Why the Universe?

Mankind has always asked “Why?”.  Why indeed?  Through one simple three-letter word we have asked questions of the stars, unearthed secrets of our planet, harnessed the power of nature, developed technology, and explored the deepest depths of the oceans.  The word “WHY” has fueled the engine of human exploration, discovery, and advancement for thousands of years.  We know almost all there is to know about our planet and are well-versed in the workings of the universe (though our knowledge be vastly incomplete), but one “why” has eluded us since the dawn of time.  Why does the universe exist?

I’m sure you’ve heard a story of someone in college who, when asked on their biology final the simple question, “Why” wrote “Because” and received full marks.  Whilst that answer might have sufficed for the purposes of the freshman Biology course it is a supremely inadequate answer.  It is an extremely disappointing answer to say the least.  We learn of this answer’s disappointment from a very early age.  When a child asks why he can’t have ice cream for dinner the parent responds, “Because.”  “Why?” asks the child.  “Because I’m your father and I said so”  in order to avoid having to embark upon a futile dissertation on why ice cream is not healthy and dinner is.  However, the child is always disappointed because their question was not adequately answered (in their mind).

As humans we are driven and we feel compelled to understand the nature of things around us.  Why does the sun move across the sky?  Why does the moon go through phases?  Why does everything stick to the surface of the Earth instead of floating away into space?  Why does it get cold in the winter and hot in the summer?  Through the simple word “why” we have developed science which is nothing more than the art of asking “why?”  We are curious beings and a cop-out answer of “because” simply won’t suffice.  We seek the truth and nothing less.

The science of seeking the answer to why the universe exists is known as Cosmology.  The popular belief among today’s cosmologists seems to be that the universe exists because of a cosmic dice game.  Conditions for the universe existing are just right because the dice fell the correct way.  On a traditional die there are six outcomes so the die is a cube.  In the case of the universe, the dice used would have so many sides that it would almost be spherical with the probability of the current outcome being rolled is almost infinitely small.  This has led to the exploration of a theory of the multiverse.  Are there more than one universes?  Are there an infinite amount of universes existing simultaneously?  If so then that would greatly increase the chances of our universe being the way it is more realistic.  Are we really just the result of chance?  Is the complexity of our bodies, the planet, the stars, and galaxies really just by accident and random?  If so, then the universe is a dreadfully bleak and meaningless object.  My life has no purpose and neither does yours.  The Milky Way galaxy is here, but it could not have been here, or there, or anywhere at all.  If the power to exist is derived from the sums of all its parts probabilities of existing then it would seem that we’re just multiplying by 1/∞.

Just a game of dice? Who's playing? Credit: G.E. Ely

We all know you can’t divide by infinity.  It could be true that the probability of anything existing is the sum of all it’s parts existing, but for this to be possible you would need a finite probability for each component.  One way of rationalizing this would be to assume that the universe was created on purpose.  There are simply way to many components that influence the existence of any one object that to quantify them would always create a denominator so large, the resulting probability is infinitely small.  So for me, chance is out right.  There has to be some purpose and order to it all.

I am neither a cosmologist nor a scientist.  I am simply a layman who is taking what he sees and using it to make sense of the world.  As John Milton says in Paradise Lost, “We see things not as they are, but as we are.”  It is impossible for us to make truly objective conclusions about anything because we always see things and approach things based on personal opinion, experiences, and perceptions.  The trouble with the cosmic dice game explanation of the universe is that those scientists have always had a perception of the universe being random and chaotic and harsh and will see only the evidence that supports their perceptions.  If only there was a source of knowledge that came from outside a human mind not subjected to false perception or bias then we could accept that as pure truth.  Could this be the same external force that exists outside of human knowledge and mathematics that created the universe on purpose?  Could there be a designer who’s knowledge and power caused all things to be?  My belief tells me that there indeed is.  There is a Creator who exists outside of human existence in whom all creation finds its source.

Apart from my personal beliefs, the notion of a creator is not as completely crazy as it sounds.  If you think about how marvelously fine-tuned the universe is and how everything works together in complete harmony it seems almost ridiculous to think that the order of the universe evolved from chaos by chance.  If say, the gravitational constant was less than it is stars would not be able to hold their elements inside where more complex and heavier elements are created there would be nothing in the universe except hydrogen and helium and nothing worth note could have formed from those lightest of elements.  Similarly, if the gravitational constant were larger then even the smallest of stars would explode into supernovae and black holes would ravage much of the known universe.  Planets would almost never form and galaxies would look very different.  Just in the case of gravity alone there seems to be evidence that a creator fine-tuned the knobs and locked them in place to the perfect setting.

This could easily turn into a 5,000 word essay but I will conclude here.  I believe there is simply too much detail and evidence of fine-tuning to believe that it all happened as a result of chance.  There has to be some kind of intelligence behind it.  The mathematical laws of the universe suggest this.  Math is beautiful and it binds the universe together.  Could we even have math to explain something that is infinitely random?  We study probability but balk at the thought of infinity.  So what if infinite probability is not even a part of the equation?  What if the probability was 1?  That certainly seems possible if there is a creator.

About Tim

My name is Tim Phelan. I am a nerd, amateur astronomer, sports nut, and follower of Jesus. I live in Baltimore, MD where the skies are oh so polluted with light. This is Ravens Country, Birdland, and the City that Reads, or whatever. Follow me on acrosstheuniverseinnotime.com and tphelan.wordpress.com

Posted on March 12, 2012, in Academic, Cosmology, Faith and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. …..If you think about how marvelously fine-tuned the universe is and how everything works together in complete harmony it seems almost ridiculous to think that the order of the universe evolved from chaos by chance…..

    You find it ridiculous to think the universe was created by chance, but I cannot believe there is a Creator behind it. Because that would mean there are limits. A limited Watchmaker behind his limited Watch. The idea of God working in a laboratory to create the physical and chemical conditions required for the existence of millions of galaxies, one of them containing the mighty Human World? Even if such a Supreme being existed, do you really think he would be busy about our blood vessels, our eyesight, our mistakes? This is a human concept, I find it so poor, so provincial and so predetermined, that I would rather not know it.

    I do not imagine limits, I want to know what there is beyond what we are able to “see” to-day, 46 billion light years away. And I don’t expect to find a Creator there, because than I would have crossed a border which I think does not exist. In other words, I prefer to face the mysteries that I know will not be solved, and enjoy them. That is why I live, that’s what life’s about.
    If we would be given the “answer”, we wouldn’t grasp it either.



    • I get what you’re saying. The human mind simply cannot comprehend infinities. I’ll admit that I have trouble grasping the infinite nature of God as described in the Bible. Not only will God always exist for infinity in the future, He has also always existed from infinity past. My mind simply cannot understand what that means or how that’s possible because my mind is finite. It’s just something that I have to take on faith because I believe everything else it says about God.

      That’s not very convincing if you don’t have that kind of faith to begin with but it’s kind of like a black hole. We base our understanding of the universe on Einstein’s theory of General Relativity. It beautifully describes all the phenomena we see out there in the universe…except black holes. Einstein’s theory breaks down inside of a black hole. The point called the Singularity, when gravity is infinitely strong and whatever is being sucked inside is infinitely dense and moving infinitely fast is where all our understanding of physics ends. Einstein’s own theory suggests this happens, but it is physically impossible by our understanding to have something infinitely dense and infinitely curved spacetime and moving infinitely faster than the speed of light.

      Unfortunately we’ll never be able to observe the singularity point of a black hole because light cannot escape from it. Until we figure out the missing piece of this puzzle (if we ever do) we just have to take a leap of faith and assume that stuff that goes into a black hole is destroyed (which violates another fundamental law of physics). The way I see it, infinities do exist. Although we can’t comprehend infinity our best physicists’ theories and equations say that they do exist.

      I don’t think that science will ever prove the existence of God but I think we all need to take stuff on faith. In my humble opinion, as someone who believes in God, I look up at the stars and say “Wow! Isaiah 40 says that God made each one of those stars and knows them by name! But yet He loves me enough to care about me and sustain my life which would seem extremely insignificant compared to something like Eta Carinae.” Something that was created on purpose always has more beauty and splendor than something created by chance. The difference is the fact that the creator intended for people to be impressed and amazed. Michelangelo never just picked up a brush and said “I’m just gonna slap my brush up against this canvas a bunch of times and see what happens…hey that looks like God touching fingers with Adam! I’ll put that on the Sistine Chapel ceiling!” He set out with a goal of creating a grand and marvelous work of art to adorn the most prestigious building on the planet at the time.

      Anyway that’s the way I see it. Thanks for the comment. Most people straight up go to attack mode when God is brought up and go for character assassination.

  2. “I do not understand something. Therefore….God.”

    Weak. But it is actually worse than that:

    “I do not understand something. Therefore the answer is probably found at the Grace Community Church in Kingsville, MD.”

    I do not find this form of reasoning to be very convincing. Have the courage to admit that a mystery is mysterious. Do not try to resolve it by pointing at your local tribal god. It did not work for the followers of Zeus/Athena/…, Odin/Thor/… or Ra/Amun/Isis and neither will it for the followers of the Jesus/Yaweh/Holy Spirit/Mary/Angel Gabriel pantheon.

    Religions come and go. The mystery remains. I am skeptical that scientist will solve it in my lifetime. But at least they are trying a new approach and not the same-old, same-old. Abrahamic religion has has thousands of years to give is insight into the origin of the universe and it has not just failed, but mislead us. Dramatically.

    • I understand you that you need to agree with me that a God truly does exist in order to agree with what I’m saying (that’s why I didn’t post it on Reddit). I think that most of the universe is one giant mystery. Saying that God is the explanation for all that I don’t understand is a rather lame explanation and I would put it under the same category as “because”. But my heart tells me that God is real and that He is the creator and that all things have their source in Him.

      The Christian faith calls everyone to have a personal relationship with God and that combined with the Word of God is the means through which we seek to understand the mind of God, and by extension, the world we live in.

      I don’t want to debate the existence of God on this site because I’m set in my belief and I assume you are as well. Rather, I just try to offer another way of thinking that’s different from the norm by combining science and faith which I believe aren’t enemies, but rather siblings in the family of human experience.

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