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

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity 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.

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

  1. I would add that the cosmic habitability zones are not limited to the existence of the solar system alone. You have addressed that here:

    https://winteryknight.com/2013/11/05/what-makes-a-planet-suitable-for-supporting-complex-life/

    Also, God does not have to be ONLY a scientist / engineer – He can also be an Artist and cosmic scene Painter, a Judge, a Ruler, and many other things that would justify a huge universe. God is not limited by space, time, and materials.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can’t go against the claim that it is proof against the small eastern gods of Hinduism, Buddhism, naturalist or pagan religions.

    But to the God of judeo Christianity it is a trivial feat to create this massive universe.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I would characterize Stenger’s argument more like this:

    1. If God created the universe for humans, then he wasted a lot of space.
    2. God would not waste space.
    3. Therefore, God didn’t create the universe for humans.

    Or at least that’s the conclusion he OUGHT to have drawn. The actually conclusion he draws is that “God doesn’t exist.” But I couldn’t come up with a second premise that would allow him to draw that conclusion, so it’s a non-sequitur. I don’t know for sure, though, because I didn’t read the book. Maybe I’m strawmanning his argument.

    But I would kind of agree with his conclusion the way I have it. God created the universe for his glory. And he created humans for his glory. There isn’t any space that’s wasted.

    Even if it were true that God created the universe for the sole purpose of putting humans in it, it wouldn’t necessarily follow that he wasted a lot of space. Humans don’t need to OCCUPY every region of space before that space can be useful to humans. It can be useful to humans just by giving astronomers and cosmologists something to study, and that’s very fulfilling to humans.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. How can a limitless Being with limitless power and resources be accused of “wasting” anything?
    Especially when the one doing the accusing is a puny, finite little human being.
    Sounds like some people have way too big a view of themselves, and way too small a view of God.

    Like

    1. Your last sentence describes me as an atheist.

      Heck, it describes me now – but less so.

      What is amazing is that when I was in that worldview, I just assumed that this incredibly huge and magnificent universe magically popped into existence out of nothing uncaused by anything. And that time and chance miraculously evolved us all from some mud or whatever.

      So, atheists believe in miracles too – just much bigger ones than Christians believe in. :-)

      Like

      1. Yes, and they accuse US of having blind faith, believing without evidence, etc. etc.

        “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the works of His hands.” (Ps. 19:1).

        Liked by 1 person

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