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