April 25, 2008

Cosmic Concerns!

Have you ever wondered why God created such a vast universe, one with billions of galaxies? Would a much smaller universe with just one galaxy, or even a cluster of galaxies have sufficed? Was God being wasteful by creating all of that matter, space and energy, which will remain unused and unexploited by Homo sapiens? Now, you might think it a trifle odd for anyone to be concerned about such matters as the possible reasons for the existence of an inconceivably large universe.

Nonetheless, I am directing my Present Concerns to Cosmic Concerns; specifically to that which appears to be, according to Hubble photographs, the biggest issue of modern times: the sheer vastness of the universe. Addressing the magnitude of the cosmos may seem an impractical use of one's time, but is it any more impractical than addressing the vast moral and political corruption of the Union? There does not seem to be much I can do about either situation.

The known universe contains some million million galaxies, each of which is comprised of millions or even billions of stars. Why are there so many galaxies spread over so much space? Would not Homo sapiens americanus be just as content to drink his ice-cold beer in a universe consisting of a single galaxy? Perhaps. The one difference that might present itself if the Milky Way were the only galaxy in creation, are the type of questions posed: Homo sapiens americanus would then be asking why God did not create billions of galaxies instead of just one. In that universe, I would have written a very different article than the present one.

Questions about the universe often assume that God created the universe for man’s sake. There is truth to this position, but it may be only part of the truth. First, the universe exists for rational, intelligent life, which may include human beings on planet earth as a subset of existing intelligent life. That is, God’s plan may have included the creation of intelligent life in other regions of the universe. Second, we correctly think of creation as intended for intelligent life, but we ought to look upon creation, also, or perhaps primarily so, “for the glory of God”. The point here is that a vast universe comprised of innumerable and widely various beings, processes, and events reveals more (in the manner that an effect reveals something of its cause) about the Creator than would a much smaller universe. The immensity of the universe, when considered in itself, can lead the mind to an even clearer realization of the Creator as a being who is much greater than anything conceivable by the human mind.

Another idea that occurs to me involves the initial singularity. God finely tuned the big bang singularity to enable (1) the universe to continue expanding without collapsing (God did not need his Intelligent Project collapsing mid-stream), and (2) the creation of galaxies with the kind of elements needed for the generation and support of living beings. Now, one can assume that God intervened, post-singularity, into the evolutionary processes of the cosmos to ensure the conditions necessary for the emergence of life actually came together in one or more locations within the universe.

Alternatively, one may think about the appearance of life in the universe resulting from God ensuring the necessary and sufficient conditions by fine-tuning the initial singularity to produce a universe vast enough to achieve a specific end: the eventual appearance of living beings. That is, the vastness itself of the universe allowed for the existence of the potentially infinite number of possibilities required for the inevitable generation of life on at least one planet. Accordingly, God’s subsequent intervention into the laws of nature would not have been required for the generation of living beings. Chemical selection performed its divinely pre-ordained work within the laws of nature. This view of the universe in which God does not miraculously intervene to bring about the initial origin of primitive life forms does not imply a God who is remote from his creation, such as the Darwinian absentee landlord God. Rather, God is "in" the universe just as the universe is "in" God. It is as the Apostle Paul says, "For in him we live, and move and have our being...(Acts 17:28)"

I have no idea what other people have thought about this cosmic topic, but I am basing the scenario above on the firm belief that God intended life to arise necessarily, and by means of natural processes. Would a universe consisting of a small number of galaxies have sufficed to achieve this goal, but just take much more time? I am inclined to have my doubts. Instead, I am guessing that one of the reasons for the creation of a vast universe is that the sheer immensity presented sufficient possibilities for the emergence of life. More specifically, the universe must have contained more than a high probability that life would emerge. The universe must be such that it necessarily resulted in the emergence of life by means of natural processes. Again, this requirement appears to necessitate the creation of a vast universe with infinite possibilities. I can balance a checkbook, on a good day, but I do not have the mathematical skills to know whether this is a good argument, so my initial speculation merely presents a picture I find aesthetically satisfying.

Questions about the immensity of the universe assume the nature of the universe is whatever it is because of its evolutionary history, which of course, accounts for the present state of things in existence. However, this is an incomplete view since it does not take into account the fulfillment of the purpose for the universe. The understanding that God created the universe for intelligent life must take into account the future life, also, and not just the fact that intelligent life presently exists in the cosmos.

Such concerns are the subject matter of theology and remain above the province of the natural sciences. That is, at the end of time (in the eschatological sense), God will transform the cosmos. The Apostle John said, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth.” The substance of the cosmos will remain, but there will be definite qualitative changes. Nobody seems to know just what role the universe will play in the next life. Still, ultimate questions (theological) about the vastness of the universe need to consider the divine purpose for the universe, which God will be bring to its completion at the end of time.

In summary, we will understand the full reason for the vastness of the universe at the end of time, when the cosmos achieves its goal through a transforming conflagration. Meanwhile, the universe is unfolding as God intended. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the state of the Union.

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