Is the vastness of the universe evidence against God’s existence?

Apologetics and the progress of science
Apologetics and the progress of science

Physicist Hugh Ross writes about it in Salvo Magazine.

First a quick blurb about Hugh Ross:

Hugh Ross launched his career at age seven when he went to the library to find out why stars are hot. Physics and astronomy captured his curiosity and never let go. At age seventeen he became the youngest person ever to serve as director of observations for Vancouver’s Royal Astronomical Society. With the help of a provincial scholarship and a National Research Council (NRC) of Canada fellowship, he completed his undergraduate degree in physics (University of British Columbia) and graduate degrees in astronomy (University of Toronto). The NRC also sent him to the United States for postdoctoral studies. At Caltech he researched quasi-stellar objects, or “quasars,” some of the most distant and ancient objects in the universe.

Now back to the topic “Is the vastness of the universe incompatible with God’s existence?”

Here’s Ross’ introduction:

Scientists seem more difficult to please than the golden-haired girl of fairy-tale fame. While Goldilocks troubled herself over the just-right porridge, chair, and bed, astronomers appear preoccupied with the size of the universe.

In the days before telescopes, when an observer could count a few thousand stars in the night sky, many considered the universe too small and unimpressive to be the work of an almighty, all-knowing Creator. Only an infinite cosmos, they said, would befit an infinite deity. But then, others argued, an infinite cosmos might eliminate the need for a Creator.

Thanks to the Hubble space telescope, scientists now see that the universe contains roughly 200 billion large- and medium-sized galaxies and about a hundred times as many dwarf galaxies. The stars in those galaxies add up to about fifty billion trillion, and they comprise a mere one percent of the mass of the observable universe.

Because of the travel time of light, the universe humans can observe is really the universe of the past. What researchers know about the expansion and geometry of the universe informs us that the universe of today is at least several hundred times more enormous than the universe we can see. The universe is trillions of trillions of times larger and more spectacular than what the earliest astronomers presumed!

And yet, this new knowledge of the vastness of the universe has led to new complaints. In his book, God: The Failed Hypothesis, Victor Stenger says, “If God created the universe as a special place for humanity, he seems to have wasted an awfully large amount of space.” Stephen Hawking, in the best-selling science book of all time, A Brief History of Time, shares Stenger’s view: “Our solar system certainly is a prerequisite for our existence. . . . But there does not seem to be any need for all these other galaxies.” So now the universe is too big to befit the all-wise, all-powerful God of the Bible.

I like how he quotes an atheist physicist to get the challenge right. No sense in caricaturing the claim of your opponent.

I formalized Stenger’s argument like this:

  1. If all things in the universe are not done the way that Victor Stenger likes them, then there is no God.
  2. All things in the universe were not done the way Victor Stenger likes them.
  3. Therefore, there is no God.

I would deny premise 1, there, since there is no reason to believe that’s it’s true.

Anyway, let’s see what Hugh Ross says:

The hot big bang model (now firmly established by observations) tells us that at the moment of cosmic creation, the universe was infinitely or near-infinitely hot and compressed, and all the ordinary matter existed in the form of hydrogen. As the universe expanded, it cooled. The rate at which the universe expanded and cooled depended in large part on its mass—the greater the mass, the slower the expansion and cooling rate. The slower the expansion and cooling rate, the more time the universe would spend in the temperature range (13–150 million degrees Centigrade) at which nuclear fusion can occur.

Because of its mass, the universe spent about twenty seconds in the nuclear fusion temperature range when it was between three and four minutes old. As a result, 24.77 percent of the universe’s hydrogen (by mass) fused into helium. Thus, when stars began to form—about 380,000 years later—they started off composed of about 75 percent hydrogen, 25 percent helium, and trace amounts of deuterium, lithium, and beryllium.

In the nuclear furnaces of the stars themselves, more hydrogen fused into helium, and, in addition to the extra helium, all the rest of the elements that appear in the periodic table were synthesized (created). The capacity of stellar nuclear furnaces to produce an abundance of elements heavier than helium (all but two of the elements) depended critically on how much of the universe’s initial hydrogen was fused into helium and heavier elements during the first several minutes after the cosmic creation event. How much fusion of the universe’s primordial hydrogen actually occurred at this time depended, in turn, on the universe’s mass or mass density.

If the universe’s mass (or cosmic mass density) had been even the slightest bit less than a hundred times the fifty billion trillion stars occupying the observable universe, nuclear fusion during the first several minutes of its existence would have proceeded less efficiently. Thus, the cosmos would have been forever incapable of generating elements heavier than helium—elements such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sodium, and potassium—all of which are essential for any conceivable kind of physical life.

On the other hand, if the universe’s mass had been even the slightest bit greater, nuclear fusion during the first several minutes after its beginning would have been too productive, and all the hydrogen in the universe eventually would have been fused (after just two generations of stars) into elements as heavy as iron or heavier. Again, all the most life-essential elements, including hydrogen itself, would have ceased to exist.

Basically, your body is made up of heavier elements, and if the universe was not as massive as it is (and as old as it is), then there would not be enough heavy elements to make you, or to make massive stars like our Sun which burn steady for long periods of time. We need the heavy elements and we need the steady source of heat.

Dr. Ross has another reason why God would use vast space and long periods of time, and if you want to read that, you can click here. I think that it’s important for us all to get used to the idea that we all need to understand science apologetics. God put these evidences into the universe for us to discover and use.

9 thoughts on “Is the vastness of the universe evidence against God’s existence?”

  1. I agree with his overall point, but I don’t understand his historical claim, that in the days before telescopes, many people thought the universe was too small and unworthy of an omnipotent creator.

    From the classical world through the Middle Ages, the universe was considered to be vast (e.g., Boethius, CP II prose 7: “the earth is such that it would be judged to have no size at all if it were set beside the magnitude of the heavenly sphere.”) and perfectly ordered to lead the mind upward to the infinite wisdom and glory of God (e.g., Dante’s entire Paradiso). In fact, the biblical perspective of the cosmos was similar, as clearly seen in Psalm 8.

    Now, some modern scientists (Carl Sagan, for one) have claimed that the pre-Copernican cosmology was too small and thus unworthy of an infinite God, but that is, like the whole flat-earth thing, an error or falsehood created by the moderns’ ignorance of what the earlier periods actually believed. Unfortunately, Ross follows the moderns in the same error.


  2. Hey Wintery, I don’t know if it was intended or not but, in the way you formalized Stenger’s argument, even if the 2 premisses were true, the conclusion wouldn’t follow. It commits the “denying the antecedent” fallacy.


      1. Hmm…now it’s a bit clunky, due to the negative protasis of the first premise. How about:
        If God exists, then all things are done to the satisfaction of VR.
        All things are not done to the satisfaction of VR.
        Therefore, God exists.
        This would be formally valid as a modus tollens, but, as you say, the major premise is patently ludicrous.


  3. The mayans,druids,egyptians and other ancient cultures had no trouble with the looking up at the stars and knowing the vastness of the universe and knowing that there must have been some creator. Granted they each had different names but they were on to something.


  4. 1) If Bob were God he would have made the universe small
    2) The universe is not small
    3) Therefore, Bob is not God

    1) If Richard were God he would go on CNN and make his presence undeniable.
    2) God has not been on CNN
    3) Therefore, Richard is not God

    I have to laugh at the bar room logic that atheists or even regular folk if they demand the ONE, THE ALMIGHTY Creator , who gave them and everything existence, does what they think He should do.
    Its worse than a dog licking up his own vomit, snickering at us…as if he has all the answers concerning not only vomit eating, but existence itself as well.

    Even Christians sometimes use this type of reasoning, not realizing there is a great arena of doubt, unknowns, that are part of Gods plan. Otherwise, he would be on CNN.

    To say Gods plan is Next Level complex is something we infants have trouble accepting. As if lil ole pea brains can have better ideas than the One who can comprehend all the thoughts of all alive simultaneously, along with paths of electrons. One who can describe each particle in the universe , where it was , and where it will be in a billion years. Yet a clump of cells with a pencil in his hand is gonna kick God off his throne and sit there himself as he sells another book, and his soul, teaching all of creation some pedantic dribble about how God is unnecessary–but apparently his crappy book is.

    I feel ashamed for these primates. How utterly foolish and insignificant they are. Their embarrassing proclamations are as worthless as the ramblings of a crack dealer.


  5. Sorry, large hands and small keys on my phone. That was the one true God and it’s vastness (universe) proves there is a God. NOTHING could have created all this splendor. And he did it in 7 days. Man can’t wrap his mind around what he can’t explain. God, the one true God made it that way. As far as the heavens are from the earth is His thoughts compared to ours.


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