Origin of the universe is an eternal puzzle and the beauty of this puzzle is that the more we try to solve it, the more puzzled we get
Dr SN Gupta
Scientists and Philosophers have always been struggling to unravel the mysteries of the origin of universe. Of the various propositions advanced as solutions to this eternal puzzle, ‘Evolution’ and ‘Creation’ are the two most popular ones. Each has a vast following of adherents and opponents. While the evolutionists base their arguments on archaeological evidences, the creationists build their case on the logical flaws of the former and rely mainly on faith. None is perfect. The way out of the impasse seems to be the Indian concept of the eternity of the universe which accepts both and negates neither.
The conventional wisdom among biologists makes us believe that we are purely material creatures whose existence, like that of all living beings, is the consequence of evolution; and since evolution is driven by chance and natural selection, there is no question of any teleology, divine or otherwise. Man’s appearance on the scene is a mere accident. Stephen Jay Gould in ‘Wonderful Life’ asserts that if we could “wind the tape of life to its origin……and let the tape play again from this identical point, the replay will populate the earth…..with radically different creatures…… Humans are here by the luck of the draw” (Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History). In the ‘Descent of Man’, Darwin himself states that nature’s harsh struggle was responsible for weeding out ‘lower animals’ and producing ‘higher animals’. Darwin viewed this upward progression as also applying to human groups and visualised, “At some future point……the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races throughout the world” (Life and Letters, Vol. 3). Perhaps, (the poor) Darwin couldn’t visualise the
evolution of Nazism, the two world wars and the weapons of mass destruction like the nuclear and biological war heads.
We will now, explore the theory of evolution a bit closely to see if there is any clue or evidence of a consistent plan or teleology in the universe.
Examining the Theory
First of all, we examine the natural conditions which support life on the earth and in their absence evolution could not have taken place. Human life requires a much narrower set of conditions than other forms of life. There are bacteria and microorganisms that can survive in extreme conditions of boiling geysers and frigid glaciers. But human species can’t survive beyond the range of 500 F below and 1300 F above zero. Most of the earth for most part of the year has temperatures within this range and thus making the evolution of human life on earth possible. This is so because the sun is just 8 light minutes away from the earth. Had it been a little farther away or a little closer, one can easily imagine the consequences. Even from its current distance, the sun sends the lethal ultra violet radiation enough to obliterate life. Thanks to ozone layer that filters the harmful radiation while letting through the sun light that is so essential for photosynthesis, warmth and the day time activities of all creatures.
Look at the moon. It is not only a facilitator of mood and romance and responsible for tides in the oceans, it also performs a very onerous duty of keeping the rotational axis of the earth at a constant tilt of 2300, which
causes seasons and prevents sharp fluctuations in climate to make this earth a lively place to live in.
And wow! The Jupiter seems so irrelevant to our existence, but for millions of years, due to its mammoth size and large gravitational pull, it has saved the earth from innumerable comets and meteorites that would have crashed into the earth and destroyed all traces of life forcing evolution to take a back seat.
Importance of water
Importance of water for life is too well known. Life without water is impossible. It constitutes a substantial proportion of our body mass. Besides, there are some strange properties of water that make it just fit for evolution of life on earth. Like all substances, water also contracts on cooling, but, just before freezing (40 C), it starts expanding until it becomes ice. So, unlike other
substances, ice contracts on heating, instead of expanding. Imagine what would happen without this strange behavior of water. All lakes and oceans would be completely and permanently frozen. In winters, the surface water would freeze and sink down to the bottom and the process would continue till the whole water of lake/ocean would turn into ice. Once the process is complete, it is irreversible, because in summers, the heat can’t reach the bottom and would only melt the surface ice. It is only the strange property of water that makes the ice float on the surface while the lower depths remain unaffected.
There are many more natural conditions like the oxygen level in atmosphere, the earth’s magnetic field, the crucial role of carbon compounds etc that support life on the earth and help evolution. Paul Devis was indeed right when he wrote, “The laws of nature are rigged not only in favour of life, but also in favour of mind” (The Fifth Miracle: The Search for the origin and Meaning of Life).
The Self-replicating Cell
Evolutionists tell us that starting from the simplest creatures of single cells, life has evolved into more and more complex creatures like the big banyan trees, whales, the dinosaurs and the human beings with a built in mind. The cell is a self-replicating unit. Even the simplest cell is a highly complicated machinery of thousands of molecules which work in an intricate and coordinated manner so that the cell itself, breaks down food stuffs, extracts energy, manufactures precursors, assembles constituents, notes genetic instructions and executes them. The information in a single cell is more than any encyclopedia and the processing power of a cell is better than any existing super computer. The most remarkable feature of a cell is that it has the capacity to copy itself. It is said that the dream of every cell is to become two cells. No human creation can match the creative ingenuity of a cell. Evolution presumes that the cell, fully prepared for metabolism and self replication, was in existence before the start of evolution. No reproduction and no natural
selection. How was the initial cell created? There must be something behind the creation of the self replicating cells. What was it?
Chance and Natural Selection
Evolution is said to follow the path of natural selection with superimposed chance phenomenon. Biologist Jacques Monod writes “Chance alone is the source of every innovation and of all creation in the biosphere” (Chance and Necessity). It is argued that the earliest forms of life were bacteria which evolved into higher forms. So, we now have the oak trees and the hippopotamuses; but the bacteria have not been eliminated in the struggle for survival, they actually out number all other species put together. Similarly, invertebrates didn’t die or stop evolving after fishes appeared and also the fishes didn’t disappear because one branch managed to inhabit the land. Mammals appeared later than reptiles, but reptiles still abound. Thus, we can trace a continuous lineage from one creature to another but, according to the famous biologist Stephen Jay Gould, “….it does not constitute progress of any sort and it is simply the arrogance of man to place himself at the top of the evolutionary ladder. In fact we are the product of a fortunate series of accidents, just like any other life form (Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin)”.
A new trend is emerging. The leading biologists have started challenging the hypothesis of random accidents. Freeman Dyson writes, “What we see………is the universe growing visibly more ordered and more lively as it grows older” (A Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life on The Planet Earth). Christian de Duve, Nobel Laureate (1974) for study of cell, in his book “Vital Dust: The Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth” says, “Even though bacteria are still around, it is hard to deny that as we move through historical time………evolution shows a progression from simple creatures to more complicated ones” (Vital Dust: The Origin and Evolution of Life on Earth). Duve doesn’t deny chance factor but he insists that chance itself follows a largely predetermined trajectory. Paradoxically, as Duve feels, “chance mutations and varied environments nevertheless lead to evolutionary convergence”
To understand how this happens, think of tossing a fair coin, each toss produces a random outcome of head or tail, but in large number of tosses, one can predict with high degree of precision that the number of heads and tails would be half and half. Thus, like random coin tossing, evolution leads to a long term convergent solution. The implication is clear that if the tape of evolution could be replayed, a similar pattern would emerge all over again. Duve asserts, “Biological history is proceeding through successive ages- from age of single cell to multi-cellular organisms and finally to the age of mind” (Life Evolving: Molecules, Mind, and Meaning) . Obviously, the evidence definitely points towards a consistent plan of a long term progression, neither random nor accidental in its overall direction, from simple to complex and from physical matter to non-physical mind. The
concept of mind which has immaterial attributes like thoughts and ideas, as distinguished from the physical brain, is both bewildering and fascinating as it pushes the physical matter to the immaterial world of spiritualism.
The Cosmic code
Forget the mind for the time being and concentrate on matter. The matter seems to be inert and without brain. However, there is an intelligent script imprinted in a concise and coded language of mathematical precision, so the matter always functions according to the physical and natural laws. Even the tiny quarks and electrons never break these laws. These comprehensively and coherently structured laws govern the operations of nature. A very sophisticated informational code is inbuilt into the nature of matter itself. Physicist Paul Devis (Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe is Just Right for Life) calls it the “Cosmic Code” which makes the nature work like a network of intelligent systems. Can it be a mere random accident? Who wrote this cosmic code? What does this cosmic code reveal? There is enough evidence of design or teleology. Einstein was not joking when he said, “In creating this universe, God does not play dice”.
The Eternal Universe
Teleology or design, divine or otherwise, if accepted, implies negation of the hypothesis of evolution. But it doesn’t lend credence even to the hypothesis of ‘Creation’. The so called theory of creation, like that of evolution, is also not free of pitfalls. Creation implies beginning i.e. some point of time when the universe came into being. So, the 4th dimension of Einstein’s space-time entity was in existence even before what is called ‘Creation’. When was that 4th dimension of time created? Time was neither created nor evolved; it is eternal, without beginning and without end.
Moreover, the powerful new ‘String theory’ of physics envisages that even our 4-dimensional world of space-time may be a part of a larger multidimensional world, several of whose dimensions are hidden from us. As physicist Lisa Randall puts it, “Our world is stuck in this 3-dimensional universe, although extra dimensions exist. So, we live in a 3-dimensional slice of a higher dimensional world.” (Mind, Life and Universe: Conversations with Great Scientists of Our Times) The other dimensions, though beyond human perception, account for things that we can’t perceive or even conceive. Creation accounts for only the universe perceived or conceived by human mind. What about the hidden dimensions? Were they created with this universe or earlier?
Even more remarkable than matter and energy are what the physicists call the ‘Dark Matter’ and the ‘Dark Energy’. Dark Matter is inferred to exist because galaxies hold together, though the gravitational force of ordinary matter is not strong enough for holding the galaxies. So, there must be some other kind of matter that is beyond the jurisdiction of the universal laws of physics. Similarly, the Dark Energy is inferred because the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace. The Big Bang can account for expansion but not the acceleration. So, Dark Energy, with properties entirely different from the energy of human perception, must be responsible for the increasing rate of expansion. Dark Matter and Dark Energy, which constitute 95 per cent of the total (Origin: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution), must have
existed prior to the creation of our universe, so as to manage and control the functioning of our small universe consisting of innumerable galaxies, stars, planets and satellites.
(The writer was a faculty of Statistics in Meerut University and has been visiting faculty to Fiji, Yemen, and Libya)