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"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable,  and perfect, will of God."   -Romans 12:2

What Are the Odds of Life and the
Universe Forming if God Does Not Exist

A look at the mathematical odds of abiogenesis, biopoesis, and our universe forming by chance. In light of these odds, is theism or naturalism the best explanation for our existence?

A condensation of some of the chapters in the author's book, God vs. Chance.

by Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin

Do you owe your existence to God or to blind chance? How you choose to answer this question will be one of the most pivotal decisions of your life. A very sensible way to approach it would be to try to determine, "Which of these two alternatives is the most probable explanation?"

The philosophy that there is no God and that the entire universe, including the life within it, was formed by natural processes, is called metaphysical naturalism (MN). If metaphysical naturalists are correct, and there is no God who created life, the first cell had to come into existence through chemical processes. This idea is called abiogenesis (life arising from non-life).

Abiogenesis, if it ever actually happened, would have been an extremely rare exception - perhaps the only exception ever to have occurred in our universe - to the law of biogenesis made famous by Louis Pasteur. This is simply the observation that "living things come only from other living things."

According to Webster’s dictionary, a law is "a statement of an order or relation of phenomena that so far as is known is invariable under the given conditions." Biogenesis has traditionally been considered to be a law of biology because life has always only been observed coming from previously existing life.

Abiogenesis, on the other hand, has never been observed happening. It is an unproven hypothesis, as is acknowledged by all honest and informed metaphysical naturalists.

What My Math Professor Was Afraid to Say

One of my college math professors was a brilliant man whose chalk danced across the blackboard so quickly, that his students often had to ask him to slow down. I took a course under him entitled "Finite Math." It turned out to be one of the most beneficial courses I took in college, especially since it included logic, the nature of logical fallacies, and how to calculate probabilities. After our professor taught us how to calculate probabilities, I privately inquired of him after class to learn what he thought the odds of abiogenesis might have been.

He thought abiogenesis to have been highly improbable, but said that if he were to ever publish such a conclusion, he would be subject to ostracism by his colleagues. That was over 25 years ago, and believe it or not, he taught at a Christian college. The academic environment is even less tolerant of dissent from metaphysical naturalism today, even in most Christian universities. In recent years, some public high school biology teachers who have dared to call it into question have been dismissed from their jobs. As a result, very few students have ever heard the other side of the story in school.

But when an issue is this important, shouldn't students have the chance to hear the things my math professor was afraid to say? If abiogenesis really is highly improbable, is it right to withhold this information from them? Let’s examine whether or not that is the case, by using the very same methods of calculating probability that my professor taught us in that class.

The Simplest Conceivable Evolvable Self-Replicator (SCESR)

Even the simplest form of free-living life that we know of, Pelagibacter ubique, is incredibly complex. Although this single-celled organism has the smallest known genome of any free-living organism, it still has 1,308,759 base pairs of DNA! 1 Because its genome is only one of its many components, the odds of this organism forming spontaneously are so low as to be virtually impossible.

Because of the complexity of even the simplest free-living organisms, scientists who are metaphysical naturalists speculate that abiogenesis must have happened by means of a simple, non-living replicator gradually evolving into life. This idea is known as biopoesis (From bio, meaning "life," and poieo, meaning "to make").

What qualities must this hypothetical replicator have had? For one thing, it must have been evolvable. It also must have produced many intermediate forms of increasing complexity as it evolved into a single-celled form of life. However, there is not a shred of evidence that anything like it ever existed on earth. Nor has evidence of any intermediates between such a simple replicator and life ever been found.

In lectures delivered in 1948 and 1949, as a "thought experiment," the mathematician John Von Neumann developed a conceptual model of a "kinematic self-replicating machine" that in many ways was amazingly predictive of the molecular machinery later to be found in cells. To simply summarize Von Neumann’s ideas, he hypothesized that such a self-replicator must have:

    1. A reservoir or "sea" of readily available parts.
    2. A memory "tape" that stores instructions for assembling a copy of itself.
    3. A manipulator or "constructor" that follows the instructions on the tape to assemble a copy of itself, and then copies its contents onto the duplicate’s tape.
    4. In addition to its mechanical elements, it would also need some structural components, and at least four logic elements to send and receive stimuli. 2

In 1961 the information scientist Marcel Golay estimated what he believed to be the minimum amount of structure or information that a self-replicator like this must have. But before I share his conclusion with you, it will be helpful for you to know that information scientists such as Golay like to measure information content by using a very convenient unit called the bit. A bit is simply the correct choice needed between two equally likely alternatives, in order to accurately construct a message or something orderly, functional, or meaningful.

Here are a couple of illustrations to help you to understand how the bit is used to measure information. Suppose that an entrepreneurial farmer made a corn maze. In this particular maze, there were many left turns available, and many right turns available, but no places, except at the end of hallways, where you could turn either left or right. Because of this, each time you came to a turn in his maze, you had one of two choices to make. To help a friend of his get through the maze as quickly as possible and thereby impress a beautiful date with his supposed brilliance, the farmer gave his friend a tiny cheat sheet. The cheat sheet contained the code: "LLRLRRRL". This code told the farmer’s friend what to do each time he came to a turn, by using the following two symbols:

L= Turn left, or if there is only a right turn available, continue to go straight.
R=Turn right, or if there is only a left turn available, continue to go straight.

How much information is in this code? Exactly eight bits of information, because the correct choice between two equal alternatives must be made eight times. This can be written out as ½ x ½ x ½ x ½ x½ x ½ x ½ x ½, or (½)8.

Interestingly, this number also represents the chances of someone randomly guessing his or her way out of the maze correctly on the first try. On average, only one out of 256 visitors to the corn maze will make it out on the first try, because (½)8=1/256.

This means that the bit is not only useful as a means of measuring information content, but is also useful for determining the odds of correct information being randomly selected or assembled.

Likewise, suppose that I am giving you directions to my office. There are eight buildings in my office park, numbered 1 - 8, and eight suites in each building, labeled A-H. I tell you to go to suite 3C. How many bits of information have I given you? I have given you the correct choice out of 64 possible office suites. That equals exactly six bits of information, because ½ x ½ x ½ x ½ x ½ x ½=1/64. If you were to forget my suite number, and tried to take a guess at finding it, your chances of finding my office on the first try are only 1 in 64.

With that in mind, let’s read what Golay had to say:

"Suppose we wanted to build a machine capable of reaching into bins for all its parts, and capable of assembling from these parts a second machine just like itself. What is the minimum amount of structure or information that should be built into the first machine? The answer comes out to be of the order of 1,500 bits - 1,500 choices between [two different] alternatives which the machine should be able to decide. This answer is very suggestive, because 1,500 bits happens to be also of the order of magnitude of the amount of structure contained in the simplest large protein molecule which, immersed in a bath of nutrients, can induce the assembly of those nutrients into another large protein molecule like itself, and then separate itself from it. 3

Golay never shared how he arrived at this figure, however, or identified what specific protein he was referring to. Clearly, in order to come up with an accurate figure, he would have needed to develop an actual replicator design, which would have been a daunting and complex task. And so this figure was probably an estimate. When I wrote to a friend with a PHD in biology to ask him what protein Golay might have been referring to, he responded, "I have no idea what protein he is talking about, and the real proteins that do this type of work are a whole lot more complicated than that and need things like ATP (produced by an entire set of complex proteins arranged like a motor) to function."

To make his idea of a self-replicator easier to analyze with mathematical precision than a true three dimensional machine, Von Neumann’s fellow mathematician Stanislaw Ulam suggested the idea of a two dimensional model of it, called a "cellular automation". This consisted of two-dimensional squares called "cells" that could exist in different states. Each cell behaved differently depending on its current state. Von Neumann’s work on this was completed and published post-humously by Arthur Burke in the book Theory of Self Reproducing Automata.4 When a computer model of a cellular automation (with three more states than Von Neumann had envisioned) was finally successfully implemented by Nobili and Pesavento in 1995, the tape was 145,315 cells long, and replication required 63 billion timesteps. 5

Given the complexity of the 2-D model, and the actual complexity of self-replicating proteins, it looks as if real 3-D Von Neumann machines may require considerably more complexity than Golay had estimated. But for argument’s sake, and since Golay was such a brilliant man, let’s extend the benefit of the doubt to him, and to biopoesis in general, and assume that a self replicator that simple can exist. It is highly doubtful, however, that an evolvable self-replicator any simpler than that which could survive in the wild could exist. Indeed, this was the minimum amount of information that Golay thought possible.

In order for an evolvable replicator with an information content of only 1500 bits to initially form, the equivalent of 1500 correct chemical events must occur, each with a probability of ½. (This is the same as the odds of flipping a coin 1500 times, and getting heads each time.)

For brevity’s sake, let’s call such a machine a SCESR – for Simplest Conceivable Evolvable Self-Replicator.

What Are the Odds of a SCESR Forming in Our Universe?

What are the odds of a SCESR forming in our universe? 6 If you still remember how to multiply fractions and exponents from high school math, then you should be able to follow what’s next.

Since the bit is useful for determining the odds of information correctly assembling by chance, the odds of any given sequence of chemical events producing one particular working "design" of a SCESR would be ½ 1500, or 1/10450.

However, more than one SCESR design may be possible, and this would increase the odds of a SCESR forming. With that in mind, we can say that…

T equals the Total number of SCESR designs that would work.

C equals the number of those designs that could not form, or could not survive due to chemical and environmental Constraints.

T- C equals P, the number of Possible SCESR designs (P) which could potentially form and survive in our universe.

The odds of any given sequence of chemical events forming any possible SCESR design that could survive in our universe would therefore be P/10450. (We will take more complex designs into account later.)

If I flip a coin ten times, only a small fraction of the possible flips will have an orderly pattern, such as HHHHHHHHHH, HTHTHTHTHT, HTHTTHTTTH, etc. Of course, we need not only an orderly or meaningful pattern, but a self-replicating pattern for a SCESR to form. That would only be a tiny subset of the meaningful or orderly patterns. And so, although we cannot know exactly what the value of P is, we do know that it is an extremely tiny fraction of the 10450 possible chemical arrangements.

Despite that, let’s be generous and assume that P equals 1037, which is more than one trillion times the number of stars in the known universe. I believe that this is a very liberal number to assign to P, because:

    1. This number is probably much higher than the number of meaningful designs, and considerably higher than the number of self-replicating designs, that could be produced.
    2. Despite the incredible chemical variety found on earth, no replicator simpler than life that does not depend upon life to survive, has ever been found in nature.
    3. Because all life on earth is fundamentally similar, only one replicator design is thought to have led to life on earth. If other survivable designs were just as likely to form under those conditions, we would expect to see fundamentally different forms of life on earth exhibiting dissimilar biochemistries. But we do not. Since the evidence indicates that if biopoesis occurred, only one design survived and evolved into life on earth, assigning an average of one trillion different possible survivable SCESR designs for every star system seems overly generous.
    4. No one has ever been able to experimentally induce the spontaneous formation of a molecular Von Neumann replicator, or to determine how one might have formed in an experimentally verifiable way.
    5. A self-replicating molecule like the protein molecule Golay mentioned would have all of the parts it needs to replicate right beside it, inside the cell. But could something that simple survive in the harsh wild, outside of the nurturing environment of a living cell? We do not know. It may be that there are no possible self-replicating designs that simple which could survive in the wild!
    6. No human has been able to intelligently design and build a molecular Von Neumann replicator simpler than life which can survive in the wild to demonstrate that one can exist.
    7. Most stars are outside of their galaxy’s habitable zone.
    8. Most planets are outside of their solar system’s habitable zone.
    9. Most planets within the hospitable zones do not have the right composition of elements to nurture life.

Assigning this very generous value to P, the odds of any given sequence of chemical events in our universe producing any SCESR design would therefore be 1037/10450 =1/(10450 - 1037) = 1/10413.

What is the likelihood of this having happened somewhere in the universe? The latest estimate of the number of stars in the observable universe is 70 sextillion stars. CNN reported that Dr. Simon Driver, when asked "if he believed the huge scale of the universe meant there was intelligent life out there somewhere," replied: ‘Seventy thousand million million million is a big number ... it's inevitable." 7

That is such a large number of stars (70 followed by 21 zeroes, which we can write in shorthand as 70 x 1021) that Driver's conclusion sounds quite convincing, doesn't it? But let’s do the math to see if he is right.

Since Dr. Driver noted that light from the visible universe has not reached us yet, and that the universe could actually be much larger, let’s increase this estimate of stars in the universe to an amount greater than one million times what can currently be observed, to 10,000,000,000 sextillion stars, or 1031 stars.

Of course, as we mentioned above, Golay’s machine must have all of the parts it needs to make a copy of itself right beside it, without pre-existing life to provide those parts. Again we ask, how often does that happen in nature? Let’s assume it happens vastly more often than it actually does, and suppose …

  • every star has ten earth-sized planets orbiting it.
  • …these ten planets are composed of nothing but a prebiotic soup containing all the parts needed for all possible SCESR designs to form. (Note that we are presupposing an environment completely hospitable to the formation of a SCESR design. But this SCESR must be of a design that could survive in the actual inhospitable wild to be a viable candidate that could have led to life.)

We will round the total number of atoms contained in these ten planets up to 1051, which is a little more than ten times the approximately 8.871049 atoms on earth.

Now let’s suppose that each of the atoms on these planets takes part in 1022 chemical events per second. Multiply that by 1021 seconds of cosmic history (an amount higher than 1000 times the current maximum estimated age of the universe, which is 6.3
1017 seconds), and you get 10311051 1022
1021 = 10125 possible chemical events that could have been tried out on these planets since the universe began.

Given these extremely generous assumptions, the odds of the simplest conceivable self-replicating molecular system arising would therefore be 10125 /10413 = 1/10288, or 1 chance in

1,000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000, 000,000,000!

Of course, if we had calculated using more realistic figures, the odds would be much, much lower.

More complex replicator designs are possible too, but each additional bit of information added to design complexity halves the odds of chance formation. The odds of the chance formation of a 1500 bit replicator such as this are already so incredibly small, that there would be very little increase in the odds by the addition of all possible designs of greater complexity.

The odds of even a simple self-replicator forming by chance in our
universe therefore appear to be so low that they are next to impossible.

Just How Far Can Natural Selection Go?

Each "rung" in the twisted double-helix "ladder" of DNA is one of four different base pairs. These are the four letters of the DNA alphabet. We represent them by the letters A, C, G, and T. Just as the 26 letters of the English alphabet are combined together to represent words and thereby convey information, the letters of the DNA alphabet are combined together to make the instruction set for creating complex proteins.

In other words, DNA is a symbolic language containing information, just as the letters on this page are. The complex, meaningful information contained in symbolic language is called semantic information. To date, we have observed no originating source of semantic information other than intelligence. This observation has been invariable and without exception, so we could justifiably argue that it is a law of nature, just as biogenesis is. In fact, the law of biogenesis seems to be a logical consequence of this unnamed law, which for the sake of convenience, we will call here the Law of Semantic Genesis. We will define it as, "The invariably consistent observation that semantic information is originally generated only by intelligence."

Just as a million monkeys typing since the universe began would be highly unlikely to type the contents of this little book, a little math easily demonstrates that except for very short text strings, meaningful symbolic language of any length or complexity cannot be generated by random chance alone. How then do we explain the instructions for making that complex, wonderful, intelligent being you see in the mirror each morning? Can natural selection, a blind, unintelligent force, not only surmount the law of semantic genesis, but produce meaningful information of a magnitude of complexity that even human intelligence cannot yet comprehend it? Is it really creative enough to do all of that?

To the last question we may reply that despite the miraculous powers often attributed to natural selection in popular media, it is not a creative force at all. It does not create anything; it merely selects what is already there. In fact, we tend to see more variation in a species population when intense survival pressures are not at work! Most of these variations, especially those that govern complex behaviors or systems, are explained not by new mutations, but by genetic information that is already in the gene pool.

So how did that semantic information get there in the first place? Was it placed there in advance by a thoughtful, Intelligent Designer? Did it come from an accumulation of mutations chosen by natural selection? Or did it come from a combination of design and mutations chosen by natural selection? In regard to the hypothesis of it having come from natural selection and mutation alone, there are some rather formidable challenges that this idea must surmount to satisfactorily explain the semantic information found in the DNA code. Let’s consider some of them:

  1. Most mutations are harmful or neutral. If you randomly change the letters in this sentence, what are the odds that you will improve upon its meaning?
  2. Not all harmful mutations completely destroy functionality. Fer nstunz, u can stil nderstan this sentans, cant yew? Can the few beneficial mutations that occur overpower the accumulation of the many slightly harmful but non-fatal mutations that will accumulate in a gene pool?
  3. A few simple, beneficial mutations resulting from single point mutations have been found and demonstrated, such as some that confer immunity to certain antibiotics in bacteria. These are very simple changes. But can incredibly complex biological systems be accounted for in this way?
  4. Most of the examples that evolutionists point to that involve major changes to a species involve a loss of semantic information, such as the ancestors of horses losing two of their three toes, or fish and salamanders that have become trapped in caves losing their eyes. That can easily be explained by natural selection, but it is just the opposite of a net gain in semantic information.
  5. In order for a beneficial mutation to become a distinct characteristic of a species, enough time must pass for it to substitute for the base pair it replaces in the entire breeding population. This is called the rate of substitution. The rate of substitution for humans was calculated by geneticist J.B.S. Haldane to be so slow (one per 300 generations at the most), that only 1667 substitutions could have occurred in the ten million years said to have passed since humans diverged from the hypothetical ape ancestor that we share with chimpanzees. By contrast, even if humans and chimpanzees are only one percent different, halving this amounts to a difference of 1.5 million base pairs between us and our supposed ape ancestor. How then do we explain this huge gap between 1667 substitutions and 1,500,000 base pairs? This is known as Haldane’s Dilemma, and according to Walter Remine, who conducted a thorough analysis of Haldane’s Dilemma in his book, The Biotic Message, it has never been satisfactorily resolved. 8, 9, 10, 11
  6. Selective pressures can move one way, and then move in the opposite direction when environmental pressures change. During dry years, Galapagos finch beaks were observed to get longer. But later when rainy years came again, and human settlers provided food, the trend reversed itself. Are selective pressures consistent enough to produce entirely new systems of higher complexity?
  7. The fossil record seems to indicate otherwise. Every extinct family exhibits stasis in the fossil record. That is, it pops into the fossil record fully formed, and then vanishes from it in essentially the same form. "When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty," writes Niles Eldridge of the American Museum of Natural History, "it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the fossils did not evolve elsewhere. Evolution cannot be forever going on somewhere else. Yet that is how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution." 12
  8. As biologist Michael Behe pointed out in his book, Darwin’s Black Box, some biological systems are irreducibly complex. An example is the bacterial flagellum. It is powered by a tiny molecular motor. Take away just one part, and the motor cannot function. How could such systems have evolved in a step-by-step process?13

Because of the above considerations, we must distinguish between microevolution and macroevolution. Microevolution is indeed a fact and is observed all around us. It happens due to small genetic variations which, because of selective pressures, can become predominant in a breeding population, such as the average length of a finches beak.

Macroevolution, on the other hand, is the hypothetical evolution of entirely new complex structures and organs, such as the bat’s sonar system. Unlike microevolution, macroevolution is not at all an undisputed fact that has gained theory status. It is still an unproven hypothesis. Although natural selection has been observed to account for speciation among very similar kinds, we truly do not know if it can adequately explain the origin of entirely new kinds of organisms (at the family level and higher), or if it can adequately explain the development of new, highly complex organs.

So when someone tells you, "Evolution is a fact," and by that tries to imply to you that macroevolution also must be an undisputed fact, he or she is either making an ignorant assertion, or is not being completely honest with you.


Richard Dawkins’ Objection

Aware of probability calculations and considerations such as the above, and in order to escape the obvious implication of them that there is a God, some metaphysical naturalists have raised some creative counter-arguments to the existence of God.

In his book The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins writes: "However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747." 14 (Here Dawkins was referring to the proverbial odds of a tornado passing through a junkyard assembling a Boeing 747.)

While at first glance, Dawkins’ argument seems to make sense, he fails to take into account a couple of very important considerations. Once these are taken into account, his argument comes apart at the seams, as we are about to see.

Imagine a race of aliens living in a nearby solar system who have their own version of Occam’s Razor, and have adopted it as a guiding principle of science. In other words, they believe that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be chosen. One day, an automated probe from their planet lands in a field on Earth to collect soil and mineral samples. In the process, it happens to scoop up a long lost, small white ceramic teacup from a little girl’s toy tea set. Then it returns to the planet from whence it came. After much consideration, the aliens conclude that despite the fact that the teacup bears the semblance of intelligent design, it was most likely formed by the natural erosion of some kind of stone, and not designed by an intelligence, because erosion would be the simplest and least complex explanation.

Obviously, these aliens have nicked themselves quite badly by shaving with Occam’s Razor. Why?

Because sometimes the most reasonable explanation is not the simplest. And sometimes the true explanation is more complex than its false alternatives.

And so Dawkins’ objection certainly does not rule out the hypothesis that our universe was created.

But Dawkins can still justifiably argue, one might think, that creation is the least likely explanation for our universe and the life within it. Or can he? Let’s consider that next.

Since cosmologists tell us that time began when our universe did, then whatever caused our universe must not have been subject to time as we know it, or to the precise laws of our universe.

Long before modern cosmologists came to the conclusion that time began with the universe, traditional Judeo-Christian thought held that God exists outside of time, because of verses such as Isaiah 57:15:

"For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."

Improbability arguments that apply within our time-bound universe would therefore not apply to a timeless God who exists outside of the universe.

Many Judeo-Christian theologians, following a strict line of logical reasoning, have traditionally considered God to be the causeless First Cause. This is because:

  1. All things exist either because they have been caused, or of necessity are self-existent.
  2. All things in our universe were evidently caused (we now know this because we have observed that our universe is expanding).
  3. If we trace back the chain of cause and effect, we must come to a cause of our universe (such as what caused the hypothetical big bang).
  4. The very first cause of necessity must not have been caused. So the first cause must have been self-existent!

If, contrary to this line of thought, God was formed by random events, as Dawkins seems to think He must have been, then God would not have been the very first cause. However, we still could say that He was the first cause of our Universe, which is all that really matters to us. If that were the case, how probable would God’s formation have been in the timeless realm in which He dwells? Finite time restrains probability, so if I flip a coin for only one minute, I am unlikely to obtain 5 heads in a row. But given enough time, I am almost certain to obtain 5 heads in a row. Now, imagine a timeless realm of cause and effect consisting of interactive elements, in which innumerable events can happen at once. If the idea of cause and effect without time seems difficult to grasp, this very page that you are reading from can serve as an illustration of it. On this page, one thought builds upon another in a form of cause and effect, but all of the thoughts exist at once on the page.

Without time to restrain the number of things that could happen, even highly complex and ordered patterns of events would be bound to happen. Without time to restrain probability, in a timeless realm of the right conditions, God would be certain to form!

Dawkins’ objection therefore either reflects a poor understanding of Judeo-Christian theology, or rests upon assumptions that he could not possibly know are true. Unless Dawkins has stepped outside the universe to observe conditions there, he cannot possibly know that God is unlikely to exist!


The MN Multiverse Hypothesis

The most popular alternative to the hypothesis of a created universe is the idea of a metaphysically naturalistic multiverse. This is a hypothetical hyperspace in which many universes pop into existence due to vacuum (quantum field) fluctuations, like bubbles in soap foam. However, a truly vast number of universes would be required to bring down the odds of our universe, and life itself, forming by chance, as we will see.

Even if we were to eventually detect (perhaps, as some hope, from the Planck satellite) possible evidence of other universes by finding patterns in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB) suggestive of "bruises" left over from bumps with other universes, we would not know that any more universes exist than those few that have touched up against our own. Earlier hopes of having detected four such bruises were dashed when statistical analysis suggested they were due to chance rather than actual encounters with other universes. 15

And so the idea of a vast MN multiverse remains, and probably will remain, an unproven hypothesis that requires faith to believe in. Not only that, but some serious difficulties present themselves when MNs try to use this idea to argue against the existence of God.

To begin with, as philosopher William Lane Craig has pointed out, when zealous MNs advocate the hypothesis of an MN multiverse it simply begs the question, because it smells like a desperate attempt to rescue metaphysical naturalism in the face of mounting evidence that this universe, and the life within it, is designed.

Secondly, can a simple quiver in a vacuum really create a highly complex, structured universe such as ours that follows orderly laws? Or is this simply a modern creation myth? And why does our universe follow orderly laws? Suppose you were an AI in a computer generated game universe. Wouldn’t the question, "Why does my universe follow orderly laws?" be a very valid question to ask?

Thirdly, if a multiverse does exist, are universes constantly popping into existence in it? Perhaps not. The Bible makes room for a possible created multiverse when it speaks of the "heavens and the heavens that are above the heavens." (This phrase, however, could also refer to higher dimensions of reality. Just as a three-dimensional man could look at a two-dimensional world and not be seen, a four-dimensional being could look at our world and not be seen.) The Christian apologist CS Lewis envisioned the possibility of other created universes long before the idea of a multiverse became popular, in his Chronicles of Narnia series. If other universes exist, they too may have been specially created by God, just as Lewis imagined it.

Fourthly, an MN multiverse would have to be incredibly vast to explain the chance formation of our own finely-tuned-for-life universe. The cosmologist and mathematician Roger Penrose calculated the precise "aim" that the Creator would have needed to create a low-entropy universe such as ours through a big bang. Of course, any time an intelligence takes aim at a target, he chooses only one out of a multitude of other possible targets. Furthermore, if God created the universe, he could have had any number of methods at his disposal to create it. A "big bang" may not have been his choice of "weapons." Some other method that produced the universe as we observe it may have been used.

The number Penrose calculated is useful to our purposes here, however, because it also reflects the odds of our particular universe arising by chance in a big bang event. That chance is 1/1010^123. To get an idea of just how low those odds are, if that number were written out, it would contain vastly more zeros than there are atoms in the known universe! 16 (There are approximately 1078 atoms in the known universe.) And all of those zeroes represent incredibly more universes than the number of zeroes!

Multiply this by the likelihood of a simple self-replicator forming, and the odds of life arising by chance in any given universe appear to be next to impossible!

Fifthly, if we did find conclusive evidence that there is a multiverse, we might find that the nature and structure of it actually increases the probability that there is a God. If all of these universes contain life, this would make it almost certain that there is a God.

Sixthly, if causality exists within the multiverse (and it would need to for vacuum fluctuations to be initiated and universes to spring from them), that merely pushes back the problem of the first cause - it does not answer it. Clearly, the first cause must have of necessity been causeless and timeless (since time began with the genesis of our universe). And this causeless and timeless first cause must have had the agency to cause time, time-bound causation, our finely-tuned-for-life universe, its orderly laws, and the complex and highly ordered life within it. Could a simple vacuum fluctuation actually do all of that? Isn’t an intelligence a more sensible explanation? A causeless, timeless and transcendent first cause which is also an intelligent agent aligns precisely with the Judeo-Christian concept of God!

Seventhly, consider just how much metaphysical naturalism has had to retreat as new data about the complexity of life and the nature of the universe has poured in. First the idea of spontaneous generation was dashed. Then, when it became evident that the universe had a beginning, the idea of a steady-state universe lost credibility. Next, the idea of abiogenesis gave way to the concept of biopoesis. When it became evident that biopoesis was also unlikely, and that our finely-tuned-for-life universe was unlikely, the hypothesis of a vast MN multiverse (along with the accompanying anthropic principle) was invented. One wonders, just how far will the MN mind retreat to invent new hypotheses to deny the evidence, which continues to mount, that there is a God?

Lastly, if the multiverse or any hypothetical realms above it are infinite, the probability that a Supreme Creator God exists seems assured, just as the probability of universes similar to our own would seem assured. (Therefore, to deny the existence of a Creator God, an avowed metaphysical naturalist would find the idea of a vast but finite multiverse preferable to an infinite hyperspace containing infinite universes or realms.)

Metaphysical Naturalism: Theism’s Stepsister

Lastly, since the hypothesis of a vast MN multiverse is not scientifically testable and involves speculations about existence outside of the observable universe, it crosses over the line from science into the philosophical category known as metaphysics. In fact, it competes with theism as a sister metaphysical philosophy. While many metaphysical naturalists might deny that it is a religious belief, it is in precisely the same metaphysical category. It requires faith to believe in, and belief in it could profoundly affect how a person lives his or her life. So a fitting way to categorize it would be to call it an atheistic religious belief.

MN hypotheses like this, although they are in the same metaphysical category as religious beliefs, enjoy privileged status in modern science, because unlike theistic hypotheses, they do not violate the reigning philosophy of science known as methodological naturalism. This is not to be confused with the scientific method. Nor is it quite the same thing as metaphysical naturalism. Methodological naturalism is the philosophy that for purposes of science, we should act as though God does not exist - whether He does or not. Methodological naturalism does indeed prove useful when investigating the causes of most natural phenomena. Obviously, we should not hastily presume "God must have done it!" every time we do not understand how something happened. But an alternative philosophy of science, that God created the universe to follow orderly laws which He seldom interrupts, works just as well for conducting science. Newton and Mendel followed this philosophy and conducted exceptionally good science. A third alternative, methodological agnosticism, would work just as well. While not assuming that God exists, it would at least be open to the possibility. These last two philosophical approaches to science have an advantage over methodological naturalism, for when natural explanations seem virtually impossible (as the chance formation of life in our universe does), they provide us with the freedom to follow the evidence to the most likely and logical explanation.

And so, when investigating the origin of life and our universe, does it make sense to restrict science to methodological naturalism?

Many, perhaps most influential metaphysical naturalists do not ever want any hypotheses that could harmonize with theism to be allowed in science, and they are quite outspoken about it. Just as poor Cinderella was usurped by her stepsisters, metaphysical naturalism has displaced Design in science. But if metaphysical naturalism continues to get her way, and succeeds at keeping Design locked away and out of sight in the science or origins, how will science ever know if Design can wear the glass slipper in the matter of origins?

Shouldn’t science be free to follow the evidence, rather than restrained by metaphysical bias?

Otherwise, how could modern science possibly be making an honest inquiry into our origins?

What This Means for You…

Since it is practically impossible that our universe, and the life within it, arose by chance without a God who created it, unless it is part of this hypothetical vast MN multiverse, which of these two competing metaphysical beliefs is the wisest to base your life upon?

Pascal’s Wager

In his posthumously published Pensées or Thoughts, the French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal proposed what became known as Pascal's Wager. He argued that if we cannot know whether or not God exists, the safest thing to do is to believe in him.

"Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is," Pascal wrote. "Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."17

In other words, if God exists and you serve Him, you gain everything. But if he does not, you lose nothing. In light of the probability calculations we can now make, Pascal's wager seems like an even more sensible bet now. As the philosopher William Paley pointed out, if you came upon a watch in the forest, and someone tried to convince you that that it had not been made, but had formed naturalistically, would you believe him? 18 No, because common sense tells you that the odds of the watch’s chance formation are extremely low. For the very same reason, creation by God is the most sensible, common-sense explanation for the origin of our universe and the complex life within it.

You wouldn't invest your entire life’s savings in a company that had only one chance in a million of succeeding, would you? Then why bet your very soul that God does not exist, when the odds of that appear next to impossible?

However, you are not limited to merely making the wisest or safest bet. If God exists, it may be possible to communicate with Him. That brings us to the crux of this little book.

Conducting Your Own Personal "SETI" Project

If there is a God, He can, if He chooses, reveal himself to you. If He does, then probability calculations will pale in importance, because then you will know that He exists. If God reveals himself to you, you can then honestly testify to others that you know He exists. On the other hand, no atheist can honestly testify that He knows there is no God. It seems that theists have an upper hand over atheists in that regard!

A computer game programmer exists independently of the computer game world he has created. Likewise, if God created the universe, He must exist independently of it. A character in a computer game cannot "find you" unless you reveal yourself to her. Neither can you find God unless He chooses to reveal Himself to you. According to Jeremiah 29:13, there is way to get God to reveal Himself to you:

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." –Jeremiah 29:13

In light of those words, why not conduct your own personal "SETI" project, not in search of alien life residing on other planets, but in search of a greater extraterrestrial intelligence - God?  

According to Jeremiah, the way to move God to reveal Himself is to search for Him with all of your heart. A half-hearted, insincere, pessimistically distrusting, or short-lived attempt may not be enough.

You should be encouraged by the fact that not just a few people, but millions have reported success after engaging in this endeavor. Those are a lot of witnesses who testify to the existence of God. if God does not exist, then they suffer from a mass delusion. But arguing against that idea is the fact that among them are very many honest, sane, intelligent and educated people whose conscience cannot bear telling a lie. These are not the kind of people who are likely to suffer from a delusion. Clearly, they honestly believe that God exists and that they have entered into an intimate relationship with Him.  I encourage you not to dismiss the testimony of that many people lightly. At the very least, their testimony should prompt you to earnestly try to find out for yourself if there truly is a God.

Should you decide to search for God with all of your heart, it would be unreasonable to dictate to Him how He must reveal himself to you. If you insist on a physical voice, a miraculous sign, or a bolt of thunder, God may not cooperate. Since God, if He exists, is  all-knowing, in His wisdom he may choose to act in ways that make perfect sense to Him but are mystifying to you. Therefore God, by definition, is not a cosmic genie that you can order around!

Do you remember the movie The Matrix, in which Neo learned martial arts by having the information downloaded into his mind? Whole concepts and ideas were being communicated at once. It was much better than verbal instruction. Likewise, God may prefer to communicate with you in some other way - perhaps superior to anything you have ever experienced. And, those who testify that God has revealed himself to them, often say that God chose a meaningful way in which to communicate, or a special time or place in which to do it. It could happen while you are observing the stars at night. It might happen while you are beholding the beauty of nature, or as a caring person is speaking to you. It might even be happening now, as you are reading this. It happened to me when I was young, when a kind person read the words of John 3:16 in the New Testament to me:

"For God so loved the World, that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life."

That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with God. Since then, there have been many times in which God has communicated with me in special ways of His own choosing, reconfirming His existence to me. I am nothing special, however. Millions also testify of the same experience. 


The Greatest Moral Teacher the World Has Ever Known

Many years have passed since that important day when I was young, enough time to compare the teachings of the founders of the major world religions. I compared their teachings with those of Christ, because I wanted to make sure that I had not erred. After all, I was only nine years old when I came to Christ, and being of a skeptical and inquisitive mind, as I grew older, my intellect desired  to confirm what I seemed to be spiritually experiencing. 

Though I certainly found good (and bad) in what the founders of the other world religions had to say, I have remained a follower of Christ, because the teachings and life of Jesus still resonate within me the most. Why?

Because moral teaching reached it's apex with Jesus.

First of all, He taught us that two commandments from Moses summarized all of the Law and Prophets:

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind." - Moses

"Love your neighbor as yourself." - Moses

But then Jesus called us to love one another with an even greater love than that. He commanded us to love each another sacrificially, just as He loved us:

"Love one another as I have loved you." - Jesus

He even called us to love our enemies:

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." - Jesus

Lastly, Confucius gave us the Silver Rule: "Don’t treat anyone in a way you would not want to be treated." But the Golden Rule Jesus gave us is so much better:

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." - Jesus

Just think of how much these commands, to the extent that we have obeyed them, have improved the condition of humanity.

If only all men fully obeyed the teachings of Christ, think of how it would transform the world:

  • There would be no more war and the horrible suffering it produces.
  • There would be no children starving from hunger due to uncaring hearts and selfish materialism.
  • There would be no more slavery and exploitation.
  • There would be no more injustice and cruelty.

Truly, the moral teachings of Jesus are the prescription to heal our broken world! If God really did send His Son into the world to save us from our misery, aren’t these just the kind of teachings we would expect to hear from such a person?

This brings us to another very important thing that Jesus taught, which we cannot ignore. Jesus said, ""I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."- John 14:6

Of all of the world’s religions, Jesus declared that He is the only one of these paths that leads to the Father. Was he wrong about this? Would the greatest moral teacher the world has ever known have deliberately lied? Probably not. But could a man of such acute moral perception and understanding have been deluded about this? There seems to be a moral failure that comes with that sort of delusion – an ultimate moral failure, in fact. The teachings of Jesus do not equate with a man of that kind of moral insensitivity. In short, both of these ideas seem not only unbearable to contemplate, but inconsistent with what we know about the man. By contrast, the idea that He understood the truth, and spoke it, makes much more sense.

And don’t the four Gospels which record the life of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), the miracles Jesus worked, the wonderful things he taught, the sacrificial life of love that He lived, and the more than 500 witnesses who saw him after he was raised from the dead,19 all also testify that He was speaking the truth?

Lastly, don’t the multitudes of people who have found God through Him (including me) also testify to the truth of what he was saying?

Given the fact that the moral teachings of Jesus could transform our world, and lift us out of our terrible misery, why does mankind not fully embrace them?

Because of the condition of our hearts. But Jesus offered us a solution for that, too.

The Cure for Hearts Sick with Sin

The very best doctors attack illness with a two-fold approach. They treat not only the symptoms, but also the root cause. Jesus is no different. The worse symptom of our illness is a severed relationship with God. The root cause of our illness is the state of our hearts and minds that causes us to sin. Here is Jesus’ two-fold approach to heal us:

First, Jesus offers us forgiveness and restoration to God.

All of us have done things that are wrong, and justice demands that the damage we have done be rectified. All of the other religions of the world promise that through our own futile self-efforts, we can make up for this damage we have done. But try as we might, can we restore a broken glass vase to its former condition? Not only that, but our efforts to live the ideal moral life, though they may be noble, always fail in some way, don’t they? No matter how resolutely we make up our minds that we will never sin again, all of us end up doing it again. Clearly, we are not strong enough to rescue ourselves from sin. We are its slaves. We are like drowning men from a sunken ship, who are too weak to swim to a far away shore. Unless someone rescues us from our sin and its tragic consequences, we are doomed.

And that is precisely why God sent His Son Jesus to save us. "For while we were still helpless," the Bible tells us, "at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." Like Sydney Carton, the kind man in A Tale of Two Cities who exchanged clothes with a condemned prisoner to die in his place, Jesus suffered the punishment for our sins when He died on the cross.

Secondly, Jesus offers us transformed hearts and minds:

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." - Jesus

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" – The Apostle Paul

Our hearts need to be changed so that we will stop sinning. Since we cannot change our hearts ourselves, Jesus offers to transform them for us. This is what Jesus was speaking of when He said,

"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Now, because of what Jesus did on the cross, God offers forgiveness to you. And through the mighty power of His Spirit, He offers to transform your heart. He offers these two things to you, not as something you must earn, but as a free gift. But like all gifts, to obtain it, you must accept it. If you reject it saying, "No thank you. I do not need your help, Jesus. I think I can achieve moral perfection on my own," then you are rejecting the only means God has offered for you to be saved. It is like a drowning man proudly telling a lifeguard who swam out to save him, "Leave me alone! I don’t need help. I can make it to shore on my own."

I hope that will not be your response if you sense God calling out to you, offering to save you. Perhaps you sense that He is speaking to you even now, as you are reading this. This may be the first time you have ever recognized His presence. Or it may have already happened to you many times, but you have ignored the message. The important thing is to recognize it when it is happening, to listen to the message, to accept the wonderful forgiveness God offers through Jesus, and then, to let Him transform you into a new person, the kind of person He wants you to be.

Like a filthy person washed clean. Like a dying patient cured. Like a slave set free. Like a caterpillar changed into a butterfly. It’s a new birth, a spiritual birth into eternal life! The birth of a new child of God.

If this transformation has not yet happened to you, then do not rest content. You know that you could die at any time, so time is of the essence. As Pascal wisely advised, and as probability indicates, wager that God exists, and search for Him with all of your heart.

If you truly and earnestly do so, I fully expect that you will find God, as I did, through Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. When I came to believe in Jesus and placed my trust in Him and the One who sent Him, my thirst for eternal spiritual life was finally quenched. As Jesus said in John 5:24,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life."

Through Jesus, your hunger and thirst to know the living God can also be fulfilled. What could possibly compare to a personal friendship - with God? Is there any goal more worthy of your pursuit?


Copyright 2014, Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin


1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagibacter_ubique

2 Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, John Von Neumann, edited and completed By Arthur W. Burks, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and London, 1966

3"Reflections of a Communications Engineer," Marcel Golay, Analytical Chemistry, Volume 33, June 1, 1961, p. 23. Golay was an information theorist, physicist, and mathematician.

4 Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, John Von Neumann

5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann_universal_constructor

6 I first read a probability calculation like this, which utilized Golay’s estimate, in the late Henry Morris’ book, The Scientific Case for Creationism, and it made a striking impression on me. Morris imagined the entire known universe to be packed full of interacting particles the size of electrons. Despite this, the odds of any one particular SCESR forming came out incredibly low, 1/10280. In this article, I gratefully make use of something similar to Morris' brilliant earlier approach, for which he deserves full credit and appreciation, but I also take into account something that needs to be addressed - the possibility of other working simplest possible replicator designs with the same degree of information, and of designs higher complexity. I also utilize the current estimate of the size of the universe and a few other different assumptions.

7 http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/space/07/22/stars.survey/

8Haldane, J.B.S., The cost of natural selection, J. Genetics, 55:511–524

9ReMine, W.J., The Biotic Message, St Paul Science, St Paul, Minn., 1993.

10 http://saintpaulscience.com/Haldane.htm (This contains responses by ReMine to his internet critics).


12 Time Frames. The Evolution of Punctuated Equilibria, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1985, pp 144-45.

13Michael Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, 1996, New York: The Free Press.

14 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam Press, 2006), p 114.

15 (See Dave Mosher, Other Universes Finally Detectable?, National Geographic News, August 2011).

16Penrose, The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford University Press, 2002, page 445.

17 Pensees, Blaise Pascal. Secton III, #233

18 Natural Theology, or evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, William Paley, Oxford, 1856. (https://archive.org/stream/naturaltheologyo02pale#page/n5/mode/2up)

19 In I Corinthians 15:3-11, the Apostle Paul wrote:

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter], and then to the Twelve [the Twelve Apostles]. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed." (NIV)


Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin is a theology graduate of Louisiana College. He and his wife Julie have seven children, with four still at home, and four grandchildren. Currently, he resides in Kennesaw, GA. He writes apologetic and theological articles to help people come to know Christ and grow closer to the Lord. If this article has blessed you, and you would like to free him up to write more, you may make a donation below.


Rusty previously decided not to apply for 501c3 ministry status, so that he can write about political matters without worrying about government interference. Because of this, your gifts will not be tax deductible. However, you will receive a far greater reward for your donation:  treasure in heaven!