Archive for the ‘Astronomy/Cosmology Related’ Category

dark matter matters

There is a general consensus among layman that science is superior over religion because science deals with fact, and religion relies on faith. Granted, science is mostly driven by observable data. But the conclusions often made by scientists are matters of presupposed world views which often hinge on a form of faith. A popular example is the multiple universe (multi-verse) theory which attempts to explain the fine tuning of our universe by proposing an uncountable number of other universes. Though this multi-verse can never be known, since obtaining evidence of it is impossible, many scientists still adhere to it. This adherence is not because of direct evidence but because of their underlying philosophy that there is no supernatural, only the natural. Thus these scientists essentially have faith in something that cannot be proven because their world view requires it. Similar to the theist’s worldview which requires God.

Recently I’ve noticed there is a somewhat parallel situation with dark matter. Dark matter in the universe is not directly observable, but its effects can be inferred. I believe one can make the argument that this is similar to scientific evidence utilized for the existence of God, in that God cannot be directly observed, but His existence can be inferred.

For those that do not know much about dark matter I’ll provide a brief summary: There is a critical mass density of the universe that is required for the existence of everything we see. If this critical mass were slightly larger or smaller the universe would fall apart (Drees, 80). So there is a critical mass the universe has to have. Yet, the total mass of everything we can see in the universe through a telescope is roughly 0.01 M, leaving the other 99% of mass unaccounted for (Chase). Others postulate it is closer to 80% of the matter in the universe, with the rest bring made up of baryonic matter which is essentially what we’re made up of (O’Neil). So somewhere between 80 to 99% of the universe’s critical mass cannot be seen. So the natural conclusion is that there must be something else out there to account for all this missing mass; ergo, dark matter, (Hartnett & Williams, 110).

There are five main lines of evidence for dark matter:

1. There are at times objects we only see because they are blocking illuminated objects. For example dust clouds, which do not emit light, can obscure stars and therefore their silhouettes can be seen. There must therefore be other objects we do not see because they do not emit light. Stellar evolution would suggest that there would be black dwarfs, neutron stars, black holes and brown dwarfs, all of which do not emit light. (Williams & Hartnett, 137).

2. The galaxies that can be observed seem to rotate way too fast when considering the visible mass that is observed. This is thought to be an indication that there is a halo of surrounding dark matter around each galaxy providing the addition mass driving this high rate of rotation (Chase). Unlike the dark matter from point 1, which is only dark because it is not illuminated, this dark matter is transparent.

3. Galaxies tend to be grouped together in clusters and super clusters, not evenly distributed as one might expect. The illuminated mass each has is not nearly enough to keep the clusters from breaking apart. So it is assumed that there must be more matter (dark) providing the mass that keeps them together in clusters (Williams & Hartnett, 137).

4. As previously mentioned, since the mass we see is not nearly sufficient to obtain the universe’s “critical density,” dark matter must be present to prevent the universe from collapsing (Williams & Hartnett, 137).

5. Warped light bent by dark matter filaments in between illuminated galaxies have been touted by astronomers as evidence of dark matter, (Khan).

The first line of evidence is a form of dark matter different from the last four. And it is the last four that make the “transparent” dark matter that is in question. It is this transparent form of dark matter from which there is no direct observable evidence, only inferences made from the observable data. For example, an AMS (Accelerator Mass Spectrometry) in the international space station has been utilized to measure positrons in space which can be caused by a form of theorized dark matter. Recently, claims were made that evidence of dark matter has been discovered by the AMS because such positrons were found. Keep in mind, it is not dark matter that was found, but an inferred result of dark matter that was found. Additionally, it cannot be claimed as proof of the dark matter since positrons come from sources other than dark matter, like pulsars (O’Neil). This is the key issue in this topic; proving something exists based on data inferences versus direct evidence.

Many lines of scientific evidence can be likewise inferred as evidence of the existence of God despite there being no direct evidence of God. This is something the intelligent design movement has been devoted to; providing evidence that an intelligent designer is responsible for life and the universe as we know it, based off of inferences derived from scientific data. Common examples being the fine tuning of the universe, the irreducible complexity of organic machines, the origin of information within DNA, the paradox of biogenesis, etc.

Ray Villard of the Space Telescope Science Institute compares dark matter to H.G. Well’s character the Invisible Man, a person you can’t see, but whose actions are observable (Villard). One can make a parallel statement to the existence of God, who may be impossible to observe directly, but can be inferred based off the effects and actions of God.

Gerald Rau (Ph. D., Cornell) Founder and Chief Editor at Professional English International writes, “Many scientists believe in things that cannot be seen or detected, because theory and the available evidence require it. One prime example is dark matter. No one has ever seen dark matter or detected it with any scientific instrument, but most scientists believe it exists… This is no different from the fact that Christians believe in God, although no one has ever seen him. We are convinced that the evidence we have seen in our own lives, as well as the historical evidence of Jesus Christ, are sufficient to demonstrate that he exists,” (Rau, 188).

So for the skeptic who refuses to accept the existence of God because there is no direct evidence of Him, I would suggest that this skeptic must also refuse the existence of dark matter, or for that matter naturalistic macro-evolution, which likewise has never been directly observed, but only inferred from extrapolation of observable data. In fact, there are many scientific theories we adhere to based on inferences from the evidence. My question then follows, why do some people exclude God from this line of reasoning when they use it to support the truth of other things?

One day we might find direct evidence of dark matter. Or maybe we never will. But at this point the majority of scientists adhere to its existence, not because it has been observed, but because of inference. I believe (as do a large number of theistic scientists) that the existence of God can likewise be inferred from scientific data. And until dark matter is directly discovered, this claim is no less scientific and no more a matter of faith.

References:

Chase, S. I., (1993) “What is Dark Matter?” math.ucr.edu, accessed 10-01-2013.

Drees, W.B. (1990) Beyond the Big Bang; Quantum Cosmologies and God, (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company)

Khan, A., (July, 04, 2012) “Dark Matter Filament Found, Scientists Say,” articles.latimes.com accessed 10-05-2013

O’Neil, I., (April 3, 2013) “Dark Matter Found? Orbital Experiment Detects Hints,” news.discovery.com, accessed 10-5-2013.

Rau, G., (2012) Mapping the Origins Debate, (Downers Grove, IL: InvterVarsity Press)

Villard, R., (Feb 21, 2013) “Dark Matter Matters, Especially When You Can’t Find It,” news.discovery.com, accessed 10-5-2013.

Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books)

god created universe

When I first became a Christian I had a question that I mulled over every time I looked up into the night sky: Why did God make such a large universe?  Why countless galaxies, nebula, stars, etc? Especially considering that the vast majority of the universe could not even be seen by man until very recently, when considering the entire history of human presence on earth, with the advent of telescopic technology.

Some common default Christian answers have been that God created countless nebula and galaxies to show case his Glory and how great He is.  And though I agree that contemplating the surreal size of the universe is a very humbling and awe-inspiring notion of God’s greatness, it cannot be the sole reason for its existence. After all, we didn’t even know of the universe’s wide expanses until recently. Additionally, for God to create so much just to “show off,” doesn’t seem like the God of the Bible. God does not suffer from an identity-crisis and need to impress us to validate Himself. Our God is rational, and therefore there must be a rational reason why he created such a large and expansive universe. Otherwise, the vast stretches of universe we don’t see is just a huge waste of time.

I found I was not alone in this problem. It is in fact a huge source of skepticism for many unbelievers. Especially scientists who do not favor the anthropic principal (universe fine-tuned for life) as evidence for a Creator. Take for example a remark from famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, when he wrote, “… this argument [the Anthropic Principal] for the existence of God implies surely the most wasteful creator one might imagine, who makes countless universes in that in a tiny sector of just one of these, life might arise,” (Tyson & Goldsmith, 104). Well if Neil Tyson said it, it must be true! Unless, there is a genuine reason why God created such a large expansive universe. And at that I have found two answers to this problem.

The first of the two answers is somewhat partial but related to the issue. The first answer is navigation. For thousands of years people have been able to accurately navigate far distances on earth (especially at sea) using the stars. Many refer to this as an answer for why God created a huge universe, but it doesn’t satisfy because the stars we see are but a miniscule fraction of the content that is out in the universe.

The second answer is, on the other hand, absolute and satisfying: Mass Density. The universe has a mass density, which is the cumulative amount of mass within the universe. Thus, the stars, star clusters and galaxies are all a part of the universe’s overall density. But what makes the mass density of the universe so interesting is that it is absolutely paramount to our existence.

The mass density falls into a very precise region called “critical density,” (Williams & Hartnett, 137 & Ross, 35). Theoretical physicist Dr. William Drees explains, “A universe with a much larger density would have collapsed at an early stage, while a universe with less matter would have been too diluted to allow for the formation of stars,” (Drees, 80). Cosmologist Dr. Hugh Ross agrees, “The uniformity, homogeneity, and mass density of the universe  all must be precisely as they are for human life to be possible…” (Ross, 86).  In other words, if our universe were more dense or less dense the galaxy, solar system and planet we live on could not exist. If God had created a lot less the universe would collapse back in on itself. Thus God was not being wasteful at all when he created such an expansive universe with countless stars, nebula and galaxies. He did it for us so that our existence would be possible.

I’ll close with a quote from Ross, “What this means is that approximately hundred -billion-trillion stars we observe in the universe  – no more no less – are needed for life to be possible in the universe. God invested heavily in living creatures,” (Ross, 118). So next time someone criticizes the existence of God by pointing out the massive size of the universe be sure to politely share with them that we only exist because God was kind enough to create so much surplus.

References:

Drees, W.B. (1990) Beyond the Big Bang; Quantum Cosmologies and God, (La Salle, IL: Open Court Publishing Company)

Ross, H. (1994) The Creator and the Cosmos; How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God, (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress)

Tyson, N.dG. & Goldsmith, D. (2004) Origins; Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution,” (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.)

Williams, A & Hartnett, (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books)

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flat earth

There is a widely known criticism that the Bible teaches a flat earth and that Christians in the past used to all believe in a flat earth, bullying any poor rebellious scientist or explorer the argued otherwise. It is a very prominent accusation leveled against Bible believing Christians with some very reputable figures behind it. Robert J. Schadewald, former president of the National Center for Science Education, claims that many of the early church fathers were flat-earthers.[1] Massimo Pigliucci, chair of the Department of Philosophy at CUNY-Lehman College, claims that for most of western history Christians believed in a flat-earth.[2]  Famous medical officer and historian Charles Singer writes, “The sphericity of the earth was, in fact, formally denied by the Church, and the mind of Western man, so far as it moved in this matter at all, moved back to the old confused notion of a modulated ‘flatland’, with the kingdoms of the world surrounding Jerusalem, the divinely chosen centre of the terrestrial disk.”[3]

I’m sure you are, like myself, reminded of the story of Columbus, in which our history textbooks taught us in elementary school and onward that Columbus was the one who discovered the earth was round and that he had to convince his superiors that he would not sail off the edge of the world in order to get funding for his expedition. But Columbus lived in the 15th century, so that must mean that prior to the 15th century everyone (including the authors of the Bible from the first century and earlier) thought the earth was flat too, right?

Naturally, pictures like this come to mind when thinking of Columbus and declaration that the earth was round.

Naturally, pictures like this come to mind when thinking of Columbus and his declaration that the earth was round.

So I began to research the issue myself and found that the vast majority of Christians maintained the same views, but a few were divided on the issue. There are Christians that do believe in a round earth and do not believe the Bible teaches a flat earth. But there are also Christians who maintain that, yes the earth is round, but agree that the Bible teaches the earth is flat.[4] Worse, there are Christians that do not believe in a round earth, but do believe the Bible teaches a flat earth. They are known as the Flat Earth Society, www.flatearthsociety.org. So to find clarity on the subject I researched the history of the flat earth myth as well as what the Bible actually says about the subject. Here are my findings:

Is the Earth Flat?

No, the earth is not flat, obviously. It is round and spherical, with a slight bulge at the equator due to the earth’s rapid rotation.[5] So then the question naturally follows; where and when did the flat earth myth originate?

History of the Flat Earth Myth:

When we look back at history it is easy to speculate that people thought the earth was flat, since it obviously appears to be flat and they did not have the ability to fly at high altitudes or travel into space to see earth’s curve. However, such speculation is shallow and inaccurate. Some ancient civilizations actually did understand the earth to be curved, especially those civilizations that were sea faring nations. After all, their boats and ships were traveling over the horizon and not falling off the edge of the earth. Additionally, the curve of the earth could be seen in that when ships appeared on the horizon, their mast would appear first, then the hull. Likewise, from the sailors perspectives, the tops of mountains would appear on the horizon before the shores did, evidence of the earth being curved.

Outside of how objects appeared on the horizon, there were other inclinations to the ancient Greeks that the earth was round. For example, during a lunar eclipse the earth casts a circular shadow on the moon as it slips into the shadow regardless of the earth’s orientation. This would only be possible if the earth was round.[6]

The first documented claim that the Earth was round came from Pythagoras in the sixth century BC.[7] Aristotle (384-322 BC) reasoned the earth was round.[8] As did Euclid, Aristarchs, Crates, Strabo, Ptolemy, and so on and so forth.[9]  Eratosthenes (276-196 BC), director of the great Library in Alexandria, Egypt, actually calculated the circumference of the earth! One day he read that in the Egyptian town of Syene the sun cast no shadows on vertical objects every year on June 21, meaning the sun was directly overhead. So naturally on June 21 Erathosthenes placed vertical sticks in the ground to see if the same results would happen in Alexandria. But in Alexandria, the sticks did cast a shadow. He figured the shadows must be due to the curve of the earth, so he measured the degree of divergence from the shadows on the ground to the sticks, which was about seven degrees. He then hired a man to pace out the distance from Syene to Alexandria, which came out to 800km. Since seven degrees is roughly 1/50 of the circumference of a circle, all one must do is multiply 50 x 800 and you get 40,000 km for the circumference of earth.[10] The current estimate of earth’s circumference is 40,075 km at its widest, and an average circumference of 40,041km.[11] It is remarkable how close Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth in the 3rd century BC with basic geometry.

According to physicist and cosmologist Dr. John Hartnett, “There is a common myth that ancient peoples thought the earth was flat. Some may have thought so, but most others certainly did not.”[12]

You may be thinking to yourself, well that is ancient Greece and Rome, but when Christianity came around in the first century everything changed, right? Wrong. When considering Christian early church fathers and theologians, only two within the entire history of early Christian theology can be accused of believing in a flat earth: Lactantius of the 4th century (200+ years after the origin of Christianity), and a 6th century Egyptian monk named Cosmas Indicopleustes (400+ years after the origin of Christianity).[13] Both men’s writings were almost completely ignored by the church, their writings having very little to no impact in medieval scholarship.[14] It should also be noted that Cosmas’ writings, being from Egypt, were not in Latin. His writings were not translated into Latin until 1706,[15] so no one in Europe would have been influenced by his writings until 1706.

In the 7th century lived Venerable Behe, an English monk known for his scholarly work in history, theology and science. More importantly, Behe considered the earth a spherical orb.[16] Saint Hildegard (1098-1179), Roger Bacon (1220-1292), Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), John Buriden (1301-1358) and Nicholas Oresme (1320- 1382) all maintained a round earth.[17] University of California Santa Barbara emeritus professor of history, Jeffrey Burton Russell, writes, “A few–at least two and at most five–early Christian fathers denied the sphericity of earth by mistakenly taking passages such as Ps. 104:2-3 as geographical rather than metaphorical statements. On the other side tens of thousands of Christian theologians, poets, artists, and scientists took the spherical view throughout the early, medieval, and modern church. The point is that no educated person believed otherwise.”[18]

This image comes from Saint Hildegard’s Liber Divinorum Operum from the 12th century, showing the four seasons on a curved earth.

This image comes from Saint Hildegard’s Liber Divinorum Operum from the 12th century, showing the four seasons on a curved earth.

13th century scholar and astronomer Johannes de Sacrobosco wrote, “If the earth were flat from east to west, the stars would rise as soon for Westerners as for Orientals, which is false.”[19] Clearly there was no widespread notion of a flat earth among scholars. As world renowned paleontologist and science historian Stephen Jay Gould writes, “There never was a period of ‘flat earth darkness’ among scholars (regardless of how many uneducated people may have conceptualized our planet both then and now). Greek knowledge of sphericity never faded, and all major medieval scholars accepted the earth’s roundness as an established fact of cosmology.”[20]

The following image appears comes from Johannes de Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de Sphaera (On the Sphere of the World) written in 1230 AD. It showcases the knowledge that the appearance of ships on the horizon testified to a curved earth.

The following image comes from Johannes de Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de Sphaera (On the Sphere of the World) written in 1230 AD. It showcases the knowledge that the appearance of ships on the horizon testified to a curved earth.

Furthermore, the claim that 15th century explorer Christopher Columbus was the first to discover that the world was round is, and by now you should agree, false. Also false, is the claim that Columbus’ expedition was opposed because the royal authorities thought he was going to sail off the edge of the planet. Columbus’ expedition was actually opposed because it was widely known that the earth was round, but more importantly it was known how large the earth was (remember the works of Eratosthenes). What wasn’t known was the existence of North and South America. So it was assumed that traveling west from Europe to India would mean traversing one large super ocean, and thus, be too far of a journey. In other words, Columbus’ voyage was opposed because no one thought he could logistically make it across such a vastly massive ocean. As Samuel Morrison, a renowned maritime historian, wrote on the subject, “The sphericity of the globe was not in question. The issue was the width of the ocean.”[21] Gould agrees, “As a major critique, they argued that Columbus could not reach the Indies in his own allotted time, because the earth’s circumference was too great.”[22]

Even NASA’s website, in explaining the curvature of earth’s surface, makes reference to the claim that Columbus’ expedition being opposed due to belief in the earth being flat is a false notion.[23]  Additionally, Columbus was a Bible believing man.[24] So surely there would be some conflict between his faith and his knowledge of the earth being round, if the Bible taught such. There, however, was no such conflict, because the Bible does not teach a flat earth. So where did this historically-incorrect myth come from? It can be sourced back to 19th century American writer Washington Irving, who concocted the flat earth claims in his 1828 biography about Columbus called,  History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.[25] This biography has since, in more modern times, been highly criticized for its false claims.

 

Russell writes, “It was he [Irving] who invented the indelible picture of the young Columbus, a ‘simple mariner,’ appearing before a dark crowd of benighted inquisitors and hooded theologians at a council of Salamanca, all of whom believed, according to Irving, that the earth was flat like a plate. Well, yes, there was a meeting at Salamanca in 1491, but Irving’s version of it, to quote a distinguished modern historian of Columbus, was ‘pure moonshine. Washington Irving, scenting his opportunity for a picturesque and moving scene,’ created a fictitious account of this ‘nonexistent university council’ and ‘let his imagination go completely…the whole story is misleading and mischievous nonsense.’”[26]

This picture is taken from the 16th century astronomy textbook, On the Sphere of the World.

This picture is taken from the 16th century astronomy textbook, On the Sphere of the World.

So we’re up to the 15th century and still there is no case for Christianity propagating a flat-earth cosmology. There is hardly any mention of it anywhere in history at this time. Moving onto the 17th century, there is still no history of flat earth claims and Christianity. There is however historical record that Jesuit missionaries introduced the round earth cosmology to Ming China, which was still at that time under the impression earth was flat. That is, Christian missionaries introducing the round earth to other parts of the world, which doesn’t sound like the works of a religion that believes in a flat earth. Moving onto the 18th century, the age of Enlightenment, where there was popular skeptical inquiry of religion from all of academia. Yet no where during this time do we see Christianity criticized for flat-earth cosmology.[27] Not one word from Franklin, Condillac, Condorcet, Diberot, Gibbon, or Hume about a flat earth? It seems rather odd that these men would not have used such a fallacy as ammunition against Christianity. That is, unless, there was no grounds for making such a claim.

Russell writes, “In my research, I looked to see how old the idea was that medieval Christians believed the earth was flat. I obviously did not find it among medieval Christians. Nor among anti-Catholic Protestant reformers. Nor in Copernicus or Galileo or their followers, who had to demonstrate the superiority of a heliocentric system, but not of a spherical earth. I was sure I would find it among the eighteenth-century philosophes [sic], among all their vitriolic sneers at Christianity, but not a word. I am still amazed at where it first appears.”[28]

So where did it first appear? Claims that Christianity maintained a flat earth mentality did not appear until the 19th century, which alone should raise some scepticism being 1,800 years after the origin of the religion. Irwing’s Columbus biography, though the beginning of published flat-earth claims against Christianity, did not take hold until the time ofAntoine-Jean Letronne (1787-1848), who was an academic with anti-religious prejudices that were evident in his 1834 book On the Cosmographical Ideas of the Church Fathers.[29] This was subsequently followed by William Whewell’s 1837 book History of the Inductive Sciences, in which Whewell points out Lactantius and Cosmas to prove that the entire medieval period adopted a flat-earth cosmology, ignoring the overwhelming majority of other Christians that did not maintain a flat-earth cosmology.[30]

 

Also during the 19th century, Darwin’s Evolution theory began to take shape, which naturally met opposition from Christians. And so it was claimed that religion and science were at odds with one another. At least, that is what was declared by John Draper’s 1874 book The History of Conflict Between Religion and Science, and Andrew Dickson White’s 1896 book, A History of Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. In both books gross exaggerations are made of Christians, including the claim that Christianity is a flat earth believing religion. Unfortunately these claims have persisted today in academia, despite modern academia’s criticism of both books for their false dichotomization of western history as a war between science and religion.[31]

Russell writes,The reason for promoting both the specific lie about the sphericity of the earth and the general lie that religion and science are in natural and eternal conflict in Western society, is to defend Darwinism. The answer is really only slightly more complicated than that bald statement. The flat-earth lie was ammunition against the creationists. The argument was simple and powerful, if not elegant: ‘Look how stupid these Christians are. They are always getting in the way of science and progress. These people who deny evolution today are exactly the same sort of people as those idiots who for at least a thousand years denied that the earth was round. How stupid can you get?’ But that is not the truth.”[32]

Biologist, chemist, and geologist Dr. Jerry Bergman writes, “This history clearly supports, not a war of religion against science, but instead a war of evolutionary propagandists against religion.”[33] Gould writes, “I would not be agitated by these errors if they led only to an inadequate view of the past without practical consequences for our modern world. But the myth of a war between science and religion remains all too current, and continues to impede a proper bonding and conciliation between these two utterly different and powerfully important institutions to human life.”[34]

If one searches the history books for flat-earth believing Christians they might be put off at the miniscule amount that can be unearthed. If it is so transparent that the Bible taught a flat-earth, then why would the overwhelming majority of Christians in the entire history of Christianity NOT believe in a flat earth? The most reasonable and obvious answer is that the Bible does not teach that the earth is flat.

Oh, how I wish that was the end of the story for the flat earth. But it is not. In the late 19th century John Dowie began a campaign in the little town of Zion, Illinois to propagate the theology of a flat-earth. After he died in 1906, Wilbur Voliva took over as the organizations leader until he, himself, died in 1942. It is noteworthy that the movement was very unsuccessful in converting most of the Zion residents to their flat earth dogma, and after the death of Voliva, the movement died.[35]  They were, however, not the only flat earth organization.

Another flat earth organization is the one founded by Charles K. Johnson of LancasterCalifornia, who died in 2001. The organization is known as the Flat Earth Society of America. Again, like that of Zion’s small organization, they never had more than 100 members.[36] Johnson also went onto to claim that the sun was as far from earth as San Francisco is from Boston and that the sun and moon were both the same size, about 51 km in diameter.[37]

The Flat Earth Society today is led by Daniel Shelton, who oddly enough believes in evolution and global warming, but not in a round earth…[38] This is troubling for those who claim that creationists believe in a flat earth (aside from the fact that creationists don’t make this claim), since Shelton believes in evolution, something creationists do not adhere to. So out of the few remaining flat-earth believers, we see a belief in evolution. Both are theories that creationists do not adhere to. With all this considered, it can be concluded that claiming creationists preach a flat earth is incredibly false. However, as troubling as it might be to know that there are Christians that still maintain that the earth is flat, it is worth while to note that Shelton’s following is only in the hundreds, maybe a thousand.[39] While the rest of the Christian population in America totals 228 million as of 2008.[40] A thousand flat-earthers versus over two hundred million Christians that don’t believe in a flat earth (not counting the billion other Christians worldwide) should be enough to convince skeptics and critics, that a flat-earth cosmology is not a part of Christianity.

Lastly, before I end this segment on the sad history of the flat earth myth, I think it would be appropriate to share one humorous quote from Shelton: “I haven’t taken this position just to be difficult… To look around, the world does appear to be flat, so I think it is incumbent on others to prove decisively that it isn’t. And I don’t think that burden of proof has been met yet.”[41] That is, the work of countless astrophysicists, cosmologists, and other bright minds amidst rigorous scientific disciplines for the last 100 years in combination with the countless photos of earth from space, have yet to provide Shelton with sufficient proof. It is humorous to say the least. But it is even more laughable when people try to project this dogma onto Christianity as a whole.

What The Bible Doesn’t Say:

So we can agree that the flat earth myth isn’t rooted in Christianity. Yet, still, those that maintain a flat earth in modern times are almost solely Christian. Clearly there is a connection, and that has lead many to thumb through the Bible and point out the many verses that seem to suggest the earth is flat. After all, even if Christians have historically not believed in a flat earth, if the Bible teaches a flat earth and the Bible is supposed to be the inherent word of God, then we have a serious problem, don’t we? How can the Bible be the word of an all-knowing God if it describes the earth as flat?

Schadewald points out the versus he believes testifies to a flat earth, “Disregarding the dome, the essential flatness of the earth’s surface is required by verses like Daniel 4:10-11. In Daniel, the king ‘saw a tree of great height at the centre of the earth…reaching with its top to the sky and visible to the earth’s farthest bounds.’ If the earth were flat, a sufficiently tall tree would be visible to ‘the earth’s farthest bounds,” but this is impossible on a spherical earth. Likewise, in describing the temptation of Jesus by Satan, Matthew 4:8 says, ‘Once again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world [cosmos] in their glory.’ Obviously, this would be possible only if the earth were flat. The same is true of Revelation 1:7: ‘Behold, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye shall see him…’”[42]

The following verses (all NIV) are used to support the claim that the Bible teaches a flat earth:

 

Job 37:3- “He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.”

Job 38:13- “…that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?”

Psalm 104:2-3- “He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.”

Daniel 4:11 – “The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth.”

Matthew 4:8 – “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.”

Revelation 1:7 – “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.”

Revelation 7:1 – “After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.”

At first glance, yes, these verses seem to convey a flat four cornered earth. But as with all situations involving quoting the Bible one should always take into consideration context and use of language, and never isolate verses by themselves to pass judgment on them. Alone and out of context, a verse can mean whatever you want it to. So with that said, here is an explanation for these verses.

“He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth.” (Job 37:3): This verse, and others like it that refer to the “ends” or “edges” of earth, are commonly brought up as evidence of a flat earth since a round earth obviously does not have edges or ends. In the case of this verse, and others like it in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word used is “nk”[43] which is translated into, “ends” or “extremities” meaning lands far away. Which in proper context would denote a meaning of lighting striking all over earth, even in the remote far away regions. According to prominent apologist James Patrick Holding “… Job 37:3 hardly requires a flat-earth reading — it merely states that lightning occurs all over the earth. Even if it did teach a flat-earth reading, it would prove only that Elihu believed such a thing — not everything reported in the Bible is endorsed in the Bible.”[44] Holding makes a point to bring up that Elihu was speaking when this was said, and as is commonly pointed out, Job’s friends (one of which is Elihu) came to confide him with theology which proved to be inaccurate. So even if this verse is taken as the earth being flat (which it should not), it would then only be chalked up to the inaccurate theology of Elihu.

“…that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?” (Job 38:13): Theologian Paul H. Seely, who believes the Bible DOES teach a flat earth, argues, “In a clearly cosmological context, not just local, this verse speaks of dawn grasping the earth by its ‘extremity or hem’ …and shaking the wicked out of it. The verse is comparing the earth to a blanket or garment picked up at one end and shaken. A globe is not really comparable to a blanket or garment in this way. You cannot pick up a globe at one end. It does not even have an end.”[45]

However, Holding argues that the verse is being taken out of context, and when the previous verse (12) is taken into consideration the context can be clarified, “Are the wicked literally ‘shaken’ by the sunrise? Is the bringing of dawn accompanied by the sight of nighttime burglars rolling through the dusty streets of villages like tumbleweeds? Clearly this verse refers to no more than the visible horizon that the dawn ‘grasps’ as the sun rises. It is phenomenological and poetic in every sense of its expression.”[46] Holding’s argument is on point. If we are to take the description of the earth having edges literally, then one must also take the rest of the verse literal, which would necessitate wicked people being shaken from a flat earth after the sun somehow grabs a hold of its edges to shake it. Though no one would honestly believe the author meant this.

Methodist bible scholar and theologian Adam Clarke takes a different approach: “That the wicked might be shaken out of it? – The meaning appears to be this: as soon as the light begins to dawn upon the earth, thieves, assassins, murderers, and adulterers, who all hate and shun the light, fly like ferocious beasts to their several dens and hiding places; for such do not dare to come to the light, lest their works be manifest, which are not wrought in God.”[47] Thus again, we see a more proper use of this verse is that of a poetic and metaphorical nature, not literal.

 “He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.” (Psalm 104:2-3): Anyone who has read Psalms knows it is a book of symbolic poetry. Beams of chambers on waters, wind with wings, wrapped with light as a garment; all metaphors one would expect in poetic writings, not literal descriptions.

“The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth.” (Daniel 4:11): This verse provides probably the most imperative lesson on context. That is, if one were to actually read all of Daniel 4 they would see that this verse is describing a vision, a King’s dream. Do the fantastic details of YOUR dreams constitute literal reality? Of course not. So we should not therefore penalize the Bible for containing the description of a King’s fantastic dream. Furthermore, the King was not a Jew, but a pagan. According to Holding, “The Daniel passage is actually a statement by a pagan king, which doesn’t mean that the Bible endorses that view. And it is a vision, and is therefore not intended to be a picture of reality…”[48]

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” (Matthew 4:8): How could Jesus see the all the Kingdoms of the world from a high mountain unless the world was flat? Theologian Albert Barnes explains, “It is not probable that anything more is intended here than the kingdoms of Palestine, or of the land of Canaan, and those in the immediate vicinity. Judea was divided into three parts, and those parts were called kingdoms; and the sons of Herod, who presided over them, were called kings. The term ‘world’ is often used in this limited sense to denote a part or a large part of the world, particularly the land of Canaan. See Romans 4:13, where it means the land of Judah; also Luke 2:1, and the note on the place.”[49]

Expositor John Gill takes another approach, pointing out the supernatural aspects of Satan’s visit to Jesus, “Now the view which Satan gave Christ of all this, was not by a representation of them in a picture, or in a map, or in any geographical tables, as some have thought; since to do this there was no need to take him up into a mountain, and that an exceeding high one; for this might have been done in a valley, as well as in a mountain: and yet it could not be a true and real sight of these things he gave him; for there is no mountain in the world, from whence can be beheld anyone kingdom, much less all the kingdoms of the world; and still less the riches, glory, pomp, and power of them: but this was a fictitious, delusive representation, which Satan was permitted to make; to cover which, and that it might be thought to be real, he took Christ into an high mountain; where he proposed an object externally to his sight, and internally to his imagination, which represented, in appearance, the whole world, and all its glory.”[50]

So we have two different possibilities, one in which Jesus is literally taken to a mountain top to see the regions of Canaan which was commonly referred to as the kingdoms of the “world.” The other possibility being a supernatural apparition from Satan which corresponds to their instantaneous arrival to a mountain top, which is only possible via the supernatural. Besides, even if the earth was flat, you still couldn’t see all the kingdoms of the world on the simple premise of atmospheric haze preventing visibility to far off lands. Something any ancient man standing on a hill or mountain top would be aware of. That is, visibility is not infinite and cannot go as far as one may physically travel.

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen.” (Revelation 1:7): Here is another verse being taken far from context. The book of Revelation is a book of prophecy for the end times and the second return of Christ. Thus there are a few ways that this verse can be understood. The one popular explanation is that the return of Jesus will be widely publicized on television, internet, etc. It is today, in this modern time, very possible for “every eye” to see Jesus. The other, more agreed upon, explanation is related to the Day of Judgment in Revelation 20 when God judges the entire earth, and thus “every eye” would see Jesus sitting to the right of God’s throne, clothed in the clouds, a common symbol for majesty and glory. Obviously, Jesus’ second return will have supernatural implications, and thus it may be very possible for Jesus to appear to every individual at a supernatural level when He returns. Just as it is possible for God to be anywhere and everywhere at once since He is not bound by our natural dimensions, likewise Jesus would not be either, and it would therefore be possible for everyone to see Him at once.

One can go still further to say that even if the earth was flat, Jesus appearing in a cloud in the sky would still not make it possible for everyone to see him considering the horizontal distance of the known land. Even the ancients were well aware of the vast size of the earth regardless of whether the earth was flat or round. A vision in the skies in one area would hardly be visible at all a thousand miles away. It is therefore more appropriate to understand this verse in a supernatural sense.

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.” Revelation (7:1): This verse seems to suggest a flat rectangular earth with four corners. The four corners are not in relation to corners on a flat surface, but are in fact reference to the four points on a compass.[51] This is supported by Ezekiel’s similar reference to the four corners of Israel (Ezekiel 7:2). Gill agrees, “Four angels are mentioned, in allusion to the four spirits of the heavens, in Zec 6:5; and though the earth is not a plain square with angels, but round and globular, yet it is said to have four corners, with respect to the four points of the heavens; and though there is but one wind, which blows sometimes one way, and sometimes another, yet four are named with regard to the above points, east, west, north, and south, from whence it blows.”[52]

At that, it is clear to see that the charges of flat-earth cosmology leveled against the Bible can hardly stand in the face of critical analysis of the text. The Bible doesn’t speak of a flat earth. But then why do modern flat earthers tend to be Christians? A key consideration is that people who believe in a flat earth draw their conclusions from their own visual experience regardless of whether they’re Christian or not. Those who are Christian however, will come across particular verses, like those mentioned above, and fit them into their pre-conceived opinion of the earth being flat. Others are roped into it by the teachings of their pastors. Either way, they are, unfortunately, all the more brazen about it since they feel justified in their beliefs since (in their opinion) the word of God agrees with them, and are much less likely to change this opinion on the earth since such a change could be perceived as compromising on God’s word. This is the reason why the few remaining flat earthers tend to be Christian.

What the Bible Does Say:

So if the Bible doesn’t preach a flat earth, does it preach a round earth? Some would argue that it does:

Isaiah 40:22- “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

Now granted, in context, this language is metaphorical. So then what is meant by the “circle” of earth? It could be a genuine remark at the sphericity of earth, since the word used for circle; “chud,” refers to a circular, spherical or round object according to Barnes.[53] Gill writes, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth,…. Or, ‘the globe’ of it; for the earth is spherical or globular: not a flat plain, but round, hung as a ball in the air; here Jehovah sits as the Lord and Sovereign; being the Maker of it, he is above it, orders and directs its motion, and governs all things in it.”[54]

Seely disagrees, arguing that if Isaiah wanted to describe the earth as a sphere he would have used the word “dur” which means “ball.”[55] The counter argument, however, is that dur can have multiple meanings as well. Case in point: Dur is used in Isaiah 29:3 to describe camping around a city to lay siege to it. In this context, dur must be used in accordance with encircling or rounding around the city, since one cannot obviously camp spherically over a city, at least not in ancient times. Therefore one cannot argue that Isaiah would have used “dur” if he wanted to convey a sphere, since it too has multiple meanings. So it remains possible that Isaiah was referring to earth as a spherical object.

The last reference I would like to make that the Bible supports a round earth is a deduction from the following verses:

Job 26:10- “He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.”

Luke 17:31-34- “On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left.”

Matthew 24:47- “For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

After reading those verses we can establish from Job that as one side of the earth is in daylight, the other is in night, from Luke that when Jesus returns some will be in bed while others will be working out in the field, and from Matthew that Jesus’ return will be in an  instant, like a flash of lightening.  The implications are this; that the sudden instance Jesus returns there will be people in bed at night and others out in the field working during the day. This could only be possible if earth was spherical with people experiencing daylight while others experienced night.

Thus, between Isaiah 40:22 and a deduction from Matthew 24:47, Luke 17:31-34 and Job 26:10, one could assert that with some confidence that the Bible speaks of a round spherical earth.

Final Thoughts:

It is my hope that after reading this you can agree that Christianity has never been one that maintains a flat earth cosmology and that the Bible does not teach a flat earth. Unfortunately, this myth has spread like an infectious disease, being gladly accepted by those with a predetermined dislike for Christianity and religion in general. Dr. Danny Faulkner, Chair of the math and Science Dept and Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of South Carolina, declares, “Many critics of creationists attempt to malign by suggesting that what creationists teach is akin to belief in a flat Earth. This attack is easy to refute, because the Bible does not teach that the Earth is flat, and virtually no one in the history of the church taught this. In fact, the belief in a flat Earth is a 19th century myth that was concocted to discredit critics of Darwinism. The supposed lesson of this myth was that the Church got it wrong before, so the Church has a chance to redeem itself by getting it right on the issue of evolution. This false lesson has been indelibly impressed upon common perception.”[56]

Bergman writes, “The idea that Christians once commonly believed in a flat earth for theological reasons is a myth. The story was invented to promote the claim that Christians have widely resisted scientific advancement due to doctrinal constraints.”[57]

Unfortunately, historically and scripturally inaccurate portrayals of Christianity (or in this case Intelligent Design, which is not affiliated with any religion) remain today.

Unfortunately, historically and scripturally inaccurate portrayals of Christianity (or in this case Intelligent Design, which is not affiliated with any religion) remain today.

Russell writes, “Contortions that are common today, if not widely recognized, are produced by the incessant attacks on Christianity and religion in general by secular writers during the past century and a half, attacks that are largely responsible for the academic and journalistic sneers at Christianity today. A curious example of this mistreatment of the past for the purpose of slandering Christians is a widespread historical error, an error that the Historical Society of Britain some years back listed as number one in its short compendium of the ten most common historical illusions. It is the notion that people used to believe that the earth was flat–especially medieval Christians. It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat.”[58]

 flat earth t shirt

With that I’m left with the image of a thought provoking T-shirt from an anti-religious T-shirt brand. The T-shirt shows a flat earth and reads, “Teach the Controversy.” I completely agree! Even though the T-shirt is obviously under the influence of the false notion that Christianity teaches a flat earth. I say, let us indeed teach the controversy. The controversy that Christians never maintained a flat earth cosmology which was unfairly smeared on them by a handful of biased historians in an effort to propagate an unnecessary and unwarranted war between science and religion. Let us all become properly educated on the controversy and put an end to this ignorance of religion and history which blemishes our culture.


[1] Schadewald, R., (Winter 1981) “Scientific Creationism, egocentricity, and the flat earth,” Skeptical Inquirer, Pp. 44

[2] Pigliucci, M., (2002) Denying Evolution; Creationism, Scientism and the Nature of Science, (Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates) pp. 38.

[3] Singer, C., (1917) Studies in the History and Method of Science, (Oxford: Clarendon Press) pp. 352

[4] Seely, P.H. (1997) “The geographical meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59(2): pp. 231-256.

[5] Cain, F., (September 2009) “Earth’s Circumference,” http://www.universetoday.com

[6] Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 24.

[7] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[8] Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 23-24.

[9] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[10] Sagan, C., (1980) Cosmos, (London:MacDonald & Co.) pp.14-15.

[11] Cain, F., (September 2009) “Earth’s Circumference,” http://www.universetoday.com

[12] Williams, A. & Hartnett, J., (2005) Dismantling the Big Bang, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 23.

[13] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 116.

[14] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[15] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[16] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 1, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[17] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[18] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[19] As quoted in Robert Kulwich’s “What Columbus Already Knew,” (Oct 2010) http://www.npr.org

[20] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 2, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[21] Morrison, S.E. (1942) Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, (Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co.) pp. 89.

[22] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 2, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[23] www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/stargaze/Scolumb.htm

[24] Lang, J.S. (1999) 1,001 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Bible but Never Thought to Ask, (New York, NY: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) pp. 19.

[25] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 117.

[26] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[27] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[28] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[29] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[30] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 3, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[31] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 5, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[32] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

[33] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 120.

[34] Gould, S.J., “The Late Birth of a Flat Earth,” pp. 5, which can be accessed here: http://www.inf.fu-berlin.de/lehre/SS05/efs/materials/FlatEarth.pdf

[35] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 115.

[36] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 116.

[37] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 116.

[38] Wolchover, N., (June 2011) “Ingenious ‘Flat Earth’ Revealed in Old Map,” http://www.livescience.com

[39] Wolchover, N., (June 2011) “Ingenious ‘Flat Earth’ Revealed in Old Map,” http://www.livescience.com

[40] This is according to the 2012 Census, Table 75, which can be accessed here: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0075.pdf

[41] Wolchover, N., (June 2011) “Ingenious ‘Flat Earth’ Revealed in Old Map,” http://www.livescience.com

[42] Schadewald, R.J. (1995) “The Flat-Earth Bible,” http://www.lhup.edu

[44] Holding, J.P. (December 2000) “Is the ‘Erets (Earth) Flat?” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[45] Seely, P.H. (1997) “The geographical meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59(2): pp. 239.

[46] Holding, J.P. (December 2000) “Is the ‘Erets (Earth) Flat?” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[47] Clarke’s commentary can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/job/38-13.htm

[48] Holding, J.P. (December 2000) “Is the ‘Erets (Earth) Flat?” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[49] Barnes’ Notes can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/matthew/4-8.htm

[50] Gill’s Exposition can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/matthew/4-8.htm

[51] Hodge, B., (2006) “Don’t Creationists Believe in Some ‘Wacky’ Things?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 1, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books) pp. 199.

[52] Gill’s exposition can be accessed here: http://bible.cc/revelation/7-1.htm

[55] Seely, P.H. (1997) “The geographical meaning of ‘Earth’ and ‘Seas’ in Genesis 1:10,” Westminster Theological Journal 59(2): pp. 238.

[56] Faulkner, D., (August 2001) “Geocentrism and Creation,” http://www.answersingenesisi.org

[57] Bergman, J., (August 2008) “The Flat-Earth Myth and Creationism,” Journal of Creation, 22(2) pp. 114.

[58] Russell, J.B. (August 4, 1997) “The Myth of the Flat Earth,” http://www.veritas-ucsb.org

These days, the notion of a multiverse (multiple universes) is becoming very popular, and a full fledged alternative to believing in a Creator God. But as I’ll outline here, believing in a multiverse requires just as much faith as believing in God.

A Finely Tuned Universe:

The first thing we need to establish is that the universe is incredibly fine-tuned for life. Physicist Andrei Linde has said, “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.”[1] Max Tegmark, associate professor of physics at MIT states, “Our universe appears surprisingly fine-tuned for life in the sense that if you tweaked many of our constants of nature by just a tiny amount, life as we know it would be impossible.”[2] MIT physics professor Alan Lightman writes, “according to various calculations, if the values of some of the fundamental parameters of our universe were a little larger or a little smaller, life could not have arisen… The strengths of the basic forces and certain other fundamental parameters in our universe appear to be “fine-tuned” to allow the existence of life.”[3] According to physicist Roger Penrose our universe is finely tuned to 1 in 10 to the 123rd power![4]

 This fine tuning is troubling for naturalists because it is an incredibly unlikely coincidence which is not characteristic of the randomness that naturalism is based on. Former JPL Team Lead Systes Administrator David Coppedge writes, “The universe appears finely tuned for our existence. To naturalists, this looks disturbingly unnatural.”[5] This of course leads one to suggest that our universe was predetermined and designed for us, ergo there is a god. Lightman explains, “the great question, of course, is why these fundamental parameters happen to lie within the range needed for life. Does the universe care about life? Intelligent design is one answer. Indeed, a fair number of theologians, philosophers, and even some scientists have used fine-tuning and the anthropic principle as evidence of the existence of God.”[6]

This conclusion is not unfamiliar in scientific circles. Francis Collins, a leading geneticist and director of the National Institutes of Health, said, “To get our universe, with all of its potential for complexities or any kind of potential for any kind of life-form, everything has to be precisely defined on this knife edge of improbability…. [Y]ou have to see the hands of a creator who set the parameters to be just so because the creator was interested in something a little more complicated than random particles.”[7] Physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies writes, “[There] is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all… It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe… The impression of design is overwhelming.”[8] Former MIT physicist and president of the Association of Women in Science Vera Kistiakowsky stated, “The exquisite order displayed by our scientific understanding of the physical world calls for the divine.”[9]

So if the fine tuning of the universe is so recognizable and obvious, how could any scientists suggest there is no God? Stephen Hawking has said, “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.”[10] Since science only provides data on the natural, and God is supernatural, most scientists assert that science cannot apply to God, and a natural explanation is needed for ALL things. And thus, the multiverse flies in to the resuce. As cosmologist Bernard Carr writes, “If there is only one universe, you might have to have a fine-tuner. If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse.”[11]

The Multiverse:

The multiverse theory allows for the simultaneous existence of an infinite amount of additional universes outside of ours. Within these other parallel universes everything and anything is possible. And if anything is possible than atheists can dodge the problem of a finely tuned universe. But the multiverse cannot be properly described because we cannot observe it. It is impossible to know how far apart the universes are, the contents within them, are they like ours, or completely different? We’ll never know.[12]

Recently the multiverse theory has been gaining momentum because of applications with eternal inflation and string theory. Eternal inflation and string theory allows for the same fundamental principals from which we develop the laws of nature from can also lead to other self consistent universes.[13] The basis being that there are countless other possible scenarios for other universes, and we’re not limited to the narrow precision found in our own.

Eternal Inflation proposes that when the universe first exploded outward there was a particular brief (fraction of a second) period of rapid expansion. Immediately after this expansion the energy that caused it ignited into a super fire ball we call the “big bang.” In our cosmic neighborhood inflation ended billions of years ago, but it continues elsewhere randomly, causing new universes to expand and form at such rapid speeds we push each other apart making room for other inflation bubbles (universes) to form.[14] Throw in string theory which allows for countless possibilities for physical laws and principals and you have the multiverse!

This isn’t to say that all physicists agree on the multiverse. There is a large divide in the scientific community regarding this subject. One of the arguments for the multiverse is the simple premise that we’re here to even debate the subject. The fact that we exist and are here is testimony to our universe being perfect for life. It is not divine design, we just happen to be present because everything just happened to be randomly perfect in our universe out of countless possibilities in other universes. Alexander Vilenkin, professor of physics and director at the Instituteof Cosmology, writes, “…intelligent observers exist only in those rare bubbles in which, by pure chance, the constants happen to be just right for life to evolve. The rest of the multiverse remains barren, but no one is there to complain about that.”[15]

But this argument falls flat for various reasons: First, explaining our existence by simply stating “we’re here” is not an explanation at all. That is like taking a lethal dose of poison and surviving, but when someone asks “how did you survive the poison?” you respond, “well, I’m alive aren’t I?” As you can see this doesn’t answer the question because we still don’t know how you survived the lethal poison. Likewise, pointing out our existence does not answer how or why we are here. It is a non-answer. Second, there are many other problems that are over looked such as the Law of Biogenesis and the perfect conditions found on earth which defy all odds.

Problems with the Multiverse:

One problem with the multiverse is the philisophical problem of infinite regress, which applies to any reality. The problem being; what first caused the universe to be? What caused the multiverse to begin? One can’t dodge the issue by saying that the multiverse created our universe because the issue is quite easily pushed back one step: What started/caused the multiverse? Hawking writes, “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.”[16] Vilenkin writes, “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”[17] Professor of Physics at Princeton University Paul Steinhardt and Cosmologist and Mathematician George Ellis agrees, “…even if the multiverse exists, it leaves the deep mysteries of nature unexplained.”[18] Professor of Mathematics for the University of Oxford John Lennox writes, “It is rather ironical that in the sixteenth century some people resisted advances in science because they seemed to threaten belief in God; whereas in the twentieth century scientific ideas of a beginning have been resisted because they threatened to increase the plausibility of belief in God.”[19] So even if the multiverse is a correct hypothesis, it is still not a full fledged alternative to God.

Another problem with the multiverse is that, if correct, it tears apart the very fabric of philosophy and science, making the study of our universe through fundamental principals and causes futile since the multiverse allows for anything and everything to be possible outside of our universe.[20] The laws of physics for our universe are incredibly precise with hardly any minute allowance for variations. Such precision is irrelevant if other universes exist under different circumstances. Lightman explains, “As far as physicists are concerned, the fewer the fundamental principles and parameters, the better. The underlying hope and belief of this enterprise has always been that these basic principles are so restrictive that only one, self-consistent universe is possible, like a crossword puzzle with only one solution. That one universe would be, of course, the universe we live in… If the multiverse idea is correct, then the historic mission of physics to explain all the properties of our universe in terms of fundamental principles—to explain why the properties of our universe must necessarily be what they are—is futile, a beautiful philosophical dream that simply isn’t true.”[21] Therefore, considering the possibility of the multiverse changes everything. This poses a problem because it becomes an “anything goes” philosophy, leaving the door open to any possibilities that physicists can imagine… except of course the notion of a God… because that is just unscientific and ridiculous… right?

Most important, however, is that there is no empirical scientific proof of the multiverse![22] Ellis agrees that since the multiverse cannot be tested, even in principal, it is therefore unscientific.[23] Some physicists argue that can be tested in one of two ways: 1) If our inflation bubble collided with another bubble, their would be evident remnants of the contact which we could observe. But no such thing has been discovered nor is guaranteed because such a collision may have or will never occur. 2) Statistical predictions could be made by applying the theoretical model of the multiverse to predict the constants of nature in our universe, which would vary from universe to universe.[24] But such a strategy involves numerous assumptions, like considering our universe as typical among other universes in the multi-verse. This becomes circular reasoning since it relies on the multiverse being true in order to work, which there is no proof of.

Ellis writes, “The trouble is that no possible astronomical observations can ever see those other universes. The arguments are indirect at best… All the parallel universes lie outside our horizon and remain beyond our capacity to see, now or ever, no matter how technology evolves. In fact, they are too far away to have had any influence on our universe whatsoever. That is why none of the claims made by multiverse enthusiasts can be directly substantiated.”[25]

Lack of evidence is not a problem for pro-multiverse physicists because, to them, all it has to be is possible. But possible does not prove existence. It doesn’t matter if String Theory or Eternal Inflation allows for countless other possible universes, because that doesn’t mean there are other universes outside of ours. Just as a painter having hundreds of different paints in his studio makes it possible for him to mix and create thousands of different colors when painting on a canvas. It is possible for the painter to do so, but that doesn’t mean the painter has, is or ever will do so. In other words, it is naïve to assume anything that can happen, does happen. Additionally, string theory and eternal inflation theory have hardly any experimental support leaving them still obscure theories.[26]

Additionally, the multiverse relies on a variety of assumptions, which if any one of them is wrong, knocks the entire multiverse idea into the trash. Ellis lists the following problematic assumptions: 1) Inflation may be wrong or not eternal. 2) Quantum Mechanics may be wrong. 3) String Theory may be wrong or lack multiple outcomes.[27] 4) Lastly, the Big Bang theory still has problems that haven’t been sorted out.

Furthermore, at a philosophic level the multiverse gives way to a slippery slope of bigger systems; an infinite multiverse size or a multiverse within other larger multiverses. Where does it end? Is the multiverse apart of something even larger. Thus, the only limits of the multiverse lie in our seemingly infinite imaginations.

A Matter of Faith?

Naturally, atheist and agnostic scientists jump all over the idea of the multiverse because it rules out God. Theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg writes, “Over many centuries science has weakened the hold of religion, not by disproving the existence of God but by invalidating arguments for God based on what we observe in the natural world. The multiverse idea offers an explanation of why we find ourselves in a universe favorable to life that does not rely on the benevolence of a creator, and so if correct will leave still less support for religion.”[28] What these scientists appear to be overlooking is the paralell similarity between the logic behind the multiverse and the logic behind God. That is, faith based principals.

For example, Tagmark, in defense of the multiverse, argues that many people commit to fallacy by assuming that just because there is no observable proof of something it does not exist, called the omnivision assumption, “If the omnivision assumption is false, then there are unobservable things that exist and we live in a multiverse.”[29] Yet one could just as easily use this same logic to argue the existence of a Creator God. I can throw God in there and say there are unobservable things that exist and we live in a universe created by God.

The multiverse, like God, can be both unprovable and unfalsifiable. Something that is unprovable and unfalsifiable lies outside of scientific inquiry. Pro-multiverse physicists claim that this is acceptable because the multiverse is logically necessary to explain the fine tuning of our universe. This is completely ignoring the possibility of God, which would sufficiently explain the fine tuning. Furthermore, physicists that support the multiverse theory claim that those anti-multiverse are guilty of claiming omniscense, or knowledge of everything. Since that is impossible, how can anyone say the multiverse doesn’t exist? But this then becomes an un-falsifiable topic.  I could just as easily replace the word “multiverse” with “God” and make the same argument. It is interesting that God as represented in the Bible is often mocked by many physicists as not being scientific, yet they will adhere to a multiverse theory that can by definition violate any scientific laws required to make it plausible.

Lightman recognizes this, “Not only must we accept that basic properties of our universe are accidental and uncalculable. In addition, we must believe in the existence of many other universes. But we have no conceivable way of observing these other universes and cannot prove their existence. Thus, to explain what we see in the world and in our mental deductions, we must believe in what we cannot prove. Sound familiar? Theologians are accustomed to taking some beliefs on faith. Scientists are not. All we can do is hope that the same theories that predict the multiverse also produce many other predictions that we can test here in our own universe. But the other universes themselves will almost certainly remain a conjecture.”[30] In order to support the multiverse you need an abundant faith not founded in observable science. Yet these same supporters scoff at faith in God. How is this not hypocrasy?

Many of the questions physcists are usually striving to answer such as purpose and cause cannot be answered by science based on the very nature and ramifications of the answers. Ellis writes, “The universe might be pure happenstance — it just turned out that way. Or things might in some sense be meant to be the way they are — purpose or intent somehow underlies existence. Science cannot determine which is the case, because these are metaphysical issues.”[31]

 Conclusion:

At this time we can only conclude the following with observable science:

1) The laws of nature express an incredibly unlikely accuracy of fine-tuning for life.

2) There is currently no proven physical explanation for this fine tuning.

3) We observe our universe and no others.

4) The fine tuning embedded in natural law has been found to be specifically complex.

Yet, the train of thought for multiverse proponents is, in my opinion, less logical:

1) The universe appears designed for us. But a Designer(God) cannot not exist.

2) Since there is no designer, there must be another natural explanation.

3) There is no observable natural explanation, but there are various unverifiable theories that allow for the possibility of a natural explanation.

4) Using these various unverifiable theories we can construct one overlying unverifiable theory (the multiverse) as the natural explanation.

5) There is no proof of the multiverse, but we exist, so the multiverse must exist because there is no Designer(God).

So we’re left with two options. Believing in God, which goes beyond science but does not contradict it. Or believe in the multiverse which makes up the science and rules as it goes along. One road leads to the multiverse. The other leads to an intelligent creator God. Theoretical Physicist Tony Rothman once said, “When confronted with the order and beauty of our universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to make the leap of faith from science to religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.”[32] Cosmologist Edward Harrison concludes, “Here is the cosmological proof for the existance of God- the design argument of Paley- updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one… Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument.” [33]

For me, I’ll stick with what I believe is the more logical and safe bet: God.


[1] As quoted in Tim Folger’s “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator; the Multiverse Theory,” www.discovermagazine.com December 2008.

[2] Tegmark, M., (July 2011) “The Multiverse Strikes Back,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[3] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[4] Luskin, C., (April 2010) “Penrose on Cosmic Fine Tuning,” http://www.evolutionnews.org

[5] Coppedge, D., (2006) “There is Only One Universe,” http://www.icr.org

[6] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[7] As quoted in Alan Lightman’s ““The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[8] Davies, P., (1988) The Cosmic Blueprint, Simon & Schuster:New York,NY, pp. 203.

[9] As quoted in Hugh Ross’ The Creator and the Cosmos, Navpress Publishing Group:Colorado Springs,CO, (1994) pp. 115.

[10] As quoted in Robin Schumacher’s “Atheism and the Multiverse,” http://www.carm.org

[11] As quoted in Tim Folger’s “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator; the Multiverse Theory,” www.discovermagazine.com December 2008.

[12] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[13] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[14] Vilenken, A., (July 2011) “Welcome to the Multiverse,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[15] Vilenken, A., (July 2011) “Welcome to the Multiverse,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[16] As quoted in Robin Schumacher’s “Atheism and the Multiverse,” http://www.carm.org

[17] As quoted in Robin Schumacher’s “Atheism and the Multiverse,” http://www.carm.org

[18] Ellis, G.F.R., (August 2011) “Does the Multiverse Really Exist,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[19] As quoted in Robin Schumacher’s “Atheism and the Multiverse,” http://www.carm.org

[20] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[21] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[22] Schumacher, R., “Atheism and the Multiverse,” http://www.carm.org

[23] Vilenken, A., (July 2011) “Welcome to the Multiverse,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[24] Vilenken, A., (July 2011) “Welcome to the Multiverse,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[25] Ellis, G.F.R., (August 2011) “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[26] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[27] Tegmark, M., (July 2011) “The Multiverse Strikes Back,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[28] As quoted in Alan Lightman’s “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[29] Tegmark, M., (July 2011) “The Multiverse Strikes Back,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[30] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[31] Ellis, G.F.R., (August 2011) “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[32] Rothman, T., (May 1987) “A ‘What You See Is What You Beget’ Theory,” Discover pp. 99

[33] Harrison, E., (1985) Masks of the Universe, Collier Books,New York,NY, pp. 252, 263.

Having a bad day? Feeling unlucky? After reading this you might feel differently because things could be a lot worse…

Our universe:

If…

…there were just two dimensions plus a time dimension, or four dimensions plus a time dimension life could not exist. Life can only exist in three dimensions plus a time dimension.

…the strong nuclear force was slightly altered the nuclei essential for life could not exist because hydrogen would not exist.

…the weak nuclear force was slightly altered there would be no heavy elements (or too many heavy elements) emitted by stars. Life would not exist.

…the gravitational force was slightly higher stars would burn too hot, if slightly lower, stars would never ignite, and thus no life would be possible.

…the electromagnetic force constant was slightly different no chemicals could bond and thus no life could exist.

…the ratio of electromagnetic force to gravitational force was slightly altered stars would be either too massive or too large and life could not exist.

… the ratio of proton mass to electron mass was slightly different chemicals would not bond and life would be impossible.

…the ratio of protons to electrons was slightly different galaxy, star and planet formation could not occur and life could not exist.

…the expansion rate of the universe was slightly slower it would collapse in on itself immediately, if slightly faster galaxies would never form, and thus no life.

…the entropy level was slightly different galaxy formation could not occur, and neither would life.

… the mass density of the universe was slightly different stars would burn too rapidly and life could not exist.

… the velocity of light was slightly different stars would be either too bright, or not bright at all, preventing life from existing.

…if the uniformity of radiation was smoother stars and galaxies could not form. If coarser, the universe would be empty space. Either way, no life.

…the decay rate of protons was slightly different radiation levels would be so high it would eradicate all life, but if too low, allow for no matter in the universe.

…the energy level ration between carbon and oxygen atoms was slightly different there would not be enough oxygen and carbon in the universe to support life.

…the ground state energy level for Helium was slightly different there wouldn’t be any carbon or oxygen, and therefore no life.

…the decay rate of Beryllium was slower stars would catastrophically explode. If faster, no chemistry for life would be possible.

… the mass excess of the neutron over the proton was slightly different heavy elements would not be possible and stars would collapse in on themselves. Again, no life possible…

…the polarity of water was greater heat generated by evaporation would kill all life, but if lower all water would be frozen and kill all life.

…the amount of supernova eruptions were occurring too frequently life would be exterminated, but if not at all heavy elements would not be present.

…the amount of white dwarf binaries in the universe were any less we wouldn’t have enough fluorine for life chemistry. If any more, planetary orbits would be disrupted and life would be exterminated.

…the ratio of exotic to ordinary matter was just slightly off the universe would collapse in on itself.

…if the amount of dark matter in the universe was slightly different, galaxies, stars, and planets could not have formed, and thus no life.

Max Tegmark, associate professor of physics at MIT states, “Our universe appears surprisingly fine-tuned for life in the sense that if you tweaked many of our constants of nature by just a tiny amount, life as we know it would be impossible.”[1] Another physics professor at MIT, Alan Lightman, writes, “…according to various calculations, if the values of some of the fundamental parameters of our universe were a little larger or a little smaller, life could not have arisen… The strengths of the basic forces and certain other fundamental parameters in our universe appear to be ‘fine-tuned’ to allow the existence of life.”[2]

The Planet Earth:

If…

…earth was in an elliptical galaxy or an irregular galaxy the lack of heavy elements and radiation exposure would prevent any life from existing. Life can only exist on a planet in a spiral galaxy, which is the kind we’re in (obviously).

…the earth was in one of the spiral arms of our galaxy the amount of radiation and supernova explosions would kill all life. Yet Earth lies in the peaceful openness between our galaxies’ spiral arms.

…the earth was too far away from the center of the galaxy there would be no heavy elements to form life. If too close to the center radiation and disruption in planetary orbit would kill all life.

…there were more than one star in our solar system our orbit would be disrupted enough to prevent life from existing.

… the sun we orbit were any larger it burn too rapidly and burn up all life. But if any smaller the rotational and tidal periods of earth would be drastically altered and there would not be enough UV radiation to allow plants to create sugars and oxygen.

… the sun burned a different color (more red, blue, ect.) plants could not photosynthesize.

… the surface gravity of earth was just minutely altered the atmosphere would contain either too many gases poisoning life, or too little gases and we’d lose our protection from deadly radiation.

…the earth was closer to the sun we’d be too hot. Farther and we’d be too cold. A change as much as 2% would kill all life.

…the orbital eccentricity was greater, seasonal changes would be too extreme for life to withstand.

…the axial tilt was slightly changed, surfaces temperatures would be too high for life.

… the earth rotated faster atmospheric wind velocities would be catastrophically violent, if slower, temperature differences would be too great.

… the earth’s magnetic field were stronger, electromagnetic storms would be catastrophic, but if too weak, solar radiation would eradicate all life.

…the earth’s crust were too thick too much oxygen would enter the crust killing life, if too thin, volcanic activity would kill all life.

… the albedo of earth was slightly different we’d either start a runaway heat up or runaway cool down which would kill most life forms.

…there were more asteroids and comets in the solar system, constant collisions would kill most life.

…the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere were too high there would be a catastrophic greenhouse effect, if too low, plants could not photosynthesize.

…there were too much water vapor in the atmosphere a runaway greenhouse effect would kill all life, if too little there would not be enough rainfall to support life on land.

…the atmospheric discharge of electricity (lightning) were too high fires would reach catastrophic levels, but if too low, there would not be enough nitrogen in the atmosphere to support life.

…the ozone level in our atmosphere were too high surface temperatures would be freezing, and if too low, radiation would kill all life.

…the moon were too close, tidal forces would catastrophically sweep over the earth surface, and if too far, create instabilities in earth’s climate.

Cosmologist Dr. Hugh Ross claims that all the factors required for life to exist in the universe and on earth happening by chance is one in ten to the forty-second power (1 x 1042).[3] Physicist Roger Penrose calculates it out to be one in ten to the one-hundred and twenty-third power (1 x 10123)![4]

Biological Life:

But we’re not even done yet… you can have all the ingredients for life, but still not have life. What caused life to first appear? How did it first come about on its own? We have still never observed life come from non-life (Law of Biogenesis). Yet, life exists!

Oxygen is poisonous gas that oxidizes organic and inorganic material on earth. The first life form would have to have a protective membrane immediately from the very beginning.[5] Biochemist Dr. Michael Denton notes, “What we have is sort of a ‘Catch 22’ situation. If we have oxygen we have no organic compounds, but if we don’t have oxygen we have none either.”[6] Water would likewise kill any exposed polypeptides required for life through hydrolysis, if it wasn’t already protected. What are the odds that first life forms would automatically have protective membranes to guard against oxidization and hydrolysis?

Now take into consideration reproduction. The first life would have to be capable of reproduction or else we wouldn’t be here. The odds of life generating from non-life is already difficult to postulate, but to then propose it coincidentally was capable of reproducing is philosophically astounding. What are the odds of that?

Molecular Biophysicist Harold Morowitz calculates that the odds of a single living cell developing on its own is one in ten to the one-hundredth billion power (1 x 10100,000,000,000)![7] Astronomer Michael Hart calculates the odds at one in ten to the three thousandth power (1 x 103,000).[8] Materials scientist Dr. Walter Bradley and chemist Dr. Charles Thaxton calculate the odds of life forming from non-life as five in ten to the one hundred and ninety-first power (4.9 x 10191).[9] Astronomer Sir Frederick Hoyle and professor of applied math and astronomy Chandra Wickramasinghe calculate the odds as one in ten to the forty thousandth power (1 x 1040,000).[10] No matter which one you pick… these are all really bad odds!

Ok, so now you have life, but out of the millions of life forms on this planet, only one (humans), are capable of intellectual thought, art, reason, science, ect.

Ok, so now you’re a human, life can still suck depending on where you live. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably living inAmerica, a relatively wealthy country with immense civil rights. A country that by shear citizenship, puts you in the top percentile of wealthiest people on earth. Your odds of being born inAmerica, one in twenty two.

So let us rewind. What are the odds that you live in a great country, are a human, are alive, on a planet that supports life, in a galaxy that supports a planet that supports life, in a universe that supports life? The odds are not good at all. In fact, the odds are so bad you are technically defying all odds by simply reading this. So it is kind of hard to have a bad day when technically you shouldn’t exist!

Our existence alone is testimony to a God that created us, and loves us. Psalms 8:3-4 says, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (NIV).

So have a blessed day, because you are definitely blessed!


[1] Tegmark, M., (July 2011) “The Multiverse Strikes Back,” http://www.scientificamerican.com

[2] Lightman, A.P., (December 2011) “The Accidental Universe; Science’s Crisis of Faith,” http://www.harpers.org

[3] Ross, H., (1994) The Creator and the Cosmos,  Navpress Publishing Group:Colorado Springs,CO, pp.134.

[4] Luskin, C., (April 2010) “Penrose on Cosmic Fine Tuning,” http://www.evolutionnews.org

[5] Ward, P. & Brownlee, D., (2000) Rare Earth, Copernicus,New York: NY, pp. 245.

[6] Denton, M., (1985) Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Alder & Alder:Bethesda,MD, pp. 261.

[7] Shapiro , R., (1986) Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Summit Books, New York, NY, pp. 128.

[8] Hart, M.H., (1990) “Atmospheric Evolution, the Drake Equation, and DNA: Sparse Life in an Infinite Universe,” Physical Cosmology and Philosophy, Macmillan,New York, NY, pp. 263-264.

[9] Thaxton, C., Bradley, W., & Olsen, R., (1984) The Mystery of Life’s Origins: Reassessing Current Theories, Philosophical Library:New York,NY, pp. 66.

[10] Hoyle, F. & Wickramasinghe, C., (1984) Evolution from Space, Simon & Schuster:New York,NY, pp. 176.

The late ex-atheist scholar Anthony Flew once wrote that he came to accept the notion of a God from following the argument where ever it lead. In my opinion, the subject of thermodynamics and entropy in one that supports the notion of intelligent design if you follow the argument where it leads.

Thermodynamics is the study of energy and its transformation.[1] When focusing on a particular object applied to thermodynamics, this object is referred to as a “system.” The rest of the universe other than this object (or system) is referred to as the “surroundings.” From this there are two types of systems: A closed system, in which no energy is exchanged with the surroundings. The other is an open system in which energy is exchanged with the surroundings.[2] Applied to these systems are the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

First Law of Thermodynamics:

The first law is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, and therefore the total amount of energy remains unchanged as energy is converted from one form to another.[3] This law is also known as the law of energy conservation.[4] So the energy present when the universe began is the same amount of energy present today, but the forms that energy has taken over that time may have changed significantly. A system may exchange energy with its surroundings, but the total energy within the system and its surroundings never changes.

Second Law of Thermodynamics:

The second law states that as the energy is used and converted it becomes less and less useful over time. When energy is transformed some of the energy is lost as heat, which then is absorbed into its surroundings. For example, eating food, which is then digested is energy which is subsequently used by the body to walk or run. When the body converts the energy consumed to walk or run it releases this used energy as heat into our surroundings. From a thermodynamic point of view this energy is still present, but from a biological point of view this heat energy is no longer available to be used to do work. This process has been found to be irreversible.[5] Therefore, the amount of energy in the universe able to do work has been, and always will be decreasing over time.[6] In conjunction with the first law, it is concluded that the total amount of energy in the universe is constant, but amount of useable energy that can be utilized to do work is constantly decreasing.

Entropy:

This leads to the concept of entropy, which is the measurement of this disorder in energy, in which heat energy, being not usable, is considered disorganized.[7] Thus, a system with a large amount of usable energy has low entropy, a system with little usable energy has high entropy. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, entropy will continually increase in the universe as energy becomes more and more disorganized. This is commonly referred to as the Law of Increasing Entropy.

Now here is where the rubber meets the road: These laws do not change. Whether a system is opened or closed, the first and second laws apply to ALL things within the universe.[8] Nobel Prize winning physicist Percy Williams Bridgman confirms, “The two laws of thermodynamics are, I suppose, accepted by physicists as perhaps the most secure generalizations from experience that we have. A physicist does not hesitate to apply the laws to any concrete physical situation in the confident that nature will not let him down.”[9] In fact, no exception to these laws has ever been found![10]

So if these laws are as dependable as laws come in science then entropy is likewise just as solid. Since entropy concludes all energy is becoming less useful over time, then our universe is becoming more disorganized or random. Geochemist and Professor Emeritus for the Schoolof Earth Scienceat OhioState University Dr. Gunter Faure writes, “Another way to explain the meaning of entropy is to compare it to the property of ‘randomness.’ This conclusion leads to the generalization that every system that is left to itself will, on average, change toward a condition of maximum randomness. The implication of this statement that the entropy of a system increases spontaneously… when entropy is thought of as randomness, it can be recognized in many natural phenomena.”[11] Geologist Dr. Andrew Snelling writes of the randomness of entropy, “Randomness, of course, is synonymous with disorder, disorganization, disintegration, and degeneration. Furthermore, this is an absolutely universal rule of nature at the present time, as demonstrated and verified by countless scientific observations.”[12]

The Contradiction

So with the first and second laws of thermodynamics applying to all things in the universe, and all systems subject to entropy and therefore disorder, we are now left with a problem. Macroevolution purports that order came from disorder, life from non-life, and ever since life has evolved to become more and more complex. Evolution theory asserts that over time complexity and order increases. Yet, entropy demands that over time disorder and randomness increases. Thus we are left with a paradox.

Follow the Argument…

Now here is where we must follow the argument where it leads. Evolutionists for the most part are aware of this dilemma, and they have a wide variety of responses to the paradox.

Open vs. Close System:

One response is that the earth is an open system, receiving energy from the sun, and is therefore not a closed system. However, as said before, the first and second laws of thermodynamics apply to ALL systems whether opened or closed.

Order from the Sun:

Another response is that the energy received from the sun provides the energy which created the organisms which lives off the energy. The organisms themselves grow in complexity over time thriving off the sun’s energy. But this does not solve the problem. It does not explain how organisms developed the ability to harness the sun’s energy. It also overlooks the fact that an influx of heat into a system increases the rate of entropy.[13] In other words, the Sun’s energy increases the rate of destruction, a catch-22. Raw energy from the sun is harmful to organisms unless the organisms are already capable of harnessing the raw energy, just as a plant photosynthesizes. Any life trying “evolve” these capabilities would long be destroyed by the sun before they could develop them. Dr. Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory at Leeds University, writes, “The principles of thermodynamics, even in open systems, do not allow a new functional biological structure to be achieved without new machinery already being in place…  New machines are not made by simply adding energy to existing machines. Intelligence is needed. And this thesis is falsifiable. If anyone was to take an existing chemical machine and produce a different chemical machine which was not there before (either as a sub-part or latently coded for in the DNA template), then this argument would have been falsified. No one has ever achieved this.”[14]

Local Order:

Another response is that though disorder may increase in a system, a local order can increase. Organisms are at a smaller scale and can therefore increase in complexity while the system around it decreases in order. An example brought up is crystallization. Water for example crystallizes when cold, forming complex shapes, and thus order from disorder. The flaw in this argument is comparing complex organisms to crystallization.Crystalsform because of their regular arrangement directed by the forces of their atoms. When made colder they bond together based on their molecular shapes which can make patterns if the molecular structures are angular, a very far cry from the information coding complexity found in organisms. If such things were similar, life would be spontaneously generating all around us, but such a thing has never been observed, hence the Law of Biogenesis.

University of Texas Mathematics Professor Granville Sewell writes, “Natural forces may turn a spaceship into a pile of rubble, but not vice-versa–not because the exact arrangement of atoms in a given spaceship is more improbable than the exact arrangement of atoms in a given pile of rubble, but because (whether the Earth receives energy from the Sun or not) [whether in a closed or open system] there are very few arrangements of atoms which would be able to fly to the moon and return safely, and very many which could not.  The reader familiar with William Dembski’s ‘specified complexity’ concept [Dembski 2006], will recognize similarities to the argument here: natural forces do not do things which are ‘specified’ (macroscopically describable) and ‘complex’ (extremely improbable). Both are just attempts to state in more ‘scientific’ terms what is already obvious to the layman, that unintelligent forces cannot do intelligent things.”[15]

Order Through Dissipation:

Another response is that as energy dissipates it can cause temporary order. Order which can replicate or reproduce before it itself disassembles. This theory lacks observable experimental evidence though. Its only evidence is mathematical on paper or computer screen.[16] Bottom line, it has never been observed or proven. What has been observed and proven though are the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Likewise, all facets of macroevolution are also a slave to these laws as well. Mutations for example, though always referenced as a driver of evolution, is not an organizing mechanism, but a disorganizing mechanism, causing harmful or neutral changes in our genetic information.[17] Natural selection also does not create order because it does not create information, but instead “chooses” from existing genetic and biochemical information.[18] Even the first incredibly critical step of macroevolution in which non-living molecules self-assemble to create the first “life,” defies the law of increasing entropy.[19] These laws prove to be a thorn in the side for believing that order can arise from disorder, and therefore for the theory of evolution. As theoretical physicist Dr. Per Bak stated, “In short, chaos theory cannot explain complexity.”[20] Dr. Arthur Wilder-Smith, a physical organic chemist writes, “Today it is simply unscientific to claim that the fantastically reduced entropy of the human brain, of the dolphin’s sound lens, and of the eye of a fossilised [sic] trilobite simply ‘happened’, for experimental experience has shown that such miracles just do not ‘happen.’”[21]

Snelling concludes, “Indeed, rather than creative processes, what we observe in the world around us are the deteriorative processes of increasing entropy implicit in the second law of thermodynamics. Every living organism eventually dies, at which point the highly developed order of organisms is reduced to random disorderly collections of molecules. Yet despite this being the universal experience of every living creature including man, demonstrated by observation and experimentation of relentless overall deterioration, contemporary biologists insist that their model of biological evolution is fact, despite the complete absence of any experimental evidence supporting it. Indeed, they simply assume evolution as the universal overriding principal of change in nature, despite all the evidence from observation and experimentation demonstrating the very opposite, that is, disorganization and deterioration.”[22] McIntosh concludes, “My position is to side with experimental science and not with ‘just-so’ attempts to get around the clear evidence of design in nature. At the very least these matters should be critically considered in science teaching today.”[23]

The conclusion reached by contemporary scientists on this issue reveals their bias. They assume from the beginning that there is no God and that evolution is fact. When confronted with an unconformity to their beliefs like the laws of thermodynamics they are forced to resort to explanations that cannot be proven or explanations that assert the consequence, because in their mind evolution is fact. But if we were to truly follow the argument where it lead, we would understand that both the laws of thermodynamics and macroevolution cannot both be right since they contradict each other. And if only one can be right, which one would you choose? I don’t know about you, but I choose the observable, proven and time tested laws of thermodynamics.


[1] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ, pp.68.

[2] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ,  pp.68.

[3] “Conservation of Energy,”GlennResearchCenter, http://www.grc.nasa.gov

[4] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX, pp. 615.

[5] “Second Law of Thermodynamics,”GlennResearchCenter, http://www.grc.nasa.gov

[6] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ, pp. 68.

[7] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ, pp. 68

[8] Raven, R.H. & Berg, L.R., (2004) Environment, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.:Hoboken,NJ,  pp. 68

[9] Bridgman, P.W., (1953) “Reflections on Thermodynamics,” American Scientist, 41: 549.

[10] Lieb, E.H. & Yngvason, J., (2000) “A Fresh Look At Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics,” Physics Today, 53 (4):32.

[11] Faure, G., (1998) Principles and Applications of Geochemistry, Second Ed., Prentice Hall:Upper Saddle River,NJ, pp. 162.

[12] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX, pp 616.

[13] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX, pp. 617.

[14] McIntosh, A., (Feb 2007) “Just Add Energy…” http://www.answersingenesis.org

[15] Sewell, G., (2010) In The Beginning and Other Essays On Intelligent Design, Discovery Institute Press:Dallas,TX, pp. 72.

[16] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX,  pp. 618.

[17] Hodge, B., (2008) “Are Mutations Part of the ‘Engine’ of Evolution?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, Master Books:Green Forest,AR, pp. 82.

[18] Purdom, G., (2006) “Is Natural Selection the Same Thing as Evolution?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 1, Master Books:Green Forest,AR, pp. 282.

[19] Riddle, M., (2008) “Can Natural Processes Explain the Origin of Life?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 2, Master Books:Green Forest,AR, pp. 72.

[20] Bak, P., (1996) How Nature Works: The Science of Self-Organized Criticality, Springer-Verlag:New York,NY, pp. 31.

[21] Wilder-Smith, A.E., (1989) The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution, WFT Books, pp. 146.

[22] Snelling, A., (2009) Earth’s Catastrophic Past, Institute for Creation Research:Dallas,TX,  pp 620.

[23] McIntosh, A., (Feb 2007) “Just Add Energy…” http://www.answersingenesis.org