Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Universe Declares God’s Glory

I am sure that there are many people who are persuaded of God's presence based upon looking up at the night sky alone. But I am not one of these people. I have mentioned before that looking at cells is what makes me excited, and provides me with assurance of God's presence. And so, I have decided to look into this universe thing, and see why there are so many people who see God when they look up and see the stars at night. The Universe declaring God's glory is the subject of today's post.


I like to start my discussions by looking at what God's Word first says about a subject. And the starting point at looking at God's creation upon people is Romans Chapter 1. Romans 1:18-20 says all people are without excuse for not knowing God. I like the Message's translation of these verses:


But God's angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can't see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse…


Hebrews 11:3 is also helpful, and it says: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible." And so, the universe is meant as confirmation showing us God's being there, and as the reason there is a universe around us. And as Romans 1:18 confirms, there is a Higher Power that we are accountable to, and all are without excuse.


But what if someone takes a closer look at the universe and its origins, will this search provide further support for God's handiwork, or will it cause people to understand that there is a naturalistic (i.e., not a supernatural) explanation for the universe's existence? Let me provide short summaries of some of the evidence I have learned from others that points to God's existence based upon the universe He created:


  1. The Big Bang – 'Red Shift'. The Big Bang is tremendous evidence pointing to an abrupt, Genesis 1:1 type of start to the universe. It was first noticed in 1914 by Astronomer Vesto Slipher (nice name, huh?) that all of the galaxies were receding from Earth at high velocities. When objects are moving toward an observer the light waves bunch up causing shorter wavelengths and a blue color. While objects moving away are stretched, causing longer light waves which make the light waves appear red. This is a great support for the Big Bang theory, where the galaxies are receding from Earth, and appear red with longer wavelengths, a "red shift". And so from this we have the understanding that the universe is expanding and arose from a single point.

    A second hard scientific discovery that supports the 'Big Bang' theory is the presence of cosmic background radiation. This discovery made in 1965 by two AT&T physicists, Penzias and Wilson discovered there was radiation throughout the galaxies surrounding Earth. This surrounding radiation is constant, no matter where it is measured. And it has no known source. Scientists have since described this as 'background' radiation that is left over from a very early, hot universe. This background radiation is left over from the 'Big Bang'. These are two of the best scientific evidences that support an abrupt beginning to our universe, which we describe as the 'Big Bang'. Though I have yet to see a good discussion by anyone of where the huge amount of energy that started the Big Bang came from, or why it was set off, and why this energy didn't just stay in equilibrium, or in a stable condition. Wouldn't this also be evidence of God the Creator? Or is this too basic of a question from someone without much of a science background like me?


  2. The Anthropic Principle. I found it interesting that Dr. Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project that deciphered the human genome, was not persuaded of God's existence from his study of cells, but instead was persuaded from the evidence of the universe. He describes this as the "Anthropic Principle", which is the idea that the universe is uniquely tuned to give rise to human life. Here are the 3 examples Dr. Collins gives in his book, 'The Language of God':


  • More Quarks than Antiquarks. Following the Big Bang, matter and anti-matter were created in nearly equal amounts. At one millisecond of time after the Big Bang, the universe cooled enough for quarks and anti-quarks to condense out. (Stay with me, it's worth it!) When a quark meets an anti-quark, it destroys both and releases energy. But there were not equal amounts of quarks and anti-quarks when the universe was created. There were slightly more quarks than anti-quarks, about one part in a billion, and this difference is what makes up the entire mass of the universe. That's right, all of the stars, planets, and everything else in the universe was created because there are slightly more quarks than anti-quarks when the Big Bang started our universe. And if there was complete equality, then the universe would have devolved into pure radiation, with no life possible;


  • Expansion Rate of the Universe. The amount of energy that started the 'Big Bang' is exactly the precise amount needed for the universe to keep expanding. The expansion of the universe depends critically upon the amount of energy and mass that the universe has. "If the expansion one second after the Big Bang had been smaller by even one part in 100 thousand million million (yes, I've stated the number correctly), the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size."


And if the rate of expansion had been greater by even one part in a million, stars and planets could not have been able to form. The Expansion Rate of the universe, with the precise amount of matter/energy needed for planets and ultimately life to form is so improbable, it seems that God could not have revealed Himself any more clearly than if He wrote in the sky that 'I Created This World';


  • Formation of Heavier Elements. If the force that holds neutrons and protons together had been even slightly weaker, then only hydrogen would have been formed in the universe, and so life would not be possible. And if the force holding protons/neutrons together was even slightly stronger, then all of the hydrogen would have been converted to helium, instead of the 25% that occurred early in the Big Bang, and thus the fusion furnaces of stars and their ability to generate the heavier elements needed for life on Earth would never happen. And there are more examples, but let me leave this topic for now.


From examples like those listed above, I am starting to get excited from looking at the stars above, and understanding better God's role as Source of its creation. There is much more that is said about the heavens showing God's glory, but let me end with the beginning of Psalm 104, a great Psalm of praise to God. It says: "O Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent." May God bless you this day.


Edward Oleander said...

Hi Tom,
It’s funny how two sane and otherwise rational people can look at exactly the same thing and both believes that it proves their own point of view, even though those conclusions are polar opposites. You look at the physical universe and see a fine tuned universe supporting a beautiful and complex interweave of life that is so stunning only God could have created it.

I look up and around me and see a complete mish-mash of patchwork so Rube Goldberg-ish that no sane or rational being would have EVER done it that way. Our universe as a whole, and our planet in particular, is like the end stage of a game of Jenga… One more piece removed and the whole thing will come crashing down. All of life looks to be an onging series of trials and errors. Life doesn’t seem crafted to fit it’s environment, instead it looks like in jammed itself in wherever it could. Since most species of animal last only around two million years, with many lasting far less and only a rare few lasting significantly longer, design seems out of the question. Design would be proactive, but the fossil record clearly shows that species development is re-active to changes in environment. Examples range from the finches of Darwin to the midget Neanderthals of the South Seas.

To me, life is like my sister’s cat, perched precariously on top the knob of her coat rack. It was an amazing thing for him to climb the pole and sit on a round knob only 2” in diameter, but he did it. One tiny shift, even a loud noise, would be enough to bring him crashing down.

Evolution explains why the universe looks like it does. Evolution explains the hodge-podge of the diversity of life and the precarious balance it lives in. The greater universe is a tribute to itself, and nothing more. Just as we are an accident of evolution, and nothing more…

THE BIG BANG --- I do not believe that Genesis and Evolution can be reconciled. Cosmology is tied part and parcel to evolution. Evolution explains why we believe the universe to be 14 billion or so years old. Genesis says nothing that would explain the first couple billion years of the Earth’s life, to say nothing of the 10 billion year gap between the Big Bang and our solar system. Evolution explains how the Earth became friendly to modern life forms. Genesis just presents a vague sequencing of events with utterly no attempt at explaining the mechanisms involved. About the only thing evolution hasn’t cracked yet is where/when the first spark of life came about. Genesis does that, but not very well… makes it sound like Harry Potter waving his magic wand…

Stephen Hawking and his ghost writer did a great job explaining the latest thoughts on why matter formed and why things run like they do in “A Briefer History of Time” just published a couple or three years back. Clay might be a good one to ask about Cosmology… he is the only reason I quasi-understand it now… I’m afraid it leaves little room for an omniscient and all-loving God. Doesn’t disprove him either, and doesn’t try, but it makes a naturalistic explanation easier to believe in.

MORE QUARKS (fine tuning) --- This is a chicken and egg question, as well as Design vs, Rube Goldberg. You say the universe was fine tuned, and I say How Could You Possibly Say That? It took 15,000,000,000 YEARS to get to us. We can exist in only the tiniest portion of the entire universe, and are so fragile that a slight change in our sun’s output (which has happened over and over in it’s lifetime) will kill us (and most life) like squishing a bug. I think WE adapted/arose from the ENVIRONMENT; the environment was not created to accept us. Carbon based life, predators and prey, humans and hyenas, all came to be because there was a niche that could be exploited. When compared to the universe as a whole (let alone the possibility of a near-infinite variety of less habitable universe), the Earth itself is a tiny, tiny niche indeed.

EXPANSION RATE… --- The most popular theory now held by cosmologists holds that there are a near-infinite number of separate universes other than our own. It is the “bumping” together of these universes that produces Big Bangs and new universes (universii?). Imagine all the oceans of the Earth filled with the bubbles from your child’s bath instead of water. Some bubbles grow and some shrink. Some pop. Our entire universe is just bubbles among an endless sea of such bubbles. The very laws of physics will change from universe to universe. VERY few of them could ever support human life, but with so many forming all the time, it is not surprising at all that at least one beat the 100,000,000,000,000,000 to 1 odds you quoted regarding expansion rates right after the BB.

Last but not least, every religion that ever was or is has or had a mythology that covers the creation of the Earth and the existence of the universe. Psalm 104 was some mortals attempt at attributing something amazing and wonderful to their chosen deity. To one like me who is outside the religions, they all look and sound basically the same. The Bible writers were one of the first to use the “less is more” principle and left some big chunks they couldn’t explain just laying there, even turning their lack of explanations into positive marketing strategies by playing up the mystery aspect of the desert god. Looking back, their strategy was good, if not terribly imaginative. They hit a good balance by putting in enough mythology to keep belief an act of true faith, but not so much that the religion was crushed under the weight of too much unbelievable myth (like Greco/Roman, Sumerian, Celtic or Norse pantheons).

Sun’s up… time for bed…

Every family I know right now has sick kids or parents, hope you guys have ducked this round!

tom wolff said...


I am not going to try and win an argument with you on this. You look up at the stars at night and think of the many, many other universes that it took to create our perfectly Designed universe. How can I argue with this?

But let me see if I can help us better understand together what you are saying. You believe that there are many, many other universes, which makes it possible for one universe (our universe) to create life in it, right? Tell me,:

- How many other universes are there? Are there 3 other universe? 4, 10, 100? An infinite number of other universes? Oh yes, I forgot, we can't see or detect these other universes, so pretty much the number of these other universes is anyone's guess.

- Who made these other universes? Do they just 'pop' into existence, like the quirky Star Trek episode with the evil Captain Kirk and evil Spock? Is there a universe making machine that can make these other universes (I've got a funny cartoon of this around somewhere, I'll see if I can dig it up, and email it to you)?

- what evidence is there that persuades you that there are many, many other universes? Maybe I could use this kind of explanation in Court one day: there's no evidence for these other universes; there's no proof and no one has ever witnessed these other universes; but Judge, its theoretically possible these other universes did it, so we should ignore the person found with the gun, standing over the body who confessed that they did it. Would this fly in any court? Then why should anyone treat this argument seriously outside of the courtroom?