Science And The Bible: Physics, The Big Bang And The Origin Of The Universe

Written by: Dr Richard Fynn

Part 1: Agreement between the Bible and mathematics of space-time

Werner Heisenberg, the 1932 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics is recorded as saying: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you

Heisenberg meant by this that if one just has a superficial understanding of the facts and theories of the natural sciences, you can be easily deceived, as so many are, into thinking that science does not support what the Bible says. One has to dig deep, get to know what the deep facts are, and then draw conclusions from that, not just believing everything the text books, teachers and professors tell you.

Before we get into the physics, there are some key interpretations of the timing of the first verse of Genesis chapter 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” that we need to resolve if we are to be able to reconcile physics and the account in the Bible of the timing of the origin of the universe. When was “the beginning”? What is very clear in the Bible is that God is ancient and eternal, without beginning or end (Isaiah 43:6, 44:6; Psalm 90:2; Daniel 7:9; Hebrews 7:3; Revelation 1:8). Therefore, God existed before time existed and time came into being when God created the heavens and the earth “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1), which is why it is called the beginning. The great Bible commentator, Matthew Henry in his exhaustive commentary on the whole Bible notes: “time began with the production of those beings that are measured by time. Before the beginning of time there was none but that Infinite Being that inhabits eternity”. Later we will see that physics has shown that only after the universe sprang into being that time began. Therefore, science and the bible certainly agree on this point – time began when the universe began. The key issue we now need to understand is how long has the clock been running i.e. how many years have elapsed since the creation of the universe as stated in Genesis 1:1? Careful reading shows that verses 1 and 2 of Genesis are before the first day. In verse 2 it is stated that the earth was a formless mass without life and without light. Light only came about with the creation of the Sun (our source of light) in verse 3 and it is clear in verses 4 and 5 that it was only after the Sun began to shine that the first day started: “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). A recent theory in astrophysics[1], proposes our early solar system (the Sun and its planets) formed from a 3D nebula (cloud) of dust and gas with rocky kernels (the early Sun and its planets) forming at the same time out of the nebula to conserve angular momentum. Through increasing gravitational attraction as they grew in mass, these developing objects attracted more and more dust and continued to grow until they had depleted the dust around them. Those planets far enough away from the Sun, such as Jupiter, were able to outcompete the Suns gravitational pull and attract gas to them, which explains why we have rocky planets close to the Sun and giant gas planets further from the Sun. However, before the Sun had attracted enough matter to itself it was not producing light at this stage of its development because it had insufficient matter and mass to reach the critical pressure and temperature at its centre to give rise to nuclear fusion, the energy release of which powers stars and produces their light. Therefore, the growing planets orbiting around the growing Sun would be in darkness. Here again the Bible agrees with science because it clearly states in verse 2: “The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep”. This verse speaks of the earth as an undeveloped, evolving mass, “without form”, with no sunlight “and darkness was on the face of the deep”, in accordance with theory in science. The Bible makes it clear that the earth as we know it was not created instantly, it started off as a void formless mass without light, exactly as we would expect from a body developing from accretion of dust. It was only when the Sun reached a critical mass that nuclear fusion kicked in and light would have suddenly been produced: “Then God said, let there be light; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).

Only once the Sun became fully functional did the first day begin on earth. The Hebrew word for day in this verse is from the root ‘to be hot’. The heat from the Sun originates from energy released by nuclear fusion, only produced on the first day. The Bible says nothing about how much time had elapsed between the creation of the universe in verse 1 and when the Sun had formed sufficiently that it could produce light in verse 3. Science has calculated an age of over 13 billion years since the beginning of the universe. Considering what the Bible says about the age of God (infinite and eternal), 13 billion years is a drop in the ocean. I, therefore, do not see any conflict between Genesis and science in terms of the age of the universe, on the contrary, there is remarkable agreement between science and what the Bible says about the origins of the universe and the solar system. As we progress in this article it will become clear that observations and theories in astrophysics on the origin of the universe and what the Bible says are in remarkable agreement.

The Bible clearly states that the universe is not eternal, it had a distinct beginning:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3)

We also see in Hebrews 11:3 that the universe was created out of nothing “not made out of things that are visible”. Science now confirms this through the mathematical work done by Roger Penrose and Steven Hawkins on time- and space-like singularities. According to Wikipedia, a singularity in solutions of the Einstein field equations is one of two things, (1) a space-like singularity or situation in which matter is forced to be compressed to a point and (2) a time-like singularity or situation in which certain light rays come from a region with infinite curvature. In other words, mathematics shows that both space, matter and time can be compressed down to zero. At a singularity, time, space and matter no longer exist, we are now in the realm of an eternal Creator, who existed before space, matter and time.  Thus, we see in both science and the Bible that everything that we now see (matter) came from nothing: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). Moreover, work in quantum mechanics (the sub-atomic realm of physics) by Russian physicist, Alexander Vilenkin, shows that the universe can come from nothing but only if the laws of physics already exist before time and space exist. This he notes is a major mystery, where did the laws of physics come from? As Christians, this is not a mystery for us, God existed before time and space and it was He who created the laws of physics, exactly as they are, which allowed the universe to develop into what we now see it as. This is another major mystery in physics, why are the laws of physics so exquisitely fine-tuned to allow a life-permitting universe? This is called the ‘fine-tuning problem’ in physics, which we will discuss in part three of this article. To conclude on this section then, we have seen that theories on how the Sun and its planets formed agrees with what the Bible says about the earth being without form and in darkness until the Sun grew to a critical mass where nuclear fusion kicked in and heat and light were emitted, lighting up the planets “let there be light”! We have also seen that deep theoretical work done in physics by Roger Penrose, Steven Hawkins and Alexander Vilenkin all support what the Bible says: (1) the universe had a distinct beginning, before which time and space did not exist, (2) all the matter in the universe came from nothing, and (3) the laws of physics must have been in place before the universe existed, suggesting someone created them.

Part 2: Agreement between the Bible and key observations in astrophysics

Georges Lemaître was a Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer who first identified that the nearby galaxies were receding from us. It was Edwin Hubble, however, who did the first detailed measurements of the rate at which galaxies were receding. His insightful and ground breaking work using the new largest telescope in the world at that time at Mount Wilson transformed our understanding of the universe. Hubble confirmed that other galaxies existed outside our own galaxy. His critical finding was that the further galaxies were from us, the greater their redshift. This is the doppler effect on light waves where the faster an object is moving away from us the more its light waves are stretched to the red spectrum, similar to how sound waves are stretched by a car moving away from us.

Hubble’s data on the relationship between the distance (in megaparsecs) of a galaxy from earth and its redshift of light (source https://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/questions/redshift.html)

This data has spectacular implications for our understanding of the universe. The first key implication is that the data shows that not only is the universe expanding but that it is the fabric of space itself that is being stretched out and carrying the galaxies with it. Space is not an empty thing, defined by an absence of matter, it is actually a fabric that supports all the galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, comets, etc. If you take an elastic band and mark one end (say representing our galaxy) and then with increasing distance from that end make other marks (representing other galaxies), then stretch out the elastic band you will find that the marks further from the mark of our galaxy move away from our galaxy faster than closer marks, just as the Hubble data shows. The elastic band represents the fabric of space while the marks represent the galaxies embedded in space. This finding of space being a fabric that is stretching out has remarkable similarities with what the Bible says about the universe. In many scriptures, Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 48:13, 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12, 51:15; Zechariah 12: 1 (credit: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/Nave-html/Faithpathh/stretch.html), they note that God stretches out the heavens. Even if the Bible only referred to God stretching out the heavens once, that would be significant, but it refers to this key point 11 times – God is trying to tell us something! For example, “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in (Isaiah 40:22). That is to me a ‘Wow’ scripture for several reasons. First, if you paint our galaxy at one end of a curtain and with increasing distance from that end paint other galaxies, fold up the curtain then stretch it out away from the side with our galaxy, the furthest galaxies will move away faster than nearer ones. The curtain is a fabric carrying the painted galaxies. Second, science has now shown that space is flat, just like a curtain! What Edwin Hubble discovered has been written in the Bible since Isaiah’s time, almost 3000 years ago. Third, note that Isaiah refers to the earth as a circle when viewed from space. It was only confirmed in the last few hundred years that the earth is round. Again, we are seeing that what science is discovering, the Bible said it thousands of years ago, there is no discrepancy and science is not disproving the Bible. In later articles, I will show that in every discipline of science, as more and more new discoveries come in, science is not disproving the Bible but is rather casting doubt on naturalistic theories of the spontaneous development of living organisms in a primordial soup and evolution from this first living primordial cell-like organism into all the forms of life that we now see. The more knowledge we gain in biochemistry the more scientists have to acknowledge that our hopes of developing a plausible, naturalistic explanation of the origin of life are fading, not getting brighter, but these I will reserve for later discussions.

Another key implication arises from Hubble’s data – if the universe is expanding and getting bigger it implies that as you go further and further back in time, the universe was smaller and smaller until at some point, it was nothing. This is the space- and time-like singularities shown mathematically by Steven Hawkins and Roger Penrose. Before Hubble published his findings, Albert Einstein believed that the universe was eternal and unchanging but was forced to recant his thinking after seeing Hubble’s data. Einstein later remarked that inserting a static cosmological constant into his equations for general relativity was one of his biggest scientific blunders. If Einstein had just taken seriously what the Bible says, he would not have made that blunder for the Bible clearly says that the universe was created, it had a distinct beginning and is, therefore, not eternal. Long before Hubble’s data, Matthew Henry noted: “…for nothing is more injurious to the honour of the Eternal Mind than the supposition of eternal matter”. Why is it injurious to God? Because you are denying God as the Creator. Here again, Matthew Henry comments: “That atheism is folly, and atheists are the greatest fools in nature; for they see there is a world that could not make itself, and yet they will not own there is a God who made it”. There is now overwhelming evidence that universe and all matter appeared from nothing, and importantly, that it could not appear from nothing unless the laws of physics were already in place prior to the existence of the universe, which is a great mystery for those physicists who don’t believe in God, but not to those who do. The tragedy is that so many scientists have great knowledge of the universe and scientific facts but cannot see the wood from the trees. The facts are obvious, but they deny their creator. As the apostle Paul says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who supress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 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 they are without excuse…” (Romans 1:18-20). If we look at the fine-tuning of the laws of physics, just right to form the universe and life, if we look at the impossibility of the universe appearing from nothing (without the laws of physics predating time and space), if we look at the remarkable congruence between the Bible and what we see of the universe, its origins and expansion, then we are compelled to conclude that there must be an all-powerful super intellect behind it all.

We have the mathematical and observational evidence that the universe can be followed back in space and time to a starting point. The Belgian priest and astronomer, Georges Lemaître, the first to propose an expanding universe, was also the first to propose the hypothesis of the primeval atom, which later became known as the Big Bang theory. Contrary to the perceptions of many Christians, including mine for so many years, the Big Bang theory is not some deliberate godless invention to undermine the Bible. The Big Bang theory has its origins in clear observational fact and logic, namely that the universe is expanding (see Hubble’s redshift data) and, therefore, must have been much smaller at one time, even to a space- and time-like singularity of nothing. The Big Bang theory is, therefore, in agreement with what the Bible says about the origin and development of the universe, as we have seen in the scriptural and scientific evidence presented in these articles. The scientific evidence for the Big Bang theory continues to grow and is now immense. I will outline some of the key findings in addition to those of mathematical singularities and expanding universe observations.

The Russian physicist, George Gamow with his PhD student Ralph Alpher published a paper[2] that showed that all the chemical elements from the lightest (hydrogen) to the heaviest could be synthesized (known as nuclear synthesis) in the first few minutes after the Big Bang because this was the only time that there was sufficient heat and pressure to make them. Their findings, though impressive, were not entirely correct[3]. Later the British astrophysicist, Sir Fred Hoyle, demonstrated that the heavier elements (heavier than hydrogen and helium) were actually synthesised in the hot, dense conditions at the core of stars – there was not enough time in the first few minutes after the Big Bang to synthesize the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. However, Gamow was correct about the synthesis of the two most abundant elements in the universe, hydrogen and helium, where the heat and pressure at the core of stars is insufficient to account for their current abundance in the universe – only the extreme heat and pressure present when all the energy of the universe was compressed into such a tiny area just after the Big Bang can account for the current abundance of hydrogen and helium in the universe. This is, therefore, extremely powerful evidence for the reality of the Big Bang. The most powerful evidence supporting the Big Bang theory, however, comes from the observed cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). Interestingly, George Gamow, while investigating nuclear synthesis just after the Big Bang, stumbled on an important theoretical point and prediction, that as the universe expanded and cooled to around 3000 degrees kelvin (K), there would be recombination of protons and electrons, at which point light could travel freely through the universe. This radiation would cool as space expanded and be preserved as cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) at about 7 K these days. His predictions of the CMB were first confirmed in 1964 by Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias at the Bell Labs in New Jersey[4] and have subsequently been confirmed, measured and mapped with extreme precision from the Plank and COBE satellite data[5]. Its temperature has been measured at 2.7260±0.0013 K, not too far from the 7 K predicted by Georges Gamow.

The Plank satellite map of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) (source European Space Agency) and graph of the cosmic microwave background spectrum measured by the FIRAS instrument on the COBE, the most precisely measured black body spectrum in nature (source Wikipedia).

The CMB has been shown to have fine-scale variation in temperature caused by variation in the density of matter soon after the Big Bang, which can be seen in the Plank map (shown in the top half of the CMB figure) as the mosaic of different colours representing differences in temperature. It is these variations in mass and temperature that would have given rise to the current distribution of galaxies across the universe. The Plank data enabled more precise estimates of the rate of expansion of the universe and thereby a more precise estimate of the age of the universe at 13.82 billion years old. This is not in conflict with the Bible (see my explanation in part 1 of this article). In the bottom half of the CMB figure we see one of the most remarkable fits of predictions and observations in science. This is the measurements of the black body spectrum (colour spectrum radiated by a body of a specific temperature) of the CMB by the COBE satellite (red crosses) and its perfect fit to theoretical predictions (blue line). These findings are massive successes for the Big Bang theory making it one of the most plausible theories in science.

Thus, we can conclude that there is overwhelming scientific evidence for a universe that sprang out of nothing and expanded and developed to the current size and structure that we now see. These scientific observations have remarkable congruence with what the Bible says about the origin and expansion of the universe. As Christians we can, therefore, have much confidence in the Bible as a true account of the origins of the universe.

Part 3: The fine-tuning of the laws of physics

Physicists have been intrigued about why the laws of physics are set exactly as they are, just right to allow a life-permitting universe to exist. There are three categories of fine tuning:

(1) Fine tuning of the laws of nature, (2) fine tuning of the constants of nature and (3) fine tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. Fine tuning of the laws of nature refers to the fact that we have the types of forces in nature that allow the processes that we see operating in the universe and in life. We need gravity to allow matter in the universe to clump to form stars and planets. We need the atom, which is composed of up and down quarks as the fundamental indivisible building blocks of protons and neutrons. Quarks are bound together by gluons. The strong nuclear force holds protons and neutrons together, without which protons would repel each other and we could not get atoms with greater atomic number than hydrogen so you could not get complex life[6]. It also holds quarks together, which form the building blocks of protons and neutrons. We need electrons and the electromagnetic force to get complex chemistry. How did the precise complexity of the atom arise, with its up and down quarks, protons, neutrons, the strong nuclear force, electrons and the associated electromagnetic force? The precise nature of the strong nuclear force, which unlike any other force we know, only operates over extremely small distances (10-15m)6, thus binding protons together without interfering with particles beyond the nucleus of the atom smacks of a designer – why would all this precision and complex atomic physics just come about by chance? Reason and logic suggest the atom was designed by a super intellect for very specific functions that allow the diversity of matter, complex chemistry and life as we know it.

Fine tuning of the constants of nature refers to the fact that there are about 20 constants that appear to be ‘exquisitely finely tuned’ to enable planets, stars and galaxies to form, without which life could not exist. For example, the constant for the force of gravity has been measured as 6.67428 x 10-11 N (M/KG)2. This is a very small number -0.000000000067428, but just move the decimal point by a small amount and the universe as we know it would not exist. If we strengthened the number, gravity would become so strong that the universe would collapse to a black hole and if we weakened the number gravity would be too weak for stars, planets and galaxies to form. Physicists have asked, why is it that the force of gravity has been set just right to allow the universe to form? There is no underlying physical law that controls the force of gravity, it could have been any number if set by chance e.g. 0.0067428, but then we would not exist. One could argue that this is just chance but there are around 20 constants in nature, all set just right to allow the universe and life to exist. It implausible to believe that all of these constants were set just right by chance. The Higgs Boson, a constant for a force that gives matter mass is set at 2 x 10-22, an even smaller number than that for gravity, which shows that the universe as we know it is set on a knife edge. However, as small a number as the Higgs Boson is, it pales into insignificance when compared with the Cosmological constant for the energy density of space, which is 2.888 x 10-122. That means there are 122 zeros before 2888, a number so small that one can’t understand it properly without a reference point. For example, the number of sub-atomic particles (electrons and protons) in the entire universe is estimated to be 1080. The universe has an estimated 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars with their associated planets. A star like our Sun, makes up 99.9% of the mass of the solar system, such that the mass of all the planets and asteroids orbiting our Sun in combination, only make up 0.01% of the mass, with the Sun making up the rest. Knowing then that there are trillions upon trillions of stars in the universe, each made up of innumerable electrons and protons, one gets the picture of how big a number of 1080 really is, but the Cosmological constant is far bigger in terms of number of zeros (10-122). If the number was changed by just a small amount, the universe as we know it would not exist. No statistician will ever accept such a fine-tuned number as chance. But it gets even worse when looking at the calculations for the probability of the low entropy state of the early universe exactly as it was to allow the universe to evolve into what we see it as today, which was calculated by Roger Penrose as a chance of 1 in 1010(123). That is 10 thousand million raised to the power 123! This is such an unbelievably large number that it makes an utter mockery of chance, as does the Cosmological constant. As I noted earlier, it is not just one or two constants that have to be fined tuned, but 20 constants. The chance of having all twenty fine-tuned just right puts chance completely off the negotiating table. As noted by British physicist, Sir Fred Hoyle:

A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question”.

To conclude then, we can see why having all the constants of nature set just right to allow the universe as we know it and life to exist presents a major problem to physicists trying to find a naturalistic explanation for origin for the universe, i.e. an explanation that excludes God as the creator. This has been termed the fine-tuning problem, a problem that cannot be overcome without resorting to radical and untestable hypotheses, such as the Multiverse. The Multiverse hypothesis proposes that we are not the only universe, there are an infinite number of other universes out there so in an infinite number, a universe with the constants of nature set just as in our universe must arise. This is a classic example of when having been presented with the clear facts that God must exist, people will still deny it and desperately try to find a way to convince themselves, and the world, that God does not exist. Actually, this is Satan’s number one strategy. If he can convince you that God does not exist, then he has you where he wants you. In proposing the Multiverse, these scientists have gone beyond scientific philosophy because valid science demands that a hypothesis must be testable. It is not possible to test the Multiverse hypothesis because we cannot see beyond our own universe, ever, because it is not possible to see beyond space and time itself. Thus, we can never see if there are other universes beyond or parallel to ours. There is no scientific evidence to support the Multiverse, it’s just clutching at straws! This is why the Apostle Paul wrote: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who supress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 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 they are without excuse…” (Romans 1:18-20).

The facts of physics are clearly evident and point to what the Bible says about the origin of the universe and the laws of nature (“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made”). Yet many scientists, having seen the facts, still supress the truth and deny the Bible and God. So I conclude that as Christians we can take great comfort in the Word of God, the Bible, which has been convincingly shown to be a reliable account of the origins of the universe with its galaxies and stars, including our own star, the Sun, with the earth and the other planets. As I started this article in part 1, I will finish, with Werner Heisenberg’s quote: “The first gulp from the glass of natural sciences will turn you into an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you”. We have drunk deep down to the bottom of the glass of the natural sciences and we can see that Werner Heisenberg was right; when one clearly investigates the facts of the natural sciences, there is God waiting for us to find Him – a super intellect and an awesome Creator.

[1] https://www.astrobio.net/cosmic-evolution/a-new-model-for-planet-formation/
[2] Alpher, R. A.; Bethe, H.; Gamow, G. (1 April 1948). “The Origin of Chemical Elements”. Physical Review. 73 (7): 803–804. Bibcode:1948PhRv…73..803A. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.73.803
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpher%E2%80%93Bethe%E2%80%93Gamow_paper
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discovery_of_cosmic_microwave_background_radiation
[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmic_microwave_background
[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strong_interaction


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