Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cosmological Arrow of Time

The cosmological arrow of time signals a constantly expanding universe. As we observe this phenomenon we have a sense of time moving forward. Our universe was smaller in time past; as it grows larger we move into the future. This observable fact logically points to the inescapable conclusion that our universe had a beginning. Scripture indicates God created everything that exists at the beginning--matter and energy along with our dimensions of space and time.

The Bible refers to the “stretching out” of the heavens at least eleven times in five different Old Testament books. Theologians and scientists who regard themselves as concordists would claim these passages refer to the modern discovery of the early 20th century that the universe undergoes continual expansion. Concordism is the belief that scripture and scientific facts may be harmonized. Strong concordists would claim that a passage such as Isa. 45:12, “…My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts,” is a statement of scientific fact. The meaning of the “stretching out” imagery seems unmistakable.

Expansion of the universe at a precise rate provides the opportunity for life on Planet Earth and the eventual arrival of humans. Not only does the expansion enable us to sense the passage of time, but it also provides exact conditions without which life of any sort would be impossible. Expansion rates since the creation event could not have been even slightly less or slightly greater. The required precision of the expansion rate is dependent on the mass density of the matter originally created. Because all matter possesses gravitational attraction, too much or too little matter (mass) present since the beginning creation event would in turn cause too little or too much gravitational braking following the Big Bang creation event. For roughly half of the universe’s existence, the expansion rate was gradually slowing.

In recent years another discovery has been made relating to the expansion of the universe. A mysterious “dark energy” is now acting to accelerate the expansion of our universe. The same rules apply for the required rate of expansion. It now appears the precision required for life-sustaining expansion is even greater than in the former decelerating universe. The term precision acquires new meaning in this context. The precision required is exponentially greater than for any physical system man has ever devised.

Had the expansion rate been slightly greater no planets, stars, or galaxies could have formed at the right times and places. The universe would contain only diffuse gas and dust. This scenario would have resulted from too little mass density. On the other hand, had the expansion rate been slightly less only life destroying giant stars and black holes would have formed because too much mass was present. Someone may ask, “How much extra mass is too much, or too little?” The answer: Less than the mass of a single dime in the entire universe.

If I were teaching this concept to young people I would make use of sports analogies. When we shoot a basketball toward the hoop, a too-short or too-long attempt results in failure. The shot distance must be accurate within a small range. When we swing at a baseball, an under swing of a few millimeters results in a fly ball out; an over swing of a few millimeters results in a ground ball out. Only a near perfect swing results in a home run. Most successful athletic outcomes demand similar precision. The young person should understand that the precise expansion rate required for a successful universe is many billion times greater than the precision required in an athletic contest.

Dozens of other characteristics of our planet must be fine-tuned to an unimaginable degree. We are discovering many additional fine tuning requirements for life with each passing year. This degree of fine tuning points to the Master Designer. In the demanding swirl of life’s mundane events, many people find such information incomprehensible or boring. Others discover new ways to worship the God of Creation and to understand the beauty of His loving provision for man.