In 1978, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias would be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics. What had they discovered? In a nutshell, they discovered evidence for the beginning of the universe. These two men were working for Bell Labs attempting to measure “high latitude radiation from the Milky Way.” They were using the world’s most sensitive radio receiving device designed to pick up extremely low temperature radiation. In order to detect the extremely low temperature radiation they were looking for (the Milky Way radiation) they needed to get rid of any other “background noise” that would interfere. After accounting for and removing the other “noise,” they found that there was radiation they were picking up from beyond the Milky Way. Up until that time, many scientists believed in a “steady-state” theory of the universe that basically said that the universe was eternal. Many people had problems with this theory and other ideas were formulated. A few concepts that are out there include the Eternal Inflation/Multiverse Theory, the Oscillating Universe Theory, and other ideas that include things reminiscent of the movie the Matrix. Some of the theories seem pretty fantastic. It seems that many of them want to avoid the implications of a beginning, which the evidence for the Big Bang seems to point to.
Before Penzias’ and Wilson’s discovery of the background radiation, many scientists had put forth an idea of a Big Bang. These scientists believed that the universe exploded into existence from nothing. “Creatio ex nihilo,” is the Latin phrase used by scientists meaning creation out of nothing. A couple of these early Big Bang Theorists, Ralph Alpher and Robert Herman actually predicted that there would be a low level background radiation from the initial explosion…a sort of after-glow of creation. In 1948 they predicted that this background radiation would have a temperature of 5 degrees Kelvin. When Penzias and Wilson discovered the radiation, they found that Alpher and Herman were really close, as the actual temperature was 3 degrees Kelvin.
I sometimes enjoy reading modern scientists’ thoughts on origins, space, time, life, etc. I’ve enjoyed reading some of Stephen Hawking’s writings such as A Brief History of Time. I consider any and every idea based on whether it is logically coherent, consistent and whether it jibes with what I know of science. I’m not as concerned with the certifications or titles of the person sharing the idea as I am the validity of his/her arguments. That being said, I recognize that I am a person with presuppositions and biases. I am not alone in this. Everyone has them. Including the scientists. What I have found in listening to many ideas regarding the beginning of the universe, is that that at some point the theorist begins to use language that sounds more meta-physical than physical. There are often attributes of the universe described using deistic qualities or, nonsensical descriptions of time before time began.
The difficulty of the Big Bang for many is that it necessitates a beginning. But, this beginning is very different than anything ever witnessed or experienced. This would be the beginning of time, space, matter, and mass, EVERYTHING in the physical universe. There are innumerable difficulties for the thinker who believes that the physical universe is all there is. One difficulty is what, or Who caused the beginning. The attributes of the cause/Cause would necessarily transcend time, space, matter, etc. To state that affirmatively, one would say that the Cause would be immaterial, timeless, and infinitely powerful. One could also argue that the Cause would be personal as it/He chose to create something from nothing. The ability to choose an action versus inaction, or to actualize the potential universe, seems like it would require a mind. I have my biases. I get it. But, I’d encourage you to read some of the science that seeks an explanation apart from a cause like the one I describe. You will quickly see that there are biases throughout as well.
Earlier today I read excerpts from a recent interview with Stephen Hawking in which he was seeking to describe time before time and the universe before the universe. Professor Hawking has a brilliant mind and has contributed much to science particularly in the fields of quantum mechanics, physics, mathematics, and cosmology. Still, there are times when I read the ponderings of his gifted mind and wonder what pushes him past the simple yet astonishing truth that an Infinite, Powerful, Timeless, Loving Creator brought this all in to being. I’ll close with a couple of quotes by Robert Jastrow, the former Dartmouth Professor, physicist, astronomer, and NASA scientist.
"For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." God and the Astronomers (Norton 1978)
Jastrow, who referred to himself as an agnostic and a non-believer, concluded in a 1982 Christianity Today interview:
"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."
Until next time when we’ll discuss the appearance of life in our universe.
The teleological argument states that if something shows signs of design, then, there must be a designer. This argument was famously discussed in William Paley’s 1802, Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of a Deity. The oft used “Watchmaker” analogy derives from there. Here is a quick paraphrase of the Watchmaker analogy.
I’m walking in the forest and hit my foot on a rock. You ask me, “Where did that rock come from?” I answer that the rock, for all I know, has always been there. Or, that it naturally ended up there through erosive processes, a landslide, etc. If however, I am walking through the forest and find a watch lying on the ground, my deduction would be different. I would assume that the watch hadn’t come together and arrived at that point by natural processes. The intricacies, function, and design of the watch necessitates a designer, or a watchmaker.
Paley went on to describe that the appearance of complexity in the natural world pointed to an even more powerful, intelligent Designer. The premises and conclusion of Paley’s teleological argument goes something like this.
Paley’s argument is not intended to be exhaustive, nor is it immune to criticism. Richard Dawkins, the atheistic crusader, has famously responded to Paley’s argument with a book entitled, The Blind Watchmaker. David Hume penned his work, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, in 1779, which sets forth his arguments against the teleological argument. As with any argument, including arguments for God, everyone approaches the data/evidences with their own presuppositions. That is, no one is without bias. Understanding that bias is inevitable is helpful in understanding why something that seems perfectly reasonable to you may seem completely irrational to someone else.
For our purposes, we will not go into tremendous detail regarding the teleological argument. Instead, we will discuss some foundational topics and principles.
The Beginning of the Universe, including all matter, mass, energy and time.
Secondly, the idea of an eternal universe denies the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The second law states that this finite energy is being expended in its usable form as it is transferred into less usable, less accessible forms, i.e. the ash and the radiant heat from the burning wood. The Second Law is also the source of the idea that the universe is moving toward disorder or entropy. As the usable energy in the universe is transferred into less usable, less accessible forms, entropy is the natural result. If the universe were eternal, we would have run out of usable energy and the universe would have reached chaotic disorder.
Finally, the idea of a Creator God is consistent with the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics as He was the outside agent Who was neither material, energy, mass, etc. Himself, but Who acted to introduce these, or create these out of nothing. Some may contend that God as the answer isn’t intellectually satisfying or scientifically rigorous. I disagree. Science is limited to observable phenomena in our universe, i.e. light, sound, matter, mass, energy, time, etc. Those who want to explore beyond the beginning of these are leaving the realm of the scientific and enter the realm of the meta-physic or the supernatural. One may contend that just because a god created the universe, doesn’t mean it was the God of the Bible. This is a valid argument. We will explore that challenge in a later post.
Most scientists have recognized the problems inherent in the ideas of a self-creating universe or an eternal universe and have developed alternate theories. Most of these theories simply push the question of a start back one step. Others may use terminology and descriptions that sound oddly like those one would use to describe a Creator/God, but since their presuppositions don’t allow for it, they use other words and terms in their descriptions. The general conclusion in the scientific community is that the universe has a definite beginning. Most scientists refer to this as “The Big Bang.”
Next week, we will begin to look at the “Big Bang,” and its implications in the scientific community as well as for those of us who believe that God created the universe.
(Thank you to Jeff Miller, PhD at Apologetics Press. Your article, God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective, was helpful to me as I wrote this. https://apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=9&article=2106 )
How would one learn the truth about a person from history? Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington…anyone we wanted to learn about who preceded our arrival on planet earth. A fair questioner could ask if we have a high level of certainty that the aforementioned individuals actually lived. The same questioner could then go about using the Historical Method to determine the legitimacy of the claims made about these people. He may then weigh the forensic evidence that these people lived their lives in particular ways. In order to learn about these leaders from the past, or any other person from the past, requires that we first search for literature, archaeological evidence, and other clues that allude to their existence.
The Historical Method is a means for collecting data to discover what has transpired in the past. When investigating purported events, whether alleged to have occurred a month ago or a millennium ago, all evidence must be examined to determine the accuracy of reports. When reviewing historical writings (often referred to as textual criticism) there are numerous factors that historians consider.
1. Authorship—was the person an eyewitness to the events they are reporting, a primary source. Or, was the person a secondary source, that is, did they get their information directly from a primary source.
a.Motivation of the writer. Was there a motive for the writer to communicate falsehood or truth?
2. Dating—how much time has passed since the events occurred and when the author wrote his/her account.
3. Manuscripts—Original or a copy? If a copy?
a.Accuracy compared to the original. Deduced through comparing multiple copies looking for textual variants.
i.How early are the copies? How many do we have? These factors help assure the veracity of the copies.
There are many other criteria that may be considered when researching history, but these are some of the important ones. I will not begin to examine the New Testament accounts of Jesus, or even go into the Old Testament documents in today’s blog entry. I am only wanting to establish that there is a means for discovering historical fact or at least a means for determining whether there is good evidence for purported events. I also want to establish that it is IMPOSSIBLE to discover historical truth through the scientific method. Scientific inquiry is of great value in determining scientific truth. It is useless with unrepeatable events such as births. You and I have a birthdate. Science will not reveal that to us. Historical documents such as our Birth Certificates, Passports, newspaper articles about us, biographies written about us, etc. are how one would learn about us.
Later in this series we will assess historical documents in reference to the God of the Bible, including the Bible itself, as well as other Christian and non-Christian references. Next however, we will examine the evidence for a Creator/God from nature including life on earth as well as the apparent design of the universe. This, “argument from design” is often referred to as the Teleological Argument.
Until next time.
As we discussed in the previous post, there is truth. To refute that statement requires the refutation to be true. So, if someone says, “There is no absolute truth.” Their self-contradiction is made clear by asking the question, “Is that true?” Everything we do in this world is contingent upon there being objective truth. Science depends on truth. Math depends on truth. Reality depends on our recognizing that the universe operates with the assumption of certain truths.
Each day we go into the world with the opportunity to make an impact. Each person whose paths cross ours matters. Lives intersect for a reason. I believe there is One who directs our steps to these sometimes seemingly random meetings. My goal for these encounters is that I make a difference. That is my desire for those who venture across my blog. I hope you are blessed and it makes a difference for you.