Doom and gloom from the BBC

Comment on Wonders of the Universe: Destiny



This is a BBC TV program on evolution, the universe and us, broadcast in the UK in March 2011; and in Australia and the USA in July. It is narrated by particle physicist, Professor Brian Cox, who is a ‘Distinguished Supporter’ of the atheistic British Humanist Association. This is par for the course for the BBC, long known for its anti-Christian bias.

Prof. Cox begins by asking: “Why are we here?” and “Where do we come from?” These are good questions, but instead of answering them, he says, “ … we are part of the universe, so its story is our story”, and he then talks about time and change according to the atheistic long-age worldview. We shall discuss what he says (influenced by his atheistic faith), then consider our human story according to the Christian or biblical worldview. (See also Evolution & creation, science & religion, facts & bias about the way one’s worldview influences the assumptions one brings to the data.)

Time does not cause or drive anything, much less bring about events that are contrary to the laws of science.

The ‘arrow of time’

Cox shows us how at Chankillo in Peru one can tell the date from where the sun rises on the horizon, and he then reminds us, “A day on Earth is the 24 hours it takes our planet to rotate once exactly, our month is based on the 29½ days it takes for the moon to wax and wane in the night sky, and the year is the 365¼ days it takes us to orbit once around the Sun.” However, this temporal accuracy and repetitiveness is hardly relevant to or supportive of the idea, as he implies, that ‘light from the stars marks millions and billions of years” or that “time scales in the universe are unimaginatively vast”. It also doesn’t explain where the week comes from; this is not an astronomic cycle, but patterned on Creation Week revealed in Genesis 1 (cf. Exodus 20:8–11).

He also shows a video of turtles, which he curiously calls ‘prehistoric creatures’—although there is no such thing as ‘prehistory’ since there is no time before Creation Week, recorded historically in Genesis 1. This shows them laying their eggs on a beach in Costa Rica on one particular night of the year and Cox claims that they’ve been doing this for one hundred million years. But the idea that any species has existed for millions of years unchanged has problems of its own—see Evolutionary Stasis: Double—Speak and Propaganda.

NASAThe Milky Way galaxy in which planet Earth is located
The Milky Way galaxy in which planet Earth is located

And the fact that “our Solar System would take 250 million years to make just one circuit of the Milky Way” surely does not demonstrate anything other than that the Milky Way is quite large. It doesn’t follow from this that it has actually completed a revolution. In fact, in the alleged billions of years, spiral galaxies like ours would have ‘wound themselves up’. And on the other hand, distant galaxies that were supposed to have formed not long after the big bang should not have had time to form a spiral structure naturalistically. See ‘Early’ galaxies don’t fit!

Cox then shows us a large glacier in Patagonia, South Argentina, that he says “drops well over a quarter of a billion tons of ice into the lake [at its base] every year”. However, the reverse does not happen, i.e. blocks of ice don’t jump up out of the lake into the glacier. “The sequence of events at the glacier contains a profound idea,” he tells us. “Events always happen in the same order, they’re never jumbled up, and they never go backwards.” This irreversibility he calls ‘the arrow of time’, and hence, we are told, “Permanent change is a fundamental part of what it means to be human … people are born, they live, and they die.” Cox then tells us, “In the life of the universe, everything is irreversibly changing.” He then makes the extraordinary claim, “The arrow of time drives the evolution of the entire universe.”

While it is true that change occurs within time, time itself is not a force any more than chance is. Time does not cause or drive anything, much less bring about events that are contrary to the laws of science. And too many claims of the big bang contradict science, as even some secular cosmologists point out (see Secular scientists blast the big bang: What now for naïve apologetics?).

A little red blob

Cox then shows us a photo of the night sky containing “a little red blob” which, he says, “is the afterglow from the death of star GRB 090423”, the light from which “has been travelling to us for almost the entire history of the universe … making it the oldest single object we have ever seen”.

Note that GRB = gamma ray burst. This is thought to have formed from a black hole, in turn the result of the gravitational collapse of a star. Certainly, we agree that black holes exist. Yet the origin of first stars from the big bang in the first place is an unsolved problem for secular cosmologists (see Stars could not have come from the ‘big bang’). Further, the first stars should lack any elements higher than helium, yet such ‘Population III’ stars have not been observed (see Stellar evolution and the problem of the ‘first’ stars).

Also, it wasn’t seen as ‘red’ but in the ‘infrared’, radiation that has too long a wavelength to be detected by the human eye. This means it has a very high redshift, and (from the Hubble Law) this is interpreted as a huge distance, allegedly the second most distant object detected as of October 2010. See how this is supposed to work, then why it clearly doesn’t in many cases, in Bye-bye, big bang? An unsolvable riddle for the most popular view of evolutionary astronomy.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Moving on, Cox asks, “What drives this evolution? Why is there a difference between the past and the future? Why is there an arrow of time at all?”

His answer: “The most important law of physics for understanding the evolution of the universe and the passage of time is called the Second Law Of Thermodynamics. It contained a radically new concept … entropy.” Entropy is to a large extent a measure of the amount of disorder in any system. So a pile of sand (where the individual grains can be arranged in “trillions of ways” without changing the shape of the structure) has high entropy or high disorder, compared with a sand castle (where the grains are arranged in order) and so has low entropy or low disorder.

He continues, “Entropy [disorder] always increases … because it’s overwhelmingly more likely that it will. The Second Law says that everything tends to go from order to disorder. Thus there is a difference between the past and the future. In the past the universe was more ordered; in the future the universe will be less ordered. … So the Second Law of Thermodynamics has introduced the concept of an arrow of time into science.” However, he then adds the evolutionary credo, “The arrow of time has been playing out in the universe for almost 14 billion years.”

There are a lot of philosophical assumptions here. ‘Time’s arrow’ is actually a circular argument from a naturalistic viewpoint. Time can be defined by the direction of entropy increase, certainly, as per the second law of thermodynamics. But on a microscopic level, the equations of motion are reversible, so have one solution in ‘forward’ time, and another in ‘reverse’ time. Both are equally valid mathematically, but one solution is discarded as ‘non-physical’. So the notion of ‘Time’s arrow’ is not actually derived from the physics, but is decreed. From a biblical point of view, God created time.

Heat death of the universe

In the rest of the program, Cox expounds the doom and gloom involved in the coming heat death of the universe. In the trillions-of-years evolutionary scenario for this, he tells us, “All life on this planet will become impossible; the sun will become a red giant—then explode … and become a white dwarf. All stars will eventually die … and the last matter in the universe will eventually be carried away, leaving absolutely nothing behind. The universe will be nothing but a sea of photons, and entropy finally stops increasing, because the cosmos cannot get any more disordered. Nothing happening, and it keeps not happening forever! There is no way of measuring the passage of time because nothing in the universe changes; the arrow of time has simply ceased to exist.”

But this unstoppable ‘running down’ of the whole universe is the opposite of the ‘chaos to cosmos’ that big-bang-to-you believers postulate.

But this scenario implies a huge problem for evolutionists. The Second Law does indeed imply that the universe is on a relentless progression towards an irreversible heat death—if natural processes were ‘all that is’. But this unstoppable ‘running down’ of the whole universe is the opposite of the ‘chaos to cosmos’ that big-bang-to-you believers postulate. Where did all the immense order come from that has been steadily eroding?

See also If God created the universe, then who created God? and The future: some issues for ‘long-age’ Christians.

A better answer: the biblical worldview

The many problems for evolutionists inherent in the atheistic worldview promoted by Prof. Cox are resolved by the biblical or Christian worldview:

  • According to Genesis, God created the universe (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3), and time came into existence because of this. See Morning has broken but when?.
  • Star GBR 090423 is not “the oldest single object we have ever seen”. The sun, moon and stars, made by God on Day 4 of Creation Week are all as old (or rather as young) as Star GBR 090423 (Genesis 1:14–16).
  • There are numerous references in Scripture to God having “stretched out” the heavens, both during creation (Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 48:13, 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12, 51:15; Zechariah 12:1), and perhaps ongoing as well (Isaiah 40:22). “This stretching out resulted in an enormous amount of time dilation; billions of years of physical transformation occurred in the galactic realms while only one ordinary length day passed on earth and in the solar system.”1
  • God created the heavens and the earth; the sea, the land, and vegetation; the sun, moon, and stars; birds, fish, land animals, and man by the power of His Word (John 1:1–3). See How did God do it? Everything God created was “very good” or ideal for its purpose (Genesis 1:31). God called the universe into existence in a state of low entropy (i.e. low disorder and hence very high order) and it has been deteriorating overall ever since. As Hebrews 1:10–12 says (quoting Psalm 102) “And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’”
    This doesn’t mean that the Second Law did not apply pre-Fall. It is necessary for such things as the solar heating of the earth, walking, breathing and digestion (see Did the 2nd Law begin at the Fall?).
    In short, God did all the ordering work of creation at the beginning, and since then entropy has been increasing according to the Second Law.
  • God will not permit the cosmos to reach anything like its total ‘heat death’, with “nothing happening forever”, but will intervene long before that. Of this present universe, God has said: “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7). See The future: some issues for ‘long-age’ Christians. After that, there will be the creation of New Heavens and Earth, which will last for eternity.
  • When we leave the conveyor belt of time, we enter the dimensions of eternity (see The Gospel in time and space). In the Bible, God tells us that beyond death there are Heaven, Hell, and judgment to come.
  • The Christian answers to the two questions posed but not answered by Cox at the beginning of his program are:
    Why are we here? To glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever (1 Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 37:4), (see Romance at the heart of the universe).
    Where did we come from? God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and we are their offspring. They and we are all ‘in the image and likeness of God’ ( Genesis 1:27; James 3:9) (see Made in the image of God).

This worldview makes an enormous difference to not just our view of science and history, but just about everything else. Instead of gloom and doom as the culmination of history, there is hope.

Published: 2 August 2011


  1. Williams, A., and Hartnett, J. Dismantling the Big Bang, Master Books, 2005, pp. 247, 255 Return to text.