Note: Last year, inspired by words from Fr. Robert Spitzer, I ran a 10-part series in our bulletin (Aug. 12 – Oct. 14, 2018) on modern day miracles that had been heavily scrutinized by science (available when you visit our parish website and pull up the bulletins from those dates). Spitzer had said that 93% of those who lose their faith today in America claim that their primary reason for this loss of faith is that they do not believe religion can hold up to the scrutiny of modern science. In other words, faith in science is replacing faith in God for many people. Spitzer’s solution to this modern phenomenon was to challenge Church leaders to make a focused effort to report Church documented miracles that have confounded science in recent decades. However, he also raised questions around the natural sciences that were quite separate from religious miracles and the lives of the saints that, nevertheless, have religious significance. Last week we looked at a scientific case for the existence of the soul. This week, we offer you…
Episode 17: A Scientific Argument for Intelligent Design of the Universe (a Creator?)
Fr. Spitzer, who holds a doctorate degree in astrophysics along with being an ordained Catholic priest, gave a reasoned scientific case for intelligent design based on the most recent science at the Napa Institute two years ago. His video presentation can be found on Magiscenter.com but I will summarize with the caveat that much of the mathematics are well above my head. Still, even if science is not your cup of tea, I think most of us can follow his logical line of investigation enough to become convinced that the most plausible explanation for the existence of the universe is that it came to be through the action of some transcendental agent acting from outside our known universe.
To begin, Spitzer first highlights the limits of science for those who perhaps place too much faith in science’s ability to offer answers to the mysteries of our existence: 1) Science cannot disprove the existence of God or anything else because it depends on observable evidence. 2) Neither can science use evidence from our universe to prove or disprove God’s existence since our theology maintains that God (if there is one) exists outside the universe. 3) Science can never be sure it knows everything about the universe because, of its nature, science moves from particular observation to forming theories about the whole. 4) You cannot know what you do not know. In the end, for matters religious in nature, one must rely on faith. In short, science will never be able to prove or disprove a creation theory of the universe. We must begin there. The best we can do is to follow the preponderance of evidence, which might suggest that creation/intelligent design is the most likely explanation for how the universe came to exist.
Next, Spitzer lays out a logical flowchart for why a movement from nothing to something (a.k.a creation) must have occurred at the hand of some existential agent acting from outside our universe. This involves four steps: 1) If one can prove that there is a beginning of time one can also prove that there is a beginning to material existence because time and space go hand-in-hand. 2) If one can establish this first point, then it logically follows that before physical reality there must have been nothing. 3) Nothing can only do nothing by definition. It cannot cause physical reality to come into being. 4) For nothing to move to something, then, a transcendental, outside force is required (a.k.a. intelligent design or God, if you will). All the heavy lifting scientifically and mathematically has to be directed to proving step 1…that there is indeed a provable beginning to time and space. There are, it should be noted, a majority of scientists who hold to such ideas as an oscillating universe (like a never-ending accordion of expanding and contracting) or of multiverses who do not believe in such a finite beginning. Looking at the Big Bang Theory (proposed by a Catholic priest no less), they would say, for example, that the Big Bang has happened an infinite number of times before and that the universe just always was (a.k.a. no creator).
Spitzer identifies three observable data groups, however, that he says form the strongest case for mutual corroboration regarding intelligent design. They are: 1) space-time geometry, 2) entropy and 3) anthropic coincidences. Taken together, he and other like-minded astrophysicists say that the most likely explanation for our existence is actually the creative action of an existential force/agent (call it God).
In brief, first let’s take the space-time geometry issue. Try this experiment. Place a rubber band next to a ruler and mark it with a pen at zero and at the 1 and 2-inch mark. Now stretch the rubber band until the 1-inch mark is at 2 inches on the ruler. You will see that the 2-inch mark is now at 4 inches on the ruler. This simple illustration shows something of the Hubble Constant…that the further away an object moves, the faster it accelerates. We know that the universe is expanding and, based on this constant, that galaxies further away are moving faster than those that are closest to the epicenter. We also know that the relative velocity of a projectile fired out into space (say, a satellite) decreases relative to the expanding universe. If this relative velocity was calculated in reverse, getting steadily faster as launch point was approached it would have a mathematical, terminal point (i.e. maximum velocity or the speed of light). This must be the beginning of the universe. Call it the Big Bang if you like or give it your own name but this shows a beginning point in time. Now go back and refer to paragraph 3.
A second proof is from entropy, which tracks the growing disorder in an ordered universe. The reasoning is similar to that of space-time geometry just explained. It turns out that every time an act is carried out, a slight amount of disorder occurs. Think of a break shot in a pool game. The action of the cue ball causes disorder (the scattering of the other balls). And just as the balls will never be able to rerack themselves, disorder in the universe does not spontaneously return to order. In fact, disorder is irreversible and measurable. If the universe were eternal without beginning as some scientists claim then there should be maximum disorder in it. Instead, order is required to sustain life and it turns out that our current level of disorder in the universe is relatively low. This again proves a beginning point in time and space. See the conclusions laid in paragraph 3 once again.
Finally, there is the case of anthropic coincidences. This refers to a long series of highly improbable events or factors critical to the forming of life. This reasoning relies on the sum of nearly prohibitive probabilities for a multitude of variables, all of which must be fulfilled in order for life to exist in the universe based around the 20 known constants of the universe. For example, the probability that the universe would be at the low level of entropy required for us to exist has been calculated at 10 to the 10 to the 123 to 1 (a double exponent). Spitzer says if this number were written in 10 font with all the zeros, our solar system would not be big enough to contain it (like a monkey randomly striking typewriter keys and writing the entire works of Shakespeare without error on the first try). If the weak force constant varied by only one part per 10 to the 50 +/-, our universe would either be constantly exploding or would collapse into a black hole. If the mass of the proton or electron or the electromagnetic charge or gravitational constant varied +/- by no more than 2%, every star in the universe would either be a blue giant or a red dwarf (i.e. we would freeze to death or be incinerated). If the strong nuclear force coupling constant were 2% higher there would be no hydrogen (i.e. no water or fuel for the sun). If 2% lower, there would be no elements heavier than hydrogen (i.e. no carbon/life). At some point, when you take all of these very high improbabilities multiplied together and also add them to what we know about space-time geometry and entropy then…wahlah!!!…the most plausible explanation for our existence and simplest (Occam’s Razor) is actually intelligent design. Those scientists who ideologically reject intelligent design as a plausible explanation for the material universe are, therefore, the ones acting most unscientifically. Did I blow your mind?