According to Hawking, “... multiple universes arise naturally from physical law.” Perhaps. But where does physical law come from? If the answer is “Physical law is eternal, self-existent and all-encompassing,” isn’t that just a way of saying that physical law is God?
Has the universe been getting bigger lately, or has God gotten smaller?
Christianity Today quotes the physicist Gerald Cleaver, from Baylor University, saying, “Creation is more vast than we’ve ever understood. We ... have gone through stages, understanding reality to be much larger than it was before.”
Scientists have long sought a theory that would unify the four forces of nature: the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, gravity and electro-magnetism. That search led to a hypothesis dubbed the “string theory” in the 1970s.
String theory represented nuclear forces as one-dimensional “strings” that vibrate at different resonances, producing the fundamental particles that make up the physical universe.
But for string theory to make sense mathematically, the universe must exist in more dimensions than we can perceive. The latest descendant of string theory, M-theory, calls for an 11th dimension that reveals objects called “membranes” (or “branes” for short).
Locked into our three-dimensional perceptions, we cannot detect branes, which may come in the form of tiny, one-dimensional objects or may be as large as our universe. In fact, some theorists believe our vast universe is a brane inside a much more expansive “multiverse.”
If they’re right, our universe — all 156 billion light years of it — is, as Trevor Persaud of Christianity Today puts it, “just a ‘bubble’ on an ocean of existence.” Our universe may be, according to theorists, just one of an inconceivable number and variety of universes.
In the light of such research, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have written, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God.”
Richard Dawkins, the Oxford biologist, follows the same line of reasoning from a different discipline. He writes, “Evolution leaves God with nothing to do.” Dawkins, however, goes further and writes, “God is not dead. He was never alive in the first place.”
These scientists and others like them seem to assume that because they have discovered — though putting it that way is premature — one of the mechanisms of creation, there is no need for a mechanic.
But isn’t that like saying because we know how the printing press works and understand the mechanics of mass distribution, it is not necessary to invoke newspaper reporters?
According to Hawking, “... multiple universes arise naturally from physical law.” Perhaps. But where does physical law come from? If the answer is “Physical law is eternal, self-existent and all-encompassing,” isn’t that just a way of saying that physical law is God? One is merely substituting the God revealed in the Bible for a god revealed in the physicist’s equations.
Some people believe that science has given us the incredible shrinking God. Religious people with this view fight against every new theory that might displace God, while the irreligious hope He disappears altogether. It seems to me that both are equally mistaken.
If continued scientific investigation supports the existence of a multiverse filled with universes in the way our bodies are filled with cells, each one unique, the theist will nod approvingly. That is just what he or she would expect from the God who “founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the Heavens by his understanding.”
Christians believe in a God who is a creative genius. The Heavens are the work of his fingers, we are told, and his fingers are lightning fast. When he picks up his 11-stringed instrument and begins to play, worlds appear. His fingers fly across the vibrating strings and universes spring into being. Then the choir joins in — “the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” — and what can we do, but applaud?
Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church in Michigan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears each Saturday.