Colossal beauty, awe-inspiring intricacy, was our universe a cosmic accident? Or the result of intelligent design? For centuries religion and science were bitter foes, now they search for our creator. From the dawn of history, humans have believed in divine forces that created our world. Today, most of us still pray to a higher power. But is god really out there?
Every culture claims a god, an all powerful entity that created the world and directs our faith. But why do we share our belief in this cosmic creator? Did we dream it up to serve a need in our psyche or culture? Is god really out there? Science has found the stars in the heavens, the atoms in our bodies, but it has not yet found proof that God created all this. But there’s a new place for us to look, not in the sky, but perhaps in our minds? Did God invent humanity or did we invent god? Will science find God? Or will physics tell us there was no creator necessary?
People get upset if scientists have anything to say on matters of religion. I have no desire to tell anyone to believe, but asking if God exists is a valid question for science. It is hard to think of a more important mystery than who or what created and controls the universe. The laws of nature will be able to tell us whether we even need a God at all. If you accept that the laws of nature are fixed it doesn’t take long to ask; what role is there for God?
FINE TUNING ARGUMENT VS THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE
The way our universe looks the way it does is because of a precise balance between 4 fundamental forces, gravity, electromagnetism, strong, and weak. Everything in the universe is determined by the fundamental forces of nature. The strengths of those forces are characterized by 6 fundamental constants which are so sensitive that if they change by just a little bit, the universe as we know it and the universe might not exist. Change anyone of them even slightly and atoms might fly apart, stellar nuclear fusion might not exist, the sun might disappear, or molecules might not exist. If the rate of expansion of the universe had changed by 1 part in quintillionth (1 with 18 zeros after), then the universe would either continue to expand or collapse back on itself. Some physicists believe that this precise calibration of forces is evidence of an intelligent creator. The big bang had to be perfectly calibrated. Only a world very similar to these parameters would be capable of producing complex life.
Another example, say matter had spread evenly across the universe, life would never have formed. Had it been perfectly smooth then wouldn’t have been any clumps which would gravitate to form stars and galaxies. There were slight irregularities in the distribution of matter in the universe. Had those irregularities been much smaller, stars would not have formed, had they been much larger, everything would bave collapsed to form black holes. It’s often said that the delicate fine-tuning must be evidence that some agency tuned it that way.
It’s hard to imagine that the fine-tuning of our universe happened by accident. We don’t live in just any universe, we may be in the only possible universe capable of supporting humans as we know them. But scientists are split on whether this balance of forces is a sign of intelligent design. Many physicists say fine-tuning doesn’t prove anything of the sort, it may very well just be a role of the cosmic dice. A very popular alternative is the Multiverse theory.
THE GOLDILOCKS PARADIGM VS MULTIVERSE THEORY
Alan Guth’s theory of inflation suggests there ought to be more than one universe, as inflation happens in some areas but not in others in sort of a “bubble universe” model. When inflations stops it doesn’t stop all over at the same time, it stops at some places which become universes, and elsewhere in what we call a “multiverse” inflation would go on and more pocket universes would form. More pocket universes would form and there’d be an infinite number of pocket universes would form from what we call inflation. If there really is a multiverse we could just be living in one pocket universe, each of these pocket universes could have different laws of physics.
Our universe allows life to flourish, but each pocket universe could have a different balance of forces and allow for different kinds of sentience. The results might have no possibility for human life in the vast majority of these and we just got lucky. The anthropic principle is a philosophical consideration that observations of the Universe must be compatible with the conscious and sapient life that observes it. Our universe may not be carefully crafted by a divine being, it’s just a lucky spin of the cosmic roulette.
Not too much, not too little, everything’s just right, this is what we call the “Goldilocks Paradigm”. But what if this is simply just the best of all possible worlds? The odds of us living in the best universe may seem astounding, but if it weren’t then we wouldn’t be here to observe it. The Anthropic Principle suggests that we merely just one a gigantic cosmic lottery and that we can’t be living and discussing this in a universe that was hostile to life. Having a multitude of universes is actually a simple and natural consequence for many of the models for the birth of our universe. It’s like the concept of earth-like planets, once you have the capacity to make one, you can make an infinite number of them.
A very large number of universes, perhaps even an infinite number, could exist in a vast hyperspace like bubbles in bubble bath. Each of the bubbles have different laws of physics, some might eventually develop gravity, stars, carbon and oxygen. We would be inside one of the bubbles that leads to a rich complex universe leading to life as we know it. If this is the case, the Goldilocks paradigm isn’t an example of God’s plan, but rather the law of statistics. Most wouldn’t develop in a way that fostered self-replicating intelligent life, but a few would.
It’s been said that God fills in the cracks in our knowledge, some say these cracks are getting smaller. We start out with something that looks complex then we reduce it to its parts, a creator implies there is something more complex than something that got created. That’s actually a step backwards in explaining a philosophical satisfying model. For others the expansion of scientific knowledge will never fill in all the cracks. A creator who is our descendant or in the gods of our ancestors.
But some theologians suggests that you can’t prove the multiverse right now and that it would require just as much belief as a god. Adding trillions of universes to the model may violate Occam’s Razor just as they have been accused of doing.
THE KALAM “FIRST CAUSE” ARGUMENT v.s THE “FREE UNIVERSE”
In natural theology, a cosmological or “first cause” argument is an argument in which the existence of a unique being, generally seen as some kind of god or demiurge is deduced or inferred from facts or alleged facts concerning causation, change, motion, contingency, or finitude in respect of the universe as a whole or processes within it. It is traditionally known as an argument from universal causation, an argument from first cause, or the causal argument.
The Kalām cosmological argument is a modern formulation of the cosmological argument for the existence of God rooted in the Ilm al-Kalam heritage in medieval Islamic scholasticism. It is a brief syllogism, most commonly rendered as follows:
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause;
- The universe began to exist;
- The universe has a cause.
From the conclusion of the initial syllogism, a further premise based upon ontological analysis of the properties of the cause:
- The universe has a cause;
- If the universe has a cause, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful;
- An uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans the universe is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and enormously powerful.
Transcending the entire universe there exists a cause which brought the universe into being ex nihilo . The idea that our whole universe was caused to exist by something beyond it and greater than it.
This argument is at odds with the secular big bang argument,using general relativity, which suggests the universe was initially timeless, so perhaps the concept of a “cause” is non-sensical? Perhaps we don’t require a first cause, perhaps we got the whole universe for free, a universe from nothing.
But can we get a whole universe for free? It may be counterintuitive because it violates the conservation of matter and energy, how can you create a universe from nothing? Well, if you calculate the total matter of the universe it is positive and if you calculate the total energy of the universe it is negative (gravity contains negative energy). If you total it up it cancels out and you get “zero”. This would imply a “free universe”, that it takes no energy to create a universe. If you add the total positive and negative charges of the universe they cancel out, again you get zero. Galaxies too spin in all directions, but if we were to add up all their spins we would again get “zero”. Is the universe a free lunch?
Famed physicist Steven Hawking said in his book “The Grand Design” that the latest calculations in quantum theory suggest that a universal creator may never have existed. He asserts that the laws of physics allow entire universes to form spontaneously out of nothing from the quantum vacuum. According to quantum physics, particles can form for a short time out of nothing and then disappear again. We see this happening in labs, we’ve measured it. Statistically speaking, these quantum fluctuations might eventually materialize in the same space, which may be conducive to further expansion. That can then create a whole universe out of essentially nothing. If particles in the quantum foam can come from nothing, then so can a universe.
The great mystery of the big bang is to explain bow an entire enormous universe of space and energy can materialize out of nothing. The secret lies in one of the strangest facts about our universe, the breaking of symmetry. The laws of physics demand the existence of something called “negative energy”. Imagine if one were to build a hill that represents our universe. In order to get the soil to make the hill, they would also need to dig into the ground/In effect they are not just making a hill, but also a hole, a negative version of that hill. The soil that was in the hole has now become the hill, this is the principle behind what happened right at the beginning of the universe. When the big bang produced a tremendous amount of positive energy, it simultaneously produced the same amount of negative energy. The positive and the negative always add up to zero, its another law of nature. So if this is true, where is all this negative energy today? It’s in the third ingredient of our universe, space.
This may sound odd, but 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 zero. The endless web of billions upon billions of galaxies each pulling on each other by the force of gravity acts like a giant storage device. The universe is like an enormous battery storing negative energy. The positive side of things, the mass and energy we see today, is like the hill, but the corresponding hole the negative side of things is spread throughout space. A universe from nothing. So what does this mean for God?m 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 that the positive and negative in the universe adds up to zero, all we have to do now is work out what, or dare I say, “who” triggered the process in the first place. What caused the spontaneous appearance of the universe? The breaking of symmetry? After all, in our daily lives things don’t just materialize out of the blue.
We can’t just conjure something out of nothing, if we wanted to bake a cake we’d need ingredients and a process to follow. But if you go deeper than the smallest molecules in the cake, down to the subatomic level, here you enter a world where conjuring something out of nothing is possible, at least for a short while. That’s because at this scale particles behave according to the laws of nature we call “quantum mechanics”. Particles appear at random, stick around for a while, and then vanish again, only to reappear somewhere else. Since we know the universe was once very small, smaller than a proton, it means the universe itself in all of its mind boggling complexity, popped into existence without dilating the known laws of nature. From that moment on, vast amounts of energy were released as space itself expanded, as a place to store all the negative energy was needed to balance the books. But this raises another question, did God create the quantum laws that allowed the big bang to occur? Did God break the symmetry of the singularity?
Our everyday experience convinces us that anything that happens must be caused by something else that occurred earlier in time. So it’s natural for us to assume that something like a God caused the universe to come into existence, but when we talk about the universe as a whole, that isn’t necessarily so. It is also possible that nothing caused the big bang, that it just is. Something else happened at the big bang, time itself began. In a realm with no time, there is no such thing as “before the big bang”, time itself did not exist. Same goes for black holes, if a clock were to be sucked into a black hole we would see it’s time begin to tick slower and slower. Now imagine the clock at the event horizon, the entrance to the black hole. If we ignored the gravitational forces tearing the clock apart, we would see it tick slower and slower and then stop. It stops not because it’s broken, but because in a singularity, time itself does not exist. This logic does not just apply to black hole singularities, but also the big band singularity. You can’t to a time before the big bang because there WAS no “before”.
W have no need to be superstitious or be afraid of the Gods, because the universe operates perfectly well without them. Clouds of gas simply do collapse into giant balls in space, they burn with ferocity and light the heavens, it’s just what happens. They form massive galaxies that spin on their axis, it’s just how things are. Controlled by laws we can understand. So when people ask if a God created the universe, the answer is that the question itself makes no sense. There was no time before the big bang, no time for God to make the universe in. It’s like asking for directions to the edge of the Earth, the Earth is a sphere, it doesn’t have an edge, so looking for it is a futile exercise.
IF NOT GOD, WHO CREATED THE UNIVERSE?
But is all of this beside the point? All Stephen Hawking has done is create a universe that extends infinitely backwards in time. Your initial point is still a fuzzy condition, which quite frankly means you still need a beginning. Many theologians still cite the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, formulated by 3 prominent physicists, it states that any universe must have had a beginning. This is true even if the universe is part of a multiverse and even if the universe formed from the split of positive and negative energy. As long as the many universes are expanding, every inflating universal model would have to have a boundary to pass time. Even if that boundary only indicated a transition to a new kind of physics, it would still require some kind of boundary to pass time. What is it that breaths fire into a particular set of equations that makes a universe for them to govern.
Perhaps a more pressing question is whether aliens are the god people have been seeking, the entity that created the universe. We can imagine eh very far future where science advances to the point where we can not just manipulate matter locally around us, but we could make entire universes. Design them and create them to our own liking, if this manipulation extends to choosing the laws of physics themselves, perhaps we could make universe of a sort that have never existed. We could make our own designer universes. This is wild and speculative stuff, but not so very far from what string theory predicts, higher orders of existence.
Perhaps some day we will be able to create a new universe almost as if it were a physics project. Scientists could eventually focus enough energy on a nanoscopically small space to create a black hole in our universe while on the other side, a big bang would create another universe. It’s just a small step from this to the speculation that our universe is the product of a Superintelligence that existed in another universe.
If this speculation turns out to be true, it would echo the ancient hindu teaching that there are an infinite number of universes each with a different god dreaming its own cosmic dream. But would this god be the transcendent being that many people imagine our creator is? Or would it simply be an advanced mortal?
Perhaps the reason we find it hard to reach a conclusion because most people never actually tell you what they mean by “a God”. Are they referring to our causal origins? An immaterial essence? A sentient being with opinions on morality? Or just the pure mathematical order of the universe?
Just because a mother creates a child but it doesn’t mean the mother is a god to that child. We are all created out of the earth and sun, it doesn’t mean that the earth is god. Even if the ancient hindu teaching where an infinite number of gods dream infinite cosmic dreams, and you had multiple gods thinking of multiple universes, you’re still going to logically have to have a “Supergod” that’s thinking the other gods into existence, along with all the other universes in which those gods exist. If there is a creator, who created the creator? Is there an actual answer or just an infinite regress?
However, the famous hindu teaching goes on to say everything may be reversed, that perhaps people are not the dreams of the gods but the gods may be the dreams of people. Are we just dreaming of a divine order to the universe? Or is the divine order dreaming us into existence?
The human instinct that drives our curiosity won’t stop us from searching for answers. Perhaps one day science will provide us with a new method, to look up and out through the cosmic plane of glass that separates us from the true creator of our world, if there is one…