When I was younger, I remember staring up into the sky and without a single science teacher whispering in my ear – without a single recollection of some obscure astronomical reference, I remember feeling very small, and very temporal in an eternal universe.
I imagined the great distances between stars. I thought how the light I was seeing from all of them could theoretically all have been extinguished, thousands of years before…that we wouldn’t know because we were further away than the light could travel in that short time. I specifically remembering asking God to make a star fall as I watched for some “personal proof” that He existed. Challenging Him to make himself known. In my smallness, I sensed eternity all around me. There was a vacancy inside me that demanded resolution. An answer. Was eternity real? When I thought about it, I was left paralyzed in the entangling implications of eternity. The idea of eternity scared the @$#*!! out of me.
At the time I couldn’t see that He had answered – answered the ‘star fall challenge’ with the very instruments I’d requested he use as proof of His existence. Answered before I’d mouthed the requests that night. I came to understand what scripture says when it states, “The Heavens declare the glory of the Lord”.
There are 3 cosmological theories circulated in scientific circles today. All 3 find their epi-center in the science of what most people know as the “Big Bang” theory.
In 1927, A Belgian Roman Catholic priest independently derived what are known as the “Friedman-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker” equations. He used Albert Einstein’s now-famous equations of general relativity (mass and energy are essentially the same thing, with the constant of the speed of light squared in between) to show that the universe began as a simple “primeval atom”. These equations were based on the fact that celestial bodies – planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies, were moving away from Earth. Everything, it seems – is moving away from that “primeval atom” and expanding, infinitely, into space.
Along came this scientist, Edwin Hubble. Hubble realized something about the Universe that people who live near a train track realize every day. As a train moves away from you, it’s horn “changes pitch”, as perceived by the listener. It gets lower, or have a noticeably lower pitch, depending on how far the listener was from the train. When Hubble peered into the night sky, he saw the same thing happening with light. Galaxies and stars that were farther away from our own had lower “light pitches”, that is to say, their red light wavelength was “stretching”….getting slower. All throughout the universe, celestial bodies are moving farther and farther away from us.
The most conclusive, and one of the most carefully examined piece of evidence supporting this “Big Bang” theory is the existence of something called “cosmic microwave background, or CMB. In 1965, two guys with a small but highly calibrated antenna pointed it all over the night sky and discovered CMB. Think of the big bang like a paintball gun pellet, filled with other planets and galaxies, all floating in red paint. When the “big bang” pellet exploded, that red paint was cosmic background radiation. It was all over the universe. Everywhere. Evenly distributed. As far out as we could “see” with a telescope…or as close as our own sister planets, the “red paint” of CMB was all over the place (scientists use the word “isotropic” to describe just how evenly spread out this stuff was). It was so spread out, so evenly, that there’s no other way for it to exist the way it does than from a singular explosion, ie, the “big bang”.
The existence of this “singularity”…this idea that there was nothing, and then something, was troubling for the atheistic community of rational thought. Conflicting with the previous idea that the universe had always existed…had no beginning or no end. It was “always” , “just there”.
If we “huddle up” here, we see that scientifically – we observe that there was at one point “nothing”. Then there was “something”. That “something” became “everything”, and “everything” is moving away, apart from itself, immersed in a bath of radiation that flows out as far as we can see like a “cosmic dough”. That “dough” is unarguably between 10, and 30 billion years old.
Between 1967 and 2013, there are 3 major theories about the universe circulated between scientists and theologians.
The first says that there was nothing, and then there was something. That something exploded outwards into infinity, and will continue to move apart and outwards indefinitely.
The second says that there was nothing, and then there was something. That something exploded outwards into infinity, but will someday ‘snap back’ into a single something, that will explode again outwards into the universe. This process will happen indefinitely. Boom – snap back. Boom- snap back.
The third says that there is a giant cosmological “copy machine” that cranks out universes in multiple dimensions, all the time, into eternity. That our universe – when it was “cranked out” just happened to have all the right elements and processes and universal constants to support life on Earth.
As I’ve shown, the first theory has the most evidence supporting it, and is the most widely accepted theory based on observable evidence. We’ll come back to it in a minute.
The second theory…this idea that the universe had a beginning, and at one point everything is going to “snap back” into a small single point smaller than the tip of a needle, has a problem. A huge problem. Our universe is “flat”.
Remember that whole “Friedmann Lemaitre” equation I mentioned, above? Well, these guys realized that when all that “something” blew up and flew out into the “nothing”, it would lay out in one of 3 ways. Curved up, flat, or curved down. Believe it or not , we can actually measure the densities of matter in the universe. When we look at what we’ve measured, and compare it to what could actually be (curve up, flat, curve down) we see that the 2nd possibility, a “flat” universe emerges as the winner. (I find this funny, as people who believed in God were once famous for believing earth was flat. Turns out they were wrong about the earth, but right about the universe.) These measurements were all confirmed by the WMAP satellite, and the Plank satellite, sent out into space to measure these densities.
Why does it matter…this idea of a closed, or flat, or open universe? As you’ll see, it matters a lot.
The “greatest mind of our time”, Steven Hawking, is re-proposing the universe of the atheist. A universe that always existed, and will continue to exist, with no end or beginning. Without delving down too deeply into the mumbo jumbo science of his theories, we only need to understand that for his theories to have any traction, we need the universe to look like a ball…not a saddle, or a flat plane – like the picture above shows. When I first understood this, it was liberating for me in my understanding of the connection of my faith to science. Hawking, much like Darwin, stood on the edge of a great theoretical precipice and says authoritatively, “It could have happened this way”, supposing that someday in the future someone will come along and prove it. This differs from someone like Einstein who declares “E = m c (squared)” and watches as the atom-bomb explodes, validating his theory on the spot.
This was my first real exposure to philosophical science, that is to say, the saying of something without saying anything…not really. There is a disconnect between the empirical – what I can ‘predict, measure, and scientifically replicate’, from the theoretical – ‘what I think.’
So we have these three theories. The first one, proven and measurable. The second one – theoretical in objection to the evidence, and then the third one, the “multiverse.”.
There’s a problem with the theory of a multiverse. It’s just an idea. Those probes we mentioned earlier, the WMAP and the Planck satellite. Guess what….no evidence of a giant Xerox universe copying machine. Hawking’s astrophysicist peers are quick to all point out that beyond the pages of Steven’s writings, there is nothing to suggest that a multiverse has, does, or ever will exist. Research “multiverse” in Google and you’ll find after 3 or 4 minutes that you are surrounded less and less by scientists, and more and more by philosophers and theologians.
Some 30 years later, the answer to my question, “God do you exist?”, upon staring at His stars. 30 years later the science shows :
a. There was nothing. Nothing was timeless.
b. There was something, very small
c. The very small something, blew up into a very big everything
d. The very big everything is, and will continue expanding, forever into eternity.
Where is God? He’s in the “prima-causa”, latin for ‘first cause’, or ‘root cause’.
Aristotle’s idea of “prima causa” was based on the thought that when “everything moves in the world, something must move it”. This “something” he saw as ‘the utmost perfect’.
Logic. Science. Rationality. They are all founded on laws. Laws like “prima causa”. Gunpowder causes a bullet to fire into space. A rain drop causes a ripple to form and move out into the lake. “The Utmost Perfect” causes space, and time, to exist – from nothing. Out of timelessness, comes time….supernaturally.
When you realize that the very formation of our universe was a “supernatural” event, you begin to see that the supernatural is not implausible, but rather – probable.
Modern thought tries to work around the science of Prima Causa. For example, Yale Professor Paul Bloom states,
“we invented god accidentally and out of necessity rather than for any reasonable cause”. Famous Atheist author and speaker Christopher Hitchens writes in 2005,
“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”
Nothing. Everything. Timelessness. Time. All proven with space probes and telescopes and antennas. In labs and backyards and symposiums in the great debate halls. In peer reviewed journals. No remainders in any of the cosmological addition or division formulas. What we see in the end is that it requires more faith – to not believe in a God or a creator, than it does to believe. And we can do so, rationally.
It’s tempting to say, well “who created the creator?”. For me, in this post, its enough to acknowledge the former for know, without driving down the multiverse road of creator copy machines.
There are some difficulties here. Some wrestling is left to be done. What of this fifteen billion year old universe? Are we as deists (at this stage) to grit our teeth and thrust up our fists and argue for a 6,000 year old universe? Do we stand as those in “the church” did when Galileo discovered the earth was not the center of the universe, stand in opposition to the science? In opposition to that thing staring back at us at the other end of the telescope?
I hope to continue these writings and share what the evidence would suggest. Now that we know what we know – which world view is most coherent with the evidence? I will write these, for my children. For my friends, and primarily for myself. Therein are great and difficult questions. Questions that compel a 12 year old, as well as a 42 year, to ask.