What Sustains the Universe?

There are quite a few logical arguments for the existence of God.  Most who study apologetics are familiar with the (Kalam) Cosmological Argument (argument from a beginning), the Teleological Argument (argument from design), the Ontological Argument (argument from perfection), the Argument from Morality (the morality argument), and others.  In particular the Cosmological and Teleological Arguments are arguments that support the idea of God as the creator of the universe.  As of late, I have heard several discussions around the idea of God as the sustainer of the universe.

Dr. Frank Turek uses the analogy of God being to the universe like a band is to music.  While playing, the band is actually sustaining the music.  When the band stops playing, the music stops.  God is holding the universe together.  If God were to stop, the universe would fall apart.

There are many verses in the Bible that support this idea (cf: Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17, Acts 17:28, 1 Corinthians 8:6). I got to thinking the other day, is there a logical syllogism that “proves” this idea? After mulling this around for a couple of days, I hit on what I think is a pretty good one.

  1. The laws of physics are constant.
  2. There is no law of physics that governs the laws of physics.
  3. Therefore, there must be a cause other than a law of physics that sustains the laws of physics.

Maybe I’ve stumbled on a unique idea. I couldn’t find anything online or in some of my favorite apologetics books, so maybe this is a new one. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if someone told me Tertullian or Aquinas already came up with this.

So let’s pick at this syllogism a bit.

Premise 1: The laws of physics are constant.

This is one that I’m sure will get some disagreement. If you do a Google search on “are the laws of physics constant” there are several hits that come up.

Philip Ball of the BCC ran a story in May 2012, “Can the laws of physicist change?” In it, he notes that most scientist generally “regard their various laws and constants” as static and unchanging. He goes on to report that a paper published by in the journal Physical Reviews and Letters titled “Global Positioning System Test of the Local Position Invariance of Planck’s Constant” confirms that Planck’s constant seems to be, well, constant; but later writes, “some scientists have suggested that the fine structure constant might not be constant, but could vary over time and space.” There are several other articles online that talk about this paper and the possibility that the constant “alpha” may have changed. [Alpha is the fine-structure constant that is “measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force that governs how electrically charged elementary particles (e.g., electron, muon) and light (photons) interact” (NIST).

What is interesting is that “alpha” is not really a law of physics that may be changing; instead it’s a constant. So the news articles that suggest the “laws of physics” are changing or may not be constant are really talking about a constant (that may not be constant).

Paul Davies of Arizona State University states “the laws of physics…are immutable, universal, infinitely-precise mathematical relationships that were somehow imprinted on the universe at its birth” (Davies, 2008). The Laws of physics include things like Ampere's Law, the Causality Principle, Conservation Laws, Einstein’s Field Equation, Newton’s Three Laws of Motion, the Laws of Thermodynamics (0 through 3), and many others.

A physical constant, on the other hand, is a physical quantity that the vast majority of scientists believe are universal and constant. Constants include over 330 mathematical values which interesting names such as the alpha particle-electron mass ratio, the atomic unit of energy, Avogadro number, the electron mass, the Faraday constant, the Wien wavelength displacement law constant, and many others.

All the literature I could find only relates to some possible, very, very tiny, changes in a two of the constants (alpha and the speed of light), but many of these claims are controversial. There is no evidence I could locate that suggest the laws of physics are not constant.

  1. There is no law of physics that governs the laws of physics.

This point seems undisputable to me. There is much written on the various Laws of Physics, but I could not find a single one that is the so-called “grand, unifying” law that governs all other laws.  A constant couldn't play this role either, as constants are simply mathematical values.

  1. Therefore, there must be a cause other than a law of physics that sustains the laws of physics.

If premise one and premise two are true, then logically, premise 3 is correct.

Now, tell me where I’m wrong!



NIST Reference on Constants, Units, and Uncertainty. http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Constants/alpha.html
Davies, P., NIST Public Affairs, “What are the Laws of Physics?”. http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/colloquia/20081031.cfm