The Matter/Energy Connection
Whenever issues of Divine Creation of the universe are raised, some participants in the discussion transition to a discussion of the age of the universe: Is the age of our universe only 6 to 10 thousand years? or did the universe originate in a spectacular creation event known as the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago? Our stance has been that scientists over the last century have accumulated powerful and virtually incontrovertible evidence for the latter position. This evidence includes proof that the universe has expanded from an infinitely small volume at its origin. We infer this truth according to what we observe about the behavior of light, including red-shift phenomena, the presence of certain types of elements in our present universe, and many other observed characteristics. This evidence is highly congruent with the observed sequence of physical events in the past and present.
The Creation Event describes the origin of time, space, matter, and energy. Before this powerful Creation Event there existed no space, time, matter, and energy. There was no universe as we know it. This is an important metaphysical and theological issue, far beyond the scope of our discussion. Perhaps it is also beyond the scope of our understanding. The time/space connection is an important linkage, as is the linkage of matter/energy. God is the Creator of time/space/matter/energy. Albert Einstein and many other theoretical physicists wrestled with these concepts.
We will not venture into explicit meanings of the famous formula E=mc2: energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. Einstein’s understandings of relativity are fully grasped by only a very few human souls. His proposals have transformed science. At the very least, laypeople subjectively grasp the interrelationships of matter (mass) and energy: God has provided humanity with nearly limitless energy inherent in matter itself.
God’s creative processes were manifest from early milliseconds of the Big Bang event. Scientists describe a quark-gluon plasma experienced during that early era. Shortly after the initial creation event the cosmos experienced “nucleosynthesis:” nuclei of hydrogen and helium atoms formed consisting of protons and neutrons. After about 20 minutes, nucleosynthesis ceased. Hydrogen, helium, and a few other elements eventually formed about 380,000 years later when the universe had cooled sufficiently to hold electrons in place around the nuclei. Some young earth creationists object to this explanatory scenario. Our Creator, nonetheless, operates outside of, or even within human time frames. Ongoing creation events authored by our timeless God are equally as miraculous as sudden transcendent creation events. For reference:
To reinforce our concept of “ongoing creation” we reference historians of cosmology who date the appearance of stars at 100-200 million years after the Big Bang event. Multiple galaxies of stars appeared later, during the first billion years of universe history. Therefore, the matter/energy relationship was established early in the timeline of our 13.8 billion year old universe.
The statement “Matter and energy form the basis of all objective phenomena” has been used in many profound science discussions. Over the history of cosmic development there have been numerous examples of the matter/energy relationship. For example, a process called the proton-proton chain produces helium from the fusion of two hydrogen nuclei into a helium nucleus. Enormous energy is released. This brief, incomplete description of a physical process explains why our solar companion is a life-sustainer. Solar energy produces many subsequent energy transformations driving multiple processes which sustain life on our planet.
Einstein’s theories posited that matter and energy were different parts of the same thing. Most people are aware that the horrific 1945 atomic blasts which helped conclude World War II released enormous energy from reactions within a small amount of radioactive matter. That explosion destroyed surrounding objects and caused additional harm by releasing lethal ionizing radiation.
Consider the enormous energy released by the Sun. Our solar companion is really a nuclear furnace. The Sun primarily releases great amounts of visible light and infrared radiation which converts to heat if absorbed. Humans release infrared radiation by virtue of moving electrons in every atom of your body. (Every object in our universe releases infrared constantly—the lower their temperature, the lower the amount of infrared released and vice versa.)
Energy is simply defined as the ability to do work. There are many types of energy. A discussion of the different energy types is a topic for future blog posts. We might say that “Energy makes the world go ‘round”—a take-off on the popular lyrical/musical expression “Love makes the world go ‘round.”
The Creator of All Things could have produced a universe where energy sources were independent of matter. There would be no matter/energy connection. We may have difficulty imagining such a universe! In His infinite love and wisdom, God produced an ideal linkage for the ultimate good of all living things, especially beings created “In His Image.”