“And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
Today we spend much of our time staring at screens marveling at our own magnificence. We are inveterate humanists. “Man is the measure of all things.” Is it any wonder atheism is on the rise? For thousands of years humans stared at the stars and were convinced that heaven and earth was created by God (or gods). We have removed ourselves from the beauty and grandeur of nature, and surrounded ourselves with human artifices. I would encourage you to go outside; leave your mobile device behind; turn off your technology; take off your headphones. Immerse yourself in nature by taking a walk in the forest, or by the lake. Get away from the city lights and stare at the awe inspiring night sky.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
God speaks through his creation. The question is: are you paying attention? There is order and complexity evident everywhere from the smallest wildflowers to the Grand Tetons, from moss growing on the slick rocks of Slide Rock in Sedona, Arizona to the giant blue whales swimming in the Pacific Ocean. Design is evident everywhere, from the human eye to the giraffe’s neck, from your immune system to the bacterial and viral infections it is marshaled to fight. Design evinces a Designer.
The universe was created, and the Creator had a purpose in mind when he made it: people. Human beings are seen as the crown of God’s creation in the Genesis account. We are the only creatures made in God’s own image.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27, NASB95)
It was once believed that earth was at the center of the cosmos, until scientists observed that there is no center, nor edges, in the universe. In fact, earth is not at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, not even in our own little solar system. Copernicus is usually credited with the discovery that we occupy a heliocentric (solar) system. This led scientists to posit the so-called Copernican Principle. Some call it the principle of mediocrity: earth is not special; it is an unremarkable planet revolving around a small star at the edge of one galaxy among some two hundred billion estimated to exist in the universe. Looking at things from that perspective could certainly persuade someone to regard us as insignificant creatures. Couple that with the conclusion of evolution— life appeared spontaneously and evolved randomly over millions of years to finally result in human beings—and you may well feel like the teacher in the Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes, who said, “‘Absolute futility,’ says the Teacher. ‘Absolute futility. Everything is futile.’” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, CSB) The Teacher believed in the existence of God, but it doesn’t appear he had a any relationship with the Creator, other than a distant reverence and a wise willingness to keep his commands.
However, the principle of mediocrity is not hard science, but a matter of perspective which betrays the bias of underlying assumptions like naturalism and atheism. There is design evident in the universe. It is finely tuned, astonishingly so. What is “fine tuning,” and why does it matter so much? Depending upon how it is evaluated, and which cosmologist is doing the calculation, there are as many as 93 fine tuning parameters essential for our complex-life sustaining planet to have come about. Let’s look at two of these parameters.
First, I want to give credit to Astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross for the following information. The gravitational constant represents the relative strength of gravity. If the constant moved one direction, then gravity would be stronger, the other and it would be weaker. If gravity were even slightly stronger, matter would clump together too tightly, and stars would be too hot and burn out too quickly. If gravity were weaker, matter would not clump together enough, and stars would be far too cool. The result of this would be a lack of heavy elements necessary to form planets, since those elements come from the furnace of stars. To understand how delicate the fine tuning of the Gravitational Constant is, let’s look at an example given by Lee Strobel in the film Case for a Creator. Strobel asks us to imagine a ruler marked with one inch increments, which is then stretched all the way across the known universe. The Gravitational Constant could be marked anywhere on this imaginary ruler, but for life to exist anywhere in the universe it can only be in one precise one inch location. Move the Gravitational Constant even one inch in either direction and you and I wouldn’t exist. Is it just a coincidence that gravity is so perfectly balanced for life? Remember, this is only one fine tuning parameter of 93 essential for you and I to exist. Let’s look at one more.
Size of the Universe
At the beginning of this chapter I encouraged you to get away from the city lights and look at the stars in the sky. It is a magnificent sight, but it could also make you feel insignificant. Have you ever wondered why the universe is so big? This involves two parameters: 1) the total mass of the universe, and 2) the amount of empty space in the universe. Both of these must be fine tuned with infinitesimal precision in order for complex, intelligent life to exist anywhere, ever.
Once again, I credit the following information and examples to Dr. Hugh Ross. The mass of the universe is so critical that if at the beginning there had been even the mass of one dime added or subtracted from it, the balance of the observable universe would have been thrown off and no physical life would now be possible. One thin dime. That seems pretty insignificant on its own, but that tiny dime matters.
Ever wonder why there’s so much space in space? Why is the universe so vast, so spread out? Since the amount of matter in the universe cannot be more or less than it is, we turn to another fine tuning parameter the Rate of Cosmic Expansion. The universe has been expanding since the Big Bang event, and that expansion has had to be precise for life to exist. In fact, the rate of expansion cannot differ by one part in ten to the 60th power—that’s a ten with 60 zeroes after it! If the rate of expansion slowed by even that incomprehensibly small fraction, there would be less space, and the universe would have collapsed back on itself before stars formed. Planets form after, and as a result of, stars. People come last, so you wouldn’t be grappling with the difficult questions we’re seeking to answer if the Rate of Cosmic Expansion were different because none of us would exist. Yet here we are.
Gravity is perfect. The amount of matter is perfect. The amount of space in the universe is perfect. There are 90 more parameters. When you look at this it definitely seems like there’s intelligence and power behind the existence of the universe.
“As we survey all the evidence, the thought insistently arises that some supernatural agency—or, rather, Agency—must be involved. Is it possible that suddenly, without intending to, we have stumbled upon scientific proof of the existence of a Supreme Being? Was it God who stepped in and so providentially crafted the cosmos for our benefit?” George Greenstein, astrophysicist
Finally, let’s turn to our own little “insignificant” planet. According to scientists who subscribe to the Copernican Principle of mediocrity, there are probably millions of planets like ours, and the universe must be teeming with life. The underlying assumption of these scientists is that the universe and life has come about as a result of random natural and material processes. Science doesn’t look to God because science is a method of discovering how the natural world works. It is a grave error to presume that this means there is nothing beyond the natural world. In fact, as we are observing, the existence and order of the cosmos points to a Creator beyond the material universe, who powerfully brought it into existence and crafted it carefully.
In the book Privileged Planet, astro-biologist Guillermo Gonzales lists multiple factors necessary for a planet in our universe to support complex life. So, what is necessary for a planet to be “insignificant” like ours? It must have liquid water, be terrestrial (have land), have the proper ratio of liquid water and continents, have carbon, have an oxygen rich atmosphere, have a magnetic field, plate tectonics, must be orbiting a main sequence G2 dwarf star (yes, that’s our little sun!), have a moderate rate of rotation, be protected by gas giant planets (yep, that’s our Saturn and Jupiter!), be within a galactic habitable zone (most of the galaxy is quite dangerous), be in a circumstellar habitable zone (most of the solar system is too hot or too cold for life), must be orbited by a large moon (yea, moon!). So, after reading through those (if you did!), what do you think the likelihood would be for the existence of other complex-life supporting planets like our “unremarkable” earth? Gonzales’s conclusion is, Not Very Likely At All.
“Given the recent trends in the planetary sciences, perhaps we should begin to view Earth and its immediate surroundings not as a carbon copy of systems bound to arise whenever stars and planets form, but as a finely tuned, interdependent system that together nurtures a strange little oasis.” (Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzales, Privileged Planet)
Human thinking has been wrong. It doesn’t matter where our planet stands in relation to a physical center. In a universe like ours that is relative and irrelevant. What is relevant is the why of our existence. Science cannot answer that question. In fact, some scientists eschew it altogether. Richard Dawkins calls is a stupid question. Yet it is the fundamental question of every searching human mind. Why?
“Though man is not the physical center of the universe, he appears to be at the center of its purpose.” (Augros & Stanciu in The New Story of Science as quoted in Case for a Creator)
“And yet as we stand gazing at the heavens beyond our little oasis, we gaze not into a meaningless abyss but int a wondrous arena… a universe so skillfully crafted for life and discovery that it seems to whisper of an extra-terrestrial intelligence immeasurably more vast, more ancient, and more magnificent than anything we’ve been willing to expect or imagine.” (Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards, Privileged Planet)
Why is a question for which only God can provide a satisfactory answer, but he has given us the curiosity and capability to seek, and when we seek God we will find him if we seek him with all of our hearts. God’s first book is the creation, written long before the Bible. It is incomplete as a source for revealing the Creator’s personal attributes. However, the cosmos clearly points to the existence of a supernatural, powerful intelligence who brought it all into existence. I would encourage you to read the book of Creation it daily.