Curiosity: The Questions of Life – Did God Create the Universe | Notes & Review

Posted on August 14, 2011


Discovery Channel’s page.

Regarding the solar eclipse, the vikings believed that “skoll,” the wolf god would “eat the sun.”

Without a scientific explanation imagine how disturbing it would have been to see the sun vanish.

The vikings then responded through some sort of violent “scaring away” of the wolf, and believed it was them. They believed it was their actions.

It turns out the universe is not as supernatural or mysterious as it seems, but it takes more courage than even the vikings had to discover the truth.

Mere mortals like you and I can understand how the universe works. This was realized long before the Vikings in Ancient Greece.

Aristarchus of Samos, ~300 B.C., was brave enough to question whether they were really caused by “gods.”

The universe is a machine, governed by principles and laws that can be understood by the human mind.

So, while I suppose it may be true that I’ve upset someone up there, I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature. What are the laws of nature, and why are the laws so powerful?

These laws are universal. And they apply to a tennis ball and to the planets. These natural laws cannot be broken.

If you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask, “What role is there for God?” This is part of the contradiction between science and religion. And although my views have recently made headlines, it is actually an ancient conflict.

1609, Galileo Galilei, founder of modern day science. He thought, as I do, if you look closely enough at the universe, you can discern what’s going on.

Each further discovery further removed the need for God.

Science does not deny religion. It just offers a simpler alternative. But several mysteries remain. After all if the earth moves, could it be God that moves it? Ultimately did God create the universe in the first place?

Despite the complexity and variety of the universe, it turns out to make one you just need three ingredients. Let’s imagine we could list them in some cosmic cookbook. So, what are they?

  1. Matter. Stuff that has mass.
  2. Energy. It’s everywhere around us.
  3. Space. And lots of it.

So, where could all this come from? We had no idea, until well into the 20th century.

The answer came from Albert Einstein. He realized that two of the main ingredients, mass and energy, are basically the same thing, two sides of the same coin, if you like. So, instead of three ingredients, we can say the universe has really two — energy and space. So where did this come from?

Space and energy were created in an event we now call the “Big Bang.” It all inflated, just like a balloon. Where did it come from? How could all this appear, just out of nothing. For some, this is where God comes back into the picture. But science tells a different story.

We were taught that you never get something for nothing. But now, after a lifetime of work, I think that in fact you can get a whole universe for free.

The secret lies in one of the strangest facts about our cosmos. The laws of physics demand the existence of “negative energy.” This is the principle of what happened right at the beginning of the universe. When the big bang produced a vast amount of positive energy, it simultaneously produced the same amount of negative energy. In this way, the positive and the negative add up to zero (0). Always. It’s a law of nature. So, where is all this negative energy today? It’s in the third ingredient in our cosmic cookbook: space.

According to the laws of nature concerning gravity and motion, space itself is a vast store of negative energy, enough to ensure that everything adds up to 0. This is hard to grasp, but it’s true. The endless web of billions upon billions of galaxies is one big storage device.

So, what does that mean on our quest to find out if there is a God? It means that if the universe adds up to nothing, then you don’t need a God to create it. The universe is the ultimate free lunch.

Since we know the positive and negative adds up to zero, then all we have to do now, is figure out the what, or who triggered the whole thing in the first place. What could cause the spontaneous appearance of the universe? At first, it seems a baffling problem. After all, things don’t simply materialize out of the blue. But if you get to the subatomic world, you come up with a world in which something from nothing happens. Quantum physics.

But then the critical question: Do we need a God to set it all up so that a big bang could, “bang.” I have no desire to offend anyone of faith, but I think science has a more compelling explanation than a divine creator.

Principle of cause and effect. Everything that is an effect, must have a cause. but when we’re talking about the universe as a whole, that isn’t necessarily so.

It is possible that nothing caused the big bang. It all goes back to Einstein. Something very wonderful happened to time at the instant of the big bang. Time itself began.

Consider a black hole floating in space. It not only warps space and light, but also time. As a clock gets sucked into the black hole, it gets slower and slower. Time slows down. Now imagine the clock as it enters the black hole. The clock would stop. Inside the black hole, time does not exist. And that is exactly what happened at the start of the universe. This is the final key for removing the need for a grand creator.

You can’t get to a time before the big bang because there was no “before.” There was no cause, because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me, this means, there is no possibility of a creator, because there is no time for a creator to exist in. Since time itself began at the big bang, it was a cause that could not have been created by anyone or anything.

So, science has given us the answer that we set out to discover. An answer that took more than 3,000 years. We have discovered how the laws of nature, acting on the universe started a process that would eventually produce us, sitting here, on our planet, pretty pleased at having worked it all out. So, when people ask me if a God created the universe, I tell them that the question itself makes no sense. Time didn’t exist before the big bang, so there is no time for God to make the universe in. It’s like asking for directions to the edge of the earth.

We are each free to believe what we want, and it is my view that the simplest explanation is that there is no god. No one created the universe, and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.

For the follow up videos, click here:

— VIA —

This program is merely a very well done Discovery Channel production presenting the views and ideas of Stephen Hawking. I appreciated more the follow up discussion videos that David Gregory facilitated, because the conclusions and presuppositions that Hawking makes are quite narrow and myopic. There are couple observations that I think are necessary in conversations like these.

1. Hawking presupposes a limited working definition of “God” and then proceeds to dismantle that God based upon that limited definition. His conclusions, therefore, are reasonable so far as you accept a priori Hawking’s ideas of God. Two problems with this. First, as was mentioned in the follow up videos, specifically by Sean Carroll, “God” can be involved in this world, and critique can and ought be made regarding “God” through scientific means, but this is not the “mere” definition of God. Second, Hawking’s argument works with an idea of God in terms of “need,” or “cause,” for the universe. Thus, as soon as an explanation emerges through his discipline of physics, God is further pushed out of the equation. Ironically, this is “god of the gaps” kind of thinking, a philosophy very much dismissed by the scientific community.

2. There are too many questions left “resolved” or “absolved” by Hawking. Even if the universe has a zero-sum energy equation, and even if quantum physics was the “bang” that got the big bang started, and even if time did not exist before the big bang, this does not answer the question of the existence of the laws of physics, the possibilities of a multi-verse (as was mentioned by Michio Kaku) why quantum physics does what it does by its laws. It has appeared to me, over the years, that the infinite regression problem that atheists pose to theists is also not a problem for theists, it’s a problem for everyone.

3. I find it highly disingenuous that Hawking boils down the universe to space and energy as “all you need.” Even in the program, apparently you also need laws of physics in both Newtonian and Quantum arenas, laws such as the [strong and weak] gravitational force.

Imagine a coin. On one side are the people of the “heads.” On the other side are the people of the “tails.” (I won’t indict myself by labeling people of faith or science to any side. I’ll let you do that yourself). If the people of “tails” side decide to peel back a layer of their side, to see what is “beneath” or “behind” their current observations, they’ll find another layer, true. But for their perspective, it will continually be the “tails” side. Continue further, peeling back yet another layer, and so forth, until they get to the final layer, which is, for the sake of this analogy, the “heads” side, they will only believe it is yet another “tails” side.

Hawking’s approach to the “God” question appears to me to be in this vein. He continues to peel back the “physics” side of things, to see if there really is a God, but yet, no matter how many layers, he will only see “physics.” His methodology, and his presumptions dismiss God a priori. The problem, is that it is veiled in guise of honest inquiry.

I think, the goal of truth-seekers is to “get off their side of the coin” just long enough to visit the other side, and realize that each layer that is peeled is uncovering the paradox of truth underlying our existence.

I hope that those who hold differences with Hawking will lovingly and respectfully approach the discourse with thoughtful and gracious arguments. I hope they too, recognize their perspective of “peeling.”

Posted in: Religion, Science