The Sleeping Guard
During the opening of an art exhibit in a gallery located in Batangas two years ago, in a supposedly congenial discussion between my artist’s friends and colleagues, I encountered a familiar question in a seemingly interesting fashion. The one who was loud and very assertive with his position on some random topic assumed and pronounced in a candid tone: “well I’m sure everyone of us here believe the evolution!” he said, as if it was a matter of fact. But of course, as christian and with our basic background on the theory specifically the chance hypothesis, our knowledge about its materialistic agenda, and how it is notoriously being used by atheists to dismiss a creator, I quickly replied “NO I don’t”.
I was not surprised that I was the only person who disagreed with him. But my reply fired back too quickly as well. With sarcastic laugh “Because you’re stupid!” He immediately replied with that insult. However, it was merely just a friendly discussion with my closest artists friends including him and he may just be too comfortable with me, and he meant that remark as a joke. In fact, we do have high respect for each other.
But nevertheless, I missed the opportunity to defend my position. Well the thing is, at that moment, I wasn’t really prepared. I also figured out that that kind of insult is the usual rhetoric used by new atheists to anyone who challenges Darwinian evolution. “It’s a fact and you don’t believe it?” that line would always automatically come next. This experience had ignited my interest in reading a little more about the different ideas revolving around science.
While faith is more than enough to dismiss any idea that destroy the very foundation of our existence as human being created in the image of God, I find it quite necessary at the very least, that I should be able to articulate and discuss the reason why we don’t support such claims. Especially in front of other people having the same difficulty in defending their faith.
If science is the basis of such claims, say, our species evolved in an unguided process or by chance, perhaps it’s a good idea to counter such arguments using science and logic as well. There are many scientific theories out there anyway that agree with our faith, and in fact, doesn’t conflict with our belief in any way. And so as to engage in a discussion with a non-believer, we need to speak a language that both parties can understand.
The question of do you believe in evolution is quite tricky though, because the term evolution can mean a lot of things. It can mean chemical evolution, or the diversity and small-scale evolution within the same species, or the evolution of the universe, and many other things. And it is always easy to get caught off guard if we are not clear about this.
To avoid the fallacy of equivocation, we may start by defining the term, what these atheists usually mean when they speak of evolution is the Darwinian mechanism or the evolution by means of natural selection through random mutation, in simplest term the chance hypothesis. When you talk to atheists, most of the time they would intentionally try to be too vague with the term, particularly with evolution, so be careful. Next time someone asks you if you believe in evolution, ask back and say which one?
What then is the implication of this hypothesis to our faith? That life wasn’t given to us by a Powerful Creator? Does our existence is merely just a product of chance?
This encounter served as the impetus for me to start writing on various topics on science and religion. I’m particularly interested in the areas where they are compatible, where they do agree. This is not in any way an attempt to use science as proof or evidence of our faith because obviously it is a contradiction of terms, however, we can point to those pieces of evidence as support for it. Please feel free to indulge, as this is the maiden issue of this writing journey.
The Mystery of God’s Creation
One Saturday, I was assigned to do a lecture during our regular cross meeting, and I decided to touch on the mystery of God’s creation. The Catholic Catechism teaches us about the mystery of God’s creation in five different ways: God creates by wisdom and love; He creates out of nothing; He creates an ordered and good world; He transcends creation and is present to it; and He upholds and sustains creation. (Catholic Catechism 395-301, 317-320)
God creates by wisdom and love, if there’s one reason for our existence, it is because of God’s love for us, he created us because he wanted to share with us his being, wisdom and goodness. “For You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11). He created the world out of his love and wisdom, it is not a result of any necessity, nor chance, nor blind fate.
God creates out of nothing (ex nihilo). He showed his power by freely creating the universe not from any sort of divine substance but from nothing. An artist, for example myself, would create a painting out of a canvas and perhaps some oil paint. A sculptor would do so by sculpting models out of marble, clay, or from a big chunk of wood. But God is so powerful that he needs nothing to create this entire universe. And also, through the Holy Spirit, He could create pure heart by giving spiritual life to sinners.
God created an ordered and good world. His creation is ordered because he creates through wisdom: “You have arranged all things by measure and number and weight. “(Wis 11:20). God creation is good because it comes forth from His goodness. “And God saw that it was good…very good” (Gen 1:31). Take a look around, you can expect to see order and goodness than randomness and chaos because God made it good.
God transcends creation and is present in it. St. Agustine said, “God is higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self”. He is infinitely greater than all his works.
God upholds and sustains creation. He created us out of love, and he will not abandon us. He would guide us until and towards our final end, which is to be with Him, in His kingdom, eternally.
The interesting question perhaps we may ask ourselves is whether we can find agreement between religion and science on the ways the universe was created? Did the universe begin to exist, or has it been here existing eternally? Was there even an idea of a creation event postulated by science? Maybe we can try to examine these questions and see how science and religion could complement each other.
The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang theory is the rapid expansion of matter from a highly dense and hot state that marked the beginning of the universe. It has been the standard model and widely accepted theory by the scientific community since the beginning of the 20th century when it was predicted and elucidated by the Belgian physicist and Catholic priest George Lemaitre.
But before its discovery what did the scientists believe? In the beginning of the 20th century and mostly in the 19th, physicists, cosmologists, and astronomers presupposed that the universe has been in existence infinitely and eternally. This was the usual convention; the universe has been self-existent and self-organized.
However, in 1912, an American astronomer, Vesto Slipher made a surprising discovery. He observed that a light coming from what we know as nebula is emitting reddish color. This suggested that the light has longer wave form and that it is stretched. He concluded that these nebulae are moving farther away from the observer. However, during that time, our understanding of the universe is that these nebula structures are residing within our galaxy which is the Milkyway.
In 1920 Edwin Hubble, at Mt. Wilson while doing his own research on the red shift evidence, discovered that these nebular structures are actually outside of our galaxy through the Hubble space telescope. He observed that these galaxies are red shifted and are moving away from each other in every direction. This evidence suggests that the entire universe is expanding and is becoming bigger and bigger.
A classic illustration of this phenomena is comparing it to a balloon. Imagine your “Happy Birthday” greeting printed on the surface of the balloon in your party. And as you blow, it becomes bigger and bigger and continues to expand. The printed letters would move away from each other in different directions. As a result, this expansion would then create spaces between them. Imagine the spaces between H—-A—-P—P—-Y———-B…continue to expand as you blow the balloon. These letters in fact, are like the galaxies in our universe that continue to move away from each other as the universe continues to expand.
So, what does this expansion tell us? It is suggesting that in the forward direction of time, as these galaxies continue to move away from each other, the universe is getting bigger and bigger. Now if we imagine and extrapolate this event back in time, (like if we are pressing on the rewind button or maybe sliding back slowly the slider at the bottom of our YouTube player) the galaxies would move closer and closer back to each other at different point in the past until it reaches a point where space time matter and energy did not exist. This event suggested the mark of the beginning of the universe.
Another piece of evidence that strengthens the Big Bang Theory is the discovery of CMBR, or the cosmic microwave background radiation. Physicists calculated the temperature of the early state of the universe when it was highly dense and hot. Their calculation corresponds to the temperature of the radiation. These are left over radiation from the Big Bang.
Before Cable TV and Netflix, the CMBR used to fill our universe. When you change from one channel to another, the static that you see on the screen are actually remnants of the radiation from the Big Bang.
The Big Bang theory supported by the evidence of the red shift, the expansion, and the cosmic microwave background radiation, tells us that the universe has a beginning. This theory is consistent with the teaching of the Catholic Church. We know by faith that our universe has a beginning, and it was created by an all-powerful God. A piece of evidence to argue for a creator.
Universe from Nothing
Stephen Hawking in the 1960’s added an exciting development in theoretical physics that supported the Big Bang Theory even more by solving Einstein’s Field Equation. He explained that if the universe is getting smaller and smaller in the reverse direction of time, the matter of the universe becomes tightly compressed. And as it becomes denser, the curvature of the universe gets tighter and tighter. As you go back farther and farther, the matter will get infinitely compressed, the curvature will get infinitely tight, and at that point the laws of physics would break up which he calls the singularity. That singularity marks the beginning of time, not just time but of space corresponding to 0 spatial value. How much matter then can you put in a 0 space? Obviously, none.
This singularity theorem is consistent with the church teaching. God showed his power by creating our universe from nothing. We can therefore argue that the primary cause of the universe must be an all-powerful being that is uncaused and must transcend space, time, matter, and energy. This is because, as the church teaches us, God transcends His creation.
Finely Tuned Universe
The physical constants of the universe made it possible to permit intelligent life here on earth. If the distance between the sun and our planet, even just a hair thin closer to each other would be too hot to allow life. If farther away, even with just a tiny increment would make it too cold. If the earth rotates a little faster, we will lose our atmosphere, if it rotates a little slower, we will burn in the day and freeze at night. Those parameters have to be just right, and its accuracy is so mind-boggling. This is agreed by almost all physicists, cosmologists and astronomers regardless of worldview.
The theory however has a very strong theistic implications, who does the fine tuning? Does this prove there is God? It might be very difficult to claim that. But in the same way it must be preposterous to appeal to chance when you observe something so specified and accurate as what the physical constants exhibit.
In any case the fine tuning of the universe is consistent with the teaching of the church. That God exists, and He created a good and orderly universe, He arranged all things by measure, number, and weight.
Multiverse or God?
There’s overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang Theory and the Fine Tuning of the Universe. The idea that if the universe has a beginning, it should follow that it must have a cause. Because whatever begins to exist must have a cause. Matter cannot cause itself because it is non-existent prior to the beginning, and the universe came into being from nothing physical.
Let me give an illustration I got from the book Why we are Catholic, imagine in the creation of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg received a message from Facebook to create Facebook. This is not possible because he cannot receive a message from FB if it is non-existent yet. There must be a Mark Zuckerberg outside of Facebook to create it because it cannot create itself.
Interestingly, the Big Bang and the Fine-Tuning theory have a very strong theistic implications which gives emotional discomfort to most scientists, particularly those who have materialistic world view. Scientists were obliged to come up with an explanation of its origin. How are the parameters of the physical constants so accurate and finely tuned? What is the cause of these fine tuning? Who is the fine tuner?
By default, the conventional approach in science is to explain a phenomenon through a materialistic process. The difficulty in explaining the beginning is the absence of matter. How can anyone come up with a materialistic explanation of the beginning if matter is nonexistent? Now to avoid the difficulty of explaining having a fine tuner or a creator, what these scientists did ironically, is to resort to proposing a metaphysical and undetectable multiverse. Scientists suggested that there may be hundreds or trillions of universes outside of ours. In other words, they again appeal to chance. And because there are many other universes, ours is nothing special, merely just a product of chance. It just so happens that we are the lucky ones, ours is the only one capable of hosting life. We just happened to win the cosmic lottery.
However, at this point, it might be very difficult to disprove the existence of other universe, nevertheless the Multiverse is a metaphysical hypothesis, because it cannot be observed and at the same time believed to have its own laws of physics which we cannot access. The hypothesis doesn’t have any strong evidence to support it, a hypothesis to avoid God, but all the same speculative. Now do we have any good reason to believe it? With the two competing metaphysical explanations on the origin of the universe, which one is more adequate, a Multiverse or God?
Today the multiverse hypothesis is widely popularized by some celebrity scientists like Lawrence Krauss, who is a self-confessed militant atheist among many others. It has recently surfaced our popular culture.
The reason why I chose the topic is that after watching the movie Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness by Marvel, I realized that it might be a good idea to discuss where all this madness is coming from. Obviously how it penetrated popular culture, film, comics, video games etc. Another interesting movie in a multiverse setting is Spiderman No Way Home also by Marvel, but for now we will focus on Dr. Strange.
Later, we will try to see how the concept of multiverse plays within the Mystery of God’s Creation.
In Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, he was able to meet the different versions of himself in different multiverses. In one universe, he was surprised to find out that he was the villain. In another one, he found himself holding the forbidden book and was doing an old occult practice, he witnessed the worst version of him being the evilest in that universe, a universe that is about to face destruction.
Then there’s one version of him who already died and with the power that he acquired from the forbidden book from another universe, he was able to possess his dead self, bringing it back to life. Literally his own corpse that is being animated by his soul from the other side of the universe through what they call sleep walking. Sounds complicated right? Well the purpose is not to make a film review but rather to illustrate how it’s like if the concept of multiverse is actually real. Quite complicated.
What could be the problems and implications of this concept, especially when it comes to our faith? Of course, movies about the multiverse are meant to entertain, but at the same time multiverse is also a scientific hypothesis that many people believe. We may find ourselves being confused as to where and how to draw the line between fiction and reality.
The synopsis of the movie I illustrated above presented several problems in our existence. In the bible, we were told that we only live once and after that comes judgement. If we believe in the possibility that we live multiple lives, which one then is to be judged given the different lives of our multiple self? We may be persuaded to live a wicked life here in our universe on the false belief that our other version might find salvation in another.
In my intro I mentioned about faith being more than enough to believe that we are created because of God’s love. And that he wants to share his greatness with us. However, as a guard on duty, a christian is expected to be always ready for combat on times our faith is being put to test.
It may be very difficult to prove that God exists and that He is the cause of all these, however we can reasonably point to the different pieces of evidence to argue for His existence. It is the same way as saying, as the mathematician John Lennox puts it “I can never prove that my wife really loves me, the reason is because I don’t have access to her feelings, but I may however point to the different pieces of evidence of that love to argue for it.”
God created us in his image, and we share with him his rationality. Science is founded on the idea that God made all things rationally intelligible, and that we can understand nature using systematic methods as what the founders of modern science like Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, and Johanes Keppler believed. So, even science can not do away with a God.