To what does the material universe owe its existence? How came we to be? Only three explanations are possible.
Some argue that the material universe had no origin at all. Rather, it has always existed, in one form or another.
Pulitzer Prize-winning astronomer, Carl Sagan, propagated this position in his best-selling 1980 book, Cosmos. The first line reads:
“The Cosmos is all that is, or was, or ever shall be."
Variations of this notion have existed for centuries.
In 1948, Fred Hoyle, et al., who was opposed to the then-burgeoning “big-bang” theory (which Hoyle himself inadvertently coined the next year), developed the steady-state hypothesis, which proposed that new matter is constantly being created to prevent the overall density of an expanding universe from decreasing (Hoyle, 108.372-382). It is the idea that the material density of the universe has remained constant forever, having neither beginning nor ending (contrary to the big-bang model, which predicts fluctuating densities and an ultimate beginning).
However, astronomical evidence has soundly debunked the theory. The material universe is not eternal. Stephen Hawking, in a lecture entitled, “The Beginning of Time,” wrote:
“The Steady State theory was what Karl Popper would call a good scientific theory: it made definite predictions, which could be tested by observation, and possibly falsified. Unfortunately for the theory, they were falsified” (see Hawking).
Based upon these newly observable phenomena (e.g., quasars, radio galaxies, cosmic microwave background radiation), he concluded
“that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning…” (ibid., emp. added).
Furthermore, laws which are fundamental to the physics of the cosmos (e.g., entropy), militate against any hypothesis propounding an everlasting universe. Agnostic, Robert Jastrow, explained
“that the second law of thermodynamics, applied to the Cosmos, indicates the Universe is running down like a clock. If it is running down, there must have been a time when it was fully wound up…the Universe had a beginning” (1978, 48-49, 111).
Remarkably, he further suggested that astronomical evidence is consistent with the Biblical account of creation, wherein
“the chain of events leading to man commence suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy” (ibid., 14; cf. Gen. 1.1-3).
Radio astronomer, Arno Penzias, accredited for delivering the final “death-knell” to the steady-state model, explained in an interview with science journalist, Fred Heeren, that his 1964 discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation signals that
“the universe was created out of nothing, in an instant, and continues to expand” (Heeren, 156).
He further highlights the fact that the ever-expanding universe, whereby the galaxies are constantly growing farther and farther apart, points
“to a universe which will fly apart indefinitely, not one which will collapse to a point”
and repeat the process all over again to infinity. Such observations
“contradict the notion that our Big Bang is just one of an infinite series of such events” (Penzias, 7-8).
The evidence is overwhelming that the Universe is not eternal. At some point in the past, it began.
Self-Created, Self-Organized Matter
If the universe had a beginning, who or what began it? Empirical science, which deals with measuring, testing, and observing physical evidence, cannot answer this question by itself. However, that is not to say it cannot be answered.
Jastrow, himself an astronomer, planetary physicist, and self-proclaimed agnostic, remarked that, in light of the evidence proving that the Universe had a beginning,
“astronomers now find that they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation…as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover” (1978, p. 15; emp. added).
“science cannot answer these questions, because, according to the astronomers, in the first moments of its existence the Universe was compressed to an extraordinary degree, and consumed by the heat of a fire beyond human imagination. The shock of that instant must have destroyed every particle of evidence that could have yielded a clue to the cause of the great explosion” (1981, p. 19).
Physicist Hubert Yockey touched upon the same predicament (i.e., the presumed destruction of the substance which allegedly created the constituent elements of the Universe), stating that
“it is most unsatisfactory in science to explain what is observable by what cannot be observed” (335; emp. added).
Consequently, in order to answer this question, cosmologists must cache the scientific method and instead rely upon logic and philosophy (and, in many cases, sheer speculation).
Those who subscribe to materialistic philosophy (i.e., matter is all that exists) posit that the material universe created itself out of nothing (i.e., spontaneous generation). From the chaos of this initial chance-explosion, it then randomly began the process of organizing itself into higher forms of more complex life. But neither of these hypotheses are tenable.
Consider this: we know there was a time when the material universe did not exist (it had a beginning). If, as materialists allege, before matter came into existence, there was absolutely nothing (neither matter nor a non-material creator), then there would still be nothing! Nothing (zero) plus nothing (zero) will always equal nothing (zero).
But since something is here, and since matter has not always been here, something non-material must have always existed. The very premise of materialism — that matter is all that exists — is flawed!
Even so, if we work on the premise that something can come from absolutely nothing (no God, no matter), could material life have spontaneously generated itself from that nothingness? Is it even capable of such a feat? Consider these points:
(1) Is it logical to believe that a non-existent thing can create itself, before it even is a thing? How could matter have created anything—let alone itself—when as yet it had neither the power nor the will to create (for it was still non-existent)? Such a view contravenes the law of causality (i.e., every material effect has a preceding cause), as well as the law of biogenesis (i.e., material life comes from pre-existing life).
(2) Experiments conducted by men such as Francesco Redi (1626-1697), Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799), and Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) prove that living matter (e.g. larva) is not created from non-living matter (e.g., a piece of meat). George Gaylord Simpson, a paleontologist and prominent advocate of macro-evolution, remarked that the work of these men demonstrated
“that spontaneous generation does not occur in any known case” (261, emp. added).
The notion that matter spontaneously created itself is absurdly unscientific.
(3) What’s more, the debunking of the steady-state theory has shown that no new matter is being created. This is consistent with the first law of thermodynamics, which indicates that matter cannot create itself.
In spite of this evidence, many materialists still irrationally cling to the belief that the material Universe simply popped into existence spontaneously, without cause and despite being impossible. Nobel-laureate, George Wald, in a seminal article which appeared in a 1954 edition of the Scientific American, admitted to the impossibility of spontaneous generation, but professed his belief in it nonetheless. He wrote:
“To make an organism demands the right substance in the right proportions and in the right arrangement. We do not think that anything more is needed — but that is problem enough…One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this talk to concede that the spontaneous generation of living organisms is impossible. Yet here we are—as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation…” (191:44-53; emp. added).
His refusal to accept the evidence falsifying spontaneous generation, he admitted, stems from the fact that he was “unwilling to accept” the only other possible explanation for the origin of life — viz., supernatural creation (ibid. 46)!
Molecular biologist and avowed materialist, Sir Francis Crick, wrote:
“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going” (88, emp. added).
Surely he meant more than a miracle, for even supernatural miracles have an adequate, antecedent cause (i.e. a miracle-maker)!
Moreover, the material Universe is characterized by order and complexity. The entropic principle suggests that the Universe is proceeding, not from chaos to order (as per the materialistic hypothesis), but from order to chaos. In other words, the Universe could not have started from a random, chaotic, disorganized “Big-Bang.”
Rather, whatever the nature of that initial “explosion” — that “flash of light and energy” — the Universe must have started out relatively organized, in an already-complex condition, before it began the slow thermodynamic process of expansion and disintegration. As physicist, Paul Davies, explains:
“Some scientists say, just throw energy at it and it will happen spontaneously. That is a little bit like saying: put a stick of dynamite under the pile of bricks, and bang, you’ve got a house! Of course you won’t have a house, you’ll just have a mess. The difficulty in trying to explain the origin of life is in accounting for how the elaborate organizational structure of these complex molecules came into existence spontaneously from a random input of energy. How did these very specific complex molecules assemble themselves?” (47-48).
Materialists suggest that, given enough time, it could happen! But as Dr. R.L. Wysong vividly put it:
“…it is conceivable that wind might blow a pile of toothpicks dumped from a picnic table into an arrangement resembling a model airplane. Given enough time, it could happen. But if that freak event does happen, would it remain if still subject to time and gale winds? Would it ever complexify? Isn’t time not only the creator, but more efficiently the enemy of the freak event? Will time not surely destroy the order fortuitously created? The creationist asks: ‘How then can time be actually cited as the very cause of the almost infinite complexity of life?’…The creationist argues that time is only a measure of natural decay. Time does not complexify, it does not originate or build up anything without a predesigned ‘motor,’ rather, it dissipates, degenerates, melts, dissolves and removes available energy” (139, 141-2).
In short, matter began. But matter could not have created itself. And even if self-created matter were possible, it could not have organized itself into the type of complex molecular structures which exist today. The naturalistic explanation for the origin of everything is thoroughly untenable.
A Supernatural Creator
Only one theorem remains. Since matter had a beginning, and since matter could not have created itself, it necessarily follows that a cause transcendent to matter created the Universe.
It is significant that, in recent decades, cosmologists are increasingly feeling the brunt of this conclusion. Penzias wrote that the data shows that we live in
“a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say "supernatural") plan. Thus, the observations of modern science seem to lead to the same conclusions as centuries-old intuition” (7-8; emp. added)
— i.e., creation beliefs.
In an earlier interview with the New York Times, he frankly admitted that
“the best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole” (Browne).
Astronomer and physicist, Arthur Eddington, who found the idea of God “repugnant,” nevertheless remarked that the origin of life
“seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural” (178; emp. added).
Our Universe must have had a supernatural origin.
However, while materialists are progressively concluding, based upon the empirical data, that the Universe must owe its existence to the supernatural (i.e., something beyond nature), they are still unwilling to admit God into their cosmic picture. Instead, they posit that, perhaps, a multiverse, which exists beyond our natural environment, without deity, might account for our accidental making. As Dr. Jeff Miller observes:
“A growing number of naturalists are, ironically, recognizing that there has to be something outside of nature to explain the existence of the Universe…In order to avoid admitting that a supernatural Being exists, the theory being invoked by a growing number of naturalists is that a supernatural (though apparently God-less) realm exists called the multiverse. This multiverse is thought to explain where matter, energy, the laws of physics, and even the “mysterious” examples of “fine-tuning” we see in the Universe came from, all without resorting to the existence of God as the explanation.”
However, this explanation also does not pass muster (see his excellent treatise, “7 Reasons the Multiverse Is Not A Valid Alternative To God”).
That aside, who is to say that the supernatural creator, to which the available evidence is pointing, must be the God of the Bible? Does the fact that the evidence indicates that matter was created by a non-material source necessarily mean that Jehovah is that non-material creative source?
While the evidence we have been exploring is consistent with Biblical creationism, it does not, by itself, demand it. Conversely, there are other pieces of evidence to consider, which lead to that conclusion, but, for now, that matter will have to be postponed.
The summary of this article is simply this: the combination of empirical science and logic yields the conclusion that the natural universe, which could not have begun itself, owes its existence to a supernatural (non-material) creator, just as the authors of the Bible reasoned long ago (cf. Rm. 1.19-20; Ps. 19.1; 14.1)!
Browne, Malcolm. "Clues to the Universe's Origin Expected." New York Times, Mar. 12, 1978, p. 1, col. 54. Crick, Francis. Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981. Davies, Paul and Phillip Addams. More Big Questions. Sydney, Australia: ABC Books, 1998. Eddington, Arthur. The Expanding Universe. New York: Macmillan, 1933. Hawking, Stephen. “The Beginning of Time,” Hawking.org.uk. Access date: October 18, 2018. http://www.hawking.org.uk/the-beginning-of-time.html Heeren, Fred. Show Me God: What The Message From Space Is Telling Us About God. Wheeling, IL: Daystar Productions, 1998. Hoyle, Fred. “A New Model for the Expanding Universe,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 108 (1948) 372. Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978. Jastrow, Robert. The Enchanted Loom: Mind in the Universe. Simon & Schuster, 1981. Miller, Jeff. “7 Reasons The Multiverse Is Not A Valid Alternative To God: Part 1.” ApologeticsPress.org. Access date: October 19, 2018. http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?article=5396 Penzias, Arno. “Thinking About the Universe" (Address by Dr. Arno A. Penzias on the occasion of being awarded the 1983 Joseph Handleman Prize in Science.) 57th Annual Convocation Jewish Academy of Arts & Sciences, May 11, 1983. Sagon, Carl. Cosmos. New York: Random House, 1980. Simpson, George G., C.S. Pittendrigh, L.H. Tiffany. Life: An Introduction to Biology. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1957. Walt, George. “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, 191:44-53, August 1954. Wysong, R.L. The Creation-Evolution Controversy. East Lansing, MI: Inquiry Press, 1976. Yockey, Hubert, Information Theory and Molecular Biology, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992.