Right Angles column: Laws of physics suggest universe had a Creator
The 2014 film “Interstellar,” starring Matthew McConaughey, is a mind-bending story. A primary focus is a black hole and variability of the space-time continuum.
Last month, scientists with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announced the detection of gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes. This is new evidence that bolsters the theory that the universe had a distinct beginning that transcended space-time. In effect, physical science suggests a Creator consistent with Christian theology exists outside the realm of time and space.
In the film, McConaughey’s character, Cooper, travels to a supermassive black hole called Gargantua that lies 10 billion light-years from Earth. Cooper and his companions visit planets orbiting Gargantua that are subject to intense gravity that disrupts local space-time. As a result, the passage of time for Cooper slows to a fraction of the rate experienced by those on Earth. A mere hour on one of these planets equates to seven years back home as their mission goes awry.
“Interstellar” is largely based on actual physics, specifically relativity. Einstein’s theory of “special relativity” says that the laws of physics are constant. It also defines space with three dimensions, and the fourth dimension of time, interwoven into a single continuum called space-time. Einstein’s theory of “general relativity” predicts that massive objects cause distortions in space-time fabric. Time “dilates,” passing at variable rates depending on gravitational forces and speed of travel.
Massive objects warp space-time, much like a bowling ball causes a depression on the surface of a trampoline. A marble rolling around the depression would spiral into a collision with the bowling ball, similar to an object in space pulled toward a large object. Incredibly violent events, like the collision of two supermassive black holes, cause gravitational ripples in that trampoline-like space-time fabric. The detection of gravitational waves by LIGO is new confirmation that the laws of physics are constant, as predicted by relativity.
While physics is constant, the universe is incredibly dynamic. In recent decades, astronomers have measured the universe expanding. It’s like an impossibly huge firework exploding across the sky on the Fourth of July. But the expansion rate of the universe is actually accelerating. In 16 billion years or so, distances between individual galaxies will be increasing at a rate that exceeds the speed of light. Ultimately, light emitted from a particular galaxy will not be visible to any other galaxy as the universe disperses into the bulk of space.
Meanwhile, the Hubble telescope has found the most distant galaxy yet discovered. The light detected by Hubble traveled toward us for more than 13 billion light-years. This galaxy is seen as it appeared an estimated 500 million years after the beginning of the universe. Astronomers have used such finds to affirm the “big bang” model of creation.
Scientific evidence increasingly points to a “cause” to the creation of the universe that is supportive of Christian biblical beliefs. Gravitational waves show the laws of physics are constant, which is consistent with a Creator who is constant and reliable. The Bible describes creation as dynamic and undergoing decay since the fall of man. This is borne out by the universe expanding and casting its elements into darkness.
Most notable, scientists conclude that some transcendent and cataclysmic event (e.g. a big bang) appears to have created space, time, matter and energy from nothing. This implies that some creative power exists outside the continuum of space-time.
Cooper and his fellow interstellar explorers are powerless against the profound nature of space-time during their sojourn. Like all of us, the astronauts have little control over their ultimate destiny. They are at the mercy of forces infinitely larger than a human being. Are these the forces of a universe governed by the laws of physics or a universe governed by an omnipresent God?
The fact is, scientific evidence will never prove or disprove the presence of a Creator. The existence of God may very well be the best answer implied by science, but a person will always need to choose to believe.
Humans have an innate nature to butt their heads against unsolvable problems, desperate to know how we fit into the puzzle. With faith in God, a person can stop chasing elusive answers and rest assured that he or she has a place in a divine plan. You don’t need a Ph.D. in physics for that.
James D. Kellogg is an engineering consultant and the author of “Radical Action: A Colt Kelley Thriller”. Look for the novel on amazon.com and visit JamesDKellogg.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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