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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV



     

Part 1: The Universe: Made for Man?

Chapter 3

The Wisdom of God as Designer

 

     THE EARTH is marvelously suited as a habitation for man. In another Doorway Paper (36) we have noted that a combination of exceptional circumstances has guaranteed an environment which, if we do not destroy it ourselves, permits man to exercise all his faculties to the maximum of their potential. So many phenomena have conspired toward the provision of this habitat that it is difficult to believe it can be accidental. Even if there are millions of other planets in the universe which are of a similar size and general structure, it does not lessen the fact of its extraordinary fitness. As Lawrence Henderson wrote many years ago, (37) "In fundamental characteristics the actual environment is the fittest possible abode for life" [my emphasis]. And as Harold Blum observed: (38)

     The stage upon which living systems bowed their debut was set by all the preceding events in the history of the earth or, for that matter, of the Universe. . . . This aspect of fitness is not, then, universal, but exists only in relation to the planet earth, or to planets that are very nearly like the earth.

     It is customary in popular articles to stress the view that the universe must contain untold thousands of planets similar to our own earth upon which life may have similarly evolved. But this may not be as simple as such expansive enthusiasms would suggest. The basic constituents of the universe are not the substances which compose our earth and make it a suitable place for life. As Fred Hoyle put it, "You must understand that, cosmically speaking, the room you are now sitting in is made of the wrong stuff. You yourself are a rarity.
 
36. "The Preparation of the Earth for Man," Part I in Evolution or Creation? vol.4, of The Doorway Papers Series.
37. Henderson, Lawrence: quoted by Harold F. Blum, Time's Arrow and Evolution, Princeton University Press, 1951, p.60.
38. Blum, Harold F., ibid, pp.76,85.

      pg 1 of 11      

You are a cosmic collector's piece." (39) Hoyle elaborated on this as follows: (40)

     Apart from hydrogen and helium, all other elements are virtually rare, all over the universe. In the sum they amount to only about 1% of the total mass. Contrast this with the earth and the other planets where hydrogen and helium make only about the same contribution as highly complex atoms like iron, calcium, silica, magnesium, and aluminum. The contrast brings out two important points.
     First we see that material torn from the sun would not be at all suitable for the formation of the planets as we know them. Its composition would be hopelessly wrong. And our second point in this contrast is that it is the sun that is normal and the earth that is the speck. The interstellar gas and most of the stars are composed of material like the sun, not like the earth.

     This is what Hoyle means when he speaks of the earth as being made of the "wrong stuff." It's the right stuff all right, from our point of view; but it is almost unbelievably exceptional in its constitution. It is in fact very difficult to account for it. The materials out of which we ourselves are made (carbon, etc.) are extremely rare substances in the universe; the substances we rely upon for our technical civilization are equally rare (iron, aluminum, etc.); and even the very oxygen we must have to live is little more than a trace element. We assume these are to be found everywhere. They are not everywhere.
      Carl Sagan of Harvard said: (41)

      The universe is made up of hydrogen and helium. Everything else is a trace constituent. Of these trace constituents, only carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen are both reactive and relatively abundant. But even these abundances are about one one-thousandth that of hydrogen. The abundance of something like phosphorus is several orders of magnitude less.

     Dennis W. Sciama notes that an abundance of measurements have shown that, roughly speaking, 92 percent of the atoms in our galaxy are hydrogen, 8 percent are helium, and only 0.001 percent are heavier elements. "On this view the Earth itself, which has lost most of its hydrogen by escape from its weak gravitational field, is a mere impurity speck." (42)
     In a paper appearing in a symposium published in Europe in 1968, G. G. Simpson, writing under the title "Some Cosmic Aspects of Evolution," discussed the possibility of life, such as we know it, appearing on other planets in the universe of which it is believed there may be very great numbers. He concluded by saying: (43)
 
39. Hoyle, Fred, Harper's Magazine, April 1951, p.64.
40. Ibid.
41. Sagan, Carl, "Primordial Ultraviolet Synthesis of Nucleoside Phosphates" in The Origin of Pre-Biological Systems: And of Their Molecular Matrices, edited by Sidney W. Fox, Academic Press, New York, 1965, pp.207ff
42. Sciama, Dennis W., Modern Cosmology, Cambridge University Press, 1971, p.149.
43. Simpson, G. G., in Evolution and Hominization, edited by C. Kurth, Fischer, Stuttgart, 2nd edition, 1968, p.15.

     pg. 2 of 11     

     The chances that anything like man, or for that matter like any other terrestrial species except perhaps the most primitive, exists elsewhere in the universe are, I think, the same as the chances that any other planet has had exactly the same history as the earth  and as its inhabitants  in every essential detail for two billion years or more. In my opinion these chances are effectively nil for the nine hundred million planets of Shapley's minimum, or even for Hoyle's less reasonable billions of billions. I therefore earnestly doubt whether there are man-like beings waiting to greet us anywhere in the accessible universe. The opposite opinion, even though it has been advanced by some eminent and sensible men, seems to me to underestimate either the complexity or the rigidity of historical causation [emphasis mine].

     More recently still, Carl Sagan has reiterated this statement by Simpson, saying: (44)

     If we started the earth all over again, even with the same physical conditions, and just let random factors operate, we would never get anything remotely resembling human beings. There are just too many accidents in our evolutionary past for things closely resembling human beings to arise anywhere else.

     This, then, is the considered opinion of some of the world's most informed experts in these fields. The earth and all that makes it a fit habitation for man is an extraordinary creation. It must by all odds be unique. And its subsequent history seems equally exceptional. If the concurrence of so many interlocking "exceptional circumstances" is purely accidental, then surely faith in chance is faith in an even greater miracle than the faith of the Christian who believes it is all evidence of divine design with man in view.

     The earth is indeed a very special body in the universe, and yet there is every reason to believe that we can correctly assess the rest of the universe from it by the same standards of reference. The experiments we perform in our laboratories do reflect faithfully what seem to be the governing laws operating out there in the vast reaches of space. It is as though we were indeed part of the universe and yet a unique part of it. Fred Hoyle, according to a recent report, "has been able to produce cosmological theories which predict that the outcome of physical experiments performed in laboratories here on Earth is affected by the structure of the entire Universe" [emphasis mine]. (45)
    
 
44. Sagan, Carl, in Time, 13 December, 1971, p.43.
45. Hoyle, Fred: quoted in section "Monitor", New Scientist, I9 June, 1969, p.623.

     pg. 3 of  11    

      Sir James Jeans was of the opinion that the earth is in fact peculiarly suited for human occupation, and
not merely for animals. He said:
(46)

     The old physics showed us a Universe which looked more like a prison than a dwelling place. The new physics shows us a Universe which looks as though it might conceivably form a suitable dwelling place for free men  and not a mere shelter for brutes.

     Virtually everything about the earth seems to mark it off as though it were the object of special design. It is not a bit surprising that the astronauts, in their orbiting vehicles or standing on the moon, looked back at their proper home and were overwhelmed with its beauty. And surely this was not merely the response of wanderers longing for "the fields of home." The earth is indeed an object of unique fitness, a fitness which is more than merely physicochemical and thermal suitability (though these are essential): it is a fitness of sheer beauty as well. But it is also uniquely fitted for life, and part of its fitness is borrowed, as it were, from its setting within the framework of the rest of the universe. Russell W. Maatman stated this eloquently: (47)

     At the molecular level, there is only one element, carbon, which comprises the skeleton of the long-chain molecules found in all living things. Living things are similar to each other in this respect because no other element is capable of forming long chains; and this relation between the elements can in turn be shown (using quantum mechanics) to exist because of the very nature of the Universe. Likewise, at the microscopic level, God made similar structures in living creatures because only these structures can carry out the function intended for them. Again, the basic reason a certain function can be carried out by only one structure lies in the very nature of the Universe.

     Sir Cyril N. Hinshelwood, in an address in England in 1948, seems to have gone even further when he said: "It may not be wholly unreasonable to fancy that to almost every element there falls some unique and perhaps indispensable role in the economy of Nature." (48)
     Now, the size of our earth is important because it plays a critical role in establishing the kind of atmosphere we live in, an atmosphere with just the right gases to support a high order of life. The distance of the earth from the sun determines its mean temperature, and this range of temperature is quite critical. Carbon chains which constitute an essential component of flexible living tissue can only form and survive within the range of temperature that is true for the earth. A little closer to the sun and these chains would be unstable, and little further away and they would be inflexible. The rate of revolution of the earth seems to be important for

46. Jeans, Sir James, Physics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 1943, p.216.
47. Maatman, Russell W., "Dialogue: Inerrancy, Revelation and Evolution", Journal of  the American Scientific Affiliation, vol. 24, no.2, 1972, p.88.
48. Hinshelwood, C. N., President's Address to Chemical Society entitled "Some Aspects of the Chemistry of Hydrocarbons," reported in Journal of  the Chemical Society, Part 1, 1948, p.531.

     pg. 4 of  11    

the maintenance in a suitable form of the air we breathe because the alternating periods of light and dark are required by plants as they act to re-generate the atmosphere which we, by the very act of respiration, cause to de-generate. The proportion of land to water surface seems to be ideally suited to maintain a constant circulation of moist air to irrigate the land. The tilt of the earth's axis is sufficient to produce seasonal variations which, if they did not exist, would almost certainly allow certain forms of disease-causing bacteria to multiply continuously and bring about the virtual disabling, if not death, of man and perhaps of animals also. Epidemics have restraints placed upon their continuance by the changing of the seasons.
     The more carefully we examine the total milieu in which we live, the more evident it is that an extraordinary chain of events has led to the appearance of a world such as ours, as though the whole object of its existence was that it might be a habitation for man. Indeed, Isaiah 45:18 tells us expressly that this is so: "For thus saith the Lord who created the heavens, God Himself who formed the earth and made it; He has established it. He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited."

     It is evident that one might get around the feeling of insignificance in living on such a tiny globe in such a vast universe by making the earth of some greatly expanded size. But from the foregoing, it is evident that such an alternative could not be made to work if life, as we now know it, was to be the object. Many poisonous gases would have been retained inimical to life by the gravitational forces of such a large body; and these same gravitational forces would have made us weigh hundreds or even perhaps thousands of times as much as we do. All that we know about the stuff of which we are made tells us that we could not be what we are if our weight was multiplied very greatly. The strength of the tissues simply could not sustain the mechanical loads imposed upon a free-standing figure.
     However, there are other reasons why the size of things on the earth could not be departed from by very much and man still be what he is. In a quite fascinating paper by F. W. Went, entitled "The Size of Man," the author began by saying: (49)

    In the following article, I want to show how important his physical size Is for man and how many of his attainments, such as the development of technology, were possible only because of his specific size In the course of these considerations, it will become clear that many physiological and mechanical processes have grave limitations in relation to size

 
49. Went, F. W., "The Size of Man" in American Scientist,  vol.56, no.4, 1968, p.400.

     pg. 5 of  11    


     The author first considered the world of insects and showed that any increase in size beyond a definite point would mean that creatures would have to have an entirely different internal condition, including the possession of heart and lungs. Slightly larger animals which do possess these organs were then considered, and it was shown in an intriguing way that the limitations of their capacity for cultural achievement would be very great indeed. Went concluded: (50) "I believe that...a good case can be made for considering man's physical size as the critical factor which made it possible him to develop a technology and to use fire." Went then elaborated how the use of fire is limited to man. (51)

     Let us consider for a moment the dimensional limitations of fire. A flame cannot be smaller than several millimeters in length (and even then is relatively unstable), and requires a volatile combustible material, such as gas or alcohol. Non-volatile combustible material such as wood or coal has a much larger critical mass for combustion. The reason for the lower limit of flame size is that the ignition point of gases and vapors lies rather high, usually many hundreds of degrees Centigrade. . . .
     Interestingly enough, a wood or coal fire above the critical size produces just the right amount of heat to warm man in a cave or a room or a camping site. But ants or small rodents would have to keep too far away to make a fire economical, or rather, they would be unable to bring up enough wood to keep the fire going.
     So, animals below a certain size have been forced to adopt other methods of keeping warm, by very high food intake or by continuous activity or by allowing the deep body temperature to fall and becoming dormant  or by limiting their habitat to areas within the temperate zone. Because man is able to make a fire on account of his hands and completely vertical posture, he can be completely ubiquitous.

     The author then dealt with the question of kinetic energy, and he showed that these considerations actually provide us with a clue as to the optimum size of man as a free-standing animal. (52)

      A two-meter-tall man (about six feet), when tripping, will have a kinetic energy upon hitting the ground which is 20 to 100 times greater than a small child who learns to walk. This explains why it is safe for a child to learn to walk; whereas adults occasionally break a bone when tripping, children never do.
     If a man were twice as tall as he is now, his kinetic energy in falling would be so great (32 times more than at normal size) that it would not be safe for him to walk upright. Consequently man is the tallest creature which could reasonably walk upright on two legs. The larger mammals can become taller because they are more stable on their
four legs.

50. Ibid., p.404.
51. lbid.
52. Ibid., p.407.

     pg. 6 of  11    


     The author examined other alternatives  men three feet high, for instance  and showed that such dwarfs could not have developed sufficient muscular energy to exploit the environment to anything like the extent which is necessary for the creation of modern technology. Interestingly enough, he showed how even many of the cultural aspects of man's technology, such as the making and using of books, are all influenced by the size of man's body, and that, contrary to what one might suppose, it is surprisingly difficult to construct a workable "world" to any other proportions . . . even in the final minimum size of typefaces for printing. Even the plants (especially grains) which man makes use of for food have a size which is appropriate to his size and probably could not be made much larger to suit a creature fashioned on a larger scale.
     Thus man is small enough to be able to stand erect as a habit of life. Because of the size of the earth and its limited gravitational forces his two legs will nicely carry the weight of his body. Yet he is large enough to handle fire and to extract from the environment substances necessary to create a civilization which permits him to have dominion over the earth. His size is not an indifferent consideration.
     The other alternative would be to make the universe much smaller. But I have a feeling that if it were so constructed, if it were not expanding, if we once found ourselves able to comprehend it altogether -- measuring it, weighing it, surveying it, and finally defining its fixed limits -- we might find ourselves strangely disturbed as though imprisoned. Our sense of the greatness of God might suffer severely. Even in the matter of time, if we really were able to prove that it was only yesterday, as it were, that the universe came into being, we might feel
a disturbing sense of instability. Without knowing exactly why, we do derive a great deal of comfort out of the concept of God as "the Ancient of Days" (Daniel 7:22). Moreover, no matter how big a thing is, if we have once "walked around it," it is apt to become surprisingly small. And since we judge the greatness of men in part by the magnitude of their works, I believe it is fundamentally true that our perception of the power of God is conditioned by the magnitude of His creation.
     But I think the contemplation of the universe impresses the mind with something more than merely its magnitude. It impresses us with a certain orderliness, with a manifest "rule of law." So manifest is this to those who are trained to perceive it in depth that people might say, as Sir James Jeans said:
(53)

53. Jeans, Sir James, in his Rede Lecture at Cambridge, reported in The Times, London, 5 November, 1930.

     pg. 7 of  11    


      To-day there is a wide measure of agreement which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality: the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer looks like an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the Creator and governor of the realm of matter. . . We discover that the Universe shows evidence of a designing or controlling Power that has something in common with our own minds.

     Oddly enough, it seldom seems to occur to modern cosmologists as surprising that there should exist in the universe a creature so unique and so distinct from the rest of it as to be able to stand apart and contemplate it and size it up. Julian Huxley does note that in man "matter has somehow become conscious of itself," but this is merely to describe what is self-evident. (54) It tells us neither why this came about nor how it came about. Something entirely new has been imposed on material substance in the appearance of man, who not merely has some kind of consciousness but is conscious of his consciousness. One could think of the response of water to temperature as a kind of low-grade "consciousness" of the environment, or the tropisms of plants which cause them to turn their faces to the sun or to the sudden freezing of a small animal when it detects its enemy. But one can hardly say that the water "knows" it is becoming solid, or the flower that it is twisting its stem, or the animal that it responded in a particular way as opposed to some other alternative way. But man is able to reflect upon all these things and is very much aware of his own reflections...and can be disturbed or encouraged by them.
     It is the fact that with our puny minds we can make some sense out of such a vast display that makes the whole subject of cosmology so stimulating. I think God intended it to be so. I think He delights to have us discover with excitement something of the way in which He has put it all together in His grand design. Thomas More expressed it well when, in 1515, he wrote: (55)

     In their study of nature's secrets, men not only find wonderful pleasures for themselves, but they believe that they please the Author and Maker of Nature. For they think that, in the manner of other artificers, God has exposed the machinery of the Universe to man's view because man alone is able to contemplate it and that therefore a careful observer and eager admirer of His workmanship is dearer to Him than a dull and unmoved being looks upon this great spectacle like an animal incapable of reflection.

54. Huxley, Julian, Rationalist Annual, 1946, p.87.
55. More, Thomas, Utopia, translated by H. V. S. Ogden, AppIeton-Century-Crofts, New York 1949, p.55.

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     Even when we descend from our lofty contemplation of the heavens and dig deeply into the earth, we may still find wherewith to enjoy the discovery of what God has done in secret. Hugh Miller wrote many years ago in speaking of the fossil shells and fishes which have characterized that segment of the rocks known as the Old Red Sandstone: (56)

     Nor does it lessen the wonder that their nicer ornaments should yield their beauty only to the microscope. There is unity of character in every scale, plate and fin . . . and yet the unassisted eye fails to discover the finer evidences of this unity; it would seem as if the adorable Architect had wrought it out in secret with reference to the Divine idea alone.
     Sir Thomas Lawrence, who finished with the most consummate care a picture intended for a semi-barbarous foreign court, was asked why he took so much pains with a piece destined, perhaps, never to come under the eye of a connoisseur. "I cannot help it," he replied, "I do the best I can, unable, through a tyrant feeling that will not brook offense to do anything less." It would be perhaps overbold to attribute any such over-mastering feeling to the Creator Himself. Yet it is certain that among His creatures well nigh all approximations towards perfection owe their origin to this feeling, though God in all His works is His own Master.

     If in the course of time, their beauty is buried in the earth, God sees fit to uncover these rocks so as to disclose them again for those who search, and if He masks their beauty by their very minuteness, He gives to man the power to build a microscope so that one day he may discover it. The millions of flowers that bloom unseen, and which thus appear to be entirely wasted until we find them, give us the assurance that we shall not find in God's Universe ugliness where beauty can replace it.
      It seems now, therefore, that we are just beginning to discern also something of His wisdom, and rather wonderfully to discern this wisdom more particularly as it relates to our own existence. In an article entitled "Our Universe: the Known and the Unknown," John A. Wheeler wrote: (57)

      No one . . . can fail to find thought-provoking a suggestion made by Dicke, half-jokingly, half seriously. "What sense does it have," he asks, "to speak about a Universe unless that Universe contains intelligent beings?"
     But intelligence implies a brain. And a brain cannot come into being without life. As the foundation for life no biochemist sees any alternative but DNA. But DNA demands carbon for its construction. Carbon in turn comes into being by thermonuclear combustion in the stars. Thermonuclear combustion demands billions of years in time.

56. Miller, Hugh, The Old Red Sandstone., Nimmo, Hay and Mitchell, Edinburgh, 1889, p.113.
57. Wheeler, John A., "Our Universe: the Known and the Unknown" in American Scientist, Spring, 1968, p.18.

     pg. 9 of  11    


     But according to general relativity a Universe cannot provide billions of years of time unless it also has billions of light-years of extent. On this view it is not the Universe that has dominion over man, but man who governs the size of the Universe.

      Julian Huxley saw man as unique above all other living creatures by reason of his power of conceptual thought. (58) It is this faculty which makes man capable of entering into fellowship with God and returning His love. And this appears to be the fundamental reason God created man in the first place. If, as Wheeler proposes, the universe itself is essential for the existence of the earth, and the earth for the existence of man, then God created the universe in order that He might create man. But a creature with conceptual thought is a creature with a series of unique requirements. For one does not have thought, where man is concerned, without a brain, and thought does not find expression without language involving the use of symbols and hands that can manipulate and ears that can sort out the sounds of language. And tied together with these, in a causal chain of necessities, is a whole series of further requirements which may be summed-up in terms of freedoms and capacities that are uniquely true of man only. Julian Huxley seems to have been aware of these necessities, even though he attributed them to a process of blind evolution. Thus he wrote: (59)

      There is only one group of animals which fulfills these conditions  a terrestrial offshoot of the higher Primates. Thus, not merely has conceptual thought been evolved only in man: it could not have evolved except in man. . . .
      Conceptual thought on this planet is inevitably associated with a particular type of Primate body and Primate brain.

     We see, then, that the idea of a universe created for man makes very good sense. In the first place, it seems in some way to have been necessary to proceed by some such route toward the provision of a habitation for him, and it seems equally certain that only by creating such a creature as man, and placing him in this prepared environment, could God achieve His purpose of finding a response to His own love outside of Himself. The way in which He thus secured response through a series of events which He foreordained to be part of human history and for the completion of which He Himself entered for a short season within the space-and-time frame which He had created for man, is the subject of another Doorway Paper. (60)
 
58. Huxley, Julian: quoted by E. L. Mascall, The Importance of Being Human, Columbia University Press, 1958, p.6.
59. HuxIey, Julian: quoted by Mascall, ibid., p.7.
60. "A Christian World View: The Framework of History," Part V in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway Papers Series.

     pg. 10 of  11    


   The object of this paper has been to show that in the final analysis the meaning of the universe, the reason for its creation in the way that it was created, is best found in the existence of man himself, a unique creature made in the image of God that he might be able to share God's thoughts. As one perceptive writer put it, "The Cosmos was pregnant with man." 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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