Why does the universe exist at all?
Extreme odds against our universe being just as it is.
The extreme complexities of conditions on Earth and life itself.
Now I did state that the paths of science and religion should not dissect, in the previous article, “Science and religion”. But I am of the opinion that it is still right and proper to philosophise about the basis of ‘all that is’. (To read about the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
I wish to make it clear that I am not in any way offering my own personal scientific theory in this website. And bear in mind if my interpretations of scientific theory, or philosophy based on them, are in error then it should not damage either my, or your, faith. That is if they are proven wrong in due course by empirical evidence that may subsequently come to light. As I have indicated already, both our religious faith and belief in God largely stand on the basis of our personal experiences.
Essentially, we gather and evaluate our own evidence of God’s presence within both the Church and our lives. In essence it is all about deliberately engaging with God in the manner that he expects of us. We rely on the Bible for God’s directions on how to do it.
There are three essential points running through the balance of this article. In essence we contemplate:
- why does the universe exist at all (i.e. what put it here)?
- why are there such extreme odds against our universe being ‘just as it is’?
- how do we explain away the extreme complexities of life on Earth?
2. WHERE DID IT ALL COME FROM?
This is potentially the biggest question! Why is there anything, rather than nothing at all?
2.1 Can science explain it?
No, science cannot yet explain why the “Big Bang” occurred, or what existed before it. That is, “Where did it all come from?”
Under Newtonian Physics this was not an issue for contemplation by scientists. To them, the universe had been supposedly cranking on forever. Atheists felt very smug about that. They proclaimed that if the universe had no beginning, then we had no need of a theoretical God at all … we did not require a divine Creator.
But that ‘ace’ was gradually destroyed as the theory of the Big Bang firmed up through the 20th Century!
2.2 The religious option
So, what was the universe’s prime mover? Its not hard to imagine what I think eh?
Other ‘believers’, like me, who have proven beyond reasonable doubt to themselves that God does exist, can in fact only deduce that God must be it.
To my mind, using this reasoning, it is easier to conceive of that extreme source of ‘consciousness’ known as God. And that entity – to whom notions of time and space do not apply – would be the ground, or ‘instigator’, of all the mass/energy that did come into existence at the Big Bang. Of course that went on to form the universe as we now know it.
Now if we believers suggest God was the ‘Creator’ of all that is, we then have to face the challenge from our friends in the New Atheist Movement, “Who then created the Creator?” What do I have to write about that?
2.3 Atheism’s opposition derailed!
With respect, that question does not take into account the fact that the universe, as huge as it is, has a surrounding boundary. The ‘space-time continuum’ sits within that boundary. Logically, a theorised Creator of that ‘continuum’ would have an existence separate from it, where time itself, and beginnings and endings, have no value what-so-ever.
As a humorous anecdote, I was teasing my nephew, then three years old. He got most indignant. And for my punishment he sent me to the ‘thinking spot’. (That was a punishment that he himself was accustomed to.) I asked how long did I need stay in the thinking spot and he answered, with a note of genuine seriousness, “Forever!” Doubting his knowledge of the concept I asked him just how long was “forever”. Still with a stern look on his face he answered, “Until bed-time.”
I would suggest that our adult grasp of time concepts, relating to beyond the boundaries of our universe, is just as naïve as my young nephew’s grasp of time was within it. We cannot know about such things until we have experienced them for ourselves, or at least received some evidence of their existence!
The great Christian theologian and philosopher, St Augustine wrote around 400 AD that God is not bound by time. As an example he stated that for God, nothing is future or past. Essentially, he wrote that God’s being is eternal and beyond temporal constraints. I certainly could not have said it as well.
No, despite our advanced thinking (as primates go), we cannot arrogantly believe that the existence of an incomprehensible intelligence (God) is impossible. I mean just because we do not have scientific concepts available to even hypothesise about it.
3. OUR LUCKY UNIVERSE
Charles Darwin did offer us broad theories as to how complex forms of life, like human beings, came to evolve. But no scientist has yet explained exactly how the universe evolved into its present complex state. (And yes, the word “evolved” may be used in this instance.)
Now I accept that computer modelling during 2013/2014 demonstrated how in all probability it initially shaped up. And that related to matter, anti matter, black holes etc and how they interacted in the universe’s formation. But the fine details of the Big Bang itself, are far from understood. In particular, there is no knowledge about the incredible timing of it all, particularly the perfect little tweak that seemed necessary in the opening nano seconds.
Yes, there is a lot still unknown about the Big Bang!
Without a doubt, any minuscule variance to the sub atomic interactive forces that we currently have in our universe would have prevented it from forming into anything vaguely like the one we have. The known forces and constants that hold it all together are perfectly balanced. There are truly innumerable alternatives for the universe’s composition. Any of these, other than the one we have got, would have resulted in a totally chaotic state.
It is also incredible how perfect conditions evident within say nuclear physics (the ultra tiny) act to underpin a perfect astrophysical state (the ultra large). And from the actions of the ultra large (e.g. exploding stars) come substances such as carbon upon which life on earth is dependent. So the story goes on … and on … and on. The interconnectedness of conditions through all the sciences is truly very surprising or, better defined, it is amazing!
Clearly to us ‘believers’, our universe was designed to establish life itself.
4. OUR LUCKY PLANET
Both the “Copernican Principle”, and “Principle of Mediocrity” were framed during the 20th Century. They were developed after Edwin Hubble had established some understanding of the absolute magnitude of the universe. The principles are based on the premise that planet “Earth” is in no way privileged in its ability to support complex life forms such as ourselves. The notion maintains that because there are so many galaxies and solar systems out there, it is very likely that other Earth-like planets do exist.
If you wish to study more about our apparent ‘luck’ please read the book, “The Privileged Planet” by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W Richards.
4.1 Earth’s perfect placement
However, analysis this century has found that the factors required of a planet to facilitate the development and maintenance of complex life forms are extremely uncommon. These factors include:
- ideal placement within a galaxy;
- an ideal sun to orbit around;
- near circular orbit around its sun;
- an ideal rate of planetary rotation;
- orbited by an ideal sized moon;
- a terrestrial planet of ideal mass;
- liquid water on some of its surface, but not on all of it;
- an oxygen-rich atmosphere;
- an ideal magnetic field;
- a surface consisting of moving sections (plate tectonics).
Through the use of very conservative calculations, the odds of finding a planet such as ours are reportedly greater than one in a trillion. The odds of complex life forms existing on other planets throughout the universe’s galaxies are therefore far higher than first thought. Of course, due to the immensity of the universe, I am not saying that it is impossible. But it is very unlikely that we will ever know, even if they do exist out there.
4.2 Placed for perfect observation
Another supposed stroke of luck, that should not be overlooked, has also placed our planet in the perfect position for astrophysical observation. That is we can gaze outwards, beyond our planet’s atmosphere. This relates to our ability to study our own solar system, our own galaxy (the Milky Way) and the incredibly vast universe.
You get it? We are perfectly placed so as to recognise how perfectly placed we actually are!
There are at least a dozen factors related to our celestial position – again, huge odds exist. As a mere starting point we have an exact sized and placed moon (400 times smaller than the sun, with the sun 400 times further away from Earth). That provides us with the ability to view perfect eclipses of the Sun. This has enabled us to analyse the Sun itself. And yet again, that in turn allows us to understand far more of the universe than could have been possible without eclipses.
5. COMPLEXITIES OF LIFE ON EARTH
For my mind, the result of life’s evolution on Earth demonstrates incredible complexity, diversity and great odds against its incredible success. This applies equally from the simplest to the most advanced creatures. For example, let us look at complex bee or ant life forms with their super complex social interdependencies. Yes, they are small in the ‘brains department’, but HUGE in their cooperative and coordinated social functioning?
There are a couple of theories on how they may have evolved. But the complexity of their social functions and methods of breeding (sometimes without fertilisation), really challenges our finding proof of their evolutionary trail. What a complex and wonderous thing is evolution!
And ponder the incredible diversity between and even within species evident on our planet? The dramatic leap in the evolution of brains in primates, with highly functioning human grey matter as its end result, is a pretty important example.
5.1 Overly complex human brains
There are other unanswered questions relating to the ‘evolved’ basic human brain. Why was there ever a need for its functionality to evolve through ‘natural selection’ to a level where we have the capacity to understand so much of the basis of the universe. And then even wonder why it exists at all. Indeed, why have we evolved to be so inquisitive? Some of the first sentences spoken in childhood are difficult questions asked of puzzled parents!
And whilst discussing evolved brain functions, let’s consider “speech”. How did the odd group of anthropoids (humankind) develop the ability to communicate with very complex utterances? Just because we can speak, simply leads us to overlook the ‘sheer magic’ of speech itself! It is clearly apparent that directions in human brain functioning are way past the expected requirements of survival for our own species.
Let’s not forget the odd human traits of humour, artistic ability and especially the recognition of natural beauty!!! I mean, what do such genetic characteristics offer our chances of survival as a species? Even atheists can have their lives greatly enriched by these human attributes. This time I refer to them as “subtle magic”. Did they just occur through chance mutation?
Remember that I am not arguing that ‘evolution’, as a theory, has no foundation. Evidence of complete and major blind allies in evolutionary development offers very good evidence that it has a sound basis. The similarities in DNA found through individual species, primates as an important example, is further evidence that evolution is a sound theory.
5.2 Earth’s overly perfect conditions
Darwin has to be congratulated for presenting the basics. It also makes sense that God planned that life itself would have the ability to continually adapt to its changing environment. The situation for me is that there is just so much to marvel at, even when only looking surface deep.
However, when we do look deeper into life here on Earth there seems to be even larger questions to be answered. One such major issue relates back to one of the loose ends under the last sub heading. How do the perfect conditions required to sustain life on Earth continue unabated? How have relatively perfect oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and salinity levels in the sea (amongst many others), been maintained?
Trust me, this is a large unknown!
Biologists struggled to develop a proven theory. Geochemists also failed. Because of the two extreme views, some joined forces to form the conglomerate science of “biogeochemistry”. Even that new field of science has failed so far to produce models that can ‘map’ to the real world’s environmental conditions. And there were no answers, regardless of how powerful the computers utilised were, or how intricate their models became.
So there is still no finite answer.
5.4 Is God the hidden factor?
Now it is a ‘buzz’ in itself, that living species can continue to adjust to their changing conditions through natural selection as Darwin theorised. We also have the extreme biodiversity, with examples already discussed – complex humans and on the other hand the incredible insect species (e.g. ants and bees).
On top of that, if we are to believe scientists, an overarching ability of evolution appears to ensure the continuation of life itself on this precious planet of ours!
There are no hints available at present as to how ‘nature’ could actually manage to coordinate the complex integrated development of species involved in the process.
Now my mind begins to philosophise here! Yes, there seems to be some agent beneath/ within evolution that ensures life on Earth continues. And it does so despite the improbability of conditions remaining ideal for life’s continuation.
Could that hidden agent be God? Is it him that maintains the perfect atmospheric and oceanographic conditions on Earth? Conditions without which life on Earth could not continue.
Again, my own mind boggles at the marvel of it all!
7. ANY OTHER EXPLANATION?
Because of increasing specialisation in the sciences, individual scientists did not easily recognise just how ultra-complex the big picture of our universe was becoming. It has become increasingly more evident to all in recent times (over the past thirty or forty years).
To my knowledge there are only two available options to deal with these issues. The first is the ‘scientific’ Many Worlds (or Multiverse) Theory. The second is the religious belief of an intelligent creative force (God). The mere existence of the Multiverse Theory demonstrates that scientists do acknowledge the issues of huge odds and extreme complexity that I have raised.
Within the Multiverse Theory, countless numbers of universes concurrently co-exist alongside of each other. The universes with weaker sub atomic forces exist beside universes with stronger sub atomic forces etc, etc, etc. Universes with every conceivable variance in components simultaneously exist within the theory. We just happen to be in that ‘one in a zillion’ universe where it is possible for us to do so!
I continue to research the theory, and can recognise that it is developing in its own complexity as time passes. But there is still no evidence as yet to support it. Importantly, no proof exists to demonstrate that more than one universe exists, i.e. the one in which we live.
As far as analytical old me is concerned, I have a simple ‘one liner’ as a conclusion for this article:
There are more circumstances indicating that God is the cause of all that does exist, rather than any other available option.
If you are left wondering where to go from here, and would like to see ‘the bottom line’ to it all, please continue on to the following article, “The answer”.
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