Our Awesome Universe
1, 2. (a) How can the material heavens be described? (b) What questions do thinking people ask, and what can the answers help determine?
FOR thousands of years, people have marveled at the starry heavens. On a clear night, the beautiful stars hang like shining jewels against the darkness of space. A moonlit night bathes the earth with a beauty all its own.
2 Those who think about what they see often wonder: ‘Just what is out there in space? How is it organized? Can we find out how it all got started?’ Answers to these questions would no doubt help determine more accurately why the earth with its human and other life came to be, and what the future may hold.
3. What is one result of the increasing knowledge of the universe?
3 Many centuries ago, it was thought that the universe was made up of the few thousand stars that could be seen with the unaided eye. But now, with powerful instruments that scan the heavens, scientists know that there is much, much more. In fact, what has been observed is far more awesome than anyone had ever imagined. The human mind is staggered by the immensity and complexity of it all. As National Geographic magazine commented, what man is now learning about the universe has “left him stunned.”1
4. What was discovered in the 1920’s?
4 In recent centuries astronomers who scanned the heavens with early telescopes noticed some fuzzy, cloudlike formations. They assumed that these were nearby clouds of gases. But in the 1920’s, as larger, more powerful telescopes came into use, these “gases” were found to be something far more immense and significant: galaxies.
5. (a) What is a galaxy? (b) What does our Milky Way galaxy include?
5 A galaxy is a vast group of stars, gas and other material rotating around a central nucleus. Galaxies have been called island universes, for each one of them is in itself like a universe. For example, consider the galaxy we live in, which is called the Milky Way. Our solar system, that is the sun and the earth and other planets with their moons, is part of this galaxy. But it is only a very tiny part, for our Milky Way galaxy contains over 100 billion stars! Some scientists estimate at least 200 to 400 billion. And one science editor even stated: “There could be as many as five to ten trillion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.”2
6. How vast is the distance across our galaxy?
6 The diameter of our galaxy spans so vast a distance that if you could travel as fast as the speed of light (186,282 miles a second) it would take you 100,000 years to cross it! How many miles is that? Well, since light travels about six trillion (6,000,000,000,000) miles in a year, multiply that by 100,000 and you have the answer: our Milky Way galaxy is about 600 quadrillion (600,000,000,000,000,000) miles in diameter! The average distance between stars within the galaxy is said to be about six light-years, or about 36 trillion miles.
7. What estimates have been made of the number of galaxies in the universe?
7 It is almost impossible for the human mind to comprehend such size and distance. And yet, our galaxy is just the beginning of what is in outer space! There is something even more staggering. It is this: So many galaxies have now been detected that it has been said they “are as common as blades of grass in a meadow.”3 About ten billion galaxies are in the observable universe! But there are many more beyond the range of today’s telescopes. Some astronomers estimate that there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe! And each galaxy may contain hundreds of billions of stars!
Clusters of Galaxies
8. How are galaxies arranged?
8 Yet, there is more. These awesome galaxies are not scattered haphazardly in space. Instead, they are usually arranged in definite groups called clusters, like grapes in a bunch. Thousands of these galactic clusters already have been observed and photographed.
9. What is included in our local galactic cluster?
9 Some clusters contain relatively few galaxies. Our Milky Way galaxy, for example, is part of a cluster of about twenty galaxies. Within this local group, there is one “neighbor” galaxy that can be seen without a telescope on a clear night. It is the Andromeda galaxy, which has a spiral shape similar to ours.
10. (a) How many galaxies may be in a cluster? (b) What are the distances between galaxies, and between clusters of galaxies?
10 Other galactic clusters are made up of many dozens, perhaps hundreds or even thousands, of galaxies. One such cluster is thought to contain about 10,000 galaxies! The distance between galaxies within a cluster may average about a million light-years. However, the distance from one galactic cluster to another may be a hundred times that. And there is even evidence that the clusters themselves are arranged in “superclusters,” like bunches of grapes on a vine. What colossal size and brilliant organization!
11. What similar organization do we find in our solar system?
11 Coming down to our solar system, we find another superbly organized arrangement. The sun, which is a medium-sized star, is the “nucleus” around which the earth and the other planets with their moons move in precise orbits. Year after year, they revolve with such mathematical certainty that astronomers can accurately predict where they will be at any future time.
12. How are atoms organized?
12 Looking into infinitesimal things—atoms—we see that the same precision exists. An atom is a marvel of order, resembling the order of the solar system. It includes a nucleus containing particles called protons and neutrons, surrounded by tiny orbiting electrons. All matter is made up of these building blocks. What makes one substance differ from the other is the number of protons and neutrons in the nucleus and the number and arrangement of the electrons revolving around it. This has an exquisite order, since all the elements that make up matter can be arranged in exact sequence by the number of those building blocks present.
What Is Behind This Organization?
13. What characteristic is seen in the entire universe?
13 As we have noted, the size of the universe is truly awesome. So is its marvelous arrangement. From the infinitely large to the infinitesimally small, from galactic clusters to atoms, the universe is characterized by superb organization. Discover magazine stated: “We perceived the order in surprise, and our cosmologists and physicists continue to find new and astonishing aspects of the order. . . . We used to say it was a miracle, and we still permit ourselves to refer to the whole universe as a marvel.”4 This orderly structure is acknowledged even in the word commonly used in astronomy to describe the universe—“cosmos.” It is defined in one dictionary as “an orderly harmonious systematic universe.”5
14. What comment did a former astronaut make?
14 Former astronaut John Glenn noted “the orderliness of the whole universe about us,” and that the galaxies were “all traveling in prescribed orbits in relation to one another.” He therefore asked: “Could this have just happened? Was it an accident that a bunch of flotsam and jetsam suddenly started making these orbits of its own accord?” He concluded: “I can’t believe that. . . . Some Power put all this into orbit and keeps it there.”6
15. What does the precise design and organization of the universe indicate?
15 Indeed, the universe is so precisely organized that man can use the heavenly bodies as the basis for his timekeeping. But any well-designed timepiece obviously is the product of an orderly mind that has the ability to design. An orderly mind that designs can be possessed only by an intelligent person. Then what about the far more complex design and dependability that exists throughout the universe? Would this not also betoken a designer, a maker, a mind—intelligence? And do you have any reason to believe that intelligence can exist apart from personality?
16. To what conclusion must we come regarding the universe?
16 We cannot get around it: Superb organization requires a superb organizer. Nothing in our experience indicates that anything organized happens by chance, by accident. Rather, our entire experience in life shows that everything organized must have an organizer. Every machine, computer, building, yes, even pencil and paper, had a maker, an organizer. Logically, the far more complex and awesome organization in the universe must have had an organizer too.
Law Requires a Lawmaker
17. How is law involved in the universe?
17 Also, the entire universe, from atoms to galaxies, is governed by definite physical laws. There are laws for governing heat, light, sound and gravity, for example. As physicist Stephen W. Hawking said: “The more we examine the universe, we find it is not arbitrary at all but obeys certain well-defined laws that operate in different areas. It seems very reasonable to suppose that there may be some unifying principles, so that all laws are part of some bigger law.”7
18. What did a rocket expert conclude?
18 Rocket expert Wernher von Braun went a step further when he stated: “The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second. These laws must have been set by somebody.”8 Scientists who want a rocket to orbit the earth, or the moon, must work in harmony with such universal laws if they are to be successful.
19. What does the existence of laws require?
19 When we think of laws, we acknowledge that they came from a lawmaking entity. A traffic sign that says “Stop” certainly has behind it some person or group of persons who originated the law. What, then, about the comprehensive laws that govern the material universe? Such brilliantly conceived laws surely bear witness to a supremely intelligent lawmaker.
The Organizer and Lawmaker
20. What observation was made by Science News?
20 After commenting on all the special conditions of order and law that are so apparent in the universe, Science News observed: “Contemplation of these things disturbs cosmologists because it seems as if such particular and precise conditions could hardly have arisen at random. One way to deal with the question is to say the whole thing was contrived and lay it on Divine Providence.”9
21. What are some persons willing to conclude?
21 Many persons, including many scientists, are not willing to concede that. But others are willing to acknowledge what the evidence keeps insisting—intelligence. They acknowledge that such colossal size, precision and law as exist throughout the universe could never have happened just by accident. All these things must be the products of a superior mind.
22. How did one Bible writer identify the Originator of the universe?
22 This is the conclusion expressed by one Bible writer who said regarding the physical heavens: “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name.” That “One” is identified as “the Creator of the heavens and the Grand One stretching them out.”—Isaiah 40:26; 42:5.
Source of Energy
23, 24. How can matter be produced?
23 Universal laws govern existing matter. But where did all the matter come from? In Cosmos, Carl Sagan says: “At the beginning of this universe, there were no galaxies, stars or planets, no life or civilizations.” He refers to the change from that state to the present universe as “the most awesome transformation of matter and energy that we have been privileged to glimpse.”10
24 That is the key to understanding how the universe could have come into existence: It must have involved a transformation of energy and matter. This relationship was verified by Einstein’s famous formula, E=mc2 (energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). One conclusion that derives from this formula is that matter can be produced from energy, just as tremendous energy can be produced from matter. The atomic bomb proved the latter. Thus, astrophysicist Josip Kleczek stated: “Most and possibly all elementary particles may be created by materialization of energy.”11
25. What is the source of the awesome power needed to create the universe?
25 Hence, there is scientific evidence that a source of limitless energy would have the raw material to create the substance of the universe. The Bible writer quoted earlier noted that this source of energy is a living, intelligent personality, saying: “Due to the abundance of dynamic energy, he also being vigorous in power, not one of them [the heavenly bodies] is missing.” Thus, from the Biblical standpoint, this source of boundless energy was behind what Genesis 1:1 describes: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Beginning Not Chaotic
26. What do scientists generally acknowledge today?
26 Today, scientists generally acknowledge that the universe did have a beginning. One prominent theory that attempts to describe this beginning is known as the Big Bang. “Almost all recent discussions of the origin of the universe are based on the Big Bang theory,” notes Francis Crick.12 Jastrow refers to this cosmic “explosion” as “literally the moment of creation.”13 But, as astrophysicist John Gribbin admitted in New Scientist, though scientists “claim, by and large, to be able to describe in great detail” what happened after this “moment,” what brought about “the instant of creation remains a mystery.” And, he mused, “maybe God did make it, after all.”14
27. Why is the Big Bang theory too limited?
27 However, most scientists are not willing to attribute this “instant” to God. Hence, the explosion usually is said to have been chaotic, like the explosion of a nuclear bomb. But does this type of explosion result in better organization? Do the bombs that fall on cities in wartime produce superbly designed buildings, streets and signs with traffic laws? On the contrary, such explosions cause wreckage, disorder, chaos, disintegration. And when the explosive device is nuclear the disorganization is total, as experienced by the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
28. What must be concluded about the powerful forces that worked to create the universe?
28 No, a mere “explosion” could not create our awesome universe with its amazing order, design and law. Only a mighty organizer and lawmaker could direct the powerful forces at work so that they would result in superb organization and law. Hence, scientific evidence and reason provide solid backing for the Bible’s declaration: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.”—Psalm 19:1.
29. What is confirmed by the observations of science as well as our own?
29 Thus, the Bible comes to grips with questions that evolutionary theory has not clearly addressed. Instead of leaving us in the dark as to what is behind the origin of all things, the Bible tells us the answer simply and understandably. It confirms the observations of science, as well as our own, that nothing comes into existence by itself. Although we personally were not on hand when the universe was constructed, it is evident that it had to have a Master Builder, as the Bible reasons: “Every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.”—Hebrews 3:4.
[Blurb on page 115]
What man is now learning about the universe has “left him stunned”
[Blurb on page 117]
Our Milky Way galaxy contains over 100 billion stars
[Blurb on page 118]
Galaxies are arranged in clusters, like grapes in a bunch
[Blurb on page 122]
Scientists “continue to find new and astonishing aspects of the order”
[Blurb on page 123]
Superb organization requires a superb organizer
[Blurb on page 123]
The universe “obeys certain well-defined laws”
[Blurb on page 125]
“It seems as if such particular and precise conditions could hardly have arisen at random”
[Full-page picture on page 114]
[Picture on page 116]
A typical spiral galaxy
[Picture on page 116, 117]
Our solar system, in square above, is dwarfed when compared with our Milky Way galaxy
[Picture on page 119]
The Andromeda galaxy, similar to our own Milky Way, is only a small part of the awesome universe that some say contains about 100 billion galaxies
[Pictures on page 120, 121]
The planets of our solar system orbit the sun with great precision
The order in an atom resembles that of the solar system
[Picture on page 122]
A precision watch is the product of an intelligent designer. Is not the far greater precision in the universe the product of a superior, intelligent designer?
[Picture on page 124]
The flight of a rocket into orbit requires adherence to laws of motion and gravity. Such laws require a lawmaker
[Picture on page 125]
Traffic laws had to originate in minds
[Pictures on page 126]
The atomic bomb demonstrated that matter and energy are related
Do bomb explosions cause buildings to become better organized?
[Picture on page 127]
“Every house is constructed by someone, but he that constructed all things is God.”—Hebrews 3:4