In the first article of this series we shared the fact that theoretical physicists today are making great strides toward understanding the origin of our universe. We discussed the grand unified theories that attempt to unite the understanding of the four basic forces in the universe into one set of laws. And we concluded by observing that many physicists are coming to the conclusion that all the matter in our universe very probably was created from nothing in less than a second's time.
Conservative Bible students have, of course, believed in such an ex nihilo creation all along, and they should welcome the long-awaited corroboration now coming from scientific observation.
But it takes a long step of faith to move from belief in ex nihilo creation to belief in the Genesis account of the origin of life on our planet. In fact, the mere belief that everything came from nothing does not in itself have anything to do with belief in God or a creator. And physicists who would rather not evoke the super natural to explain the natural are more than willing to assume that such creation from nothing came about as a mere accidental quantum fluctuation with no cause whatsoever.1
But when other recent developments in physics are added to belief in ex nihilo creation, the case for an intelligent and involved creator becomes stronger, and the arguments of those who choose to banish the supernatural from their equations begin to require a longer leap of faith than the arguments of those who are willing to accept a creator if the evidence points to one.
Some of the arguments in favor of belief in a creator are revampings of familiar arguments that have been around since before Thomas Aquinas systematized the five a posteriori proofs for the existence of God. Others are as new as the results from yesterday's experiments at atom-smashing particle accelerators. Together they form a convincing case for belief in a Creator who cares.
Reality demands an observer
Perhaps one of the more esoteric arguments calling for belief in a creator is the one deduced from the logical extension of a little-understood but thoroughly documented aspect of quantum theory. It is based on Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
Simply stated, this principle postulates that it is impossible to predict exactly where a given atom or subatomic particle will be at any time. The reason is that it is possible to answer only one of two important questions about any atomic particle: Either you can answer the question of how fast it is moving, or you can answer where it is. But it is impossible to answer both questions.
The extension of this well-documented and repeatedly proven principle leads physicists to conclude that atomic and subatomic particles do not actually exist anywhere until they are observed existing there! While that may seem a bit hard to swallow, it is a fundamental principle of the quantum theory, and it has been demonstrated in the laboratory by many different types of experiments.
An oft-used illustration of this principle calls upon the common phenomenon of fluorescence observed in television picture tubes. The picture on a television screen glows because certain fluorescent compounds inside the tube give off light when bombarded by electrons. In the neck of the tube a hot tungsten filament gives off billions of electrons per second, and these are directed toward the screen by charged grids that direct the electrons to the front of the tube in patterns determined by the signal fed to the grid.
The screen reproduces a sharp, predictable picture only because of the law of averages. Because so many electrons are directed in the desired path, enough of them arrive where they are supposed to create a picture. But it would be impossible to predict where, when, or if any individual electron would arrive at the screen.
It is impossible to predict where a given electron will arrive because it is impossible to know both its position and rate of travel.
The reason for this is that all sub atomic particles exhibit the properties of both waves and particles. In other words, in some ways they behave like the ripples on a pond caused by a falling drop of water. In other ways they behave like the drop of water that caused the ripples. And it is not fair to ask whether an electron is a wave or a particle unless you are prepared to, by your very observation, make it into one or the other.
This fact has been recognized, at least as it relates to photons--the most elementary unit of electromagnetic radiation--ever since the early nineteenth century. But its implications for the nature of reality and causality have only recently come to be widely recognized.
In the example of the electron emitted from the picture tube filament, if that electron should strike a wire along the way and be deflected, it would be impossible to know in which way it was deflected until it was observed either to the right or left of the wire. And quantum theory actually goes so far as to state that the electron actually went to both sides, and only our act of observing it on one side or the other forces it to materialize at that point. If that seems difficult to accept, remember that electrons exhibit characteristics of both waves and particles. A wave would divide and go to either side. A particle would not.
The mysteries evoked by this uncertainty principle are so sublime as to be almost unfathomable. Since the route of the electron is unknowable until it is observed, and since the probability of observing the electron either to the right or left is equally great, our observation can in a sense be said to not only discover but actually to decide which direction the electron went.
When the principle is applied to photons that travel for thousands of years on their way to earth, the earthbound observer might actually be said to rewrite the epic history of the photon simply by choosing to record its arrival as either a wave or a particle. Those unwilling to allow that we can rewrite history solve the riddle in a different way. They simply say that the photon never really existed as either a particle or a wave until we observed it here on earth and forced it to quantify itself into one or the other.2
The mystery deepens even further when you realize that the same thing is true of all atomic and subatomic particles. They literally do not exist until they are observed! The orderly world of cause and effect that we observe is founded upon a capricious and chaotic, totally unpredictable subatomic world.
Another example may be observed in a lump of uranium. Uranium decays into lead at a highly predictable rate. Thus it is possible to assign a half-life to uranium. The half-life figure is the number of years it takes for half of a given lump to decay into lead. But if you could isolate one atom from the lump, it would be impossible to predict when it would decay. And, in fact, you would not know whether it was a uranium atom or a lead atom until you observed it closely. And actually it would not even be either a uranium or lead atom until you observed it closely. Before your act of observation it would actually exist as both, and would be forced to become one or the other only by your act of observation! 3
Admittedly all this theory seems a bit flighty and abstract. And if you find these postulates of quantum theory difficult to accept at first reading, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the good company of no less a genius than Albert Einstein. He fought against the implications of quantum theory until his dying day because he felt that its implications were too shattering to his conception of reality and creation. His running debate with Niels Bohr, one of quantum theory's leading proponents, continued for many years, but Einstein was unable to disprove any facet of quantum theory.
In the words of physicist Paul Davies: "The Bohr-Einstein debate is not just one of detail. It concerns the entire conceptual structure of science's most successful theory. At the heart of the subject lies the bald question: Is an atom a thing, or just an abstract construct of imagination useful for explaining a wide range of observations? If an atom really exists as an independent entity, then at the very least it should have a location and a definite motion. But the quantum theory denies this. It says that you can have one or the other but not both." 4
Quantum and causality
But what does all this discussion of quanta and subatomic physics have to do with questions of causality and creation?
A lot, really, when you apply quantum theory's implications to ultimate questions of reality. Those who best understand quantum theory's implications are now saying that our universe really exists only because it is observed. In phraseology reminiscent of an Orwellian 1984 scenario, physicist John Archibald Wheeler describes his "recognition physics" theory of the past, present, and reality: " 'We are wrong to think of the past as having a definite existence "out there." The past exists only insofar as it is present in the records of today. And what those records are is determined by what questions we ask.' This is the special sense in which the act of observation is 'an elementary act of creation.' " 5
If, then, our best powers of observation and calculation force us to accept the fact that our universe would not exist if it were not observed, does this not in and of itself necessitate an overall observer who is able to bring everything into the sharp focus of reality?
If such an implication were the product of an ardent creationist's musings, it would be suspect. But Wheeler himself concludes that " 'it may be that we could not have anything that would be meaningful existence in default of some community of [intelligent biological or mechanical] observers.' " 6 Other physicists have concluded that quantum theory demands that an overall intelligence has to be observing our universe in order to "collapse" it into reality."7
And when you put the necessity of an observer together with the realization that the universe appears to have been created from nothing, what is there to prevent you from going the next logical step to the assumption that the overall observer is also the creator?
Admittedly, many scientists are not willing to take this next logical step. Whether they are motivated by prejudice or simply by a desire to figure out a "better" answer to the riddle of reality, they have proposed various solutions. One postulates that there is no such thing as one reality, but that genuine reality is composed of every one of the nonillions of possibilities for reality that ever could have occurred, and that we are simply locked into one branch of this infinite reality.
Other scientists admit to the necessity of an observer but doubt that the observer must be intelligent or able to interact with its universe.
Here is where two other recently substantiated facts about our universe come into the picture and add their weight on the side of belief in a creation by an intelligent, caring creator.
The orderly universe
The overall orderliness of our universe has been cited as one evidence for the existence of God for centuries. But recent observations by astronomers have given far more weight to this argument than it had in Aquinas' day. Before the days of spectroscopes, radio telescopes, and microwave communication, mankind's conception of the universe's orderliness was founded merely upon day-to-day observation. Since no one had ever seen two stars collide, it was assumed that the stars had been placed in orbit about the earth in such a way as to preclude collision.
When Galileo challenged one tenet of this conception of earth's relationship to the stars, the battle line between scientific observation and religious persuasion was quickly drawn. Other early telescopic observations also seemed to go against the comfortable, geocentric, ordered cosmos ideas that had kept humans smugly confident of their importance to the Creator who had placed them at the center of the universe.
But today the battle against acceptance of scientific teaching concerning our place in the universe is no longer being fought. We've come to accept the fact that our solar system is just one among a hundred billion in a galaxy which is one of several hundred billion in the universe.
And in a very real sense we have found light at the other end of Galileo's telescope. For astronomers now tell us that their observations confirm what creationists would expect: The universe is a very highly ordered system, much more highly ordered than could possibly be expected to result from a mere chance big bang.
This observed fact has challenged the best scientific minds for several generations. If the creation of the universe were a random event, the material that emerged from the big bang would have to be in thermal equilibrium (maximum entropy) with no order at all.
So how did the universe get into the state of high order (low entropy) that we observe today? Reluctant to invoke divine selection, scientists have proposed a number of accidental possibilities. Theoretically, it can be expected that an orderly system will eventually appear out of maximum disorder. However, the time required for this to happen by chance is estimated to be at least 10,000,000,00080 years. 8 Astrophysicists' best guess as to the time elapsed since the universe began put the figure at no more than 20 billion (2 x 109) years.
Related to this study of entropy and order is the study of the probability of a big bang yielding a universe such as we observe. The most probable result of a big bang would be a universe composed of millions of black holes and very few stars, because gravity would naturally congeal most of the matter of the universe into masses too dense to emit light. The probability of our universe emerging from the big bang in the state we now observe has been variously computed to be one chance in 10,000, 000,00030 or one chance in 10,000,000,OOO124! 9 All in all, the probability that what we see came into existence by chance is very slim indeed. It seems it would take a giant leap of faith in fate to believe our universe could come into existence without an intelligent designer. And keep in mind that these physicists' figures do not include factors for the probability of intelligent life evolving in the universe once it arrived in its present state.
The final piece in the puzzle of origins that science has supplied recently is the understanding of the fundamental physical constants that make up the laws of nature. One example is the strength of the strong nuclear force that binds the proton and neutron together in the nucleus of deuterium, an essential link in the nuclear reaction ongoing in the sun and other stars. If this force were infinitesimally weaker, the sun would be drastically altered and possibly would flame out.
Another example of the delicate balancing present in our universe is seen in the relationship between gravity and electromagnetic forces. The majority of the stars in the universe belong to the main sequence of stars like our sun. On one end of this sequence are the blue giants, and at the other end are the red dwarfs. These stars are held together by gravity, while electromagnetic force allows them to radiate their energy. If the force of gravity were to be altered by only one part in 1040 , all the stars would become either red dwarfs or blue giants. 10 Our sun could not exist, and neither could life as we know it on earth.
Paul Davies contends: "The delicate fine-tuning in the values of the constants, necessary so that the various different branches of physics can dove tail so felicitously, might be attributed to God. It is hard to resist the impression that the present structure of the universe, apparently so sensitive to minor alterations in the numbers, has been rather carefully thought out. . . . The seemingly miraculous concurrence of numerical values that nature has assigned to her fundamental constants must remain the most compelling evidence for an element of cosmic design." 11
What, then, are we to conclude from the growing body of scientific evidence about the origin of our universe? Has science indeed discovered Creation, as the title of these two articles implies? In a strict sense, of course not. But in a loose sense, yes. The mounting weight of evidence has persuaded many astrophysicists and cosmologists that it is not only possible but probable that our universe was created from nothing by an intelligent designer.
But in the end, does that really have anything to do with Genesis 1? Does acceptance of ex nihilo creation several billion years ago have anything to do with the Bible's seven-day Creation week?
Yes. For several reasons.
1. If we can accept that a creator created and organized all the matter in multiplied billions of galaxies in less time than it takes a light wave to cross the street, surely creating organisms on this earth would be a small problem for such a being.
2. This possibility, combined with other evidences for the inspiration of the Bible, gives us reason to believe its account of how things began.
3. Genesis 1 in no way denies the possibility that God created the universe long before He placed life on this planet.
And the view that our universe has a finite beginning does not preclude God's eternal existence. The Creator had to exist before the Creation.
4. The geocentric view of the Genesis 1 creation is, according to quantum theory, the only reality that counts for our earth. If the sun and moon became visible on earth's surface on the fourth day of Creation week, then for all purposes of practical reality, they came into existence on that day. As far as life on earth is concerned, they literally did not exist previously because they were not observed previously! Genesis 1 simply relates the story of Creation as it would have been observed from the surface of the earth.
5. The very fact that intelligent life on this earth has an innate need to worship and a natural striving to discover God, when added to other evidences of Creation, makes it easy to conclude with Augustine, "Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it repose in Thee."
We have a long way to go before we can say that science and the Bible have been totally reconciled. But the progression of knowledge, as we perceive our universe ever more clearly, is tending toward agreement rather than disagreement. We still see only through a glass darkly, but as our tools for viewing the universe become more and more refined we can expect to see more and more confirmation of God's creatorship.
And on that final day when Christ comes to remove the veil from our eyes, what a spectacle of His eternal work manship will greet our senses!
1 See, for example, James Trefil, "The
Accidental Universe," Science Digest, June, 1984, pp.
2 John Gliedman, "Turning Einstein Upside
Down," Science Digest, October, 1984, pp. 39, 96,
provides an interesting thought experiment to
illustrate the photon riddle.
3 Ibid., p. 38.
4 Paul Davies, God and the New Physics (New
York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), pp. 102, 103.
5 In Gliedman, op. cit., p. 96.
6 Ibid., Brackets in original.
7 See Davies, op. cit., chapter 8.
8 Ibid., p. 168.
9 Roger Penrose, "Singularities and Time-asymetry,"
in S. W. Hawking and W. Israel, eds.,
General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979),
suggests the lower figure. Dietrick E. Thomsen,
"The Quantum Universe: A Zero-Point Fluctuation?"
Science News, Aug. 3, 1985, p. 73, reports
that Frank N. Page, of the Institute for Advanced
Study in Princeton, New Jersey, suggests the
10 Davies, op. cit., p. 188. For further discussion
of the complex crucial numerical relationships
necessary for life to exist see Davies' book
Accidental Universe (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1982).
11 Davies, God and the New Physics, p. 189.