# God, the expanding universe, and dark energy

1.  Could you convert the rate of expansion of the universe in everyday terms?  As an automotive engineer, I am very comfortable with units of ft or miles per second squared

2.  How much energy from God is infused into the universe every second in order to maintain the space energy density.

When I initially set out to answer J’s questions, I was just going to write a line or two giving the numerical answer for each one. But what fun is that? Instead, I decided to take you all down the rabbit hole with me, and get into the details of each of these questions. But if you just want to skip ahead to the answers, they’re highlighted at the end of each discussion.

Here we go…

1. First, a bit of context. In 1929, American astronomer Edwin Hubble presented evidence that galaxies are rushing away from one another, and that the speed with which they are rushing away is proportional to their redshift. This is interpreted to mean that the further away galaxies are, the faster they appear to be moving away, and this was the first physical evidence that our universe was not static and eternal, but dynamic and finite in time. The average rate at which galaxies are moving away from each other — called the Hubble constant — is a reasonable measure of the expansion rate of the universe, so we’ll use that to answer J’s question. The Hubble constant is about 70 km/s per megaparsec of space.

Now, I could just throw that number at you and convert the units to something more relatable and be done with it, but why do that when we have an opportunity to go into some nifty astronomical stuff? For instance, did you know astronomers don’t use light-years in their work? Light-years are used more for relating astronomical stuff to the general public. Instead, astronomers use parsecs, where one parsec equals 3.26 light-years. It may seem arbitrary, but there’s a sensible reason astronomers use this seemingly weird unit for distance. The answer lies in the definition of the word ‘parsec,’ which comes from ‘parallax’ and ‘arcsecond.’ Parallax is the apparent shifting of something in the foreground with respect to a very distant background. You can observe parallax by holding out your thumb and then observing it shift relative to stuff further away as you close one eye and then the other. This happens because your eyes are separated by a short distance. If you were able to adjust the distance between your eyes, you would notice more parallax the further apart you moved your eyes.

Based on the same principle, we observe parallax of nearby stars relative to much further stars as the Earth orbits around the Sun. When the Earth is on one side of the Sun, we can observe a nearby star relative to a particular background of stars. Six months later, when the Earth is on the other side of the Sun, we observe the same star relative to a different background of stars. This is rather useful in terms of measuring distances, because the further away something is, the less parallax you observe. And that leads to the definition of parsec: a parsec is the distance at which you would observe exactly 1 arcsecond of parallax as the Earth goes around the Sun.

And now I’ve introduced another term that needs to be explained. An arcsecond is a unit of angular size. When we look at objects and assess how large they are, we aren’t actually measuring linear sizes, but rather how big of an angle they subtend. The Moon in the sky, for instance, subtends a half a degree of ‘arc.’ That’s its size as far as our eyes and brains can measure it. If we have some idea of how far away it is, then our brains can translate that to a linear size. (Angular size + knowledge of distance + a bit of cogitation = “Wow, half a degree of arc and that thing is 240,000 miles away? It must be big!”) So then, what’s an arcsecond? Well, one degree of arc is divided up into 60 arcminutes, and each arcminute is divided up into 60 arcseconds. So, an arcsecond is 1/3600th of a degree, which seems awfully small until you realize that the smallest angle we can measure in astronomy is about one thousandth of that.

Let’s return to J’s question. We know the Hubble constant is about 70 km/s per megaparsec of space. Mega means million, so for every million parsecs of distance away from the Milky Way, space is observed to be expanding at a rate of 70 km/s. In more relatable terms, that translates to about 157,000 mph per 3.26 million light-years of space. More distant galaxies are seen to move faster simply because of their distance. I have my students do a little experiment to help visualize this. Take a thick rubber band, cut it and lay it out flat, and then draw some dots on it: one dot in the middle to represent the Milky Way, and then dots on the other side at various distances to represent other galaxies. As you stretch out the rubber band, the “rate” at which the other dots move from the MW dot depends on how far away they are, and the more distant ones do indeed expand faster than the closer ones.

A better way to get an idea of how fast the universe is expanding is to think of scale instead of proper distances. The scale is a rough guide to the distances between galaxies, which grows as the universe expands, but we don’t attach any units to it. Instead, we think about how long it takes the scale to double or triple or increase by a factor of 100 or whatever. Billions of years ago, when the universe was small in scale, it was doubling in scale very rapidly, but as the scale got much larger, it took longer and longer to double. The last time the universe doubled in scale, it took about 7 billion years. The next doubling will take much longer. Incidentally, this is the basis for reconciling a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 with a very old universe, as shown here. This is complicated a bit by the observation that the universe is accelerating in its expansion, and this leads to J’s next question.

Summary: The universe is expanding at a rate of about 157,000 mph per 3.26 million light-years of space.

2. Astrophysicists have proposed the existence of some mysterious, unseen form of energy in the universe to account for the speeding up of its expansion. They call this energy “dark energy,” and it has the peculiar property that its space density stays constant. Density is the amount of something per volume, so this means the amount of dark energy per volume of space never changes, even though the amount of space in the universe is increasing every moment. Think about how weird that is. That means the extra dark energy needed to keep the dark energy per volume constant as the universe expands has to come from somewhere. But where? I recently lectured about this to a group of Christians who were keen on science, and explained that this is consistent with scripture in which we are told that God sustains the universe (Heb 1:3, Col 1:17). When J heard this, he wanted to know how much energy per second God is injecting into the universe to maintain the constant dark energy density. So, let’s try to figure it out.

Even though dark energy is the dominant “stuff” of the universe, it’s extremely rarefied. It makes up 68% of the total of everything that’s in the universe, and yet its energy density is a paltry 10-9 joules for every cubic meter of space. The reason dark energy dominates the universe in spite of its low energy density is that space is HUGE — there’s an astronomical amount of cubic meters in space, so that paltry energy adds up to something big over large distances.

It turns out, we can’t answer J’s question directly, since we don’t know the total size of the universe. The universe could be finitely huge or infinitely huge; we simply don’t know. But we can estimate the amount of extra energy needed per second per megaparsec of space and use that to estimate how much extra energy is needed for the amount of the universe we can observe.

Remember that the Hubble constant, 70 km/s per megaparsec, tells us the rate of expansion. So, let’s first imagine a cubic chunk of space that’s a million parsecs on each side. Converting to more convenient units, this cosmic cube is 3.09 x 1022 meters on each side. This chunk of space is expanding at a rate of 70 km/s, which is 70,000 meters every second; this means every second, the chunk of space is gaining (3.09 x 1022 m + 70,000 m)3 – (3.09 x 1022 m)3, or 2 x 1050 cubic meters, in volume. If the space density of dark energy is 10-9 joules for every cubic meter, then each cubic megaparsec chunk of space is gaining an extra 2 x 1041 joules per second.

Let’s put that in relatable terms. One joule per second is known as a watt, a common household unit of power that you probably recognize from lightbulbs. So, let’s think of the extra energy injected into space every second in terms of watts. The Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona has three reactors with a total power output of about 4,000 megawatts. If we take 2 x 1041 watts and divide by that, we get 5 x 1031 nuclear power plants-worth of power for each of these million-parsec chunks of space. That’s a 5 with 31 zeroes after it. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Well, consider that the size of the observable universe is much larger than this hypothetical chunk of space, about 30 gigaparsecs in any direction, which means that that the total amount of energy per second added to the observable universe is equivalent to 1045 nuclear power plants. To complicate things a bit, this is the momentary increase in energy per second of the observable universe, since the universe is expanding every moment. And, oddly, this is kind of wimpy when you consider that the theoretical prediction for the space density of dark energy is about 30 orders of magnitude higher than what’s been measured, a mismatch that so far no one knows how to resolve.

Summary: The amount of energy that’s currently added to the observable universe per second to maintain a constant space density of dark energy is the equivalent output of 5 x 1045 nuclear power plants. That’s a billion-trillion-trillion-trillion nuclear plants.

I know I skipped over some stuff that probably has you scratching your head, like the idea that some mysterious form of unseen energy is pouring into our universe every second from who-knows-where and that God has something to do with it. This dark side of the universe, which includes another substance called dark matter, is a fascinating topic that, believe it or not, relates to Christian scripture. If this interests you, stay tuned. I’m in the process of writing a booklet on the topic, and plan to host an online seminar through my publisher sometime in the next year.

# Science needs Christianity to survive

Christians must realize that they need science in order to defeat atheism. But, what’s even more true is that science needs Christianity in order to survive. It has to be stated clearly that genuine and productive science cannot exist without Christianity.

The historical truth is that science was born of Christianity. All of the great pioneers in astronomy and physics were devout Christians, because modern science has been based from its beginning on uniquely Christian beliefs and faith. If Christianity had never existed, there would have been no science to lift humankind out of ignorance and barbarity.

Most atheists are not only ignorant of the true history of science; they make up their own history as in the totally false story of the alleged persecution of Galileo. Those few atheists who know and admit the truth about the origins of modern science would undoubtedly argue that science has outgrown its Christian roots. Richard Dawkins and other scientists-turned-professional-atheists argue that science has been liberated from Christianity, which is either a self-serving delusion or an outright lie. The one thing atheists are correct about is that Christianity has become a diminishing factor in science through the last few generations.

The loss of Christian guidance is distressing, because science cannot survive as a source of truth and useful knowledge without the preeminence of Christian values, beliefs, and faith. Individual humanists and other non-Christians can certainly do real science, but only in a Christian intellectual environment that inhibits the natural anti-scientific impulses of the human mind. Secular humanists see science as a human endeavor that must be in constant and unfailing service to humankind, which really means that science must be bent in service of humanist preconceptions of how the world should be.

True science can serve only one purpose — the search for truth. It is up to engineers, entrepreneurs, and others to use the results of science in ways that are beneficial to society. Scientists, however, can have only one guiding concern, and science is corrupted to the degree to which other concerns (wealth, reputation, and political power) motivate them. Christians as a group were never perfectly motivated by the desire for truth, but the Christian scientific community was effectively guided by that ambition. It is difficult for people who really believe that the scientific search for truth is an attempt to learn something about God to disappoint their God by allowing worldly concerns to get in the way of the search for divine truth.

The vitality and trustworthiness of science is in direct proportion to the Christian influence in a discipline and in inverse proportion to the influence of secular humanism. The following is a list of the major fields of sciences starting with those which have been most influenced by Christianity to those that have been least influenced:

• Physics and astronomy
• Chemistry
• Biology
• Medicine
• Climatology
• Social and behavioral studies

The above also serves as a list of scientific fields from the least corrupted by secular humanism to the most corrupted. It is ironic that humanists think of themselves as the great rational defenders of science, but in truth, the more influence secular humanism has in a discipline, the more it prevents real science from occurring.

Astronomy and astrophysics was for centuries the bastion of Christians trying to understand God through the study of His magnificent creation. Atheists supported astrophysics as long as its findings could be used to undermine Christian beliefs and faith. When the discovery of the big bang confirmed Christian scriptures and a new understanding of the exquisitely precise fine-tuning of our universe for intelligent life destroyed the atheists’ cherished principle of mediocracy, humanists abandoned genuine science and grabbed onto the quasi-scientific notion of the multiverse the way a drowning person clings to a life-preserver. Atheists will destroy astronomy and cosmology before they will accept any science that supports Christian beliefs and faith.

The corruption of science by secular humanism is far worse in biology, medicine, climatology, and the social and behavioral studies. Biology, climate science, and medicine have gone off the rails as secular humanists have infiltrated and appropriated them for humanist social and political purposes. The behavioral and social studies have been constant failures of science because humanist followers of Freud and Marx controlled them from the beginning.

Science can survive individual humanist scientists, but when a critical mass of humanism occurs in a discipline, all of the intellectual failings of the human race are let loose and the ancient barriers to knowledge that prevented science until the intellectual triumph of Christianity 400 years ago are once again raised. Humanism will always destroy everything it touches.

Articles will follow that demonstrate the corrupting humanist influence on science in biology, medicine, climatology, the social fields of study, and the study of individual human behavior.

# Bill Nye the ignorant guy

A philosophy student asks Bill Nye what he thinks about other science popularizers, such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking, dismissing philosophy as unimportant:

While Nye claims in his response that philosophy raises “cool questions,” he essentially dismisses it, and in a manner that betrays an ignorance of essential Western philosophy. A writer at Quark describes his statements as “ludicrously wrong” and explains why philosophy is, in fact, relevant not only to science but to our everyday lives.

What stood out to me in Nye’s dismissal of philosophy was his skepticism of the idea that “reality isn’t real or that what you sense and feel is not authentic.” Most of us do indeed go about our daily lives on the assumption that what we sense and feel is authentic, but that doesn’t mean we can dismiss the idea that it’s all an illusion. So, why does Nye dismiss it? Because he can drop a hammer on his foot and feel the sensation of pain.

I’m a little astonished that a Science Guy would use such an example to address one of the most fundamental questions in philosophy, given that it’s not only a logical fallacy, but demonstrably, scientifically flawed. Amputees experience a sensation known as phantom pain in limbs that no longer exist, and neurological experiments have been able to create the sensation of touch by directly stimulating the brain. The sensations exist in both cases, but are those experiences authentic? Not by Nye’s definition.

I’m also a little astonished that a Science Guy would ignore one of the most fundamental scientific arguments against the authenticity of experience, which is the Boltzmann Brain idea. The Boltzmann Brain idea is a version of the brain-in-a-vat argument that has been popularized by the Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig, who makes frequent use of it in debates with atheists. The idea is that in the absence of a personal entity creating the universe, it’s statistically much more likely that atoms in the universe would spontaneously arrange themselves into brains that hallucinate having experiences than that these same atoms would spontaneously arrange themselves into the vast, complex, and ordered structure we observe in the universe. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, if we are merely Boltzmann Brains, then the sensations we think we’re experiencing are nothing more than the atoms in our brains, for physical or chemical reasons, arranging themselves in a certain way that give us as a by-product these sensations. The question of whether this is the case goes beyond a simple inability to disprove it; it’s much more likely to be true if the material universe is all that there is.

The only way you can be reasonably certain that you’re not just a brain in a vat is to assume that a personal entity — God — created the universe, an assumption I’m reasonably certain Nye, the avowed agnostic, rejects. Nye is therefore entirely unjustified in dismissing the idea that reality might not be real or that experiences may not be authentic. This is why philosophers have been discussing the nature of reality and experience for thousands of years. It’s also why science could only have arisen from the Christian worldview.

Now, here’s the punchline for the agnostic Science Guy who dismisses the importance of philosophy in favor of the “realism” of science. When you understand the big questions of philosophy sufficiently well, you understand why belief in God is necessary for science to even exist.

# Is God’s word difficult to understand? Part II

A reader sent in a question about the difficulty of understanding God’s word. In Part I, Surak clarified and explained how easy it is for the average Christian to acquire the scientific understanding needed to defend scripture. In Part II, Sarah discusses the inherent difficulty (or not) of understanding God’s word.

TF writes:

I had a question, but wanted to let you know first that I stumbled upon your website when I read Sarah Salviander’s testimony and watched the well-done slideshow that accompanied it.  I then read the website’s FAQ, several articles, and lots of comments over several weeks.

After reading more than I thought I would, I have a question that keeps nagging at me:  Is truth hard to understand or easy?  I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination (I’m a pastor) but I’ve always loved science, especially when I can connect the dots between my faith and God’s creation.  For most of my life, I’ve held a pretty simplistic view of our world as a result of reading God’s Word, but after substantial reading on your website I feel like my head is going to explode :)  I don’t know if I agree with all of it, but most of it is fascinating and really well-thought out/researched.  My problem is that it is so hard for a person like me to understand (and I think I’m on the average part of the intelligence scale so the majority of the population would be in the same boat as I am).

So would God make the truth about his creation so complicated that only someone well versed in relativity, Hebrew translations, genetics, and 5 or 6 other fields of study could understand it?  Or would God make the truth about his creation simple enough for all to understand?

I’m not saying God is simple or easy to understand or that he wouldn’t want to give us lots of things for even the most intelligent people to discover and ponder over a lifetime, but wouldn’t God make truths as foundational as “where we come from” and “how this world was created” accessible to everyone rather than just a tiny percentage of super intelligent people?

If the truth of creation is as complicated as what it is on your website, I’m afraid I have no chance of ever explaining it to anyone.  If that is the case, then it seems like God made the truth of creation hard to understand and left most people hopelessly in the dark.  Or have we complicated things and there is a truth that is easier for all to access?

When Jesus (who was the embodiment of all God’s truth/love/mercy/etc.) came he was accessible to all, not just the most intelligent, wise, pious, powerful, etc.  He made God’s truth intelligible to even the poor, uneducated of his day, so I tend to think that God would make an important truth like creation accessible to someone as average as me as well.

So what do you think – is the truth (about creation) hard to understand or easy to understand?  And why?

My response to TF and everyone else who shares his concern is this. How much effort a person has to make to understand the scientific truth about God’s creation depends on two things. First, if someone wants to understand just for himself, the truth is really simple: the opening statement of the Bible and modern scientific agree that our universe had a beginning and was created from nothing. That magnificent truth gained from scripture and confirmed by science is enough understanding to make sense out of the world and our place in it. Everything else is just details.

However, if you aspire to help others find the scientific truth about God and his works, you will have to make a greater effort, because there are many questions about the universe that confuse and trouble other people. As soon as you try to help these people, you will encounter the second problem that makes understanding more difficult. Those who accept the responsibility to scientifically minister to others will encounter individuals and groups who deliberately make understanding more difficult for everyone.

I once spent a frustrating two hours watching a debate between Hugh Ross and Kent Hovind, and much of the discussion centered around this very question. Hugh Ross is a Christian astrophysicist who believes, as I do, that the universe and the Earth are billions of years old. Kent Hovind is a Young-Earth Creationist who claims the Bible says the Earth is just a few thousand years old. The debate centered on the age of the Earth, and how we know what it is.

Hovind stubbornly rejected nearly everything Ross offered as evidence. As a scientist, I can tell you that the evidence Ross offered was scientifically sound and compelling. In fact, Ross’s work is on the cutting edge of scientific efforts to understand the place of humankind in the universe God created. But, Hovind rejected the evidence out of hand and showed no respect for modern science.

One point Hovind repeatedly insisted on during the debate was that people in possession of what he called “special knowledge: about scripture and the world are gurus who are promoting cults, not Christian faith. Hovind implied Ross is a “guru” promoting a “cult” form of Christianity simply because Ross relies heavily on scientific understanding and careful translations of ancient Hebrew to interpret Genesis the way he does.

It is troubling that Hovind regards the study of God’s creation and the study of God’s word in the Old Testament as somehow wrong. His attitude is reminiscent of the Medieval age when science was first getting started, and dogmatic people accused the new scientists of sorcery and witchcraft for their efforts to understand physics, chemistry, and biology. Hovind’s resistance to science has a very primitive feel to it.

Hovind must know that a “guru” is someone who claims to have special knowledge that only they can achieve through some higher spiritual power. The special knowledge of a guru can only be passed down in mystic ways from one guru to the next. The claims of a scholar or scientist are in sharp contrast to those of a guru. The deep knowledge of a scholar is something that is attainable by anyone who has the inclination and time to pursue it — no special spiritual powers are required. Scientific knowledge is something that can be accumulated and passed on from one scholar to another in a rational, testable, non-mystical manner.

I don’t believe TF is making the same point Hovind did, that the knowledge needed to interpret Genesis the way I do is “special.” Hovind is intellectually dishonest, and he was not debating in good faith. He demonstrated no openness to being persuaded by any amount of evidence. On the contrary, he used any means he could to undermine and dismiss the evidence. Science has served humankind so well because it has one ironclad rule — go where the evidence takes you. Hovind is not willing.

I know that TF is asking an honest and important question: is the truth of the Bible accessible to everyone? After all, not everyone has the deep, scholarly knowledge required to discover Schroeder’s interpretation of Genesis or to fully understand it. Does this mean the truth of creation is complex and hard to understand? The answer is both yes and no. I’ll start with the no and then explain the yes.

The truth of creation is not difficult to understand

The essential and fundamental truth of creation is not difficult to understand. God makes the essentials — the things you really need to know to be saved — understandable by everyone. These essentials are:

1. God is the sovereign Creator of all things.
2. Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and through Him we have eternal life.

There is, of course, much more that can be said about the meaning and purpose of the Christian faith, but if a person understood only these two essentials and really believed them, that’s all he would need to be saved.

In terms of the first essential, all a person has to do is read the first few words of the Bible to understand that God is the sovereign Creator of all things: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That’s it. But it’s such a simple and self-evident concept that a person doesn’t even strictly need a Bible to come to this conclusion.

In my testimony, I explained how, despite virtually no contact with the Christian faith, I arrived at the conclusion that God created everything all on my own, just by looking at the physical world around me. Everything we see in the physical world is testimony to God’s sovereignty. (This is straight out of Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20.)

And, if a person reads a little bit about astronomy and physics, he will find that even the simplest understanding of big bang cosmology is sufficient to support the idea of God as the sovereign Creator. The big bang tells us there was a beginning to the universe, therefore it was created. The Creator logically must exist beyond the universe, must necessarily be beyond the limits of space and time, and is therefore a non-corporeal and timeless entity — is that not a basic description of God? A person doesn’t need a degree in physics or fluency in Hebrew to understand the profoundest truth about God and His creation.

As for the second essential, all we have to do is read the Gospels to understand it. As TF pointed out, Jesus made the truth intelligible to everyone. At the most fundamental level, these two essentials are what a Christian needs to know, and both are completely understandable by anyone.

The truth of creation is difficult to understand

So, if the essentials are all we need to be saved, why bother to search for hidden meanings or deeper truths in scripture, especially if they’re so difficult? The answer is that we make the effort in order to fulfill our Christian mission of growing closer to God. God wants us to make a constant effort to know him, so he challenges us. Knowing God should be a lifelong pursuit. Most of us know from experience that the more valuable a thing, the more difficult it is to attain.

God made his truth very simple when it comes to understanding our relationship to him and how we are to be saved. But, God also made us curious for a reason. People should be most curious about their maker. It is important that we always have questions about him as we are seeking him. People need to feel restless about their understanding of God to avoid becoming complacent. We should never become so arrogant that we feel we’ve reached some ultimate level of understanding. Our lack of understanding reminds us to be humble before our Creator.

Christian author, Frank Viola, listed several “shocking” beliefs of St. Augustine, and this one is relevant here: “If you are going to teach Scripture, you must have a knowledge of the natural world, mathematics, music, science, history, the liberal arts, and a mastery of dialectics (the science of disputing).” This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert in all of these things (which is impossible anyway), but it does mean you are obligated to have a broad knowledge that encompasses these things.

The study of the Bible and the world is more difficult for those who aspire to teach others. Ministering to others is a great calling and a heavy responsibility that requires one’s best efforts. Fortunately, it doesn’t require a lifetime of university-level study, but it does require some basic proficiency.

There was a time when I wanted to become proficient in ancient Hebrew so that I could really delve into Genesis, but I soon realized I have neither the time nor the inclination. Instead, I rely on the work of Hebrew scholars to determine the nuanced meaning of certain Hebrew passages. This doesn’t mean I’m off the hook — this still requires familiarizing myself with the basics of Hebrew and the methods scholars use to determine meaning from ancient texts. Even though I will never become anywhere near as proficient as someone like Gleason Archer, I’ve learned enough to evaluate the credibility of what the scholars are saying.

Some people balk at the idea of relying on experts, but the way I see it is this. God gave us Biblical scholars and scientists, just as God gave us engineers, physicians, craftsmen, musicians, storytellers, and every other type of person we need to have a functioning civilization. These are people who have the desire and God-given talent for doing specific things very well so that we don’t each have to try to master everything ourselves.

God made us into social beings for this reason. We are admonished to love one another, and part of loving is trusting each other and working together. So, I accept the honest efforts of other scientists and scholars and do my best to build on it. I know that people are fallible in their understanding of scripture and the world, but in general scientists help each other to correct mistakes and make steady progress in the search for God’s truth.

So my message to TF and all of those who doubt their ability to understand God and his works through science is this. You have willingly taken on the role of a teacher. God loves you for your honest question and your genuine desire to know. Your lack of confidence in the face of such a great challenge is understandable, but you cannot fail as long as you keep trying. Every step on the path to understanding God and his works is a triumph. It is a testimony to your commitment that you will never know enough to satisfy your desire to know God. It is enough that you will be able to help others who share your holy desire.

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. — Proverbs 25:2.

# Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the scientific method in terms of the gospels and one beginning.

PS writes:

Thanks for taking time to answer my questions. I find the Biblical notion of the Gospel very intriguing, as well as current notions within the field of cosmology.

1. When doing science, we employ the scientific method to arrive at a particular degree of certainty for a given problem. How does belief in Jesus differ? Are we to use the same scientific method when assessing the veracity of the Gospel? Or is there another method, rigorously defined and assessed, that we can employ?

2. To what degree of certainty does the average professional cosmologist think space/time had a single beginning? I think I’ve noted that cosmologist who actually study this notion are not very dogmatic.

3. What percentage of actual cosmologists hold to a high degree of certainty (95%?) that space/time had a single beginning?

4. What degree of certainty do you have that the Gospel is true? Is it possible for you to change your mind in the future?

Sorry if these are tough questions, but I’ve been very curious about these notions for a long time.

The eminent cosmologist and professor of philosophy, Michael Heller, points out in his book, Ultimate Explanations of the Universe, that the scientific method has proved so powerful a tool for investigating the physical world that there is a tendency to misapply it by extending its use to anything a person might wish to study. However, the scientific method is not only not applicable to everything we could ever want to investigate, it’s not even applicable to the majority of things we could ever want to investigate.

1. The scientific method is not applicable to the gospels. We couldn’t use science to test them any more than we could use science to test the historical claims about George Washington or Alexander the Great. Instead, we apply the legal-historical method to determine if the claims about Jesus in the gospels are true. My friend, J. Warner Wallace, who is a homicide detective and skilled apologist, explains this approach in his book, Cold Case Christianity.

2. Presumably PS is referring to a cyclical model in which the universe bangs, expands, contracts, and crunches, over and over, possibly for eternity, but the question isn’t answerable as written. We can assign a certainty to something like the measured age of the universe, but not to something that is beyond our ability to measure. Theoretical cosmologists have attempted to come up with models that take the current physical evidence and fit it into a cyclical timeline, and these do have some testable aspects. In terms of the physical evidence, however, there is no support for multiple beginnings, and the models just don’t work. It looks like we’re stuck with one beginning.

3. I have no idea. But, as the link above shows, the best and the brightest in theoretical cosmology have not been able to make cyclical models work. In terms of the models and evidence, the cyclical universe is currently a dead end. That doesn’t mean some cosmologists won’t hold to it for personal or philosophical reasons.

4. I can’t quantify it, but I’m as certain about the claims of the gospels as I am of the claims about other major historical events that are widely accepted, which is to say very certain. Enough to bet my life on it. It’s always possible for me to change my mind about something, given sufficient evidence.

Image: Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch

# He is risen!

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

John 20:11-18

# Fire Back: Where the Readers Respond

In which we discuss the timeline of Genesis events and why so many Christians believe in a young universe.

When you say that for God the Gen. 1 events unfold over six literal days, does this mean six twenty-four hour periods? If the earth is 4.5 billion years old (which I accept because I don’t think the Bible tells us so we should instead look to those with expertise in the field) how long should we envisage humans as occupying the planet? Were there epochs of other animal life prior to humans? Do you believe God used the evolutionary process or created humans like we now see them? Finally, why do so many Christians believe and argue so adamantly that the universe is 6,000 years old?

Gerald Schroeder, in his book The Science of God, elegantly makes the case for a 14 billion year-old universe that is developed over the course of six literal 24-hour periods. Genesis 1 does not explicitly state that the six days of Genesis are literal 24-hour periods, but it can be inferred from other passages in scripture that make reference to Genesis 1. Schroeder admits that this assumption is the one part of his argument that is subjective, but since the great Genesis commentator, Nahmanides, inferred it that way, this is what Schroeder chooses.

Biology is not my area of expertise, but I’m reasonably confident of the following. Homo sapiens has been around for about 200,000 years. Bacteria first appeared on Earth almost immediately (in geological terms) after the appearance of liquid water, a few billion years ago; animal life exploded well before humans appeared, about 500 million years ago in what’s aptly called the Cambrian explosion.

There is little doubt in my mind that what eventually became human lifeforms — I’ll refer to them as hominids — arose through some natural, but God-designed, process. Darwinian evolution has effectively been ruled out as the process, and nobody really knows what the actual process of the development of life is, but there are some interesting hints from a field of biology called “evo devo.” Anyway, the great biblical commentators, Maimonides and Nahmanides, had no problem accepting the idea that hominids predated Adam. These hominids were physically identical to Adam in terms of physiology, but lacked the neshama, the human soul. Schroeder talks about the process whereby God took a preexisting hominid and breathed the neshama into it to create Adam. In my mind, this is the most reasonable inference from scripture, and resolves some major problems with the young earth creationist view.

As for why so many Christians insist on a young universe, I am still trying to figure that out. Some of my Christian colleagues say it is because young earth creationism is primarily what’s taught in seminary, and it gets passed down to church members. I don’t know how much truth there is in that. I sense that a lot of it is pushback against atheist misuse of science, which is really unfortunate and completely unnecessary.

# The physics of miracles: thermodynamics

Miracles are part of Christian tradition that are often ridiculed by atheists. The claim is that God or one of God’s agents does the impossible, and impossible things never happen, because they defy the laws of nature, so why do you believe in something as nonsensical as miracles?

But is that really what all miracles are — defying the laws of nature and doing the impossible?

Before we get into the physics, let’s first go to scripture to see how miracles are defined. (Generally speaking, in any argument with atheists over something in scripture, the first thing you should do is carefully study the relevant passages to see what the actual claim is. Atheists almost always get it wrong.)

There are two Hebrew words translated as ‘miracle’ in the Old Testament. They are

• oth: this word refers to a sign. The purpose of this sort of miracle is to draw people’s attention to God. (e.g. Exodus 12:13)
• mopheth: this word refers to a wonder and is often used together with oth (signs and wonders). The purpose of this sort of miracle is to display God’s power. (e.g. Exodus 7:3)

The Greek counterparts in the New Testament are

• semeion: this word refers to a sign, and is used to describe acts that are evidence of divine authority, usually something that goes against the usual course of nature (e.g. John 2:11)
• teras: this word refers to a wonder, and is used to describe something that causes a person to marvel (e.g. Acts 2:22)

There are two additional words used for miracle in the New Testament:

• dunamis: this word refers to an act that is supernatural in origin (e.g. Mark 6:2)
• ergon: this word means “work,” as in the works of Jesus (e.g. Matthew 11:2) (interestingly, ergon is the Greek word from which the unit of energy, erg, is derived)

Is it possible to square some miracles with the laws of nature without detracting from their wondrousness? I believe the answer is yes, based on two branches of physics: thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. In this first part, I’ll discuss miracles from the perspective of thermodynamics, the branch of physics that deals with heat, energy, and work.

What follows is more properly described as statistical mechanics, or statistical thermodynamics, but you don’t need to get hung up terms. This field of study deals with predictions about the behavior of systems with enormous numbers of particles. These numbers are so huge that no one could be absolutely certain about any predictions, but this is where statistics come to the rescue. You can make statistical predictions about systems of particles, and, as you’ll see, the more particles you’re dealing with, the more accurate the predictions become. And, interestingly, this is precisely what permits miracles that do not violate the laws of nature.

The laws of nature permit a lot more than most people realize. In our everyday lives, we don’t usually define common sense expectations in terms of probabilities, but that’s often precisely what common sense is. In thermodynamics, that which constitutes our everyday expectation in any given situation is what’s referred to as the most probable state of a system.

To see what I mean, let’s consider a room with air in it, and imagine that we divide the room into two equal parts. We’ll also imagine this room and the air molecules comprise a closed system: the room has been effectively sealed off with its doors and windows closed for several hours, with no energy or air added to or removed from it. This means the room has had time for the air particles to jostle around and distribute themselves randomly. What we expect when we walk into the room is that the air molecules will be relatively evenly distributed throughout the room with approximately the same number of molecules on either side. What we don’t expect is that all of the air molecules will be on one side of the room with a vacuum on the other side. Most of you probably couldn’t explain why you’d be astonished to find all of the air on just one side of the room — you intuitively sense that this would be extremely odd — but there is a sound reason for this expectation that is rooted in probability.

Let’s construct what scientists call a toy model, which is a very simplified example of a situation you wish to study, in order to understand the fundamentals. Our toy model consists of a room divided in half with only two air molecules in it, an oxygen molecule and a nitrogen molecule. Here are the possible arrangements of these molecules:

Each possible arrangement is called a “state” of the room. We see that there are four possible states for the room. There are two states in which the air molecules are distributed evenly in the room, and two in which both of the air molecules are on one side of the room. The probability of finding a room in a state in which both molecules are on one side of the room is 2 out of 4, or 50%.

Easy enough. But things start to change quickly the more particles we add. Let’s see what happens when we double the number of molecules to four — one nitrogen, one oxygen, one argon, and one carbon dioxide.

As you can see, there are a total of 16 possible states for the room. Again, there are only two states in which the air molecules are on one side of the room, but now there are many more total possible states than before. The probability of all four molecules spontaneously arranging themselves on one side of the room is 2 out of 16, or 12.5%. This is a lot less probable than in the previous example, but not so low that you would be astonished to find all of the air molecules on one side of the room.

Based on this toy model, we can write the mathematical expression for the total number of possible arrangements of air molecules in a two-sided room as

total # of states = (2 sides of the room)# of molecules

or

2N

That’s 2 raised to the power of the number of molecules. For the two-molecule example, that’s 22 = 4, and for the four-molecule example, that’s 24 = 16.

Let’s consider a room with N = 100 air molecules in it, and calculate the probability of finding all of the molecules on one side of the room:

total # of permutations = 2100 = 1030

Even with a paltry 100 air molecules in the room, the probability of finding them all on one side of the room is a minuscule 2 out of 1030 possible permutations. Let’s put this in perspective. If the air molecules randomly redistributed themselves every second, you’d have to wait a trillion lifetimes of the universe before you’d have a reasonable expectation of finding all 100 air molecules on one side of the room.

Let’s now consider a typical room, which has N = 1027 air molecules in it. That number is a 1 with 27 zeroes after it

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

or a billion billion billion.

The total number of possible arrangements of the air molecules in a room divided into two equal parts is

2N = 21027

or 2 raised to the power of a billion billion billion. It’s an absurdly large number.

There are still only two possible ways for all of the air molecules to be on one side of the room or the other, so the probability of finding a room in a state in which all of the air molecules are, by random chance, on one side of the room or the other is 2 out of 21027. To say that this is an extremely improbable state is beyond understatement.

In fact, by any reasonable definition, we can say that it’s effectively impossible for the air molecules in a room to spontaneously arrange themselves to be on just one side of the room. But notice that it’s not strictly impossible. The probability of finding the air molecules on one side of the room by chance is extremely, extremely low, so low that we would never expect it to happen in the normal course of nature, but the probability is not precisely zero.

This toy model neglects other important physical effects, but it suffices to demonstrate the point that a lot of physical systems are largely governed by probabilities. Personally, I think this is how God has built leeway into the system of the universe to do the seemingly impossible in the natural world without violating the laws of nature. It is God, or an agent of God, doing what is effectively impossible, i.e. impossible for us, but not strictly impossible, and certainly not impossible for God.

Let’s consider a biblical example — the parting of the Red Sea. In Exodus 14, Moses is described as stretching out his hand at God’s command and parting the Red Sea so that the millions of people of Israel could cross it and escape from the pursuing Egyptians. This is referenced later in Deuteronomy 26:8 as one of the “signs and wonders” (oth and mopheth) God used to display his power and free Israel from Egypt. The probability of finding the waters of the Red Sea spontaneously parting on their own would be as exceptionally low as in our example of the air molecules in the room spontaneously arranging themselves on just one side. It’s so low that we would never expect it to happen in the usual course of nature, but, as we saw in the example of air molecules, it’s not strictly impossible.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not: a) claiming that all physical miracles have a foundation in probability — the miracle (semeion) of Jesus turning water into wine would involve a different physical mechanism than that illustrated by statistical thermodynamics; b) claiming that all miracles are physical in character; or c) attempting to explain miracles in a way that detracts from their miraculousness. That physical miracles could fit into the natural framework of the universe makes them no less wondrous than if they defied the laws of nature. Think of it this way. It’s not strictly impossible for you to win the Mega Millions lottery four times in a row — the probability is approximately 1 out of 1025, about 100,000 times more probable than finding 100 air molecules on one side of a room. However, the odds are so overwhelmingly against it that it no one would believe it happened without someone intervening in the system to force this outcome. Isn’t that what we’re talking about with miracles?

According to the laws of physics, a miracle like parting the Red Sea does not violate the laws of nature, it just requires a far greater power over the forces of nature than we humans could ever have.

In the next part, I’ll look at miracles from the perspective of the weird and wondrous world of quantum mechanics.

Since posting, I’ve lightly edited this article for clarification of two points: 1) not all physical miracles are probabilistic in nature; and 2) not all miracles are physical in character. Some miracles described in the Bible, such as the creation of the universe, the creation of the nefesh (animal soul) and the neshama (human soul), and Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, are entirely supernatural in character.

Parting of the Red Sea image credit: The Swordbearer.

# Science as true worship, Part III

In Part I of this series, Sarah talked about the Christian influence on the philosophy of science and the increasing corruption of science the further it moves from its Christian roots. In Part II, she discussed how to avoid this corruption. In Part III, Surak delves into where science has dangerously strayed from the pursuit of truth.

Modern science arose in only one time and place: Western Europe, during its peak as the realm of Christendom. Science as an institution is the result of cultures based on Christian beliefs, values, and faith. No other belief system or culture that has ever existed has proven itself capable of originating or sustaining science. With the collapse of Christian culture in Western Europe and North America, one of the most urgent questions mankind faces is whether or not there is any hope that some emerging belief system or culture other than Christianity can effectively support the continued scientific search for knowledge.

The evidence says no. The only likely candidate for the next cultural champion of science is the secular humanist culture that has replaced Christian culture in Western Europe and Canada, and is currently locked in a winner-take-all struggle with Christian culture in the United States. Secular humanists constantly congratulate themselves on how scientifically superior they are to Christians, but the evidence leaves no doubt that humanists have done nothing but corrupt science in the fields of study they’ve dominated for the last century and a half. Let’s examine them.

Biology

It was inevitable that Darwin would get lots of things wrong. He was a scientific pioneer who came up with his theory before the first major work was done on dinosaur fossils, so he couldn’t have known about the profound effects natural catastrophes had on the development of life on earth. He wrote his books before the discovery of the Burgess Shale fossils that led to the discovery of the Cambrian Explosion of animal life about 540 million years ago. All of the fossil evidence uncovered since the publication of Origin of Species has destroyed Darwin’s primary conjecture of a gradual evolution of life on earth, as the modern biologist Niles Eldredge made very clear to his fellow biologists in the early 1970s.

Darwin also formulated his theory long before all of the great advances in the field of genetics. The most recent discoveries in the new field of Evolutionary Development (Evo Devo), which combines the study of embryology with the study of evolution, has utterly destroyed the Neo-Darwinian notion of the ‘tree of life.’

None of this has been publicly admitted by biologists, because biology is no longer a faithful servant of science. Biology’s first loyalty is to the militantly missionary faith of atheistic secular humanism. Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s original arch defender, initiated the use of evolution theory to attack the beliefs and influence of Christianity even though he did not believe in two key parts of Darwinism: gradualism and natural selection. Huxley rightly pointed out to his friend and colleague that there was no evidence for these necessary elements of early evolutionary theory. Darwin countered that people should be patient because as yet undiscovered fossil evidence was sure to confirm his hypotheses. The fossil and genetic evidence has done just the opposite, but humanists dogmatically oppose any challenge to Darwin’s beliefs because he has been anointed as one of the three great prophets of atheistic humanism.

There is a simple way to test this assertion. Find a professional biologist and try to get him to say the following, “Darwin was wrong about most things.” This statement is undeniably true. Darwin was a true scientist worthy of honor, and a case can be made that Darwin’s contributions in the field of biology are equal to those of Copernicus in astrophysics. But, physicists have no problem giving Copernicus credit for his immense contribution to modern science while fully accepting and publicly acknowledging that he was wrong about a lot of things. Biologists who cannot or will not make a similar public statement about Darwin’s limitations because of their opposition to Christianity are not true scientists, they are apologists for atheism who are corrupting science.

Behavioral Science

The effects of secular humanism are even worse than the corruption of an existing science such as biology. Secular humanism has proven to be an absolute barrier to new science. The other two prophets of atheistic humanism, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, are truly disturbing examples of the deadening effects of humanism on science.

Marx’s so-called ‘scientific socialism’ was dominant for generations in the social sciences. The application of truly scientific beliefs based on Christianity led to genuine science, the Industrial Revolutions, and the rise of governments based on the observance of human rights. Efforts to reform societies according to Marx’s atheistic ‘science’ led to the horrendous death, destruction, and inhumanity of the communist movement. It is truly appalling that after such complete theoretical and practical failure, Marxism is still influential on America’s college campuses.

Freud, the other great prophet of atheism, dominated the study of individual behavior from the beginning of the 20th century. Freud was a charlatan who couldn’t even cure himself or offer any credible evidence for his beliefs. He gained his immense power over behavioral science by simply telling humanists what they wanted to hear — that Christianity is bad. His influence and that of many other atheist intellectuals has prevented psychology from becoming a true science. Again, if you doubt this, ask yourself, “Where are the great accomplishments of the behavioral sciences?”

Around the time Marx and Darwin were becoming influential, true scientists in the field of medicine were developing the germ theory of disease. Through the work of genuine scientists, such as the devoutly Christian Louis Pasteur, medical science has saved and improved countless millions of lives through advances in sterilization and immunology. If psychology, sociology, economics, and the other behavioral disciplines had become true sciences, there would be similar scientific accomplishments and benefits to humankind by now. There is a reason that emotional disorders like chronic depression cannot be prevented or cured, and that reason is, psychology is not yet a true science. It will never be a true science as long as the study of human behavior is dominated by humanists who consistently bend science in their pursuit of social influence and political power.

Humanists will never renounce the three greatest prophets of atheism, because Darwinism, Marxism, and Freudianism form the dogmatic foundation of the secular anti-Christian belief system. Darwin is used to argue that God is not necessary. Freud gave a thin scientific veneer to the atheist lie that Christian values constitute unhealthy restrictions on human desires. Marx justified an all-out assault on Christian culture by falsely characterizing it as an intolerable oppression of the masses. The behavioral disciplines will only become true sciences if secular humanism is overthrown and the barriers to truth that humanism has built over the last fifteen decades are torn down.

Climate Change

The corrupting influence of humanism on science is getting worse. The failed science of climate change demonstrates that not only does humanism stand in the way of science, it is diverting humankind in the direction of collective insanity.

The first clue that something was terribly wrong in the study of ‘global warming’ was the assertion that the science is settled. No true scientist would ever utter or condone such a blatantly anti-scientific statement. Science is never settled! It will never be settled unless people someday achieve a god-like understanding of the world in which they exist. The greatest scientists in the study of physics understand this and would recoil in disgust at any suggestion that the great questions in the fields of astrophysics or quantum mechanics are settled. Any person who makes such a statement or agrees with it is a dangerous enemy of science.

Climate change alarmists constantly disregard the basic law of science, which is to go where the evidence takes you no matter what. They violate the rule, because humanist political goals are more important to them than the search for truth, which Christians hold as sacred. Climate change activists posing as scientists have ignored the evidence about global temperatures from satellites that shows no global warming for almost two decades, they’ve ignored the evidence about global temperatures from weather balloons that confirms the satellite evidence, and they have been caught shamelessly manipulating the ground station evidence so that it conforms to their failed climate models.

Christian beliefs, values, and faith lifted the majority of mankind out of ignorance, squalor, and tyranny through genuine science, the Industrial Revolutions, and the pursuit of human rights. At the beginning of the 20th century about three-quarters of the world’s population lived in abject poverty. At the end of the century only about one-quarter of humanity remained in poverty. The world economy fueled by fossil sources of energy and fired by the Christian scientific spirit could put an end to poverty by the middle of the 21st century if current economic trends are allowed to continue.

The stark reality that mankind should be focused on is the estimated 18 million people around the world who still die as a result of poverty each year. If humanists succeed in stopping economic growth by restricting the use of fossil fuels, over a half billion people could die needlessly of poverty by 2050. Climate alarmists have expressed no concern about these hundreds of millions of victims of poverty. Instead the anti-scientists of the global warming crusade obsess about saving polar bears and preventing a modest rise in sea levels, which even if it occurred would pose only a relatively mild inconvenience to nations free of poverty. It is truly insane to believe that science has achieved the ability to control the climate of the world. It is nowhere near that goal. It is absolutely insane to stop the economic progress that is benefitting billions of people in order to prevent mythical hazards. We can only hope that the evidence that refutes climate change theory becomes so overwhelming that it will be impossible to ignore.

Christians have allowed themselves to become alienated from the science generated by Christian beliefs and faith. There is no past or foreseeable alternative to Christian culture as the champion of science. The humanist corruption of, resistance to, and abuse of science must be ended. Christians have to take back science and turn it back into the search for God’s truth.