The Goldilocks Theory of the Universe

February 7, 2007

(and the Mother Bear Solution)

by Steve Owen

Have you ever heard something on the radio that made you wonder whether or not it was April 1st? Something so strange that you wondered whether you were listening to a comedy programme rather than to Current Affairs? I can only assure readers that I really did hear what I’m about to describe, and that it was broadcast on the B.B.C. In my secular work, I have to drive a good deal and recently, having heard enough music for a while, I switched over my radio to B.B.C Radio Five, a ‘news and current affairs’ channel. An interview had just started with a scientist (I didn’t catch his name) concerning his new conception, the Goldilocks Theory of the Universe.

His thesis was this: the Universe as we know it shows a multitude of features that makes it ideal for life. He mentioned the structure of atoms and molecules; the force of gravity, which is neither too great nor too small; the quantities of vital elements like oxygen and carbon, which are found in exactly the right amounts; the ready combination of oxygen and hydrogen to make water with its unique properties, and several others. It looks, he said, almost as if the Universe had been especially designed for life. At this point the interviewer interrupted him to ask if that was not then the logical assumption to make. Perhaps it had indeed been designed? “Ah, no,” He replied. “You cannot allow the idea of a Designer into your thinking, because that is unscientific. Also, it merely moves the problem of the Universe back a stage. After all, who designed the Designer?”

The scientist continued that the only possible answer to the dilemma of the Apparently Designed Universe is the ‘Goldilocks’ Theory. Readers will recall that when Goldilocks came to the house of the three bears, she did not immediately find a bowl of porridge that she liked; rather, she found three seemingly identical bowls. On inspection, however, she found that the contents of two of these bowls were quite unsuitable. One was much too salty and another much too sweet. She didn’t like them at all. It was only when she tasted the porridge in the third bowl, that she found that it was ‘Just Right.’ It may be, declared the scientist, that the Universe is very much like that. Just as there were three parallel bowls of porridge, from which Goldilocks found one that was edible, so perhaps there are many parallel universes, possibly millions of them, out of which the one that we live in is the only one that is ‘Just Right’ for life.

Well, my first thought on hearing this was the scientist was guilty of tautology. A universe, by definition, is unique- ‘uni-‘ means one. You cannot have multiple ‘universes,’ or if you do, you need to call them something else. My second thought was that it was a case of life imitating art. Perhaps this scientist has been watching the science-fiction television series, Stargate, where intrepid travellers bob from one parallel ‘universe’ (‘multiverse’?) to another. This led me to my third conclusion, which is that whatever it is that this man was proposing, it isn’t science. Science deals with facts and evidences that can be demonstrated. What we have here is an idea without the slightest evidence to back it up. It can be neither proved nor disproved because there is no test to discover whether or not these parallel ‘universes’ exist and therefore nothing that can be done to show that they do not. Before 1969, it was possible to argue that the Moon was made of green cheese, because no one had yet gone to the Moon, chipped a bit off, brought it back and tried to spread it on a cracker. The fact that it could not be disproved, however, did not make the Green Cheese Theory of the Moon genuine science.

This seems to be the way with modern science. It has been observed that comets lose a portion of their mass every time they approach the Sun. It has been worked out that if the Solar System is more than a million or so years old, almost every comet would have wasted away to nothing by now. You might suppose that this would make astronomers think for a moment; “Hold on! Perhaps the Universe isn’t as old as we thought.” Not a bit of it! They have invented a great layer of comets, just outside the Solar System, called the Oort Cloud, and they suppose that comets just fall out of it from time to time. The only problem with this wonderful solution is that there is not the slightest evidence that the Oort Cloud exists. No one has ever observed it; but this of course is its great strength. If there is no evidence for it, then it cannot be disproved until some astronaut flies to the edge of the Solar System, looks for it and finds it isn’t there.

Let us now consider our scientist’s lordly rejection of the possibility of a Creator. He gave two reasons. The first one is that it’s unscientific. There’s a sense in which he’s right. You cannot prove God scientifically. He reveals Himself to those who diligently seek Him, not in a laboratory with a test-tube or Bunsen burner, but in prayer and in His word. But if God is true (and He is!), then any scientific theory that seeks to deny Him must be unscientific in that it is wrong. What science can and should say is that all the evidence points to a great Designer of the Universe. There is nothing unscientific about that; indeed, the scientist himself admitted as much at the start of the interview.

Our scientist’s second argument was that proposing a Creator only moves the problem back further. If there is a God, who made Him? There can hardly be a parent of a three year-old who hasn’t been asked this question: “Daddy, who made God?” And the answer to three year-olds down the ages has been the same; no one made God; He has always been and always will be. ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come’ (Rev 4:8 ). It is a scientific maxim that nothing can come from nothing; there has to be a first cause. The proponents of the ‘Big Bang’ theory say that in the beginning all the matter contained in the Universe was gathered together in one dense ball, and then it exploded. OK, if God is unscientific, so is this ball of matter; where did that come from? Who made it? Furthermore, if it had been there for countless billions of years- from all eternity- why did it suddenly explode at a certain point in time? The Law of Inertia states that a body at rest tends to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. If everything was wrapped into this ball, what was left to act on it? It appears that the only scientific explanation of the Universe is that there is no Universe. If nothing can come from nothing then there can be only nothing and so nothing exists! The only problem with this theory is that it doesn’t seem to fit the observed facts, namely that we actually do exist.

I would now like to propound my Mother Bear Theory of the Universe. When Goldilocks entered the cottage of the three bears and saw the bowls of porridge, what thoughts might have entered her mind? Had she been an imaginative child, she might have thought of a ceramics factory to make the bowls and a shop to sell them. As she contemplated the porridge, her mind might have conjured up images of fields of oats, of cows being milked, and of great plantations of sugar cane in the West Indies. But the mere existence of ceramics, oats, milk and sugar does not make a bowl of porridge. I doubt that Goldilocks would have thought to herself, “Well, to make this porridge there must have been a spontaneous explosion in the kitchen and the oats milk and sugar must have been blown out of the kitchen (I don’t know how they got there in the first place) into the living room and on the way they must have mixed together and sort of cooked themselves whilst in the air and then they miraculously fell into the bowls which I suppose must have been here from all eternity, and because this is so wildly improbable, there must be countless millions of parallel houses where the same spontaneous explosion has occurred.” No, in order for there to be even one bowl of porridge, there has to be intelligent input. In other words, the fact of porridge pre-supposes someone to assemble the ingredients, cook and serve it.

Now Goldilocks could know something about the maker of the porridge merely from the fact of the porridge itself. She could know that the maker was sentient and that had the ability to make not one, but three bowls of the stuff, each one designed to suit a particular recipient. But of the character and intention of the maker she could know nothing until it was revealed to her. That the maker was actually a talking bear she would have had no inkling until Mother Bear came through the door and declared, “Someone’s been eating my porridge!” Only by revelation could Goldilocks know that Mother Bear had made the porridge for herself, Father Bear and Baby Bear and that she was likely to be extremely hostile to human porridge-stealers. So it was when these facts were revealed to her by the entrance of the three bears, that she knew how to react to the porridge-maker, and prudently she ran away ‘as fast as her legs would carry her.’

In the same way, humans can discount the idea of the Universe having somehow ‘come together’ and the laws of nature and science having just ‘happened.’ It is too ridiculous to be true. The former Astronomer Royal, Prof. Fred Hoyle, likened it to imagining that a whirlwind could go through a scrap yard and spontaneously assemble a jumbo jet. If even a bowl of porridge is too complicated to have occurred by chance, how much more the Universe! Someone therefore has designed this Universe and this planet on which we live. We can know something of Him, just by looking at what He has created. We can understand His infinite power and intelligence by considering the colossal vastness of space, the many features of design within it and the laws that govern and sustain it. As the Psalmist put it, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork’ (Psalm 19:1 ). The apostle Paul tells us that men are ‘without excuse’ when they exclude God from their thinking (Rom 1:20 ) because, ‘Since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Divine nature.’

It is one thing, however, to know that there is a God- even the demons in hell know that (James 2:19 )- but another to come to know Him and to understand His gracious purposes for this world. These things cannot be discovered from nature, nor by science or philosophy (Job 11:7-9 ); instead, they have been revealed to us in His word. It is there that we discover that, ‘For so God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16 ).

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