Sciences Substitute 11
Possibly among the most distinctive honors a theoretical physicist may receive is an invitation to guest lecture at the Max Planck Institute of Theoretical Physics in Munich, Germany. Somewhat over a year ago, physicist Frank Tipler, a professor at Tulane University and a recognized cosmologist, received that invitation only to have it cancelled at the last moment because, it was observed, his views might damage the reputation of science. You see, Dr. Tipler had constructed, using mathematics and physics, a theoretical model of the universe. That, of course, was not objectionable, but in that model, he had suggested the existence of God, a resurrection, and such a thing as eternal life: that was objectionable!
We needn’t be surprised that the scientific community disdains trafficking in such topics. Scientific knowledge and, hence truth, is gleaned from what is observable in the physical world. Since God, resurrection, and eternal life are, in a very real sense, not subject to analysis in that physical world, such issues are dismissed as neither real nor, in fact, “truth”. But isn’t that the scriptural message? He, who is The Truth, is not to be known through the “wisdom of this world”: scientific truth is limited, then, to “things that are seen”.
The Word of God, in refreshing contrast, introduces us to truth embracing not only the physical world of “things that are seen” but, more importantly, the spiritual world of “things that are not seen”.
And that scriptural truth is absolute! Scientific “truth” as a body of information cannot be absolute since it is continually being redefined by new knowledge. So to understand the character of the God who is, to learn of the resurrection, eternal life, or creation; we turn not to a “theoretical model of the universe”, but to the absolute truth of the Word of God.
And it is in that context we return to the opening statement of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” As absolute truth we know it is true, it will always be true, and there are no contingencies which may render it not true. Why make such an obvious statement? Because when considering the age of the universe, that scripture is too easily compromised.
How old is the universe? Cosmologists will generally agree on a number somewhere between ten to twenty billion years of age. Is that number known with certainty from scientific experimentation? Not really. It’s a number compatible with a theory, the Big Bang Theory. Those numbers are only as reliable as the theory. And that theory, you will find, is not reliable.
Edwin Hubble is possibly even better known in scientific circles for a number called the Hubble Constant than for his namesake telescope. As a young astronomer working for the renowned Percival Lowell, Hubble noticed the red shift of galactic stars was proportional to their distance from earth. That was interpreted to mean the further removed a galaxy is from our position in the universe, the more quickly it is receding. The ratio of the galaxy’s velocity (speed) away from earth to its distance was discovered to be a constant number: the Hubble Constant. That constant is really a measure of the rate at which the universe is expanding. And that number is one of two critical pieces of information necessary to scientifically determine the age of the universe: the other piece of information is distance. A simple calculation then determines how long ago that expansion started in the “Big Bang”; that, purportedly, is the age of the universe.
So facts are facts and somehow the Big Bang Theory time scale must be fitted into the Genesis account of creation. No! We must understand that theory is as much an expression of a world view that excludes God as it is a scientific theory. A universe from which God has been excluded requires vast reaches of time to, in some nebulous way, make life, which is statistically impossible, possible. That is a glaring fact which surfaces repeatedly in interpretation of the fossil record, geologic strata, and radio isotopic dating, dates and taxons are continually compromised to accommodate a concept that excludes God. That concept, as you know, is evolution.
And this is precisely what happened when the Hubble Constant was first used in 1936 to peg the age of the universe at 1.8 billion years. That too recent date created a rather intense furor since it effectively attacked evolutionary theory: so those two numbers, distance and the Hubble Constant, were reworked to yield a more acceptable age. And in the mid 1990’s those numbers are still being reworked. As a prominent astrophysist was quoted in a recent Time Magazine article: “There are these two loopholes, though (in dating the universe): what’s the right distance, and what’s the right speed (away from earth).” In other words, the two pieces of information critical to dating the universe using “Big Bang” really aren’t known with certainty. And that is, in fact, at the heart of confusing results from recent research using the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers are struggling to explain a universe now indicated to be billions of years younger than some of the stars it contains!
Three other technical issues need to be addressed before returning to scriptural truth: the red shift itself, background radiation and Einstein’s field equations. You may recall from the previous article that the proper interpretation of the red shift is absolutely crucial to the Big Bang Theory. The same is true of cosmic background radiation and Einstein’s equations. If any of these has been interpreted incorrectly, the premier theory that excludes God from the universe, the requirement for those ‘billions of years”, and even, it is fair to say, the intellectual edifice of modern cosmology collapses.
Quasars, having the most dramatic red shift, are calculated using the Hubble Constant to be at the very edge of the universe. These objects, then, are normally used to date the universe. But that may be an Achilles/ Tendon of the Big Bang Theory. You see, quasars may radiate the energy of two thousand galaxies, travel almost at the speed of light, and yet be one ten-millionth the size of our galaxy. For something that size to radiate such energy from such a distance (even if driven by a black hole) is so inexplicable, some astrophysicists have challenged the meaning of that red shift. Probably the most damaging challenge to the accepted red shift interpretation is the recent observation of physically linked quasars that have significantly different red shifts. Also the existence of gravitational lenses has proven that gravity bends and elongates (red shifts) wavelengths of light. Then too, light travelling at right angles to us is also red shifted (Second Order Doppler Effect). And just recently, astronomers have had to counter another more direct challenge to the red shift interpretation called the Wolf Effect, which has also raised the possibility that the Big Bang never did occur.
As well, cosmic background radiation is another “double edged” sword to the Big Bang Theory. In simplest terms, it’s considered to be the afterglow of the “Big Bang”. But the apparent homogeniety of that radiation throughout space also implies a universe in equilibrium: an observation which seriously challenges “Big Bang”. Restated, exchange of energy cannot have taken place everywhere in a universe still expanding. The recent COBE satellite found background temperature variations throughout the universe of less than one part in ten thousand. This, especially with any red shifting effects, may still be interpreted as strong evidence against the Big Bang Theory. Oddly enough, that miniscule temperature variation observed is still promoted as one of the primary proofs of the “Big Bang”! What is observed is supposed to confirm the inflationary stage of “Big Bang” when space and forces expanded at 10, to a power of 20, times the speed of light!
The world renowned cosmologist, Steven Hawking, in his work, “The Large Scale Structure of Space Time”, coauthored with George Ellis, describes a philosophical principle which is really at the heart of interpreting Einstein’s space-time field equations. It is called the Copernican principle, and states, in effect, the universe is espacially homogeneous. Now that may be, but it hails from an atheistic mind set which assumes since randomness rules, earth is neither special nor in a special place in the universe, nor is there anything (including God and space) beyond this universe.
At this juncture, a degree of mental persistence will help the reader understand how science has constrained reason and revelation to surrender to mathematics. The Copernican principle translates to a mathematical “boundary condition” which, when applied to Einstein’s field equations, yields what is known as the Robertson Walker metric: an expression which mathematically models the “Big Bang”. A term in that metric defines the curvature of space and may mathematically have any of three values: -1, 0, or 1. For the -1 and 0 cases, space and matter “in the beginning” were inifinitely large and of almost infinitely high temperature and density. The case having the value of 1 defines the currently accepted “Big Bang” cosmology. The two scenarios are almost totally different from each other but mathematically permissible: the case using the value of I or positive curvature has been arbitrarily chosen.
Certainly, several more challenges to the theory might be addressed but that is not the purpose of this article. Students and parents of students, particularly, may often be unsettled knowing the Bible indicates a rather recent creation and, to the contrary “science” refers authoritatively to billions of years. Hopefully, the technical issues touched on have sufficiently indicated the premier theory that demands those “billions of years” is not impregnable science but, rather, an idea fraught with potentially fatal flaws. To feel a need to impose that theory’s time scale on Genesis is really a concession to the anti-God concept of evolution.
So if creation is more recent, how can light from stars billions of light years away be reaching us now? Space does not permit us to address that issue in detail, but highly qualified creationist authors have presented solid explanations. Probably the most intellectually appealing is the “white hole” cosmology from D. Humphreys, a Christian physicist at Sandia National Laboratories and whose book “Starlight and Tune” has been referenced in the above paragraphs. But in due respect to those authors, let us not assume that a God who created the complex miracle of life is not, somehow, able to create with the appearance of age. That is, trees in the Garden of Eden had tree rings, and stars and light were instantaneously in place the moment God created. To assume anything less is to diminish our appreciation of the infinite power of the God who created.
Are these issues all that important? To quote again from the Time Magazine article already referred to, “At stake are answers to some of the most fundamental questions facing humanity: What is the origin of the universe? What is its ultimate destiny?” We know, as believers in Christ, those questions are of even greater moment than the article implies, for failure to personally understand the spiritual import of those questions will mean a soul lost in hell eternally.
The Origin of the universe is the God who “created all things after the counsel of His own will”. The purpose of that creation is centered in His Son as is “its ultimate destiny” when “in the dispensation of the fulness of times He shall have gathered together all things in Christ,…in Him”. Those created heavens shall one day “be dissolved” and “changed as a vesture”. He shall remain. And, thrilling thought, so shall we who have been “created in Christ Jesus” to enjoy in coming ages “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
1. Anthony Liversidge, “Interview: Frank Tipler”, Omni 17 (October 1994); pp. 89-90.
2. M. D. Lemonick, J. M. Nash, “Unravelling Universe”, Tim 145 no. 9 (March 6, 1995); pp. 76-84.
3. D. R. Humphreys, Starlight and Time, (Colorado Springs, CO: Creation Life Pub., 1994); Appendix C.