Science and Discomfiting Discoveries

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Robert Jastrow (1925-2008) was a scientist of impeccable credentials. He was the founder and former director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, professor of astronomy and geology at Columbia University (New York) professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth College and head of the Mount Wilson Institute, which runs California's world-famous Mount Wilson Observatory. He was a recipient of the Arthur Flemming Award for Outstanding Service In the U.S. Government, the Columbia University Medal for Excellence and the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement.

Professor Jastrow was also a prolific science writer, particularly In astronomy, cosmology and space exploration. He didn't hesitate to speak his mind, particularly when It came to discoveries that discomfited his fellow scientists and their not-too-objective reactions to such findings.

His comments speak volumes about the attitudes—and at times outright bias—some scientists hold against the possibility of a Creator. Although personally an agnostic, he noted that scientific discoveries and the book of Genesis have much more in common than many of his colleagues have been willing to admit (emphasis added throughout In the following quotes).

"The astronomical proof of a Beginning places scientists in an awkward position, for they believe that every effect has a natural cause, and every event in the Universe can be explained by natural forces, working In accordance with physical law. Yet science can find no force In nature that might account for the beginning of the Universe; and it can find no evidence that the Universe even existed before that first moment. The British astronomer E.A. Milne wrote, 'We can make no proposition about the state of affairs [In the beginning]; in the Divine act of creation God is unobserved and unwitnessed'" {The Enchanted Loom: Mind In the Universe, 1981, p. 17).

"Scientists have no proof that life was not the result of an act of creation, but they are driven by the nature of their profession to seek explanations for the origin of life that lie within the boundaries of natural law. They ask themselves, 'How did life arise out of Inanimate matter? And what Is the probability of that happening?' And to their chagrin they have no clear-cut answer, because chemists have never succeeded In reproducing nature's experiments on the creation of life out of nonliving matter.

"Scientists do not know how that happened, and, furthermore, they do not know the chance of its happening. Perhaps the chance is very small, and the appearance of life on a planet is an event of miraculously low probability. Perhaps life on the earth Is unique In this Universe. No scientific evidence precludes that possibility" s (Ibid., p. 19). |

"The Idea that the Universe exploded into be- □ ing . . . Is often called the Big Bang theory ... | It was literally the moment of creation. This is a % curiously biblical view of the origin of the world. | The details of the astronomer's story differ greatly § from those In the Bible; in particular, the age of I the Universe appears to be far greater than the ^ 6,000 years of the biblical account [as typically '§ misunderstood—the Bible actually allowing for | a creation much older than that]; but the astro- | nomlcal and biblical accounts of Genesis are alike ^ In one essential respect. There was a beginning, f and all things In the Universe can be traced back 2 to it" (Journey to the Stars: Space Exploration: | Tomorrow and Beyond 1989, p. 47). |

"Now we see how the astronomical evidence u

leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. |

The details differ, but the essential elements In w the astronomical and biblical accounts of Gen- |

esis are the same: the chain of events leading ^

to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a °

definite moment In time, In a flash of light and €

Robert Jastrow

Robert Jastrow

The Beginning of the Universe 19

The Beginning of the Universe 19

energy. Some scientists are unhappy with the idea that the world began this way" (God and the Astronomers, 1978, p. 14).

"Theologians generally are delighted with the proof that the Universe had a beginning, but as-

How did our universe come to exist? Which takes greater faith: to believe it created itself from nothing or that a Creator was involved?

tronomers are curiously upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind—supposedly a very objective mind—when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith In our profession. It turns out that the scientist behaves the way the rest of us do when our beliefs are In conflict with the evidence. We become Irritated, we pretend the conflict does not exist, or we paper it over with meaningless phrases" (ibid., p. 16).

"There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions [of scientists to evidence that the universe had a sudden beginning]. They come from the heart, whereas you would expect the judgments to come from the brain. Why?

"I think part of the answer Is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money. There is a kind of religion In science; It is the religion of a person who believes there Is order and harmony in the Universe. Every event can be explained In a ratio nal way as the product of some previous event; every effect must have Its cause; there is no First Cause . ..

"This religious faith of the scientist Is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control.. .

"Consider the enormity of the problem. Science has proven that the Universe exploded Into being at a certain moment. It asks, What cause produced this effect? Who or what put the matter and energy into the Universe? Was the Universe created out of nothing, or was it gathered together out of pre-existing materials? And science cannot answer these questions ..." (Ibid., pp. 113-114).

"A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but If it does, science cannot find out what the explanation is. The scientist's pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation. This Is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth ...

"Now we would like to pursue that Inquiry farther back In time, but the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable. It Is not a matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or another theory; at this moment It seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived In his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of Ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries" (Ibid., pp. 115-116).

now called Satan (meaning "Adversary") and a third of the angels, now demons (see Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17; Revelation 12:4). Later, after an unspecified interval, during six days followed by the seventh-day Sabbath, God restored the earth to a beautiful habitation for His new creation, mankind (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11).

In other words, a time gap seems to be indicated between the original creation described in Genesis 1:1 and earth's restoration starting in verse 3. This unspecified period could have encompassed billions of years, accounting for the "deep time" that geologists and other scientists seem to have discovered in the last two centuries.

Therefore the Bible itself, when correctly understood, offers a logical solution to this supposed creation enigma, having no inherent conflict with the possibility that the universe may be 15 billion years old. The Bible itself simply doesn't say how old the universe, or the earth, is. But it does plainly state, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

A universe governed by laws

What have scientists determined about the fundamental laws that existed at the origin of our universe? Far from having a chaotic, random structure—as one would expect if no intelligence were involved—(he general scientific conclusion now is that the universe has been expanding in an orderly way since its inception. However, no one should be misled as to the simplicity or randomness of that expansion.

Keith Ward, professor of history and professor of philosophy of religion at King's College, London University, wrote: "The universe began to expand in a veiy precisely ordered manner, in accordance with a set of basic mathematical constants and laws which govern its subsequent development into a universe of the sort we see today. There already existed a veiy complex array of quantum laws describing possible interactions of elementary particles, and the universe, according to one main theory, originated by the operation of fluctuations in a quantum field in accordance with those laws" (God, Chance & Necessity, 1996, p. 17, emphasis added).

Such conclusions again bring us back to fundamental questions: Who created the original laws that govern matter and energy? Did they emerge by chance or accident? Or were they set in motion by a divine Creator?

Laws without a Lawgiver?

Scientists acknowledge that our astounding universe is governed by precise,

We have made remarkable strides in discovering the laws that govern how the universe works. Yet scientists cannot answer how either those laws or the universe came to exist.

The Beginning of the Universe 21

The Beginning of the Universe 21

exact laws. Professor Davies summed up findings about these laws this way: "Each [scientific] advance brings new and unexpected discoveries, and challenges our minds with unusual and sometimes difficult concepts. But through it all runs the familiar thread of rationality and order... This cosmic order is underpinned by definite mathematical laws that interweave each other to form a subtle and harmonious unity. The laws are possessed of an elegant simplicity, and have often commended themselves to scientists on grounds of beauty alone" {The Mind of God, p. 21).

As Einstein put it: "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe—a spirit vastly superior to that of man" (quoted in The Quotable Einstein, p. 152).

Does the preexistence of the elaborate, intricate system of natural law in the universe mean there had to be a Lawgiver? Or can science demonstrate that the origin of the universe is solely the result of natural causes?

Biochemist Michael Behe writes: "It is commonplace, almost banal, to say that science has made great strides in understanding nature. The laws of physics are now so well understood that space probes fly unerringly to photograph worlds billions of miles from earth. Computers, telephones, electric lights, and untold other examples testify to the mastery of science and technology over the forces of nature...

"Yet understanding how something works is not the same as understanding how it came to be. For example, the motions of the planets in the solar system can be predicted with tremendous accuracy; however, the origin of the solar system (the question of how the sun, planets, and their moons formed in the first place) is still controversial. Science may eventually solve the riddle. Still, the point remains that understanding the origin of something is different from understanding its day-to-day workings" (Darwin's Black Box, p. ix, emphasis added).

Many intelligent and learned people believe—and have a religion-like faith— that the complex laws governing the universe came into existence purely by accident or chance. But is this view credible? We know for certain that it's not supported with demonstrable evidence. So here is the real question: Does it make sense to believe that a universe governed by a precise system of well-ordered laws came into existence by itself?

The scriptural viewpoint

Here is where we again need to pay much closer attention to what Scripture tells us. It presents an altogether different viewpoint: "For He commanded and they [the heavens] were created. He also established them forever and ever; He made a decree [a law or ordinance] which shall not pass away " (Psalm 148:4-6).

The Scriptures explain that God created laws in the "heavens" to perpetually govern them. "Yes, by my hand was the earth placed on its base, and by my right hand the heavens were stretched out; at my word they take up their places" (Isaiah 48:13, Bible in Basic English).

Some astounding truths are expressed in these verses. When compared to all other alternatives, this point of view makes sense. It is the only point of view that reconciles all difficulties.

Notice the reaction astronomer Hugh Ross had on first reading the biblical account of creation: "The [Genesis account's] distinctives struck me immediately. It was simple, direct, and specific. I was amazed with the quantity of historical and scientific references and with the detail in them.

"It took me a whole evening just to investigate the first chapter. Instead of another bizarre creation myth, here was a journal-like record of the earth's initial conditions— correctly described from the standpoint of astrophysics and geophysics—followed by a summary of the sequence of changes through which Earth came to be inhabited by living things and ultimately by humans.

"The account was simple, elegant, and scientifically accurate. From what I understood to be the stated viewpoint of an observer on Earth's surface, both the order and the description of creation events perfectly matched the established record of nature. I was amazed" (The Creator and the Cosmos, 1993, p. 15).

The evidence that the universe had a definite beginning, with predetermined laws governing all of its aspects, is powerful proof that a Creator God made and sustains it. This very point is made often in Scripture.

Many modern books by scientists are filled with the naturalistic evolutionary point of view. Most of modern education is grounded in it. But this is not the only viewpoint even among academics. Consider this frank admission from The Columbia History of the World: "Indeed, our best current knowledge, lacking the poetic magic of scripture, seems in a way less believable than the account in the Bible..." (John Garraty and Peter Gay, editors, 1972, p. 3, emphasis added).

Science journalist Fred Heeren notes that "the actual trend in 20th-century cosmology ... has been to turn from a view that was inconsistent with the Genesis creation account to one that follows the old scenario very well. In fact... Hebrew revelation is the only religious source coming to us from ancient times that fits the modern cosmological picture. And in many cases, 20th-century archaeology and myth experts have also been forced to turn from older views that treated the Bible as myth to ones that treat it as history" (Show Me God: What the Message From Space Is Telling Us About God, 1997, preface).

It is high time we gave the book of Genesis equal billing.

When me properly understand the biblical creation account, we see no conflict between it and scientific discoveries.

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