Table of Contents
Part 1: The Universe: Made for Man?
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.
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- 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.
You are a cosmic collector's
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.
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.
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- 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.
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].
still, Carl Sagan has reiterated this statement by Simpson, saying:
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.
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.
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- 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].
- 44. Sagan, Carl, in Time, 13 December,
- 45. Hoyle, Fred: quoted in section "Monitor",
New Scientist, I9 June, 1969, p.623.
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.
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."
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
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- 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,
- 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.
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
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
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- 49. Went, F. W., "The Size of Man"
in American Scientist, vol.56, no.4,
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
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- 50. Ibid., p.404.
- 51. lbid.
- 52. Ibid., p.407.
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
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)
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- 53. Jeans, Sir James, in his Rede Lecture
at Cambridge, reported in The Times, London, 5 November,
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
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
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.
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- 54. Huxley, Julian, Rationalist Annual,
- 55. More, Thomas, Utopia, translated
by H. V. S. Ogden, AppIeton-Century-Crofts, New York 1949, p.55.
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.
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
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
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- 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.
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.
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:
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.
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- 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,
- 59. HuxIey, Julian: quoted by Mascall, ibid.,
- 60. "A Christian World View: The Framework of
V in Noah's Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway Papers
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
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