Does Your GPS work? If so, you can give credit to Albert Einstein. In 1905 Einstein published the Special Theory of Relativity which said that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. This presented a problem because gravity acts between objects instantly and thus it seems to be faster than the speed of light. It was a problem that needed a solution.
Ten years later, in 1915 Einstein revealed his General Theory of Relativity which resolved the problem. The explanation was that the Sun and planets cause space to curve around them and this warped shape of space influences the motion of other objects passing by them. That’s why the Moon orbits the Earth, and it’s why Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun.
This warping of space also bends light beams that pass through space. In 1919 British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington confirmed that Einstein was correct. Eddington observed the bending of light from distant stars as the light passed by the Sun during a total solar eclipse.
The understanding of how gravity bends space and light beams has given us methods of making measurements in space and detecting planets orbiting other stars. Einstein also said that time is warped by gravity causing time to move more slowly near massive bodies like the Earth. The effect of gravity on time allows Global Positioning Satellites to determine the exact position of the GPS receiver you use in your car.
We live in an expanding universe. For thousands of years, from Aristotle to Einstein, scientists thought that the universe was eternal. Einstein’s equations proposed in his general theory of relativity in 1915 seemed to indicate that the universe was not stable. Einstein thought it was a mistake and tried to correct for the “error” by creating a variable called the “cosmological constant.” The only error was the cosmological constant, and Einstein later called it “the biggest blunder of my life.”
Later in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble found strong evidence that the universe was expanding. That evidence was further confirmed in 1964 when radio astronomers accidentally discovered the cosmic microwave background. It was finally confirmed by space-based experiments in the twenty-first century.
The rate of expansion of the universe based on experiments was established and is known as the Hubble constant. On February 22, 2018, a new survey of the expansion rate was released. This scientific paper was based on the most precise measurements of the universe’s expansion rate using the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists are surprised to discover that the expansion rate is faster than they thought. This new information may require some re-evaluation of the scientific understanding of the universe.
This is not the first time a re-evaluation was needed. Evidence of an expanding universe indicates that it had a beginning. If you trace the expansion backward through time, you can see that at one point the entire universe would have been compacted into a single point. The evidence of the expansion shows that the universe had a beginning when that expansion began. Since the expansion is accelerating, that means that the universe will never contract back and start over. Therefore, the universe is not eternal. It had a beginning, and it will have an end.
One of the great mysteries of cosmology is the fact that the cosmos is speeding up as it expands. Scientists explain this acceleration by an invisible pressure called dark energy which makes up about 70% of the energy in the cosmos.
This explanation is based on an assumption called the Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker metric which took Einstein’s equations and applied them to a universe they assumed to be homogeneous and isotropic. In other words, it assumes a smooth universe. Science has determined that the universe is not smooth. It is made up of great voids separating networks of dense galaxy clusters and filaments.
Emily Conover writing in Science News for November 25, 2017, (page 22) said, “If the universe were soup, it would be more of a chunky minestrone than a silky smooth tomato bisque.” When the equations are applied to a universe that is not isotropic and homogeneous, the acceleration of the cosmos seems to be explained without the need for dark energy. By the very nature of the lumpy design of the cosmos, its collapse is avoided.
It is interesting to note that the cosmos was created in such a way that its very existence contains the fingerprint of a design that allows great stability over an infinite amount of time. The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator.
Many aspects of the creation we may never understand, but as our instruments get better and data accumulates, we understand that we have, in the words of Issac Newton, “found a pebble of knowledge while an ocean of truth lays before us.”
Here is an interesting story of how a solar eclipse helped to confirm a scientific theory and demonstrated the value of a total solar eclipse.
Yesterday, we pointed out that it’s more than a “marvelous coincidence” that the Moon can exactly block our view of the much larger Sun. It’s an evidence of design. When the Moon hides the Sun’s photosphere, scientists can study the chromosphere and the corona to learn more about the Sun and how it affects life on Earth.
In 1687 Isaac Newton presented his universal law of gravitation answering many questions about gravity. One question that remained unanswered was how gravity can act through empty space.
In 1916 Albert Einstein presented his theory of general relativity in which he proposed that mass produces gravity by warping space. Planets orbit the Sun because the mass of the Sun and the planets causes space to be curved. The theory suggested that light would also follow a curved path because of this warping. Einstein calculated how much light would bend near a massive object and proposed that light from distant stars would be bent when it passes by the Sun.
Einstein’s idea seemed hard to believe, but there was no way to disprove it since the bright Sun hides any starlight passing near it. You can’t see the stars during the day.
Then in 1919, British astrophysicist Arthur Eddington made some measurements during a total solar eclipse. While the Moon blocked the Sun’s photosphere, Eddington made precise measurements of the apparent position of stars that were visible near the Sun. Comparing those measurements with the positions of the same stars at night, he confirmed that Einstein was correct. The light was bent as it passed by the Sun.
As physicists and astronomers gather more data on the nature of the cosmos, the more they realize one important thing. Scientists realize that the cosmos came into being by agencies outside of time and space.
Einstein’s famous concept of gravity and mass as depressions in the fabric of space/time assumes that the view is being made by an observer outside of space/time. There is a famous illustration which shows a bowling ball and a soccer ball sitting on a mattress. The bowling ball makes a bigger dent in the mattress than the soccer ball does. Its mass is the explanation of the deeper impression than the soccer ball. All of that can only be seen by an observer looking at the mattress from a position outside of the frame of reference of the mattress.
In the mathematics of quantum mechanics and string theory, the equations suggest more than the traditional four dimensions of X, Y, Z, and time. In string theory, the equations suggest eleven spacial dimensions. This is another interesting agreement between science and faith. God is described throughout the Bible as existing in a higher dimension than X, Y, Z, and time. In Acts 17: 23-28 Paul talks about “the unknown God” and portrays the real God as one “in whom we live and move and have our being.”
Science and the Bible agree that there are more dimensions than three spacial dimensions and time. All evidence says that the creation process involved an entity or entities in higher dimensions than X, Y, Z, and time. Time and space could only be created by an entity outside of time and space. The disagreement is whether that entity is personal or impersonal. The properties of a personal creator would involve purpose, beauty, design, intelligence, and order. The properties of an entity that is not personal would have no purpose, would be totally chance-driven, would show no design, and would have no reason for beauty.
There has been a growing trend in the academic community to suggest that science and theology are two separate disciplines that cannot support one another. The position of this ministry has always been that science and faith complement each other and should never be viewed as opponents. The dictionary defines science as “systematic knowledge.” It defines theology as “science dealing with God and His relationship to the universe.” (Webster’s American College Dictionary) Bad science and bad theology are very much the same–systematic knowledge replaced by human opinion.
In the physical world, science is based on a method that precludes human opinion. The scientific method involves testing a theory by experimentation to see if it can be falsified. We can even expand and enlarge our fundamental knowledge. Our understanding of gravity, for example, has undergone several changes since Newton’s day when the first knowledge was derived by the tests available to him. When Einstein gave us an expanded understanding of gravity, it was based on several tests which could be duplicated over and over. Now there is a possibility that Newton’s ideas will be expanded even more as better experiments enlarge our understanding.
Interestingly, Isaac Newton also did experiments in theology. In theology, his experiments did not verify his personal opinions, so they never became science. Like much of astronomy, quantum mechanics, and cosmology, experiments in theology have to be conducted by observation of things we can’t control. Science provides facts about the physical world and our role within it, and many of those facts have theological implications.
Do our understandings in theology change? Certainly! Just as our understanding of gravity has grown, so too our understanding of God has grown. As we experience life and see what has happened in human history and in our own lives, our understanding grows. Even our understanding of the Bible has grown as we learn more of what Jesus and the Apostles taught and how they lived. Knowing that the cosmos is not just the Earth and the solar system has expanded our understanding of God and His power and intelligence. It is bad theology to take the knowledge of 500 years ago and force our understandings of the Bible on that knowledge.
One of the major weaknesses of our culture is the obsession we seem to have with celebrities. People who are gifted in one area of life seem to be looked on as experts in all areas of life. Often the celebrity is happy to use their notoriety to promote a cause or to oppose something. A classic example is Richard Dawkins, who is a famous biologist and is gifted in his scientific expertise. Unfortunately, he is incredibly ignorant about the Bible and spiritual matters, but he is regarded as an authority by many people, especially those looking for a way to deny the existence of God.
National Geographic is now running a ten-episode series on Albert Einstein titled “Genius.” There is no question that Einstein was a gifted scientist in areas related to physics and cosmology. Science has been changed in many ways by the work of Einstein, and no one should denigrate his scientific contributions. However, Einstein’s education, morals, and early life were not exemplary. His views on sex and marriage are similar to much of what is being taught in our secular world today and are a recipe for disaster. His political and ethical activities were not what contribute to a world order that is positive. The series will undoubtedly get a lot of attention and probably win some awards, but not much of Einstein’s life is a good model for young people to follow.
As an old physics teacher, I find it interesting to watch people on both sides of the argument about the existence of God pick and choose various parts of Einstein’s work to support their positions. Recently I had an atheist and a Christian dispensationalist both use Einstein’s time dilation equation to support their position. That equation says that your time in motion is determined by your time at rest divided by the square root of one minus your velocity (v) squared divided by the speed of light (c) squared.
This formula indicates that the higher the velocity of motion, the smaller the value of the denominator of that equation becomes. Therefore, time expands. This is a fact. Neutrons in nuclear accelerators might live 18 minutes at rest before decaying into protons and electrons. When accelerated to 80% of the speed of light, they last much longer before decaying.
My atheist friend maintains that since the cosmos is accelerating in its expansion, it will eventually reach the speed of light and time will stop. He then proposes that time will reverse since the value of the denominator in Einstein’s equation would become negative. He then suggests that this process will be repeated in an eternal universe. Therefore, no beginning and no God.
My dispensationalist friend is one of several authors who propose that the universe started out expanding at a much higher velocity with time passing at a different rate than we experience today. This would mean that the evidence for the cosmos being very old is an illusion. In the beginning, time passed more slowly because of the much higher velocity of expansion. Since we move more slowly today, time is passing faster. Therefore, the universe is much younger than it would appear.
Both of these proposals are made to support a personal religious opinion. Both of them are ignoring much of Einstein’s work. When the neutron referred to earlier is accelerated to 80% of the speed of light, not only does its time frame change but its mass changes too. Another one of Einstein’s equations looks just like the time equation but deals with mass. The change in the mass of a particle is equal to its mass at rest divided by the square root of one minus its velocity squared divided by the speed of light squared.
Experimentally this calculation works and can be verified. Perhaps the most well-known equation of Issac Newton is F = MA. This tells us that the force (F) needed to accelerate a mass (M) is equal to its mass multiplied by the acceleration (A). We all know from experience that the greater the mass of an object, the harder it is to speed it up when we push it, and the faster we want it to go the harder we have to push. If the mass increases as you get near the speed of light, what happens to the force you have to exert? Obviously, It increases too. At the speed of light, you would have infinite mass, and it would take an infinite force to move it.
Another fascinating equation from Einstein is that the length of an object changes as it approaches the speed of light. In the reverse of the change in time and mass, the length contracts as the object gets closer the speed of light. At the speed of light, the length would be zero, and the object would cease to exist.
One of the most interesting areas of scientific research today is the study of dark matter. We have known for more than half a century that galaxies are groups of billions of stars revolving around a core. Science had assumed that the glue holding galaxies together was the gravitational force produced by the mass of the stars in the galaxy. The problem with this explanation was that the stars were spiraling too fast for the gravity produced by their mass to hold the galaxy together.
If you stand in the center of a circle and spin a bucket of water on a rope, you have to spin it at a certain speed to keep the water in the bucket. If you go too slow, the bucket will hit the ground, and if you go too fast, it will break the rope. In the case of galaxies, the stars were going so fast for the gravity of the stars to hold the system together. Some other gravitational force must be the glue doing the job. The discovery of black holes in the center of galaxies was thought to be a possible answer, but the speed was much too fast for even that source. The amount of mass it would take to hold some of the galaxies together is as much as 85% higher than what we can observe.
This problem led to the proposal that there is a missing mass. Scientists suggested particles called WIMPS, which is an acronym for “weakly interacting massive particles.” For some time now, experiments have been conducted to find evidence for WIMPS. The Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, has been smashing protons together in hopes of detecting the particle. The Large Underground Xenon experiment in South Dakota has been looking for traces of them as well. So far neither attempt has been successful. In an article in Scientific American (October 2016, page 16) Edward Kolb, who was involved in proposing the existence of WIMPS, said: “We are more in the dark about dark matter than we were five years ago.” David Spergel who is an astrophysicist at Princeton says, “…we now need more hints from nature about where to go next.”
It seems that God has already taught us quite a bit about the complexity of creation. Thanks to Isaac Newton we know that mass has a connection to gravity. Thanks to Albert Einstein we know that the shape of space has something to do with it as well. Making a galaxy is not a simple task. Just like the making of electric charge, the process involves understandings that science is just beginning to comprehend. Quantum mechanics has taught us that a whole new set of laws governs what happens in forming these building blocks of what we see.