Endnotes – Did the Universe Have a Beginning?

1. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe (New York: Vintage, 2000), 81-82.

2. George Smoot and Keay Davidson, Wrinkles in Time (New York: Avon, 1993), 36.

3. Greene, 81-82.

4. Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1990), 38-51.

5. Greene, 83.

6. Hawking, 39.

7. Smoot, 80-83.

8. Ibid., 187.

9. Ibid., 240.

10. Ibid., 241.

11. Associated Press, “U.S. Scientists Find a ‘Holy Grail’: Ripples at the Edge of the Universe,” International
Herald Tribune
(London), April 24, 1992, 1.

12. Thomas H. Maugh II, “Relics of ‘Big Bang’ Seen for First Time,” Los Angeles Times, April 1992, A1, A30.

13. Nightline with Ted Koppel, ABC, April 25, 1992.

14. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3rd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 224.

15. Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 230.

16. E. M. Leitch et al., “Measurement of Polarization with the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer,” Nature 420 (2002): 772-87; J. M. Kovac et al., “Detection of Polarization in the Cosmic Microwave Background Using DASI,” Nature 420 (2002): 772-87; Matias Zalarriaga, “Background Comes to the Fore,” Nature 420 (2002): 747-48.

17. Gregg Easterbrook, “Before the Big Bang,” U.S. News & World Report special edition, 2003, 16.

18. Hugh Ross, “Big Bang Passes Test,” Connections, Qtr 2, 2003.

19. Paul Recer, “Newest Space Telescope: The Spitzer,” Seattle Post Intelligencer, December 19, 2003, A17.

20. Smoot, 291.

21. Ibid., 30.

22. Ibid., 17.

23. Ibid., 291

24. Ibid. 86.

25. Stephen Hawking, ed., Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: A Reader’s Companion (New York: Bantam, 1992), 63.

26. Bradford A. Smith, “New Eyes on the Universe,” National Geographic, January 1994, 33.

Did the Universe Have a Beginning?

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

Scientific discoveries revive the ancient belief in a beginning to the universe. If we could rewind the history of the universe, what would we discover about its origin and development? Did it really have a beginning, or was it always there?

The influential ancient philosopher Aristotle stated, “It is impossible that movement should ever come into being or cease to be, for it must always have existed. Nor can time come into being or cease to be.”

Meanwhile, the biblical book of Genesis famously starts off, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Which is it? Is the universe eternal—has it always been here? Or did it have a start at some point in time—did it have a birthday, so to speak? These are the two schools of thought that have enrolled followers since early times. (Actually, there was also a third school that postulated that the universe existed on the back of a giant sea turtle, but they’re mostly gone now.)

The seesaw of opinion has tipped one way or the other over time. But lately the weight of evidence has all been coming down on the side of the birthday universe.

In the old days when the Christian church dominated Western society, the creation of the universe was taken for granted. But slowly the scientific viewpoint pushed aside creation as well as the Creator. Now many scientists are thinking that the idea of a creation may not have been so far off from the truth as they thought. It’s looking like the universe had a beginning after all.

Remarkably, one of the first scientists to swing the pendulum of opinion back to the birthday-universe position was so entrenched in eternal-universe thinking that at first he refused to believe his own conclusions.

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Is a Designer Revealed in Creation?

IMAGINE THE DESIGNER

The  universe not only implies the existence of a designer but suggests something about what he might be like.

In the movie Contact, Jodi Foster portrays Ellie Arroway, a beautiful young scientist obsessed with finding intelligent life on other planets. One day, as Ellie monitors radio transmissions from space, a coded message flashes across her computer screen. The stunned Ellie realizes that intelligent beings have communicated with Earth from beyond our galaxy.

Decoding the instructions, Ellie and her colleagues discover the encrypted blueprint for an advanced spacecraft that will transport them to the distant galaxy, millions of light years from Earth. Once the spacecraft has been built, Ellie is chosen to become its sole passenger.

Although Ellie’s boyfriend objects, her passion for meaning in life overpowers her love for him. Turning to him, Ellie explains her reason for leaving him: “I’ve been searching for something, some reason why we are here. What are we doing here? Who are we?”

Ellie speaks for many of us who wonder about life. Who are we, and why are we here? (Actually, some of you may be wondering about more mundane things, like what’s for dinner, or what she thinks of you.)

Has science, with its new discoveries in outer space and inside the molecular world, reached a point where it can shed light on such profound questions? Never has there been a more exciting time in the history of science. What does the fine-tuning of cosmos and intricate complexity of DNA mean to us?

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Why is Only Earth Suitable for Life?

WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

In his movie Signs, M. Night Shyamalan presents us with a priest (played by Mel Gibson) who has lost his faith. Through the death of his wife, the priest has come to the conclusion that life is random. He has decided that he will no long pretend to see God in the picture.

As Shyamalan zooms in his lens, he shows us that life is without focus: there is no recognizable pattern. But typical of Shyamalan, he turns the lens one more screw to the right, and at this magnification a pattern emerges. Gibson’s character is able to see the hand of a great designer lurking behind all that had seemed random. His wife’s dying words, his daughter’s obsession with water, his son’s asthma —everything served a larger purpose.

At the end Mel Gibson returns to the priesthood and makes a blockbuster called The Passion of the Christ. Well, not exactly, but his character comes full circle—from faith to skepticism and back to faith. Meanwhile, Shyamalan takes his audience on the same circuitous journey, exploring issues of design and higher purpose in the world.

In many ways the evidence for intelligent design of the universe has come full circle. When early humans looked at the heavens, they could not escape the concept of a creator. In fact, until the 1500s, most people believed in the ancient astronomer Ptolemy’s teaching, that Earth was the center of the universe.

But, in the 16th century, Copernicus showed that Earth revolved around the Sun. Suddenly our planet seemed less special. Some astronomers looked out at the universe through telescopes and deduced a creator was unnecessary. Their argument for a materialist worldview was energized by the belief in an ordinary Earth.

Although the founders of modern astronomy strongly believed that the universe was the work of a cosmic genius, these later followers saw the cosmos as totally autonomous and independent of a designer. Copernicus, a strong believer in God, couldn’t have disagreed more with such an assumption, and would have taken exception to it.

In the 19th century, this belief in an ordinary Earth became popularized as the “Copernican Principle.” This principle has become the bedrock for a materialistic view of the world. However, in the latter part of the 20th century evidence began pouring in about the remarkable fitness of Earth for life.

Scientists have learned that only an exceptionally fine-tuned planet like Earth has  the necessary ingredients to harbor life. Additionally, our solar system and galaxy, as well as our entire universe, appear designed to support intelligent life.

The odds that such fine-tuning could have occurred by chance is not just unlikely–scientists say it is virtually impossible.

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Is the Universe a Product of Design or Chance?

OPTIONS FOR ORIGINS

The choices in accounting for our universe boil down to three: Chance, multiple universes, or design.

Scientists are looking at the extreme rarity of life in our universe and asking, “why are we so lucky?” At some point you’ve got to step back from the facts and ask the question “So what does all this fine-tuning add up to?”

Example:

A university student who’s just trying to get a passing grade might be satisfied with loading up his short-term memory with the data he’s received. But a student who is actually planning to use this information in a career, or for personal enrichment, has to spend some time thinking about the subject’s actual meaning.

Same thing with the question of how quasars, Pluto, and you got here.

The evidences for the fine-tuning of the universe to permit life to exist on one medium-sized planet, third from the left, are mounting. Many scientists are speaking in theological terms about what they see as clear evidence for design.

If you were to survey the writings of leading scientists such as Hawking, Penrose, Davies, and Greene, you would find that there are three options being offered for our origins.

• The fine-tuning of the universe is merely a coincidence.

• There are other universes, improving the odds of life.

• The universe has been designed.

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Was Darwin Right About the Eye?

THE PROBLEM WITH HALF AN EYE

Looking down at Greenland from 32,000 feet on my trip from Rome to Seattle, I heard a strange noise in the aircraft that sent my blood pressure soaring into hyperspace. Suddenly I began to wonder what would happen if one tiny part on the enormous Boeing 747 failed. Engines, hydraulics, air pressurization—all were complex systems that worked only when several interdependent parts functioned properly.

In vain I sought comfort in my airline pretzels, but comfort can never be found in low-fat foods. I kept thinking of all those dedicated employees (excuse me: “members of the Boeing family”) shown on the commercials who apparently love nothing more in life than a well-oiled 747 and who perpetually ponder my safety. But the nagging thought still popped into my head: “Just one faulty or missing part and I’d become part of the first bomb ever to be dropped on Greenland.”

In one sense, biological systems are like my Boeing 747: one missing or defective part and they won’t work. Here lies one of the major unanswered problems of biology.  How did highly complex, interdependent biological systems like the eye develop slowly over eons of time? They would never have worked until fully developed.

Let’s step back for a minute and think about all this.

Airplanes, automobiles, cell phones, computers, and other complex machines, can always be traced back to a designer. However, with biological systems, materialists (those who believe nothing exists outside of the material world) assume there is some natural process that created such systems.

The real issue here is whether or not a designer is behind such complexity. There are four possibilities:

1. A designer created biological complexity supernaturally

2. A designer created biological complexity through natural processes

3. A designer combined natural processes and supernatural means to create biological complexity

4. A designer doesn’t exist. Complexity came about naturally.

Materialists believe the latter. Scientists who advocate intelligent design generally agree that some super-intelligence is behind it all, even though they leave the nature of a designer to theologians.

Here we must look at the evidence to see which of the possibilities makes the most sense. To determine the best option, we need to look closer at complex biological systems to determine whether they can be explained by natural causes alone.

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Does DNA Point to a Designer?

THE LANGUAGE OF OUR CELLS

Was the language of DNA programmed by a designer–or by chance?

Consider for a moment the cathedral-like structure of a snowflake under a microscope. Look at the beauty. Look at the complexity. Look at the originality of each individual flake. Surely this is evidence for a grand designer in the universe.

Well, no, actually it’s not—no more so than the burned enchilada of a woman in Mexico that apparently revealed the image of Jesus (though in the photo it did kind of look like him).

Although crystalline forms of a snowflake are beautiful and impressive, designs of this type abound in nature, and natural processes can and do produce them.

Neo-Darwinists believe that natural selection and favorable mutations are the total explanation for the appearance of design in nature.

But what if complexity in nature is discovered that is not explainable by natural selection and chance mutations? What if, unlike our snowflake and enchilada examples, scientists discover a form of complexity that exceeds all human engineering and all sophisticated software programs? This raises an important question: How would we be able to detect intelligent design in nature if it actually exists?

Endnotes

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Where are Darwin’s Predicted Fossils?

THE CASE OF THE MISSING LINKS

The discovery of DNA has revolutionized the world of forensic evidence. Cold case files have been reopened. Criminals who thought they had beaten the system have been belatedly prosecuted by a swab of saliva or body fluids forgotten about for decades. And in some instances, the new evidence has exonerated innocent prisoners.

Herman Atkins was just 20 years old when his life began to fall apart. He was imprisoned in January, 1986 for wounding three people in a shooting spree in South-Central Los Angeles. Prior to his imprisonment a “Wanted” poster had been widely circulated.

Later, at a sheriff’s substation, a 23 year-old rape victim glanced at a “Wanted” poster on a nearby table that showed a young black fugitive from Los Angeles. In court, she testified that she turned to her mother and said, “That’s him,” and pointed at the picture of Herman Atkins.

A clerk from an adjoining business where the attacker stopped briefly before the rape also identified Atkins. Based primarily upon these eyewitness testimonies, the jury found Herman Atkins guilty of rape and robbery. His sentence: 47 years, 8 months in prison. Atkins spent thirteen years, three months, and six days in state prison, but not for a crime he had committed. His cold case had been reopened, and the DNA evidence had revealed that Atkins was not the rapist. On February 18, 2000 he walked out a free man, the victim of mistaken identity.

Just as DNA has revolutionized criminal forensics, the work of paleontologists has shed new light on human origins. Being an honest man, Charles Darwin made no bones (pardon the pun) about predicting that the forensic fossil evidence would ultimately prove his theory right or wrong.

But just as experts can jump to the wrong conclusion with regard to criminal evidence, so in the world of paleontology, a tooth, jaw, or piece of skull has often created premature headlines of “Missing Link Found.” Paleontologist Michael Boulter summarizes the problem with identifying fossils correctly:

It’s very hard to piece together a few broken bones from a fossilized group of differentially aged primates scattered over a desert or cave floor and to be sure that they come from the same animal….It follows that the reliability of any description that attempts to recognize an actual species cannot be totally objective.1

Boulter is alluding to the fact that, being human, most scientists look at a fossil through the lens of their own presuppositions. For example, those who wanted to make a case for humans descending from apes were quick to jump with joy over the supposed discovery of the “missing link” called Piltdown Man. Featured in the London Times, New York Times, and various science journals, they made it a textbook example of the connection between apes and humans. However, forty years later, in 1953, it was revealed as a fraud.

Frauds like the Piltdown Man are rare, and although objectivity is often lacking, there is actually a wealth of fossil evidence depicting the history of life on our planet.

So in order to see what the forensic evidence says about Darwin’s theory, we need to hear from paleontologists themselves about the evidence they have gathered during the nearly 150 years since he launched his theory. Our starting point is to clearly understand the predictions Darwin made regarding his theory and the fossils that should have resulted.

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Are Humans the Result of Evolution?

THE HUMAN ENIGMA

Scientific evidence indicates human beings are a unique species that is far superior to any species existing today or in the past.

In the movie, Planet of the Apes, Astronaut Leo Davidson is on a routine reconnaissance space mission in the year 2029, when suddenly his pod cruiser is thrust through a wormhole. Not knowing where they were, or how many years had advanced, he and his crew crash-land their cruiser on a strange planet that appears devoid of life.  Suddenly they encounter an advanced tribe of intelligent talking apes who rule over a remnant of mute humans. Davidson’s other crew members are killed by their brutal rulers, but he escapes to a desolate area called the Forbidden Zone, an area the apes greatly fear.

In the end, Davidson discovers that he has actually landed on Earth in the year 3978.  And the Forbidden Zone is the desert-like remains from an ancient nuclear holocaust that wiped out humanity.  A remnant of the Statue of Liberty is discovered in the dust, along with other reminders of a civilization that once was.

The primary message is clear: human warfare and self-destruction enabled apes to evolve as the dominant species.  But there is another, more subtle message: humans and apes are linked by an evolutionary family tree. Although the movie is humorous and entertaining, the message reflects the Darwinian paradigm that we are merely accidental beings in a chance world.

Actually, the entire Darwinian paradigm revolves around the theme that man is not unique, but rather just the end-product of a long evolutionary chain. The argument goes; that since we have bodies similar to apes, and since we share much of the same DNA, we must be related to them. Materialists cite this as proof that Darwin was right about us descending from lower forms of life.

It is not the purpose of this brief article to speculate on how life and the various species originated. A super-intelligent designer could have created life in a number of different ways, either using natural laws, or transcending them. In fact, some scientists such as Simon Conway Morris, and Richard G. Colling, believe in designed evolution, where all of nature was intricately and ingeniously planned to eventually create you and me. The issue we address here is what leading scientists have discovered about our origins. In other words, what does the evidence reveal about our species—are we simply advanced apes, or are we unique and distinct? If the latter is true, it would certainly add credence to the argument that we have been designed.

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Accident or Intelligent Design?

Science and the Origin of Life

The debate over human origins has intensified, hitting the mainstream media like a tsunami. The debate is really about God, and whether or not our origins are explainable without him. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins are attempting to prove that science and belief in God are incompatible. Their premise is that the material world is all that exists. And if science has eliminated God as the source of all life, then the late materialist Stephen Jay Gould was correct in his view:

“Human life is the result of a “glorious evolutionary accident” Stephen Jay Gould

But new insights into our universe belie such a simplistic view. Quantum mechanics has revealed that our material world is based upon an invisible world of subatomic particles that is totally non-material. And over 95% of our universe consists of dark matter and energy that is beyond scientific observation. Also, scientists are openly discussing dimensions beyond ours where walking through walls and teleportation could be realities. The dilemma for materialists is that these areas are beyond the purview of science.

In spite of such mysteries, materialists single-mindedly proclaim their faith in a purposeless universe without any underlying intelligence. But Gould’s and Dawkins’ materialistic view does not reflect the opinions of an increasing number of scientists who are seeing fingerprints of design in our universe. Others don’t go so far as to advocate intelligent design, but admittedly see evidence of a “superintelligence” behind creation.

Surprisingly, what has triggered the debate are stunning new discoveries from several scientific disciplines. It is these discoveries that have convinced some scientists that there is compelling new evidence for intelligent design. These scientists are not interested in bringing religion into the science classroom. However, they see no conflict between science and faith, and want the evidence to speak for itself about whether an underlying intelligence exists.

In fact, modern science was actually born out of the Christian belief that God was rational and personal. Early scientists such as Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Pascal, and Faraday, believed in the biblical God of objective truth and order. Philosopher Francis Schaeffer notes, it was the biblical belief that the world was created by a reasonable God that gave scientists confidence in being “able to find out about the world by observation and experimentation.”

Many scientists today do believe in a creator. But there is a huge range of beliefs on the creative process. Some scientists believe God created everything outside of natural laws, while others believe He designed or directed natural laws to create our universe and life within it. However, many who speak of an underlying intelligence in the universe are agnostics who are simply reporting objective evidence for something or someone that Einstein labeled:

“an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” Albert Einstein

Einstein, rarely discussed God, but he was in awe of the “superintelligence” revealed in nature. Since Einstein, many other leading scientists have revealed stunning new insights about our origins. These new insights have come in the past few decades, primarily from the three scientific disciplines of astronomy, molecular biology and paleontology.

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