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Part 1: The Universe: Made for Man?
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.
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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
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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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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- 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.
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
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.
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- 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.
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
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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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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.