Vexing Implications

Vexing Implications

“Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant,” announced the title of a recent paper on the Los Alamos National Laboratory Web site.1 So “disturbing” were the paper’s findings that within a few days the British journal Nature ran an online commentary on them as well. Was evidence mounting against a naturalistic model for the beginning of the universe? Without daring to hint at the possibility of supernatural design, commentators suggested, “Our universe is so unlikely that we must be missing something.”2

The MIT and Stanford physicists who authored the original paper had investigated the possibility of replacing a single-creation-event cosmic model with a multiple-beginnings model. Their results said it won’t work: the cosmological constant (self-stretching property of the universe) negates the possibility.

The team had explored a phenomenon called “Poincare recurrences” as a way around the space-time limitations constraining their model.3 This idea offers the theoretical possibility (if the universe is subject to the same limitations event horizons impose on black holes) that after the universe is maximally expanded, it could come back together into one tiny point and then start all over again. The idea died when data showed that the time required between these hypothetical Poincare occurrences would be so absurdly long and the number of necessary recurrences so huge that unless the cosmological constant is wrong, a multiple-beginnings scenario remains both scientifically and philosophically impossible.

The authors also demonstrated that a universe governed by a cosmological constant will—of necessity—manifest extremely low entropy at its beginning. Such a low entropy state, according to the authors, would demand that “an external agent” (external to matter, energy, space, and time) that “intervened…for reasons of its own” in some miraculous way.4 In other words, the researchers conclude that either astronomers are wrong about the cosmological constant or, a specific deity miraculously intervened.

The researchers prefer to believe that astronomers are wrong. But, evidence for the cosmological constant is compelling—as is its implication of a divine Creator. Skeptics wanting more evidence need not wait long. Several independent teams of astronomers already are making measurements that will put cosmic creation to a more stringent test. The words “In the beginning God created…” stand to be affirmed anew.

  1. L. Dyson, M. Kleban, and L. Susskind, “Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant,” 1 August 2002,; accessed October 16, 2002.
  2. Philip Ball, “Is Physics Watching Over Us?” Nature, Science Update, August 13, 2002,; accessed October 16, 2002.
  3. Consider a large room filled with matter and energy where all the particles and photons undergo random, chaotic motions. The laws of statistical mechanics tell us that if we wait long enough the particles and photons, by chance, will all cram themselves into a cubic micron in one of the room’s corners. This condition, of course, is highly unstable and the particles and photons will quickly disperse throughout the room. The time between all the particles and photons being released from that cubic micron and their return, by chance, to that same cubic micron is called a Poincare recurrence.
  4. Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind, “Disturbing Implications,” 3; Ball, “Is Physics Watching?”