It’s time to write about something other than this pandemic. I’ve recently found myself wondering about some of those foundational convictions that one needs to have if you’re going to be a theist. One of those foundations is that the universe exists because God willed it so. To the non-believer this can seem ridiculous.
You have to wrestle, as far as you’re able, with the alternative answers to the question, ‘why is there something not nothing?’ and if you do that you quickly come across two alternatives which co-exist. They are abiogenesis and the multiverse.
Take a look at this paragraph by Evan Gough who says the religious explanations, ‘while colourful tales, leave many of us unsatisfied’.
The building blocks of life can, and did, spontaneously assemble under the right conditions. That’s called spontaneous generation, or abiogenesis. Of course, many of the details remain hidden to us, and we just don’t know exactly how it all happened. Or how frequently it could happen.https://www.sciencealert.com/life-could-be-common-across-the-universe-just-not-in-our-neck-of-the-woods/amp
Look at both the confidence and the ignorance. Gough is certain that life did spontaneously start, of course, but does not know how and there are huge gaps. The article then goes on to examine some of the finer points and scientists keep coming up against things they cannot explain. The answer, in this case, is that there is more out ‘there’ than we can see or know. The universe is just too big. True. on both counts.
Luke Barnes says,
There is an important difference between the two types of clues. Cosmological models with a beginning were discovered as we tried to account for empirical data. Models without a beginning were invented for the express purpose of avoiding a beginning, and sometimes failed to do so. No one ordered a beginning.https://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/Unbelievable-blog/Roger-Penrose-can-t-escape-an-ultimate-explanation-for-the-universe
But there cannot be a God right? So we need another explanation.
Hawking saw fine-tuning and the necessity of a First Cause as being the two strongest arguments for the existence of God. In the 1980s, working with Professor James Hartle of UC Santa Barbara, he figured that he had found a way of dealing with both of them—by combining the two most successful scientific theories of all time: quantum mechanics and general relativity.
The outcome was a universe that appeared to have no beginning in time, thus removing the need for a First Cause. What’s more, as the Hawking-Hartle model was let loose, it was capable of describing not only a universe that looked very loosely like ours but also billions of other universes.https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/spider-verse-hawking-theological-response-multiverse.html
The alternative response to the fine-tuning of the universe, as Hawking and others have proposed is the multiverse. It is the preferred option of many an eminent astrophysicist. If you read the last linked article you’ll see that Sean Carroll (who is an atheist scientist that many other atheists point to) wants us to accept the reality that we exist in different dimensions, that something can be both here and there at the same time, and that there are, essentially, other worlds. All of this makes me wonder, why is it then so ridiculous for a Christian to believe in an omnipresent God or heaven that exists outside of space and time?
But there are problems for the atheist with the multiverse too and it doesn’t really make any difference to the Christian in this universe.
And, as far as the multiverse is concerned, the short answer is that we really have no idea whether it exists or not. We will probably never know, since those parallel universes are likely to remain forever beyond our reach. Christians need not be afraid of this conclusion, though—for, as Hawking’s fellow Oxbridge professor John Lennox reminds us: “God could create as many universes as he pleases. The multiverse concept of itself does not and cannot rule God out.”https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2020/march-web-only/spider-verse-hawking-theological-response-multiverse.html
Of course, astrophysicists are limited humans too despite the pedestal they sometimes get put on. And there are smart theists too that can explain the challenges of fine-tuning and the multiverse for the atheist.
So I join with William Lane Craig in believing that the universe points us towards God in three ways: that God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe, the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe and the best explanation of why we can do science at all.
Yet I also find myself turning back to wonder at it all and see the stars and the galaxies as a way in which God speaks. As Sheridan Voysey said:
Saint Paul once said that the world’s beauty reveals the intelligence of God. I’m inclined to agree. And for me, this puts a fun twist on that golden record. While we’re sending up messages trying to reach intelligent beings, messages are being sent to us. Through the discoveries beamed down Voyager’s transmitter I hear a voice:
‘Look,’ it says, ‘I’m here.’https://hope1032.com.au/stories/life/news/2020/nasa-sent-a-message-to-the-universe-heres-what-came-back/