavy material made by star burning; no expulsion of heavy elements from stars

3. Gravitational force constant
if larger: stars would be too hot and would burn up too quickly and too unevenly
if smaller: stars would remain so cool that nuclear fusion would never ignite, hence no heavy element production

4. Electromagnetic force constant
if larger: insufficient chemical bonding; elements more massive than boron would be too unstable for fission
if smaller: insufficient chemical bonding

5. Ratio of electromagnetic force constant to gravitational force constant
if larger: no stars less than 1.4 solar masses, hence short stellar life spans and uneven stellar luminosities
if smaller: no stars more than 0.8 solar masses, hence no heavy element production

6. Ratio of electron to proton mass
if larger: insufficient chemical bonding
if smaller: insufficient chemical bonding

7. Ratio of number of protons to electrons
if larger: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star and planet formation
if smaller: electromagnetism would dominate gravity, preventing galaxy, star and planet formation

8. Expansion rate of the universe
if larger: no galaxy formation
if smaller: universe would collapse prior to star formation

9. Entropy level of the universe
if larger: no proto-galaxy formation
if smaller: no star condensation within the proto-galaxies

10. Mass density of the universe
if larger: too much deuterium from big bang, hence stars burn too rapidly
if smaller: insufficient helium from big bang, hence too few heavy elements forming

11. Velocity of light
if faster: stars would be too luminous
if slower: stars would not be luminous enough

12. Age of the universe
if older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of galaxies
if younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed

13. Initial uniformity of radiation
if smoother: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
if coarser: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space

14. Fine structure constant (a number used to describe the fine structural splitting of spectral lines)
if larger: DNA would be unable to function; no stars more than 0.7 solar masses
if smaller: DNA would be unable to function; no stars more than 1.8 solar masses

15. Average distance between galaxies
if larger: insufficient gas would be infused into our galaxy to sustain star formation over an adequate time span
if smaller: the sun’s orbit would be too radically disturbed

16. Average distance between stars
if larger; heavy element density too thin for rocky planets to form
if smaller: planetary orbits would become destabilized

17. Decay rate of the proton
if larger: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation
if smaller: insufficient matter in the universe for life

18. 12Carbon (12C) to 16Oxygen (16O) energy level ratio
if larger: insufficient oxygen
if smaller: insufficient  carbon

19. Ground state energy level for 4Helium (4He)
if larger: insufficient carbon and oxygen
if smaller: insufficient carbon and oxygen

20. Decay rate of 8Beryllium (8Be)
if slower: heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic in all the stars
if faster: no element production beyond beryllium and, hence, no life chemistry possible

21. Mass excess of the neutron over the proton
if greater: neutron decay would leave too few neutrons to form the heavy elements essential for life
if smaller: proton decay would cause all stars to collapse rapidly into neutron stars or black holes

22. Initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons
if greater: too much radiation for planets to form
if smaller: not enough matter for galaxies or stars to form

23. Polarity of the water molecule
if greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too great for life to exist
if smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too small for life’s existence; liquid water would become too inferior a solvent for life chemistry to proceed; ice would not float, leading to a runaway freeze-up

24. Supernovae eruptions
if too close: radiation would eliminate life on the planet
if too far: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets

if too frequent: life on the planet would be exterminated
if too infrequent: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets

if too late: life on the planet would be exterminated by radiation
if too soon: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets

25. White dwarf binaries
if too few: insufficient fluorine produced for life chemistry to proceed
if too many: disruption of planetary orbits from stellar density; life on the planet would be exterminated

if too soon: not enough heavy elements made for efficient fluorine production
if too late: fluorine made too late for incorporation in proto-planet

26. Ratio of exotic to ordinary matter
if smaller: galaxies would not form
if larger: universe would collapse before solar type stars could form

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Billions of stars in each galaxy. Billions of galaxies. Therefore, many billions of planets. There must be millions of civilizations scattered through the universe. This was widely accepted as a reasonable conclusion throughout the 1900s by science and laypersons alike. Later in that period astronomers and astrophysicists began getting data showing that, for the most part, the universe is a violent, unfriendly place. Yet there seemed to be “safe zones” …

The hot big bang model says that the entire physical universe — all the matter and energy, and even the four dimensions of space and time — burst forth from a state of infinite, or near infinite, density, temperature, and pressure. The universe expanded from a volume very much smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, and it continues to expand[1]. But how did the galaxies form? According to the physical laws galaxies should not have happened. Indeed galaxies, stars, planets, life, would not exist – at least as we know them – if there had been any variation in the primordial values of an estimated 50 constants and quantities, 26 of which are shown in Appendix A (click here). For example, renown physicist and mathematician Dr Stephen Hawking calculated that if just one of these constants, the universe’s expansion rate, one second after the big bang had been smaller than one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have collapsed into a fireball[2]. If the expansion rate had been any larger, matter would have dispersed so efficiently that none of it would clump enough to form galaxies, and therefore no stars, no planets, and no life[3].

The COBE satellite (Cosmic Background Explorer) provided the data that established that there is, throughout the universe, very small amounts of residual heat/radiation from the big bang. Not only so, but in later refinements it was shown that its distribution is splotchy – precisely what must happen for galaxies to form. The COBE findings were extolled across the science community with superlatives. Stephen Hawking, usually a master of understatement, said “it is the discovery of the century, if not of all time”[4].

Initially, the big bang consisted of nothing but energy; extreme temperatures. In the first four minutes there was enough cooling for the universe’s first matter to form: hydrogen (in the form of deuterium) and helium. Practically all that exists today of these elements formed then.

What does all this have to do with sensible faith and “safe zones for life?” First of all, the extraordinary, extraordinary odds against the occurrence of these events by natural processes would hopefully lead the atheistic or skeptical reader to wonder if his faith in chance happenings is sensible. Maybe the existence of a transcendent intelligence designing and guiding these incredible events is more likely and more sensible (in all fairness impossible odds, by themselves, is technically not conclusive. More about this in a couple of articles hence).

Secondly, safe zones for earth-like planets depend upon the foregoing galaxy-building events. For example, the heavier elements essential to form rocks, planets, and life have to come from stars which “burn” that hydrogen (fuse hydrogen atoms into heavier atoms), and eventually explode (supernovae) scattering their heavy material through space where gravity can draw it together into new stars and their orbiting planets. While this cycle can happen almost anywhere, earth-like planets can exist only if:

There has been enough supernovae cycles to provide a rich environment of the life-essential elements. For example, a very young galactic region cannot have had enough star cycles to provide sufficient planet-building material.

The occurrence of supernovae, new star births, collisions with other galaxies, black holes, white dwarf binaries, gamma bursts, and other violence has quieted enough so as to not disrupt/destroy planets and life.

The density of neighborhood stars, other bodies, and even other planets is sparse enough to provide low enough gravity fields to permit stable, near circular orbits of potential earth-like planets around their parent star.

The luminosity (brightness) of the parent star has to be sufficient to provide hospitable levels of stable heating.

Candidate earth-like planets have to orbit their parent star at the right distance and have a gas-giant type of planet in orbit close enough to attract planet-killing asteroids and comets, but far enough away to allow the earth-like planet to have a stable orbit with manageable tides.

These are just a few of the “neighborhood factors” narrowing the galactic zones safe for life-sustaining planets to exist. Carl Sagan (of Cosmos fame) and Iosef Shklovskii were the first astronomers to provide evidence of these intricacies[5]. In 1966 they had determined it takes a certain kind of star [size, brightness, stability] with a planet located just the right distance from that star to provide the minimal conditions for life[6]. Working with just these two [of many] parameters, they estimated that only 0.001% of all stars could have a planet capable of supporting advanced life[7].

With the foregoing as background let’s look at the universe where the stars are — in either globular clusters or in the three basic types of galaxies — together with a few of their life-sustaining characteristics, or absence thereof.

Globular clusters are one of the worst places to expect life because of, first, the low abundance of life sustaining heavy elements due to the young age of its stars. Secondly, globular clusters are so densely packed with stars that stable, circular orbits of planets would be impossible – assuming planets could even form. Zero “safe zones” here.

Galaxies are of three basic types: elliptical, irregular, and spiral.

Most galaxies are elliptical and less massive having mostly young stars in random orbits, like bees swarming a beehive. Consequently, the stars visit every region of the galaxy including the denser, inner regions where a black hole is likely[8]. Under these conditions, star formation ceases before the interstellar medium becomes enriched enough with heavy elements. Without these heavy elements earth-like planets cannot form nor, if formed, could they support life[9]. Again, zero safe zones.

Irregular galaxies exhibit worse conditions for life than elliptical galaxies. They’re distorted and ripped apart with supernovae going off throughout their volume. There are no safe places where there are fewer supernovae exploding, such as Earth enjoys resting as it does between two of the arms in our  spiral galaxy[10].

Spiral galaxies are the least common in the universe comprising only 5% of all the galaxies[11]. Spiral galaxies also tend to be the most massive and luminous – the Milky Way being in the top one or two percent of all massive galaxies. This makes for an abundance of the heavy elements needed for life. Galaxies have varying degrees of star formation where gases coalesce to form stars, which then super novae at a fairly high rate[12]. In a spiral galaxy these “star nurseries” are primarily in the spiral arms – well away from our planet which is situated safely on an edge between two arms. The inner regions of the spiral disc are also inhospitable to life with high levels of radiation, supernovae and almost certainly a black hole.

So where are the “safe zones for life in the universe”? In the narrow regions on the edge of the arms of spiral galaxies, not too far out toward the perimeter of the galaxy disk where the heavy elements are thin, and not to far toward the center of the disk where violence is more common. How common are these safe zones in the universe? Very rare. The vast majority of galaxies are eliminated from contention, and the vast majority of the stars in the few remaining galaxies are also eliminated[13].

What do you suppose is a sensible estimate of the number of “safe zones” occurring by accident in the universe?

More next time . . .

Appendix A, A Universe Fine Tuned For Life

Next: article #3e “GOD, ARE YOU THERE?” – FINE TUNED FOR LIFE: PLANET EARTH


[1] Hugh Ross, PhD, (1995), The Creator and the Cosmos, Colorado Springs, CO, NavPress

[2] Stephen W. Hawking, (1988), A Brief History of Time, New York, NY, Bantam Books

[3] ibid, Ross, (114)

[4] ibid, (19)

[5] ibid, (131)

[6] Iosef S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan, (1966), Intelligent Life In The Universe, (343-350), San Francisco, CA, Holden-Day.

[7] Ibid, (413)

[8] Guillermo Gonzalez, PhD, summa cum laude astronomy and physics, University of Arizona; masters and doctorate, University of Washington, interview, Lee Strobel , (2004), The Case For A Creator, (170), Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan,

[9] ibid, Ross, (132)

[10] ibid, Gonzalez, Strobel, (171)

[11] ibid, Ross, (132)

[12] ibid, Gonzalez, Strobel,, (166-172)

[13] ibid, Ross, (133)

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Among the top issues which challenge assertions for the existence of God is the disputed age of the universe. So if atheists, skeptics and Christians can possibly be “on the same page” in reading future articles here, we have to try to clear up this disparity.

Without question, scientific findings firmly establish the age of the universe at some 15 ¾ billion years. Yet the book claiming to be God’s Word (see future posting #4, AUTHENTICITY OF THE BIBLE) sets that age at about 6,000 years. However, it’s the first six days of those 6,000 years, “the six days of creation,” that seem the hardest to accept in view of solid scientific evidence.

Future posting #3f, THE SIX DAYS OF GENESIS, is going to address the events contained in those six days as well as the conflicting science. This posting discusses the timing disparity – six 24-hour days or 15+ billion years?

Most of the content of this posting is my understanding of the excellent work, The Science of God, (1997), by Dr. Gerald L. Schroeder, Ph.D. My apologies to him for any unintended misrepresentations I have inflicted on his work. Dr. Schroeder received both undergraduate and doctorate degrees at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the latter in Nuclear Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences. Pursuing his orthodox Jewish faith, he emigrated to Israel in 1971 after serving on the faculty of M.I.T.  for some years. As a researcher and applied theologian, he does work at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the Volcani Research Institute, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Wikipedia).

What is so remarkable about Dr. Schroeder’s work I will discuss here is that he has reconciled the Genesis and science perspectives of the age of the universe by showing that the perceived flow of time for a given event in an expanding universe varies with the observer’s perspective. Applying Einstein’s Law (no longer a theory) of Relativity leads one inexorably to the conclusion that the six 24-hour days of Genesis and science’s 15 billion years are exactly the same! Indeed, Dr. Schroeder verifies this with a convincing numerical calculation (see below) based upon the scientifically accepted Expansion Coefficient, that is, the rate at which the universe expanded following the big bang, 1 X 1012 or a million-million (It is significant to point out that Dr. Schroeder’s work on this subject has been formally peer reviewed for accuracy by members of the relevant fields of science).

All too briefly, here is my understanding of what this means: When the universe – and time – was rapidly expanding from the big bang, the unit of time defined today as a “year”, if applied then, would contain many, many more events than today’s year could hold. So a “year” then had a greatly different meaning than it does today. If, from today’s perspective, we could look backward from here and watch those events occur we would feel things were moving really, really fast, that is, “time” was moving much, much faster then than it is now. Science records that period of rapid time expansion in terms of how many of those events would “fit” into today’s year. The result: science greatly increases the number of today’s years in the early universe so we can understand it with a unit of time with which we are familiar.

Another way of looking at this effect is to imagine we could actually be there at the big bang. Let’s say we could remain in one place right at the point of the big bang and watch everything expand into stars, galaxies, and space. If we could do this, our conception of a unit of time wouldn’t change, that is, an “hour” before the Big Bang would remain an hour, a day would continue to have 24 of these constant hours in it and all events would appear to be moving at a normal rate. If we wanted to write down everything we saw happening in one of these pre-big bang 24 hour days we would have a diary of all the events that today – looking backwards in today’s time – we see occurring in billions of years.

This imaginary diary is not so imaginary – it’s called the Bible. The account is in the Book of Genesis, Chapter 1.

I think many, perhaps most, seminaries haven’t yet found and incorporated Dr. Schroeder’s reconcilia­tion into their curriculum. Consequently, the popular Christian explanation of this glaring disparity in the accounts of time is to translate the word “day” in Genesis 1 as an undefined epoch – a rendering that conflicts with the original Hebrew. Interestingly, the Bible’s time reference shifts from pre-big bang time to today’s Earth time when mankind came on the scene late in the 6th day of the Genesis account.

Dr. Schroeder confirmed this time dilation as it’s called with a numerical calculation summarized in the following table:

From the Bible’s perspec­tive looking forward in time from start of day one Time in each day from Earth’s perspective looking backward in time from the present Approximate Earth years before Adam at the start of each Biblical day looking backward from present
Day one 8 billion years 15 ¾ billion years
Day two 4 billion years 7 ¾ billion years
Day three 2 billion years 3 ¾  billion years
Day four 1 billion years 1 ¾ billion years
Day five ½ billion years ¾ billion years
Day six ¼ billion years ¼  billion years
Total: six 24-hour days 15 ¾ billion years

As if to provide a simple proof calculation, Dr. Schroeder concludes with:

“In terms of days and years and millennia, … stretching of the cosmic perception of time by [the Expansion Coefficient     1 X 1012], the division of fifteen billion years by a million-million reduces those fifteen billion years to six days!

Genesis and science are both correct. When one asks if six days or fifteen billion years passed before the appearance of humankind, the correct answer is “yes!”” (emphasis added)

For the next article in this series click here: #3d  NARROW SAFE ZONES FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE

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Is there a God? Many think ‘no, there isn’t.’ And many think ‘there certainly is!’ How can we come to appreciate each of these age-old opposing views? For a layman to undertake a reasonable explanation is a very tall order. But since the topics envisaged for the future of this blog depend on a sound treatment of the question, I have to give it a shot. Through this and the next seven postings I hope to build an acceptable understanding on which we can proceed. Most of these eight postings is about origins and whether they are the result of natural processes or do they point to a transcendent Designer.

“The big three questions about origins — of the universe, of life, and of humans — have … divided the secular from the religious. Until the 1960s, most scientists came to believe that the universe had no beginning. Most believers insisted it did.”  — from The Science of God, p 20, Gerald L. Schroeder, applied theologian with undergraduate and doctoral degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Did a Big Bang really happen? Was that the beginning of everything? And what or Who caused it?

From Aristotle to the 1960s the accepted understanding was that the universe was infinite and eternal. The stars and galaxies were unmoving, static. There was no beginning. No need to wonder about its cause.

However, Christians (and a surprising number of other religions and cultures) have long insisted that there was a beginning, caused by a creator. Aside from Biblical statements, substantiating evidence for this view was missing. To the Christian assertion that divine creation is “accepted on faith,” scientists and skeptics responded that to accept this was not sensible faith.

Surprisingly, it has been science itself that has substantiated the religious claims, mostly in the last 30 years. Cracks in the eternal universe model began in 1929 when Edwin Hubble found that the galaxies were not fixed in space but were all moving away from each other. But moving away from where? Was there a starting point?

In 1965, using data from a specialized satellite telescope, two scientists discovered the universe’s background faint residual heat from a primordial “explosion.” The temperature was only about 3.7 degrees above absolute zero, but matched the mathematical predictions from the Big Bang model. This finding together with Hubble’s and other’s work have firmly established the Big Bang as fact. Stephen Hawking, the renown cosmologist has said, “Almost everyone now believes that the universe, and time itself, had a beginning at the Big Bang.” (The Nature of Space and Time, Stephen W. Hawking and Roger Penrose, 1996, pg 20)

“Wait a minute,” exclaims the Christian, “This Big Bang thing isn’t Biblical creation. It’s just more science mumbo-jumbo.” My personal guess is that this is a problem for many Christians because they see creation in a sort of mental picture in which the earth and all its vegetation and creatures appeared instantaneously like an action scene on TV emerging full blown out of a black screen following a commercial. Such an impression indeed would not match what is known about the Big Bang, but then it doesn’t match the creation account in Genesis either. We’ll get into the Big Bang sequence of events, the age of the universe as well as the six days of creation in Genesis in the coming few postings.

Now just because everything in the universe, including space and time itself, came from nothing (that is, the Big Bang) doesn’t establish that there was/is a Creator God Who caused it all. Against the Christians’ continuing professions that “of course there’s a Creator,” a number of alternatives to the standard Big Bang model continue to be proposed. The theological implications of the Big Bang is irritating, repugnant, and distasteful to the scientific mind say luminaries like Einstein, British astronomer Arthur Eddington, Robert Jastrow, and MIT’s Phillip Morrison (The Case for a Creator, Lee Strobel, pg 112).

Astronomer Carl Sagan in his popular TV series Cosmos suggested an Oscillating Model of the universe in which the universe expands, slows and then collapses and expands again, cycling in this fashion indefinitely, thus avoiding the need for a beginning and a creator. Steven Hawking has been working on his Theory of Everything. Other models try to avoid the need for a cause (creator) of the Big Bang by relying on behaviors found in quantum mechanics where, indeed, particles can appear out of nowhere. As fatal flaws are found in each hypothesis new proposals grow more and more imaginative to the point that more faith is required to believe in some kind of a universe without a creator than to look to the Biblical account as the most sensible faith.

In Strobel’s book referenced above, William L. Craig, PHD, THD, and author of many scientific articles and books including the coauthor of the foundational book Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, says: “The situation is reversed from say, a hundred years ago. Back then, Christians had to maintain by faith in the Bible that despite all appearances to the contrary, the universe was not eternal but was created out of nothing a finite time ago. Now the situation is exactly the opposite. It is the atheist who has to maintain by faith, despite all the evidence to contrary, that the universe did not have a beginning a finite time ago but is in some inexplicable way eternal after all. So the shoe is on the other foot. The Christian can stand confidently within Biblical truth, knowing it’s in line with mainstream astrophysics and cosmology. It’s the atheist who feels very uncomfortable and marginalized today.” (pgs 120-121)

Next, #3c A YOUNG OR OLD UNIVERSE? (click here)

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