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.

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

  1. Mark Rober is a YouTube guy about fun experiments and he has one about the pull of the sun. Then at the end, he throws in this aside, “the size of the universe is awesome and the chances we are alone is infinitesimally small.”
    So, following his statement, I assume he’d say following Christ is ridiculous because Jesus has to be a story because there are other beings too. A God of 600,000 Jews is too small for this vast universe.

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      1. I like Lane Craig’s comeback to this kind of objection: A God of limitless power Who also created time itself has limitless time and resources to achieve His purposes, and therefore cannot be accused of “waste.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And don’t be disturbed by the squeals of excitement you’ll soon be hearing from the SETI crowd over the recent discovery of “organic material” on Mars by our rovers.

        Cross-contamination caused by meteor strikes on the early Earth is to be expected, given our close proximity to the Red Planet.

        We need to carefully study this material, with an eye to bringing some back someday, as it can tell us a lot about the earliest life on Earth, soon after it arose.

        Along with the same kind of material we will someday discover on the Moon: very ancient, perfectly preserved and chock-full of information about the first life on EARTH.

        And for the very same reason: if Mars is our next-door neighbor, the Moon is in our back yard.

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  2. I also see the massive universe as evidence for theism.

    I tend to thank the skeptic for pointing out the problem of the big universe and say. Yes you understand why science falsifies all eastern religions or Zeus. Leaving only the big three theism religions as being possible.

    Even atheism with the big bang has to answer to the massive amount of matter that spontaneously generated. It is not a small local event. It it was a massive amount of material on the big bang

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  3. When I saw the title of this blog I laughed. True story – but not from my own life. A while back a minister decided to so a personal experiment of “living like an atheist” for a month or so. He decided that if there was no essential difference between his life as a minister and his “atheist” life for a month then he would walk away from the faith. At the end of this sad experiment he did walk away from the faith with one of his justifications being that since the universe is so big and we are so small God probably doesn’t exist. I’m too lazy right now to look up that story. Maybe the reader can Google it if you feel like it.

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    1. Yes, I blogged on it. He had literally no familiarity with any of the standard arguments that you read in basic Lee strobel books. It was all about him and his feelings. Who cares about evidence? It only matters whether I feel good. Moron.

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      1. Those are the eastern mystic or new age Christians. They have more beliefs from eastern religions that Christianity and only wrap their beliefs in a reference or two with Jesus

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  4. WN…. I think your logical equation is exactly the right way to reply to this.

    I use something similar from time to time on many of these types of *Preference statements.

    1 If Victor were Almighty God he would make a small universe
    2 The universe is Not small
    3 Therefore, Victor is not God

    These people have crippled reasoning not only because of their need for God to not exist, but also because they’ve made God their enemy.

    I do get the idea from Ross that the universe needs to be this size for life, but God can formulate it any way he wishes.
    If you look at the billions of species under the ocean, some, man will never even see or know about, now and in the past, I think this vastness demonstrates God’s love for Creation.
    I mean, the Lord could have made our inside anatomy jello if he wanted to with no explanation for how things work.

    Instead he desired to design reality ordered and explainable so science itself could exist. So we could figure out how to use our world, umpteen orders of magnitude outward & inward, down to a depth that no one will ever know about. So besides purpose, it reveals His glorious and ingenious nature and its a damn shame these depraved people do not recognize Him, or admit that before Theist scientists were shut out & discouraged from these fields – they were the ones that made virtually All the top discoveries and since then science has become as biased as liberal media, wasting time on string theory etc.
    It’s hurt innovation and its confused the public.
    Take care guys, great job, we need to stay engaged while the world goes through this time and help no only unbelievers but also the fanatical end times pretend prophets that make us all look bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He expects us to puzzle it out and see the design. But for people who don’t want to puzzle, they can just find some “I wouldn’t do it that way if I were God” to justify what they want to believe.

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