From the book: I don't have enough FAITH to be an Atheist
"Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God."
—James Tour, Nanoscientist
The ASTRONOMICAL EVIDENCE for God must be strong when atheistic physicists admit that "the universe exploded out of nothingness," and agnostic astronomers claim that "supernatural forces" were so at work in the beginning that scientists are led back to "a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries" (see chapter 3). But the scientific evidence for God does not end with the Cosmological Argument. For many the precision with which the universe exploded into being provides even more persuasive evidence for the existence of God.
This evidence, technically known as the Teleological Argument, derives its name from the Greek word telos, which means "design." The Teleological Argument goes like this:
Every design, had a designer.
The universe has highly complex design.
Therefore, the universe had a Designer.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) implicitly confirmed the validity of the Teleological Argument when he marvelled at the design of our solar system. He wrote, "This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being." 1 Yet it was William Paley (1743-1805) who made the argument famous by his commonsense assertion that every watch requires a watchmaker. Imagine you're walking along in the woods and you find a diamond-studded Rolex on the ground. What do you conclude is the cause of that watch: The wind and the rain? Erosion? Some combination of natural forces? Of course not! There's absolutely no question in your mind that some intelligent being made that watch, and that some unfortunate individual must have accidentally dropped it there.
Scientists are now finding that the universe in which we live is like that diamond-studded Rolex, except the universe is even more precisely designed than the watch. In fact, the universe is specifically tweaked to enable life on earth—a planet with scores of improbable and interdependent life-supporting conditions that make it a tiny oasis in a vast and hostile universe.
These highly precise and interdependent environmental conditions (which are called "anthropic constants") make up what is known as the "Anthropic Principle." "Anthropic" comes from a Greek word that means "human" or "man." The Anthropic Principle is just a fancy title for the mounting evidence that has many scientists believing that the universe is extremely fine-tuned (designed) to support human life here on earth.
In this vast and hostile universe, we earthlings are much like astronauts who can survive only in the small confines of their spaceship. Like a spaceship, our earth supports life as it hurls through lifeless space. But also like a spaceship, a slight change or malfunction in any one of a number of factors—in either the universe or the earth itself—could fatally alter the narrowly denned environmental conditions we need to survive.
Apollo 13, one of the most challenging and famed missions in the history of NASA, will help drive this point home. We're going to spend the next few pages aboard Apollo 13. And as we do, we'll point out some of the anthropic constants that make our lives possible.
Houston, We Have a Problem!
It's April 13, 1970, more than two days since Mission Commander Jim Lovell and two other astronauts blasted out of the earth's atmosphere on Apollo 13. They are now flying through space at more than 2,000 miles an hour, eagerly anticipating a walk that only a few men had taken—a walk on the surface of the moon. Everything is going as planned on their magnificently designed spacecraft. In Lovell's own words, he and his crew are "fat, dumb, and happy." But all of that is about to change.
At 55 hours and 54 minutes into the mission, shortly after completing a TV broadcast back to earth, Lovell is putting wires away when he hears a loud bang. He initially thinks it's just Pilot Jack Swigert playing a joke by secretly actuating a noisy valve. But when he sees the concerned expression on Swigert's face—an expression that reveals "It's not my fault!"—Lovell quickly realizes that this is no joke.
The dialog between Astronauts Lovell, Swigert, Fred Haise, and Charlie Duke (Duke being on the ground in Houston) goes like this:
Swigert: Houston, we've had a problem here.
Duke: This is Houston. Say again, please.
Lovell: Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt.
Duke: Roger. Main B undervolt.
Haise: Okay. Right now, Houston, the voltage is . .. looking good. We had a pretty large bang associated with the caution and warning there. And as I recall, main B was the one that had an amp spike on it once before.
Duke: Roger, Fred.
Haise: That jolt must have rocked the sensor on oxygen quantity 2. It was oscillating down around 20 to 60 percent. Now it's full-scale high.
At this point, the astronauts are not entirely sure what is happening. Oxygen tank sensors appear to be erratic. They're showing the tanks have as little as 20 percent to the impossible quantity of over 100 percent. Meanwhile, despite Haise's initial observation that "the voltage is looking good," multiple Master Caution warnings on the ship's electrical systems are telling the opposite story. Within a few minutes, the dire nature of the problem becomes apparent. Apollo 13 doesn't have just a sensor problem. It has an actual problem. Their spacecraft-—now nearly 200,000 nautical miles from earth and heading away from home—-is quickly losing oxygen and power. Two of the three fuel cells are dead, and the third one is depleting rapidly. Haise notifies Houston about the power situation:
Haise: AC 2 is showing zip. ... We got a main bus A undervolt now.... It's reading about 25 and a half. Main B is reading zip right now.
Lovell then reports the oxygen problem:
Lovell: And our 02 quantity number 2 tank is reading zero. Did you get that?
Houston: 02 quantity number 2 is zero.
Then, as Lovell looks out a hatch, he sees what appears to be a gas venting into space from the side of their spacecraft.
Lovell: And it looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something.
Lovell: We are... we are venting something out into the, into space.
Houston: Roger. We copy, you're venting.
Lovell: It's a gas of some sort.
That gas is later confirmed to be oxygen. Although the crew doesn't know this yet, oxygen tank 2 has just exploded and damaged oxygen tank 1 in the process. Lovell can't see the damage, just the venting gas.
Anthropic Constant 1: Oxygen Level—On earth, oxygen comprises 21 percent of the atmosphere. That precise figure is an anthropic constant that makes life on earth possible. If oxygen were 25 percent, fires would erupt spontaneously; if it were 15 percent, human beings would suffocate. Lovell and his crew must now find a way to maintain the right level of oxygen in their ship.
But oxygen is not their only problem. Like the atmosphere on earth, a change in one constant on the spacecraft can affect several others that are also necessary for life. The explosion creates a shortage not only of oxygen but also of electricity and water. On Apollo 13, water and electricity are produced by combining oxygen with hydrogen in the fuel cells. Without oxygen, there will be no way to manufacture air, water, or power. And since they are in the vacuum of space, there's no source of oxygen from the outside.
The situation is so unimaginable that Jack Swigert would later say, "If somebody had thrown that at us in the simulator," meaning a quadruple failure of fuel cells 1 and 3 and oxygen tanks 1 and 2, "we'd have said, 'Come on, you're not being realistic."'
Unfortunately, this isn't the simulator but a real emergency in a spacecraft two-thirds of the way to the moon. What can they do?
Fortunately, there's a lifeboat. The Lunar Module (LM, known as "the lem") has provisions that can be used in an emergency. The LM is the craft attached to the top of the Command Module (CM) that two of the astronauts are scheduled to ride down to the moon while the third astronaut orbits above. Of course, the moon landing is about to be called off: saving the lives of the astronauts is now the new mission of Apollo 13.
In an effort to save power for reentry, the astronauts quickly power down the Command Module and climb into the LM. But even with the LM, the astronauts are by no means out of the woods. They still have to sling around the moon in order to get back to earth. This will take time—time they don't have. The LM has provisions designed to sustain two men for about forty hours, but they need to sustain three men for four days!
As a result, every effort is made to conserve water, oxygen, and electricity. All nonessential systems are shut, down—including heat— and the astronauts decrease their water consumption to one small cup per day. Haise, feeling ill, soon begins to run a fever, and all three of the astronauts slowly begin dehydrating. This makes concentration more difficult.
Unfortunately, with most automated systems shut down, concentration becomes more and more critical. Besides slinging around the moon, the crew needs to make several manual course corrections to ensure they hit the proper reentry angle and to speed up their trip home. To do so, they'll have to manually navigate by the stars. But since debris from the explosion continues to envelop the ship in the vacuum of space, the astronauts can't distinguish the stars from sunlight reflecting off the debris. Consequently, they are reduced to using the earth and the sun as navigational reference points by lining them up in a spacecraft window.
Using this rather crude method, they check their calculations again and again to ensure they are correct. They have little room for error. In fact, they must aim the ship for reentry at a point no less than 5.5 degrees and no more than 7.3 degrees below the earth's horizon (from the spacecraft's point of view). Any deviation from that range, and their ship will either skip off the earth's atmosphere or burn up in too steep a descent.
Anthropic Constant 2: Atmospheric Transparency—The small window the astronauts must hit reflects the exacting standards by which the universe has been designed. While the atmosphere presents a reentry problem for the astronauts, its present qualities are absolutely essential for life here on earth. The degree of transparency of the atmosphere is an anthropic constant. If the atmosphere were less transparent, not enough solar radiation would reach the earth's surface. If it were more transparent, we would be bombarded with far too much solar radiation down here. (In addition to atmospheric transparency, the atmospheric composition of precise levels of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ozone are in themselves anthropic constants.)
Anthropic Constant 3: Moon-Earth Gravitational Interaction—As the astronauts begin to sling around the moon, they encounter another anthropic constant.2 This one regards the gravitational interaction that the earth has with a moon. If the interaction were greater than it currently is, tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe. If it were less, orbital changes would cause climatic instabilities. In either event, life on earth would be impossible.
Following their close encounter with the moon, the astronauts are finally heading toward home. However, still another problem arises. The delicate living conditions inside the spacecraft are becoming contaminated. As oxygen is being consumed, the astronauts are producing a new problem simply by exhaling. That is, carbon dioxide is beginning to reach dangerous levels inside the ship. If they can't find a way to change the carbon dioxide filters in the LM, the three astronauts will be poisoned by their own breaths!
Mission Control tells the astronauts to unpack extra filters designed for the Command Module (the part of the ship that has been evacuated and powered down) to see if they can be used in the LM. But instead of getting some much needed good news, the astronauts soon realize that the CM niters are the wrong size and shape for the LM! Contractor A apparently had not coordinated with contractor B! Frustrated Flight Director Gene Krantz—who famously inspired Mission Control with "failure is not an option!"—barks, "Tell me this isn't a government project!"
Scrambling for a solution, NASA engineers on the ground begin what is known as a "workaround"—they brainstorm a way to rig the square CM filters to fit the round hole in the LM with just materials that can be scrounged up on the spacecraft. They design a fix that they think will work and then talk the crew through the rigging process. Their workaround involves the ingenious use of cardboard, space-suit hoses, stowage bags, and duct tape (yes, it also fixes anything in space too—don't leave home without it!).
Anthropic Constant 4: Carbon Dioxide Level—Of course such a rig is not necessary here on earth because just the right level of carbon dioxide is maintained naturally in the earth's atmosphere. This is another anthropic constant. If the C02 level were higher than it is now, a runaway greenhouse effect would develop (we'd all burn up). If the level were lower than it is now, plants would not be able to maintain efficient photosynthesis (we'd all suffocate—-the same fate the astronauts are trying to avoid).
Thankfully, the rigged filters work and buy the. crew valuable time (and breathable air). Soon the time arrives to jettison the crippled service module. As the service module falls away, the crew sees for the first time the extent of the damage: the oxygen tank explosion blew a twelve-by-six-foot panel off the side of the service module, tilted the fuel cells, and damaged an antenna. Had an explosion less than half that magnitude occurred near the heat shield of the Command Module, it would have resulted in a catastrophic failure of the spacecraft and loss of the crew.
As they approach reentry, the crew climbs back into the Command Module in an attempt to power it up. This is their only hope of getting home (the LM doesn't have a heat shield). But with all three fuel cells dead and only battery power available, the normal CM power-up procedure will not work. Not every system can be brought on line because there simply isn't enough juice in the batteries! As a result, they have to rely on a new power-up procedure that other NASA engineers and astronauts have just finished developing on the ground.
To complicate matters, condensed water is now dripping from the CM's control panels where the temperature is a frigid 38 degrees. "Will the panels short? Will the necessary systems come on line? This is a dangerous environment in which to apply power, but they have no choice.
Despite the danger, the new power-up sequence succeeds, and the astronauts strap themselves in for reentry. Back on earth, the world fixates on the fate of the three men. News bulletins and press conferences give timely updates. Congress passes a resolution for the American people to pray, and the Pope urges the world to pray as the three brave Americans, in a damaged space capsule, accelerate toward the earth's atmosphere at a tremendous speed. In a short time they will be pulled by the earth's gravity to a maximum velocity of nearly 25,000 miles per hour. That's almost 7 miles per second!
Anthropic Constant 5: Gravity—The gravity that is pulling the astronauts back home is still another anthropic constant. Its strength may be terrifying, but it couldn't be any different for life to exist here on earth. If the gravitational force were altered by 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent, our sun would not exist, and, therefore, neither would we.3 Talk about precision!
As the astronauts plummet to earth in their crippled spacecraft, no one is certain if they will survive the violent and intensely hot reentry. Too many questions remain unanswered: Is the heat shield fully intact? Is the ship really on the right entry angle? Will the entry batteries on the CM work? Will the parachutes deploy properly? To make matters worse, there's a typhoon warning in the recovery area.
In light of all the uncertainty, the astronauts pay their respects to the ground crew just prior to the three-minute radio blackout that accompanies reentry:
Swigert: Hey, I want to say you guys are doing real good work.
Houston: So are you guys, Jack.
Swigert: I know all of us here want to thank all of you guys down there for the very fine job you did.
Lovell: That's affirm, Joe.
Houston: I tell you, we all had a good time doing it.
Lovell: You have a good bedside manner.
Houston: That's the nicest thing anybody's ever said.
Houston: Okay. Loss of signal in a minute ... welcome home. Swigert: Thank you.
During reentry, a C-135 aircraft is circling in the recovery area to provide the necessary communication link back to Mission Control. But after three minutes, there is no contact with the astronauts. Tension rises:
Houston: Apollo 13 should be out of blackout at this time. We
are standing by for any reports of ARIA (Apollo Range Instrumentation Aircraft) acquisition.
Flight: Network, no ARIA contact yet?
Network: Not at this time, Flight, (long pause)
Four minutes since reentry—-still no contact. No reentry has ever taken this long.
Houston: Standing by for any reports of acquisition, (pause)
Finally, the aircraft receives a signal from the capsule:
Houston: We got a report that ARIA 4 aircraft has acquisition of signal.
But there's no confirmation yet that anyone is alive.
Houston: Odyssey, Houston. Standing by. Over.
To the relief of everyone, Swigert finally speaks up.
Swigert: Okay, Joe.
Houston: Okay. We read you, Jack!
The astronauts are alive, but one last hurdle remains: two stages of parachutes, first the drogue and then the main, must work or all will be lost. Without successful parachute deployment, the astronauts will be obliterated as their capsule impacts the ocean at 300 miles per hour.
Houston: Less than two minutes now till time of drogue deployment.
Houston: Report of two good drogues. Coming up now on main chutes. (Pause) Standing by for confirmation of main chutes deploy.
The main parachutes deploy as designed, and Houston gains visual contact.
Houston: Odyssey, Houston. We show you on the mains. It really looks great!
Finally, after four days of nail-biting suspense, the astronauts, Mission Control, and the rest of the world breathe a sigh of relief:
Houston: Extremely loud applause here in Mission Control!... Extremely loud applause as Apollo 13 on main chutes comes through loud and clear on the television display here.
Splashdown occurs at 1:07 P.M. EST on April 17, 1970,
The Anthropic Principle: The Design Is in the Details
When some in Mission Control began to express doubts that the astronauts would return alive, Flight Director Gene Krantz countered their pessimism with, "Gentlemen, I think this is going to be our finest hour." Indeed it was. Apollo 13 became known as a "successful failure." The astronauts failed to walk on the moon, but they successfully returned to earth despite nearly lethal conditions.
Just as the crew survived against all odds through those lethal conditions, we too survive against all odds on this tiny planet called earth. The Apollo spacecrafts, like our earth, were designed to maintain human life in the very hostile environment of space. Since human beings can only survive in a very narrow envelope of environmental conditions, these ships must be designed with incredible precision and thousands of components. If one small thing goes wrong, human life is in jeopardy.
On Apollo 13 the one small thing that put the crew in jeopardy seems too minor to matter—oxygen tank number 2 had been accidentally dropped two inches at some point prior to its installation. That mere two-inch drop damaged the tank's thin wall and began a cascade of events that ultimately led to its explosion.4 Due to the interdependent nature of the components, the failure of the oxygen system led to the failure of other systems and almost to the loss of the spacecraft and crew. Think of it— that one little two-inch drop led to all the problems the astronauts had to overcome in order to survive. It resulted in too Hide oxygen, water, and power, and too much carbon dioxide and navigation error.
Like a small change in the spaceship, a small change in the universe would result in big problems for us as well. As we have seen, scientists have discovered that the universe—like a spacecraft—is precisely designed to create the very narrow envelope of life-supporting conditions here on earth. Any slight deviation in any one of a number of environmental and physical factors (what we've been calling "constants") would
preclude us from even existing. And like the components on Apollo 13, these constants are interdependent—a small change in one might affect others and could prevent or destroy the conditions necessary for life.
The extent of the universe's fine-tuning makes the Anthropic Principle perhaps the most powerful argument for the existence of God. It's not that there are just a few broadly defined constants that may have resulted by chance. No, there are more than 100 very narrowly denned constants that strongly point to an intelligent Designer.5 "We've already identified five of them. Here are ten more:
If the centrifugal force of planetary movements did not precisely balance the gravitational forces, nothing could be held in orbit around the sun.
If the universe had expanded at a rate one millionth more slowly than it did, expansion would have stopped, and the universe would have collapsed on itself before any stars had formed. If it had expanded faster, then no galaxies would have formed.
Any of the laws of physics can be described as a function of the velocity of light (now defined to be 299,792,458 meters per second). Even a slight variation in the speed of light would alter the other constants and preclude the possibility of life on earth.
If water vapor levels in the atmosphere were greater than they are now, a runaway greenhouse effect would cause temperatures to rise too high for human life; if they were less, an insufficient greenhouse effect would make the earth too cold to support human life.
If Jupiter were not in its current orbit, the earth would be bombarded with space material. Jupiter's gravitational field acts as a cosmic vacuum cleaner, attracting asteroids and comets that might otherwise strike earth.
If the thickness of the earth's crust were greater, too much oxygen would be transferred to the crust to support life. If it were thinner, volcanic and tectonic activity would make life impossible.
If the rotation of the earth took longer than twenty-four hours, temperature differences would be too great between night and day. If the rotation period were shorter, atmospheric wind velocities would be too great.
The 23-degree axil tilt of the earth is just right. If the tilt were altered slightly, surface temperatures would be too extreme on earth.
If the atmospheric discharge (lightning) rate were greater, there would be too much fire destruction; if it were less, there would be too little nitrogen fixing in the soil.
If there were more seismic activity, much more life would be lost; if there was less, nutrients on the ocean floors and in river runoff would not be cycled back to the continents through tectonic uplift. (Yes, even earthquakes are necessary to sustain life as we know it!)
Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has calculated the probability that these and other constants—122 in all—would exist today for any planet in the universe by chance (i.e., without divine design). Assuming there are 10 by 22 planets in the universe (a very large number: 1 with 22 zeros following it), his answer is shocking: one chance in 10 by 138—that's one chance in one with 138 zeros after it! There are only 10 by 70 atoms in the entire universe. In effect, there is zero chance that any planet in the universe would have the life-supporting conditions we have, unless there is an intelligent Designer behind it all.
Nobel Laureate Arno Penzias, codiscoverer of the radiation afterglow, put it this way: "Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan."7
Cosmologist Ed Harrison uses the word "proof" when he considers the implications of the Anthropic Principle on the question of God. He writes, "Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God-—the design argument of Paley—-updated and refurbished. The fine-tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design."8
Proof for God! How Do Atheists Respond?
How do atheists respond to this "proof for God"? Some atheists admit there's some kind of Designer out there. Astronomer Fred Hoyle had his atheism shaken by the Anthropic Principle and the complexity he saw in life (which we'll cover in the next two chapters). Hoyle concluded, "A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature."9 While Hoyle was vague about just who this "super intellect" is, he recognized that the fine-tuning of the universe requires intelligence.
Other atheists admit design but then claim there is no Designer. They say it all happened by chance. But how can they seriously suggest chance when there's virtually zero probability that all of the 100-plus constants would be as they are in the absence of intelligence? It's not easy. Atheists have had to resort to wild speculation to give chance more of a chance. Their speculation is called the Multiple Universe Theory.
According to the Multiple Universe Theory, there actually are an infinite number of universes in existence, and we just happen to be lucky enough to be in the universe with the right conditions. Given an infinite number of universes, these atheists say, every set of conditions will occur, including the life-supporting conditions of our universe.
There are multiple problems with this multiple-universe explanation. First, and most significantly, there's no evidence for it! The evidence shows that all of finite reality came into existence with the Big Bang. Finite reality is exactly what we call "the universe." If other finite realities exist, they're beyond our ability to detect. No one has ever observed any evidence that such universes may exist. That's why this multiple universe idea is nothing more than a metaphysical concoction-—-a fairy tale built on blind faith—as detached from reality as Stephen Hawking's "imaginary time."
Second, as we discussed in the last chapter, an infinite number of finite things—whether we're talking about days, books, bangs, or universes-—-is an actual impossibility. There can't be an unlimited number of limited universes.
Third, even if other universes could exist, they would need fine-tuning to get started just as our universe did (recall the extreme precision of the Big Bang we described in the last chapter). So positing multiple universes doesn't eliminate the need for a Designer—it multiplies the need for a Designer!
Fourth, the Multiple Universe Theory is so broad that any event can be explained away by it. For example, if we ask, "Why did the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?" we need not blame Muslim terrorists: the theory lets us say that we just happen to be in the universe where those planes—though they appeared to be flown deliberately into the buildings—-actually hit the buildings by accident. With the Multiple Universe Theory we can even let Hitler off the hook. Perhaps we just happen to be in the universe where the Holocaust appeared to be murder, but actually the Jews secretly conspired with the Germans and sent themselves to the ovens. In fact, the Multiple Universe Theory is so broad that it can even be used to excuse the atheists who made it up. Perhaps we just happen to be in the universe where people are irrational enough to suggest that such nonsense is the truth!
In the end, the Multiple Universe Theory is simply a desperate attempt to avoid the implications of design. It doesn't multiply chances, it multiplies absurdities. It's akin to the Apollo 13 astronauts denying the fact that NASA designed and built their spacecraft in favor of the unsupported theory that there are an infinite number of naturally occurring spacecraft out there and the astronauts are just lucky to be on one that happens to support life. Such a theory is, of course, nonsense, and its obvious absurdity reveals how strong the evidence for design really is. Extreme evidence calls for extreme theories to explain it away.
God? "Look to the Heavens"
On February 1, 2003, President George W. Bush solemnly peered into a TV camera to address the American people: "My fellow Americans, this day has brought terrible news and great sadness to our country. At 9:00 A.M. this morning, Mission Control in Houston lost contact with our Space Shuttle Columbia. A short time later, debris was seen falling from the skies above Texas. The Columbia is lost; there are no survivors."10
Traveling at 12,500 miles per hour, Columbia disintegrated as it attempted to reenter the earth's atmosphere. The second great shuttle tragedy left the nation shaken but not deterred. "The cause in which they died will continue," the president vowed. "Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on."
Yet any human journey into space will penetrate only a tiny fraction of it. There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and the average distance between those stars is 30 trillion miles. (By the way, this distance is another anthropic constant. If the stars were closer together or farther apart, planetary orbits would be affected.)
How far is 30 trillion miles? Let's put it this way: when the space shuttle is in orbit, it travels at about 17,000 miles an hour-—almost 5 miles per second. If you could get in the Space Shuttle and speed through space at nearly five miles per second, it would take you 201,450 years to travel 30 trillion miles! In other words, if you had gotten into the Space Shuttle at the time of Christ and begun traveling from our sun toward another star an average distance away, you would be only one-hundredth of the way there right now. Incredible.
Now keep in mind that's just between two of the 100 billion stars in our galaxy. How many stars are there in the entire universe? The number of stars in the universe is about equal to the number of sand grains on all the beaches on all the earth. And at five miles per second it will take you over 200,000 years to go from one grain of sand to another! The heavens are awesome.
The Bible tells us to "look to the heavens" if we want to get an idea of what God is like. Expressing the Teleological Argument long before Newton and Paley, David wrote in Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." A couple of centuries later the prophet Isaiah posed a question from God: "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?' says the Holy One" (40:25). The answer is in the next verse: "Lift your eyes and look to the heavens" (v. 26). Isaiah goes on to say that God knows all of heaven's stars by name!
Why does God tell us to compare him with the heavens? Because God has no limits, and from our perspective neither do the heavens. God is the unlimited limiter—the uncreated Creator-—-of all things. He's the self-existing, infinite Being who created this vast and beautiful universe out of nothing and who holds it all together today. There's only one entity in our experience that can provide an analogy to the infinity of God. An image intended to depict God won't do. It merely limits his majesty. Only the heavens scream out infinity.
Infinity is what describes each of God's attributes including his power, knowledge, justice, and love. This is why the Bible uses the heavens to help us grasp the infinite height of God's love. Psalm 103:11 says, "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who revere him." How high are the heavens above the earth? When you consider that there are 30 trillion miles between stars as numerous as grains of beach sand, you might as well say, "the heavens are infinitely high." Indeed, and that's the height of God's love.
God's infinite love is perhaps what led President Bush to quote Isaiah in his tribute to Columbia's crew: "In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, 'Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.' The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home."12
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Paul wrote, near the beginning of his letter to the Romans, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." The evidence for a Designer certainly is clear in creation, but we often take it for granted.
C. S. Lewis, in his classic book The Screwtape Letters, provides a great insight into this tendency we have to take for granted the amazing world all around us. The senior demon, Screwtape, writes some advice to his junior demon, Wormwood, on how to keep people from becoming Christians. Screwtape writes, "Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defense against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among modern physicists."13 The "sad cases" are, of course, physicists who have been honest with the evidence they've seen and have become Christians.
Lewis has hit on a tendency many of us have. In our fast-paced lives, we rarely stop and observe the world around us and, therefore, tend to consider every amazing facet of this beautiful universe as ordinary. But as we have seen, it is anything but ordinary. Now science is showing us like at no other time in history that this is a universe of incredible design and complexity. It's giving us a new perspective on a world that we too often take for granted.
Astronauts get a new perspective from their spaceships that helps them realize this universe is anything but ordinary.
When the first astronauts passed over the surface of the moon and saw the earth rise—something no human being had ever seen before—they reverently read from the book of Genesis, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." What else would fit the moment? A recitation of the Multiple Universe Theory certainly wouldn't have expressed the awe the astronauts were experiencing. They witnessed design from an angle no one had ever seen before and were overwhelmed with the realization that the amazing creation requires an amazing Creator. John Glenn echoed their convictions when, at seventy-seven years old, he looked out of the Space Shuttle Discovery and remarked, "To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible."
The raw impact of their experiences reveals the intuitive nature of the Teleological Argument. You don't need anyone to tell you that something beautifully designed requires a designer. It's practically self-evident. Nevertheless, let's state the argument formally again, with emphasis on what we've discovered in this chapter:
Every design had a designer.
As verified by the Anthropic Principle, we know beyond a reasonable doubt that the universe is designed.
Therefore, the universe had a Designer.
There's no plausible explanation for the Anthropic Principle other than a Cosmic Designer. Atheists must take extreme measures to deny the obvious. When they dream up hypothetical theories that are not supported by any evidence—and in fact are actually impossible—-they have left the realm of reason and rationality and entered into the realm of blind faith. Physicist Paul Davies writes, "one may find it easier to believe in an infinite array of universes than in an infinite Deity, but such a belief must rest on faith rather than observation."14
Believing without observation is exactly what atheists accuse "religious" people of doing. But, ironically, it's the atheists who are pushing a religion of blind faith. Christians have good reasons based on observation (such as the Big Bang and the Anthropic Principle) for believing what they believe. Atheists don't. That's why we don't have enough faith to be atheists.
This blind faith of the atheist reveals that the rejection of a Designer is not a head problem—it's not as if we lack evidence or intellectual justification for a Designer. On the contrary, the evidence is impressive. What we have here is a will problem—some people, despite the evidence, simply don't want to admit there's a Designer. In fact, one critic of the Anthropic Principle admitted to the New York Times that his real objection was "totally emotional" because "it smells of religion and intelligent design."15 So much for scientific objectivity.
In chapter 6, we'll address more of these motivations for denying the strong evidence for the existence of God. But first, in chapter 5, we'll explore more persuasive evidence for a Designer—the evidence found in life itself.
INDEED THE UNIVERSE WITH ITS LAWS TO HOLD IT TOGETHER AS A UNIVERSE; THE EARTH WITH ALL ITS LAWS, TO HOLD IT TOGETHER SO WE HAVE THE LIFE UPON IT, THAT WE HACE; TO ME AT EVEN AGE 7 YEAR OLD, WAS THE ANSWER AT MY WONDER OF THE CREATION AROUND ME, AND THE STARS IN THE SKY AT NIGHT, THAT "IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED….." (GEN.1:1)
TO BE CONTINUED