The question of how our universe came into existence has mystified scientists, philosophers and lay thinkers for centuries. The fact that we are here, suggests an origin. Yet the universe’s origin, from a scientific perspective, is far from clear-cut or obvious. Even more puzzling is that in this age of high-tech, when we can peer into vast regions of space, penetrating literally billions of light-years into the cosmos, as well as observe phenomena on the microscopic and atomic levels, the origin of our universe is still not that obvious.
Or is it?
Is it possible that the origin of our universe is staring us right in the face and we don’t see it? Like the old murder mystery about the police who question the postman for hours as to who he saw near the house on the day of the murder. But it never occurs to them that the postman might be the murderer.
When confronted with questions about the origin of the universe, scientists usually speak of the “big bang.” In 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble published his finding that the universe is expanding. That is, in any direction you look up into the sky, you will find that most stars are flying away from us.
Hubble’s discovery led to an extrapolation of where all matter in the universe might have begun. If the direction of all the galaxies flying apart were reversed, it appeared that everything would meet at one point. At some distant past, scientists believe, all matter in our universe began at that one single point, exploded, and, thus, the “big bang.”
Scientists also believe that the laws of nature at the moment of the big bang must have had some remarkable properties. All matter in the universe being condensed into such a small area would have produced something called a “singularity” — a point of infinite density in which, much like the inside of a black hole, time and the laws of nature, as we know them, cease to function. And it is this singularity that prevents the formulation of theories about the universe prior to the big bang — if the big bang totally distorted the laws of nature, there’s no telling what “nature” might have been like prior to that.
Some view the big bang as science’s answer to our origin, other’s view the complexity of our universe as proof of a Creator. These two camps have held their ground for many years now, and a “Time Magazine” article entitled “Science, God and Man” pretty much reflected these ongoing contentions.
At one point, the Time article seems to maintain that our ability to decipher some of science’s mysteries and complexities seem “enough to dampen a person’s hopes for higher meaning.” The very next paragraph makes the paradoxical statement that “looking at the big picture … there is more to this universe than meets the eye, something authentically divine about how it all fits together.”
A deeper analysis of this subject matter, however, might demonstrate how some of the above contentions are simply wrong. The big bang answers very little. Describing the complexities of our universe is not at all necessary to ponder the existence of a Creator, and solving some of science’s mysteries does not in any way detract from the need for a Creator.
To begin with, the entire big bang scenario only adds a step to the question of “Where did we come from?” The big bang refers to only one point in time. The originating force that gave the big bang its power and potency would be the key to “where we came from.” Of course, you could add several more steps, as scientists sometimes opt to do, almost in seriousness, that there may have been other universes before or parallel to ours. But this only adds unverifiable assumptions, clouds the issue and solves nothing.
To talk about a “beginning” you have to go back to a time before which literally nothing existed. And this is what science does not and cannot do.
The universe we live in gives every indication of having “come from somewhere.” The laws of nature dictate this. Nothing in our universe seems to have the ability to create or destroy itself. Matter and energy only go through transformations, with no elementary (subatomic) particle components gained or lost, in the big scheme of things. A fire may destroy a house, but every subatomic component that encompassed the house is still in existence after the fire. An atomic bomb may destroy an entire city, but only in the form of a transformation, no substance is actually lost to some exotic void.
In the same vein, nothing in our universe is ever created. Stars are formed (of gas), they do not “create” their constituent components. Meteorites are formed (or chipped off larger bodies), they do not “create” rock or ice. Apple strudels are baked, they do not come from strudel machines.
This leaves us with a very serious dilemma. Based on known laws of nature — that nothing can create itself — our universe shouldn’t exist. But it does.
At one point, scientists thought they had the answer when they observed subatomic particles appearing from “nowhere.” It seemed only logical that if enough subatomic particles created themselves they would eventually form an entire universe.
This notion, however, of “something” coming from “nothing” is neither logical not scientific. The entire concept of “nothing” implies complete and utter nothingness — nothingness not only in substance, but also in potentiality. Something that has the potential to produce anything, even if at present it has no observable form or properties, is obviously not “nothing” — it is apparently a latent force of some kind.
Furthermore, to verify that “something” came from “nothing,” you’d have to prove that there was in fact nothing there to begin with. And that’s impossible. For “detecting nothing” can always mean that your experiment or apparatus is simply not sophisticated enough. In fact, the very fact that something seems to suddenly appear from “nowhere” is, ironically, concrete proof that something actually does exist where you think there is nothing.
And this is precisely what scientists discovered in the above case. As science became more sophisticated, it became apparent that what scientists previously thought came from “nothing” was actually a transformation of a more basic or subtle form of subatomic substance into a form more readily detectable with cruder observational methods.
So, the question of “Where did our universe come from?” isn’t just some idealistic venture into the realm of metaphysics. It isn’t just some exercise in nonsensical philosophical deliberation. It isn’t a “complex” scientific question which we may have the answer to in the future. It is, scientifically speaking, a profoundly disturbing question which the laws of nature themselves indicate is unanswerable. No matter how long you claim the universe has been in existence, no matter how powerful that big bang may have been, no matter what kind of transitions the laws of nature may have gone through during that big bang, at some point in the past all the stuff of the universe (or universes) had to come into existence. How?
The only possible explanation is that the ultimate origin of everything that exists must have been from a source that is itself not bound by our laws of nature. A source which did not necessarily have to “come from” anywhere. This may not be an easy concept to comprehend. But the alternative leaves us with the completely irrational, unscientific and absurd notion that in spite of the fact that our universe exists, there was no way for it to have come into existence.
At this point, to start entertaining the thought of a Creator isn’t simply a “convenience,” a “way out,” a “fanatical” view, or even “religious dogma.” It is a very realistic, necessary and logical step in explaining our existence. Furthermore, it can even be classified as science. The concept of a Creator is no more removed from science than the notions of “other universes,” the inner workings of black holes, the laws of nature at the moment of the big bang, and a host of subatomic particles that scientists spend literally millions of dollars trying to track down that never pan out. These scientifically unverifiable concepts, based solely on logical deductions, are quite clearly entertained by bona fide scientists. Then why not the “theory” of a Creator? What can be more logical than the notion that a universe with laws of nature that preclude its own creation to have been brought into existence by a Creator? And what alternative would be more logical or scientific?
Apparently, the inclination to avoid a Creator at all cost by some, constitutes nothing but an extreme form of bias. It has nothing to do with logic or science.
Getting back to the Time article: That scientific advances are somehow “enough to dampen a person’s hopes for higher meaning” is totally absurd. The need for “higher meaning” (a Creator) does not stem from the complexities of our universe. It stems from the simple fact that the universe exists. What’s more, if the entire universe contained nothing but one spec of dust, it would suggest a Creator, since the spec of dust could not have created itself. If the universe contained an imponderable amount of mass and energy, as it does, but none of it in any complex or aesthetic form, it would most certainly suggest a Creator. So by the time you get around to talking about complexities, you’ve already gone way past the point of establishing the fundamental need for a Creator. The complexities, at that point, far from “dampening hopes for higher meaning,” go a long way in describing the power, resourcefulness and ingenuity of the already-inferred Creator. And the more complexities you decipher, the more brilliant a Creator you establish.
Personally, I think one of the most brilliant aspects of Creation is, ironically, those people who don’t believe in God. To Create an intelligent person, put him in the midst of a universe that seems almost limitless in space, energy and matter, give him the scientific capability of deciphering some of the universe’s complexities and secrets, and, at the same time, endow him with an emotional feature that somehow gives him the capacity to deny that any of this required a Creator, is about as brilliant as the implementation of “free will” can get.