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(092112)

Astronomy and Evidence
From The Beginning


Questions:

  • How many factors are required to support life? (i.e., factors from astronomy, cosmology, chemistry, and physics in the form of numeric constants, strengths, forces, etc.)
  • Might we first look at biological origins in terms of the beginning of the universe?
  • What affect does this have on our view of our existence and our life experience?
  • Do these factors have any bearing on the Darwinian view of biological evolution?

Short Answer :

  • There are numerous fine-tuned factors—too many to explain life support by coincidence alone! This raises the question of design and the presence of an intelligence behind setting the cosmic stage for life. Hold that thought—it will return time and again to the WindowView!
  • Biological life must first be thought of in terms of a universe that supports life. That is the root of evolution absent from the common discussion is a serious omission.
  • Our view can be totally reoriented by revisiting the scientific data, some of which is cited below! Our existence is not a mere ordinary event. (How would you even define ordinary given the remarkable observations science alone affords us today!) If not 'ordinary,' then one needs to reconsider how to view this life experience as something with purpose, something special!
  • Biological evolution as an explanation for our being is helpful only to a point, but a review of the data as a whole—with modern science contributing much beyond what Darwin could see—makes for a very different view. We will build a holistic perspective for this based on a wide variety of data sources. This is perspective building that strengthens an argument to leave us with a very special conclusion.

Expanding a bit on the short answers ...

There are actually several incredibly important topics that ought to come before one even considers anything about Darwin’s explanations on evolution. Three key areas initially considered here are that based on:

  1. evidence from astronomy (considered on this page)
  2. a lack of explanations for chemical origins (see pages on Chemical Origins and Thermodynamics)
  3. the outcome of a probability analysis that examines the genetic mutation steps required to get from one species to the next (see page on Chance)

Once fully reviewed, these three areas of consideration force us to reexamine the ''standard story'' so commonly recited as the explanation for biological origins. You are about to read explanations, based on science and mathematics, that tell us our origin rests on more than what is commonly portrayed. You may soon recognize a whole new viewpoint. And that's the reason behind looking at origins! Critical thinking in this light is not an exercise in criticizing others, but a venture in discovery by what we can understand and by what we see before us. Tomorrow the information in view will grow, but think today on the basis of what is there to see now!



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Yes, the three areas noted above were beyond Darwin—given the limited knowledge of his day. Knowledge has grown exponentially since the mid-1800s. Like the information below, there is much more to put into perspective. Had Darwin known what you will read here ... well, he would have completely revamped his entire thesis. Note, later on we address Darwin's doubts on evolution and what he was struggling with beyond biology alone! Context is important! And context is so often lost to the 'standard story.' So, today's new information gives us a uniquely important view about both the universe and life within the cosmos.

Read below to get a snapshot of some of the details. We welcome you to broaden your exploration by reading more ... read the feature articles here at WindowView (links provided below) and in the sources listed at the end of this page. And one step further look for the sources cited within the resources listed here! That will further broaden your view!

Consider This:

This section provides detail and depth to support the short answers given above. We can't cover all the evidence from astronomy and cosmology (the study of the structure of the universe); so, let's briefly look at some information concerning the following topics:

  • The Fact of a Beginning
  • Time and Age
  • Conditions Just Right for Life — A Fine Tuned Universe

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We typically hear about Darwin and evolution without discussion of factors that are in fact the very foundation to the biological sciences. We’ll reverse that trend right here by considering a number of points from astronomy and cosmology.

From the very start we see a critical weakness that undercuts any assumption that evolution operates by chance—because the universe apparently exists beyond chance alone. Some would say we might be in the lucky universe—of many—and thus we therefore experience just the conditions that exist here. We’ll leave the 'many universes’ theory to your further exploration (e.g., see discussion by Ross in Creation Hypothesis, Chapter Four). Briefly put, it seems a vain hope to say many other universes may have been existent or spawned unsuccessfully to finally yield this one. Once you see how much has to go just so right to be here, the alternate theory fades to insignificance. Remember, humans haven’t really known of a beginning for the universe until just recently. Ancient thinkers thought in terms of an infinite universe with infinite age. Discoveries of the conditions during the initial stages of the universe's expansion are also recent to us—which in toto speak to the presence of design.

The Fact of A Beginning

There was a beginning. The universe is not infinite in size or age ... Einstein opened our eyes with a big bang! Einstein's work along with others from the 1920s to 1950s carves out an era of discovery that gives humanity the scientific basis for the universe having a beginning and a continued expansion—adding space along time.

The triumph of special relativity gave Einstein the boldness to extend his theory beyond velocity effects and on to the acceleration effects between observers. The results were the ten equations of general relativity. Subtracting one a set of these equations from another yielded yet another equation, whose solution lead to the surprising result that everything in the universe is simultaneously expanding and decelerating. The only physical phenomenon in which expansion and deceleration occur at the same time is an explosion. Ross (CH) Page 144

Special Note: quotations appear with references to their sources. The author(s) name(s) is followed by a letter code which identifies the source (commonly a book) which is listed on the reference palette. To see this listing go to the reference listing button at the bottom of each feature article page. The listing will open in a separate window that you can keep handy in the background if you like.

Part II of the WindowView timeline contains a number of dates and discoveries associated with the scientific community’s observations supporting the big bang. After Einstein and with the advent of NASA, scientists have been able to put probes, telescopes, and satellites in space to confirm many facets of what first appeared as mathematical expressions on Einstein's chalk board.

Time and Age

The issue of time and age of the universe—from an evolutionary or by certain creation perspectives—can bring conflicting views. Briefly addressed, as indicated here in following pages, an old universe does not solve the time requirements of Darwinian evolution. Also, a young earth does not necessarily stem from a literal reading of the biblical text. In fact, scientific evidence for an old universe means that a young earth (and thus young universe) would require some type of creation that put ancient features in place without time. Light that has traveled billions of light years to get here would then be mere artifact. The young earth perspective would then contradict the validity and authority of the source (biblical text) they seek to defend.

WindowView seeks to look at perspectives that are neither fabrications nor compromises! In this light we find an answer from physics, again that employs Einstein's equations, to provide a possible solution! Yes, we entertain possibilities, as long as they are not resting on unfounded assumptions. The solution is one that satisfies both a science perspective with billions of years and the biblical requirement of six creation days (each 24 hours). The solution is evident in the writings of Dr. Schroeder, a nuclear physicist, who offers us a computation where relativity overcomes the time wrinkle. Yes, it can be computed mathematically! Based on relativity, six days can in fact embody longer time frames adding up to some 15 billion years. At the end of the dual view approach to time we see that earth days become the relative time for the rest of the story as we see it today (see WindowView timeline). A link to a short article on this topic by Dr. Schroeder is provided in the 'Resources' listing at the end of this page.

Also note, there is good reason to see that once time was brought into existence, there is an orderly development of the cosmos—stars and galaxies reveal in imagery sent to us by ancient light now arriving here on earth—which in turn, speaks of the age of the universe:

While it is true that stars with ages ranging from just a few days to billions of years can be seen, no star anywhere in the universe has been found to be older than about 16 billion years. As for galaxies, all, or very nearly all, are middle-aged. We see no newly formed galaxies. ... Neither are there any extinct varieties. In fact, in 1985 astronomer Donald Hamilton determined that all the galaxies were formed at approximately the same time. The steady state theories simply do not match the unobservable data. Ross (CH) Page 147

The evidence provides a platform based on a long time frame—including many days and billions of years! That the universe had a beginning and still expands today is understood, but the explorations of where this all leads us continues on the frontiers of science today—expect awesome reports as the story unfolds in time to come!

Conditions for a Just Right for Life Universe

Think of the following as being a mental 'show stopper,' something that really begs a pause for thought! Might there be enough evidence that speaks to a designed universe, even before we suggest anything about life in terms of chance or design? The evidence comes in terms of fine tuning!

Precisely set conditions come to us by observing an ever expanding list of physical constants or relationships in the universe, within our solar system, and on earth itself. There are a number of delightful and sometimes technical discussions to illustrate how many factors add to the list. The probability of an accidental universe diminishes even further every time another condition is revealed. Bradley writes:

More than 100 similar cosmological coincidences have been identified. ... However, many scientists are no longer willing to attribute these coincidences to chance, and as is evidenced by a much more recent quotation from Hoyle:

"Such properties seem to run through the fabric of the natural world like a thread of happy coincidences. But there are so many odd coincidences essential to life that some explanation seems required to account for them" (Hoyle 1983, 220).

Arno Penzias, Nobel laureate in physics and the director of Bell Laboratories until its recent fragmentation, makes this observation about the enigmatic character of the universe:

"Astronomy leads us to unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan" (Brock 1992). Bradley (MC) Page 40

Bradley (CH, page 39) notes a source that indicates our sun not only needs to be a dependable long-term source of energy, but one that depends on a precise constants for gravity, electromagnetism, mass of the proton, and mass of the electron. Remarkably, four independent constants fall right where they need to be to provide the right energy and thus make life possible on Earth.

So we can see there is a way to determine that the universe had a beginning, that it's not infinite in age (as in the steady state model referred to above), and that the cosmos has not always been all there is and always will be as Carl Sagan stated. Further, the beginning cannot be precarious or simply defined by chance because of the numerous fine-tuned conditions (more on that below!).

Ross notes that as we learn more about the Big Bang, the more one sees irrefutable evidence for design. It's scientists—astronomers, physicists—who now acknowledge that the only reasonable explanation for the harmony observed in the universe, solar system, and planet Earth, is the result of "... the action and ongoing involvement of a personal, intelligent Creator." (Ross (MC) Page 371)

In the first printing of The Fingerprint of God (1989), I listed sixteen characteristics of the universe and another nineteen of the solar system that must be fine-tuned to make life possible and sustainable. In the most recent edition of The Creator And The Cosmos (1995), those lists had grown to twenty six characteristics for the universe and forty one for the solar system. The pace of new discoveries demonstrating design in the universe and solar system has escalated dramatically, so much so I now publish a quarterly update. The most recent of these updates describes thirty two characteristics for the universe and seventy five for the solar system. Ross (MC) Page 371

There is far too much information to cover on the fine tuned conditions of the universe. The appropriate full exploration requires additional reading. But here we'll provide a quick sampling for those conditions and factors that are listed by Dr. Ross. Remember, that each added factor reduces the probability that the universe is merely the product of chance. In fact, calculations by Ross and elsewhere by others quickly reveal that chance has very little to do with the universe we see. First, we list selected points from each of two tables constructed by Dr. Ross (entire content of these tables appears in Ross reference below).

From Ross' Table 4.4 (Ross (CH) Page 160), the following parameters for the universe prove to be just right—if larger, higher, smaller, or lower than the value known to us, the universe would be a different place. Again, taken together we find too many factors are set just right to be accounted by coincidence. Let's look at just 9 of the 25 evidences Ross provides for a fine-tuned universe (note: number of each listed item coincides with original table listing):

1. Strong nuclear force constant

If larger: no hydrogen; nuclei essential for life would be unstable
If smaller: no elements other than hydrogen

3. Gravitational force constant

If larger: stars would be too hot and would burn up quickly and unevenly
If smaller: stars would remain so cool that nuclear fusion would never ignite, hence no heavy element production

7. The ratio of a number of protons to number of electrons

If larger: electromagnetism would have dominated gravity, preventing galaxy, star and planet formation
If smaller: electromagnetism would have, dominated gravity preventing galaxy, star and planet formation

8. Expansion rate of the universe

If larger: no galaxy formation
If smaller: universe would have collapsed prior to star formation

11. Velocity of light

If larger: stars would be too luminous
If smaller: stars would not be luminous enough

12. Age of the universe

If older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of the galaxy
If younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed

13. Initial uniformity of radiation

If smoother: stars, star clusters and galaxies would not have formed
If coarser: universe by now would be a mostly black holes and empty space

15. Average distance between stars

If larger: heavy element density too thin for rocky planets to form
If smaller: planetary orbits would become destabilized

22. Polarity of the water molecule

If greater: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too great for life to exist
If smaller: heat of fusion and vaporization would be too small for life's existence; liquid water would become too inferior a solvent for life chemistry to proceed; ice would not float, leading to a runaway freeze-up

So, do you see it? If a factor is larger, smaller, too much, too little, or otherwise varies from its current state, there would be NO universe as we know it—and no other would exist like this universe. Dr. Ross reflecting on the parameters above, notes:

The degree of a fine-tunedness with for many of these parameters is utterly amazing. For example, if the strong nuclear force for even a 0.3 percent stronger or 2 percent weaker, the universe would never be able to support life. More astounding yet, the ground state energies for 4He, 8Be, 12C and 16O cannot be higher or lower with respect to each other by more than 4 percent without yielding a universe with insufficient oxygen and/or carbon for any kind of life. The expansion rate of the universe is even more sensitive. It must be fine-tuned to an accuracy of one part in 1055. Clearly some ingenious Designer must be involved in the physics of universe. Ross (CH) Page 163

The listing of fine tuned factors continues, but now with regard to the solar system. Here we narrow our perspective to an even finer focus, and still more remarkable relationships emerge:

... What about specific parameters that must be just so in order for the solar system—the immediate neighborhood where we live! There is an ever expanding list of factors to consider. The following is again just a sampling of solar system based fine-tuned factors; these are 10 of the 32 parameters Dr. Ross lists in his Table 4.5 (Ross (CH) Page 168):

9. Parent star color

If redder: photosynthetic response would be insufficient
If bluer: photosynthetic response would be in sufficient

10. Parent star luminosity relative to speciation

If increases too soon: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
If increases too late: runaway glaciation would develop

12. Distance from parent star

If further: planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle
If closer: planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle

15. Axial tilt

If greater: surface temperature differences would be too great
If less: surface temperature differences would be to great

22. Oxygen to nitrogen ratio in atmosphere

If larger: advanced life functions would proceed too quickly
If smaller: advanced life functions would proceed too slowly

23. Carbon dioxide level in atmosphere

If greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
If less: plants would be unable to maintain efficient photosynthesis

24. Water vapor level in atmosphere

If greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop
If less: rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land

25. Atmospheric electric discharge rate

If greater: too much fire destruction would occur
If less: too little nitrogen would be fixed in the atmosphere

26. Ozone level in atmosphere

If greater: surface temperatures would be too low
If less: surface temperatures would be too high; there would be too much UV radiation at the surface

29. Oceans-to-continents ratio

If greater: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited
If smaller: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited

So what can we conclude about the fine-tuned nature of the universe and our planet? Among other possible considerations we might at least ask how many planets within the universe are just right for life. How many candidates are there like our earth for life support? The answers Dr. Ross provides are no less amazing. In his account he notes that scientists back in the 1960s recognized that just the right star and right planet at the right distance were necessary for life. This factor was used in trying to identify other star-planet pairs as favorable candidates for life elsewhere:

Shklovskii and Sagan, for example, which claimed that 0.001 percent of all stars could have a planet capable of supporting advanced life. ...> While their analysis was a step and the right direction, it overestimated the range of permissible star types and the range of permissible planetary distances. It also ignored many other significant factors. Some sample parameters sensitive for the support of life are listed in Table 4.5. Ross (CH) Page 165

By narrowing the conditions required to make life possible, we see how other candidates are eliminated from the race. For example, the planet's orbit, distribution of continents are factors that immediately eliminate 20 percent of the competition. Ross notes the planet's rotation and albedo eliminate another 90 percent. The distance between planet and star, plus the mass of the star (e.g., like our sun) are factors that eliminate 99.9 percent of all candidates (Ross (CH) Page 169). So where does all this leave us?

However, the thirty-two listed in table 4.5 in themselves lead safely to the conclusion that much fewer than a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent of all stars will have a planet capable of sustaining advanced life. Considering that the observable universe contains less than a trillion galaxies, each averaging a hundred billion stars, we can see that not even one planet (see sidebar "How Many Plants?") would be expected, by natural processes alone, to possess the necessary conditions to sustain life. No wonder Robert Rood and James Trefil, among others, have surmised that intelligent physical life exists only on the earth. Ross (CH) Page 169

Dr. Bradley captures the remarkable nature to the entire listing of parameters. He not only looks to the universe and the suggestion of design there, but also considers how this links to the design of life itself.

In summary it is clear that providing a universe that is suitable for life requires a remarkable assignment of the values of the various universal constants. The source of this cosmological information requires some explanation. How may these remarkable coincidences be explained in terms of natural laws? At the present none of the explanations to be discussed with regard to biological information and design have any bearing on cosmological information and design. It has been suggested that a unified field theory might show that certain of the constants are casually connected to each other so that they are not independently assigned. However, in such a theory the residual constants would almost certainly need to be prescribed even more narrowly. Why these constants happened to be exactly what they need to be when they could in principle assume any value does not seem to be reducible to a naturalistic cause or explanation. Bradley (MC) Page 40

We might wonder if astronomy is a lone source for what Dr. Ross suggests. Are there other sources of similarly aligned evidence from a number of other scientific fields? We admit it may take a bit of exploring to see this. But then that is the purpose in making the overview of topics that follow this page. Yes, there are indeed many fields providing evidence that make a unified holistic picture—one that agrees with what astronomers have been running into but now also includes evidence from biology, biochemistry, genetics, philosophy, physics, geology, and more. There are many separate panes that make up the larger window. Step from page to page here to see how the view assembles itself!

And just two more quotations from Dr. Ross to leave you something to think about. These thoughts embody some of the interplay in themes that appear on the pages to follow, themes that will snap into the larger WindowView:

"It really does matter, and matter very much, how we think about the cosmos," says historian and college president George Roche. If the universe is simply uncreated, eternally self-existent or randomly self-assembled, then it has no purpose and consequently we have no purpose. Determinism rules. Morality and religion are ultimately irrelevant, and there is no objective meaning to life. On the other hand, if the Creator is personal, then love, compassion, care, beauty, self-sacrifice, mercy and justice could be real and meaningful.

Thus the study of cosmology (the origin and development of the universe) is closely related to questions about the meaning and purpose of life. Theistic science postulates that the universe was created by a personal God a finite time ago and that it was intelligently designed with the arrival of human life in mind. Are these two propositions reasonable in light of evidence from astronomy? They are, in fact, the theme of dozens of books and papers produced by world-renowned astronomers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ross (CH) Page 141

Purpose to life? The idea that an intelligence is behind the existence of the universe, and thus humanity, too, is part of the whole that we visit when looking out this window. If this is the first feature article you've read at WindowView.org, then there is lots more to fortify the notion of purpose. We hope you'll keep exploring and agree!


Quotations from "The Creation Hypothesis" (CH) edited by J. P. Moreland and "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.

Cited sources used with permission.


Resources

Excerpts and links to related Science Feature Articles:

''One of the most obvious perceived contradictions between Torah and science is the age of the universe. Is it billions of years old, like scientific data, or is it thousands of years, like Biblical data? When we add up the generations of the Bible, we come to 5758 years. Whereas, data from the Hubbell telescope or from the land based telescopes in Hawaii, indicate the number at 15 billion years.''

''In trying to resolve this apparent conflict, it's interesting to look historically at trends in knowledge, because absolute proofs are not forthcoming. But what is available is to look at how science has changed its picture of the world ...'' MORE on this, read: - Dr. Gerald Schroeder on the Age of Universe

''In 1917 traditional schools of thought had convinced three great thinkers that the Bible was untrue. In that year Albert Einstein published a paper interpreting his own general theory of relativity, making it conform to the unquestioned cosmology of his day: the static universe theory. Static universe cosmology claimed that the universe is infinite in age, thus relieving the scientific community of having to deal with questions about the ultimate origin of the cosmos. According to the consensus among astronomers, stars drifted about randomly, without apparent direction toward or away from us. The nebulae were gas clouds that belonged to our own galaxy. And the Milky Way Galaxy was the universe.'' BUT there is more to this story, read: - Fred Heeren: ''Facts That Changed Three Minds''

''This is not rocket science. This is common sense, and no one has ever observed an exception. Even Julie Andrews sings about it: ''Nothing comes from nothing; nothing ever could.''

That every effect must have a cause is a self-evident truth, not only for those who have been trained in logic, but for thinking people everywhere. The cosmological argument for God is founded upon the old Latin axiom, Ex nihilo nihil fit: From nothing, nothing comes.'' MORE on this, read: Fred Heeren: ''Question: How Do We Explain the Universe?''

''There are any number of unanswerable, uncomfortable questions a person can ask, but the first one, the question from which all other questions are descended, is "Why is there an 'is'?" Why is there existence in the first place? In our fascination with life's origin and evolution, we bypass this most fundamental of conundrums. Does the very fact of existence in itself provide proof that some metaphysical non-thing. Perhaps even the Godly, some undefined whatever-it-is, produced the physical by transcending it?''

''If we consider the finite aspects of the world we see around us, the limited nature of the time, space and matter from which we are constructed, the answer is certainly yes. Some non-thing, above or outside of the physical, must have preceded our universe or has our universe embedded in it.''

''But what is the material world, that which frames the puzzle of our existence?'' MORE on this, read: - Dr. Gerald Schroeder on Existence

Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director, WindowView.org
(040408)


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Creation Hypothesis Mere Creation Fingerprint of God Not By Chance Evolution Theory in Crisis Cosmos Priviledged Planet Show Me God Science of God

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