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It Couldn't JUST HAPPENKnowing the Truth about God's Awesome Creation
By LAWRENCE O. RICHARDS
THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERSCopyright © 2011 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE UNIVERSE AND ITS ORIGINS
How big is the universe? How many stars does it contain? What are some of the wonders astronomers have discovered? Everything we learn about the universe fills us with a sense of awe. But even more, all we learn provides convincing evidence that the universe must have been created!
COUNTING THE STARS
If you look up at the night sky, it seems filled with stars. At first there might seem too many to count. But if you sat down and carefully counted each star we can see with the naked eye, you'd reach a total of 1,029.
About 300 years ago a man named Galileo invented the first telescope. How many stars could you count if you looked at the night sky through Galileo's telescope? You would be able to see 3,310.
Today, through the use of giant telescopes and radio telescopes that "see" radio waves, we know that our Sun lies in a great cluster of stars, called a galaxy. Astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy—and that there may be 100 billion galaxies in the universe!
Long ago, God told Abraham, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them" (Genesis 15:5). God knew what, in that day before telescopes, no one else could have known, that it is impossible to number the stars in his universe!
HOW BIG IS THE UNIVERSE?
Looking at the sky at night, we can't begin to see the end of the universe. But scientists have found ways to measure the distance to the farthest stars they can find. Distances in our universe aren't measured in miles. Distances are just too vast to measure that way.
Suppose you draw two circles, one large and one small, with their centers just nine inches apart. If each inch represents ten million miles (10,000,000), your picture will show the distance between our Earth and the Sun.
Now, let's say you want to draw another circle that shows where the nearest star will be. How far away will you have to draw it? That circle will be forty miles from the Sun you drew on your paper. The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is twenty-four thousand million miles away! That's 24,000,000,000,000 miles.
The distance to our nearest star is so great that it's hard to imagine. Suppose you started out the moment you were born and ran a mile every four minutes, without stopping. You would be 700 years old before you even reached our Sun, just nine inches away on your drawing! And you would be 182 million years old before you reached the nearest star!
Since it's too difficult to measure star distances in miles, scientists use a different measure called a light-year. We know that light travels at the tremendous speed of 186,000 miles each second. That means light could speed around our planet seven and one-half times a second. Scientists use the speed that light travels in a year (a "light-year") to measure star distances. By that measure, our Sun is only about eight light-minutes away. That is, it takes light eight minutes to travel from the Sun to Earth, compared to your running for 700 years. How long does it take light to travel to Earth from the nearest star? It takes more than four years.
How far away is the farthest object in the universe we know about? One of the farthest is a quasar named OQ 172, nearly 17,000 million light-years away! A quasar is a distant starlike body that gives off immense quantities of light or radio waves.
Although quasars were not discovered until 1960 by astronomers at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California, the writers of the Bible described the vastness of the universe centuries earlier.
Many years ago David wrote a psalm, a song of praise to God. David had been a shepherd and had spent many nights alone under the sky gazing at the stars. There, looking up, David thought:
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4
Today we know the universe is more vast than David could have imagined.
HOW CAN WE MEASURE STAR DISTANCES?
As astronomers studied the light from stars, they made a discovery that at first amazed them. To study light, scientists spread it out, separating it into different colors. As light shines through a crystal, it separates into colors, just as light shining through drops of water in the atmosphere separates into the rainbow. Each color of separated light, from purple at one end to red at the other, has its own wavelength.
When light from a particular star is separated, a series of black lines appears along the band of separated light. These black lines are like fingerprints. They tell the elements that the star is made of and are different for every star.
In 1962 the light from the quasar 3C 273 was studied. The black lines had shifted from their usual place, toward the red end of the separated light.
Other stars were studied, and many more showed a "red shift." But what did the shift to red mean? The answer stunned the scientists. Astronomers believe that the red shift means that galaxies are traveling away from us at 100-million miles an hour!
But the red shift tells us even more. The red shift increases with an object's increasing distance from the Earth. So by studying how far the black lines in the separated light have shifted toward the red, astronomers can estimate how far away from us a star is.
To see how, try this experiment. Mark two dots on the surface of a balloon. Blow up the balloon, and the dots shift, moving away from each other. As the universe expands, stars, too, move away from each other.
By studying the red shift, astronomers have estimated just how astoundingly far away many objects in the heavens are. Astronomers have located quasars that seem to be as much as 17,000 million light-years distant. Not only that but for their light to reach us these objects must be a hundred times brighter than a whole galaxy of stars, even though they are far smaller!
What is the significance to us of the red shift? What does it tell us about the beginning of the universe?
DID OUR UNIVERSE HAVE A BEGINNING?
The discovery of the red shift changed many scientists' ideas about our universe. There have always been scientists who believe in God and other scientists who do not. Before the discovery of the red shift, many nonbelieving scientists argued that the universe had always existed. If there were no beginning, there was no need to believe in a God who created everything.
But then astronomers learned that our universe is expanding—exploding outward at tremendous speeds. They realized that an exploding universe must have had a beginning!
Today most scientists believe that the universe began in a fantastic explosion that they call the "Big Bang," and they think that it happened about 15 billion years ago.
But what caused the Big Bang? No scientist has an answer. One science book calls this the "ultimate mystery" and says "there is no scientific answer to what happened before the Big Bang." Then the writer goes on to say that "we must accept that the universe did begin."
For Christians, this is no surprise at all. The Bible tells us that "in the beginning God created" (Genesis 1:1). We already knew that the universe was created from nothing—by our God.
Of course, we do not know when God created or how. The Bible does not say that creation took place as a Big Bang or that it happened 15 billion years ago. Yet we do know from the Bible that there was a time when God spoke, and everything sprang into existence. Yes, the universe did have a beginning. And only if God exists can that beginning be explained.
AN ORDERLY UNIVERSE
Our universe is a cosmos, not a chaos (a confused mass or mixture). The word "cosmos" comes from the Greek word kosmos and means "orderly universe." It is the order of the universe that lets scientists discover and describe the natural laws that govern it. Such laws have been found to govern everything from the behavior of the atoms that make up all matter to the movements of enormous spinning galaxies. The methods of science and the very concept of science are rooted in the notion that the universe is orderly.
For instance, a scientist might observe traffic patterns in an unfamiliar city. He or she watches streams of cars stopping, starting, and flowing again. After carefully noting how individual cars and groups of cars behave, our scientist would try to understand the laws that govern vehicle behavior. For instance, he or she might suggest a Red Light Law: "All vehicles, except those with flashing lights or sirens, must stop at red lights." Of course, there would be one problem. Some drivers run red lights or go through them when they aren't supposed to thus violating the law. But in the universe, natural objects cannot choose to violate natural laws.
Using this basic approach of observation and description, scientists have found that all the physical universe behaves in an orderly way, with all things following their own sets of laws.
As scientists have studied the laws that govern the universe, they have found other surprising things. For instance, if these laws were just slightly different, life could not exist. Our existence depends on a great number of precise rules that govern nature, from the behavior of atomic particles to the behavior of stars and galaxies. Only the perfect balance that exists between nuclear forces and electrical forces allows the existence of stars and planets. For example, only the precise amount of gravity on the Earth allows people and animals to walk about freely and, yet, not fly off into space. There was no margin for error in the establishment of these laws.
This is truly amazing in view of scientists' discovery that on a subatomic (smaller than the particles that make up atoms) level, the behavior of some particles is truly uncertain. Yet despite the random actions of infinitesimally small particles, our universe is orderly and marked by consistent, predictable behavior.
But where did these laws come from? There must have been starting conditions that established the laws. In fact, everything scientists have found proves that only very special and unique starting conditions could possibly allow for the development of an orderly universe. Actually, any starting condition marked by chaos appears to end not in order, but in more chaos, without stars, galaxies, or life! So the order and structure scientists have described in stating laws like the law of gravity exist only because that order was established within the universe at the moment of its creation!
It is one thing to try to explain the Big Bang without God. It is another to try to explain the establishment of natural law at the moment of creation without God.
THE LAW OF ENTROPY
One of the most important natural laws known to science is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, often called the law of entropy. This law tells us that anything that is organized tends, with time, to become disorganized. Originally this law was linked with the science of heat energy. But it has been found to apply to every physical process. Albert Einstein viewed the Second Law of Thermodynamics as the premier law of all science.
How does this important natural law apply to the question of the origin of the universe? Very simply, it tells us that our ordered universe could not have developed from chaos! The principle that the Second Law expresses—that everything tends toward disorder rather than order—is deeply imbedded in the nature of the universe itself.
The law of entropy, then, is powerful evidence that the universe must have been orderly at its creation, with all natural laws in place. For our universe to exist as an ordered place today, its starting condition must have been orderly as well.
It seems obvious that only God could have built laws into the universe that make it exactly right for life. It is beyond belief that the universe came into existence in an ancient Big Bang, and at that moment orderly relations in the universe were established by chance.
And yet, many scientists continue to believe the unbelievable. Why?
WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE BELIEVE IN GOD?
It seems puzzling. Nearly all scientists now believe that the universe had a beginning. It seems obvious that something must have caused that beginning. The tremendous energy and power flooding our universe could have hardly just happened. The only reasonable explanation we can imagine is God. But still, there are many people who don't believe in God! Why?
Romans 1:18 says that men who do not believe "suppress the truth."
What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:19-20
This Bible passage helps us realize something important. Even the strongest evidence won't make a person believe in God. In fact, some people will make fun of Christian beliefs even when the evidence is on our side.
It's also important to realize that some scientists even argue for their theories against the evidence because they insist on trying to explain things without God.
We just saw that scientists who accept the Big Bang theory are sure that the universe must have had a beginning. In this they agree with the Bible, which also teaches that our universe had a beginning. But a few scientists still argue that the universe, not God, has existed forever.
One theory holds that the universe had no beginning and keeps on expanding forever. As galaxies move apart, new galaxies just "spring into existence" between them. This theory is very strange. Where do the galaxies that "spring into existence" come from? Astronomers have found no evidence that this theory might be true.
Another theory holds that the universe explodes outward only so far and then falls back on itself due to gravity. It falls back toward its center, until it explodes in another Big Bang. This theory has no evidence to support it and is not a scientific theory at all. And even if such a thing could happen, the theory still must explain how the first Big Bang happened.
But just think a minute. Is it reasonable to think that something could begin without a cause; that the universe could begin without a creator; that natural laws present from the beginning could govern our universe without their being designed? Not really. Every reasonable conclusion requires God! And no reasonable explanation other than God has ever been offered!
It is really not enough to say that the Big Bang "just happened." How much more reasonable it is to believe that God exists and that the universe exists because it was made by him.
Those who study the stars constantly find new wonders. There are radio galaxies, which give off the energy of a million stars, not visible as light but as radio waves. There are quasars, bodies whose superhot discs outshine a hundred galaxies. And there are pulsars, rapidly spinning stars that have collapsed and become very dense. If our Sun were to turn into a pulsar, it would shrink from being 865,000 miles wide to being just 15 miles across!
Excerpted from It Couldn't JUST HAPPEN by LAWRENCE O. RICHARDS Copyright © 2011 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. . Excerpted by permission of THOMAS NELSON PUBLISHERS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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