The Witness of Creation--Part 1, Evidence from the physical world
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll is a Centurion of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He spent 30 years as a nuclear specialist, and is now a freelance writer who writes on current issues from a Christian perspective. His work regularly appears on BreakPoint online and SALVO magazine among other places. Regis also teaches and speaks on a variety of worldview topics, covering everything from Sharing the Gospel in a Postmodern Generation to String Theory. He currently serves as lay pastor of Hamilton Anglican Fellowship (www.hamiltonaf.org) in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
- 2008 Apr 11
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalms 19:1-4)
THE “CREATED WORD”
Among religious critics, God is a myth whose origin is traced to the irrational fears and silly superstitions of man. Beyond the imaginings of weak and gullible people, His existence is nil. For the believer, God is as real as maternal love.
A mother’s love is not a material object subject to scientific validation; yet it is communicated in material ways establishing a rational basis for belief. The same is true for God. Although the Creator is not a part of the physical world, He has nonetheless revealed himself through it. Like the artisan whose choices of media, colors, and brush stokes are his signature, God has created a masterpiece writing His name in every corner of the canvas.
God’s masterpiece is “The Created Word”—the corporeal fabric of spacetime through which the divine will is expressed. Of the various ways that God communicates, the Created Word is one (of two) that speaks to every person, directly.
In combination with the “Imprinted Word”—man’s inborn spiritual, rational, and moral dimensions—the Created Word comprises “general revelation.” It is general because it is universally accessible. Furthermore, it is directly accessible. In contrast to sacred texts, teachings and traditions that come through human agents, the Created Word issues directly from the mouth of God for every ear to hear and understand.
THE ELECTRON ORBIT
In a recent online discussion, a Christian asserted that evidence supporting Christianity can be found in every university department. To which one skeptic sniggered, “Well, then, please give me an example from the chemistry department that is best explained by Christianity.” The challenge had a certain swagger.
I jumped into the fray offering that the atom, the most basic component of chemistry, fit the bill. I explained that the atom is made up of a positively charged nucleus enshrouded in a cloud of negatively charged electrons—all in an unimaginably tiny space. The odd thing is, electromagnetic attraction should cause the atom to collapse almost instantaneously. Searching for an explanation, researchers scratched their heads raw before ascribing the oddity to the “quantum potential.”
But had they explained it? No. All they did was give it a lofty name—which is all they could do.
You see, physicists from Heisenberg to Hawking have acknowledged that nature’s innermost region is fundamentally unknowable. It’s not a matter of inadequate tools or techniques, but of the intrinsic opacity of the subatomic world. As quantum pioneer Neils Bohr once admitted, “The quantum world cannot be fully understood nor can physical meaning be applied to its wave-function description… quantum mechanics only explains the external observations. It tells us nothing about the internal structure.”
That is a bracing admission; but Mr. Bohr should have gone one step further, for surely he recognized that without knowledge of that “internal structure,” even those “external observations” cannot be explained, only described.
We can attribute subatomic weirdness to the “quantum potential” or the “guiding hand of God,” but only the latter offers an explanation which, as it turns out, accords nicely with the Christian claim: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3).
My example didn’t go unchallenged. The interlocutor granted that “God,” as well as any number of things, could be conjectured, but how is He the best explanation for the electron orbit. Moreover, how could a particle physicist distinguish the Christian God from a pagan deity?
THE BEST EXPLANATION
I reminded him that since the electronic orbit was not explainable by naturalistic science, the most reasonable conclusion is that it is due to something beyond nature (transcendent).
Then I mentioned another interesting thing about the quantum potential: According to field theory, it is thought to be the warp and woof of spacetime. In an invisible gossamer-like web, the quantum potential fills the cosmic expanse. It is a wellspring of unimaginable energy fueling the material world and giving birth to exotic particles that continuously emerge and disappear within the folds of the cosmic fabric.
Together, these characteristics suggest a cause that is transcendent, omnipresent, and omnipotent. While Eastern gods are omnipresent and Greco-Roman gods are transcendent, neither are omnipotent; only the Christian God is all three. He is the One who is “over all, through all and in all” and by whom “all things were made.”
At this point another skeptic objected that if a supernatural agency was at work, it ought to be scientifically verifiable. It’s a common (and logically flawed) charge.
A LOGICAL DISCONNECT
In a 2004 PBS panel discussion, Michael Shermer, editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine, challenged a Christian physician to explain how God raised Jesus from the dead. As Shermer saw it, the resurrection should conform to what is medically possible, and as a medical professional, the physician should have some idea as to how it was accomplished. In point of fact, it’s quite the opposite.
If the supernatural could be explained by naturalistic science, it wouldn’t be supernatural. It is right to expect that a world created by supernatural Benevolence be governed by laws that make life predictable. But since those laws are fashioned by Supernature and not the other way around, Supernature can never be reduced to the orderly patterns observed.
While Supernature interlocks with nature and, at times, manifests itself in nature to give us a sudden, unexpected glimpse, it has no obligation to conform to the laws of nature. Thus, if we are honest, we would expect a barrier to our investigative pursuit—a point beyond which we could probe no further. And that is exactly what we find.
Although our analytical journey ends in opacity and mystery, we have discovered laws that enable us to build skyscrapers, launch satellites, and surf the internet. And, in the process, we’ve noticed some very peculiar things about our cosmic home.
WITH US IN MIND
Imagine driving cross-country and stopping in a town you’ve never been. Gritty, tired and hungry, you look for a motel, and then,
“There’s one! Just beyond that stop light. The sign reads . . . ‘VACANCY.’”
You pull up, check in, and take the key card.
“Room 1028. That’s my birthday, October 28th. Neat!”
Upon opening the door, your jaw goes slack.
A copy of your favorite painting, Van Gogh’s “Avenue of the Poplars in Autumn,” is hanging on the wall; your favorite aria, “Mio Babbino Cara,” is playing on the radio; there’s a basket stuffed with all of your favorite snacks; the complimentary toiletries are the exclusive brands that you buy; and spread out on the coffee table are the latest editions of Golf Digest, Numismatist News, and Skeptic—periodicals that you had been waiting eagerly to read back home.
The set of coincidences is so unlikely that any reasonable person would assume that the motel staff knew you were coming. And yet the coincidences in our cosmic home are far greater in number and in precision. In fact, researchers have identified dozens of features that have to be just the way they are for life to exist.
For example, the formation of stars depends on a narrow range of values for the gravitational and nuclear forces; and without stars, there would be no habitable planets. The formation of atoms hinges on the strength of electromagnetism and the masses of the electron, proton, and neutron. If these were varied by more than a small amount, chemistry and biological life would not be possible. Astronomer Hugh Ross has catalogued nearly 60 such conditions, including many involving our solar system such as:
- The size, temperature, and brightness of our sun
- The fact that we have one moon and not more or less
- The distance of the Earth from the sun
- The Earth’s axial tilt and rotational period
- The time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun
The odds that all 60 could come together by chance is 1 in 1060(that’s 1 followed by 60 zeros!), about the same chance as landing heads on 200 consecutive coin flips.
On top of that, our position in the universe—not too close to the center of the Milky Way and not too far out, and nestled between two of its spiral arms—is the ideal location for making astronomical observations and discoveries. Some have dared called Earth the “privileged planet.”
We are left with one of two conclusions: our Goldilocks home is a happenstance of mind-numbing improbability or . . . it is a creation meticulously crafted by Someone who had us in mind.
He who created the heavens,
He is God;
He who fashioned and made the earth,
He founded it;
He did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited
“I am the Lord
And there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:18)