15 Jun 2014

The Universe Is Beautiful–Unless You Think Someone Designed It

All Posts, Religious 20 Comments

Unfortunately I can’t find it, but on Facebook recently I saw a poster saying something like, “If the universe were created by an intelligent being, why would he leave 99.9999999% of it empty?”

Somewhat apropos, when I took my son to the Smithsonian’s planetarium last week, the show opened and the whole place (filled with junior high kids) was immediately spellbound. And not because a bunch of white dots on the ceiling are impressive, but because everybody knew that this represented outer space.

Whether you are an atheist or a theist, we can all admit that the universe is absolutely breathtaking. As we watched the planetarium show unfold, and we “moved” out of the galaxy, I actually felt panic-stricken for a moment as I contemplated just how far away we were from home and safety. Obviously the mere existence of an awe-inspiring, colossal universe doesn’t prove the existence of an awesome and even more colossal Creator. But it surely isn’t a strike against Him, either.

There is no reason God shouldn’t have spread galaxies unimaginably far apart; it’s not like He was working with a production budget. You might object, “But God should’ve built us a universe teeming with so much variety that it would take humans countless generations to explore its mysteries and catalog all of its diverse life forms.” He did do that. It’s called Earth. For extra credit He embedded it in the cosmos.

20 Responses to “The Universe Is Beautiful–Unless You Think Someone Designed It”

  1. Joseph Fetz says:

    You were a little late on this “Sunday” post.

    In any case, I understand, and I wish to you a happy Father’s Day (belated). Glad you got a chance to take Clark to the Capitol. I cannot help but to express the fact that when I went there as a young boy, I really enjoyed it (it was a real time of bonding between me and my father). Of course, in my adulthood I have a great amount of disdain for the institution itself that has created it, but I cannot deny that it really is a fun trip (especially when I was just a young boy).

    And yes, the universe is truly awe-inspiring. I only wish that I could fully understand all of its intricacies. But then, so have all of the humans that have lived upon this Earth. I’ve become content with my not-knowing.

    Unfortunately, I think that there are only a few that have taken this tack (i.e. those who have realized their own ignorance). Until then we are left with the same old wonders that have made “us” wonder upon the heavens since our first communicative words. I think that the words that have and will be spoken by “us” will forever be ignorant to the real answers of the universe, but I guess that there is no harm in hoping and dreaming.

  2. Gamble says:

    It is all infinite, we never get any smarter relatively speaking.

    The real question in life Jesus. Do you accept the gift of Lord and Savior?

    All the rest is a never ending distraction.

  3. Transformer says:

    I know that fundamentalist Christians think the earth is only 6000 years old.

    Do they have a view on how old the universe itself is ? I assume they have to reject the theories held by most astronomers/physicists as this would be incompatible with the young earth story.

    What do they typically believe ?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      Well, a biblical literalist would say that the stars were created after the earth. Here is Genesis 1:
      Its says in the beginning, God creates the heaven and the earth, and there’s apparently water everywhere. On the first day, he creates light, and separates the light and the darkness to create day and night. On the second day, he creates a giant dome (the sky) to separate some of the water from the rest of the water. On the third day, he takes all the water that’s under the dome and puts it in one place, the ocean, to make room for dry land, and then he puts trees and plants on the dry land. It’s only on the fourth day that he puts lights on the dome, i.e. stars, in order to have signs for astrological purposes, to demarcate days and years, and to provide light for the earth. And the two biggest lights he puts on the dome are the sun and the moon, to rule the day and night.

      • Capt. J Parker says:

        According to the link you provide: “Words in italic type have been added for clarity. They are not found in the original Hebrew or Aramaic.”
        In Genesis 1:16 “He made” is in italics so, based on the footnote above Genesis 1:16 would read: Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night the stars also.
        So, are you claiming that the only possible interpretation of Genesis 1:16 is that God created the stars on the fourth day as you claim? A thoughtful reading of the entirety of the web page you yourself link to would suggest otherwise.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          Yes, the King James Version adds another “made”, but thankfully we don’t need to rely on that translation. Here’s the translation from the Complete Jewish Bible:
          “God made the two great lights — the larger light to rule the day and the smaller light to rule the night — and the stars.”
          And to check the grammatical role of “stars”, we can go back to the original Hebrew: tinyurl.com/hebrewgenesis1
          The “and” in the phrase “and the stars” has the accusative marker “eth”, indicating that “stars” is the direct object of some verb. And since the only verb in the sentence is the “made” in the beginning (since “rule” is actually a noun not a verb), the only possible meaning is “God made the two great lights and the stars”.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          And Capt J Parker, in any case there’s no need to even go to Genesis 1:16. We can just look at Genesis 1:14: “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years.”” Clearly the lights being referred to are the stars. They’re what’s used as signs for astrological purposes, and they’re what allow you to demarcate years and the like.

          • CApt. J Parker says:

            I disagree Keshav,
            The plain English translation in the new link you give is “And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.” This is even harder to interpret as meaning “God made two great lights – the greater to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night and he made the stars at the same time.” as opposed to “God made two great lights – the greater to rule the day and the lesser to rule the night and the stars.”

            In the most recent English version of Genesis 1:16 that you cite “to rule” is clearly an infinitive verb not a noun. It requires no effort at all to see that “the night and the stars” could easily be the object of the infinitive verb “to rule”. I can’t say definitively that this is also the case in Hebrew but given that the we have looked at two English translations that both use the infinitive verb “to rule” I would give even money that the same applies in the Hebrew and so eth could simply indicate that “stars is the object of some Hebrew form of the verb “to rule”.

            As for Gen 1:14, I don’t see any reason why the sun and the moon alone cannot serve to “divide the day from the night” and “be for signs and seasons and for days and years” Clearly the sun divides day from night but the solar equinoxes and solstices also mark the seasons and years. The moon as well marks the seasons hence the Harvest moon and also Psalm 104:19 “He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting.”

            Not saying your interpretation is totally wrong, just not the only one.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              “In the most recent English version of Genesis 1:16 that you cite “to rule” is clearly an infinitive verb not a noun.” Yes, but that’s just the fault of the English translation, which isn’t translating things very literally. In the original Hebrew “rule” is a noun, not a verb. Here is Young’s literal translation, which captures the grammar of the Hebrew more accurately:
              “And God maketh the two great luminaries, the great luminary for the rule of the day, and the small luminary — and the stars — for the rule of the night;”

              I gave you a link to the original Hebrew in an earlier comment: tinyurl.com/hebrewgenesis1
              You can clearly see that there’s no infinitive, but rather the preposition “l” meaning “for” plus the feminine noun “memshalah” meaning rule or dominion.

              So again, the only verb in the sentence is “made”, so “stars” has to be the direct object of “made”.

            • Keshav Srinivasan says:

              “As for Gen 1:14, I don’t see any reason why the sun and the moon alone cannot serve to “divide the day from the night” and “be for signs and seasons and for days and years” ” CaptJParker, clearly the lights that are used for signs are stars, not just the sun and the moon.

              By the way, we shouldn’t ignore the larger point, which is that it at least says that God created the sun and the moon after he created the earth, the ocean, plants, and trees.

              • Capt. J Parker says:

                You said “By the way, we shouldn’t ignore the larger point,”
                I agree. I think the larger point starts showing up in the gospel of Matthew. John 3:15-16 is good larger point place too I think.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                Capt J Parker, I didn’t mean the larger point of the Bible, I just mean the larger point I was making.

              • Capt. J Parker says:

                Smile Keshav,
                Tomorrow is Friday and God loves you 🙂

    • Harold says:

      I understand that this is one of the greatest problems for “young earth” creationists. The distant galaxies could have been created 6000 years ago together with the red shifted light between them and the Earth. I have read that this would be interpreted as God creating a deliberately misleading universe, which looks as though it is older than it is. I do not think they have fully solved this conundrum.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        Another route a lot of creationists take is to say the speed of light was much greater in the past than it is now, although that would have all sorts of observable consequences that we don’t observe.

  4. Raja says:

    My brother in law marveled at the perfection of the universe a week ago. He said he it was so obvious by looking at the perfection of this world that there must be a God. I was taken aback by his conclusion. All I could say was that we don’t know how many failures took place before a random set of circumstances created the conditions that were just perfect for for the world we live in, and another other locations many close random permutations might have failed. He didn’t disagree but neither of us wanted to argue while on a family vacation and let the matter drop. For those more steeped in logic, would the fact that the world is so perfect in many ways lead to the conclusion that it is by intelligent design it all came about? To me it seems it neither confirms not denies that it was by intelligent design, but I am no Vulcan.

  5. Capt. J Parker says:

    I have read in several different sources that the cosmology, as an area of human inquiry, began something like this:
    Scene:Clear moonless night
    Stargazer 1:Wow, I can see countless stars. What’s it all about?
    Stargazer 2:The Universe is timeless and the stars are infinite in number.
    Stargazer 1:Huh, (long pause) but if the stars are infinite in number shouldn’t should I see one at every point in which I gaze? That would mean the entire night sky should glow as brightly as any point of starlight.
    Stargazer 2:The light from the most distant stars has yet to reach us.
    Stargazer 1: Huh, (long pause) But I thought the Universe was timeless?
    Stargazer 2: True, perhaps there are clouds or dust between us and the distant stars that keeps their light from us.
    Stargazer 1: Perhaps. (long pause) But, if the Universe were timeless then the light from the distant stars should eventually heat the dust so that it glows like the stars.
    Stargazer 2: Also true. Perhaps our initial belief in a timeless universe is not correct.

    My point is that when I get a chance to get away from the city skyglow and stare into a night sky dark enough that you can see the milky way, one of the wonders I think about is how some rather sophisticated scientific reasoning managed to converge not with the often cited default hypothesis of an infinite and timeless universe but instead with the faith based hypothesis of a universe with distinct beginning.

  6. Major-Freedom says:

    No matter WHAT the universe looks like, the theist approach would lead a person to conclude that it makes sense from a creationist perspective.

    I mean, if 99.9999999999999…999999999% of the universe’s environment being lethal to human life is insufficient to think otherwise, then what wouldn’t be? (Of couse the response to the lethal universe argument would be along the lines of “Isn’t the Creator so benevolent in making a special place for us humans in a universe almost completely full of hazards and danger?”)

    The theist epistomology is UNABLE to do what Murphy seems to be suggesting it can do: conclude via observation that the creator is either flawed, or malevolent, or non-existent. We’re back at the age old debate.

    • Raja says:

      I mean, if 99.9999999999999…999999999% of the universe’s environment being lethal to human life is insufficient to think otherwise, then what wouldn’t be?

      You are right. Existence is fragile.

  7. JdL says:

    But it surely isn’t a strike against Him, either.

    How could it be? Your imagined “God” has infinite resources at His disposal. Anything can be explained by saying “God did it” if that kind of explanation satisfies you.

    I’d be interested in hearing you address the question, if the Universe came from God, where did God come from? Postulating God really doesn’t solve anything, does it?

Leave a Reply