Exploring the God Question 1. The Cosmos, Part 1 (The big bang)
Exploring the God Question is a set of three DVDs titled 1. The Cosmos; 2. Life and Evolution; and 3. Mind and Consciousness, each in 2 Parts,1 published in 2013 by Search for Truth Enterprises Ltd.2 Speakers discuss whether there is enough evidence to show that God exists, or alternatively that He does not, or as the DVD puts it: “Does the cosmos leave space for God?”
The promo material states: “To help viewers determine a contributor’s stance on the topics discussed within the God Question, we have introduced a series-wide colour coding scheme: Theists, Atheists and Neutral Contributors.” No doubt this will be helpful to viewers, however, we note three things:
- That this is necessary suggests there is not enough difference between what some of the speakers believe and say to distinguish them from their opponents!
- There is no colour code for the position of biblical (‘Young Earth’) Creationist. The first time a literal reading of Genesis 1 is mentioned (in Part 2 of The Cosmos), the concept is attacked by theist William Lane Craig (see this response to Craig’s straw man attacks on YEC).
- We dispute that true neutrality is possible, cf. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30).
The programme does not define the beliefs of any of the participants, but the belief system of some of the theists (although not every one of them) chosen by Search for Truth Enterprises Ltd to take part appears to be deism, for all practical purposes. Deism is “belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature alone, with rejection of supernatural revelation” (Dictionary.com).
1. The Cosmos, Part 1 (The big bang)
This DVD begins with a printed quote from atheist Richard Dawkins which, we think, summarizes this whole project:
We are all atheists about most of the gods humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. (Richard Dawkins—The God Delusion)
Then comes a short summary of what follows, called “Setting the Scene”, in which half a dozen speakers give their opinions in one-liners. Samples:
Prof. William Lane Craig (theologian): “It matters enormously whether God exists or not.”
Rev. John Polkinghorne (Anglican Priest, former Professor of Mathematics): “The key question actually is, is there evidence for the existence of such a Creator.”
Sam Harris (atheist author): “Wasting your time being wrong is the modus operandi of religion.”
Prof. Steven Weinberg (atheist, theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate): “I think we are the winners in this lottery.”
This format is then continued in the rest of the DVD, with speakers giving their varying opinions in short bursts, mostly with no one giving evidence either for his/her own opinion or against other speakers’ opinions. No denial of the theory of evolution is presented—with the atheists arguing that ‘chance’ did it, and the theists adding ‘God’. The net result is a huge promotion of evolution, with the Producer using the views of both atheists and the compliant theists to achieve this. Seeing there is no better way to destroy belief in God than through teaching evolution,3 it seems to us that the effect of this DVD Series will be to convert more viewers to atheism than to theism.
Are galaxies evolving?
The first scientific comment is by Rev. Prof. David Wilkinson (Principal, St John’s College Durham University) opining: “We see a universe that is in dynamic motion. We see galaxies, collections of hundreds of billions of stars—being born, stars dying, those galaxies themselves evolving.”
Not so! Stars using up their fuel and galaxies in apparent motion do not equate to evolution in progress or mean that they all originated by a process of cosmic evolution. We do not even see stars forming, but only what evolutionists believe is happening, because by their own theory it takes a million years or so to form a star. A supernova could be called a dying star, but astronomically the idea of dying has no connection with evolving. We do not see galaxies growing or evolving. Nothing much is observed in real time with the exception of supernovae.
Astonomer Danny Faulkner says (not on this DVD):
Stars are not very complex, and so-called ‘stellar evolution’ (though I don’t necessarily accept all of it) is a different critter from biological evolution. So I don’t have a problem with the idea that a cloud of gas, created initially by God in a special unstable condition, or compressed by a shock wave from a nearby exploding star, might collapse under its own gravity and start to heat up to form a new star.
But the real problem is the origin of first stars. According to evolutionists’ star formation theory, a star forms from a condensing gas cloud when the explosion of another nearby star compresses the gas, so that the force of gravity within the gas cloud becomes stronger than the tendency for the gas cloud to disperse into the vacuum of space. However, nowadays dark matter is always used by evolutionists to get stars to form in computer simulations, so dark matter is their ‘god of the gaps’.
There are huge problems with this theory. How did the first stars form before any other stars existed to act as their catalyst? Atheist Neil deGrasse Tyson admits:
Not all gas clouds in the Milky Way can form stars at all times. More often than not, the cloud is confused about what to do next. Actually, astrophysicists are the confused ones here. We know the cloud wants to collapse under its own weight to make one or more stars. But rotation as well as turbulent motion within the cloud work against that fate. So, too, does the ordinary gas pressure you learned about in high-school chemistry class. Galactic magnetic fields also fight collapse: they penetrate the cloud and latch onto any free-roaming charged particles contained therein, restricting the ways in which the cloud will respond to its self-gravity. The scary part is that if none of us knew in advance that stars exist, front line research would offer plenty of convincing reasons for why stars could never form.4
Also, such first stars are called Population III stars and according to evolutionary theory would contain no ‘metals’ [in cosmology, this means elements heavier than helium], hence they should be easy to detect. None has been detected. No such problems exist in reality though, because God created the first stars by His spoken Word, as He said He did, in Genesis 1:14–19. See Stellar evolution and the problem of the first stars.
A supernova is an explosion of a massive star—the explosion is so bright that for a time it outshines the rest of its galaxy. Supernova remnants (SNRs) should keep expanding for hundreds of thousands of years, according to the physical equations. Yet there are no very old, widely expanded (Stage 3) SNRs, and few moderately old (Stage 2) ones in our galaxy, the Milky Way, or in its satellite galaxies, the Magellanic clouds. This is just what we would expect if these galaxies had not existed long enough for wide expansion, and hence is evidence against an old universe.5 These remnants are model dependent, but if the Galaxy was 13 billions of years old, it is predicted there should be about 5,000 Stage 3 supernova remnants, but they are not observed. See Exploding stars point to a young universe.
Meet the new atheists
According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “The New Atheists are authors of early twenty-first century books promoting atheism.” New atheism is an aggressive, anti-religious form of atheism that attempts to prove that God does not exist. Instead of determining truth by God’s revelation in Scripture, they determine truth by what they call rationality and science. The DVD now discusses this.
Every human being has a view about God, and as the debate continues, the popular assumption remains that science and belief in God are in conflict, a view heavily promoted by new atheists, a prominent group of writers and broadcasters who are declaring the supremacy of science and the redundancy of God.
Christian author Dinesh D’Souza says:
I think a lot of atheists were just waiting for religion to wither away. Finally atheists decided we can’t be just passive any more. We’ve got to become you might say ‘missionary’ atheists or ‘evangelical’ atheists. We’ve got to proselytize for our point of view, perhaps for the first time. … The new atheists have in a sense adopted the banner of science, and they contrast what they call the scientific way of knowing, which is investigation, experimentation, criticism, and enquiry, with what they call the religious way of knowing, which is, as they put it, ‘blind faith’.
Atheist scientist and journalist Colin Tudge says:
Scientists of what I tend to call the hard-nosed kind are strict materialists and basically they are saying the only thing that is real in the universe are the things you can stub your toe on, basically the things you can see, the things you can touch, and things you can measure. Everything else is a waste of time.
What science is and what it’s not
Let’s set the record straight on what science is and what it’s not. An excellent definition from Dictionary.com for ‘science’ is: “systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation”. Notice the emphasis on the ‘material’ world, i.e. ‘science’ today is equated with naturalism: only materialistic notions may be (i.e. are allowed to be) entertained. This doesn’t mean that the spiritual world does not exist—only that it is excluded from consideration.
Notice too the emphasis on ‘experimentation’. However, there is no way that anyone today can do an experiment, let alone a repeatable one, on events in the past, because we cannot directly observe the past, nor can we repeat it (as an experiment would require). For this reason, ‘science’ is best categorized as either ‘observational science’ (done in the present) or ‘historical science’ (referring to the unseen past). The former is experimental, the latter is forensic. See:
- ‘It’s not science’
- The Oscar Pistorius trial and the role of forensic bias
- Cuvier’s analogy and its consequences: forensics vs testimony as historical evidence
The only way we can know the truth about something that happened in the past is from an eyewitness who speaks the truth. So what eyewitnesses do atheists put forward to attest their theory of the big bang, or the origin of the first life? Answer: None. On the other hand there was a witness to what happened in the beginning, namely Almighty God. And He has given us a true record of what happened [creation of the earth, the universe, and animal and human life], how it happened [He did it by the power of His Word], and when it happened [about 6,000 years ago from the genealogies going back from now to Adam] in Genesis. See:
- Curiosity: Did God create the universe?
- Are there ape-men in your ancestry
- Creation: how did God do it?
- Did God create over billions of years?
- 101 evidences for a young age of the earth and the universe
Aware of how science is being brandished as a weapon against them, believers in God are marshalling their counter arguments. With the rising voice of atheism in mind, 4,000 Christians gather over several days [in North Carolina] to consider how to defend their faith, a field of study known as apologetics.
Shown is the convention speaker saying: “You don’t have to switch off your brains to be a believer; the questions have solid answers.” The DVD avoids telling viewers what any of these answers are. We will endeavour to remedy this lack in this article.
Galileo challenged the erroneous science of his day
The DVD introduces Galileo with the prejorative statement:
The assumption that science does conflict with religion has been around for hundreds of years. … It was [in Florence, Italy] in 1633 that a landmark battle was played out between science and religion. … It was a conflict that ever since has reinforced the view that science and belief in God are at war. On one side, the Catholic Church; on the other, [Galileo’s] revolutionary views on how the solar system works.
In the DVD, Peter Harrison (Prof. of Science and Religion, University of Oxford) correctly refutes this disinformation, saying it was “a conflict between two sciences; a conflict between traditional Aristotelian science and a new science that Galileo is proposing. … Catholicism reacts because its authority is under threat, but that’s not a question to do with science and religion; it’s a question to do with the politics and authority.”
Lest this explanation should win the day, the Narrator defiantly and fallaciously concludes: “450 years later [Galileo] remains a powerful symbol of how religion could suppress science.”
So what are the facts? With his telescope, Galileo carried out repeatable observations which refuted the geocentric (earth-centred) systems of Aristotle and Ptolemy, and extended the heliocentric (sun-centred) system of Copernicus. He observed that the sun had spots which moved across its surface, showing that the sun was not ‘perfect’ and that it rotated; he observed the phases of Venus, showing that Venus must orbit the sun; and he discovered four moons that revolve around Jupiter, not the Earth, showing that the Earth was not the centre of everything. He also observed three comets pass effortlessly through Ptolemy’s ‘crystalline spheres’ (in which the planets and stars supposedly moved around the Earth), showing that these spheres must be imaginary.
The first to oppose Galileo was not the Church but the scientific establishment, i.e. the astronomer-philosophers of the day, who earned their livelihood by teaching the Aristotelian idea that the earth was the centre of the universe, and so they were biased against change. Galileo challenged this view and, much like the evolutionary establishment today, they reacted furiously. The church, unfortunately, was led astray by the scientific establishment, so tried to read the then current model into the Bible, instead of using the Bible to evaluate the knowledge of the day. They actually made the same mistake as today’s churches (and the theists in this DVD!) who try to read the modern ‘scientific’ obsession with evolution and long ages into the Bible.
Galileo’s opponents picked out a few verses from the Bible that they thought said that the sun moved around the earth, such as Psalm 104:5 which the DVD gives as: “He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” They failed to realize that Bible texts must be understood in terms of what the author intended to convey. The verses immediately prior to this are undeniably figurative: God “makes the clouds His chariot; He rides on the wings of the wind”, so it is reasonable to understand ‘the earth being set on foundations’ as figurative too. But note Psalm 16:8 “I shall not be moved.” The Hebrew word for ‘moved’ is the same in each verse (מוֹט môt). Surely, even skeptics wouldn’t accuse the Bible of teaching that the Psalmist was rooted to one spot! The Psalmist meant to convey that he would not stray from the path that God had set for him.
Galileo was building on the thoughts of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543), a Canon in the church, and of Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), who famously said his scientific research was “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”. Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) worked out the laws of motion and gravity to explain all this, and he wrote more to defend the Bible’s history than he did about science. All four were young-earth creationists!
And long before them, medieval scientist-clergy in good standing with the church seriously proposed geokinetic (earth-moving) ideas. The priest/scientist/logician John Buridan (c. 1300 – >1358) and his student, bishop/scientist Nicole Oresme (c. 1320–1382) argued that it might be more elegant for God to create the tiny earth rotating than the vast cosmos revolving around it. They answered most of the scientific arguments, and even most of the alleged biblical proof-texts that were thrown at Galileo, and did so over two centuries before he was born. Later Cardinal Nicolas of Cusa (1401–1464) likewise proposed geokineticism before Copernicus was born. See Geokinetic revisionism.
Theologian Dr Thomas Schirrmacher summarized the Galileo affair in an excellent article in our Journal of Creation: “Contrary to legend, Galileo and the Copernican system were well regarded by church officials. Galileo was the victim of his own arrogance, the envy of his colleagues, and the politics of Pope Urban VIII. He was not accused of criticizing the Bible, but disobeying a papal decree.” 6 See:
- Sir Isaac Newton: a scientific genius
- Johannes Kepler: Outstanding scientist and committed Christian
- The Galileo ‘twist’
- Galileo Quadricentennial
- The Galileo Affair: history or heroic hagiography
The gods of ancient Greece
The next section of this DVD mentions the gods of the ancient Greek world, and is summarized in the Leader’s Manual as follows: “In ancient Greece the emergence of science eroded belief in their gods; yet belief in the God of the Bible not only survived the birth of modern science, but, some argue, led to the birth of the scientific revolution in the 16th century.” This is correct, and is explained in the hyperlinked articles below. This means that the atheists in this DVD who invoke science are invoking a Christian-founded system that owes nothing to their atheism. See:
- The Fall and the existence of other religions
- Archaeologist confirms creation and the Bible
- The biblical roots of modern science
- The history of the rise of materialism in Western society
- Why does science work at all?
The big bang—the atheistic alternative to creation by God
The last 10 minutes of Part 1 of this DVD are devoted to expounding the big bang,7 which is introduced by the Narrator saying: “Now science has unraveled a different and spectacular story, beginning 13.7 billion years ago with an extraordinary event—the big bang.” This is repeated at the end as: “Unravelling the inspiring and spectacular story of the birth and development of the universe is a major triumph for science.”
Viewers should realize that these statements are gross disinformation. Science has done no such thing. What has happened is that some scientists have promoted this non-scientific (see below) belief system.
Narrator: “Scientists have concluded that before the big bang, everything that would ever be in our universe was crammed into an invisible infinitesimal dot [which] exploded.”
NASA astrophysicist Dr Kimberley Weaver says: “In terms of where the big bang came from, or what started it, what powered it, we don’t know.”
The Narrator continues:
A further mystery perplexing scientists is why in the first seconds after the big bang, order began to emerge from what could have been complete chaos. … In this newly-born universe the laws of physics went immediately to work producing chemical elements that laid the foundations for life. Within 3 minutes there was helium and hydrogen, vital for the development of stars; with stars there could be light; with hydrogen there could be water; with water there could be life. …
If life as we know it was ever to exist, the elements formed in the early universe needed to be in the right balance. … As the Sun formed, it absorbs 99 per cent of the gas and dust around it; from what remain, rock-like bodies created in the heat began to form. Our solar system came into being and took its place in the galaxy we call the Milky Way. …
Dr Belinda Wilkes (Senior Astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Institution) tells viewers: “The atoms in your body and mine were born in the middle of stars … and in order for those atoms to become human beings, they have to have been thrown out of those stars.” However, this ignores the huge problems with theories of stellar nucleosynthesis—see The elements of the universe point to creation: Introduction to a critique of nucleosynthesis theory.
In response to all those atheistic claims, big-bang believer, theist Rev. Prof. David Wilkinson, wonders whether human beings are simply specs of dust or something quite different and special, and asks why the universe seems so balanced for life to exist. Rev. John Polkinghorne, also a big-bang believer, wonders if human beings are the result of a bit of luck or if something is going on in cosmic history.
We would have expected that those claiming to speak on behalf of God might have pointed out the following. For atheists to maintain their worldview they must conceive naturalistic explanations for everything which the Bible attributes to the power and authority of Almighty God. Hence the modern claim that the universe originated as the result of a big bang some 14 billion years ago, rather than being created by God in the way that Genesis records, and in the time frame and with the order of events that the Bible indicates. The obvious advantage for atheists of such a universe as theirs is that it does away with God as Creator at one end and God as Judge at the other.
Both Rev. Wilkinson and Rev. Polkinghorne would profit from considering atheist Sam Harris’s DVD comment: “There is no question that someone is right and someone is wrong. These are mutually incompatible descriptions of reality. So if I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to admit I’m going to spend eternity in hell.”
We would also have expected that those claiming to speak on behalf of God would have enlightened viewers to the multitudinous scientific fallacies in the big bang scenario, rather than applauding the concept and saying that God did it. For example, it is given the lie to by at least four major scientific laws:
- It contradicts the Law of Cause and Effect, because nothing cannot produce anything, let alone everything.
- It contradicts the First Law of Thermodynamics, i.e. energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only changed from one form into another.
- It contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, i.e. order tends towards increasing disorder (entropy), not vice versa.
- It contradicts the Law of Biogenesis, i.e. life does not originate from non-life.
- What happened before the big bang?
- If God created the universe, then who created God?
- The Second law of Thermodynamics: Answers to Critics
- Origin of Life
Then, of course, there is the simple matter of rationality; here are another four problems:
- How could all the mass and all the energy of ~100 billion stars in each of ~200 billion galaxies be contained within a point of zero dimensions?
- Such a point would be a singularity, sort of the ultimate ‘black hole’, but there’s no time or space for it to exist in.
- Big bang theory only produces an expanding cloud of gas. Expounding clouds of gas do not spontaneously reverse their expansion and collapse into the objects we see in the real universe around us.
- Energy can be converted into matter according to Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 but when this happens equal amounts of matter and antimatter are produced. So where are the 200 billion galaxies of antimatter that had to form to balance the 200 billion galaxies of stars, for the big bang theory to ‘work’?
- Discovery Channel program: How the Universe Works
- Gravity the mysterious force
- Did God use a big bang
- The Gospel in time and space
All the above problems with the big bang show that big bangers need to make an incredible leap of faith—far more faith than it takes to believe that Almighty God created everything by the power of His Word in the way that He says He did in Genesis, and which (contrary to both the atheists and the theists in this DVD) did not involve a big bang.
In fact, many secular scientists oppose the big bang. For example, in 2004, 34 leading scientists from 10 countries signed an “Open Letter to the Scientific Community” on the internet (see www.cosmologystatement.org; where it now has several hundred more signatories).8,9 Here are some of the things these many scientists say (see the original for more):
The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed—inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation.
… in cosmology today doubt and dissent are not tolerated, and young scientists learn to remain silent if they have something negative to say about the standard big bang model. Those who doubt the big bang fear that saying so will cost them their funding. … So discordant data on red shifts, lithium and helium abundances, and galaxy distribution, among other topics, are ignored or ridiculed.
Christians, don’t be taken in by this DVD Series. It presents arguments for atheism that most lay Christians would not be aware of, unless they have read the books of atheists such as Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, and others. The theists in this Series are unable to adequately answer the atheists’ arguments because, sadly, most of them do not see the Bible as God’s authoritative and infallible Word to mankind. Then, having rejected the details of what God says in the Bible about the origin of everything, they can no longer proffer as truth anything else that God says in the Bible. Theistic evolution is thus not a solution to anything; but an enormous part of the problem.
However, God is, and He has spoken. His Word is true, simple to understand, and will never be superseded by the attacks of atheists. It alone tells us the true history of the world, and how to come into a right relationship with Almighty God through faith in the redeeming work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
References and notes
- Plus Study Guide and Leader’s Manual. Because of the amount of material involved in each Part, we will respond to each Part separately. Return to text.
- Search for Truth Enterprises Ltd is a subsidiary of Search for Truth Charitable Trust, a private limited company based in Scotland. Their website supplies no doctrinal information about what they believe or don’t believe (as the case may be), nor who they are, other than that the Chairman of the Trust is Emeritus Professor John Spence of the University of Strathclyde, and the producer, Iain Morris, is a board member. They provide no information as to who their financial supporters are, and they appear to be accountable to no-one other than OSCR, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. Return to text.
- As advocated by the Narrator in the second DVD programme Life and Evolution, Part 1, where he says: “For atheists, there appears to be no better weapon to derail belief in God than evolution.” Note also that atheist William B. Provine has said: “Evolution is the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.” (Source: Slide from W.B. Provine’s 1998 “Darwin Day” address, “Darwin Day” website, University of Tennessee Knoxville TN, 1998. Return to text.
- Tyson, N. deG., Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, W.W. Norton & Co., 2007, p. 187. Return to text.
- K. Davies, Distribution of Supernova Remnants in the Galaxy, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Creationism, ed. R.E. Walsh, 1994, pp. 175–184. Return to text.
- Schirrmacher, T., The Galileo Affair: history or heroic hagiography, J. Creation 14(1):91–100, 2000; creation.com/gal-affair. Dr Thomas Schirrmacher has been Professor of Ethics and World missions at several American seminaries, and is currently Director and President (2014) of the International Institute for Religious Freedom of the World Evangelical Alliance. Return to text.
- This name originally was a term of derision, coined by English astrophysicist Fred Hoyle in his 1950 BBC radio series The Nature of the Universe, but the name was so catchy that it stuck. Hoyle never wavered from this opinion. In 1994 he wrote: “Big bang cosmology refers to an epoch that cannot be reached in any form of astronomy, and, in more than two decades has not produced a single successful prediction.” Hoyle, F., Home is Where the Wind Blows (Mill Valley, CA: University Science Books, 1994), p. 414; as reported in The Skeptic 16(1):52. Return to text.
- See Lerner, E., Bucking the big bang, New Scientist 182(2448):20, May 22, 2004. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Secular scientists blast the big bang: What now for naïve apologetics? Creation 27(2):23–25, 2005. Return to text.