The Gospel is not incompatible with theistic evolution

It is a long time since I have discussed here issues of creation and evolution. Indeed I think my post from two years ago Most British people still believe in God the Creator, but why? is the most recent to touch on this matter, and even there I don’t really discuss my own position.

However, in recent weeks I have become involved in some Facebook discussions on this matter, and have made some comments which are really too long for such threads. Here is the latest of those. The discussion had been about whether animals could have died before the fall of Adam and Eve. I was recommended an article by David Shackelford, published by Creation Ministries International, with the provocative title The relationship between the Fall, the Curse, and the Gospel, and its incompatibility with theistic evolution. In response I wrote (slightly edited):

Interesting article.

Therefore, the ontological foundations of the pre-fallen world require that there be nothing below that standard. Such an environment requires the absence of violence, death, or bloodshed.

This is a non sequitur, at least if talking about animals. It needs to be argued, not assumed, that violence and death among animals falls below God’s standard of perfection. I take the point about initial vegetarianism in Genesis 1:29-30, but this cannot imply that animal death is objectively evil because then the revocation of vegetarianism in 9:3 is God commanding sin. An argument can perhaps be built from 9:4-6, but it needs to be built, not assumed.

If any one of these three elements in Genesis is reduced to something other than a historical event, the whole of Scripture is called into question and the Gospel of Christ begins to crumble. It is likewise axiomatic that if theistic evolution is true, then not just one, but all three of the aforementioned criteria are false and must be jettisoned.

Another complete non sequitur. Theistic evolution does not imply that Garden of Eden story is untrue or “unhistorical”. I do not deny that there was a first couple set apart in a “garden”, who really lived and really died. The only issue is exactly how they were created and came to be in the garden.

While some theistic evolutionists would say that Adam and Eve were real people but not directly created by God, they still face insurmountable problems with the plain teachings of Scripture; for example, the inherent sinful nature, the continual upward progress demanded by most versions of evolution, and so forth.

Please tell me what problem I am supposed to have with “the inherent sinful nature”. I would love to know! I don’t hold to Augustine’s view of it, see my post Augustine’s mistake about original sin. But I really don’t know what version is supposed to cause me “insurmountable problems”. As for “continual upward progress”, this is not real evolutionary science but the half-baked philosophy that some atheists have tried to bolt on to it.

Most evolutionary theories (particularly theistic evolution) assume an upward spiral of progress, including the development of man.

That is complete nonsense, concerning theistic evolution. OK, some pseudo-Christians who actually believe that in the continuing progress of mankind may hold to some kind of theistic evolution. But evangelical theistic evolutionists are clear that progress is possible only as God makes it possible, and that it stopped, at least in spiritual and moral areas, when mankind turned away from God into sin.

I will leave to scientists the task of demonstrating the scientific weaknesses of evolution.

I will leave it to Dr Shackelford to demonstrate the theological weaknesses of his position – or at least the logical weakness of this sentence.

Most British people still believe in God the Creator, but why?

Another post relevant to Darwin’s bicentenary …

The Christian think tank Theos has carried out a survey of public opinion in Britain on creation and evolution. Thanks to Doug Chaplin for the link to Andrew Brown of the Guardian’s article about this. The results are extraordinary, considering that this is not a survey of Christians, but of the full spectrum of the population of the highly secularised UK. Here are the questions and some of the answers (extracted from the results, averaged over age groups and regions):

Q1. Young Earth Creationism is the idea that God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years. In your opinion is Young Earth Creationism:

Definitely true: 11% Probably true: 21%.

Q2. Theistic evolution is the idea that evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth. In your opinion is Theistic evolution:

Definitely true: 12% Probably true: 32%.

Q3. Atheistic evolution is the idea that evolution makes belief in God unnecessary and absurd. In your opinion is Atheistic evolution:

Definitely true: 13% Probably true: 21%.

Q4. Intelligent Design is the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages. In your opinion is Intelligent Design:

Definitely true: 14% Probably true: 37%.

These results raise several questions, not least that quite a lot of people must have said that two contradictory positions are definitely or probably true. The survey must have found many disciples of Alice’s White Queen, who practice believing impossible things before breakfast. Indeed the questions themselves raise questions, about the definitions used, as the British Humanist Association has rightly pointed out, but the research is still valid as long as the wording of the questions is kept in mind.

So, even in this highly secular country, the two most popular of these four positions explicitly involve the activity of a creator or designer, in other words of God or a god. The atheistic position comes in third place. More than half the population accepts the Intelligent Design position. This is perhaps good news for Christians, that despite the collapse of organised churchgoing in the UK there is still a strong residual belief in God. According to the detailed figures, this belief does not seem to tail off among younger respondents.

As for Young Earth Creationism, although this is the least popular of the four positions, it is only a little behind atheistic evolution, with nearly a third of the population considering it definitely or probably true. This is far more than the total adherents of any kind of religion which would teach this position. This may reflect in part widespread ignorance of anything to do with science, although only 8% admitted to “Don’t know” on this question. So Andrew Brown is surely right in his suggestion that this is a matter of “Science vs superstition, not science vs religion”. As Doug points out:

This has some echoes of Chesterton: when people stop believing in God they will believe in anything.

Personally I have serious issues with Intelligent Design at least as presented here, and also with Young Earth Creationism. But I would have answered “Definitely true” to this question about theistic evolution.

The Church of England's apology to, or for, Darwin

The Church of England has marked the Darwin bicentenary by launching a new website about the great scientist. (Thanks to Ruth Gledhill for the link.) The front page links to several articles about Darwin. One of them shows how he began his life as a good Anglican. Another charts in his own words his loss of Christian faith:

disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete.

Yet another page shows how despite this he remained an active member of his village church in Downe, Kent.

The most interesting article on this site is Good religion needs good science, by Rev Dr Malcolm Brown, Director of Mission and Public Affairs of the Church of England. Brown seems to accept that Darwin’s description of evolution was good science, but is rightly concerned about the philosophcal “Darwinism” which has been built up around it. The whole essay is all worth reading and cannot be summarised briefly, but here is a taster:

It is hard to avoid the thought that the reaction against Darwin was largely based on what we would now call the ‘yuk factor’ (an emotional not an intellectual response) when he proposed a lineage from apes to humans.

But for all that the reaction now seems misjudged, it may just be that Wilberforce and others glimpsed a murky image of how Darwin’s theories might be misappropriated and the harm they could do …

Natural selection, as a way of understanding physical evolutionary processes over thousands of years, makes sense. Translate that into a half-understood notion of ‘the survival of the fittest’ and imagine the processes working on a day-to-day basis, and evolution gets mixed up with a social theory in which the weak perish – the very opposite of the Christian vision in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55). This ‘Social Darwinism’, in which the strong flourish and losers go to the wall is, moreover, the complete converse of what Darwin himself believed about human relationships. From this social misapplication of Darwin’s theories has sprung insidious forms of racism and other forms of discrimination which are more horribly potent for having the appearance of scientific “truth” behind them. …

Christians will want to stress, instead, the human capacity for love, for altruism, and for self-sacrifice. There is nothing here which, in principle, contradicts Darwin’s theory. … But the point of natural selection is that it is precisely by being most fully human that we demonstrate our fitness. And being fully human means refusing to abdicate our ability to act selflessly or lovingly and to challenge thin concepts of rationality which equate “being rational” to material self interest. …

The problem for all Christians is discerning where the surrounding culture is really a threat and where it is compatible with our understanding of God. …

Brown ends with these interesting words of apology:

Charles Darwin: 200 years from your birth, the Church of England owes you an apology for misunderstanding you and, by getting our first reaction wrong, encouraging others to misunderstand you still. We try to practice the old virtues of ‘faith seeking understanding’ and hope that makes some amends. But the struggle for your reputation is not over yet, and the problem is not just your religious opponents but those who falsely claim you in support of their own interests. Good religion needs to work constructively with good science – and I dare to suggest that the opposite may be true as well.

Darwin, Wedgwood, Alpha and the anti-slavery movement

A chance to blog today on an unexpected day off because of snow

The Wedgwood family is in the news. The famous pottery firm founded in the 18th century by Josiah Wedgwood is currently in administration, i.e. just short of bankruptcy. Now two eighth generation descendants of Josiah, both called Tom Wedgwood, are bidding to take back family control of the firm.

Meanwhile an article links Josiah’s anti-slavery views with those of his third generation descendant, Charles Darwin. Darwin’s wife was also a grandchild of Josiah. The Wedgwood family’s campaign against slavery was based on the Bible verse which they used as a slogan, “God Hath Made of One Blood All Nations of Men” (based on Acts 17:26 KJV; “blood” here comes from a textual variant which is probably not original, but “of one” is certainly original and probably refers to Adam). This same concept of the common descent of humanity is evident in the caption of the anti-slavery medallion designed by Josiah, a kneeling slave asking “Am I Not a Man and a Brother?”

So Darwin took this biblical concept of the common descent of humanity from the Wedgwoods and used it as the basis of his own anti-slavery campaigning. But also, when he observed differences between animal and bird species analogous to those between human races, he extended this concept to the animal kingdom:

Since species were only extended races, they too must share an ancestry. He moved from talking of the common “father” of mankind to an “opossum”-like fossil as the father of all mammals.

Darwin was one of the first to suggest this common descent of different species of animals. And indeed this lies at the heart of his theory of evolution. Since this theory is seen so widely by Christians as opposed to biblical truth (I don’t agree, by the way), it is ironic that it was inspired in part by a Bible verse.

Meanwhile I have just received a new copy of  Alpha News, reports about the Alpha course and testimonies from those who have done it (November 2008-February 2009 issue; there is no online edition but some of the articles, not the ones I mention in this post, are online at this site). There are two things in it which relate to this post.

An extended testimony in this newspaper (which I haven’t read yet) is entitled “I was a slave trader”. No, this isn’t about 18th century converted slave ship captain John Newton. Amazingly, it is the story of a man of our own times, Dave Blakeney from Manchester, who was involved in slave trading in Angola in the 1970s. This is a reminder that Wedgwood’s campaign is by no means over.

Also in the paper is a news article about the new office building for the 150 staff of Alpha and of the church that set it up, Holy Trinity Brompton. The article is also on the HTB website, but sadly without the pictures. The interesting thing about this building, in Cromwell Road, London, is that it is immediately opposite the Natural History Museum.

Unlike some people I don’t see a fundamental opposition between science and Christian faith. Indeed I commend Doug Chaplin and Henry Neufeld for pointing out the fallacies in this approach. But I can’t help seeing something of the bravery of David facing Goliath in Alpha setting up their offices right opposite one of the world’s great temples of Darwinism.

The oldest living fossils

Roll over, Coelacanth! You are no longer the world’s oldest living fossil, but a mere youngster, believed extinct 80 million years ago until discovered alive in 1938. Actually you weren’t the oldest such Lazarus taxon: that honour used to go to the Monoplacophora class of molluscs, thought to be extinct for 380 million years until discovered alive in 1952. But now an animal has been discovered which makes both of these seem young.

As the BBC reports, scientists have found an explanation for strange tracks made in rocks dated up to 1.8 billion years old. The old theory was that these tracks were made by primitive worms, but there was a problem in that this was more than a billion years before the first worms, or multi-celled creatures of any kind, appeared. The solution has now come to light on the sea bed near the Bahamas; I guess someone was enjoying the idyllic diving conditions when they spotted tracks just like the ancient ones. And they then discovered what was making them: “A single-celled ball about the size of a grape” which crawls slowly through the sea bed mud. Similar “globular or bulbous collapsible bodies” were found fossilised in the ancient rocks.

So here we have a creature which seems to have been crawling about the sea bed unnoticed, covered in mud, and little changed for billions of years, while above them continents have risen and fallen and the seas and the land have been ruled by a succession of different kinds of creatures which haven’t even noticed them. These little balls of jelly seem to be the ultimate survivors.

But even this unnamed creature is young compared to the blue-green algae which form stromatolites. The age given for the oldest stromatolites known to have been formed by living creatures is 2.7 billion years, and they are still being formed in the same way. In that ancient period stromatolites were common, but now they are very rare, and indeed one of the few places where they survive today is the sea bed near the Bahamas.

The oldest known sin

Phil Whittall reminds us that

we are stewards and caretakers of the earth. It’s the height of arrogance to think that a generation can destroy, consume the world and leave future generations to deal with the consequences.

Indeed! But a recent BBC article shows that human beings have been destroying their environment for at least 43,000 years, when our ancestors caused the extinction of many of the large animals of Tasmania. (Well, actually these early Tasmanians are probably the ancestors of no one alive today as ironically their distinct race has now become extinct, much more recently when we British allowed it so that we could use their island as a prison.) So the oldest known sin is not that of the proverbial “oldest profession”. It might be idolatry, but the earliest undisputed images of religious significance are somewhat later, from the Upper Palaeolithic. So it seems quite likely that the oldest human sin for which there is now any evidence is causing environmental change and the extinction of species.

These extinctions in Tasmania are by no means uncharacteristic. Rather they are among the earliest examples in what is known as the Quaternary Extinction Event, which has involved the loss of the vast majority of the large mammal genera in North and South America and Australia, as well as a significant number in Eurasia including the mammoth. Many reptiles and flightless birds have also died out. Such extinctions have continued into quite recent times, with the loss of birds such as the dodo.

The causes of these extinctions are controversial. But in very many cases there is a clear link in time to the arrival of the first humans. The new evidence from Tasmania confirms this link in time there also. It seems highly probable that in most if not all of these cases the species were hunted to extinction by humans.

Sadly this extinction event is continuing. Some of the surviving large land mammals are under threat from human activities, although now more from loss of habitat than from hunting. Meanwhile fish and marine mammals are now being hunted in unsustainable ways which put them in serious danger of extinction.

Does this have any theological significance? Can this historical evidence of the first sin be related to the biblical account of the first sin, Adam and Eve taking the apple, and the consequent Fall?

First of all, in accepting datings as old as this I have effectively rejected the young earth creationist position that no events happened more than 6,000 or perhaps 10,000 years ago. My position is to accept that the accounts given by scientists of ancient events are broadly accurate, although their explanations of these events may not be. (I use “event” here in a very broad sense of anything that has happened in the past.) I am more or less what is called a theistic evolutionist, but my account here is also compatible with ancient earth creationism. I don’t need to go into this in detail here.

On any explanation of the past there must have been a time when humans first became conscious and spiritually aware, whether this happened gradually through evolutionary processes (although I don’t think evolutionists have offered any convincing explanations of this one) or in some sudden way. If we accept that animals do not have the capacity of choosing to sin but humans do, there must have been a first man or woman to have this capacity, and there must have been a first man or woman, no earlier but possibly much later, who actually did choose to sin. In this sense there must actually have been an Adam or an Eve.

And the new evidence from the BBC suggests that that first sin must have taken place at least 43,000 years ago, as by that period humans were already showing selfishness and disobedience by hunting their prey to extinction – interestingly something which is very rare among animals, except for introduced species for which humans are so often responsible.

Sin is common to all humans, including aboriginal Australians and Tasmanians who were almost completely isolated from other human populations for up to 50,000 years before the late 17th century. This strongly suggests that this first sin predates that period of isolation. According to some scientists, the worldwide dispersal of modern humans followed a “great leap forward” to behavioural modernity which took place about 50,000 years ago, probably in their original homeland of Africa. Perhaps what scientists call a leap forward is much the same as what theologians call the Fall.

Is there life on other worlds?

This has been a good week for those searching for life beyond the earth. The BBC Science and Nature web page links to three separate new articles pointing in this direction. Salt deposits from dried up lakes have been found on Mars, suggesting that once, billions of years ago, there were lakes of salty water which could have supported life, and that traces of this could be found in the salt. Beneath the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, according to new evidence, very likely still today there are oceans of liquid water, which could well support life as organic molecules are also present. And for the first time these organic molecules have been found on a planet outside our solar system; although this particular planet is too hot for life, this finding, combined with the recent discovery of a planet of similar size and temperature to our earth orbiting a distant star, suggests that there may be billions of planets in our galaxy capable of supporting life.

It is highly unlikely that any life on Mars or on Titan will be anything like the intelligent aliens we know of from science fiction. Large organisms simply could not survive on Mars today; indeed it seems unlikely that any life could. Much more likely, both there and deep inside Titan, would be something like bacteria.

As for planets in other solar systems, from a scientific point of view anything is possible. But people have been listening for radio messages from aliens for 50 years and have so far not heard anything suggesting intelligent beings out there.

Would the discovery of life on other planets be a threat to the Christian faith? Certainly it should not be. If God can create life on earth, whether through natural processes (as I believe) or by direct creation (as other Christians prefer to understand it), he certainly can do so in other places, and we have no reason to think that he has not done so.

If there are non-human intelligent beings out there, one might speculate, or conceivably in future be able to study, whether they are also self-aware and spiritual beings, whether they too have sinned, and whether they too need to be saved by the sacrificial death and resurrection of the Son of God. CS Lewis memorably speculated in his novels Out of the Silent Planet and Voyage to Venus (also known as Perelandra) about intelligent inhabitants of Mars and Venus living in an unfallen Garden of Eden kind of environment. Of course we can’t know, until and unless we make actual contact. But the possibility of this should not be any kind of threat to our faith.

In The Beginning, part 2

Continued from Part 1.

A hundred thousand years had passed since the Big Bang, and the Universe was now made up of atoms, hydrogen and helium, bathed in light the colour of sunlight. This gas was far more diffuse than any earthly gas, only about one atom per cubic metre. It was expanding and cooling fast, and continued to do so for a billion years. The light also cooled, which meant shifting towards red and infra-red. One can imagine angels watching and thinking that this Universe was a failure, as its bright Big Bang was fizzling out like a damp squib. But its Creator had something more in store.

The early Universe, even before atoms were formed, was not as chaotic as it may have looked. It had been remarkably uniform, at least since the end of the very short period of runaway inflation – the same all the way through and in every direction.1 And on the large scale it still is today.

If the Big Bang had been simply random, then the energy which streamed out from it would have been chaotic and lumpy. Also space and time would not have been the smooth continuum which we see today; they would have been twisted and mixed up, perhaps a bit like an attempt at a balloon model with parts twisted together randomly, blocking the expansion of the Universe. But the space and time we see is more like a normal balloon with a smooth surface, and the Universe can expand freely.

No one knows why the Universe is so smooth, when this in fact seems to be a very special and extremely improbable state of affairs. Maybe it is a result of the little understood early period of inflation. Some people invoke the “anthropic principle”, that the early Universe had to be like this because if it hadn’t been there would be no humans around now to observe it. But surely the hand of God is in this, even though we don’t know how.

For this uniformity of the Universe is of extreme importance today. If the early Universe had been chaotic, it would have remained so, and no kind of structure or order could ever have emerged, at least by natural processes. Either it would have broken up and disappeared into black holes, or it would simply have remained a chaotic mess.2

But the Universe did not remain uniform for ever on the smaller scale. Maybe a billion years after the Big Bang something new became evident. As the atoms continued to move apart and cool they very gradually started to clump together, the weak force of gravity acting on random density fluctuations. Huge masses of hydrogen and helium began to coalesce into the diffuse and swirling clouds which eventually became the galaxies we now observe. Within these clouds smaller regions of gas started to collapse under gravity into the much denser agglomerations which became stars. The original light had been fading for a billion years, but now the Universe was about to be filled again with light.

To be continued …

1. I.e. homogeneous and isotropic. The primary evidence for this is the very high degree of uniformity of the observed cosmic background radiation. This, amazingly enough, is the light released when atoms first formed after the first 100,000 years of the universe, now cooled to less than 3 degrees Kelvin. This evidence of course tells us only about the finite visible part of the infinite Universe, but it is hard to see how this part could be so uniform if the whole is not.

2. This is an attempt to explain how a high entropy Universe would have remained in a high entropy state, and so that the observed low entropy must imply a very special or improbably low entropy initial state.

In The Beginning, part 1

In the beginning God created the Point. The Point was tiny. It was not quite a mathematical point. But in each of its ten or more dimensions it was wrapped up so tightly that its size1 was far more than as much smaller than an atom as an atom is smaller than the Solar System.

There was not nothing outside the Point, for there was no outside the Point for nothing to be in. There was just the Point, and the God who created it.

The Point was pulsating with energy, pregnant with possibility, filled with all the intentions of its Creator. Its tiny size could not hold the energy in. It exploded out in a Big Bang, unwrapping three of its dimensions into infinity, becoming the Universe. Energy streamed apart, not out of the Universe for there was no outside, but expanding with the Universe as it became infinite Space.

The Universe began to expand faster and faster. It doubled in size, if you can say that of something which is infinite, perhaps a few hundred times, perhaps even trillions of times, no one knows except God. All this happened in a time so short that it cannot be described in mere words2.

For some reason, only God the Creator really knows why, this runaway inflation came to a halt. The Universe continued to expand, but now at a leisurely pace. But still it was so hot, so filled with the energy of God, that no matter could form. All was formless and void. There were no atoms, not even subatomic particles, until the expansion had cooled the universe trillions of times more. Compared with the initial inflation, this gradual expansion took immeasurable ages, but in the units we understand it took perhaps just a millionth of a second to form protons and neutrons, the building blocks of matter as we know it.

The Universe continued to expand and to cool, but it was now changing much more slowly. For millennia it was filled with a plasma, hydrogen and helium nuclei in a sea of loose electrons, like the outer layers of the Sun today. “Suddenly, a hundred thousand years into its unwinding, the skies clear as though on a cloudy summer’s day”, as Peter Atkins puts it3, for, with the temperature now down to ten thousand degrees, electrons stick to nuclei and atoms form. As God said “Let there be light”, the Universe was filled with light, like the light of the Sun today.

Continued in part 2.

NOTE: The above is based on the best ideas of modern physics, as clearly described for popular audiences (in secular terms) in “Galileo’s Finger” by Peter Atkins, Oxford 2003. But some of the details are speculative.

1. I.e. the Planck length, about 10-35 metres; compare atoms, about 10-10 m, and the diameter of the Solar System, about 1012 m.

2. About 10-32 seconds.

3. p.252.

Kingdom Thermodynamics 4: The Crunch

Note: This is not completely new material. I realised after I posted it that part 3 of this series was rather long, and so I have split it, making the second half of it into this part 4.

In part 3 of this series I discussed the boundary conditions in time, how they might apply to the universe, and how they relate to causality. I also showed how they are in tension with the biblical picture in which God knows and purposes the future, the final state of the universe.

In this post I will look more closely at the final state of the created universe, and how it compares with the initial state.

We observe that the universe is now not in a completely random state but has some order. The Second Law of Thermodynamics implies that its initial state was even less random, technically with lower entropy than at present. It also implies that the final state of the universe will be more random, with higher entropy.

Cosmologists have observed that the background radiation which they interpret as being left over from the Big Bang is extremely uniform across the sky. This implies that at least from an extremely early stage, if not from the very beginning, the universe expanded isotropically, i.e. in the same way in all directions, to a very high degree of accuracy. This isotropy implies order and low entropy; the very early universe was not in a random state but in an extremely special one. Theologians might see the hand of God in this; cosmologists have sought to explain it with physics, but in a way which would require that the Second Law of Thermodynamics did not apply in the first fraction of a second (actually only something like 10-32 seconds in some expansion theories) after the Big Bang.

My argument here is not in fact at all dependent on the Big Bang theory. It would work equally well if the universe was created in a form similar to its present one, even as recently as 4004 BC. But its initial state, at least once the act of creation was complete and the normal laws of physics took over, must have been not completely random, but with order and so low entropy. It first came into being “formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2 TNIV), Hebrew tohu wabohu; these words may imply a state of chaos, but if so God created order within it during his work of creation before putting it in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21 TNIV).

As for the final state of the universe, cosmologists generally assume that it will be highly disordered. According to them, there are two possibilities: either the universe will continue to expand for ever but will gradually become more and more disordered, with entropy eventually approaching a maximum, the so called Heat Death; or the universe will collapse again into a Big Crunch, which, according to most, will be very different from the Big Bang in that it will be highly disordered and anisotropic, a state of high entropy. Both Heat Death and a disordered Big Crunch can be considered as unconstrained; there are no final boundary conditions here.

However, some cosmologists have speculated that at some time in the future, probably at about the time that the universe reaches its maximum size, the Second Law of Thermodynamics will go into reverse, and that entropy will start to decrease, such that the universe will collapse in an isotropic Big Crunch which will look just like the Big Bang in reverse. Thus the history of the universe will be at least in general terms symmetric in time. But these cosmologists have realised, without as far as I know discussing this in detail, that such a reversal of the Second Law would have complex and severe philosophical implications, and for this reason the idea is not a popular one.

Nevertheless, they have an interesting idea which is helpful to illustrate the direction in which I am arguing here. In the standard cosmological model, there are tight boundary conditions on the initial state of the universe, constraining it to be isotropic, so in a state of order and low entropy; but there are no final boundary conditions, as required by the principle of causality, implying that the final state is disordered. But if there will also be an isotropic Big Crunch, that is a final and tightly constraining boundary condition. Now as I have tried to make clear, there is only one law of physics which disallows this, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and that applies only because of causality. An isotropic Big Crunch is possible only if causality does not apply completely, that is, if at least in principle current events can be caused by future ones, indeed ultimately by the Big Crunch itself.

According to cosmologists, the universe is still expanding, and it will be a very long time before it starts to contract again towards a Big Crunch, if it ever does. So, in the isotropic Big Crunch model, its current state is like a point on the banner quite near to one of the poles, or the distribution of the children soon after they were released and before they were starting to think about going home. That is to say, the universe is still quite tightly constrained by its initial boundary condition, the isotropic Big Bang, but the constraints of the final boundary, the Big Crunch, so far have only a very weak effect. Because of this the universe now operates almost precisely as if there were no final constraints, and so according to causality and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Nevertheless, if there is going to be an isotropic Big Crunch, one might expect to see very occasional or very tiny deviations from this law, which will gradually grow as the universe moves towards the mid-point of its life. Then it will have a severe mid-life crisis! I will not presume to speculate on how physics will operate around this time. But eventually the Second Law will gradually start to work in reverse as the universe collapses towards the Big Crunch.

Now it is interesting to speculate about this time-symmetric universe. But actually I don’t think this is what is going to happen. If the Bible teaches us anything about the final boundary conditions for the universe, those conditions are not an isotropic Big Crunch, but some kind of steady state for eternity. It is interesting that scientists are still unable to decide whether the universe will continue to expand indefinitely or collapse in a Big Crunch. A third and intermediate position may be possible, in which it grows to a fixed size and remains that size for ever; and the current expansion of the universe is at about the right rate to attain this. This steady state is probably a very special and improbable state, similar to the isotropic Big Crunch, but if it is a final boundary condition specified from the beginning, the universe is bound to end up in this state. But if there is such a final boundary condition, causality and the Second Law lose their absolute status, and at some stage will gradually cease to operate.

I have to accept that these ideas, especially the final one, are highly speculative. But I hope you find them interesting.

In the next part of this series I intend to relate these ideas to the coming of the Kingdom of God. I hope there will be less heavy physics and more about God and the Bible.

Note re links to Wikipedia: I provide these as service to readers wanting to read a little more about the subjects in question, not as authorities or references.