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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV



     

Part 1: The Universe: Made for Man?

Chapter 2

The Immensity of God's Handiwork

     THE PICTURE of the shape of the universe can be elaborated as a mechanical model by using the analogy of an exploding bomb referred to by von Weizsacker and considering what must happen to the fragments which are thus forcibly blown apart. A second or two after the explosion of a bomb in free space, fragments will all be flying apart from each other and there will nothing left of the exploded substance in the center where the bomb first went off. Under more or less ideal conditions, the fragments leave this point of origin at approximately the same speed so viewing the situation in successive moments of time, we observe something in the nature of an expanding sphere which is entirely hollow inside, and of which the thickness of the wall representing the space occupied by the particles of the original bomb fly outward. The best way to illustrate this process is diagrammatic; shown on the next page.
     In figure 1 we have the superdense original Uratom. In figure 2 a few seconds later, expansion has begun. In figure 3 the outward movement of all the particles leads to the clearance of a space in the very center which is being left vacant. It should be understood these diagrams show a cross section of the universe which therefore may give the false impression that we are dealing with a ring. In point of fact, we are dealing with an expanding sphere, not a ring. In figure 4 this "cavity" is naturally enlarging as the particles fly outward. Meanwhile the fragments themselves move out with more or less equal force and speed so that they maintain their position in a comparatively narrow band and assume the shape of the shell of an expanding ball which has a very definite thickness (marked t in the diagram below), the shell itself now being comprised of all the original matter which

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was in the Uratom before it began its expansion. Assuming that no more matter is being created, the expanding shell will do one of two things: it will become thinner as expansion continues in the same way that
a rubber balloon becomes thinner as it is blown larger, or it will maintain its thickness as a shell by the simple expedient of having the particles spaced more and more distantly from each other so that the material of the universe is attenuated.
     As Sir Arthur Eddington put it:
(31)

     We can picture the stars and galaxies as embedded in the surface of a rubber balloon which is being steadily inflated; so that, apart from individual motions and the effects of their ordinary gravitational attraction for one another, celestial objects are becoming farther and farther apart simply by inflation.

     It is important to bear in mind in this picture of an "expanding universe" that the universe, strictly speaking, is not some kind giant space like a box with no top or bottom and with the sides knocked out. The universe is the film of the expanding balloon. There is nothing inside of it and, as it continues to expand, successively takes up its position at a larger diameter where there was nothing before. It is hard to think of empty space, and indeed it is probably an entirely incorrect concept; thus it is not proper to speak of the hollow inside of the balloon as space at all. Strictly speaking, space is where matter is, however thinly attenuated. There is space between the orbiting electrons and the central nucleus of protons and neutrons. There is space between one atom and the next. There is space between one solid body of atoms and the next solid body like two apples, for example. There is space wherever an area sufficiently occupied by atoms or by the particles of atoms that anything in between can be said to be subject to their electromagnetic influences. Thus space is not the emptiness inside the expanding balloon, nor is it that into which the expanding balloon is steadily encroaching by its enlargement outward. Space is strictly the film of the balloon itself. It therefore has a finite depth which is the thickness of the shell, but an object can move indefinitely through it by going round and round.
      Thus arises the concept of a space which is curved. And all the material in the universe appears to be occupying this comparatively thin shell--which, however, preserves its shape like the skin of the inflated balloon, not because there is some kind of air pressure within it, but because repellent forces between the

31. Eddington, Sir Arthur: quoted by J. W. N. Sullivan, Limitations of Science, Penguin Books Harmondsworth, England, 1938, p.27.  

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particles act to hold them in a kind of negative tension and to drive them further and further apart, thus causing the whole shell to expand at an ever-increasing speed. It is apparent that the rate of expansion is so great even now that galaxies diametrically opposite each other in this vast shell are already flying apart at speeds approaching the speed of light.
      It seems that ultimately this giant balloon must either reach a point of equilibrium where there is no energy left for it to push itself any further a condition which would be one of total entropy or, in slightly different terms, a heat death  or something might happen to reduce these tremendous forces which drive the galaxies apart suddenly and dramatically to zero. Then, like a pricked balloon or better still, a pricked bubble the whole gigantic universe would collapse upon itself and "fold up like a garment." Indeed, the writer of the
Epistle to the Hebrews tells us that the heavens (which are the work of His hands) "shall perish . . . and they shall wax old as does a garment; and as a vesture shall [God] fold them up, and they shall be changed" (Hebrews 1:10-12).
     By all present standards of measurement, the universe is indeed growing old. If the picture which we have presented of the universe as being the film of a bubble or the shell of a balloon is valid, what better descriptive phrase could one possibly apply to the necessary consequence which would follow if God suddenly withdrew the energy by which He sustains it all, than that it would fold up like a garment. How apt this all is! Scripture is not likely to provide us with scientific information wherever we can, by our own God-given intelligence, extract it for ourselves. But whenever we have completed our extraction and arrived at some fairly secure conclusion, it is amazing how frequently we discover that the Word of God anticipated our findings and got there first with a quite explicit and completely appropriate statement!

     Now, the nature of light is still not precisely understood and can be best accounted for in contradictory terms by saying that in some ways it behaves as though it were a wave phenomenon and in other ways as though it were a particle phenomenon, the particles being called photons. As far back as 1873 Maxwell had shown that light radiation would exert a pressure on any surface upon which it fell. (32) Subsequently, it was shown that a target "flinched" under the impact of radiation from a bright light just as though a bullet had been fired into it. It is also found that a photographic plate exposed to light increases its weight as though something had landed upon it. All these phenomena suggest that light has some kind of mass. What kind of

32. Maxwell: see Sir James Jeans, The Mysterious Universe, Cambridge University Press, 1931, p.55.

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mass is involved is hard to conceive, but it does appear subject to magnetic forces, for it is bent in the presence of a magnetic field. If the magnetic field through which the beam of light is passing is curved in the way that space of the Universe which we have been considering is curved, then a beam of light will not travel "straight" but will follow the curve like a train following a long slow curve predetermined for it by the railway tracks.
     Thus light reaching us from some of the distant galaxies does not reach us by striking across the balloon by way of a short-cut but is channelled round the shell itself. Indeed, according to Eddington, (33) some of the nebulae that we see in the heavens which are at tremendous distances from us, millions of light-years away, may possibly be so far around in the curvature of space that their light is reaching us from the other side and we are actually seeing the back of them. This possibility had led to the perfectly sane observation that if we looked in exactly the right direction and could see far enough, we should see the back of our own head! In point of fact, however this is quite impossible because the circumference of this whole universe is so great that millions of years before the light reflected from the back of our head could travel all the way around until it finally reached our eyes, we should long since have disappeared from the scene.
     The scale of magnitude involved here is inconceivably great. Ordinary terms of measurement  feet and yards and miles  become totally inadequate, and we have to fall back upon the use of a scale involving light-years. A light-year is the distance which light would travel in one year while moving at a speed of 186,000 miles per second. It works out at a distance of approximately 6,000,000,000,000 miles. Some of the distant galaxies are believed to be millions of light-years away  not millions of miles merely, millions of light-years! Moreover, the universe has already expanded to such a size and the distances have become so great that probably the greater part of it has long since passed beyond our observational powers. The light from these most distant galaxies simply will never reach us.
     Matching these inconceivable distances are inconceivable quantities of material. As George K. Schweitzer said: (34)

     Our sun is one of about 100,000,000 000 stars which make up a giant community of stars known as a galaxy....
     Our galaxy is a member of a small cluster of 19 galaxies. They occupy a region over 3 million light-years in diameter. Nearest in space to our cluster are a few other galaxial clusters. The first large cluster is about

33. Eddington, Sir Arthur: quoted by J. W. N. Sullivan, Limitations of Science,Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England, 1938, p.27.
34. Schweitzer, George K., "The Origin of the Universe" in Evolution and Christian Thought Today, edited by Russell Mixter, Eerdman's, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1959, p.36.

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30 million light-years from us, and it contains over 1000 galaxies. On and on out into space in all directions cluster after cluster can be seen, as far out as telescopes can reach. Over a billion galaxies can now be observed. (This gives a total of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars, or 100 sextillion stars).

     And in this vast immensity of space and substance, our little sun is therefore but a tiny fragment, and our little world an even more minute particle. Can such a particle have any significance?
      It is a curious thing that man should find a peculiar delight in minimizing his own significance in the universe. He seems to find an odd satisfaction in underscoring the hugeness of everything by contrast with his own mere 160 pounds, and the enormous time-scale by contrast with his own three score and ten years. So thoroughly has the philosophy of materialism impregnated our thinking that we have come to measure ourselves and our personal worth in quantitative terms, in terms of years and pounds! No wonder our insignificance strikes us so forcibly. A few years ago, J. W. N. Sullivan put it this way: (35)

     The vast extent of the Universe, both in space and time, is, from the human point of view, completely aimless. Those immense lumps of matter, in their millions of millions, incessantly pouring out an inconceivably furious energy for millions and millions of years, seem to be completely pointless. For a fleeting moment man has been permitted to stare at this gigantic and meaningless display.
     Long before the process comes to an end, man will have vanished from the scene, and the rest of the performance will take place in the unthinkable night of the absence of all consciousness.

     But just suppose our value is not to be measured quantitatively at all. With very few exceptions--and Bertrand Russell is a notable one--men have always recognized that it is quality and not quantity which gives stature to the individual. Even the making of this judgment itself is evidence of a capacity in man which cannot be accounted for in any of the terms by which we measure the immensity of the universe. Indeed, if we were merely part of the universe in the sense that animals are part of it, or plants or rock formations or even molecules, we should never have troubled ourselves with searching out its immensities in the first place. Those who loudly proclaim that man is an insignificant by-product are, by their very proclamation, bearing a tacit witness to the fact that they themselves are not a product of it at all, but are standing outside of it and making a judgment about it. There is no question that Scripture in a thousand ways singles out the individual as being
 
35. Sullivan, J.W.N., Limitations of Science, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England, 1938, p.33.

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something other than, more valuable than, and of vastly greater significance to God himself than the mere chemicals of which his body and even his brain are composed. He may look up at these tremendous galaxies and wonder at his own tiny size. But he has this advantage: galaxies don't know that he is down here, but he knows they are up there.
     The question arises, then, whether such a creature could have been created as part of some other kind of Universe, a Universe in keeping with his physical dimensions and his span of years. Is this tremendous display of power unnecessarily wasteful--one might almost say, flamboyant? Certainly, we have no reason now, in the light of what we know, to doubt the power of the Creator. But what about His wisdom? Could man have been introduced into a more modest cosmos in terms of size and age? I think the answer to this is not difficult. God has infinite resources and there must be other alternatives that He might have chosen. But evidently He had a reason for creating such a universe, and since reasonableness is a concept which only has meaning in terms of man's thinking processes, we ought to be able to follow God's thinking to some extent and to grasp something of the rationale of His adopting such a plan. 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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