A Universe From Nothing

I first heard Dr. Lawrence Krauss describe the Big Bang Theory regarding the origin of the universe on an afternoon radio program.  The topic was strictly scientific and there was no reference to God or religion.  Later, in my search for more information on the subject, I came across one of Dr. Krauss’ most popular books, A Universe From Nothing.

Did I read that right?  A Universe From Nothing?  With a title like that, I thought, “Wow, this guy must be a Christian.  Who else would pick that kind of a title?  Only a like-minded scientist who has discovered the incredible connection between what we now theorize about the first moments of the universe and what the Bible describes as God creating the world out of nothing.”  I could not have been further from the truth regarding Dr. Krauss’ religious affiliation – or more precisely – his lack thereof.

Dr. Lawrence Krauss is an atheist.  Dr. Krauss’ book is as much an anti-religious pamphlet as it is a science textbook.  His idea is that the universe came from nothing.  Exactly nothing.  No God.  No Creator.  No nothing.  And, in my opinion, he could not be more off base.

So how do two scientists look at the same Big Bang theory and draw such opposite conclusions.  It all starts with our presuppositions.  I believe in the supernatural.  I believe that a world exists outside of our five senses; a world we experience by our spirit and by God’s revelation.  In that world, the Big Bang theory of instantaneous creation fits what we would expect from a God who spoke the world into existence by the power of His word.  It is a world that theists – believers in God – are comfortable in.

Dr. Krauss, and many scientists like him, have created a world with no room for the supernatural.  It is a world of creation and order only dictated by natural processes.  And to be honest, it is a world that can be constructed from today’s theories and observations.  I just don’t find it to be the best fit for all that we experience and observe.  But it can be done.

As a Christian scientist, I am quite comfortable with both a supernatural beginning to our world and supernatural interventions that go against the natural flow.  I believe God has ordered the world such that it generally works along the lines of scientifically understood processes.  And that might lead one to conclude that it has always been this way.

But thinking along this path of every explanation being a natural one ignores the strong evidence that on many occasions God has supernaturally intervened in our world.  In pre-historic time with the creation of man and woman, in ancient time when He sent His Son Jesus to dwell with us, throughout history as God built His church around the world, and in future time when Jesus returns to earth.

The bottom line is this.  Don’t let the naturalists chip away at your faith.  They are the small thinkers, confining everything to a small box of natural processes.  They are living in a fantasy world of their own creation.  They reject the possibility that “something” coming from “nothing” might mean there is a “Someone”.  I have met the “Someone” as I think most of you have as well.

We are the big thinkers.  We are the ones embracing both tangible and intangible reality.  We are the ones willing to accept a supernatural intervention into our world.  So don’t let these smooth-talking naturalists have the last word.  Brilliant, but Godless, scientists may be able to unravel the scientific mysteries of the universe, but they are not the ones to look to for the complete theological picture.

Now another reason believing and non-believing scientists might go on divergent paths when faced with the same data has to do with our opinion about the earth.  To the skeptic, Earth is just one of billions of random planets.  But when they say this, they are ignorant of some pretty special features about our planet; features that make it uniquely tuned for life.  Something we would expect from our life-giving Creator.  We will talk about it next time as we search for Earth 2.0.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Big (Bad) Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory is the standard model for the formation of the universe and is widely accepted among today’s physicists.  So my question for you is this, “What does this standard model and its acceptance mean for those of us who believe that God created the heavens and the earth?”  In my opinion, it means something quite spectacular.

Here is the standard model in a nutshell:  The universe sprang into existence as a “singularity” around 13.8 billions years ago.  This “singularity” was infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, and infinitely dense.  (How do you even wrap your head around infinite as a quantity?  Not sure, but let’s continue on.)  This “singularity” was not a tiny fireball in space.  Space did not exist.  Time did not exist.  Matter did not exist.  Energy did not exist.  They were all wrapped up inside the “singularity”.

Then the “singularity” suddenly inflated.  This sudden inflation was so rapid and so large that we have come to refer to it as the “Big Bang”, and its result is the universe that we now inhabit.  The fascinating piece of the puzzle to me is that this inflation was not a constant and linear path through 13.8 billion years.  No, when we say “suddenly inflated”, we mean “suddenly inflated.”

How sudden?  We measure time associated with the major events of the big bang in 10-43 seconds.  That is a decimal point followed by 42 zeroes and a 1.  That is a pretty tiny part of a second.  Important events at the beginning of the expansion such as the separation of the four forces (gravity, electromagnetic, the strong and weak nuclear forces), the creation of matter and antimatter, the formation of quarks, gluons, and other elementary particles, rapid cooling, and much more are all measured in very very very tiny fractions of a second.

So when we say “sudden”, we mean a sudden that is almost impossible to imagine.  And when we say “inflated”, the numbers are just as incredible.  The current theory has the universe increasing by a factor of 1026 in the first fraction of a second.  That means going from the subatomic (smaller than the particles of an atom) to the cosmic (think huge galaxies) during these incredibly small time frames of the first second of the universe’s existence.

Again, by “sudden” we are talking about time measured in 10-43 pieces of a second, and by “inflated” we are talking about the building blocks for every star and every planet in the cosmos created within that first second.  Pretty incredible.  Can you see where I am headed?  Even as a math and physics guy used to working with outrageous numbers, the reality of the situation is that “suddenly” might as well be “instantaneous”.  Because realistically, that is what it is.

As a believer and a scientist, this gives me goose bumps.  The prevailing theory for the formation of the universe suggests that all that we see, no matter how far we peer into deep space and time, was literally created instantaneously out of nothing.  Does that sound like a creation account you are familiar with?  It should, because it fits one of the main tenets of our faith.  God created the world ex nihilo; out of nothing.

The scientific steps that brought us to this point is a fascinating story in its own right, and I do not think we arrived at this understanding by accident.  Dr. Lawrence Krauss, one of the science popularizers of the Big Bang Theory, recently said, “We are fascinatingly lucky at this point in time to be able to see the evidence of the Big Bang.”  Are we “fascinatingly lucky” or is God revealing the wonder of Him instantly creating the world as we know it from nothing as the Bible teaches?

It all depends upon your point of view.  It all depends on your presuppositions regarding religion and the supernatural.  The connection between the “Big Bang” and God’s instantaneous creation of the world is stunningly obvious to me.  To Dr. Krauss, not so much.  It is a comparison we will take up next time.

The Bible and Science – A Strong Marriage

I recently attended a presentation here in Franklin by Dr. Michael Guillen, former science editor for ABC News.  It is good to have another science geek in the neighborhood who is also serious about the Bible.  In fact, his talk was about science and the Bible.

I liked the word pictures that Dr. Guillen used in describing the current state of affairs.  He said that the world insists that science and the Bible are like divorced parents.  They are incompatible.  And as children of this divorce, we can no longer live with both parents.  We have to choose.  We have to choose one or the other.  But, as Dr. Guillen pointed out, that is not an accurate analogy.  And, as a truth-seeker in both the science world and the absolute truth of Scripture, this is a choice I am not going to buy into.  It is a box that I am not going to allow myself to be trapped in.  Because it is not necessary.

Dr. Guillen paints a more accurate picture of the relationship between science and the Bible by describing them as partners in a strong marriage.  That is a good analogy.  They are compatible.  They support each other.  We can find compatible and truthful answers in both.  Are there ever disagreements in a strong marriage?  Of course there are.  And we have places today, such as evolution or the age of the earth, for example, where science and the Bible appear to be at odds.

But just like any strong marriage, the issues get worked out.  This is the long view of science and the Bible.  Issues in the past where the disagreement seemed intractable have faded away as we gained more and more understanding in how our world truly works; of how science and Scripture work in tandem.  I think that compatibility is part of why so many scientists are also committed believers.  The high percentage of believing scientists is one of the clearest evidences that the issues get worked out.

In 1916, a survey of one thousand prominent American scientists revealed that 42% believed in a personal God.  While the public was appalled at the low percentage, the authors of the survey suggested that as scientific knowledge progressed through the twentieth century the number would soon approach zero.  Why?  Because these researchers were of the divorced-parents mindset about science and God.  And the rise in scientific understanding would put an end to belief in God.

But their conclusion proved incorrect when the study was replicated in 1997 with a new group of science luminaries.  The percentage of “believers” was 39%, not much different then eighty-one years earlier.  In addition, many respondents to the 1997 survey decried the narrow line of questioning which followed the original survey word for word equating belief with the 1916 Evangelical Christian view of God.  Many participants who answered “no” to the narrow line of questions indicated a belief in a supreme being in their written comments.

Remember the prediction in 1916 was that the number of believing scientists would go down to zero in a direct correlation with an increase in scientific knowledge and discovery.  But the percentage remained roughly the same, a finding that surprised the authors of the new study.  Why?  Because, again, the new authors were operating from the divorced-parents mindset.

No, science and the Bible are like a strong marriage.  And in the narrow world of science that I can understand as a geophysicist, the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge and theory continues to support and strengthen my biblical world view; not argue against it.  Next post, we will discover one of our most unlikely allies in the strong marriage of science and Scripture when the Big Bang Theory steps up to the witness stand.