The Verdict of Reason
Now the amazing thing about God is that….well, He’s so amazing! You see, in the previous installments of this series we’ve let science establish the fact that the Universe had a beginning. And if a beginning…..well, then it had a Beginner. But there’s so much more to the argment. God’s purposes are revealed through the magnificent design of creation. We’re going to look at just a little part of this; the cosmic fine tuning, if you will, that makes all of life possible. It’s pretty neat stuff.
COSMIC FINE TUNING
We’ll start by talking about the existence and fine-tuning of the universal constants. These constants need to be precisely what they are in order to have life exist here or anywhere in the entire cosmos. The degree of inter-related precision is almost unimaginable and flies in the face of all statistical probability. But to begin the discussion of this area we should perhaps consider the thought that according to the laws of relativity and cosmology, nothing at all should even exist. We know this because when matter is formed from energy in particle form, anti-matter is formed along with it – particle for particle. Though in their nature they are essentially the same, when they collide they annihilate each other. This then should have been a zero sum game. No matter should have survived. Sooo….there should be nothing at all; no Universe, no us. But for a reason still mysterious, one particle of matter in 10 billion survives when its anti-matter partner is destroyed. From this came all matter, all life. As Gerald Schroeder describes it in the Science of God, the formation of surviving matter “…took place in the first one hundred thousandth of a second following the big bang. We, or at least the building blocks from which we would be formed fifteen billion years later, were written into the universe at its earliest moments.”[i]
[NOTE: Now, if you notice, and I’m sure you have, Dr Schroeder is operating under the assumption that the Universe is billions of years old. We will be addressing this assumption sometime later in this series. But in discussing these matters we will allow each scientist to state his case in the terms that he believes apply. Dr Schroeder’s position is somewhat unique. He is both a biblical scholar and a former professor of physics at MIT. And if I’m understanding him correctly, he is both a believer in the six days of creation and a multi-billion year old universe. I’ll let the good doctor try to explain it – though we’ll revisit this a little later in the series. Dr Schroeder believes there is no real conflict between a six-day creation and a Cosmos that is billions of years old. It all depends on the location from which one is measuring time. After all, it was Einstein who revolutionized our understanding of time and how it is realtive, varying with the factors of velocity and gravity. Science author Scott Youngren explains. “Whoever inspired the Bible clearly understood both the relativity of time and the ratio at which Earth time converts to cosmic time…. Einstein demonstrated that time is relative, and the relativity of time has been subsequently tested and verified thousands of times.” That’s the set up for what Dr Schroeder has to say. “A common error in exploring the brief biblical age of the universe relative to the discoveries of cosmology is to view the universe from a specific location rather than choosing a reference frame that embraces the entire universe and retains that universal perspective for the entire six days. This cosmic clock records the passage of one minute while we on Earth experience a million million minutes. …At this million-million-to-one ratio those 120 million Earth years lasted a mere hour. That’s the peer-reviewed physics and the biblical tradition of this discussion. Now for the modern theology: What does all this mean for the age of the universe? In terms of days and years and millennia, this stretching of the cosmic perception of time by a factor of a million million, the division of fifteen billion years by a million million reduces those fifteen billion years to six days!” [ii](I myself am no scientist – and at this time take no position on the matter other than I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and truth of of the biblical account. But Gerald Schroeder believes he has found a way in which both are true.) There are sincere and committed Christians on both sides of this debate. Some will be more ‘creative’ in attempting to reconcile the timeless Truth of the Biblical account with the current state of science. In the end, Scripture cannot be compromised. And congnizant of my own shortcomings in the field, I’ll be bringing in a ‘Science Guy’ to address this issue in the weeks ahead. In the meantime we will honor the perspective of the scientists we quote – not dismissing very solid arguments on the basis of a disagreement as to the chronology and methodology of the creation event.]
We return now the matter at hand. The amazing story of the universal constants continues to get even more amazing. What that story shows is that those universal constants, need to be just what they are in order for life to be even possible anywhere. And the more we understand the precision that is necessary and the overlapping dependence and delicate relationship between these variables the more we see the mark of unmistakable design. Here are some examples.
- THE ELECTROMAGNETIC FORCE – The electromagnetic force is 10 to the 38th power stronger than the force of gravity. For one thing this regulates the rate at which stars burn. If the ratio were just a little larger it would result in massive stars burning too fast and unevenly to support life. If smaller it would render the formation of heavy elements impossible. But just the variation of the gravitational force constant alone would effect either the life chemistry or the formation of certain essential elements.
- THE STRONG NUCLEAR FORCE – Then there is the strong nuclear force constant. If it were just a little larger it would mean no hydrogen would form and no life chemistry would be possible. If it were smaller then only hydrogen would form and again the chemistry of life would be absent.
- THE WEAK NUCLEAR FORCE – Another example is the weak nuclear force constant. A variance in this factor would affect the levels of helium and hydrogen. The resulting imbalance again would affect the ability to produce heavy elements, and again be fatal to the processes of life chemistry.
- ELETRON TO PROTON MASS RATIO – Changes in the ratio of electron to proton mass critically influences chemical bonding.
- EXPANSION RATE OF THE UNIVERSE – And there is the expansion rate of the universe. A more rapidly expanding cosmos would mean that galaxies would not have the chance to form. With slower expansion we would see, (or actually we wouldn’t see), the universe collapse before the formation of stars.
The list goes on. Other factors critical to the ability to form life include the initial uniformity of radiation, the entropy level, the average distances between stars, and galaxies, and even the number of effective dimensions in the early universe making the coexistence of gravity, quantum mechanics and relativity impossible. And there is the energy present in the big bang. The precision required for the existence of life has been calculated at one part in 10 to the 120th power. Again the list goes on, but I won’t. One source catalogs no less than 34 of these constants. The point is made. Precision is necessary not only in each of the individual factors, but also in their relationships to each other. It has been calculated that the chance of even one of them being what it is, is incredibly small. Like winning the lottery. To see the unbelievable coincidence of all of these constants coming together in such a precise way as to produce life, is like winning the lottery a billion times over. The hand of the Designer is showing. It takes an incredible amount of obstinacy to deny this evidence.[iii] [iv] [v]
Nobel laureate Arno Penzias weighs in with his conclusion. “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”[vi] Alan Sandage adds this in a similar vein. “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”[vii]
And there is yet more evidence to unfold. Having looked at mathematical form and the incredible existence and relationship between the universal constants, we now go to a third area of evidence for the presence of design; the initial conditions critical for the formation of life on earth. Necessary to the existence of life is of course a stable environment for its development. Science has found that we not only live in a remarkably stable galaxy but a remarkably precise position within that galaxy. Only at a narrowly defined distance from the center of a galaxy can a star maintain its position within that galaxy, allowing the conditions of life to develop. That is just where our star, the sun is located. This means that we are in an area that is more secure than possibly anywhere else in the universe, safe from the disrupting influence of other stars. However, position alone is not the only remarkable factor. The internal arrangement of our solar system seems to be quite unique. The very arrangement of planets within the sun system seems required to ensure its stability. And to many scientists, this lay-out makes unlikely the existence of another life-capable planet within any galaxy in our universe.[viii] It begins with the very size of the sun. A smaller star would be incapable of supporting life. The earth’s proximity to the Sun is another factor. We exist in what scientists have defined as the life zone. Gravitational interaction has greatly slowed our rotational period, eliminating the extremes in temperature that would other wise destroy all life.[ix] Then there is the presence of Jupiter. Though its location has a profound destabilizing effect on especially the orbits of the inner planets, its existence is necessary to the stability of our system. Such a large planet has not been found so far out in any other known planetary system. Its presence protects us from comet showers that would be fatally disrupting to life on earth.
The specific arrangement of planetary bodies within the system is also responsible for the earth’s uniquely circular orbit. Our climatic stability depends on this. Other factors influencing the climate are the axial tilt and the specific arrangement of the landmass. This allows for not only the progression of seasons but ensures that they are not too severe. The formation and presence of the moon is another contributing factor to this planet’s ability to sustain life. Its formation through the collision of a small planet with the earth made possible the life-nurturing atmosphere that we have. This precise atmosphere enables water to be present in all three forms, a necessary condition for life. The gravitational pull of the moon also slows the surface winds which otherwise would have velocities of over 500 mph. Yet another remarkable factor is the existence of the Van Allen radiation field. This magnetic field, produced by our nickel core, protects the planet from radiation bombardment. Within our solar system only Mercury even has a magnetic field and that at a level much too small to be of much protective value. These are just a few examples of the unique arrangements from which we benefit so much. Our solar system seems uniquely designed to make possible our existence.[x]
In fact it all seems like a big set up job. It is the study of intelligent design that has given us a rational, scientific approach to understanding the ramifications of understanding that. It shows us the patterns of design inherent in every level of nature; from sub-atomic to micro-biotic, from DNA to the arrangement of the cosmos. Reviewing the evidence, astronomer George Greenstein offers this. “As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency – or, rather, Agency – must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?”[xi]
Now the Humanist Manifesto, and the tenets of materialism may declare that matter is self existent and not created, but the clear evidence of intelligent design declares them wrong. Pure materialism is fraught with problems. Its most basic being the fact that it requires the violation of both the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Science is now in agreement with the first words of the Bible,“In the beginning…”. The Big Bang says there was a beginning. Yet materialism claims that matter is self-existent. There is a problem in that. For matter to come into being without cause from the great nothing violates the law of thermodynamics.[xii] For matter to have had a beginning however requires a cause. For the organization of matter into the many interdependent highly designed patterns that characterize creation from this completely uncaused beginning violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It tells us we should witness a cosmos of increasing disorder. Instead we find the opposite, clear evidence for the presence of an intelligent agent behind the wonderful workings of the world we know. But if materialism has failed us, where do we search for truth? So, we’ll close with the words of Frank Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics who went from God-denier to committed Christian during his ‘Truth Journey’. “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.”[xiii] It’s the science that is moving astronomers and cosmologists toward acceptance of the truth claims of Scripture. God is a God of order and design. As the psalmist noted: “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.” (Psalm 19:1-2) (NLT)
[i] Gerald Scrhroeder, The Science of God, The Free Press, 1997, pgs 179-182
[ii] Scott Youngren, ON THE BIBLE AND FAIRY TALES…ATHEIST FAIRY TALES, Godevidence.com, September 3, 2013
[iv] Gerald Scrhroeder, The Science of God, The Free Press, 1997
[v] Gerald Scrhroeder, The Science of God, The Free Press, 1997, pg 5
[vi] H Margenau, & RA Varghese, Cosmos, Bios, and Theos. Open Court, 1992 pg 83
[vii] JN Willford, Sizing up the Cosmos: An Astronomers Quest. New York Times, March 12, 1991
[ix] God Proclaims His Love: Design of our Solar System, Godandscience.org/apologetics/designhtml,
[xi] George Greenstein, The Symbiotic Universe, William Morrow, 1989, pg 27
[xiii] Frank Tipler, The Physics of Immortality, Doubleday, 1994, Preface