Friday, July 28, 2017

Error-free Beginnings and Endings

Our previous post discussed the concept of an error-free creation. God did not err in creating dozens of physical constants by which our cosmos functions. Neither did he err in designing the physical structure or functionality of the human body and all other living things. We admire the beauty and organization of the created order surrounding us. Only the most negative appraisal would fault the creation at this level.

One could attempt to promote the case that the existence of death for all living things is an error in the creation process for this cosmic sphere. This proposal is in a different category than the possibility of errors in the creation and operation of our physical creation—the subject of our previous post. For example, we may believe there are “errors” in the strength of the force of gravity, the speed of light, or in the characteristics of thousands of wavelengths of electromagnetic energy by which we function moment by moment. Some skeptics may perceive error in the orientation of light-sensitive cells in the human retina, a favorite ploy of ID skeptics. Such proposals are intended to arouse suspicion concerning the ultimate wisdom of the Creator and perhaps even his existence. Such objections are essentially scientific issues. The objections are shown to be valid or invalid scientifically.

The presence of death in our universe is also a scientific matter. Scientists instruct us concerning the physiological basis for both life and death. Death is also a weighty discussion topic for philosophers. Most important, the sequence of life followed by death has theological significance. In Genesis 1:1, we discover that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Not only did he create the matter, time, space, and energy dimensions of our universe, but it is also apparent that he put in place an incredible operating system. It is at this level of analysis that some human observers are dissatisfied with the operating system. Specifically, they object to the reality of death on our planet, especially of human death. They may even claim that the presence of human death, perhaps even death of any creature, should not have been part of God’s operating plan for Planet Earth. Did God, therefore, commit an error in permitting the existence of death?

There are some parallels between the beginning and end of human life and the beginning and end of our universe. The universe originated in a high energy birth—the Big Bang. At its beginning it possessed all the potential for a fully developed universe as it followed divinely established dictates of physical laws. For billions of years until the present it has slowly dissipated from a maximally ordered to a less ordered energy level as the present universe expands. There exists the prospect of ultimate death of the universe at a very distant point in the future. We might say that the universe is programmed to die as the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (also called the Law of Decay or the Law of Entropy) operates with the progression of time. One fundamental law by which the universe operates is the 2nd Law—all systems naturally proceed from a state of higher to a state of lower useful energy. Available energy resources constantly become less useful, never the opposite.

Now consider how human life develops from birth to death. From the initial formation of a diploid zygote having all the potential for mature development, life proceeds on its journey from beginning to end. For a number of years the human body takes advantage of environmental opportunities to produce a healthy, attractive young person and adult. For several decades the resources in food and healthy activity are temporarily transformed to produce normal growth in size, body complexity, and physical and mental ability. But the increasing order, temporarily accomplished at the expense of external resources in our environment, soon reverses as humans age.

Our bodies quickly deteriorate without heroic health maintenance, along with many other features of our environment such as aging physical homesites and automobiles. Notwithstanding outstanding advances in health care, ultimately every human being experiences death. Historical records claim 100 billion people, more or less, have lived and died on Planet Earth since modern man was created. Of 7.5 billion people currently living, they will all have died not far into the 22nd century. This does not sound pretty, but our universe’s 2nd Law of Thermodynamics operates to support the births and deaths of the universe, humanity, and all creatures who have ever lived.

Theological strife has sometimes resulted from the proposal that all death in this universe has been the result of the original sin of Adam. In our brief and incomplete response, we propose that verses such as Romans 5:12 (Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…) refer primarily to spiritual death as the result of man’s sin. We recommend reading this 2011 post in which we covered questions of death and the 2nd Law overlay governing all of our experiences from birth to death:

We decry the idea that God made mistakes in his creation, including the establishment of death as a fundamental characteristic of existence in our universe. The Creator knew man would quickly exercise his free will to sin against him in the early days of Adam and Eve’s residence on Earth. Before the beginning of time God knew humanity would need redemption (Tit. 1:2 NIV). Sin is at the root of man’s spiritual death. This is the the real subject of Romans 5.

In God’s infinite wisdom he created a universe where the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics could benefit human existence. In many cases the Law of Decay works to human advantage. Yes, sometimes the Law results in inconvenience, discomfort, or worse. In this complex topic, the broad scope lesson lies in our understanding that, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord (Isa. 55:8 NIV). In the future New Creation described in Revelation 21 our Maker may choose to reveal answers to questions we may not even imagine in our present realm.