First Things
A Common Sense Approach to Origins

The Origin of Matter

In the section on world views, I mentioned that the “natural causes” view suggests there is no purpose for our world or our universe. The “In the beginning, God created” view suggests it is possible, if not probable, that the creator had a purpose in mind. Thus the study of origins addresses the question, “Is there a purpose, or is everything just luck – either good or bad?”

The origin of matter is a key component of the answer to that question. Scientists tell us they have total confidence everything came into existence through a “big bang” that took place roughly fourteen billion years ago. They know this, they assure us, because they look at the universe, where everything is, how the universe is expanding, and they “run the film backward” to go back in time to when everything began at one spot. They have even suggested that all of the matter in all of the universe may have been condensed (prior to the formation of atoms) to the point that there was a single seed smaller than a single proton that could have held all of this matter. Beginning with that seed, they come up with the story of the big bang and how it lead to the universe that exists today.

There is a great temptation to go into some of the details of the big bang theory here, but the purpose of this section is to consider the question of the origin of matter. If all of the matter in all of the universe was in a seed form at the beginning, where and how did that seed originate? If matter originated in some other form, where and how did it appear in whatever form it was at the very beginning?

Matter exists. We know that is a fact. Few people really sit down and think about the question, “How did it get here?” The Bible says God created matter. Setting that explanation aside for now, what other explanations are available for consideration. It turns out that there are only two “natural causes” explanations to consider along with the creation explanation. That gives us a total of three. The three explanations for the origin of matter are:

  1. Matter is eternal
  2. Something came from nothing
  3. In the beginning, an eternal God created

As we, as human beings, look over that list, it is apparent that these three explanations share one trait – they all seem infinitely improbable to us if not totally impossible. What is inescapable, however, is that the existence of matter means one of these fantastic explanations must be true.

A little over a hundred years ago, Einstein came up with his famous formula E=mc2. That formula says that the energy locked up in matter equals the mass of the matter times the speed of light squared. When you stop and think about it, that is an amazing coincidence if the formula is accurate. Why wouldn’t the formula have some random number rather than “the speed of light squared”?

Some scientists, recognizing that matter and energy have an equivalency, have suggested before there was matter, there was energy. No doubt they feel that it is easier to explain the origin of all of the energy in all of the matter in all of the universe than it is to explain the origin of all of the matter in all of the universe. Why would they think that? Probably because we can’t see raw energy. We can see what energy does, but we can’t actually see raw energy.

When you sit and contemplate how much energy is locked up in all of the matter in all of the universe, the amount of energy that was somehow transformed into matter is mind boggling. One example to help us understand is what scientists refer to as a “supernova.” A supernova is an exploding star. Scientists tell us that an average supernova (it seems they are not that rare) explodes with a force equivalent to the energy the sun would put out over nine billion years! That is one supernova of many. Scientists have also said that one hypernova (much more rare) explodes with a force equivalent to as much as a thousand times the force of a supernova. Turns out that all of the energy in all of the universe is not that easy to explain either.

Most scientists who study origins have dismissed the concept of eternal matter (it doesn’t fit well with the big bang theory). They have also dismissed the concept of an eternal creator being responsible for the origin of matter. That leaves them with what they call a “singularity.” What is a singularity? It is a one-time even that is inexplicable. In essence, they say, “Matter came into existence in a one-time event that can’t be explained, so let’s move on.”

The energy locked up in matter might suggest than an “all powerful” eternal creator God is the most reasonable explanation for the existence of matter, but for now the point is that something so fantastic that we cannot take it in is the explanation for the existence of matter. Creation is no less probable than eternal matter or something from nothing. To determine which of the three explanations for the existence of matter is most probable, we will look at the origin of the four essential forces of the universe and the origin of life to see if we can eliminate one or more of the explanations for the origin of matter.