Why does the universe exist at all?
Extreme odds against our universe being just as it is.
Extreme complexities of conditions on Earth and within life itself.
Now I did state that the paths of science and religion need not challenge each other, 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.) And yes, remember this article has been written by a retired senior auditor.
I wish to make it clear that I am not in any way offering my own personal scientific theories in this website. Bear in mind too, 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 my views are proven wrong in due course by any scientific evidence that may come to light in the future.
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 way that he expects of us. We rely on the Bible for God’s directions on how to do just that.
There are three essential points running through the balance of this article. In essence we consider:
- 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?
Now, 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 prove why the “Big Bang” occurred, or what existed before it. That is, “Where did it all come from?” Of course, due to our human nature, it is possible to ‘dream up’ possibilities. But no evidence supports any such theory.
Under ‘Newtonian Physics’ this was not an issue for scientists to even think about. 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’? Where did it all come from?
Its not hard to imagine what I think eh?
‘Believers’, like me – who have ‘quietly’ 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 easy to accept that extreme source of ‘consciousness’, known as God, as the universe’s creative force. Yes, that entity – to whom notions of time and space do not apply – is obvuously the ground, or ‘instigator’, of all the mass/energy that did come into existence at the Big Bang. Or as the Bible’s book of Isaiah (45:12) explains it (supposedly in God’s words): “My own hands ‘stretched out’ the heavens: I marshalled their starry hosts.”
And of course the Big Bang did indeed ‘stretch out’ to form the universe as we now know it.
Now if we believers do 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 then do I have to write about that question?
2.3 Atheism’s opposition derailed!
With respect, that question above does not take into account the fact that the universe, as huge as it is, has a surrounding boundary. The ‘space-time continuum’ indeed 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 little story, I was teasing my nephew, then three years old. He got very annoyed with me. And for my punishment he sent me to the ‘thinking spot’. (That was a punishment that he himself was used to.) I asked how long did I need stay in the thinking spot and he answered, with real 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 anything at all, beyond the boundaries of our universe is just as naïve as my young nephew’s understanding of time that 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 a super ‘intelligence’ (i.e. God) – that we simply cannot understand in the slightest – is impossible. I mean just because we do not even have any scientific concepts available to theorise about God’s basis. It is simply ‘way over our heads’ as human beings!
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 within the universe’s formation. But the fine details of the Big Bang itself, are still 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 ultra-tiny variation 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 SO 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 universe.
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 inter-connectedness of conditions through all the sciences is truly very surprising. OR, better defined, it is amazing!
Clearly to us ‘believers’, our universe was designed by its creator 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 HUGE-NESS of the universe. The principles were based on the understanding 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.
BUT … there is much more known now, say in the 21st century, to indicate that we Earthlings are very, very lucky to dwell on this perfect planet of ours.
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
More recent analysis has found that the ‘factors’ required of a planet, to allow the development and maintenance of complex life forms as we have on Earth, 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 cautious calculations, the odds of finding a planet such as ours are supposedly greater than one in a trillion. The odds of complex life forms existing on other planets throughout the universe’s galaxies are therefore far lower than first thought. Of course, due to the huge size 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 somewhere.
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 than the moon). That gives us the ability to view perfect eclipses of the Sun by our moon. This has in turn has made it possible 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 those 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 tiny in the ‘brains department’, but HUGE in their cooperative and coordinated social functioning? We ‘thinkers’ are left asking ourselves how on earth do they do it?
There are a couple of theories on how they may have evolved. But the complexity of their social functions and methods of breeding (I must add “sometimes even without fertilisation”), really challenges our ability to find proof of their evolutionary trail. Indeed, evolution is a super complex and wonderful thing!
And think about the incredible differences between and even within species 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? For example, the basis of the universe. AND then even wonder why the universe 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! Yes, it is clear that the actual shaping of our human brain functioning was 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.
But yet, there is so much we do not understand about it. It certainly invited an old thinker like me to ask, “Is there something HUGE in there that we are missing?” Hmmmm!
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 major heading (Our Lucky Planet). How do the perfect conditions required to sustain life on Earth just continue? How have relatively perfect oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and salinity levels in the sea (amongst many others), been created and maintained? Of course, us humans are putting all this to the test right now eh? Climate change and all that stuff! But before we did put it all at risk, what kept it all so perfectly balanced?
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 at least, 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.
5.3 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).
Now my mind begins to philosophise here again! 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’, that ultimately steers evolution, be God? Again, my own mind boggles at the marvel of it all!
6. 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 obvious to all in recent times (over the past fifty to seventy 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 imaginable 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 does exist, i.e. the one in which we live. Again … hmmm!
As far as ‘analytical old me’ is concerned, I have a simple ‘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”.