It all began on a rainy afternoon, with a plate of microwaved fried chicken. I turned the television on. Who just sits down and eats these days?
The program started with Morgan Freeman recounting how he grew up as a Methodist child. He was taught that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh, He rested. But, the question that Morgan struggled with throughout his youth was this, “If creation began with God, what happened before God? Where did God come from?”
The documentary led me to assume that he rejected the notion of God – at least the Methodist version – because it simply made no sense. How is God any explanation at all for where the universe came from?
Q: Who made the universe and everything in it?
Q: What else did God make?
A: All things.
Q: Where did God come from?
A: He was.
For most people, when they think about the idea of infinity and eternity, they squirm. It’s not possible! How could it be?
The program then went about answering the question, “What happened before the beginning?” Well, what is the beginning? What does it look like…or….what do scientists think it looked like?
Big Bang Theory:
The big bang theory has been around for close to one hundred years now. As it happened, it was discovered by accident. Scientists working on a large radio kept picking up static. Upon closer examination, the background noise seemed to be coming from every direction. They tried everything to get rid of it, namely, cleaning their machine. After doing everything to ensure that the machine was in top-notch order, they came to the only reasonable explanation; it was coming from everywhere. So, what was the conclusion that scientists came to?
We are living in a giant microwave – and that’s why the earth isn’t crispy.
More importantly, they posited that all the noise was remnants of a large explosion. The noise didn’t come from a particular place; it came from everywhere. All of creation was screaming. When tied with the fact that the universe is actually expanding, things seemed to be coming together. Beginning in 1997, NASA has been working on mapping the universe. The most recent update of this map is seen below:
The universe, starting from a single point, expanded exponentially outwards. Thinking of it like a balloon, it started off as a single point, but then blew up. Through this inflation, the universe spread in a balanced and equal way. So, unlike a conventional explosion, the universe actually expanded in an ordered fashion.
That is the most basic explanation I can give for the big bang theory. It’s an interesting one and it takes into account many observable facts. For most scientists, it is the explanation for how the universe came about. But, it leaves a lot wanting, assuming the big bang is the explanation for how the universe came about.
Primarily, it begs these questions; what was contained within the point of singularity? How did it start? Why did it start (oh, sorry, why questions are for laymen)? How could everything come from nothing? Where did the laws come from that governed the universe’s expansion? What came before?
NOTE: The big bang was not chaotic. It was a very fast expansion of an ordered universe. Both models essentially beg the same question, “Why order? Why anything?”
Brane World Theory:
Before I begin, let me first just say that this is roughly how it was explained to me. It was also explained to me that brane world theory takes into account an eleven dimensional reality, something I completely don’t understand. I am only taking the part of this that is in opposition to inflation theory.
Picture two pieces of paper held side-by-side. Between them, there is a little gap. Now, imagine that when the pieces of paper are cold, they come close to each other. When they are hot, they go away from each other. When they touch, they make one another hot. When they go away from each other, they cool down.
What would happen in this scenario? Assuming everything above were true, their movement would be cyclical, wouldn’t it? When they are far from each other, they are attracted to the heat of the other. Once they touch, they are filled with heat and then move from each other. Then they go back and forth without end.
Basically, this is what brane world theory is. Replace the pieces of paper with three dimensional realities. When they touch, they actually fill each other with the energy that explodes and creates universes. When they leave, they cool down and go back for more. This is how most of us began, anyway.
I really cannot go into the specifics of this. For now, just acknowledge that this is a theory that is challenging big bang/inflation theory. When asked what it was all about, the inventors of the model (and the whole eleven dimension thing) stumbled over their words and had to begin again. It’s far more complicated than the big bang theory.
What is important here? As opposed to the big bang theory, which begins at a vague point of singularity, this states that reality is actually eternal. People have varying ideas about the beginning of the big bang, but it does state that the universe (and reality?) have a distinct beginning.
This is the belief that an eternal being with a personality and intelligence created the universe. How He did it is irrelevant – He might have used the big bang – but that He did it is simply understood. No doubt, words were involved. He loves words. I do, too. Funny that?
The big bang is interesting – and far more sound, quite frankly – than the brane world idea. It hasn’t been received warmly, was created by guys who admittedly “wanted to shake things up a little”, and isn’t very simple. The big bang theory is far simpler – the brane world idea seems extemporaneous. Is it just me who thinks that?
Still, the very notion of brane world theory upsets me. For one, while the big bang theory actually compels someone to believe in God, brane world theory hides it’s why questions in a musky blanket of, “The universe is eternal.” For the big bang, it makes absolutely no sense that everything just popped up out of nowhere (angry physicist: Technically, not out of nowhere. A point of singularity. Don’t you understand?). But, it’s not just the ex nihilo of the big bang (being ludicrous without God) that compels belief in a higher force. The ludicrous thing is that all the matter is orderly. The laws of gravity and thermodynamics came from nowhere, too?
If you haven’t been introduced to classical arguments for theism, I’m sorry. Long story short, it makes no sense that something created itself. An effect cannot be its own cause. What can be true, however, is that there is a cause without an effect. Actually, nature compels that this is so. There is a problem that every person has to deal with (or ignore. Video games are nice, too. And romantic movies): where did it all begin? If you go down that rabbit trail long enough, you’ll find that something has to be eternal.
So, the big bang logically makes sense as an effect, not a cause. That, I’m fine with.
But brane world theory? To say that that the universe is the eternal cause of everything is in opposition to the idea of God. It places creation in the seat of creator; it does it itself. In some sense, it faces the same bizarre questions that the big bang theory must face without God. God could potentially exist in this model, but He wouldn’t need to.
While the theory is dangerous, it’s not threatening. The idea of God doesn’t just merely fill the need for an eternal cause, it fills the needs of nature. The major difference between an eternal universe and an eternal God, is that one is intelligent and can do whatever His nature wills Him to do. His very existence answers the why questions. An eternal universe? It’s not intelligent, nor could it compel order. Furthermore, it leaves humans in the pitiable position of contributing nothing to either their existence or nature’s. In an eternal universe without God, humans have no reason to possess space and time. They find their own meaning in the most ridiculous way. Like Carl Sagan, they must dispense with all supernatural phenomena, in place of distilling spirituality from the mundane (something only made possible by the pre-existence of a supernatural world). They look at the glory of the cosmos and are filled with gratitude, but have no one to thank.
Back to the ramen noodles and the $900 a month rent.
An eternal universe is more insane than a world with an intelligent creator. Where the problems with one are emotional (The problem of evil? How is juxtaposing the evil of a starving child with a perfectly divine and eternal being supposed to logically disprove His existence? At the very least, it makes finite, emotionally-weak creations uncomfortable.), the problems of the other come down to its internal logic. If you don’t believe me, hear what Stephen Hawking has to say about an eternal universe: Stephen Hawking: The Origin of the Universe
I came to the conclusion, over my learning about brane worlds, that scientific theories are probing the same domain as philosophical questioning. Any attempt to invent some explanation that makes the most sense for how and why we (and the universe) are here are equally weak.
For example, consider this; gravity doesn’t exist. It is not the law of gravity that exists, but the thing which is observed. The current best explanation for why matter acts in the way it does is gravity. Yet, gravity could be outclassed by a more thorough explanation.
What will never be disproven, however, is what we observe. And what we observe is that apples fall down from a tree, not up or sideways. We do not observe the law of gravity, merely what it is trying to explain. The explanation of gravity is currently the simplest explanation for what we observe.
Let’s take a look at the universe. What we observe is that it is expanding. Not only is it expanding, but it is full of microwaves. If it is expanding, that means it expanded from some place. If we observe microwaves – radiation – it also makes sense that this radiation came from some place i.e. a point of singularity. Insert big bang theory (I really do hate that name. Can we just call it the creation theory? It demands a Mover.)
Now, there is the brane world theory. It is a subset of M-theory (the triumphal “theory of everything”…they’re still working on it.) You know what it is. I don’t want to explain it again.
Both theories do not exist. What does exist, however, is what we observe. And what we observe follows order.
If a scientific theory, like the big bang theory, demands a so-called “religious” dogma, how is it possible to separate the two? Why do people (where are these colloquial robots?) separate the two? Why do they take one eternity over the other?
Any explanation of what we observe should be placed under the same scrutiny as others. I would like, now, to address the view that the universe is eternal through brane world theory, making God “unnecessary”, and perhaps causing proponents to believe that God is a fairytale.
If the flying spaghetti monster, or Russell Brand’s teapot (joint?), is a satisfactory non-sequitur argument to debunk the existence of God (or at least make it a bizarre idea), apply the same argument to brane world theory. Have you ever observed this other brane world? By all accounts, the other three dimensional world is un-observable (and the fourth dimensional gap in-between). How do you know they are attracted to each other when they are cool? Have you ever seen that happen? Have you ever seen them come together?
In the end, brane world theory serves the same purpose as answering the question, “What will heaven be like?” It is extrapolation of the highest order. It is just a theory to “shake the waters”. And that’s fine. Let the scientists have their fun. But don’t forget that what we observe points to something else.
I will spend more time studying brane worlds, M-theory, and all of this. The entire study of cosmology is fascinating.
Tied to observable things compelling an explanation that fits with what we see, simply consider this. The argument that it makes sense for God to exist, because there is great complexity, only goes so far. Have you ever thought, though, that it makes sense for God to exist, because eternity is everywhere? That infinity is a number (but add a one and it isn’t)? The brane world theory demonstrates that science always leads to eternity. So how ridiculous is it for an eternal God to exist?
But, at this point, it might seem like I have choked myself with my own reasoning. Most philosophers do that, anyway. Why do you think all their conclusions are more questions? It might seem like the next question should be, “Well, if explanations of observable things don’t really exist, then God doesn’t really exist, even if the explanation of God makes the most sense.”
But, that question is missing the point. By saying that gravity doesn’t really exist, I am only saying that it is not the thing that is observable. Gravity, as far as we can tell, does exist. But, it doesn’t exist to stimulate our senses.
Similarly, God, as far as we can tell, is a natural conclusion of how the world works. He needs to be there, even if the brane world theory seems to opt him out (without God, the brane world theory still doesn’t make sense). But, the difference between the explanation of God and the explanation of gravity, is that the explanation of God is also observable. If that wasn’t so, most of the Scriptures would be unnecessarily contradicted. He has been seen by people – and will be seen by people. Namely, Jesus the Christ. The source of all explanations (gravity, etc.) is also a self-contained existence. If this were not true, He wouldn’t have existed before creation. If He didn’t exist before creation, using Him as an explanation for things observable would be impossible. To use Him as an explanation at all, He has to exist. He is above gravity – not on the same level of it. Since creation demands that He existed before itself, it also demands that He is the only explanation that is also observable….
which is another way of saying that He is the first cause.
I have always wondered if science would be necessary, if sin hadn’t entered the world. As in heaven, aren’t our wills in perfect unison with the will of God? Would we not need an explanation for why things work the way they do, because we would already understand? Wouldn’t every observation of nature be filled with understanding for why it functions in that way?
Perhaps. I would never say, though, that we wouldn’t take dominion over nature. Maybe unaided by science, we would build and create things like we do now? Again, I don’t know. I can’t go back to the past and test it. What I do know, is that we weren’t sinning and everything was working perfectly.
Aided by sin and curiosity, we are compelled to expand our knowledge and dominion farther. Am I wrong to think that there is glory involved in that? Am I wrong to think that, every day, it is wonderful to see more being revealed; more people seeing the revelation of truth? We may have lost understanding, we may have lost innocence, or we may have lost both at the fall, but it seems as if we are slowly being prepared for something. How long will it take? I don’t know. It’s not the progress of technology – it only intensifies what is already there – it is the slow acknowledgement of every people group that everything belongs to the Lord.
We are only human. Evil scares us and makes us mad. We hate to not understand. We are weak and frail – and there is an infinite landscape stretching out before us. But the scariest part? It’s behind us, too. It’s all around us. We are not at the center; we are just a part of some great joke. Why did He do it? Why are we constantly made fun of? Every explanation we posit for why we are here leads to more questions. But, we wake up every morning, faced with the opportunity to reject or embrace the first idea that comes to mind; that there is a God who loves us. He loves all He makes, even the starving children. Why does He do it? Why does He let them die?
And where are we headed? Why is He doing nothing, letting the poor die and the rich languish in the realization that wealth fills no needs?
Like Einstein found out, time is not infinite. It is under the subjugation of a greater force. It will end one day. And on that day, everything that ever rebelled against Him will be punished. Nothing unholy can stand in the sight of a holy, holy, holy God. He has control over all He does. He lets hurricanes wipe out villages. He commands billions to trust Him. And there is nothing more uncomfortable to acknowledge than the fact that we are not in control – and that He is not like us. The only way to make it through this spinning flurry of activity alive is to hold onto the only thing that has never changed.