THE ORIGIN OF THE WORLD -BY CHANCE OR DESIGN? [c. 1958]

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Excerpted from The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, edited by John Clover Monsma. New York: G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1958

*By Frank Allen, Biophysicist

MA. and Ph.D., Cornell University; Professor of biophysics, University of Manitoba, Canada, 1904-1944; specialist in color vision, physiological optics, liquid air production, glan­dular mutations. Recipient of Tory Gold Medal, Royal Society of Canada.

It has often been made to appear that the material universe has not needed a Creator. It is undeniable, how­ever, that the universe exists. Four solutions of its origin may be proposed: first, that it is an illusion—contrary to the preceding statement; second, that it spontaneously arose out of nothing; third, that it had no origin but has existed eternally; fourth, that it was created.

The first proposed solution asserts that there is no problem to solve except the metaphysical one of human conscious­ness, which has occasionally itself been considered an il­lusion! The hypothesis of illusion has been lately revived in physical science by Sir James Jeans who states that from the concepts of modern physics “the universe cannot admit of material representation, and the reason, I think, is that it has become a mere mental concept.” Accordingly, one may say that illusory trains apparently filled with imaginary passengers cross unreal rivers on immaterial bridges formed of mental concepts!

The second concept, that the world of matter and energy arose of itself out of nothing, is likewise too absurd a sup­position for any consideration.

The third concept, that the universe existed eternally, has one element in common with the concept of creation: either inanimate matter with its incorporated energy, or a Personal Creator, is eternal. No greater intellectual difficulty exists in the one concept than in the other. But the laws of thermo­dynamics (heat) indicate that the universe is running down to a condition when all bodies will be at the same extremely low temperature and no energy will be available. Life would then be impossible. In infinite time this state of entropy would already have happened. The hot sun and stars, the earth with its wealth of life, are complete evidence that the origin of the universe has occurred in time, at a fixed point of time, and therefore the universe must have been created. A great First Cause, an eternal, all-knowing and all-powerful Creator must exist, and the universe is His handi­work.

The adjustments of the earth for life are far too numerous to be accounted for by chance. First, the earth is a sphere freely poised in space (“He hangeth the earth upon nothing” —Job 26: 7), in daily rotation on its polar axis, giving the alternation of day and night, and in yearly revolution around the sun. These motions give stability to its orientation in space, and, coupled with the inclination (23 degrees) of the polar axis to the plane of its revolution (the ecliptic), affords regularity to the seasons, thus doubling the habitable area of the earth and providing a greater diversity of plant life than a stationary globe could sustain.

Secondly, the atmosphere of life-supporting gases is suffi­ciently high (about 500 miles) and dense to blanket the earth against the deadly impact of twenty million meteors that daily enter it at speeds of about thirty miles per second. Among many other functions the atmosphere also maintains the temperature within safe limits for life; and carries the vital supply of fresh water-vapor far inland from the oceans to irrigate the earth, without which it would become a life­less desert. Thus the oceans, with the atmosphere, are the balance-wheel of Nature.

Four remarkable properties of water, its power of absorb­ing vast quantities of oxygen at low temperatures, its maxi­mum density at 4 degrees C. above freezing whereby lakes and rivers remain liquid, the lesser density of ice than water so that it remains on the surface, and the power of releasing great quantities of heat as it freezes, preserve life in oceans, lakes and rivers throughout the long winters.

The dry land is a stable platform for much terrestrial life. The soil provides the minerals which plant life assimilates and transforms into needful foods for animals. The presence of metals near the surface renders the arts of civilization possible. Surely Isaiah is right (45: 18 R.S.V.) in saying of God: “He did not make it a chaos; He formed it to be in­habited.”

The diminutive size of the earth compared with the im­mensity of space is sometimes disparagingly referred to. If the earth were as small as the moon, if one-fourth its present diameter, the force of gravity (one-sixth that of the earth) would fail to hold both atmosphere and water, and tempera­tures would be fatally extreme. If double its present diameter, the enlarged earth would have four times its present surface and twice its force of gravity, the atmosphere would be dangerously reduced in height, and its pressure would be increased from 15 to 30 pounds per square inch, with seri­ous repercussions upon life. The winter areas would be greatly increased and the regions of habitability would be seriously diminished. Communities of people would be iso­lated, travel and communication rendered difficult or almost impossible.

If our earth were of the size of the sun, but retaining its density, gravity would be 150 times as great, the atmosphere diminished to about four miles in height, evaporation of water rendered impossible, and pressures increased to over a ton per square inch. A one-pound animal would weigh 150 pounds, and human beings reduced in size to that of, say, a squirrel. Intellectual life would be impossible to such creatures.

If the earth were removed to double its present distance from the sun, the heat received would be reduced to one-fourth its present amount, the orbital velocity would be only one-half, the winter season would be doubled in length and life would be frozen out. If its solar distance were halved, the heat received would be four times as great, the orbital velocity would be doubled, seasons would be halved in length, if changes could even be effected, and the planet would be too parched to sustain life. In size and distance from the sun, and in orbital velocity, the earth is able to sustain life, so that mankind can enjoy physical, intellectual and spiritual life as it now prevails.

If in the origin of life there was no design, then living matter must have arisen by chance. Now chance, or proba­bility as it is termed, is a highly developed mathematical theory which applies to that vast range of objects of knowl­edge that are beyond absolute certainty. This theory puts us in possession of the soundest principles on which to discrimi­nate truth from error, and to calculate the likelihood of the occurrence of any particular form of an event.

Proteins are the essential constituents of all living cells, and they consist of the five elements, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and sulphur, with possibly 40,000 atoms in the ponderous molecule. As there are 92 chemical elements in Nature, all distributed at random, the chance that these five elements may come together to form the molecule, the quantity of matter that must be continually shaken up, and the length of time necessary to finish the task, can all be calculated. A Swiss mathematician,” Charles Eugene Guye, has made the computation and finds that the odds against such an occurrence are io160 to 1, or only one chance in 10160, that is 10 multiplied by itself 160 times, a number far too large to be expressed in words. The amount of matter to be shaken together to produce a single molecule of pro­tein would be millions of times greater than that in the whole universe. For it to occur on the earth alone would require many, almost endless billions (io248) of years.

Proteins are made from long chains called amino acids. The way those are put together matters enormously. If in the wrong way they will not sustain life and may be poisons. Professor J. B. Leathes (England) has calculated that the links in the chain of quite a simple protein could be put together in millions of ways (io48). It is impossible for all these chances to have coincided to build one molecule of protein.

But proteins as chemicals are without life. It is only when the mysterious life comes into them that they live. Only Infinite Mind, that is God, could have foreseen that such a molecule could be the abode of life, could have constructed it, and made it live.

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