Does Empirical Science Explain the Origin of Life?

Photo by Amanda Leutenberg

Photo by Amanda Leutenberg

We have made remarkable strides in our scientific knowledge over the centuries. We have dispelled many myths and clarified how the natural world works. We have gained an amazing grasp on the material reality of the world, as vast and intricate as it is.

We have so much knowledge about how the natural world works, in contrast to the speculations of the past, that we are tempted to jump to some conclusions that are still beyond our reach.

We can see all the way back to the beginning of space time. We know with detail the constants of the laws of physics that have operated from that very beginning. We now know the physics behind many of the phenomenon that people once attributed to gods or God. Many bright people conclude, therefore, with self-righteous confidence that the natural world is all that is.

Is that really all there is? Continue reading

The Big Bang, Quantum Theory and God

19th Century science assumed a universe that always existed. That model gave way in the 20th Century to the concession that the universe had a beginning and time, space and matter sprang into existence in an instant that has come to be known as the “Big Bang”.

Scientists who succeeded in the line of the materialists of the 19th century, who embraced Darwinism as they gladly shed the shackles of religion and faith, feared that the Big Bang might reopen the old doubt that God may exist after all. From the beginning, the idea of a Big Bang that began the universe was met with caution and reluctance.

Albert Einstein’s response to the consequences of his own general theory of relativity may be reasonably interpreted to reflect a possible concern about the peril of a confrontation with the Creator. Through the equations of general relativity, we can trace the origin of the universe backward in time to some sort of a beginning. However, to evade this seemingly inevitable cosmological conclusion, Einstein introduced a cosmological constant, a “fudge factor,” to yield a static model for the universe. He longed for a universe that was infinitely old. In fairness, Einstein later considered this to be one of the few serious mistakes of his scientific career. However, even this concession must have been painful, as Einstein had a strong conviction that all physical phenomena ultimately should be accounted for in terms of continuous fields everywhere (see Max Jammer’s 1999 book Einstein and Religion).[1]

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Knocking on the Door of the Universe

Moonshine by Kenny Ling

Stripping away the elaborate arguments and the science, there are only two ultimate possibilities: 1) the universe is all there is, all there ever was and all there ever will be; or 2) there is something outside the universe, other than the universe, that created the universe. Frank Turek addresses this fundamental issue in responding to the questions of a young atheist. You can listen to the nine minute exchange here.

If anyone can think of a third possibility, please respond.

A common question asked by people who do not believe in the existence of God is this: if God created the universe, who or what created God? The answer for the believer, of course, is that God is the uncreated creator, the unmoving mover, the uncaused cause; He exists outside of time, space and matter. The unbeliever basically retorts, “How do you know that?”

12-11 Sun Spire (vert)The answer is that we really do not “know” by personal knowledge or by scientific method or experiments that we can observe.. We were not there when the universe, time and space came into existence or was created.

We do know that the universe did not always exist.

What we know is this. The second law of thermodynamics suggests that the universe is running down; there is an inherent tendency towards the dissipation of energy. This is called entropy. (See here for a theistic extrapolation of the Second law of Thermodynamics.) It takes energy for matter to go from the simple to the complex; and without a source of energy, matter breaks down from the complex to the simple; it dissapates. Energy does not go away; it just evens out. The Universe appears to be winding down; so how did it wind up (or who wound it up)?

Of course, scientists who believe that evolution explains the origins of life will argue that entropy does not make evolution impossible (only improbable). They will argue that energy from the sun was sufficient to transform single cells to more complex structures and, eventually, life sprang into being. Though energy may be evening out and the reactions of energy to cause things to happen are decreasing in intensity, they are (or were) sufficiently strong to cause the reaction of life to spring into being and to sustain evolution over millions of years.

But all of this really begs the fundamental question: what caused the initial energy that caused the transformation of simple to complex matter. What caused the cause (to borrow from the athiests who ask, “Who created God?”)

That brings us to another point: the Universe is expanding. This fact is now almost undisputed. The Universe came from a single point. The Universe had a beginning.

In 1965, Penzias & Wilson discovered the “radiation afterglow”, which is the smoking gun to “the big bang”, consisting of remnant heat from an initial explosion of energy. (See Afterglow of the Big Bang.) Stephen Hawking called it the “discovery of the century, if not of all time”; Nobel Prize winner, George Smoot, described it “like seeing the face of God”. (See Physics. Org) (Smoot did not mean by that to say that there is a God.)

Scientists have also found “galaxy seeds” that are believed to be the “primordial seeds” from which the present galaxies grew. (See the May 1, 1992, article by Jeffrey Kahn and the May 24, 2002, Scientific American.) They did not always exist. Einstein’s theory of relativity shows that time, space and matter are correlative; they came into existence together; they had a beginning.

These accepted scientific theories all indicate that the Universe had a beginning; it did not always exist.

That brings us back to the two possibilities…. actually, it leaves us only one possibility: the universe was caused or created.

If the Universe began at some point, where did it come from? What caused it? Who created it?. People like Christopher Hitchens who scoff at theists can only offer that the Universe caused itself, it was caused by another Universe, which was caused by another Universe, and so on, which is simply kicking the can down the road (or back up the road, if you will).

Christians and other theists, of course, believe that something other than the Universe had to have caused the Universe.

Which point seems more plausible?

We are straining to see and know what there is to know about the Universe. But, what can we know of what is out of our reach, out of our realm of existence, outside the Universe in which we find ourselves?

Scientists, atheists and materialists are correct: we cannot “know” of something that is outside the realm in which we exist, and neither can they.

We exist in a realm of time, space and matter that all had a beginning. From our position in that time, space and matter universe, how can we know of anything beyond it by our own doing?

I can only think of one possibility: we cannot know of it unless it is revealed to us.

We tend to cling to the human capacity to know and understand. If we cannot see it and test it, we are not willing to believe it. In fact, many of us may not be open to the possibility that the causer, the creator, of this world might be “knocking at the door”. If there is a God who exists outside of time, space and matter, that God would have to reveal Himself to us. He may even be knocking at your door.