Why such a vast universe?
One of the questions often asked by the great thinkers on the topic of the universe is why is it so vast? When we look at the universe it is hard to understand how enormous it is and how much matter it contains. In 2005 the Hubble deep field telescope was aimed at a patch of space for 22 days and the calculations from this experiment verified that the universe is made up of 50 billion trillion stars. A number which bigger than we can conceive.
The distance between these stars is enormous. Yet the volume of how much space the universe takes up and the number of stars ( mass) and galaxies in our universe is directly related to when it all began.
The Big Questions Contemplated.
When a non-scientist like myself begins reading about the intricacies of what makes up the universe it can be challenging. Before we start, an analogy which works well and is accurate in some respects is if we view the universe as a large cosmic oven into which is placed the basic elements for making galaxies, stars and planets. The temperature rate and other interacting factors we need for this creation to ‘cook’ are very precise. One mistake and nothing eventuates.
While this mixture has produced a remarkable result in a universe in which life exists, we have perhaps been ignorant of how truly challenging it is. As an analogy, let’s look at baking a Soufflé. In her article for the Washington Post, Stephanie Witt Sedgwick writes Fear of Falling: Why Bad Souffles Happen to Good Cooks.
“Why do some cooks shudder at the thought of making a Souffle? Because cooking a Souffle is like jumping off a cliff. Leap, and there’s no going back. Floppy egg white, tough luck, your Souffle won’t rise. Underbake and you’ll have a soupy mess. Overbake and a beautiful majestic Souffle will collapse. A Souffle has no tolerance for late-to-the-table dinner guests-and your Souffle will fall.” (1)
She goes on to explain the challenges and intricacies faced when attempting to make a Soufflé and then adds, “Should disaster strike in front of your guests, have a backup plan.”🤔
My point is this, the Skeptical mind may say that the universe just happened, but our own experiences say otherwise. If making something as simple as a cake is challenging to the best then it makes sense that there is more involved than pure chance in bringing this universe into being.
The early elements which ignited in the first moments of the universe had to be at ‘just-right’ amounts to get the stars forming at all. Without the stars, none of the elements essential for life could form. This fundamental understanding literally rocked the astrophysics world and promoted those that study this to say things like “ Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and which has an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan.” Arno Penzias Nobel prize winner. (3)
The studies show that unless the universe is as big as it is with all the mass that it contains we would not have the necessary elements to produce life on earth. The NASA article ‘Our Universe 101’ puts it this way, “Our universe seems to have Goldilocks properties: not too much and not too little — just enough mass and energy to support the development of life.”
The article goes into explaining the effects of the accelerating force on the expanding universe. “dark energy acts like an anti-gravity, driving the universe to accelerate its expansion. Had the dark energy dominated earlier, the universe would have expanded too rapidly to support the development of life.”(4)
As astrophysicist Dr Hugh Ross explains, “ The mass of the universe is fine-tuned to provide two life-essential features simultaneously 1) the just-right amounts and diversity of elements…If the mass was any lower, then nuclear fusion in stars would proceed less efficiently. As a result, the cosmos would never be capable of generating elements heavier than helium. On the other hand, if the mass was any higher, nuclear fusion would be too productive and the life-essential elements would not exist.” (5)
2) The other reason why our universe must be so amazingly massive is its expansion rate, Dr Ross continues to explain. “ The rate at which the universe expands throughout cosmic history critically depends on its mass density … mass means gravity slows down the universe’s expansion rate. A universe with less mass density would not form stars like the Sun and planets like earth…gravity would not pull together the gas and dust…(But) with only a little extra mass, the universe would expand so slowly that all the stars would rapidly become black holes and neutron stars…life would be impossible .“ (5)
An unusual element discovered
As Dr Ross indicates above, in the very beginning not all the elements for life are present. Only Hydrogen, Helium and Lithium (the three lightest elements) in the periodic table existed. The rest were produced in the furnace of different stars. Carbon was one such element. While we drink water (H2 O) and breath oxygen we are made from Carbon. No other element has the bonding attributes that generate life. All life is made from Carbon!
Sir Fred Hoyle, a noted astronomer and author, was an ardent atheist before his noted work on Carbon. It’s amazing attributes and qualities and indeed it’s creation in stars encouraged him to turn to deism.
He coined the phrase the ‘Big Bang’ while arguing for his theory and the term stuck. He was also known for his forthright statements. Commenting on his work and the intricacies of Carbon he said “Would you not say to yourself, ‘Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.” (6).
And also…”Once we see, however, that the probability of life originating at random is so utterly minuscule as to make it absurd, it becomes sensible to think that the favourable properties of physics, on which life depends, are in every respect deliberate… it is almost inevitable that our measure of intelligence must reflect higher intelligence -even to the limit of God. Fred Hoyle (7)
Scientist and theologian, Alister McGrath has pointed out that
“The entire biological process depends upon the unusual chemistry of Carbon, which allows it to bond to itself, as well as other elements, creating highly complex molecules that are stable over prevailing terrestrial temperatures, and are capable of conveying genetic information, especially DNA.”(8)
When Cosmology and philosophy Converge.
As we can see by these statements cosmology and its implications has moved into the arena of philosophy.
In the later part of the last century, all budding Christian philosophers had to contend with Anthony Flew, a world-renown atheist and a staunch defender of that position for 50 years. A signatory to the Humanist Manifesto III. Whose advocacy was underlined by his belief “ one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces.” (9)
And also “Since the beginning of my philosophical life I have followed the policy of Plato: We must follow the argument wherever it leads. “Beverley, James A (29 April 2005),” ’Thinking. Christianity today’
\Following where the evidence led at the age of 81, in 2004, Flew moved to the deist camp. (A belief in a designer of some sort) Flew was not a Christian he was not yet convinced, of the existence of a personal God. He did, however, make a complete 360 turn around. In a book he co-authored with Roy Abraham Varghese titled ’There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.’ he said
“Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature. But it is not science alone that guided me. I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments.”
There was an upheaval in the ranks of atheism with people rushing to say that Flew was being manipulated and not in his right mind. But to this Flew responded in a statement released by his publisher and reported in “Times Magazine Piece on Former Atheist Kicks Up Controversy” “The idea that someone manipulated me because I’m old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. This is my book and it represents my thinking. “(9)
Wrestling with the dilemma over human origins, Flew reflected on Gerald Schroeder’s discussion about ‘The Infinite Monkey Theorem. And discussing Flew in his article The Cause of the First Cause, June 2017, Ravi Zacharius shared Flew’s insights. The theorem goes …
“How long would it take an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters to compose a sonnet of Shakespeare.’ Amazingly, the British National Council of Arts took this on board and conducted this exact experiment …A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys, and after one month of hammering away at the keys and using the computer as a bathroom, the monkeys produced fifty typed pages — but not one single word. This is amazing, considering that the shortest word in English could be a one-letter word such as the letter a or I. But a one-letter word is only a word if there is space on either side of it. Flew points out that if one considers that there are thirty keys on a keyboard, the possibility of getting a one-letter word is one in 30 x 30 x 30, which is one in 27,000. If these attempts could not even result in one one-letter word, what is the possibility of getting just the first line of one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, let alone a whole sonnet?” Ravi goes on to say…
“For Flew, the sheer improbability that such an intricate design as we have in this universe is the product of mindless evolution is insurmountable; the universe must have purpose and design behind it.” (10)
What does this tell us? That this creator is not some deity who creates on a whim and then removes himself from it all.
He is a personal being. A God who creates on a minute scale down to the intricacies of the carbon atom, and on a scale that sees the very fabric of space expanding at a precise rate.
Science and philosophy build a picture of truth. And truth by its definition is exclusive. I say that not in an ‘I’m right your wrong manner. But in stating a fact.’
God has given us two books The book of nature and the book of scripture. No other religious text other than the Bible has a God who displays the attributes of a supernatural being who is both personal and all-powerful. Yet he remains the ultimate gentleman waiting for each of us to turn to him, receive his forgiveness and come into relationship with him. It’s not rocket science. 🤫
The Bible even says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, is seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 19-20)
So my friends, let’s take heed of this ever-increasing evidence presented, for life is too short to gamble with. And on that note “Houston over and Out.”
(2) The Cosmic Blueprint.Paul Davies Pg203
(3) Arno Penzias Nobel prize winner ‘Cosmos, Bios and Theos ‘pg 83
(5) Why The Universe Is the Way It Is. By Dr Hugh Ross pg 33-35
(6). See. Mitton, Simon, Fred Hoyle a life in science, p. 129, Cambridge University Press, 2011.Fred Hoyle
(7) August 23, 2001. ￼Big Enough to Bury Darwin the guardian
(8) …..A fine-tuned Universe McGrath, Alister E. (2009). the quest for god in science and theology (1st ed.). Louisville, KY.: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 176.
And also New york times Anthony Flew
(10) The “Cause” of the First Cause Ravi Zacharius 2017 https://www.faithgateway.com/cause-first-cause-universe/