Media Destortions Complicate Cosmological Arguments

One of the arguments that we have made in this journal for the existence of God is the credibility of the biblical claim concerning the origin of the creation. The Hebrew "Reshith Elohim bara shanahym erets" of Genesis 1:1 makes two clear cosmological statements that are testable:

  1. There was a beginning to the cosmos (Reshith--indicating a beginning).
  2. The creation was caused (Elohim bara--a process not able to be caused by man, but by Elohim--a powerful nonhuman source).

The first of these statements has been explored in a variety of ways. Most religious systems on this planet assume a cyclic view of time. Many scientists have looked at the cosmos with an eye to being able to answer this question--at least in terms of the observable universe. The expansion of the universe seemed to indicate that the process was a one time thing, and that there was no cyclic nature to it. If there were sufficient gravity to the mass of the cosmos, the expansion of the universe could be stopped and all of the matter in the cosmos could be drawn back to a finite point from which the process might repeat, expanding or exploding in whatever manner it did at the start of our observable universe.

For many years it has appeared that the mass of the universe was far below what would be necessary to stop the expansion of the cosmos. In the past few weeks there have been studies released which show that the expansion of the cosmos is accelerating--which would totally end all discussion of a cyclic universe. On June 5,1998, there was an announcement made at the International Neutrino Conference in Takayama, Japan, of an experiment which suggested that the neutrino might have mass. Neutrinos are very small quantities given off in nuclear reactions. They are very hard to detect, and in fact pass right through the earth as they come to us from the Sun. There are huge numbers of them produced by a star like the sun or any other process in which nuclear energy is involved. If neutrinos have a large mass, they might provide enough mass to stop the expansion of the cosmos and produce an oscillating universe.

The media took the announcement made at Takayama and made a major news story out of it. The New York Times headline read "Mass Found in Elusive Particle; Universe May Never Be the Same" (June 5, 1998).

Time magazine on June 15, 1998, said "neutrinos may be the missing matter of the universe." U.S. News and World Report used sentences and phrases like "physics is rewritten" and science now has the "holy grail to extend human understanding of the forces that control everything."

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that what was observed were some perturbations in neutrino behavior that might be caused by the neutrinos having mass. There are some errors possible in the experiment which might change that. There are also a number of other possible causes to the neutrino behavior which would not require it to have mass. If in fact the neutrinos do have mass, it is about ten million times less than the mass of an electron (which is over 1800 times less massive than a proton). This mass is not enough to stop the expansion of the of the cosmos. It is not even close--being about 100 times smaller than would be necessary to do this. Physics is not being rewritten and no standard model of physics is destroyed. Physics principles have assumed the mass of a neutrino was zero just because no evidence had been found that there was mass. If mass is proven then some minor modification of the laws will be necessary, but no overhaul.

Media hype frequently leads people to assume changes in understandings that are not real. Those who are trying to use the neutrino announcement to promote an eternal oscillating universe have not gained anything by this study. The problems of the eternal oscillating universe are as real as they have ever been, and with new discoveries of the acceleration of the universe being announced plus the old problems of the laws of thermodynamics still opposing the oscillating universe view there is little reason to believe anything has changed in our understanding of the origin of the cosmos. The evidence is still that there was a beginning. As usual, the biblical statement stands valid while the alternatives crumble in the face of the evidence.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JanFeb99.