Monday, September 23, 2019

Beginnings and Designs

Astrophysicist Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) coined the term “Big Bang” to describe what his  scientist colleagues had described as an explosive event. Hoyle never accepted the concept of a Big Bang. He advocated the “Steady State” theory in which matter is continually created. He felt that the Big Bang was a pseudoscientific, irrational proposal. The universe was infinitely old, he believed, having no beginning (also no end!). He described space as never ending.

When I began my teaching career the school district budget permitted me to purchase a generous quantity of books. Among the volumes I ordered was one by Fred Hoyle (as I recall, the title was The Nature of the Universe) in which he outlined some of his theories on cosmology. This scientist did not believe the universe originated in a minuscule singularity, followed by a momentary inflationary stage, preceding a hot Big Bang as scientists currently believe. As a young elementary school student I speculated what was beyond the apparent dome of sky surface which seemed to meet the solid Earth at the horizon. Was there anything beyond? And what about the beginning of time? 

In my youth, I speculated there was NO beginning to time, because we could always imagine time existed further back, before the earliest instant of time we could conceive. Hoyle agreed that time was infinite—no beginning, no end. My youthful speculations did not include the later developed hypothesis that the universe originated in the Big Bang—the beginning of time, space, matter, and energy, and that the event can be pinpointed to a finite point on a time scale. The event dating to 13.8 billion years ago has been refined and accepted by astrophysicists in the past few decades with practically no uncertainty. Genesis 1:1 proclaims that the universe did have a beginning: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” The deep concept of a beginning is affirmed by both science and Holy Scripture.

The existence of a beginning to our universe is an intractable problem for scientists who do not believe in the existence of God. The beginning of time, space, matter, and energy implies a Beginner. The Beginner was God. Most scientists now acknowledge the Big Bang as the beginning of the universe but a majority of professional scientists do not yet acknowledge the God of Scripture as the Beginner. There is another intractable problem for scientists who do not believe in God. The problem relates to the apparent existence of overwhelming Intelligent Design with attendant fine tuning of multiple design features inherent in our physical universe.

We return to Fred Hoyle. Although he was an atheist, Intelligent Design enthusiasts sometimes quote his powerful discoveries and the surprising statements he uttered concerning them. Hoyle was a champion of the hypothesis of stellar nucleosynthesis. This hypothesis cites the formation of carbon atoms from simpler atoms such as  helium and beryllium. This was impossible unless a process called the “triple alpha process” could account for the amount of carbon present in the universe. Life in the universe is dependent on the existence of the element carbon in sufficient quantities. A highly unlikely “resonance” was discovered in the carbon-12 nucleus. Hoyle invoked the Anthropic Principle when he famously stated in 1981, “It appears a super intellect has monkeyed with the physics.” Some ID enthusiasts envisioned the statement as an affirmation of their ID worldview. In a more scholarly utterance in 1959 Hoyle stated, “I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed.”

There were many other naturalistic scientists who recognized the design features of the universe. Paul Davies, British astrophysicist, has reported on numerous design evidences in his many years of writing and research. We quote two of many: “Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brutal fact” (The Mind of God, 1992). In The Cosmic Blueprint, 1988, Davies said, “(There) is for me powerful evidence that there is ‘something going on’ behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming.”

Davies was roundly criticized by a cadre of famous scientists who criticized his 2007 opinion article “Taking Science on Faith” in The New York Times. Each of the objecting scientists was either an atheist or an agnostic. Davies is known as an agnostic. Nevertheless, over the years he has uttered much support to those considering belief in an Intelligent Designer, the Creator of the Universe. He willingly submits to discussions with theists such as Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. Ross stated in The Creator and the Cosmos (2018, fourth edition) that “Davies deserves credit for ongoing reconsiderations and revisions of his position…..Davies seems to be moving toward some form of theism.”

We leave it for readers to ponder why the overwhelming evidence for Intelligent Design is not a “slam dunk” for belief in the Creator of Scripture among non-scientist laypeople, but especially professional scientists.

The premier promoter of the Intelligent Design paradigm is Stephen Meyer, author of recent books such as Signature in the Cell (2009) and Darwin’s Doubt (2013). Meyer is director of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. As director, Meyer would agree that Discovery Institute be recognized as promoter of a “scientific research program.” He may be pleased to acknowledge his own strong personal theistic beliefs and deep personal thoughts. In Darwin’s Doubt (2013) he clarifies his beliefs: “The ability to detect design makes belief in an intelligent designer (or a creator, or God) not only a tenet of faith, but something to which the evidence of nature now bears witness. In short, it brings science and faith into real harmony.” In Signature in the Cell (2009), he stated explicitly, “I personally think that the evidence of design in biology, considered in the context of other evidence, strengthens the case for theism and, thus, my personal belief in God. Subjectively, as a Christian theist, I find this implication of intelligent design “intellectually satisfying.”

We link a related past post on the Intelligent Design paradigm: