Man and the Universe – The Origins of the Universe

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Last updated: November 22, 2019

Man has asked many questions throughout time about the origins of the universe. At first, many cultures used myth to explain the unexplainable, yet as cultures evolved, philosophers started to doubt these myths and looked for other explanations to answer these questions.

These were the first disputed scientists. When these philosophers first asked questions, scientists and astronomers such as Nicholas Copernicus and Galileo Galilei started making observations on the universe leading to new scientific theories on the universe. Today, there are many theories to support the creation of the universe.This report will look at Man’s changing view of the universe from the religious perspective to the scientific theories of the creation of the universe.Man’s Changing View of the UniverseIn ancient times the stars amazed mankind. Since the first man looked to the sky and saw the stars, man has wondered what was out there. They looked for patterns in the stars to help predict the seasons and major events – they used it as a celestial calendar. Monuments, known as Celestial Observatories such as Stonehenge were built to record the passing of seasons using the stars.

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The Egyptians used the rising of the star Sirius to predict the rising of the Nile. Counting the phases of the moon helped the people predict harvest season or major ceremonial events.Many cultures believed that the stars were the heavens. They looked to the stars for signs from the Gods and they named the many constellations in the sky after their different gods. Many ancient civilizations saw certain patterns in the sun, moon and stars that impacted heavily on the seasons as proof that Gods existed and had the power to control the universe and earth.For many years, religions believed that the earth was the centre of the universe, and all rotated around it (known as the geocentric model). Nicholas Copernicus was the first major astronomer who challenged this theory with the heliocentric model.

The major components of the heliocentric model are:* Heavenly bodies are fixed around the solar system* The sun is the centre of the universe* Orbiting around the sun, in order, is Mercury, Venus, Earth and the moon, Saturn, Jupiter and the fixed stars* The earth rotated on an daily rotation, annual rotation and annual tilting of its axis* The planets all rotate in identical circular patterns* The earth was closer to the sun than to the stars.Figure 1 – Copernican Model of the UniverseAfter Copernicus had challenged the church, not many tried until Galileo Galilei. With the creation of the 32x magnification telescope, Galileo could now make observations on the universe that no one had attempted before. With the discovery of four of Jupiter’s biggest satellites, the geocentric model of the universe was once again challenged, with proof that not everything orbited the earth.

Also, by studying the phases of Venus he proved that Venus did orbit the sun, though it did not prove the heliocentric model.As technology has advanced, it has become widely accepted that the heliocentric model of the universe is the closest to the truth, though there have been many changes to the model throughout the ages. With this changing view of the universe, there has also been a changing view of the origins of the universe.Religious PerspectiveMany world religions have their own beliefs of the origins of the universe. Mostly based on the scriptures of the religion, it is argued through religious philosophy.ChristianityChristianity is a monotheistic religion. Its beliefs are based on the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity is classified as an Abrahamic religion, sharing many links with both Judaism and Islam.

Abrahamic religions all believe in creation as ex nihilo (meaning ‘out of nothing’). It can be seen through the line “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), that appears in the first line of both the bible and torah, showing that there is the belief that God is the self-existing entity, with all coming from him.It is the first book of the Bible – Genesis – that outlines the creation of the universe according to the Christians.

The universe was created over a six-day period. God creates the universe by moving his spirit, and the use of speaking (“Let there be light” [Genesis 1:3]) and actively working (“Then he separated the light from the darkness” [Genesis 1:4]).As was stated before, the universe was created in six days, the seventh being for rest. Here is the order of the creation of the universe:* First Day: Light was created and divided (“‘Let there be light’ – and light appeared… he separated the light from the darkness” [Genesis 1:3-4]).

Many see the dividing of day and night as symbolism of God separating good from evil.* Second Day: The firmament of heaven (known as the Sky) was created. This separated the ‘two waters’ or the sky and the seas (“Let there be a dome to divide the water and keep it in two places” [Genesis 1:6])* Third Day: Water comes together to create land.

God then named the land “earth” and the water “seas”. He then let the earth bear all kinds of plants. (“‘Let the water below the sky come together in one place, so that land will appear’ … he names the land ‘Earth’ and the water..

.’Sea’. Then he commanded, ‘Let the earth produce all kinds of plants, those that bear grain, and those that bear fruit'” [Genesis 1:9-11]).* Fourth Day: Stars are created in the firmament of Heaven. The two main lights being the Sun and the Moon. (“‘Let lights appear in the sky’.

..So God made the two larger lights, the sun to rule over the day and the moon to rule over the night.’ [Genesis 1:14-16]).* Fifth Day: Air and Sea Creatures are created.

They are commanded to reproduce (“‘Let the water be filled with many kinds of living beings, and let the air be filled with birds.’ He blessed them all and told the creatures that in the water to reproduce…and he told the birds to increase in number.” [Genesis 1:20-22]).

* Sixth Day: God brought forth land creatures. Men and Women are created in God’s image and power over all the creatures and plants God created. They are commanded to reproduce. (“‘Let the earth produce all kinds of animals..

.and now we will make human beings…They will have power over the fish and birds and all the animals.

‘” [Genesis 1:24-26]).* Seventh Day: God rested and blessed that day (“He blessed the seventh day and set it apart as a special day” [Genesis 2:3]).Theory for the Existence of GodFor many centuries, Man has tried to prove the existence of God. Well known Medieval Philosophers such as St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas tried to link reason to the bible. There are also many scientists who have tried to show the existence of God through religion. One such theory is called Intelligent Design.Intelligent Design (ID) is a theory of evolution connecting an intelligent cause with the reason for evolution.

It is an alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution – known as “there are natural systems that cannot be adequately explained in terms of undirected natural forces and that exhibit features, which in any other circumstance we would attribute to intelligence.”1 There is a search for “signs of intelligence” such as physical properties of an object that show a designer. Though many call ID a scientific theory, many scientists dispute this as ID cannot be tested by experimentation. Intelligent design includes four main concepts.The first concept is that of irreducible complexity – put forth by Michael Behe.

He defines this as “a single system which is composed of several well-matched interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”2 Using the analogy of a mousetrap – the mousetrap is made up of many small well designed components that work together, but if only one component is missing the mouse trap will not work. Due to this complexity it there has to be some transcendent being who was created it.Critics argue that under this concept the parts of the system have always been needed, so therefore could not have been added in sequence, as is the reason of evolution.

Also this concept does not take into account that evolution also changes and removes parts, not only adding parts. Behe himself has admitted that his “argument against Darwinism does not add up to a logical proof.”3The concept of specified complexity was put forth by William Dembski – a mathematician, philosopher and theologian. His theory was that when an object shows complexity and specification simultaneously, it is said to exhibit specific complexity, therefore produced by intelligent cause rather than natural selection.

This can be a seen with the following example. A single letter of the alphabet is specific, without being complex, while a string of random letters is complex without being specific. Meanwhile a poem is both complex and specific therefore having an intelligent cause.There is much criticism from the scientific community over this concept. Specified complexity does not have a wide application in other fields. It is flawed by the way it treats the different possible explanations, leaving it open for false conclusions.The concept of a fine-tuned universe argues that the features that made life possible cannot be put down to chance. Factors that are used as evidence for this concept include the strength of nuclear forces, electron-neutron mass ratios and gravity, just to name a few.

If any of these values were slightly different, the universe would not exist.Scientist’s criticise this concept as there is not enough existing evidence to support this theory. There is also the argument that if the factors were different, there may still be life, even if it was different from what we know it as.

Mathematicians have further taken this argument, and through calculations, infer that it is very probable that life could still exist.Many concepts formulated do not identify the intelligent designer, even though it is obvious that the intelligent cause can only happen when a god-like figure intervenes. Dembski suggests that an alien could fill the role of an intelligent designer.

The concept of Intelligent Designer states that the universe displays features of being designed. Unlike Dembski’s early suggestion, he admits that “no intelligent agent who is strictly physical could have presided over the origin of the universe or the origin of life.”4 It is still debated though which god could be the intelligent designer.Critics dispute this theory using existing evidence. Jerry Coyne argues why would a designer give us one good thing, then to combat it with a bad thing, for example, “why a designer would ‘give us a pathway for making vitamin C, but then destroy it by disabling one of its enzymes'”5 Other critics also argue who created the creator.

Many supporters of intelligent design say that this is irreverent and does not need to be explained.BuddhismBuddhism is a religion that does not believe in a deity, and is more of a philosophy with the belief of karma. It is based on many doctrines such as the four noble truths and noble eightfold path. These doctrines were started by Siddhartha Gautama, more commonly known as ‘the Buddha’ or ‘Awakened One’. Buddha is not worshipped as a god, but is a figurehead as he had reached enlightenment – the aim of the Buddhists.

Due to the non-theistic aspect of Buddhism, it allows for many believers to follow two religions at the same time.Buddhists do not believe in a definite creation of the universe or do they have a definite end. A new universe passes in and out of existence with every soul, leading to the belief of an infinite number of parallel universes sustained by karma. Some universes come and go with states such as birth and death; building up and destroying the physical structure of the world, while other universes are ever present such as higher planes.

Buddhist cosmology can be divided into two branches – spatial and temporal cosmology.Spatial cosmology is further divided into two braches. Vertical cosmology is that the universe exists in many planes stacked in layers. Each plane corresponded with a state of mental conscious. Even though humans and animals share the same physical conditions, they are in different worlds due to their mental conscious.

Sahasra cosmology is that there are many worlds grouped together horizontally unlike the vertical staking of vertical cosmology.Temporal cosmology explains the passing in and out of every universe. The universe is cyclical, assuming an infinite amount of time. In each cycle, the same events do not happen, but certain natural events reoccur, leading to a structure of time.

Scientific PerspectiveThe Big BangThere are many differing scientific theories concerning the creation of the universe, the most notable being that of the Big Bang. The theory of the Big Bang started with Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity in 1916. With the discovery of the ever expanding universe, the theory of the Big Bang seemed more sensible than other existing theories, both scientific and mythodic.The Big Bang is the theory that the universe started from a tremendously dense and hot state exploding outwards to form the universe. The origins of the universe are estimated to be around 13.7 billion years ago. There is no exact proof of the Big Bang, but there is evidence to suggest this.

The evidence mainly comes through observations. All the observations have pointed to an expanding universe, leading scientists to believe that there was a time that the universe was once a singularity.Hubble’s Law expansion is the observation of the expanding universe through redshift. As the universe expands and the galaxies move outwards, the light emitted from the galaxies shifts to a longer wavelength. In the frequency spectrum, the wavelengths are similar to those of red light. From these observations scientists believe that the is uniformly expanding everywhere as a unique property of spacetime. It is also seen that the redshift is greater in galaxies further away.

This evidence shows that the galaxies further away are moving at a faster rate than those closer to the centre.Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) is another observation of the expanding universe as well as evidence of the Big Bang. When the temperature of the universe was extremely high, there was no atom, just energy and radiation that was absorbed and re-emitted. As the universe began to cool – due to expansion – the first atoms started to form. Many scientists tried to find this radiation, but it was not until Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson experimented with a new microwave receiver that they found evidence of CMB.

They have been able to observe that the radiation has become redshifted, further proving the expansion of the universe.Using the Big Bang model scientists have calculated the ratios of certain light elements (helium-4, helium-3, deuterium and lithium-7) in the universe to those of ordinary hydrogen, known as the abundance of primordial elements. These abundances are predicted using a single parameter, ratio of photons to baryons. The measured abundances agree with the predicted amount.

This is strong evidence as it is the only way to explain the relative abundances of light elements.Scientists have observed the evolution and distribution of galaxies. Many formations were created after the Big Bang.

Many galaxies have evolved – those further away look different from those close by, as well as newer galaxies looking different from older ones. This evidence goes against the state-steady theories, further supporting the Big Bang.Though the Big Bang is widely accepted today, there are some who doubt it. The Big Bang theory cannot account for everything that has been observed. Many exotic physical phenomena such as dark matter, dark energy and cosmic inflation, rely on conditions that have not been observed to be able to fit with the Big Bang model.

ConclusionIn concluding, the Big Bang theory is the widely accepted model by the community due to the strong evidence that supports it. While the religious cosmology is also accepted by some, many now see it not as the real creation of the universe, but more as a metaphoric creation which holds many moral lessons for the believers of that religion.

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