Origins of the Universe

Can science prove or disprove the existence of God? Has the origin of creation without a creator come to be settled science? Are these questions knowable, even by the brightest minds in the world? Yes, sort of, is the basic answer…

Except for the question of ‘settled science,’ because it’s not settled and if anything, keeps advancing toward an undeniable conclusion that a creator was behind creation.

So says, more or less, Fr. Robert Spitzer, Jesuit philosopher, educator, author and executive producer of Cosmic Origins, a fascinating new film that explores modern scientific theories about how the universe came to be. Spitzer was my guest on radio Friday for a compelling hour.

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He said the eight scientists featured in the film based their dialogue around the fundamental question ‘What is the evidence for God from physics?’ The answer is plenty, so  much in fact, that “today there’s more evidence than you can possible imagine,” he stated. Then he added “Stephen Hawking kind of left them all out.”

He said scientific atheism is not scientific at all. And agnosticism can come from honest naturalism, and kind of stay there. “They won’t move to a supernatural explanation unless they’ve exhausted every other natural explanation,” he explained, and of course they’ll never be able to do that.

But a most interesting thing happened at Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday party last January as assembled guests celebrated and conversed. Spitzer pointed to Lisa Grossman’s article in New Scientist to elaborate, but you need a subscription for more than the preview. Here’s more:

You could call them the worst birthday presents ever. At the meeting of minds convened last week to honour Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday — loftily titled “State of the Universe” — two bold proposals posed serious threats to our existing understanding of the cosmos.

One shows that a problematic object called a naked singularity is a lot more likely to exist than previously assumed (see “Naked black-hole hearts live in the fifth dimension”). The other suggests that the universe is not eternal, resurrecting the thorny question of how to kick-start the cosmos without the hand of a supernatural creator.

While many of us may be OK with the idea of the big bang simply starting everything, physicists, including Hawking, tend to shy away from cosmic genesis. “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God,” Hawking told the meeting, at the University of Cambridge, in a pre-recorded speech.

For a while it looked like it might be possible to dodge this problem, by relying on models such as an eternally inflating or cyclic universe, both of which seemed to continue infinitely in the past as well as the future. Perhaps surprisingly, these were also both compatible with the big bang, the idea that the universe most likely burst forth from an extremely dense, hot state about 13.7 billion years ago.

However, as cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston explained last week, that hope has been gradually fading and may now be dead. He showed that all these theories still demand a beginning.

A call came in from a listener in the Batavia, Illinois community near Fermilab, who asked for good resources so he could better understand the topic and engage the debate with local scientists hard-set in their elimination of God from the creation and evolution equation.

Grossman’s article was the first resource Spitzer pointed to. I’m happy to direct folks to his book as well, New Proofs for the Existence of God, in which he presents peer-review physics studies, “string theory, quantum cosmology, mathematical thoughts on infinity” and more, in an easily digestible collection of evidence. Spitzer, founder and president of the Magis Institute, also highly recommends Stephen Barr’s Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, reviewed here in First Things.

Barr begins his book by pointing out that the methods and discoveries of modern physics can and must be separated from the philosophical doctrine of materialism, which so often serves as a dogmatic and, as Barr goes on to show with great power and effectiveness, unsubstantiated faith among physicists.

Seems to me that’s a very important note, “unsubstantiated faith among physicists” who willfully hold to their beliefs in spite of growing evidence that counters or at least questions them.

According to Barr, it was never obvious that physics implied or presupposed a materialistic view of the universe, but the existence of such a connection has been rendered downright implausible by a series of developments in twentieth-century physics. In a series of lucid chapters, Barr addresses the question of whether the universe had a beginning, looks at the issue of whether the universe exhibits any evidence of design or purpose, and examines what contemporary physics (and mathematics) has to say about the nature of human beings—specifically on the question of whether our behavior is determined by physical laws and whether we have an immaterial nature. At each point, Barr shows that “recent discoveries have begun to confound the materialist’s expectations and confirm those of the believer in God.”

Alas, it will continue. But with a fascinating compilation of new data all the time adding to the pool of scientific evidence. Last week the headlines touted the discovery of the ‘God particle,’ which Spitzer explained has nothing to do with God but everything to do with marketing. The New York Times explains more here.

Cool stuff, but the coolest of all is the fullest possible exploration of available evidence in the world at the moment. When you’re open to that, you’re open to everything, God and all.

This article was originally published on under a Creative Commons Licence.

  • Sheila Gribben Liaugminas

    Sheila Gribbens Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago journalist with extensive experience in both secular and religious journalism. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of the Church, faith, culture, politics and the media. For more than twenty years she reported for Time magazine out of the Midwest Bureau in Chicago—and at WMAQ-TV, Chicago’s NBC-owned station, she was co-host of the program ‘YOU’. She has hosted three radio programs, “The Right Questions” and “Issues & Answers” for Relevant Radio, and “America’s Lifeline” on the Salem network. Sheila currently is the Host of “A Closer Look”, an hour long news analysis program on Relevant Radio and serves as the Network News Director. She can be heard reading the Sunday Gospel and doing narratives on in the English edition. She has been published in the Chicago Tribune, Crisis Magazine, National Catholic Register, Catholic New World, MercatorNet and the National Review Online.

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