The Complexity of the Cosmos

The Complexity of the Cosmos

The complexity of the cosmos is so incredible that it baffles the best scientific minds of our day. Scientists have employed elaborate machines to try to understand more of the nature of the creation.

When I was a high school student, we learned that the cosmos is made up of electrons, protons, and neutrons. All of chemistry and physics could be explained by the measurements of these three particles. When I took my first college course in nuclear science, I began to work in the cyclotron, assisting graduate Ph.D. candidates. I realized the creation was not as simple as it appears. As an atheist, this was distressing because I could see that human knowledge of the complexity of the cosmos was, at best, incomplete.

As a graduate student, I was privileged to work with equipment that could smash protons to see what was inside. “Fundamental particles” was a term that began to show up in the scientific literature, and gradually another “simple explanation of everything” began to emerge. It was called “The Standard Model of particle physics.” It consisted of leptons (such as the electron), and quarks which made up protons and neutrons.

This model also required force particles called bosons to hold things together. With larger and more powerful accelerators, scientists discovered still more particles which were the glue holding everything together. These particles were part of the structure of matter called gluons and the Higgs boson. The complexity of the cosmos was becoming more impressive.

Despite all of this work by literally thousands of physicists worldwide, they were still seeing things that didn’t fit all of the models. Galaxies were spinning too fast to hold together unless some unknown and unseen force was counteracting the centrifugal force of the rotation. The latest measurements show that 68.3% of the creation is made up of energy we can’t detect by any existing instrumentation. We can measure the mass of the cosmos, but 26.8% of the mass we know must be there because of gravitational fields is missing. Scientists now refer to the two missing quantities as “dark energy” and “dark matter.”

The complexity of the cosmos causes us to wonder at the intelligence that created all of this. We will examine this topic more tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

What Is the Shape of Space?

What Is the Shape of Space?

A question that astronomers have been working on for years is, “What is the shape of space?” The latest technical tools have answered this question, and it has significant apologetic value for those of us who believe in God.

Let us try to understand the issue. There are three possible shapes to space. It can be elliptical, hyperbolic, or flat. A mathematician would express this in geometric terms using Euclid’s fifth postulate. You have probably forgotten the postulate, but it merely said that through a point, there could only be one line drawn parallel to a given line. The other choices would be that there could be no lines drawn parallel to a given line or that there could be any number of lines drawn parallel to a given line. The fifth postulate assumes that the universe is flat. This is true for all terrestrial purposes, so no one is throwing away the high school plane geometry textbooks.

So what is the shape of space? In an elliptical universe, all parallel lines would eventually meet. If you go far enough into outer space, you would eventually curve back to where you started. In other words, if you had perfect vision and a perfectly clear sky, you could see the back of your head by looking far enough out into space. Light would curve following the shape of space. We all know that a triangle has internal angles that add up to 180 degrees, but in an elliptical universe, the angles would add up to more than 180 degrees.

In a hyperbolic universe, space would be saddle-shaped. Light going out into space would curve because of the curvature of space. But the curve would never close. It would just keep on curving. The sum of the angles of a triangle would be less than 180 degrees, and parallel lines would never meet no matter how far they go. They just curve away from each other.

New instruments can measure cosmic microwave background radiation with such accuracy that scientists can determine the shape of space. That is because the microwaves follow the shape of space. What is the shape of space? It turns out that space is flat or planar. The implications of this discovery are enormous. Since the universe is expanding, the creation is clearly not oscillating. It will not collapse back on itself and start over again as it would in an elliptical universe. In a planar or flat universe, there are no repeats. Physical reincarnation can never happen.

This also tells us that space is a created thing and not eternal. The universe was created with shape and with laws that apply in a flat universe following Euclid’s fifth postulate. Our studies in quantum mechanics are beginning to give us some indication that dimensions outside of space-time are the source for space and time as well as matter-energy. Genesis 1:1 rings more true than we ever imagined. The closer we get to understanding the creation, the closer we get to understanding the methods of the Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

(For a further explanation of this, see Astronomy magazine for January 2021 pages 56-58).

Are We Doomed or Is there Hope?

Are We Doomed or Is there Hope?

I am amazed by the lack of understanding of our planet and how it works. It is astounding how the public refuses to take the cause and treatment of the current pandemic seriously. Politicians worldwide are promoting distrust of just about everything, making progress on any level almost impossible. The Bible is the one thing that we can trust, but since atheism and false religions have taken over the planet, people reject the Bible’s teachings and create chaos all around us. Are we doomed?

Proverbs 8:32-33 quotes wisdom as saying, “…hearken unto me…hear instruction and be wise and refuse it not.” Romans 1:17-32 tells us that we can know God by understanding the creation. The meaning of those passages is more evident today than ever before. We now have the means of seeing the vastness of the cosmos, and understanding how fragile Earth is. We see pictures of polluted skies, contaminated lakes and rivers, and plastic-filled oceans. When we see images of starving people around the world, that should motivate us to make changes. You can see evidence for global warming if you will look. There is no debate possible about pollution or water shortages. Look at the evidence and “hearken to wisdom.”

Scientific American (September 2020, pages 74-81) published an article by Peter Brannen titled “The Worst Times on Earth.” Brannen surveys the evidence of mass extinctions and the implications for the future. He offers logical solutions to likely future catastrophes. If we believe that God created the cosmos, we understand that wisdom and design went into every corner of the creation. We know that God told us to “take care of the garden” (Genesis 2:15). As Christians, we are told to serve others as if our salvation depended on it, because it does. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)

Are we doomed? We know that God will ultimately destroy the creation (2 Peter 3:10), but He will not allow humans to do it. We may make the planet uncomfortable to live on. We may pass on a contaminated, overheated Earth to future generations. Hopefully, we will heed the words of Proverbs 8 and Romans 1 and be wise in what we believe about the creation, how we use our money and energy to make this physical world better, and how we vote.

Are we doomed? As Christians, the answer is loud and clear. NO!! We have hope no matter what happens here in the physical world. We know that we have a spiritual existence beyond the grave that is totally free of all human ignorance, selfishness, greed, and stupidity. The God whom wisdom describes in Proverbs 8 has promised it to us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

All That Is Or Ever Was Or Ever Will Be

Cosmos - All That Is Or Ever Was Or Ever Will Be

“500 + amazing facts you need to know about galaxies, black holes, Einstein’s Relativity, the Big Bang, Dark Matter, and more!” Those are the words on the cover of Astronomy magazine’s special issue titled “Cosmos – Origin and Fate of the Universe.” The magazine has a great listing of discoveries made in the last decade, and it’s full of photographs, artwork, and a variety of charts. David Eicher, the magazine editor, opens the issue by quoting Carl Sagan’s famous line, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” That is Sagan’s religious view, and Eicher plugs it by ending with, “We pack it all in here, and hope you will enjoy reading, and thinking about all that ever was, or ever will be.”

The magazine’s factual matter is impressive, but the philosophical and religious beliefs raise far more questions than they answer. The size of the cosmos has been a subject of intense study. Research shows that the number of galaxies in the cosmos is at least two-trillion –10 times greater than was previously thought. That amount of mass in the cosmos means that any explanation of how the creation happened is outside of current scientific understanding. It is becoming increasingly clear that only 4.9% of the universe is made of ordinary matter. The rest is mysterious dark matter (26.8%) and dark energy (68.3%).

The magazine presents the current scientific theory of the creation process with a “puffy giant dark star” made of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPS). These WIMPS collided, annihilating each other and producing a halo of dark matter and black holes. This inadequate explanation makes it clear that the universe did not come into existence on its own. There was a beginning, and that beginning was caused. The cosmos is not self-existing. Those of us who believe in God would suggest that if these theories are correct, they are just God’s tools for creation. They may explain the methods He used, but it is clear that the cosmos we see is not all that is or ever was or ever will be.

This current scientific explanation of creation has implications for other scientific fields. For example, evolution depends on a religious belief called uniformitarianism, which says that no process has operated in the past that is not going on today. Much of what the magazine discusses is not going on today.

Two things are certain from this issue of Astronomy. We know little about the creation, and we deal poorly with what we do know. It’s evident that the cosmos is not all that is or ever was or ever will be. We suggest that a periodical like this one shouts again, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Look Through a Telescope

Look Through a Telescope

Modern technology has given all of us a chance to look through a telescope and see what is in outer space. In the “old days” the only people that could look outside our solar system were astronomers who had access to powerful telescopes. Now all of us can look out and see what lies beyond our solar system without buying a telescope because the pictures are available to us on the web. If you go to apod.nasa.gov you can see pictures taken through the world’s largest telescopes. The picture for August 7, 2020, is of the Pipe Nebula. As I stare at the picture, I am awestruck by the number of stars in the cosmos.

Why are there so many? Why is the cosmos so big? If you believe that God created it all, why did He create billions of stars in billions of galaxies? If Earth is the only place with life, why are there other planets, other stars, other solar systems? Why is space full of matter like the Pipe Nebula? Obviously no one knows the answers to all these questions. Anyone who gives a dogmatic answer that invalidates the existence of God is claiming to have more knowledge than the rest of us. Those who claim the pictures are fakes or artistic works have not taken the trouble to go to an observatory and look through a telescope. Most observatories have arrangements that allow the general public to do that. We have no excuse for doubting the credibility of the pictures.

Whether you are an atheist or a religious fundamentalist, your viewpoint makes massive assumptions. Here are a few things you should know, that may make you uncomfortable:

No observation made has ever challenged the basic biblical claim that there was a beginning and that it was caused. You can argue about what the cause was, but attempting to deny that there was a beginning, puts you at odds with the observations and the laws of physics–even at a quantum level.

There is no support for the assumption that planet Earth is the only place in the universe where life exists. If there is life elsewhere, God created it, and the Bible does not say the Earth is the only place where God created life. However, the distances are so huge that we will never know if this is the only place–at least not in our lifetimes. Many years ago, I debated an atheist on a talk show with Larry King. A listener called in and asked the atheist and me “What would you two do if a space ship landed in plain sight and a little green man got out and asked, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” That raises all kinds of issues, but it makes the point. By the way, the atheist’s answer was, “Punt.”

As we look through a telescope we are looking into the distant past light-years ago. No one knows what the distant future holds. Could it be that God wants humans to colonize the cosmos? Perhaps our vision of God’s kingdom is too small. Every time I look at one of those pictures of star fields or look through a telescope, I am reminded of Psalms 8:3-4 “When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have ordained: What is man, that you are mindful of him?”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Fast Radio Bursts and the Cosmos

Fast Radio Bursts and the Cosmos - Bright, Spinning Neutron Star in the Center of a Supernova Remnant
Bright, Spinning Neutron Star in the Center of a Supernova Remnant

Those of us who are interested in the subject of creation have been excited about some new data which will help us understand the cosmos. Apparently God has built into the creation various devices to help us more clearly see what He has created. Among those devices are fast radio bursts (FRBs).

When high mass stars draw in matter, they emit various frequencies of radio waves. Neutron stars and black holes release radio waves in a wide range of different energies. High energy waves travel through space without being affected a great deal by anything. Lower energy radio waves are affected by whatever material they pass through. Recent research has shown that in interstellar space there are variations in the actual speed of radio waves coming from a common source, depending on how much intergalactic material the waves are going through.

The material that slows the radiation is the ordinary particles called baryons, including protons and neutrons. We now know that interstellar space is full of the matter that makes up our galaxy, but at a very low density. These microscopic baryons do not emit light so we have not been able to detect their presence in the past. Fast radio bursts can make it possible for us to observe them because of the effect they have on the speed of the radiation.

Astronomers know from observing the light that was emitted when the universe was young that baryons should be the source of five percent of all the mass and energy in the cosmos. If that was true at the beginning, it should also be true today. However, the stars and gas we can see only account for half of that amount. The baryons are not uniform or isotropic in their distribution, but rather exist as filaments making a sort of web of low density matter which can be measured using FRBs. Astronomers are optimistic that this discovery will account for the “missing mass” in the creation. (This is the missing mass of regular matter, not dark matter, which is still a mystery.)

When the Bible challenges us to “know there is a God through the things He has made (Romans 1:20), it implies that this process is ongoing. In the 21st century we are blessed with new and better tools to see what God has made. Like the microscope, fast radio bursts open whole new vistas for us so that we can see and understand more of the handiwork of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News , June 20, 2020, page 6, and Nature.com

Measuring the Distance to Stars

Measuring the Distance to Stars

Measuring the distance to stars is not as hard as you might think. As an earth science teacher at Riley High School in South Bend, Indiana, I enjoyed seeing a student’s eyes light up when they came to understand some scientific fact. They had thought it was beyond them, and suddenly it made sense. Knowing the distance to a star was always one of those facts. Let me show you how easy it is:

Look at a picture on the other side of the room. Hold your finger in front of your face and close one eye. Line up your finger and the object on the wall. Now close that eye and open the other eye, Does your finger appear to jump? If you drew a line between your eyes and extended a line from each eye to the picture, you would have a triangle. The apex angle at the picture is controlled by how far away it is from you. If you do the same experiment with an object that is closer, there will be a different angle.

The illustration on the right shows the Earth making its yearly orbit around the Sun. A line from the Earth to the Sun will establish a triangle. In six months, it will look like objects at the apex angle have moved. How much they will have moved depends on how far away they are. My classes do simulations of these measurements on the football field, and it becomes apparent how easy measuring the distance to stars can be.

The measurement unit astronomers use is based on how far away a star must be for the angle at the apex to be one arcsecond. We call that distance one parsec, and it is 3.26 light-years. If the parallax angle is .5 seconds of arc, the star must be 6.52 light-years away. The smaller the angle, the farther away the object is. The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which has been underway since 2013, can measure the parallax angle to a millionth of a second of arc. Objects that move such a small amount are tens of thousands of light-years away.

The cosmos is much larger than most of us can imagine. The light we see from some of those stars left the stars hundreds of thousands of years ago. Measuring the distance to stars gives new meaning to passages like Isaiah 40:22: “He stretched out the heavens as a curtain and spread them out as a tent to dwell in.”

If it has taken the light from the stars God created many tens of thousands of years to get here, it is evident that the creation didn’t happen a few thousand years ago. Verses describing the process of creation are untimed and undated. Let us not allow human traditions to challenge the integrity of the Bible. God created time, and He certainly is not limited by anything He created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Understanding Dark Matter and God

Understanding Dark Matter and God

One of the things that frequently happens when scientists admit they don’t understand something is that pseudoscience and pseudo-religion crackpots go wild with completely impossible claims. The UFO craze is an example. Many people attributed poorly understood natural phenomena to alien visitation. Virtually all UFO claims have been answered and shown to be natural phenomena or manufactured hoaxes. A more difficult question involves understanding dark matter.

Dark matter and dark energy pose a huge challenge to cosmologists and astronomers. Galaxies are spinning masses of billions of stars orbiting a core, which at least most of the time is a black hole. The problem is that the spin of the system is so rapid that the force of gravity is not enough to keep galaxies from flying apart. Scientists believe that there is undetectable mass in the galactic systems to hold them together. They call that missing mass “dark matter.”

There is a similar problem in the motion of galaxies through space. Various experiments have shown clearly that the cosmos is being accelerated at between 72 and 76 (Km/s)/Mpc. The acceleration of the cosmos involves energy far greater than anything science has seen in any thermonuclear reaction to date. If we view the cosmos as embedded in spacetime, then some energy is accelerating spacetime, but we cannot detect what that energy is or how it is generated.

In past centuries and many cultures, this would have been explained by simply saying,” God is doing (or has done) it.” We call that “God of the Gaps.” Atheists quickly point out that when science finds an explanation, that “God of the Gaps” is dead. Our studies of quarks, hadrons, WIMPS, and relativity are offering suggestions that may eventually give an understanding to fill the gap. Understanding dark matter is not a small gap because dark matter makes up 26.8% of the universe, and dark energy makes up 68.3%. That means that the matter we can detect makes up only 4.9% of the universe’s total composition.

There are some critical lessons in this. We need to realize that creating the cosmos is not a simple matter. Just creating space, time, and the substance to make the cosmos is a highly complex process. However, the process is not God. God has used His massive intelligence and design to produce something we are just now beginning to appreciate. When science finds a way of understanding dark matter and dark energy, it will only tell us more about God’s wisdom, power, and intelligence. We are beginning to understand the meaning of Proverbs 8, where wisdom speaks.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

For a current discussion of this challenging area of study, see “Is the Big Bang in Crisis” by Dan Hooper in the May issue of Astronomy magazine pages 21-29, or at astronomy.com.

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize

Alan Guth and the Kavli Prize on the Nature of the Cosmos

The evidence is massive that there was a beginning to the cosmos. The cosmological argument for God’s existence is that there had to be a cause of that beginning and that the nature of the cause was an intelligence. The phrase “big bang” was invented to describe the beginning, but the big bang theory never tried to answer the question of what banged and who banged it. The April 2020 issue of Scientific American (pages 4-7) carried an article about the work of Alan Guth, who received the Kavli Prize in astrophysics in 2014. The main objective of the Kavli Prize is to honor, support, and recognize scientists for outstanding scientific work in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.

Alan Guth’s work has been to develop the theory of cosmic inflation to show that the universe is eternal and had no beginning. The chief problem with any suggestion that the universe is eternal is something called entropy. Entropy is a measure of disorder. Whenever energy is expended in any way, disorder is introduced to the system. Unless organizing energy is applied externally on the system, the disorder will grow until there is no available energy left. We call that “heat death.”

A simple example might demonstrate this. If you took a bottle of hydrogen into a room that was completely isolated from the outside and opened the container, the hydrogen would escape and spread throughout the room. If you now wanted to get the hydrogen back into the bottle, could you get every atom back? The answer is “no,” because some of the hydrogen would have morphed into something else. Protons have a half-life, and other changes could take place. The measure of what couldn’t be put back in the bottle is called entropy.

Guth gets around the need for a beginning by saying that there is no difference between the present and the past. Using black holes, dark matter, and probabilities, he proposes a model that avoids a beginning. Alan Guth received the Kavli Prize because of his imaginative, creative thinking. The fundamental problem with Guth’s proposal is that it is not testable. No experiment can be done, and no evidence can be examined to test his theory. It is not falsifiable, and thus it really does not qualify as science. Guth is a brilliant scientist speculating on what he calls “a backward world where the past is the future and where infinite parallel pocket universes pop into existence without cause.”

While Guth’s work is interesting, it is of no apologetic significance. If God has created many pocket universes, they are so isolated from us that they do not impact our lives. Guth relies on probabilities to make many steps in his theory. When we apply probabilities to what we see in the world around us, the strong suggestion is that an intelligence has been at work to produce the cosmos.

In addition to the design we see in creation, our spiritual makeup and our creativity are not connected directly to how we got to this point in time and space. Quantum theory is based on probability, and the article ends by saying, “We had better know what they (the probabilities) mean.” We would suggest they mean, “In the beginning (of our cosmos) God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

James Peebles Wins Nobel Prize in Physics

James Peebles Wins Nobel Prize in PhysicsThose of us who have an interest in creation have followed the work of Dr. James Peebles at Princeton University for some time. Since 1964, Peebles has been working to understand the scientific evidence of how the cosmos came into being. For his work, he has won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Dr. Peebles predicted cosmic microwave background radiation, which has been a major tool in understanding the beginning of the universe and in realizing that 95% of the matter/energy in the cosmos is unknown. The “big bang” model describing the universe fits well with understanding God’s role in the cosmos. Peebles has shown that the formation of space/time and matter/energy fits with all available observations, and he has discovered several new processes, such as the baryon model, to describe the physics of the early universe.

The Ostriker-Peebles criterion relating to the stability of galactic formation has helped us understand other galaxies besides our Milky Way. Observing the spin rates in those galaxies has led us to realize that the rapid speeds at which they move require a force that has not been identified to prevent them from flying apart. This realization is the starting point for speculating the existence of dark matter. There has to be a missing mass that is the glue of stable galaxies. Research continues to understand what dark matter is and how it works.

Dr. Frank Baxter once said, “the more we know about the creation, the closer we get to the creator.” The fact that James Peebles has been recognized for his work in cosmology is encouraging. Scientists now agree there was a beginning. The cause of that beginning and the properties of that cause are the next steps toward comprehending the creation of the cosmos.

Proverbs 8:22 finds wisdom saying, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.” Reading Dr. Peebles’ research is intimidating because God’s wisdom and His works in cosmology are so complex. The study of creation in cosmology has only become recognized as valid science in the last few years. James Peebles has been a major player in accomplishing that, and therefore he received the Nobel Prize in Physics. “In the beginning, God created” may sound simple, but what it describes is incredibly challenging to understand. Dr. Peebles has clearly shown that, but he has also opened the door for more study of how God did the creating.
— John N. Clayton © 2019