What Are the Odds of Life and the
Universe Forming if God Does Not Exist?
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
condensation of some of the chapters in the author's book,
God vs. Chance.
Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin
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?"
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."
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
the other hand, has never been observed happening. It
is an unproven hypothesis, as is acknowledged by all honest
and informed metaphysical naturalists.
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.
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
Simplest Conceivable Evolvable Self-Replicator (SCESR)
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
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
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.
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
- A reservoir or "sea" of readily
- A memory "tape" that stores
instructions for assembling a copy of itself.
- A manipulator or "constructor" that
follows the instructions on the tape to assemble a copy
of itself, and then copies its contents onto the
- In addition to its mechanical
elements, it would also need some structural components,
and at least four logic elements to send and receive
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
With that in
mind, let’s read what Golay had to say:
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
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
in 1995, the tape was 145,315 cells long, and replication
required 63 billion timesteps.
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.)
sake, let’s call such a machine a SCESR – for
Simplest Conceivable Evolvable Self-Replicator.
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
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.
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…
equals the Total number of SCESR
designs that would work.
equals the number of those designs that could
not form, or could not survive due to chemical and
…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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
- 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.
- Most stars are outside of their
galaxy’s habitable zone.
- Most planets are outside of their
solar system’s habitable zone.
- Most planets within the hospitable
zones do not have the right composition of elements to
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
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 8.87•1049
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 1031•1051
= 10125 possible chemical events that could
have been tried out on these planets since the universe
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
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.
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.
odds of even a simple self-replicator forming by chance in
universe therefore appear to be so low that they are next
Just How Far Can Natural
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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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,
- 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?
- 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."
- 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
Because of the
above considerations, we must distinguish between microevolution
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
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
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.
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
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
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?
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.
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
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."
arguments that apply within our time-bound universe would
therefore not apply to a timeless God who exists outside of
Many Judeo-Christian theologians, following a strict line of
logical reasoning, have traditionally considered God to be
the causeless First Cause. This is because:
- All things exist either because they
have been caused, or of necessity are self-existent.
- All things in our universe were
evidently caused (we now know this because we have
observed that our universe is expanding).
- 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).
- 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!
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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
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!
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.
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!
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?
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
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
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?
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
science be free to follow the evidence, rather than
restrained by metaphysical bias?
could modern science possibly be making an honest inquiry
into our origins?
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?
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.
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
creation by God is the most sensible, common-sense
explanation for the origin of our universe and the complex
life within it.
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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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?
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:
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your strength and with all your mind." -
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:
another as I have loved you." - Jesus
He even called us
to love our enemies:
enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who
curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." - Jesus
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.
only all men fully obeyed the teachings of Christ, think
of how it would transform the world:
would be no more war and the horrible suffering
would be no children starving from hunger due to
uncaring hearts and selfish materialism.
would be no more slavery and exploitation.
would be no more injustice and cruelty.
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
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
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?
don’t the multitudes of people who have found God through Him
(including me) also testify to the truth of what he was
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?
of the condition of our hearts. But Jesus offered us a
solution for that, too.
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:
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
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.
Jesus offers us transformed hearts and minds:
tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again." - Jesus
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,
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.
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
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."
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?
2014, Marshall "Rusty" Entrekin
Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata, John Von
Neumann, edited and completed By Arthur W. Burks,
University of Illinois Press, Urbana and London, 1966
of a Communications Engineer," Marcel Golay, Analytical
Chemistry, Volume 33, June 1, 1961, p. 23. Golay was an
information theorist, physicist, and mathematician.
of Self-Reproducing Automata, John Von Neumann
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.
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.
J.B.S., The cost of natural selection, J.
W.J., The Biotic Message, St Paul Science, St
Paul, Minn., 1993.
(This contains responses
by ReMine to his internet critics).
Time Frames. The Evolution of Punctuated
Equilibria, Princeton, Princeton University
Press, 1985, pp 144-45.
Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical
Challenge to Evolution, 1996, New York: The
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
(London: Bantam Press, 2006), p 114.
(See Dave Mosher, Other
Universes Finally Detectable?,
National Geographic News, August 2011).
The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford University
Press, 2002, page 445.
Pensees, Blaise Pascal. Secton III,
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)
In I Corinthians 15:3-11, the
Apostle Paul wrote:
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!