The Creator Revealed: A Physicist Examines the Big Bang and the Bible
Michael Strauss is a David Ross Boyd Professor of Physics at the University of Oklahoma. His undergraduate degree is from Biola University and his PhD in physics is from UCLA. He’s conducted research at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Palo Alto and at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. He currently does research at CERN laboratory in Geneva Switzerland. His book, The Creator Revealed, frames the following interview.
The interview was conducted by David George Moore. Some of Dave’s teaching videos can be found at www.mooreengaging.com.
Side note: Dave and Mike were roommates when the former was on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) at Stanford University. Mike is also featured in the documentary on the “Dones” that Dave is currently working on.
Moore: What were some of the reasons why you decided to write this particular book?
Strauss: There seems to be a pervasive belief among both non-Christians and Christians that many of the findings of modern science are in conflict with the teachings of the Bible. Consequently, there are non-believers who will not even consider the validity of the Christian worldview or the Christian message and there are believers who are unable to fully love God with their mind and may compartmentalize their belief in God from their intellectual pursuits. I believe that the same God who inspired the Bible created the universe and that he speaks with a consistent message in both. My goal is to demonstrate how modern scientific findings about the origin and design in the universe actually agree with the Bible and provide objective evidence for the reality of the Christian God. There are other good books that also describe the coherence between the Bible and science but most of them are written at a fairly technical level and may be hard to understand. I felt there was a real need for a book on this subject that was written in conversational, non-technical language that could be understood and enjoyed by everyone. I believe the message of his book can be life-giving for those who struggle with the issue of how science and the biblical text fit together.
Moore: Early on you assert that you believe “the big bang is the best evidence for the existence and character of God, except perhaps for the resurrection of Jesus.” Unpack a bit of your rationale for that claim.
Strauss: There is a lot of misinformation particularly among Christians about what the big bang is. Basically, the big bang states that our universe seemed to have an actual origin in which everything we know came into existence. The big bang is not some kind of cosmic explosion but the beginning of space, time, matter, and energy. If this universe had a beginning then, logically, the cause of the universe cannot be part of the universe: the cause must be transcendent. One of the most obvious ways that a transcendent being could demonstrate his existence to other beings living in a created universe would be to make the origin of their universe knowable and to have the origin require a necessary transcendent cause. That is the case for the universe we live in. It’s really remarkable that we as humans have the ability to understand the very origin of our universe and to see objective evidence for a transcendent cause that must have certain characteristics that look a lot like God as described in the Bible.
Moore: You write that “biological evolution is certainly not a necessary feature of the big bang model of the universe.” (emphasis yours) That will surprise some non-scientists, so would you describe why that is the case?
Strauss: Some people who think the big bang is a non-biblical idea will try to link the age of the universe to biological evolution and will often label that combination an “evolutionary” paradigm. But a universe that is 14 billion years old as scientific observations show is an entirely different proposition from the question of whether or not evolution occurred. The scientific evidence for the age of the universe is overwhelming and indisputable, but the evidence for all life-forms developing through purely naturalistic biological evolution is suspect. There are many problems with evolution producing complex life in a few billion years, including the amount of information required for life, the origin of life problem, and the rate of beneficial mutations. One scientist estimates that any kind of evolution would require not billions of years, but hundreds of trillions of years. I think it is very important that the question of whether or not the big bang happened be disassociated from the question of whether or not evolution occurred, so that the evidence for each can be independently evaluated.Moore: Even though your book is short (140) it helpfully covers the salient issues. You also chose to make each chapter very short. One of them is only three pages long. I’m sure you did this by design (no pun intended), but would you explain your writing strategy there?
Strauss: One of my primary motivations for writing this particular book was to make the book easy to read and enjoyable. I wanted it to be understandable and engaging for a high school or middle school student as well as for a non-technically minded adult. I chose not to go into a lot of detail about most topics but to present an overview of the most important issues in the discussion of science and biblical Christianity. For those who want more technical details, at the end of the book I give a short list of books that will go deeper into some of the topics I address.
Moore: How often do OU students from Christian backgrounds tell you that they are finding what they believed to be true of Christianity no longer tenable considering what they are learning in their science classes?
Strauss: I have certainly had students come into my office who were experiencing a crisis of faith because they weren’t able to reconcile the confirmed facts of science with what they have been told the Bible teaches. However, most Christian students I talk with are not quite to the point of abandoning their faith but are struggling with questions about the Bible and science, or possibly with how to be a good scientist and retain biblical beliefs. Fortunately, I’ve been able to help students integrate science with biblical faith. I’ve also seen a shift toward more and more Christians understanding how the big bang origin of the universe is a biblical idea that supports belief in the biblical God. I think that this understanding actually mitigates some of the intellectual crises that students might face.
Moore: Towards the end of the book you inform the reader how common it is for you to read those who hold positions you vehemently disagree with. That kind of posture makes sense for a scholar, but how often should the average non-scholarly Christian engage with books written from views alien or hostile to their own beliefs?
Strauss: I think every person should be familiar with what those who disagree with them believe and why. Sooner or later a Christian will hear a statement regarding some facts or ideas made by someone antagonistic to their faith. Often such a statement will shock the Christian if he or she is hearing it in a vacuum, and often the antagonistic proclamation will seem to carry more weight than it actually should. There are very few novel arguments made against a Christian worldview or the facts of Christianity. If a Christian is already familiar with those arguments and how, other brilliant Christian thinkers have responded to them, the Christian is much less likely to be blind-sided. Scientific, historical, and philosophical arguments against the Bible and Christian world-view have good rebuttals that every Christian should know. In addition, a good college logic class will go a long way in developing thinking skills that show how hollow many of the arguments against Christianity are.
Moore: What are two or three things you hope your readers will take from The Creator Revealed?
Strauss: I hope the reader will see that science and the Bible give a consistent and coherent message about the origin and design in the universe, indicating that the creator of the universe is also the author of the Bible. I also hope that the reader will gain a greater understanding and appreciation for how God has revealed himself in the Bible and in nature, leading to a deeper and more trusting relationship with God.