- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Cosmos and the Creation
Those who like to indulge in philosophical debate might wish to contest the idea that any kind of existence is real. I have had skeptics ask me, "How do you know you exist?" This question reminds me of the story I heard about a father who called his son to ask how his college classes were going.
"Pretty well," said the son, "except philosophy."
"What's the problem there?" asked the father.
The son responded, "Well, every time the professor tries to call roll, we get into a debate about whether we really exist!"
We are assuming that most people reading this material believe that they exist. We do not wish to quibble in our discussion about "absolute proof." With that as a starting assumption, all of us have a very limited choice about the origin of our existence. Either the matter from which the universe and we are made had a beginning or it did not have a beginning. There is no other reasonable choice possible.
Any discussion about the origin of matter involves the very stuff of which the universe is made. As a result, we first need to review some basic cosmological facts before we can appreciate the arguments for whether or not matter had a beginning.
The following facts can be found in any basic astronomy book.
The size of our galaxy and the tremendous size of the cosmos in general is essential to the survival of all we see. Without great distances between them, the stars, galaxies, planets, and the vast galactic clouds of matter that are all around us in space would be drawn together by gravitational attraction. Ultimately all matter would be reduced to one enormous blob of virtually infinite mass. So we need lots of space.
The earth is part of a rotating system of planets that orbit a star we call the sun. The sun is but one of an estimated 100 billion stars all revolving in a spiral-shaped disk we refer to as the Milky Way galaxy. (See figures 1.1 and 1.2.)
The Xs in figures 1.1 and 1.2 show the approximate location of our solar system with its sun and all nine planets rotating around it. To get an idea of how big this system is, you could take the smallest pin you can find and poke a hole in the center of the X in figure 1.1. However, the tiny hole would be many times larger than our entire solar system. This experiment helps us to get a feel for the relative size of our earth when compared to our galaxy.
Because the distances in space are so vast, scientists use a unit called the light-year to measure them. A light-year is the distance that light travels in one year. For example, our galaxy shown in figures 1.1 and 1.2 is approximately 100 thousand light-years in diameter. If we were to convert this number into miles, we would find that our galaxy is 588,000,000,000,000,000 miles across. (See the shaded box titled "Calculating the Diameter of Our Galaxy" to learn how that number is figured.)
Even this unfathomable number is microscopic when compared to the dimensions of the universe. If you were to take a very powerful telescope and look out into the constellation Hercules, you would see hundreds of hazy splotches of light.
In 1997, the Hubble telescope looked into a region of space that was thought to be completely empty. Astronomers were astounded to see more splotches of light similar to the Hercules cluster. Each of those splotches of light is believed to be a galaxy up to 100,000 light-years in diameter and composed of 100 billion stars. We now know that there are millions of galaxies like these scattered across the seemingly endless space of the universe.
Not surprisingly, our small segment of space contains two cloudlike galaxies called the large and small Magellanic Clouds, which are our closest neighbors. Another nearby galaxy, known as Andromeda, is about 2.2 million light-years from earth. It is very interesting to us because it is almost a twin to our own Milky Way galaxy except that it has a diameter twice as large ("Andromeda" 1998).
The following comparison will illustrate the magnitude of 2.2 million light-years. If you were to send a radio signal to a friend of yours living in Andromeda and your friend were to send you an answer the instant he received your message, you would have to wait at least 4,400,000 years for the reply. Remember that this message was sent both ways by one of the fastest transport systems we know -- a radio wave that could orbit the earth over seven times in one second! It should be obvious to all that these distances are exceedingly large and that the creation of the universe represents an immeasurable effort on the part of God. In this respect, its size and grandeur serve as ever-present reminders of God's great love for his human creation (Psalms 8:3-4; 19:1; 97:6; 136:5-9).
When faced with the unfathomable vastness of space and all the apparent volume of matter in the universe, those who believe in the Bible and those who reject the notion of a creator will no doubt have very different responses. An atheist might say that the universe has existed forever and, therefore, is self-existent and does not need a creator (Humanist Manifesto I). The argument is that although matter may have been recycled again and again, the basic stuff of which we are made has existed forever.
On the other hand, the Bible clearly takes the position that we had a beginning. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). "I am the Alpha and the Omega,...the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 22:13). Notice that the Bible also states that there will be an end. In 2 Peter 3:10-12, we read:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? (kjv)
The Bible portrays time as having a beginning and an end. There are even references to events before time began (1 Corinthians 2:7; Colossians 1:16-18; and John 1:1-5) and references to things that will occur after time ends (Revelation 10:6 kjv; 2 Peter 3:8-11; Hebrews 9:26-27). This idea of time having a beginning and an end is unique to the Bible. Most religious systems, along with many atheists, portray time as cyclic -- repeating over and over in one way or another.
If the Bible was inspired by the Creator of the universe, then scientific discoveries should verify that matter had a beginning. What do these discoveries show?
The most incredible thing about the size of the universe discussed earlier is that it is getting larger with every passing second. If the universe is getting larger by expanding like a giant balloon, then the space between all the galaxies is also expanding. Look at figure 1.3 showing our galaxy and four others in relation to us. All of them are moving in the same general direction, but not at the same speed.
If we are in the center (us) and moving to the left (), galaxy A is moving faster than we are, since it is in front of us and also moving to the left. It is pulling away from us because it got a bigger push at the start.
Similarly, because galaxy B is behind us, it is moving in the same direction as we are, but at a slower speed. So we are likewise pulling away from it. Galaxies C and D are likely to be moving at the same speed along with us. However, since their trajectory relative to the center of the universe is different from ours, they would also appear to be pulling away from us. It is when we analyze all these different movement rates and directions that we conclude that the universe, in general, is expanding like a giant balloon.
With this in mind, let us consider another situation. Suppose that we observed three galaxies located at positions A, B, and C as illustrated in figure 1.4. If they are positioned in such a way that they form a triangle today, then they will form a bigger triangle tomorrow and a still bigger triangle the day after tomorrow, because the universe is becoming larger with every passing second.
Conversely, if we could run time backward, then yesterday the three galaxies would have been closer together than they are today, and even closer still the day before yesterday. As we keep going backward in time, obviously we will eventually end up at a point -- a beginning -- at what a physicist would call a singularity.
What logical interpretation can be made of this data? Even a casual look at figure 1.3 tells us that the pattern we observe is what some type of explosion would produce. That is why in 1929, the famous astronomer Edwin Hubble arrived at the same conclusion. His analysis led to the proposal of a big bang event as the origin of the cosmos. The actual term big bang was coined by Fred Hoyle in a 1950 BBC radio series entitled The Nature of the Universe. Since Hoyle believed the universe had always existed, he used the expression "big bang" to mock the theory that the universe had suddenly emerged. Ironically, the name caught on and subsequently became respectable (Barrow 1994, 34).
Today the big bang theory says that between 14 and 22 billion years ago, a singularity, suddenly and without any known explanation, became visible and produced something like a gigantic, seemingly controlled explosion. The content of this singularity, though being much smaller than a period on this page, contained the entire universe in energy form, including space itself. This pure energy rapidly expanded and was transformed, in accord with Einstein's theory, into all the galaxies, stars, and planets that we see about us.
In the 1990s, a number of supporting evidences for the big bang were discovered. The Cosmic Background Explorer project (COBE) found that temperature measurements of free space were exactly what a big bang event would produce (Dooling 1998). The distribution of galaxies and patterns of movement all agree with the big bang theory, leaving it as the best explanation we have for the distribution of the stars and galaxies we see in space.
If the big bang theory is accurate, does it support or deny God's existence as Creator? No matter how sophisticated this theory becomes, there are two fundamental questions that remain unanswered -- What apparently exploded? and Where did it come from? It should be evident, then, that the big bang theory does not explain creation; it assumes creation, thereby giving support to the existence of the Creator.
Additionally, in the early 1990s, physical models of the big bang were developed that would not work until 10-43 seconds after it began. This is called Planck Time after the German theoretical physicist Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck. It marks the transition between reality and the unknown. There is currently no mathematical way to define matter before Planck Time. This has led Stephen Hawking, a world renowned theoretical physicist, to say that this period marked the beginning of both space and time. Before this instant, there is no way to explain physical relationships or to predict time-related, cause-and-effect phenomena. So if the big bang theory is correct, it proves that there was a beginning. However, as Hawking has also said, it offers no explanation for what blew up (1988, 9). It only shows that matter is not eternal.
Amount of Hydrogen
Along with the big bang, there is other evidence indicating that the universe had a beginning. One example is the energy system of the cosmos. The sun is an incredible furnace made of its own fuel. Every second that passes allows 661 million tons of the sun's hydrogen to fuse into 657 million tons of helium, as shown in figures 1.5 and 1.6 below. The remaining 4 million tons of matter are released as energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation, which includes visible light (Audouze and Israel 1988, 24). In spite of this huge release of energy, the sun is only about 50% into its relevant life cycle. We know this by comparing the sun's gravity-mass with its energy-mass conversion rate. Though the sun can still supply useful heat for another five billion years, it is most reliable during the present midlife phase, which turns out to be absolutely essential for human life to survive.
Not only is the fusion of hydrogen the process that fires the sun, but it is also the starting process that drives all known energy reactions in space. Every star in every galaxy generates its energy by this same process. We know of no other energy production of any kind that can fire stars. If every star in the sky is using hydrogen as its basic fuel and if, as a result, multibillions of tons of hydrogen are being consumed per second all over the universe, what must be true of the total hydrogen supply in the cosmos?
What would happen if we were to fill up the gas tank in our car and drive and drive without putting in more gas? Obviously, we would soon come to an unavoidable stop. Likewise, if the universe has always been, we would long since have exhausted our hydrogen supply.
Nevertheless, hydrogen is still the most abundant material in the universe. We see it everywhere we look in space. In radio astronomy, the most common frequency received is 1,420 megacycles, which corresponds to the 21 centimeter wavelength of hydrogen as determined by a spectrometer. This is an express message from outer space indicating that enormous quantities of hydrogen are still out there.
Second Law of Thermodynamics
Another proof that the creation had a beginning is the second law of thermodynamics. It states that in a closed system, things tend to move toward a condition of disorder. For example, when you buy a new car, it is supposed to be in a perfect state. There are no loose nuts or bolts, no scratches or dents, no dirt, and no wear and tear on the engine or brakes.
What is the situation ten years later? The car has slowly become a disordered wreck. It has loose nuts and bolts, scratches, dents, wear and tear, and possibly will no longer run. When this happens, we say that the car has worn out or died. This process occurs in every aspect of our lives. Our bodies become disordered with age and ultimately death results. Chemists see this happening in atoms and molecules, and physicists and engineers can measure statistically the disorder of the systems with which they work.
However, these are not valid examples of a closed system. The car we described has had energy added to it with fuel, and a mechanic may have reversed some of the disorder by tightening loose bolts. Similarly, our bodies take in food and medicine and thus are not closed either. Even the earth is not a closed system, because it receives huge amounts of energy from the sun.
What about the universe? Is it a closed system? From an atheistic viewpoint, it would have to be, because there would be no outside source of energy available to renew it. In harmony with this viewpoint, Carl Sagan said, "The cosmos is everything that was, or is, or ever will be" (1980, 257). This statement by the well-known atheist embodies a classic definition of a closed system. No organizing energy can be applied to a system that is defined as "everything that was, or is, or ever will be."
If that definition is accepted, what has to be true of the cosmos as far as the second law of thermodynamics is concerned? Clearly, since it is a closed system, it is obviously running down. As it ages, the available energy decreases and its disorder increases. This means that the cosmos must have started sometime in the past because if the cosmos had always been here, it would now be totally disordered and freezing cold. Heat death would have set in, and we would not see any of the functional energy systems that make our existence possible. Therefore, thermodynamically, the universe had to have a beginning.
The atheist will be quick to point out that the oscillating universe would be a way to avoid the conclusion that the cosmos had a beginning. The idea behind this theory is that the universe appears to explode with a big bang, expand, and then eventually stop due to the internal gravity of its own mass.
It then starts collapsing back upon itself, finally reaching that point where it somehow explodes again in another big bang, and the whole process begins all over again. We could write an entire book on this idea alone, but for our discussion, we will only point out some of the basic facts that make the oscillating universe impossible to believe from a scientific standpoint.
Both Hubble's Law and physical observations do not support the oscillating universe theory. Hubble's Law says the farther out in space you go, the faster things move (V=hR, where V is velocity, h is a constant, and R is the distance). When we see objects a great distance out in space, we find that they are moving with enormous velocities -- in some cases close to the speed of light.
These galaxies are moving so rapidly that there is not enough gravitational pull to stop their motion. In fact, their velocity is many times greater than what the known mass in the universe could reasonably reverse. Additionally, as of August 1998, it has been determined by two reliable, independent sources that the rate of the galaxies is accelerating (Easterbrook 1998). This has led to the undeniable conclusion that the "universe will expand forever" ("Top Scientific Advance of Year" 1998, 1).
Some might think that these conclusions could be invalidated if a huge amount of previously unknown matter could be discovered in space. All kinds of attempts have been made to locate a missing mass, from cold dark matter to neutrinos to black holes. However, if such mass were available for discovery, the galaxies would not be accelerating as they are. Therefore, the missing mass is just that -- missing.
Distribution of Space
Another problem for the oscillating universe is that space is not isotropic (the same in all directions). Estimates of the mass of the universe have been based on the assumption that space is uniformly distributed with equal numbers of galaxies distributed across the cosmos.
Recent measurements have shown huge regions of space that are totally void of galaxies. This is because combinations of galaxies apparently line up to form a series of walls with empty space between them. What this means is that the total mass is even less than had been origi-nally assumed, which is possibly one reason why the galaxies are still accelerating.
Even if some mechanism were found to collapse the existing universe, black holes make repeat big bangs impossible. If a huge amount of matter in space is collected in a single mass, it will have a huge gravi-tational force associated with it. The more mass there is, the more gravity there will be. If a mass becomes large enough, its gravitational field will exceed the strong push/pull balancing forces that hold the components of atomic nuclei in their respective positions. When this happens, all the nuclei collapse. The matter involved becomes compressed to a smaller and smaller volume, with the gravitational field continuing to become more and more intense, thus forming a black hole.
In 1998, the Hubble telescope gave us an actual photograph of a black hole in action. In a wide-field view of the merged Centaurus A galaxy, also called NGC 5128, there is evidence of galactic cannibalism. The photograph from space shows a massive black hole feeding on a smaller, adjacent galaxy. The suspected black hole is believed to contain billions of stars compacted into a volume just slightly larger than our solar system ("Hubble Provides Views of Black Hole" 1998). Black holes are no longer just theoretical. The Hubble telescope has shown them to be real objects.
A star the size of our sun could be reduced to the size of a thumbtack by such a process. If that happened, the space around the mass could be warped or bent by the huge gravity field, so that even light itself could not escape from the object. The boundary around the black hole is a theoretical surface called an "event horizon." With light unable to cross the event horizon, the object would be a black hole in space from which nothing could escape. By definition, we cannot get a big bang from a black hole, which is what would have to happen in an oscillating universe.
Even if a black hole could explode again, an oscillating universe would still run down due to an eventual loss of energy. Each time the universe exploded, collapsed, and exploded again, it would emit some of its energy in the form of radiation that would be forever lost. As a result, the total energy of each big bang cycle would decrease until there would be no usable energy left.
In an attempt to explain this problem away, many imaginative ideas have been proposed about the geometry of space. However, declining energy remains an apparently insurmountable barrier to the oscillating universe theory. It is inescapable that the second law of thermodynamics will eventually result in the heat death of any closed-system process that repeats itself over and over. Thus we can conclude that the universe, as we know it, is not an oscillating system. It will continue to expand indefinitely.
Certainly the discoveries of the future will improve our understanding of the details involved in these processes, but the fact that the universe will never collapse upon itself remains a solid proof that we had a beginning. With that in mind, we can use the following chart as a guide in answering the next series of questions.
If the universe had a beginning, and we have every reason to believe it did according to the evidence, was that beginning caused or not caused? If it were caused, was the cause personal or nonpersonal? If it were a personal cause, we would expect certain attributes to be present in the creation, such as intelligence, purpose, design, and planning. If it were a nonpersonal cause, then none of these attributes would be found. Instead, the creation would be totally a product of chance, with no apparent purpose or intelligent reasoning behind it. So the next question to answer is, Do we have evidence supporting a design or a non-design hypothesis? That is the subject of our next chapter.
List of Illustrations
Introduction. The Need for Answers
1. The Cosmos and the Creation
2. The Design of Planet Earth
3. Design in the Chemistry of Matter
4. Design as Evidenced in Life
5. The Nature of God
6. The Language of the Earth
7. The Language of the Bible
8. Let the Earth Speak
9. Ask the Animals
10. What Is Man?
11. Let Humans Speak
12. God's Permission of Evil
13. Why Choose the Bible as the Word of God?
Appendix 1 -- Calculated Odds for Being Suitably Located in Our Galaxy
Appendix 2 -- More on Universal Constants
Appendix 3 -- String Theory
Appendix 4 -- How Many Stars Are There?
Appendix 5 -- The Variable Nature of Time
Appendix 6 -- Rock Classifications
Appendix 7 -- Discussion of Flood Geology
Appendix 8 -- Hebrew Words and Definitions in Genesis 1:1-31; 2:1-3
Appendix 9 -- Visible Effects of Surplus Oxygen
Appendix 10 -- Oxygen Production Stabilizes
Posted August 2, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted October 4, 2011
No text was provided for this review.