Astronomical Evidences for the God of the Bible
by Hugh Ross, Ph.D.
Dr. Hugh Ross earned a BS in physics from the University of British Columbia
and an MS and PhD in astronomy from the University of Toronto. For several
years he continued his research on quasars and galaxies as a post-doctoral fellow
at the California Institute of Technology.
bullet?????? world view and theology
bullet?????? agnostic cosmology
bullet?????? early objections to agnostic cosmology
??????????????? discovery of heat transfer by radiation
??????????????? gravitational potential paradox
??????????????? results of the Michelson-Morley experiment
bullet?????? Einstein discovers the Beginner
bullet?????? search for loopholes
??????????????? the hesitating universe
??????????????? the steady state universe
??????????????? the oscillating universe
bullet?????? the new cosmology and eastern religions
bullet?????? the beginning of time
bullet?????? Jesus Christ, transcendent Creator
bullet?????? quantum mechanics, a modern Goliath
??????????????? quantum tunneling
??????????????? infinite chances
??????????????? no singularity
??????????????? man as Creator
??????????????? universe becoming God
bullet?????? design parameters
bullet?????? Creator or chance?
world view and theology
"It really does matter, and matter very much, how we think about the cosmos,"
says historian and college president Dr. George Roche.1 If the universe is uncreated,
eternally self-existent, or accidental then it has no purpose and, consequently,
we have no purpose. Determinism rules. Morality and religion are ultimately
If the universe is created and the creator is impersonal, then love, compassion,
and care are merely illusions. On the other hand, if the Creator is personal,
then these attributes and others such as beauty, altruism, mercy, and justice
are real and meaningful.
If there is a personal creator and this creator is contained within the universe,
then the universe itself is ultimate reality. The Universe, itself, is supreme,
pre-eminent. By contrast, if there is a personal Creator and this Creator is
transcendent, existing beyond the confines of the universe, then the Creator defines
ultimate reality and wields authority over it. Extra-dimensional phenomena,
such as miracles, heaven and hell, the Trinity, all become comprehensible.
To research cosmology (the origin and development of the universe) is, in a
sense, to research the meaning and purpose of life. Unfortunately, many researchers
have chosen to isogete rather than exogete the data available in the cosmos?
searching for data that best fit the theology they have already chosen rather than
integrating all the data to see which theology is consistent with the facts.
Agnosticism (roughly defined as the belief that God’s existence cannot be known)
has always had its adherents, but it was the work of Immanual Kant that really
propelled agnosticism to its current prominence. In his book on physical cosmology, Un
iversal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens, Kant concluded that the universe
must be infinite:
"It is evident that in order to think of it [the universe] as in proportion
to the power of the Infinite Being, it must have no limits at all … It would
be absurd to represent the Deity as passing into action with an infinitely small
part of His potency."2
From his conclusion that the universe must be infinite, Kant proceeded to work
out a strictly mechanistic model. For him, everything about and in the universe
could be accounted for by the laws of mechanics newly described by Sir Isaac
Newton. Specifically, Kant reasoned that an infinite universe gives rise to the possibility
of an infinite number of random chances. Thus, even such highly improbable events
as atoms self-assembling into human beings might be possible. Ironically, the
God who provided an excuse for assuming an infinite universe became unnecessary.
Though Kant unequivocally claimed to be a theist, by denying all objective evidences
for God Kant provided much of the foundation for 19th- and 20th-century agnosticism.
Kant’s cosmology seemed validated by the leap-frog advances in astronomy during
the 19th century. Observations through progressively larger telescopes revealed
an ever multiplying number of stars and nebulae. No matter how much farther
into deep space the newer telescopes penetrated, the universe appeared the same-no
hint of boundary, no hint of change. When many faint nebulae were resolved into
stars, infinitude seemed certain. Billions of stars and thousands of nebulae
stretched imaginations to the breaking point. This mind-boggling universe powerfully
suggested countless stars spread throughout limitless space. Thus, even the
admittedly remote prospect of atoms self-assembling into living organisms seemed
to fall within the realm of possibility.
early objections to agnostic cosmology
Through the 19th century the reliability of Newton’s laws of mechanics and of
Maxwell’s equations for electromagnetics was demonstrated repeatedly and widely.
Scientists became convinced that these laws and equations described all natural
phenomena. Toward the close of the century many physicists voiced the opinion that
the only work left for their successors was merely to "make measurements to
the next decimal place." No significant cosmological developments were anticipated,
and the Newtonian infinite universe model was cast in concrete.
However, this concrete began to crack almost before it dried. The disturbance
came from three unexpected developments in physics and astronomy:
1. discovery of heat transfer by radiation
In the 1880s Josef Stefan and Ludwig Boltzmann demonstrated from the laws of
thermodynamics that, given enough time, a body will assume the temperature of
its surroundings and, therefore, radiate away as much energy as it receives.
This finding should have destroyed the long-accepted proposition that an interstellar
medium absorbs the excess light from infinitely distant stars. In the process
of absorption, that medium would reach a temperature at which it would radiate
as much light as it received. The mere fact that the night sky is dark tells
us that the universe cannot contain an infinite number of evenly distributed
stars for an infinite time.3, 4
2. gravitational potential paradox
Not until 1871 did anyone attempt to calculate the gravitational potential within
an infinite Newtonian universe. In that year Johann Friedrich Z?llner liner
presented proofs that at any point within an infinite homogeneous universe the
gravitational potential becomes infinite (infinite force with no definite direction)?
a conclusion clearly at odds with all observations. However, only when his objection
was independently raised by Hugo Seeliger in 1895 and by Carl Neumann in 1896
did astronomers acknowledge a dilemma.5
3. results of the Michelson-Morley experiment
In the 1880s physicists expressed certainty, on the basis of Maxwell’s equations,
that "light propagates with a fixed velocity relative to an all-pervading ?ther."6
In 1887 t
wo American physicists, Albert Michelson and Edward Morley, took up
the challenge to determine the absolute velocity of the earth in the ?ther by
measuring the speed of light in different directions and at different positions
of the earth in its orbit about the sun. To their astonishment, the experiment
failed to reveal any motion of the earth at all.
It was immediately obvious that the Michelson-Morley experiment posed a severe
threat to any kind of Newtonian universe model. But, for almost twenty years
physicists attempted to patch up the classical theories. They proposed wild
hypotheses. One suggested that all material bodies contract in the direction of motion.
Another that the velocity of a light wave remains associated with the velocity
of its source. Various experiments and astronomical observations, however, forced
the rejection of all these desperate stabs.
Any one of these three developments was sufficient in itself to throw the infinite
Newtonian universe model onto the trash heap. However, so strong was the emotional
attachment of most scientists to Kantian philosophy and so confident were all
scientists in Newton’s gravitational theory that the 19th century closed with
the infinite Newtonian universe model as firmly entrenched as ever.
Einstein discovers the Beginner
As the 20th century dawned, the only conclusions consistent with all observations
of the velocity of light were these two:
There is no absolute reference system from which absolute motions in space can
The speed of light with respect to all observers is always the same.
In 1905 a German engineer, Albert Einstein, who studied physics in his spare
time, formally acknowledged these conclusions in his paper on the theory of
special relativity.7, 8 Further, he derived a dilation factor which revealed by exactly
how much two observers moving with respect to one another would disagree on
their measurements of length, velocity, mass, and time. Applying this dilation
factor to the classical expressions for momentum and to Newton’s law of force,
any high school student can easily derive the famous equation governing the
conversion of matter into energy:9 E=mc2
Resistance to Einstein’s theory broke early when experiments and observations
repeatedly confirmed all of its dilation predictions. The success of Einstein’s
equations in predicting all manner of observations and experiments was overwhelming.10, 11
?In fact, a recent experiment12 demonstrated the accuracy of the relativistic dilation
factor to within one part in 1021.
The triumph of special relativity gave Einstein the boldness to extend his theory
beyond velocity effects and on to the acceleration effects between observers.13, 14 The
?results were the ten field equations of general relativity. Subtracting one
set of these equations from another yielded the surprising result that everything
in the universe is simultaneously expanding and decelerating. The only physical
phenomenon which expands and decelerates at the same time is an explosion. But,
if the universe is the aftermath of an explosion, then sometime in the past
it must have had a beginning. There must have been a moment at which the explosion
began. If it had a beginning, then there must be a Beginner.
Einstein’s own world view initially kept him from adopting such a conclusion.
Rather, he proposed a new force of physics that would perfectly cancel out the
deceleration and expansion factors. Astronomer Edwin Hubble soon proved that
the galaxies indeed are expanding away from one another in the manner predicted
by Einstein’s original formulation of general relativity.15 Confronted with this proof,
Einstein gave grudging acceptance to "the necessity for a beginning,"16 and to "the presence
of a superior reasoning power."17
search for loopholes
Others were not so ready to concede a theistic world view. Through the years
they proposed a variety of alternatives:
1. the hesitating universe
While accepting the general expansion of the universe, Georges Lema?tre, a Belgian
priest trained in astrophysics by British mathematician Sir Arthur Eddington,
sought to lengthen the age of the universe by proposing that the general expansion
had been interrupted sometime in the past by a near static phase. In Lema?tre’s
model the universe expands rapidly from a beginning, but the density of the
universe is such that gravity slowly brings the expansion to a halt. Then, through
a judicious reintroduction of Einstein’s hypothesized force of physics (a repulsive
force) and a careful choice of its value, Lema?tre proposed that just when gravity
is taking the steam out of the cosmic explosion, the repulsive force builds
up to cancel off the gravitational effects. Expansion is slowed almost to a standstill
yielding a quasi-static period. Eventually, the cosmic repulsion begins to dominate
again, producing a second phase of general expansion (the phase that the universe
would now be in).
Eddington expressed his irritation that Lema?tre’s model still required "a sudden
and peculiar beginning of things."18 As he stated in a research paper, "Philosophically,
the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me.
.. I should like to find a genuine loophole."19 Eddington tried to create one. He stretched
Lema?tre’s quasi-static period to infinity, putting the "repugnant" beginning
point all but out of the picture to "allow evolution an infinite time to get
Not until the 1970s was enough evidence marshaled against Lema?tre’s, Eddington’s,
and others’ hesitation models to eliminate them from contention. Iranian physicist
Vah? Petrosian theoretically established that if the universe hesitates, the
galaxies and quasars must be confined to certain spatial limits.21 Observations have proved
that those limits are exceeded.22 – 26 Further, theoreticians have shown that if the quasi-static
period exceeds a trillion years, galaxy formation during that period is guaranteed,
but so is a subsequent and relatively immediate collapse back to the initial
singularity.27 (A complete list and explanation of the evidences refuting hesitation models
can be found in the author’s book, The Fingerprint of God.)
2. the steady state universe
In 1948 three British astrophysicists, Herman Bondi, Thomas Gold, and Fred Hoyle,
attempted to circumvent the beginning by proposing "continual creation."28, 29 In their
models, the universe, though expanding indefinitely, takes on an unchanging
and eternal quality since the voids that result from expansion are filled by
the continual, spontaneous creation of new matter. Their proposal made the creation
of matter no longer a miracle from the past, but an on-going law of nature that can
be tested by observations.
Right from the beginning the steady state proponents made their intentions clear.
Bondi stated that the "problem" with other theories was that creation was "being
handed over to metaphysics."30 Hoyle in his opening paper confessed his "aesthetic objections
to the creation of the universe in the remote past."31 Later, in a book he expressed
his opinion that the Christian view of creation offers to man "an eternity of
frustration."32 In 1982 he unfurled his religious colors: "The attribution of definite age
to the Universe, whatever it might be, is to exa
lt the concept of time above
the Universe, and since the Universe is everything this is crackpot in itself."33
During the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s a series of highly complex observational
and theoretical tests were developed to prove or disprove the steady state model.
But the simplest test, applied last of all, was proposed by Sir James Jeans
in the 1920s: a universe that has no beginning and no end should manifest a "steady"
population. The number of stars and galaxies in various stages of development
should be proportional to the time required to pass through these stages. That
is, there should be balanced numbers of infant, middle-aged, elderly, and extinct
stars and galaxies.34
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.b Neither are there any extinct varieties.
In fact, in 1985 Donald Hamilton determined that all the galaxies were formed
at approximately the same time.35 Table 1 presents a summary of evidence against
the steady state models.
Table 1: Evidence refuting steady state models
The lack of very old galaxies near our galaxy negates an infinite age for the
universe while the lack of very young galaxies near our galaxy negates continual
The paucity of galaxies and quasars beyond a certain distance implies that we
are not living in an infinite steady state universe.?
A steady state universe lacks a physical mechanism (such as the primeval explosion)
to drive the observed expansion of the universe.?
The observed microwave background radiation (perfectly explained by the cooling
off of the primordial fireball) defies explanation in a steady state universe.?
The enormous entropyc of the universe makes no sense in a steady state system.?
In a steady state universe, spontaneously generated matter must come into being
with a specified ratio of helium to hydrogen, and that ratio must decrease with
respect to time in an entirely ad hoc fashion. Instead, the measured helium
abundance for the universe has exactly the value that a hot big bang would predict.?
The observed abundances of deuterium, light helium, and lithium are predicted
perfectly by some kind of big bang beginning, but cannot be explained in a steady
Galaxies and quasars at distances so great that we are viewing them from the
remote past appear to differ so substantially in character and distribution
from nearby, more contemporary galaxies and quasars as to render steady state
models completely implausible.
3. the oscillating universe
Research that brought about the demise of the hesitating and steady state universe
models simultaneously strengthened the case for the big bang and, thus, the
prospect of a beginning and a Beginner. This turn of research dismayed many
cosmologists. In their dismay they resurrected a model first proposed by early
Hindu teachers and Roman atheistic philosophers-the oscillating universe. British
physicist John Gribbin voiced the opinion of many:
The biggest problem with the Big Bang theory of the origin of the Universe is
philosophical?perhaps even theological?what was there before the bang? This
problem alone was sufficient to give a great initial impetus to the Steady State
theory; but with that theory now sadly in conflict with the observations, the
best way round this initial difficulty is provided by a model in which the universe
expands from a singularity, collapses back again, and repeats the cycle indefinitely.36
In the oscillating universe model the universe is presumed to have not only
enough mass to bring the expansion to a halt (via gravity), but also enough
to reverse the expansion. However, rather than crunching itself into a "singularity"d th
e imploding universe somehow bounces back and expands again, and so the cycle
continues according to this model. An infinite number of such cycles is thought
to "relieve us of the necessity of understanding the origin of matter at any
finite time in the past."37 Our existence, then, could be attributed to that one lucky
bounce out of an infinite number that just happened to convert particles into
human beings through strictly random, natural processes.
Since 1965, when the oscillation model first received serious consideration,
astronomers have engaged in a tireless effort to find sufficient mass to halt
the expansion of the universe. All the evidence, however, both observational
and theoretical, still points in the opposite direction.38 – 46
In 1983 and 1984, Marc Sher, Alan Guth, and Sidney Bludman47, 48 demonstrated that even
if the universe contained enough mass to halt its current expansion, the collapse
would yield not a bounce but a thud. Because of the huge entropy of the universe,
any ultimate collapse would lack, by many orders of magnitude, the mechanica
l energy needed to bring about a bounce. This huge entropy was the justification
for the title of the paper by Sher and Guth, "The Impossibility of a Bouncing
Universe." In other words, the universe would much more closely resemble a wet
lump of clay falling on a thick rug than it does a basketball striking a hardwood
floor. Apparently, the universe either expands continuously or goes through
just one cycle of expansion and contraction.
The refutations of oscillation offered by Sher, Guth, and Bludman and an earlier
one developed by Russian physicists Igor Novikov and Yakob Zel’dovich49 failed, however,
to address gravitational clumping or introduce any gravitational entropy. Thus,
there has been a recent attempt to revive the concept of a bouncing universe.
It involves speculations about the behavior of merging blackholes when the unive
rse is compressed down to the point at which quantum-gravitational effects dominate.
50 However, as authors Arnold Sikkema and Werner Israel admit, no consistent
quantum theory of gravity (see side-bar) yet exists, and the revived theory
yields an oscillating universe with only a sharply limited number of bounces.
An even stronger statement against oscillation was established by Russian physicist
Andre Linde at a recent Caltech symposium on the large-scale structure of the
universe. Linde demonstrated that for realistic inflationary models,e that is, models
that fit the currently observed universe, there will exist at least one domain
(a volume) within the universe that ultimately will resist being crushed by
a collapse.51 Thus, in realistic inflationary models there exists no possibility for
Inflation of the universe produces matter (particles) out of space, that is,
out of the vacuum and a huge amount of entropy. Because of the entropy, the
process is not reversible?the particles cannot be converted back into a vacuum.
Thus, inflationary models that bear some resemblance to reality do not permit
the universe to oscillate. A summary of evidence against oscillation models is
given in Table 2.
Table 2: Evidence against oscillation models
The maximum radius of the universe would increase from cycle to cycle because
of irreversible thermodynamic changes. Therefore, a backwards look would show
in finite time a decreasing radius down to a point.?
The universe’s observed density is at most only half of what is needed to force
All inflationary models of the universe imply mass densities too small to force
Reasonable inflationary models of the universe do not allow for subsequent deflation.?
No known physical mechanism can consistently reverse cosmic contractions.?
Isotropic compression becomes violently unstable near the end of the collapse
Even if the universe were to collapse, more than a very few bounces would be
impossible because of the huge entropy in the universe.
the new cosmology and eastern religions
Most eastern religions, old and new, are founded on the belief that the universe
oscillates or reincarnates. In fact, the popularity of these faiths soared with
the popularity of the oscillating universe model, more so when it was recognized
that the Hindu number for the period of the oscillation, (specifically, four and
a half billion years) came close to the twenty to thirty billion year period
proposed by the astronomers working on the model. Many reasoned that for the
ancient Hindu theologians to get that close to the "right" answer there had
to be some truth to Hinduism.
Now that the hesitation, steady state, and oscillation models for the universe
have evaporated in the face of new measurements and discoveries, so, too, has
any scientific basis for the cosmology of the eastern faiths. The impossibility
of the oscillating universe destroys the foundation of Hinduism, Buddhism, and its New
Age derivatives. The impossibility of the eternal existence of the cosmos translates
into the impossibility of pantheism and all of its daughter faiths.
the beginning of time
All this evidence against an infinitely old universe has become somewhat academic.
In 1968 and 1970 three British astrophysicists, Stephen Hawking, George Ellis,
and Roger Penrose, extended the solution of the equations of general relativity
to include space and time.52, 53 Their papers showed that if these equations are valid
for the universe, then, under reasonably general conditions, space and time
also must have an origin, concurrent with that for matter and energy. In other
words, time itself is finite. In 1970 general relativity still had not been
overwhelmingly established by observations. By 1980 observations removed any
doubts.54 By 1990 eleven separate evidences had been accumulated. The observational
verifications of general relativity are summarized in Table 3.
Table 3: Observational verifications of general relativity
The symbol D means "change in," and the symbol " means "arcseconds." Hence, D P