Physics’ Unsolved Energy Crisis

Evidence of a Young Universe

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Two fundamental laws of physics clash if we try to explain the universe’s origin without a Creator.

The universe contains an unimaginable amount of energy. Your little finger alone holds enough to power a major city for months. Where did all this energy come from? The answer has put naturalistic scientists on the horns of a dilemma, but believers see this fact as another reason to wonder in awe at the Creator’s power.

Two Conflicting Laws

In the early twentieth century, physicists came to realize that energy and mass are equivalent. Surprisingly, energy has mass, and matter has intrinsic energy due to its mass. Energy can be converted into matter, and the energy in matter can be liberated into other forms, following Einstein’s famous equation, E = mc2, where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light. This means the universe contains a tremendous amount of energy, not just in conventional forms but as matter.

So where is the problem for secular scientists? Physicists have long recognized the first law of thermodynamics—that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Since matter and energy are equivalent, the sudden appearance of all the matter in the universe would violate this fundamental physical law. So for a long time, physicists thought the universe was eternal, that it had always existed. This certainly would avoid the problem with the first law of thermodynamics, often called the conservation of energy.

But the second law of thermodynamics presents a problem for this view. While the first law says that the total energy of the universe does not change, the second law decrees that the amount of energy useful for work is continually decreasing. Eventually, given enough time, all the energy of the universe would equalize. Without useful energy, work is impossible. Life would be impossible. Physicists call this heat death, and it is the far-off future of the universe, without God’s intervention. But if the universe is eternal, it would have long since reached heat death.

Clearly, this is not the case, so the universe cannot be eternal. That means it had a beginning, when energy was created. But this would violate the first law of thermodynamics if you naïvely assume that the first law was applicable at the universe’s creation.

In the world today, the first and second laws of thermodynamics work together hand in glove. They appear to be universally true, and they are among the most fundamental and basic laws of physics. Furthermore, scientists expect that the two laws will apply in the future, and that they have applied in the past. However, when these two laws are applied indefinitely into the past, we reach a contradiction. How do we resolve this dilemma?

Imaginative Solutions

Secular scientists have devised all sorts of ways to avoid this contradiction. A few scientists today believe that the universe is eternal. They believe that we happen to live in a region of the universe where entropy (unavailable energy) increases but that there are other regions where entropy decreases. Eventually, the direction that entropy changes in our part of the universe may reverse. In other words, the second law of thermodynamics does not apply to the entire universe, just portions of the universe, and not for all time, either.

This minority solution amounts to a rejection of the second law of thermodynamics, or, at the very least, arguing that it does not universally apply, or that energy can spontaneously appear in amounts so tiny that we don’t notice. Of course, there is no evidence for this. Science is supposed to be based upon evidence. Furthermore, one must then ask what other physical laws are not universal. The uniformity of physical laws is a foundation of science, so abandoning it amounts to an abandonment of science.

That brings us back to what the majority of scientists today believe—that the universe had a beginning, such as the big bang 13.8 billion years ago. But, as we have seen, this would violate the first law of thermodynamics.

Theoretical physicists have dreamed up elaborate ideas to explain how the universe could have come into existence without violating the conservation of energy. These approaches rely upon questionable interpretations of quantum mechanics and speculative ideas about physics, for which there is absolutely no empirical evidence. Without any evidence, they are spun into clever philosophical arguments that contain no science. The fact that scientists talk about these ideas, often using scientific jargon, doesn’t make philosophy science.

Since none of the answers secular scientists offer for this dilemma are scientifically tenable, perhaps the most obvious conclusion is correct: the origin of the universe cannot be explained physically. If something does not have a physical explanation, then by default it has a metaphysical explanation.

But this possibility is anathema to most scientists today. In their worldview, the physical world is all that exists, so there is no spiritual reality, and there is no God. When faced with a phenomenon that has no physical explanation, their worldview does not allow for the only other possibility. Therefore, they must concoct a physical explanation, even if that explanation contradicts science.

One Big Miracle

What is the takeaway? Two very well-established laws of science, when applied to the indefinite past, lead to a contradiction. Resolution of this dilemma ultimately results in abandoning either science or a physical explanation. Something that has no physical explanation could be called a miracle.

Creation certainly is miraculous, but does a miracle contradict science? Not according to early scientists, such as Sir Isaac Newton. At one time, the overwhelming majority of scientists accepted creation. Science has not proved them wrong. Rather, the assumption of naturalism has eliminated creation as a possibility in many scientists’ minds.

Science, if properly understood, does not preclude creation. In fact, the first and second laws of thermodynamics practically require it.

Dr. Danny R. Faulkner joined the staff of Answers in Genesis after more than 26 years as professor of physics and astronomy at the University of South Carolina Lancaster. He has written numerous articles in astronomical journals, and he is the author of Universe by Design.

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