Arguments from Science – Part Five

In the first part of our series we looked at a definition of science and arguments from science. If you haven’t read it yet, please look at it here.

In the second and third parts of our series we looked at examples of using scientific investigation to determine whether a controversial claim is true or false. In the fourth part of our series we looked at the origin of life and the universe.

We continue looking at what we can learn from scientific investigations about some of the theories about the origin of the universe.

Theories

We now have many theories about the universe in which we live. The fact that there are so many scientists talking about so many different theories about the origin of the universe reminds us that this is not settled science –

  • Creation of Universe by God
  • Big Bang Theory
  • Steady-State Universe Theory
  • Plasma Universe
  • Eternal Universe Theory
  • Multiverse Theory
  • Eternal Inflation Theory
  • Cyclic Theory (Oscillating Universe)
  • String Theory (also Superstring, M-theory)
  • Flat Hologram Theory
  • Digital Simulation Theory

The scientists who support these various theories believe that “science” is on their side. So, which is it? Which scientific theory about the universe is correct?

The Scientific Method

The process of determining what happened in the far-distant past is a difficult thing for scientists to do. How do they do it? Through something called the scientific method.

Depending on who you ask, there are anywhere from three to eight steps to the scientific method. Here are some examples:

Three Steps

“The process of observing, asking questions, and seeking answers through tests and experiments is not unique to any one field of science.” Encyclopaedia Britannica

Four Steps

“The scientific method has four steps

1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.

2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.

3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.

4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.” Rochester Edu

Six Steps

“At the core of biology and other sciences lies a problem-solving approach called the scientific method. The scientific method has five basic steps, plus one feedback step:

  1. Make an observation.
  2. Ask a question.
  3. Form a hypothesis, or testable explanation.
  4. Make a prediction based on the hypothesis.
  5. Test the prediction.
  6. Iterate: use the results to make new hypotheses or predictions.” Khan Academy

“The steps of the scientific method go something like this:

  1. Make an observation or observations.
  2. Ask questions about the observations and gather information.
  3. Form a hypothesis — a tentative description of what’s been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.
  4. Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reproduced.
  5. Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify the hypothesis if necessary.
  6. Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory. “Replication of methods and results is my favorite step in the scientific method,” Moshe Pritsker, a former post-doctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School and CEO of JoVE, told Live Science. “The reproducibility of published experiments is the foundation of science. No reproducibility – no science.” LiveScience.com

Eight Steps

“Because science offers a way to answer questions about the cosmos in a clear, rational manner, with evidence to support it, a reliable procedure is necessary in order to obtain the best information. That procedure is commonly called the scientific method and consists of the following eight steps: observation, asking a question, gathering information, forming a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis, making conclusions, reporting, and evaluating.” Sciencing.com

The quote from LiveScience.com is insightful – “The reproducibility of published experiments is the foundation of science. No reproducibility – no science.”

Is that true? Is there no science (knowledge) if experiments cannot be reproduced?

What about the origin of the universe? How can scientists be sure (e.g. settled science) when they cannot reproduce something that happened in the far distant past?

If the scientific method is based on being able to reproduce and falsify or verify an experiment or experiments, it seems impossible that any scientist could do that about the origin of the universe. Therefore, we have “theories” about the origin of the universe rather than settled scientific “facts”.

Scientific Theory

A scientific theory is different than a personal theory we may have about something, so let’s look at what it means –

“… a coherent group of propositions formulated to explain a group of facts or phenomena in the natural world and repeatedly confirmed through experiment or observation.” Dictionary.com

“… systematic ideational structure of broad scope, conceived by the human imagination, that encompasses a family of empirical (experiential) laws regarding regularities existing in objects and events, both observed and posited. A scientific theory is a structure suggested by these laws and is devised to explain them in a scientifically rational manner.” Encyclopaedia Britannica

“The way that scientists use the word ‘theory’ is a little different than how it is commonly used in the lay public,’ said Jaime Tanner, a professor of biology at Marlboro College. ‘Most people use the word ‘theory’ to mean an idea or hunch that someone has, but in science the word ‘theory’ refers to the way that we interpret facts … Any scientific theory must be based on a careful and rational examination of the facts. Facts and theories are two different things. In the scientific method, there is a clear distinction between facts, which can be observed and/or measured, and theories, which are scientists’ explanations and interpretations of the facts.” LiveScience.com

A scientific theory, therefore, is not a guess by scientists. It is based on evidence and the proper interpretation of that evidence.

Scientific Evidence

When we say that something is a scientific theory we are saying that some scientists believe the theory may be correct based on their interpretation of the scientific evidence. So, what would serve as scientific evidence that could be interpreted in determining the origin of the universe?

Let’s begin by asking which scientific disciplines would give us the best evidence for the origin of the universe? Most of the scientists who have proposed scientific theories about the universe’s origin in the last 100 years have come from these disciplines –

  • Astronomy
  • Astrophysics
  • Cosmology
  • Physics (e.g. Theoretical, Quantum)
  • Mathematics

Here are some examples –

Big Bang Theory:

  • Georges Lemaître – astronomy, physics, mathematics
  • Edwin Hubble – astronomy

Steady-State Theory:

  • Hermann Bondi – mathematics, physical cosmology
  • Halton Arp – astronomy
  • Thomas Gold – astrophysics
  • Fred Hoyle – astronomy, cosmology

Plasma Theory:

  • Kristian Birkeland – physics
  • Francis Chen – plasma physics
  • Eric Lerner – physics
  • Hannes Alfvén – plasma physics, electrical engineering

Multiverse Theory:

  • Alan Guth – theoretical physics, cosmology
  • Brian Greene – theoretical physics, mathematics
  • Alexander Vilenkin – physics, cosmology

Eternal Inflation Theory:

  • Alan Guth – theoretical physics, cosmology
  • Andrei Linde – theoretical physics
  • Paul Steinhardt – theoretical physics, cosmology
  • Andreas Albrecht – theoretical physics, cosmology

Cyclic Theory (Oscillating Universe):

  • Paul Steinhardt – theoretical physics, cosmology
  • Neil  Turok – theoretical physics
  • Lauris Baum – physics
  • Paul Frampton – physics (particle phenomenology)

String Theory:

  • Michio Kaku – theoretical physics
  • Edward Witten – theoretical physics, mathematical physics
  • Yoichiro Nambu – theoretical physics
  • Leonard Susskind – theoretical physics
  • Brian Greene – theoretical physics, mathematics

Flat Hologram Theory:

  • Kostas Skenderis – theoretical physics, mathematical physics
  • Gerardus ‘t Hooft – theoretical physics
  • Leonard Susskind – theoretical physics
  • Charles Thorn – physics

Hawking-Hertog Theory:

One of the best-known physicists was Stephen Hawking. Hawking researched the origin of the universe for much of his career as a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. Hawking worked with Thomas Hertog to develop a theory of the universe’s origin and explained it this way less than a year before his death –

“The usual theory of eternal inflation predicts that globally our universe is like an infinite fractal, with a mosaic of different pocket universes, separated by an inflating ocean’ … ‘The local laws of physics and chemistry can differ from one pocket universe to another, which together would form a multiverse.” Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory on the Origin of the Universe

Based on what scientists in these disciplines have discovered, it appears that the universe contains about 5% visible matter, 27% dark matter, and 68% dark energy.

NASA scientists explain it this way –

“More is unknown than is known. We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called ‘normal’ matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.” NASA Dark Energy, Dark Matter

It would seem from those statistics that scientists know very little about the origin of the universe since about 95% of what makes up the universe is still unknown. Might some of the evidence for the beginning of the universe remain to be discovered out of the 95% that is currently unknown?

Another interesting theory is that there is simply no explanation for the origin of the universe. Here’s how two physicists explain that idea –

“We can’t explain it because there was no definite reason that it happened. It just did. This is not as outlandish as it sounds. It is perfectly reasonable to think that not everything has a reason! Reasonable people don’t enjoy thinking so – but it is still a possibility. Maybe something happens just because it does.” The Creation of the World – According to Science

Best Explanation

Since none of the theories about the origin of the universe are “settled science,” how should we move forward in determining what to believe?

From a scientific position the answer would seem to look for the “best explanation.” Which of the theories is the best explanation from all of the scientific evidence presented to date?

It would seem that the universe coming into existence at some point in the past fits the “best explanation” test. The questions are how and why.

Many scientists view the Big Bang theory as the best explanation of the data available.

“The best-supported theory of our universe’s origin centers on an event known as the big bang. This theory was born of the observation that other galaxies are moving away from our own at great speed in all directions, as if they had all been propelled by an ancient explosive force.” National Geographic

“Our universe began in a tremendous explosion known as the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. Observations by NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer and Wilkinson Anisotropy Microwave Probe revealed microwave light from this very early epoch, about 400,000 years after the Big Bang, providing strong evidence that our universe did blast into existence.” NASA

However, one issue that remains is how did something come from nothing? Unless it didn’t.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

Creation of Universe by God fits quite well as the “best explanation” of the origin of the universe. It fits the scientific evidence well in addition to having the support of the credibility of the biblical account of history.

It’s interesting that the first thing Moses wrote in the account God gave him about the origin of the universe is that God created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning.” Yes, there was a beginning .. not necessarily the Big Bang that scientists refer to .. but a beginning.

God creating the universe answers both questions – how and why? – extremely well.

“Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.” Isaiah 40:26

“Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth— Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.”” Isaiah 43:6-7

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:20-21

In Conclusion

The purpose of this series of articles about Arguments From Science is to help Christians have a basic understanding of science and how to talk with people about how science relates to the existence of God, the credibility of the Bible, and the reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There is no reason for a Christian to think they are “out-gunned” because someone claims that science has proven God does not exist or the Bible is not credible or Jesus Christ did not live, die and rise from the grave. Christianity has strong evidence that should be interpreted properly, then compared to other worldviews – including any views based on scientific investigations.

Christians have no reason to fear discussions about the Bible and science. Christianity is based on reason and evidence. Scientific inquiry is our friend. What is true is true and Christians have no reason to fear truth. In fact, the founder of Christianity said this about truth –

“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32

Resources

If you have not read previous articles in this series, we invite you to start with part one –

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Other FaithandSelfDefense articles you may find helpful in dealing with questions about the Bible and science –

Does Science Disprove God and the Bible?

Can I Trust the Bible? Part 14

Can I Trust the Bible? Part 13

Can I Trust the Bible? Part 12

Convince Me There’s A God: The New Testament Part 2

Convince Me There’s A God – Archaeology 15

Convince Me There’s A God – Thermodynamics

Convince Me There’s A God – Causality

Street Epistemologists – On Guard 9

Of Mice and Men, Kangaroos and Chimps

The Existence of God Part 7

The Existence of God Part 6

The Existence of God Part 5

Seekers, Skeptics, and Scoffers – Knowing the Difference

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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