—How can the universe have a “beginning” when modern science
says energy is eternal?
PROBLEM: According to the First Law of Thermodynamics, “Energy can neither be
created nor destroyed.” If this is so, then the universe must be eternal, since it is made
of indestructible energy. However, the Bible indicates that the universe had a
“beginning” and did not exist before God “created” it ( Gen. 1:1 ). Is this not a
contradiction between the Bible and science?
SOLUTION: There is a conflict of opinion here, but no real factual contradiction. The
factual evidence indicates that the universe is not eternal, but that it did have a
beginning just as the Bible says. Several observations are relevant here.
First of all, the First Law of Thermodynamics is often misstated to the effect that
energy “cannot be created.” However, science is based on observation, and statements
such as “can” or “cannot” are not based on observation, but are dogmatic
pronouncements. The First Law should be stated like this: “[So far as we can observe]
the amount of actual energy in the universe remains constant.” That is, as far as we
know, the actual amount of energy in the universe is not decreasing or increasing.
Stated this way, the First Law makes no pronouncement whatsoever about where
energy came from, or how long it has been here. Thus, it does not contradict the
Genesis declaration that God created the universe.
Second, another well-established scientific law is the Second Law of
Thermodynamics. It states that “the amount of usable energy in the universe is
decreasing.” According to this Law, the universe is running down. Its energy is being
transformed into unusable heat. If this is so, then the universe is not eternal, since it
would have run out of usable energy a long time ago. Or, to put it another way, if the
universe is unwinding, then it was wound up. If it had an infinite amount of energy it
would never run down. Therefore, the universe had a beginning, just as Genesis 1:1
says it did.