Does the existence of the universe provide us with clues that point in the direction of the existence of God?
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands. (Psalm 102:25)
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Do the heavens declare the glory of God? In the previous article, using the so-called “cosmological argument” for the existence of God, I addressed the first premise that whatever begins to exist must have a cause for its existence. This is consistent with the law of cause and effect. Nothing that has ever begun to exist did so without a cause. Science itself operates on the principle that all events need a cause, which brings us to Premise 2: The universe began to exist.
To understand this premise better, I want to look at four scientific facts supporting the second premise: the universe began to exist. Do these four scientific facts offer evidence that the universe had a beginning?
Scientific Fact #1: The Theory of General Relativity
Over a century ago, Einstein discovered the general theory of relativity which stated that the universe—defined as time, space, matter, and physical energy—did, in fact, have a starting point in history, which means that it’s not eternal. It did not always exist.
Russian professor of physics and director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University,
Alexander Vilenken, wrote,
“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”
Notice that he calls the “cosmic beginning” a problem. Is it a problem? Only for atheists who believe that there is nothing that exists outside of the natural. But this is not a problem for theists.
Evolutionary astronomer Robert Jastrow, founder and former director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, said:
“The Universe, and everything that has happened in it since the beginning of time, are a grand effect WITHOUT A KNOWN CAUSE.”
Then he asks,
“An effect without a known cause? That is not the world of science; it is a world of witchcraft, of wild events and the whims of demons, a medieval world that science has tried to banish.”
In other words, he’s asking, if everything in the universe has a known cause, how can the universe itself not have a known cause? Jastrow’s assuming that everything that came into existence has a natural known cause. But when it comes to the existence of the universe itself, when there doesn’t seem to be a natural cause he asks, “As scientists, what are we to make of this picture?” His conclusion, he says, “I do not know.” He has no answer.
This is what happens when you rely totally on “natural causes”, totally ruling out super-natural causes. Jastrow correctly says there is no natural cause. But when you look outside and beyond nature, then a cause becomes possible. God! Is that a reasonable inference given the evidence? Does the circumstantial evidence point us to God?
Scientific Fact #2: The Universe Is Expanding
The universe had a beginning and it is expanding. American astronomer, Edwin Hubble, after whom the Hubble Space Telescope was named, helped to prove that the universe is expanding. In the 1920s, while conducting new research, he noticed what he called “redshifts” in light emissions around distant galaxies. He believed these shifts in light were indicators that galaxies were moving away from each other. Although Hubble denied this proved the universe was expanding, in the 1940s, other scientists, building on Hubble’s research, learned that the universe is indeed expanding. But what caused the red shift?
Scientists believe today that the redshift is due to the stretching of light waves as the galaxies move away from us. “So what?” you ask. “What do the red shifts mean and what does this have to do with the universe having a beginning?” Here’s an explanation from http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/ :
“Astronomers often use the term redshift when describing how far away a distant object is. To understand what a redshift is, think of how the sound of a siren changes as it moves toward and then away from you. As the sound waves from the siren move toward you, they are compressed into higher frequency sound waves. As the siren moves away from you, its sound waves are stretched into lower frequencies. This shifting of frequencies is called the Doppler effect.
“A similar thing happens to light waves. When an object in space moves toward us it light waves are compressed into higher frequencies or shorter wavelengths, and we say that the light is blueshifted. When an object moves away from us, its light waves are stretched into lower frequencies or longer wavelengths, and we say that the light is redshifted.”
So, as an object, like a galaxy, moves away the light waves are stretched into longer wavelengths that fall into the red portion of the visible color spectrum. However, if the universe is expanding, as the red shift now indicates, then it had to have had a beginning point from which the expansion began, meaning the universe, and even space itself, had a beginning.
Scientific Fact #3: The Second Law of Thermodynamics
Next, we come to the second law of thermodynamics. The second law of WHAT? The second law of thermodynamics which states that “The amount of energy within a closed system, like the universe, will always stay the same. But, the amount of usable energy within that system will continually decrease.” So, what does that mean?
An open system is one which can allow mass and energy to flow in, through and out of its boundaries unhindered. Imagine a large storage tank containing propane with two pipes attached, one flowing in and one flowing out. In the propane gas (energy) there are micro-mechanisms (matter) that require propane in order to function. In that scenario both energy and matter are flowing in and out of the tank constantly, in an endless supply.
A closed system, on the other hand, allows the use and transfer of energy within boundaries, but allows no transfer of mass. Now imagine another large tank filled with propane gas (energy) and micro-mechanisms (matter). In this system the tank is filled and sealed off not allowing any further energy or matter from entering or exiting. The micro-mechanisms depend on the propane to function, but over time they will eventually use up the energy and stop functioning or die. The universe is just such a closed system.
Usable energy is necessary for things like growth, productivity and repair. We need energy to grow, to make things and to repair things. When that usable energy is used up, it is forever converted to unusable energy. The second law of thermodynamics says that the universe is slowly using up the available usable energy in the universe and there is no way for new, usable energy to be introduced naturally into it from an outside source. The emphasis on naturally.
So, ultimately, usable energy within the universe is running down. Given enough time, a very, very long time, usable energy in the universe will run out, which means that if the second law of thermodynamics is true (which has been proven), and if the universe is eternal, then the universe would have used up all of its usable energy a very long time ago. Since we can still look at our own sun and all the stars in the night sky and realize that there still must be plenty of usable energy in the universe, at least for the moment, then the universe cannot be eternal. It had to have a beginning and is slowly dying.
Scientific Fact #4: Cosmic Background Radiation
The final fact is what’s referred to as cosmic background radiation. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, two employees of Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, noticed a mysterious microwave static that was being picked up on their microwave antenna, which seemed to be coming equally from every direction in the sky. Eventually they realized that this microwave radiation must be “afterglow” radiation from the “Big Bang.” Penzias and Wilson received the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery.
A satellite called Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) was launched into earth’s orbit in 1989, orbiting until 1993, for the purpose of gathering data about the cosmic background radiation. Once it completed its mission, the data gathered supported the Big Bang, or that the universe had a sudden beginning. The discovery by Penzias and Wilson in 1965 and later confirmed from the data gathered by COBE, is said to be perhaps the most important cosmological discovery since Edwin Hubble had shown that we live in an expanding universe. Scientists believe it was powerful evidence that our universe had indeed begun in a hot, dense state and has been expanding and cooling ever since. If it’s expanding then it had a beginning. If it’s cooling then it is using up usable energy.
These four scientific facts provide us with some very strong evidence to support the second premise of the cosmological argument that the universe began to exist, which leads us to the conclusion: the universe must have a cause for its existence. Putting on our detective caps, let’s ask the following questions:
1. Does the conclusion seem possible? And if it is at least possible,
2. Is that conclusion reasonable?
All this finally boils down to a couple of options here:
1. No one created something out of nothing, which is the atheists’ view, or
2. Someone created something out of nothing, which is the theists’ view.
Which of those two options seems to be the most reasonable conclusion? As Frank Turek points out, “in the second one you have a miracle and a miracle worker. In the first one you have a miracle without a miracle worker, which is absurd.”
Whatever begins to exist must have a cause for its existence. Read that again carefully. Notice it does not say, “Whatever exists.” It says, “Whatever begins to exist.” As many have correctly pointed out, God is eternal, which means he has life without beginning or end. There was never a time when God did not exist. So, because God has always existed, he does not need a cause. He is the eternal, limitless, timeless, space-less, non-material, all- powerful uncaused Cause.
The cause of the universe had to be by Someone outside or beyond time, space and matter. We naturally sense that something or someone outside of our universe had to cause it into existence. There may be other explanations, but using abductive reasoning, thinking circumstantially, and using the facts that we have examined thus far, it seems most likely that God is the most reasonable explanation. The psalmist got it right when he wrote,
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
The Universe exists. Its existence requires an adequate, Cause outside of the natural. Call it what you will, but this powerful evidence seems to be remarkably like the God of the Bible, Yahweh.
In my next article we will examine another argument for the existence of God…the fine-tuning argument, also known as the teleological argument. Until next time,
“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15)