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Creation and the conservation of energy

Creation stories are universal among religions, through the ages. The ineffable mystery of life compelled us to explain our existence. In our primitive ignorance of the world, religion was the best we could do to provide the explanations we craved.

Thanks to science, we’re learning more about the universe and illuminating the dark corners of what was once our ignorance.

The word, "create", means: to bring into existence. Thus, if God created the universe, it had a beginning and can not be infinite in both directions of time: forward, yes; backward, no. But why can’t the universe simply be? Why can’t the universe be infinite in both directions of time: forward and backward? Why must it have a beginning? Why must it have been created by a supernatural God?

The first law of thermodynamics – the conservation of energy – makes it clear that nothing is ever created. Matter might change form but it never simply appears or disappears. For instance, we are nourished and grow by eating plants and other animals. Food is transformed into the energy that sustains us and the cells we are made of; including our DNA. Our parents didn’t create us, they transformed us.

Physics' mathematical models break down in a singularity. It is not known whether or not the first law holds in a singularity. If it does, the first law of thermodynamics strips bare the core question of creation and existence. Either the universe always existed . . . or . . . the universe was created by something outside the laws of physics (i.e. something supernatural). Either the universe is truly eternal or God created it. It boils down to physics or the supernatural.

We've had plenty of confirmation of Einstein's famous equation: E=MC2. Energy and mass are equivalent. Before the Big Bang, the entire mass of the universe was contained (as energy) in a super singularity. Whether or not ours is the first and only Big Bang, Big Bangs come from singularities. I believe that, in one form or another (singularity or cosmos), the universe simply is and always was. Not only is there no need for creation or for God: the conservation of energy means there could never have been a time when the universe, in whatever form, did not exist. Something doesn't come from nothing without supernatural intervention.

Because nobody has ever seen anything physically created, the pervasive concept of creation must be a human response to the unfathomable immensity of the eternal. The universe has always existed? What do you mean? Everything comes from somewhere, doesn't it? Yes. But nothing comes from nowhere.

The first law reduces the source of existence to either the natural or the supernatural. The notion of a personal God is ridiculous to me. But a cosmic God? I can imagine an eternal energy – infinitely hot, infinitely massive – that created the universe in a single, spectacular, explosion that still permeates the entire universe. If you want to call that energy -- that potential of our universe -- God, I can't refute you.

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Tags: conservation of energy, creation, eternity, first law of thermodynamics, infinity


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Comment by Atheist Exile on September 1, 2009 at 12:12pm
Hi Aaron,

A multiverse is an interesting idea. An infinite number of universes? Yikes. One is complicated enough.
Comment by Atheist Exile on September 1, 2009 at 12:10pm
Hi Elizabeth,

Yes, God/Universe always was . . . they're interchangeable.
Comment by Atheist Exile on August 30, 2009 at 3:00am
Hi Goddamnation,

I got a similar sentiment from a forum member at This same topic has been posted to the member forum at I found the following reply, from Dafyyd Alwyn, to be very interesting.

I almost passed on commenting to this thread because I didn't think I had anything to add. Then I started thinking about the eternal.

Let us assume the universe is eternal in both directions of time and the universe expands and contracts forever.

It is my understanding that the duration of the expand-contract cycle of the universe is in the order of tens of billions years, certainly under 100 billion years at any rate [not that it matters]. I don't think it will ever be possible to know which cycle we are currently in. The first one? The tenth one? The millionth one?

Those were my thoughts when I remembered the eternal is infinite. If we somehow knew how many cycles has already occurred, we would in effect be identifying the beginning of the universe (it started X cycles ago). This is not possible with an eternal universe! The reason eternity makes no sense to us mortals is because it makes no sense mathematically and logically. We have no other means of understanding the eternal. The eternal is an article of faith whether you mean it to be the universe or God.

So when Exile says the universe is eternal, what does that really mean? Just because I can't understand it, I won't deny it. But I don't think anybody understands it!
Comment by Elizabeth Smith on August 23, 2009 at 1:09am
The believer (I was raised baptist, unfortunately) says that god always was - no beginning or end - and angels were created before earth and man.
Comment by Atheist Exile on August 9, 2009 at 4:05am
Hi Goddamnation,

Cool play on words for your screen name :-)

Wouldn't the believer say that before creation, there was God? . . . Perhaps even God, heaven and angels? Otherwise, I think the most of us would say there was nothing. The notion of the universe always existing is not new but I've only seriously considered it just the other day. Now that I think about it, I think it's the "cleanest" scenario.
Comment by Goddamnation on August 9, 2009 at 2:35am
Well, in the way of religion or science, whatever it is, there's no answer for creation, or what's before creation.
Comment by Atheist Exile on August 8, 2009 at 3:19am
Hi George B.

Please, explain what the false dilemma is. Saying I presented one is meaningless if you don't identify it. Until then, I have to say . . . I don't know what you're talking about.
Comment by Atheist Exile on August 8, 2009 at 3:15am
Hi Elizabeth,

You assume I believe the universe "always was". I'm merely questioning the human assumptions that leads us to ask, "where did it come from?" If nobody has ever witnessed a physical act of creation, then why does it play so prominently in ALL belief systems? I say it's because of the limited scope of our imagination. It's easier to imagine a beginning than no beginning.

Assuming the first law holds true even when the universe is a singularity, then there is no possibility of universal creation. Our mathematical models break down in singularities. This doesn't mean the law no longer applies. It only means we don't understand singularities. We don't know enough to say the first law is invalidated in a singularity.

I personally find it easier to believe in a universe without a God. A worm, dog, monkey or dolphin can't make a watch. The designer has to be significantly more complex than the designed. Understanding and explaining the universe is difficult enough. Why add another layer of complexity?
Comment by George B. on August 8, 2009 at 2:48am
there is a lot of evidence for a big bang an then there is the theory that if all positive and negative energy and mas in the universe are added up, you get either 0 or a number really close to 0 making in possible for the universe to be created from nothing or very little. Negative energy is created in fields. I don't know much about thin but I do know that it is a major hypothesis in the big bang theory. You presented a false dilemma which, by the way, is a very common religious trick to try and have atheists say that they're wrong.
Comment by Elizabeth Smith on August 7, 2009 at 4:36pm
It's all faith. Nothing is proven. Some believe (have faith) in the big bang, evolution, reincarnation. Some believe in a god. You have faith that the universe always was, like some have faith that their god always was. Others have faith that the universe wasn't always there, but where did it come from? These are the issues I still struggle with. How did we come to be...and why?

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