“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being…. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all.”
–Sir Isaac Newton, who is widely regarded to be the greatest scientist the world has ever produced.
The comedian Henny Youngman once famously quipped, “After reading about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” And giving up reading (about cosmology and astrophysics) is the recommended approach for the person who wishes to maintain belief in a God-free universe, and the cherished freedom from moral accountability that it allows. Anyone who probes into the origins of our universe soon becomes overwhelmed by the evidence that “the universe is a put-up job” (or, the product of deliberate, conscious intent), in the words of Cambridge University physicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle.
So compelling, in fact, has become the case for the universe as the product of a conscious creator that astrophysicist Hugh Ross, a former post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology observes (in his book The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God) that:
“Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them. Geoffrey Burbidge, of the University of California at San Diego, complains that his fellow astronomers are rushing off to join ‘The First Church of Christ of the Big Bang.’”
For those not familiar with “the Big Bang,” this cosmological event, now almost unanimously regarded as fact in the scientific community, constituted the beginning of the universe about 14 or 15 billion years ago, and bears eerie similarity to the biblical account of the universe’s creation. As Arno Penzias, the 1978 Nobel Prize recipient in physics, stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978:
“The best data we have (concerning the Big Bang) are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”
Similarly, the astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Robert Jastrow, writes:
“Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment of time, in a flash of light and energy.”
It is difficult to overstate the immensity of the problem the Big Bang poses to those wishing to hold fast to an atheistic, naturalistic view of the universe. Since the early days of the Enlightenment, atheism has relied on the assumption that the universe did not need a creator because it has existed for an infinite amount of time, and therefore did not have a beginning…no origin, therefore no Originator. Eighteenth century Scottish philosopher David Hume was among the first highly influential figures to posit this belief, and it continued to be promoted right up until the late 20th century by such key atheist figures as philosopher Bertrand Russell.
But the fact that the universe is now known to have had a beginning is really only the beginning of the problem for atheists. Patrick Glynn, in his book God: The Evidence notes:
“Beginning in the 1960s, scientists began to notice a strange connection among a number of coincidences in physics. It turns out that many mysterious values and relationships in physics could be explained by one overriding fact: Such values had been necessary for the creation of life. The physicist Robert Dicke was the first to draw attention to this relationship. The scientist John Wheeler, one of the most prestigious practitioners of cosmology, became interested in the idea in the 1960s. Then, at Wheeler’s urging, [Cambridge University astrophysicist and cosmologist Brandon] Carter presented the observation in full-blown form at the Copernican Festivities (celebrating the 500th birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus).”
Carter coined the term “anthropic principle” (also sometimes referred to as “anthropic fine tuning”) to describe this concept. Distinguished former Cambridge University quantum physicist John Polkinghorne elaborates on this subject in his book Questions of Truth: Fifty-One Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief:
“Anthropic fine-tuning is a big topic that has been explored extensively, but the basic idea is easy to grasp. As far as we know at present there are six apparently fundamental constraints in nature whose values have to be very close to their presently observed values if any intelligent, carbon-based life is to come into being anywhere in the universe. In some cases these values have to be astonishingly accurate: for example, the parameter called lambda, which controls the long-range acceleration of the expansion of the universe in relativity, has to be a factor of 10 to the 120th power smaller than such an explanation would have considered natural.”
“…As [Nobel Prize winning physicist] Tony Hewish once remarked, the accuracy of just one of these parameters is comparable to getting the mix of flour and sugar right to within one grain of sugar in a cake ten times the mass of the sun.”
In his seminal work on the social psychology of scientists and the philosophy of science entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn lays down the process by which “paradigms” (or sets of beliefs that underlie scientific theories) undergo transformation. Scientists with a vested ideological interest in supporting a given paradigm will not surrender it easily when the foundation underlying that paradigm begins to crack. Rather, as Kuhn notes, “they will devise numerous articulations and ad hoc modifications of their theory in order to eliminate apparent conflict.”
Nowhere is this practice more thoroughly obvious than in the crumbling paradigm of the randomly occurring, creator-free universe. In order to “eliminate the apparent conflict” between the concept of a finely tuned universe with a beginning, on one hand, and the concept of a universe without a creator on the other, atheistic scientists have devised such “articulations and ad hoc modifications” as using the theories of multiple universes and an oscillating universe to resurrect the creator-free cosmos. So many universes exist, so the theory goes, that it is not surprising that one of these universes happened to randomly have the fine tuning necessary for the existence of life. In the case of the oscillating universe, the universe alternates between phases of expansion and contraction, and therefore (say the atheists), it is not surprising that during one of these “bounces,” the universe happened to randomly develop this fine tuning. Addressing this slant on the theory of multiple universes, the esteemed former Cambridge University astrophysicist John Polkinghorne notes in Questions of Truth:
“Answering an argument by a suggestion is hardly conclusive. One problem is that we don’t just need a hundred other universes, or even a billion, but an utterly immense number—some string theorists suggest that there are up to 10 to the 500th power other universes. If you are allowed to posit 10 to the 500th power other universes to explain away otherwise inconvenient observations, you can “explain away” anything, and science becomes impossible.”
Further, as Oxford University professor of philosophy Antony Flew facetiously observes in There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind:
“If the existence of one universe requires an explanation, multiple universes require a much bigger explanation: the problem is increased by the factor of whatever the total number of universes is. It seems a little like that case of a schoolboy whose teacher doesn’t believe his dog ate his homework, so he replaces the first version with the story that a pack of dogs—too many to count—ate his homework.”
None of this is to suggest that the scientific consensus may one day tilt in favor of a theory such as multiple universes or the oscillating universe, which are modifications to the Big Bang. Scientific explanations are always evolving. The core issue at hand is the philosophical implications that may be reasonably derived from such scientific theories. To suggest that multiple universes or an oscillating universe can serve as an explanation for why a physical and natural world even exists in the first place is a clear example of atheistic scientists overreaching their field of expertise into another discipline entirely…that of philosophy.
This becomes evident by dissecting the most recent (and perhaps the best) example of an attempt to do away with the notion of a created universe: Stephen Hawking’s concept of “spontaneous creation” (through the spontaneous emergence of multiple universes) presented in his book The Grand Design. Hawking states that “spontaneous creation [rather than divine creation] is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.” Multiple universes, including ours, he alleges, “arise naturally from physical law.”
The Oxford Dictionary defines science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Statements attempting to explain “the reason there is something rather than nothing” are not scientific statements. This is because explaining why there even exists a physical and natural world in the first place is an entirely different subject than “the systematic study of the structure and behavior” of phenomena within that physical and natural world. Contrary to what some may think, science is not and never will be capable of studying nothing.
Hawking’s above statement is therefore by nature philosophical, not scientific. The Oxford Dictionary defines philosophy as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” And statements about “why there is something rather than nothing” are philosophical statements. If multiple universes, including our universe, “emerged naturally from physical law,” one is immediately faced with the question of from where these physical laws emerged. Did they evolve through Darwinian natural selection out of utter nothingness? The question of the origin of existence has therefore not been answered by Hawking, but merely delayed.
It is more accurate, then, to say that “by dabbling in amateur philosophy, Hawking has concluded that the universe generated spontaneously.” And Einstein is noted for reminding us that “the man of science is a poor philosopher.” Here, we are touching upon a fundamental deceit perpetrated by those in the scientific community wishing to do away with the notion of God: Using pretensions of science to make bold but shoddy and unsupported philosophical claims. Just as one should not go to his or her plumber for legal advice, one should not go to a scientist for novel philosophical insights. Readers should be on constant guard for this sleight-of-hand.
This article further discusses the topic of anthropic fine tuning.
Please also listen to this audio by physicist Hugh Ross (and read the transcript if you like).
For some hard numbers as to the probability that the universe resulted from chance, rather than deliberate, conscious action (produced by Oxford University mathematician Roger Penrose) please read the post entitled “OK…I want numbers.”
To see what standard Big Bang cosmology (and mathematicians…including one of the 20th century’s greatest) say about the possibility that the universe (or multiverse) is eternal, please read the post entitled “Isn’t the universe eternal? (Thus doing away with the need for a creator)”
Please also read the related post entitled “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
ADDITIONAL QUOTES RELEVANT TO THIS SUBJECT MATTER APPEAR BELOW:
“Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”
–Astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Robert Jastrow. Please also see Jastrow’s book God and the Astronomers. Jastrow’s observations regarding the evidence for a divine act of creation are especially poignant when one considers that he is a self-described agnostic. In other words, Jastrow’s research have led him to theistic conclusions despite having an ideological bias against theism.
“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.”
–Astronomer Allan Sandage, winner of the Crafoord Prize in astronomy (which is equivalent to the Nobel Prize). Sandage is considered to be one of the founders of modern astronomy, and the greatest living cosmologist.
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all. . . It seems as though somebody has fine tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe. . . The impression of design is overwhelming.”
“It may seem bizarre, but in my opinion science offers a surer path to God than religion.”
–Physicist Paul Davies, winner of the 2001 Kelvin Medal issued by the Institute of Physics and the winner of the 2002 Faraday Prize issued by the Royal Society (amongst other awards).
“It is relatively unusual that a physical scientist is truly an atheist. Why is this true? Some point to the anthropic constraints, the remarkable fine tuning of the universe. For example, Freeman Dyson, a Princeton faculty member, has said, ‘Nature has been kinder to us that we had any right to expect.’”
–Physical scientist Henry F. Schaefer III, five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize, as quoted in his essay Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang, and God.
“A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
–Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle commenting on the incredible fine-tuning necessary for life to exist (as quoted in The Creator and the Cosmos by Hugh Ross).
“Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions, but on this we agree: a common sense and satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a superintelligence.”
Former Harvard University Research Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science Owen Gingerich, who is also the senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Gingerich is here reflecting on Fred Hoyle’s above comment.
“Had the original energy of the Big Bang explosion been less, the universe would have fallen back onto itself long before there had been time to build the elements required for life and to produce from them intelligent, sentient beings. Had the energy been more, it is quite possible that the density would have dropped too swiftly for stars and galaxies to form. These and many other details were so extraordinarily right that it seemed the universe had been expressly designed for humankind.”
–Owen Gingerich, as above.
“Had the resonance level in the carbon been 4 percent lower, there would be essentially no carbon. Had that level in the oxygen been only half a percent higher, virtually all of the carbon would have been converted to oxygen. Without the carbon abundance, neither you nor I would be here now.”
“I am told that Fred Hoyle, who together with Willy Fowler found this remarkable nuclear arrangement, has said that nothing has shaken his atheism as much as this discovery.”
–Owen Gingerich, as above.
“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.”
–Nobel Prize winning physicist Arno Penzias.
“Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God – the design argument of Paley – updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one…. Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.”
–Cosmologist and astronomer Edward Robert Harrison
“The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”
–MIT physicist Vera Kistiakowsky
“As to the cause of the Universe, in context of expansion, that is left for the reader to insert, but our picture is incomplete without Him [God].”
–Astrophysicist and mathematician Edward Milne (winner of the Royal Society’s Royal Medal, the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Bruce Medal).
“What is the ultimate solution to the origin of the Universe? The answers provided by the astronomers are disconcerting and remarkable. Most remarkable of all is the fact that in science, as in the Bible, the world begins with an act of creation.”
–Astronomer Robert Jastrow from Until the Sun Dies
“Not only did the Big Bang model seem to give in to the Judeo-Christian idea of a beginning of the world, but it also seemed to have to call for an act of supernatural creation…”
–J.M. Wersinger, Assoc. Professor of Physics, Auburn University
“Then, last week, American scientists announced the discovery of radiation patterns in space that may mark the beginning of time itself. Said astrophysicist George Smoot, leader of the research team: ‘If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God. The order is so beautiful and the symmetry so beautiful that you think there is some design behind it.”
“Whatever caused the rapid expansion of the universe following the Big Bang—the same forces caused tiny ripples. Because if you try to do something too fast, you shake a little. God might be the designer.”
–Maclean’s, May 4 1992 (the two above quotes are by astrophysicist and cosmologist George Smoot).
“It is increasingly clear to modern science that the universe was exquisitely fine-tuned to enable human life.”
–Nobel Prize winning chemist Richard Smalley
“The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.”
–The great astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington
“There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the Big Bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
–Astrophysicist and cosmologist George Smoot, as above.
“The really amazing thing is not that life on Earth is balanced on a knife-edge, but that the entire universe is balanced on a knife-edge, and would be total chaos if any of the natural “constants” were off even slightly. You see, even if you dismiss man as a chance happening, the fact remains that the universe seems unreasonably suited to the existence of life — almost contrived — you might say a ‘put-up job”.
Physicist Paul Davies, as above.
“The fact that the universe exhibits many features that foster organic life — such as precisely those physical constants that result in planets and long-lived stars — also has led some scientists to speculate that some divine influence may be present.”
–Science Magazine (The most respected peer reviewed scientific publication in the United States) from an Aug ’97 article entitled Science and God: A Warming Trend?
“As we survey all the evidence, the thought instantly 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?”
–Astronomer George Greenstein, as quoted in his book The Symbiotic Universe.
A Creator must exist. The Big Bang ripples and subsequent scientific findings are clearly pointing to an ex nihilo creation consistent with the first few verses of the book of Genesis.
–Quantum chemist Henry F. Schaefer III, five time nominee for the Nobel Prize, as above.
“Perhaps the best argument…that the Big Bang supports theism is the obvious unease with which it is greeted by some atheist physicists. At times this has led to scientific ideas…being advanced with a tenacity which so exceeds their intrinsic worth that one can only suspect the operation of psychological forces lying very much deeper than the usual academic desire of a theorist to support his or her theory.”
–Imperial College of London astrophysicist C.J. Isham.
“There is no ground for supposing that matter and energy existed before [the Big Bang] and were suddenly galvanized into action. For what could distinguish that moment from all other moments in eternity? It is simpler to postulate creation ex nihilo—Divine will constituting nature from nothingness.”
–English mathematical physicist Edmund T. Whittaker, winner of the Copley Medal, which is the most prestigious award in British science.
“If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision we could never have come into existence. It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”
–Harvard educated NASA astrophysicist John A. O’Keefe.
“I am not a religious person, but I could say this universe is designed very well for the existence of life. The basic forces in the universe are tailor-made for the production of . . . carbon-based life.”
–Austrian physicist Heinz Oberhummer, professor emeritus from the Vienna University of Technology.