It may be surprising for some readers to learn that the Bible declared millennia ago that the fundamental physics of the universe has not and does not change. In Jeremiah 33, for example, God avows that he is not like humans, who habitually change their minds, their convictions, and their loyalties. God uses the physics of the universe as an analogy for his immutable nature. As God “established the fixed laws of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25), so, too, his character attributes, convictions, and commitments are unchanging.
Another biblical example is found in Romans 8:20–22. Here, Paul states that “the whole creation has been groaning” as a result of its “bondage to decay” (NIV 1984). This passage summarizes the long discourses in Ecclesiastes, especially chapters 1–3, 10–12, declaring that the law of decay, known today as the second law of thermodynamics, applies ubiquitously throughout the universe.
Foundation of Modern Science
The biblical principle of unchanging and pervasive physics launched the scientific revolution. During the Renaissance, students of the Bible began to recognize that if the laws of physics are the same for all times and places throughout the universe, then experiments and observations about natural phenomena will reveal reliable and trustworthy knowledge and understanding about the natural realm. Such understanding would not only satisfy our curiosity about nature but also yield economic and technological advances. During the Reformation, the recognition of unchanging and pervasive physics became widespread throughout Europe and gave birth to the scientific revolution.
It is no accident that the scientific revolution was birthed in Reformation Europe. Biblical literacy, for the first time, flourished in Reformation Europe and led to the widespread acceptance that the laws of physics could be trusted to reveal truth about nature.
Tests of Unchanging Physics
Even though the biblical principle of constant and pervasive laws of physics forms the foundation of the scientific method and scientific research, scientists continue to subject the principle to rigorous and exhaustive testing. They have two reasons for doing so. First, affirming the fundamental assumption undergirding the scientific method and scientific research to a greater degree of precision and to a greater extent of space and time builds confidence in the value and successes of the scientific enterprise. Second, searching for very tiny departures from the constancy of known laws of physics might reveal the existence of new, as yet undiscovered, laws of physics. For example, what appeared to astronomers at the end of the nineteenth century as a tiny departure from Newton’s laws of motion in their observations of Mercury’s orbit1 led to the discovery of another nonvarying law of physics, the theory of general relativity.2
Christians also have a vested interest in subjecting the biblical principle of constant and pervasive laws of physics to more rigorous and exhaustive testing. Millennia before scientists had any hint that the laws of physics are constant and that they apply ubiquitously to the entire universe, the Bible stood alone in making such claims. These tests present an opportunity to demonstrate the Bible’s unique power to accurately predict future scientific discoveries. Such a demonstration provides strong evidence for the existence of an all-knowing, all-truthful God and that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant revelation from that God.
I have written many Today’s New Reason to Believe articles documenting the most rigorous observations and experiments that establish that the laws of physics are constant and pervasive.3 The most stringent tests achieved to date, with years over which measurements have been made, are as follows:
|Physical law test||Measurements’ Span of Years||Variation|
|fine-structure constant variation||4 years4||<2.0 x 10-16/year|
|fine-structure constant variation||12.9 billion years5||<6.2 x 10-16/year|
|electron-to-proton mass ratio variation||4 years6||<2.3 x 10-14/year|
|electron-to-proton mass ratio variation||12.9 billion years7||<1.6 x 10-17/year|
|gravitational constant variation||24 years8||<5.2 x 10-14/year|
|gravitational constant variation||11.0 billion years9||<7.9 x 10-12/year|
The two tests performed over 4–year spans were achieved in laboratories. Helioseismic observations of the Sun were responsible for the test over a 24-year span. Observations of the spectral lines of galaxies and quasars over a broad range of light-travel times yielded the three tests over billions of years. To less precision, tests show no sign of variation in the values of the fundamental constants of physics with respect to regional location in the universe.10
The past tests establish to high precision that no change has occurred in the fundamental constants of physics from 11.0–12.9 billion years ago until the present. That’s 93.5% of cosmic history. Until the James Webb Space Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescope become operational, it will not be possible for observations of galaxy and quasar spectral lines to push the time range earlier than 12.9 billion years ago. However, two British astronomers, Luke Hart and Jens Chluba, analyzed data from the Planck 2018 map of the cosmic microwave background radiation to determine values for the fine-structure constant and the electron-to-proton mass ratio when the universe was only 370,000 years old, or 13.79 billion years before the present.11
Hart and Chluba determined that just 370,000 years after the cosmic creation event the value of the fine-structure constant compared to its value measured in present-day laboratories = 1.0005 +/- 0.0024. The value of the electron-to-proton mass ratio 370,000 years after the cosmic creation event compared to the present-day value = 1.0005 +/- 0.0099. Though Hart and Chluba’s measurements are not as accurate as the past tests, they extend the demonstration that the fundamental constants of physics remain unchanged over the past 93.5% to now 99.9973% of cosmic history.
Observations now show that the laws of physics that govern the universe indeed are unchanged to high precision over (what for all practical purposes is) the entire history of the universe. The accurate forecasting of this scientific discovery thousands of years ago in the writings of the Bible establishes that the One who inspired the Bible authors to write what they did must be superintelligent, superknowledgeable, superpowerful, trustworthy, and truthful. These observations show, too, that the study of nature is a worthwhile endeavor that can be trusted to reveal truth not only about the natural realm but also about the attributes of the One who brought it all into existence.
- Simon Newcomb, “Discussion of the Observed Transits of Mercury, 1677–1881,” Astronomical Papers Prepared for the Use of the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac, vol. I (Washington: Bureau of Navigation, Navy Department, 1882), available at http://relativitycalculator.com/pdfs/mercury_perihelion_advance/S.Newcomb.pdf; G. M. Clemence, “The Relativity Effect in Planetary Motions,” Reviews of Modern Physics 19, no. 4 (October 1, 1947): 361–364, doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.19.361.
- Albert Einstein, “Die Grundlage der allgemeinen Relativitätstheorie,” Annalen Der Physik 354, no. 7 (July 1916): 769–822, doi:10.1002/andp.19163540702; Albert Einstein, translated by Satyendra Nath Bose, “The Foundation of the Generalised Theory of Relativity,” last edited December 30, 2020.
- Hugh Ross, “New Fine-Structure Constant Measurement Affirms Cosmic Creation,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), March 1, 2021; Hugh Ross, “More Evidences for Biblical Claim of Unchanging Physics,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), June 22, 2020; Hugh Ross, “Stronger and More Comprehensive Tests Affirm the Universe’s Unchanging Physics,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), July 1, 2013; Hugh Ross, “TNRTB Classic: Testing the Biblical Notion of Unchanging Physics,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), July 4, 2013.
- Nathan Leefer et al., “New Limits on Variation of the Fine-Structure Constant Using Atomic Dysprosium,” Physical Review Letters 111, no. 6 (August 6, 2013): id. 060801, doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.111.060801.
- S. A. Levshakov et al., “An Upper Limit to the Variation in the Fundamental Constants at Redshift z = 5.2,” Astronomy & Astrophysics: Letters 540 (April 2012): id. L9, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201219042; Franco D. Albareti et al., “Constraint on the Time Variation of the Fine-Structure Constant with the SDSS-III/BOSS DR12 Quasar Sample,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 452, no. 4 (October 1, 2015): 4153–4168, doi:10.1093/mnras/stv1406.
- J. Kobayashi, A. Ogino, and S. Inouye, “Measurement of the Variation of Electron-to-Proton Mass Ratio Using Ultracold Molecules Produced from Laser-Cooled Atoms,” Nature Communications 10 (August 21, 2019): id. 3771, doi:10.1038/s41467-019-11761-1.
- Levshakov et al., “An Upper Limit.”
- Alfio Bonanno and Hans-Erich Fröhlich, “A New Helioseismic Constraint on a Cosmic-Time Variation of G,” The Astrophysical Journal Letters 893, no. 2 (April 21, 2020): id. L35, doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab86b9.
- Earl Patrick Bellinger and Jørgen Christensen-Dalsgaard, “Astroseismic Constraints on the Cosmic-Time Variation of the Gravitational Constant from an Ancient Main-sequence Star,” The Astrophysical Journal Letters 887, no. 1 (December 3, 2019): id. L1, doi:10.3847/2041-8213/ab43e7.
- Jon O’Bryan et al., “Constraints on Spatial Variations in the Fine-Structure Constant from Planck,” The Astrophysical Journal 798, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): id. 18, doi:10.1088/0004-637X/798/1/18.
- Luke Hart and Jens Chluba, “Updated Fundamental Constant Constraints from Planck 2018 Data and Possible Relations to the Hubble Tension,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 493, no. 3 (April 2020): 3255–3263, doi:10.1093/mnras/staa412.