Startling Lessons of the Universe

Moshe Ben-Chaim

Nothing can create itself.  For if a thing already exists, it cannot create itself. And if it did not yet exist, there is nothing that can perform the creation. So how did the universe get here?

Something other than the universe must have caused the Big Bang, the birth of the universe. Wise scientist do not postulate anything prior to creation. For they rightfully accept ignorance concerning anything that our senses cannot detect, and prior to the “beginning” is beyond our senses. The Talmud (Chagiga 11b) agrees with these scientists. Other scientists propose a “multiverse” theory. This theory suggests an infinite number of universes, where the chance of one that perfectly functions for human life (our universe) was bound to happen. Using statistics as a crutch, such a theory attempts to remove God from the picture. These scientists suggest either an eternal chain of universes, or that something created the first in the endless  series. The eternal chain theory is false, for we could never reach the present. The second theory demands God. And once we recognize the need for God to cause the numerous universes, why would this omnipotent Being play dice with the universe, when He can simply create a perfect universe the very first time? Also, a theory of infinite universes developed to escape the need for a God, begs the question: what causes infinitely varying designs of universes? Why can’t there be infinite universes of identical design? The multiverse theory actually requires a “Designer” in order to ensure that all succeeding universes purposefully differ from preceding ones.

Others suggest the universe always existed. These include Aristotle and Plato. Aristotle says the universe as we see it, always existed in this state. But he holds the universe was not God’s will: it is merely a natural result of God’s existence. Plato suggests matter was eternally present, but that God molded that matter into a designed universe. These thinkers are closer to the truth than scientists who do not attribute the universe’s existence to God. But both Aristotle and Plato claim matter existed eternally.

This is quite apropos to the 9 Days which just ended. Last Shabbos we read Jeremiah’s (chap. 2) prophetic accusation of the Jews, as compared to other nations. Jewish leaders became corrupt; our prophets lied to the nation that the god Baal communicated with them, the Jews left off serving God and exchanged Him for deaf and dumb idols. Jeremiah described how other nations never exchanged their gods, while the Jews were doubly evil by doing so: the Jews experienced real goodness from God’s providence. In contrast, other nations would, when pasture was exhausted by their flock, loyally carry their lifeless stone gods on their backs from place to place for better grazing. A wise Rabbi taught, other nations were proud of their heritage; the Jew was not. The critique: the Jews denied reality of the Exodus, the 10 Plagues, the Manna, the Well, the pillars of cloud and fire, and numerous historical truths where God benefitted us. Despite this, the Jews abandoned God. The other nations had a better reason to do so, since their gods never answered. Yet, we were the nation who denied reality, who denied God. When good is experienced, and yet, the recipients reject that goodness, the sin is all the more egregious.

For our sin of idolatry, God allowed our enemies to kill us and destroy the first Temple. How can we reverse the tide back towards acceptance of God and a rejection of atheism, non-religious life and the belief in idolatrous mystical beliefs? It is only through knowledge. So let us learn…

Maimonides teaches that the natural laws of creation seen in their current state today, did not operate during that thing’s formation. The example he gives is of a human that requires daily air, food, and excretion. Yet, although for 9 months, the orifices enabling these bodily functions were not operational, the embryo lived. And even prior to the formed embryo, the interdependency of organs did not yet function, yet, they lived. How the body functions now is not how it functioned during its formation. 

Scientists accept a Big Bang where debris becomes a sun of a precise size and temperature. An Earth and a moon “end up” somehow at sizes and distances relative to each other, and to the sun, that are perfect for animal and plant life. Slight deviations in these measurements would end life. Somehow, plant and animal life contain nutrients that perfectly satisfy as food for animal life. Somehow, from chaotic explosions of brute matter, one species develops a spiritual element. But no one proposes exactly how a spiritual element emanates from a physical one. (Einstein marveled that the human mind can perceive the intelligence in creation) Species somehow developed genetic structures that produce a circulatory system, a digestive system, the ability to heal, eyes to see, and a host of marvels that help perpetuate the species including sperm and eggs. All by accident? And what about natural “laws?” What caused their design and sustained patterns? Aside from the need for precipitation, an atmosphere, and that a weather pattern “developed by accident” and addresses this need, what guides all laws to “continue?” What determines that each object that reproduces, reproduces its own kind? Look at this page: would you accept that this could be created by random ink drops thrown at this paper? Yet, this is nothing in comparison to the design evidenced in the universe. And yet, scientists suggest a random cause of the universe. And if the universe developed randomly, as Maimonides asks, why do we not see randomness exhibited in the natural laws governing species, gravity, etc?

Clearly, there exists a Designer. During Creation, natural laws were not yet set; they were actually undergoing creation. So, as Maimonides teaches, the current laws of the universe do not dictate how matter was formed. And this makes sense, since the very formation of all creation, was not through itself. Therefore, the laws that belong to all creations now, were not yet existing at its creation: other forces were at work. Therefore we are unable to view current laws and suggest they operated during Creation. But what we do know, is that Creation was not unguided, as explosions occur today, without an objective and design. There is simply too much perfection and design to suggest the universe is an accident.

Therefore, scientists err when attempting to explain the origin of the universe based on laws witnessed today, the only laws we detect. It is as if a child suggested he was eating, excreting and breathing in his mother’s body. So too the universe, but I will explain through a few astonishing points…

Matter requires creation; this law is part of its very design. Now think…as a law too is a created thing, the “need to be created” is only applicable to matter and its laws…not to the Creator. The Creator is not subject to the laws that He created. Thus, the need for creation as a means to exist, does not apply to God, Who created that very law. Think over this point.

The next point is this: as matter requires creation, it was made either from some previous matter, or from nothing. For we cannot suppose Z was made from Y, and Y from X, and X from W, ad infinitum back in time. If so, we never reach the “original cause,” as there is no original cause in an eternal chain, and thus, nothing could exist. Think this through as well. These are not small points. 

Point #1 is that God does not require creation to exist; this need applies only to created things.

Point #2 is that if there was not an Original Cause of all else, then nothing would exist. Suggesting an infinite chain of causes is an impossibility. We conclude that there must have been some first matter, before which, no matter existed. This, Maimonides teaches, is the view of the Torah, that God created the universe from nothingness, creatio ex nihilo. 

The other theory (Aristotle, Plato) of matter having existed eternally would mean that God did not design it based on His will. Maimonides teaches a desire to create, must precede its creation, and thus, matter did not always exist. Other arguments against eternal matter include the impossibility to alter that matter through miracles (which we know are historically proven). Now, since according to this view, it was not God’s will that the matter existed, it therefore exists external to God’s desire, as a “natural result” of God’s existence, like a shadow, and thus, its design was not due to God’s will. Therefore, God could not have altered natural law to create all the miracles He truly performed, had matter been eternal as God is eternal. Thus, we conclude matter was created by God’s will from nothingness. 

The quandary of the scientist is that he cannot move past nature; he does not see anything in the universe that came from nothing. So he accepts a baseless theory of an eternal universe, because of his mind’s limitations. That’s not a good reason to accept a theory. But even with our limitations, man can arrive at this most fundamental truth, as we learn from Abraham. Even though he was raised in an idolatrous culture, Abraham’s mind was able to recognize and become more attached to truth and reality, than to idolatrous fantasies and peer pressure. 

There are 2 paths before us: imagination and reality. Tisha B’Av recalls the Jews who succumbed to their idolatrous fantasies. This was more attractive to their weak minds than following the truths of God’s goodness they knew He performed. Recognizing God through the universe is a primary tool for mankind to return to its senses.  A few words of Maimonides are appropriate here (Guide, book ii, chap xxiii):

You will, however, be able to decide the question, as far as necessary, if you free yourself from passions, ignore customs, and follow only your reason. But many are the conditions which must be fulfilled. First you must know your mental capacities and your natural talents: you will find this out when you study all mathematical sciences, and are well acquainted with Logic. Secondly, you must have a thorough knowledge of Natural Science, that you may be able to understand the nature of the objections. Thirdly, you must be morally good. For if a person is voluptuous or passionate, and, loosening the reins, allows his anger to pass the just limits, it makes no difference whether he is so from nature or from habit, he will blunder and stumble in his way, he will seek the theory which is in accordance with his inclinations. I mention this lest you be deceived; for a person might some day, by some objection which he raises, shake your belief in the theory of the Creation, and then easily mislead you: you would then adopt the theory [of the Eternity of the Universe] which is contrary to the fundamental principles of our religion, and leads to “speaking words that turn away from God.” You must rather have suspicion against your own reason, and accept the theory taught by two prophets [Abraham and Moses] who have laid the foundation for the existing order in the religious and social relations of mankind. Only demonstrative proof should be able to make you abandon the theory of the Creation: but such a proof does not exist in Nature.

Maimonides teaches that nothing in the observable universe directs us to abandon the theory of Creation. He also teaches that we must examine and manage our own emotions and loyalties, for these can corrupt clear thought, allowing us to accept fallacy and opinions that cater to our instincts. Maimonides does state that if the eternity of the universe was proven, we would have to reinterpret Genesis[1]. Thus, he does not view an eternal universe as impossible, but rather, as unproven. 

[1] Guide, book ii chap xxv, last sentences