In what has become a Good Friday tradition, Dan O'Donnell presents his classic audio essay on life, creation, existence, and how the galaxies themselves proclaim the majesty of God.
You, believe it or not, are a miracle. A living, breathing, thinking miracle; so miraculous, in fact, that you can think about the nature of life itself. You can think about the origin of human existence—wondering whether it evolved or was created—and question whether evolution and creation, faith and science can ever coexist.
Faith considers life on Earth a miracle of God, while science considers it a miracle of physics; that something so infinitely complex can derive from relatively simple laws. But what if the question of life was infinitely more complex than that? What if the true miracle wasn’t just human existence, but rather existence itself?
What if the God of creation wasn’t just the God of the Bible or the God of humanity, but the God of the Galaxies? And what if in those galaxies, we saw a miracle? We saw creation? We saw God?
In the beginning, the Bible tells us, there was darkness. And God said let there be light. In the beginning, science tells us, there was nothing but primordial gases. And then in an instant, there was existence; a Big Bang that formed an infinitely expanding universe.
What if those two explanations weren’t mutually exclusive? What if science was actually God’s language and the laws of physics were His laws? And what if it’s only now, through what is still our limited knowledge of those laws that we’re finally starting to realize how miraculous existence really is.
Because if we follow existence back all the way to the Big Bang, we don’t see chaos, we see order. So much order, in fact, that Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “Big Bang”—and an avowed atheist—said that “a common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics.”
Our universe, you see, has four fundamental forces—gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. As Eric Metaxas noted in The Wall Street Journal, each has a value that was assigned in the first millionth of a second after the Big Bang and each value was perfectly tuned to allow the galaxies to form and a planet like Earth to form life.
Had gravity been just a little bit stronger, all of the stars that were to form would have been red dwarfs, which don’t burn hot enough to support life as we know it. Had gravity been just a little weaker, the stars would have all been blue giants, which burn too hot and too briefly to support life as we know it. Had the weak nuclear force been much stronger, the formation of the stars wouldn’t have been possible at all. Had the strong nuclear force been increased by just 2%, protons would not be able to form, meaning atoms—the building blocks of all things—wouldn’t have been possible at all.
Those values, remember, the ones that made existence possible at all, were set a millionth of a second after the Big Bang, and stayed constant as the young universe expanded.
And the exact speed at which it expanded was necessary for the creation of the galaxies, too. Had it expanded any more uniformly, the tiny collections of matter that eventually condensed into galaxies wouldn’t have been able to do so. Had it expanded less uniformly, matter would have condensed into black holes before stars could form. Even now, the universe is still expanding and, instead of slowing down, it’s actually accelerating. Why? Because of the cosmological constant, which is essentially the energy of the universe’s empty space.
We know very little about it, but we do know that it is vastly smaller than our most advanced theories indicate that it should be. As The New Yorker noted, "if it were as large as the theories suggest it should be, then galaxies, stars, and planets would never have formed." Yet they did form, all because of the immutably perfect laws of the galaxies formed in a millionth of a second.
As Albert Einstein famously said, “God doesn’t play dice.” The moment of the Big Bang, it seems, and every moment that made the galaxies possible were carefully planned, using the elemental forces and even the expansion of the universe itself as its tools and using so precisely that existence was less a miracle than it was an inevitability. And that inevitability is in itself miraculous. Sir Isaac Newton recognized it when he postulated a Universal Law of Gravity, saying that “this most beautiful system could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”
In moments of doubt, we can question this, but to question, to reason, to think, to be at all, in fact, only help to illustrate the majesty of all that has been created—from the tiniest atoms that form us to the farthest galaxies.
They’re all miracles. So are you. So am I. So are everyone and everything that has ever existed. Sometimes we just need to look past ourselves and to the galaxies to see them.