Cosmology, Thermodynamics and the Christian Doctrine of Creation
by Dr. Thomas Seiler
The Testimony of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition
The Christian Doctrine of the creation of the universe is based on the divine revelation given to the prophet Moses and written down in the first book of Holy Scripture:
“Then God said, 'Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth'; and it was so. God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.” Genesis 1:14-19
The plain and obvious sense of these verses is that God created the celestial bodies immediately and instantly, solely by His own omnipotent power and without support from natural processes over long ages of time as the idea of cosmic evolution suggests. That this is indeed the way the Lord created the universe is confirmed by the commentaries of the church fathers like St. Ephrem the Syrian who wrote in his “Commentary in Genesis 1”:
“Although both the light and the clouds were created in the twinkling of an eye, still both the day and night of the first day continued for twelve hours each.”
And he explained that the celestial bodies could, although having been created immediately, show the appearance of an older age:
“Likewise, the moon was both old and young. It was young, for it was but a moment old, but was also old, for it was as full as it is on the fifteenth day.”
Oden, T. C., Ancient Christian Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Old Testament, Vol. I, Genesis 1-11, p. 47
In the same sense, St. Ambrose reassures us that an interpretation of the Genesis account in terms of a slow cosmic evolution due to physical forces is not what the author intended:
“He [Moses] did not look forward to a late and leisurely creation of the world out of a concourse of atoms.”
Oden, T. C., Ancient Christian Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Old Testament, Vol. I, Genesis 1-11, p. 15
St. Ambrose upholds the teaching of a direct and instantaneous creation of the cosmos in another work with these words:
“And fittingly [Moses] added: 'He created,' lest it be thought that there was a delay in creation. Furthermore, men would also see how incomparable the Creator was Who completed such a great work in the briefest moment of His creative act, so much so that the effect of His will anticipated the perception of time.”
Hexameron, Homily 2, Chapter 1
The following writing of St. Anthanasius extends the plain and obvious sense of Genesis 1 not only to the creation of the universe but also of all living creatures on earth:
“As to the separate stars or the great lights, not this appeared first and that second, but in one day and by the same command, they were all called into being. And such was the original formation of the quadrupeds, and of birds and fishes, and cattle, and plants... No one creature was made before another but all things subsisted at once together upon one and the same command.”
Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2, Chapters 48, 60
The Christian Doctrine makes a clear distinction between the order of creation which lasted only for a short time and the order of providence in which we live and in which the natural laws are governing nature. That the entire creation was indeed complete after the creation week is expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas in these words:
“[T]he final perfection, which is the end of the whole universe, is the perfect beatitude of the saints at the consummation of the world; and the first perfection is the completeness of the universe at its first founding, and this is what is ascribed to the seventh day.”
Summa Theologica, Part I, Q 73, A 1
This Doctrine of Creation is an essential part of the Christian faith. Any philosophy that ascribes the works of creation to natural processes, even if the existence of God is not denied, is a pantheistic worldview because it assumes that matter has got divine power to overcome natural laws. These laws prohibit the formation of an ordered universe from disordered gases, the emergence of life from disordered molecules and the origin of complex organs and functions from simpler structures.
However, St. Peter predicted that in the future there would be such an attack on the Christian Doctrine of Creation. It would be proposed that natural processes as we can see them now were also operating during creation week, i. e. “from the beginning of creation.” This means that the universe and life in all its forms would have come into existence by natural processes. However, he recalls that creation happened not through physical forces but through the word of God.
“Scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own passions and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation.’ They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago, and an earth formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.” 2 Peter 3:3-7
The Cosmological Hypothesis
One such way of extrapolating from presently observable natural processes all the way back to the beginning of the world to explain the origins of the world is the so-called “Big-Bang Theory”. Starting from the well-known physical effect of a wave-length increase (“red-shift”) when a source of light is moving away from the observer, Edwin Hubble suggested in the 20th century that the observable red-shift of the star-light is caused by a constant movement of the stars away from us. If the velocity v of the stars can indeed be measured by their red-shift – an interpretation which Hubble himself doubted until the end of his life – and if the distance of the stars can really be measured by their brightness, then it was thought to be possible to derive an age of the universe by a simple calculation: t = s / v. In this way, astronomers arrive at the now widely accepted age of 13.7 billion years.
However, even under the assumption that the derivation of velocity and distance are correct, this approach still contains an unscientific pre-assumption, namely that the velocity of the stars has been the same all the way back to the beginning of creation, in fulfillment of St. Peter's prediction.
However, there is good reason to assume that the red-shifts and also the observed brightnesses of the stars can at least partly be due to other, known and unknown physical processes. A diagram showing recently reported results of measurements of the Hubble constant reveals that this quantity which is just the quotient of star velocity devided by star distance has an uncertainty of 100 %:
“Hubble‘s law” says that the quotient of red-shift and brightness is a constant for all stars. Without this, the calculations of the Big-Bang theory would not work as not all stars would start at the same time from the same point. Therefore, if the big bang theory were true, then the observed discrepancies in the Hubble constant mean that either the measurement results of the red-shift or of the brightness or of both are interpreted partially or completely in a wrong way.
However, if we assume that the big-bang theory is true then we are given the opportunity to see not only events which are far away in space but also events which are far away in the past. This follows from the fact that the light coming from distant stars would need much time to reach us. Therefore, when we look at a star at the end of the universe then we see the first part of the light beam which was sent out ca. 13 billion years ago. Therefore, we see the “young” part of the light beam which tells us what happened at an early stage of the universe. For nearby stars the situation is different. Although they would have started to emit their light at the same time as the distant stars most of the light beam would already have passed by us. We would only see older parts of the light beam telling us something about events in a later stage of the universe.
Under these cirumstances we should see distant galaxies always in a much more immature state as nearby galaxies which is not the case. Furthermore, the observed rotation speed of spiral galaxies is not compatible with a long rotation time. The stars would long ago have been thrown outside the galaxy which is not the case. In order to account for that unexpected observation, an unknown form of gravity was introduced called “dark matter”. Another contradiction to the big-bang model is the observation of a very homogeneous cosmic microwave background radiation. To compensate for this, an early cosmic “inflation phase” - a rapid initial expansion of the universe, faster than the speed of light – has been introduced. And the unexpected result of an apparently accelerated expansion of the cosmos led to the introduction of an unknown quantity called “dark energy”.
In response to these developments, 33 cosmologists have published an open letter to the scientific community expressing their doubts with regard to the big bang model (from www.cosmologystatement.org):
“The big bang today relies on a growing number of hypothetical entities, things that we have never observed -- inflation, dark matter and dark energy are the most prominent examples. Without them, there would be a fatal contradiction between the observations made by astronomers and the predictions of the big bang theory. In no other field of physics would this continual recourse to new hypothetical objects be accepted as a way of bridging the gap between theory and observation. It would, at the least, raise serious questions about the validity of the underlying theory.”
Lerner, E., Bucking the big bang, New Scientist 182 (2448) 20, 22 May 2004
To summarize, big-bang theorists came to the conclusion that 96 % of the universe is composed of something that is unknown from any physical measurement. In other words, they have to agree with St. Peter that it is not possible to explain the origin of the world by extrapolating from known physical processes all the way back to the beginning of time.
The agreement with Fiat Creation has recently been admitted in an astronomical journal by these words:
“This and many other recent astronomical observations point increasingly to the conclusion that a mature, active, evolving and expanding universe could have come into being in an instant creation.”
European Southern Observatory in Spaceflight, November 2004, Vol. 45, No. 11
The second confirmation of Fiat Creation comes from the “Second Law of Thermodynamics” which states that for isolated systems entropy, which is a measure of probability, will always increase. Entropy determines the direction in which all processes in nature proceed: from less probable distributions to more probable distributions, from ordered structures to disordered ones and never vice versa.
It is important to realize that this fundamental law refers to all physical processes including the suggested cosmic and biological evolution.
The earth represents an arrangement of matter in a highly ordered state, especially with respect to the conditions necessary for the existence of life. Some of these conditions which the earth fulfills are: ideal distance to sun, presence of liquid water, dry land, the right amount of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen etc., moderate seasons, absence of heavy earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, radioactivity, poisonous chemicals etc. Comparing the conditions on earth to the other planets on which we could not live underlines the high improbability that all the necessary conditions for life could be found in the universe at all. The assumption, however, that the earth could have come into existence by natural processes starting from an initially disordered universe, is in conflict with the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
A sub-chapter of the theory of cosmic evolution is biological evolution. In biology, an example of the operation of entropy is genetic degeneration of a biological species due to negative mutations: for instance, on some windy islands, certain flies have entirely lost their wings. This is explained by the advantage of staying on the ground in an environment where strong winds can carry flying insects far out to sea. A succession of micro-variations that leads to the destruction of complex organs is a natural process of increasing entropy. The opposite — a succession of small genetic variations leading by natural selection to the construction of a completely new organ — is an excluded process of decreasing entropy.
An objection to the above premise is that the constraints of thermodynamics are not valid for biological structures because they exist in or are open systems. “Open” means that matter and especially energy can be exchanged with the surroundings. To test the validity of this objection, we must examine in detail what is possible in open systems.
The limits of an open system can be illustrated by the example of machines that reduce entropy such as refrigerators. They transfer heat from a cold volume (the inside space) to a warm volume (the surrounding room). This highly improbable phenomenon, however, can only be achieved because a complex mechanism that can automatically perform the cooling cycles exists already. Such entropy reducing machines are also found in the chloroplasts of plants. A further example of order increasing in open systems is observable in the formation of crystals, e.g. snow-flakes. When heat is removed, a phase-transition leads to the appearance of macroscopic regularity. Molecules which have slowed down during cooling can condense. It becomes energetically more favourable to arrange them in a crystal configuration than in a random orientation — a typical energy downhill process.
The kind of order emerging in open systems. Here: Snowflakes as a consequence of the ordered structure of the H2O molecule.
The reason why the proposed evolution of biological organs does not belong to these kinds of processes is that these processes are the physical ways in which a pre-existing order is transferred from one level to another. No really new order or information is generated in any of these open-systems. Either the information content was already present in a complex machine like a refrigerator or the chloroplasts, or it already existed in the symmetry of the underlying molecules, i.e. the directed inter-atomic electromagnetic forces. A further such category would be the feedback mechanism of a so-called “dissipative structure”. Nothing improbable happens in all these cases. It is always an energetic necessity that the pre-programmed ordered structures appear. Therefore, open systems do not create order. They only make hidden order visible.
On the other hand, in relation to the organization of non-living matter, the bodies of living creatures represent new information. The structure of the DNA molecules is not pre-contained in the molecular structure of the constituent chemical elements (nucleobases) nor is there a pre-existing machine which is programmed to produce it. There is no physical arrangement which already contains the information which is necessary to build up life from non-life or complex creatures from simpler creatures. The organization of new organs or functions is excluded by the Second Law of Thermodynamics because they do not belong to those pre-programmed structures which open systems can create! It follows that the evolution of man from molecules is precluded by the fundamental law of nature. In the words of physicist Josef Holzschuh:
“...[T]he Second Law of Thermodynamics poses an insurmountable scientific barrier to evolution”.
J. Holzschuh, A Scientific Critique of Evolution (2009), La Sapienza University Rome, p. 48.
Darwin‘s Unjustified Extrapolation
Although one single variation step on the same complexity level (race formation) is possible, the random addition of thousands of such small steps would not create a new construction or organ. Selection only chooses the fittest organism in a population at one stage, but there is no reason why the mutations selected should always be those that lead to a new organ in the future. Selection can not foresee the direction towards a new function or organ. It is rather very likely that a succession of fittest organisms would only lead to a stabilisation of the existing organ, i. e. to a constructional dead end.
For example, at the starting point in the assumed evolutionary chain from reptile to bird, selection could only find the fittest reptile construction. There is no reason why this particular optimized reptile design should also be the one which leads, in the far future, after the addition of many small such steps, towards the winged bird. It is statistically implausible that these two independent design properties, optimization and organic novelty, should be identical and even always identical at each successive step. Selection would, according to the theory, gradually adapt the leg by chance and necessity to increase the survival fitness. That this gradual optimization would be at each step identical with the required pathway towards the wing would not be necessity but only chance and therefore highly improbable. Hence the basic logical error of Darwinism is to equalize optimizing the fitness of an existing organ — which does not increase the level of complexity — with finding a pathway to a new organ. This is therefore another example of how St. Peter‘s prediction was fulfilled: The idea that “things have always been the same from the beginning of creation” has found another realization in the idea that one could extrapolate observable single step variation processes back to the beginning of creation to explain the origins of all organs and functions.
Then there is a further proof for Fiat creation — a proof that follows from three characteristic features of observable flora and fauna. The first one is the presence of highly complex and fully formed organs. The second one is the presence of species which do not at all have a certain organ but can exist anyway. The third one is the absence of species with incompletely formed organs which are in the process of evolving.
If the species carrying the fully-formed organs have come from evolution, then they must have had numerous predecessors which had these organs only in a partially-formed state. These species, in turn, must all have been fitter for survival than their original predecessor which did not have this particular organ at all. However, this least fit one still exists today in many varieties. Therefore, its fitter successors would have had an even higher probability to survive until today. That none of these species with partially-formed organs can be observed today is a contradiction to the postulated evolutionary chain.
For example, there must have been innumerable species with half-finished wings in the proposed evolutionary line from reptile to bird. All of these half-finished ones must have been fitter than the reptiles because otherwise they would not have come into existence, according to the theory. The fact that the reptile, which is the least in fitness, still exists in many varieties — but not a single one of the intermediates with their higher fitness compared to the reptile — is an observation which rules out that these half-finished ones have ever existed — and that evolution has taken place. The same is confirmed by every other organ that we observe in nature.
This is not resolved by assuming that reptiles and birds have an unknown common ancestor instead of a direct common lineage. That assumption would not explain why the reptile, a species without any wing design, could separate from the lineage to the bird and survive until today while all those with partially-developed wings, still being fitter than the predecessor from which the reptile branched off, could not find such an opportunity to branch off and survive until today.
The final result of this examination is that natural science is in agreement with instantaneous and immediate Fiat Creation as witnessed by Sacred Scripture, by the Church Fathers, and indeed by all of Sacred Tradition. The empirical data confirms that the origin of both the universe and biological species cannot be attributed to any observable or reproducible natural process.