If the choice we have is to believe in the blank nothingness of space or a father in heaven, which should we choose? I think today a lot of people would say, “I’ll trust the science”. But what do we do when the science keeps changing, is uncorroborated, or contradictory, and no two scientists can agree?
There are dozens of possible scientific theories regarding how the universe began. They can’t all be right, but the most popular is known as The Big Bang. To describe what this entails, I’ll take an analogy: imagine that a bomb explodes in an empty field and the falling debris happens to produce a mansion. What are the chances? A maths genius somewhere worked out the probability of that happening. It’s a huge number. In fact, the big bang as an explanation for creation is less likely than the same person winning the lottery five times in succession! Yet this is science’s default position on creation. This is not as surprising as it sounds; it’s perfectly possible to produce correct mathematical equations which do not accurately correspond to reality – just look at Zeno’s Paradoxes. We should be wary of theories based on pure mathematical structures.
If then we don’t have the definite scientific data to give us the answers we seek, what can we do? Perhaps we can use our senses and emotions to guide us. What feels right? There is nothing wrong with this method. Our instincts can be surprisingly accurate. For instance, we can all agree on things of beauty, on things of wonder, and equally on things that frighten or baffle us. When the sun rises every morning and sets at night; when we look at the stars; when we study the perfection of nature all around and the endless cycle of death and rebirth; when we stand at the seashore and watch the waves lap onto the beach in a steady, repeated rhythm, their soothing sound calming our nerves; when we watch birds and animals work out their days, living a life that somehow seems pre-ordained, knowing exactly what they need to do to survive and have fun, in silent obedience to secret laws, what do our instincts tell us? Are we to believe that all this, laws and codes hardwired into the core of living things, has somehow come about by chance? Or is it like something that has been carefully designed? Does it feel right that out of nothing, out of a vacuum, the universe grew into the marvel we know today? On the contrary, if we look at our planet and think, “this is really beautiful” then that judgement suggests a carefully worked out aesthetic.
The Big Bang Theory is just one option among many and happens to be the most popular, supported by high-profile scientists. But it contradicts several laws of physics, including the one about not being able to produce energy from zero. It also assumes that nature can, of its own volition, invoke order out of chaos, as in the example I gave of the bomb in the field. Actually, in all matters concerning nature, the law seems to be the opposite, that order descends into disorder; things decay. It’s called entropy. Once a piece of fruit is cut from its branch, the process of decay begins. It would be surprising if it happened the other way round. The key facilitator in decay is Time. Age corrupts and destroys. Only if we were able to take Time out of the equation could the process be halted. Travelling backward along this trajectory of self-annihilation suggests there was a moment when everything was good and in its prime and that the earth started from a point of perfection. Believing in a universe that is at the same time expanding in a uniquely logical manner whilst decaying toward rottenness is quirkily inconsistent.
So, what other options do we have when faced with the mysteries of creation? As children we were taught to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven… “ This is the simple first line of the Lord’s Prayer which, in adults as well as children, for thousands of years inspired devotion, self-confidence and belief. But these days it is rarely heard outside of church, set aside at best as a religious trope, at worst as offensive to rational-minded people. Yet if we let our feelings guide us, it doesn’t seem so strange and is perhaps a better way of explaining the universe’s origins. I can easily imagine somewhere beyond the processes of earthly Time, into which things recede and from which they are made and enabled to grow. After all, every night we slip into a dream-state, a mysterious place filled with characters and action over which we have no control yet which seems as real as life.
The first line of the Lord’s Prayer in six words may well contain everything we need to know about this supra-natural place and the being that lives there. As always with the Bible, the words have been chosen carefully to impart significance and real meaning. “Father” tells us that the creative force behind the universe is more than just a mathematical equation; he is as real as we are and full of love for us, just like a really good father. “Art” is present tense which means he is not something which we can consign to the dim and distant past, or something to look forward to in the future, but alive now and ever present. And “Heaven” describes another plane of existence, one we can only imagine, which is filled with hope, light and joy alongside the father. How comforting to know that whatever problems life presents us with are only obstacles to test our resilience and determination on the way to Heaven, to know that at the end of life lies not a non-existence of nothingness, but a real and happy co-existence in eternity with friends and family.
The fact is, whether we choose science or the Bible with regard to the question of our origins, a leap of faith is required. It’s not a choice between fact and fiction, but between what feels right and what doesn’t. In other words, it’s up to us to trust our hearts and minds and not be swayed by false words and abstract theory. For me personally, God as Designer of our Universe remains powerfully convincing and a mainstay of my faith. What a reassurance there is in this; your father on earth might abandon you and you might never hear from him again, but you have a father in heaven who never leaves you.
While science has its place in helping us to understand the physical nature of our world, it may be a long time before it can explain the mysteries of life itself. Until then, faith is required. A miracle is something which does not obey the normal run of things and the big bang theory, if it were true, would have to be classed as just such an unusual event. Science as it stands cannot fully explain things outside our physical realm. E=mc² only works within a recognizable space-time continuum, and it may yet need to be adjusted to take account of surprising new properties being discovered all the time in particles many million times smaller than an electron, elements Einstein could barely have envisaged.
Science changes and adapts with time, but the truth doesn’t. When we say, “Our Father who art in Heaven” we are expressing something which has no beginning and no end, but is timeless. As theories go, that possesses as much credibility as any.