Recently published work in the Monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers report how they used the astrophysical gravitational-wave background to constrain the population properties of binary black holes. The authors note that the definition of “background” is really detector dependent; as gravitational-wave detectors become more sensitive, a greater fraction of binary mergers will be clearly resolved, and so what might may be referred to as background in the past may become foreground in the future. They used the LIGO-VIRGO gravitational wave detector network to record the data of 35 merging black holes and neutron stars. Based upon this data, and their theoretical predictions, it is believed there are another 2 million gravitational wave events from merging black holes that occur every 200 seconds, along with merging neutron stars every 15 seconds whose signals are too weak to measure. Researchers are using the background gravitational wave spectra to constrain the population properties of these events. The new scientific finding is in the mathematical method that was developed to detect the presence of these weak (background) events that pass by undetected. This new mathematical approach was able to measure these events without having to measure each one individually. The methodology allows for detecting events 8 billion light years further than they are currently observing.
- Rory J E Smith et al, Inferring the population properties of binary black holes from unresolved gravitational waves, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (2020). DOI: 10.1093/mnras/staa1642 , arxiv.org/abs/2004.09700
This new capability allows for getting snapshots of the early universe and provides information on how the universe has evolved over time. When black holes merge they release a large amount of energy in the form of gravitational waves. These waves travel in all directions, and are now routinely detected by the advanced LIGO-VIRGO detector network. We had discussed gravitational waves previously titled, “Gravity Waves detected in Earth’s Atmosphere” and “Ringing Black Hole Proves Einstein Right Again” The gravitational waves that are generated due to black hole mergers carry information about spacetime and nuclear matter under the most extreme conditions in the Universe. The observations of black hole mergers and gravitational waves allow scientists to trace how stars, star clusters, and galaxies interact. As the Universe is expanding, the events that are measured further away are occurring earlier and earlier in the life of the universe. When the researchers measure these black hole mergers via the gravitational waves, they are able to obtain population properties, a statistic on the distribution of black hole masses. In this publication, researchers use hierarchical inference (i.e. a Hierarchical model as a new way for applying statistics) in order to determine the ensemble properties of compact binaries. They use this technique to eliminate the artificial distinction between foreground and background, and are able to probe greater distances than possible with resolved events alone, while eliminating bias from selection effects. They demonstrate that it is possible to make population inferences even when excluding statistically significant, “gold-plated” detections. The key results are presented as posterior probability distributions describing the shape of the binary black hole mass and spin distributions, derived using entirely unresolved events. The researchers believe the majority of the binary mergers producing gravitational waves are too weak to unambiguously provide a detection event. This has led to a vast amount of information that is lost during the observations. This means that we are only able to see the loudest and nearest events and miss the rest of the picture.
The Spiritual Insight that we receive from this type of research speaks to the idea of creation. Interestingly, there are a number of references in the Scriptures that touch on astronomy and astrophysics. What we generally know about science changes with time as we continue to progress, make new discoveries, and improve sensor technology, etc. As we look back through history, generally speaking, the verses in the Bible seemed to be counterintuitive to the scientific minds of the times. Modern science however is confirming what the Scriptures say, especially concerning what the Scriptures teach us about the universe.
Take for example, Isaiah write concerning the Earth saying the following:
כא הֲלוֹא תֵדְעוּ הֲלוֹא תִשְׁמָעוּ הֲלוֹא הֻגַּד מֵרֹאשׁ לָכֶם הֲלוֹא הֲבִינֹתֶם מוֹסְדוֹת הָאָרֶץ: כב הַיּשֵׁב עַל-חוּג הָאָרֶץ וְיֹשְׁבֶיהָ כַּחֲגָבִים הַנּוֹטֶה כַדֹּק שָׁמַיִם וַיִּמְתָּחֵם כָּאֹהֶל לָשָׁבֶת:
40:21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 40:22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. (NASB)
Isaiah wrote that the Lord God sits above the circle of the Earth. This is descriptive of what the Earth looks like from space appearing as a circle as the moon does because it is round. Job also writes concerning this saying the following:
ז נֹטֶה צָפוֹן עַל-תֹּהוּ תֹּלֶה אֶרֶץ עַל-בְּלִימָה: ח צֹרֵר-מַיִם בְּעָבָיו וְלֹא-נִבְקַע עָנָן תַּחְתָּם: ט מְאַחֵז פְּנֵי-כִסֵּה פַּרְשֵׁז עָלָיו עֲנָנוֹ: י חֹק חָג עַל-פְּנֵי-מָיִם עַד-תַּכְלִית אוֹר עִם-חשֶׁךְ:
26:7 ‘He stretches out the north over empty space And hangs the earth on nothing. 26:8 ‘He wraps up the waters in His clouds, And the cloud does not burst under them. 26:9 ‘He obscures the face of the full moon And spreads His cloud over it. 26:10 ‘He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters At the boundary of light and darkness. (NASB)
Job writes about how the Lord God hangs the Earth on nothing (Job 26:7) and how he inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness. (Job 26:10) The circle on the surface of the waters is similar to what Isaiah wrote concerning the shape of the earth. In addition, Job says the Lord hangs the Earth on nothing, speaking of how gravity holds the Earth in place as it circles the sun. The boundary between light and darkness speaks of when one stands at this boundary, one is experiencing either a sunset or a sunrise, indicating how this point on the earth is a location that stops the light. Note the geometry of the earth as a sphere makes what these Scriptures say is true! When we look at the moon, we can see this region where light is cut off. During the 3rd and 4th quarter of the lunar cycle, it is most easy to observe the boundary spoken of in Job, and to view the craters on the moon using a telescope. The moon is said to look three dimensional through a telescope during this time. This is a way of experimentally determining that the moon is a sphere and not a flat disk. When we consider the Earth, being composed of 70% water, Job is giving us a perspective from God’s view above the Earth which is spherical. These Scriptures speak to us concerning the circle of the earth, there always being a line of division between light and darkness, since the earth is round.
There are also several places in the Scriptures where the Bible speaks about how the Universe is “stretched out” or “expanded.” Isaiah 40:22 states that the Lord God stretched out the heavens like a curtain and spread them out like a tent to dwell in. This suggests something about the Universe, that its size is increasing. The Lord God stretched it out, the Universe is expanding. The idea of the expanding universe may have been hard to believe for ancient astronomers looking through telescopes. Some people today even may read Isaiah 40:22 and conclude that the Universe is not expanding, even though these Scriptures suggest this is happening. Most astronomers today do believe the Universe is expanding. Einstein’s theory of general relativity explains the expansion as a natural consequence of physics. There is recent observational data that also suggest the Universe is continuing to expand, something God had put into action. Some of the evidence for this is found in how astronomers discovered virtually all galaxy clusters appear to be moving away from one another. (See past article: “The Expanding Universe Might Not Depend on How You Measure It, but When” ) These observed phenomenon suggest that the galaxies are on the surface of a balloon which is expanding causing every point to move away from every other point on the surface. These Scriptures record the motion of the Universe thousands of years prior to the discovery by modern science.
The Scriptures also speak to the concepts of mass and the conservation of energy. The conservation of energy is the idea that energy can not be created or destroyed. Energy is only transformed in some way. Examples of energy are heat, light, sound, electricity, etc. In Chemical thermodynamics, we learn that energy contained in coal or wood, may be transformed to heat (combustion) and then may be utilized to produce work. Electricity is also a form of work as defined by moving a charged particle through an electric field (E) through a distance. Therefore, by definition, when turning on a light switch, one performs work in the sense of the electrons moving through a wire. The resistance of the wire causes the electric energy to be transformed to heat energy. The task of preventing electric energy from converting to heat energy is the reason there is the scientific field of research on the materials development of superconductors. All of these things are the direct result of the principle of the conservation of energy. There is also a conserving principle of mass which is the property of an object being resistant to movement (motion). Things that are large in mass are heavy, and those with little mass are light. Each of these can be moved from one place to another, and through nuclear reactions, one can transform one kind of mass into another kind (elementally speaking). From the molecular perspective, one can transform molecules through chemical reactions. Like energy, mass cannot be created or destroyed, just transformed. This means that both energy and mass are conserved. Einstein related mass and energy by his classic equation E=mc2. These principles of the conservation of energy and mass are described in the Scriptures according to the following verses:
Bereshit / Genesis 2:2
ב וַיְכַל אֱלֹהִים בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָֹה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִכָּל-מְלַאכְתּוֹ אֲשֶׁר עָשָֹה:
2:2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. (NASB)
πάντα δι’ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν
1:3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (NASB)
When we consider the conservation of mass and energy, looking at John 1:3 this is exactly what John is describing, that no material thing had come into existence outside of God having created what we see. This means that nothing comes into existence apart from the Lord God doing so. In Bereshit / Genesis 2:2 we read how God had ended His work of creation on the seventh day. This supports the idea of the conservation of mass and energy in the sense that only God can bring new things into existence from nothing, and since the Lord God ended His creative work by the seventh day, no new material element will ever come into existence. In Hebrews 1:3 the Scriptures say that nothing will cease to exist in the sense that it is the Lord God who is holding all things by His sustaining power and Paul wrote that in and by Him all things consist in Colossians 1:17. These things teach us that neither matter or energy will cease to exist because the Lord God is sustaining them. Energy and matter may only be transformed into a different form, such as we see electrical energy being transformed into heat, etc. These things from the Scriptures teach us that the amount of matter in the Universe is constant. Note how Peter speaks of the “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:7) which also speaks of this conversion of matter and energy in the last days. The Lord God also reserves His right to perform miracles, which is a supernatural intervention by God that may work at a given time against the laws of physics. These things are the exception, and happen infrequently, and they provide for us hope in the Lord who is able to work powerfully in our lives. The Universe as we know it however is governed by the laws of the conservation of mass and energy.
Elsewhere we read about the Lord God using the creation as a description of His ability and power to fulfill a promise. Take for example the following Scriptures:
Bereshit / Genesis 22:17-18
יז כִּי-בָרֵךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ וְהַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה אֶת-זַרְעֲךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם וְכַחוֹל אֲשֶׁר עַל-שְֹפַת הַיָּם וְיִרַשׁ זַרְעֲךָ אֵת שַׁעַר אֹיְבָיו: יח וְהִתְבָּרֲכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ עֵקֶב אֲשֶׁר שָׁמַעְתָּ בְּקֹלִי:
22:17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 22:18 ‘In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.’ (NASB)
Bereshit / Genesis 32:12
יב הַצִּילֵנִי נָא מִיַּד אָחִי מִיַּד עֵשָֹו כִּי-יָרֵא אָנֹכִי אֹתוֹ פֶּן-יָבוֹא וְהִכַּנִי אֵם עַל-בָּנִים:
32:12 ‘For You said, ‘I will surely prosper you and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which is too great to be numbered.’‘ (NASB)
Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:10
י יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הִרְבָּה אֶתְכֶם וְהִנְּכֶם הַיּוֹם כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לָרֹב:
1:10 ‘The Lord your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven in number. (NASB)
Devarim / Deuteronomy 10:22-11:3
כב בְּשִׁבְעִים נֶפֶשׁ יָרְדוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ מִצְרָיְמָה וְעַתָּה שָֹמְךָ יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם לָרֹב: א וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְשָׁמַרְתָּ מִשְׁמַרְתּוֹ וְחֻקֹּתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וּמִצְוֹתָיו כָּל-הַיָּמִים: ב וִידַעְתֶּם הַיּוֹם כִּי | לֹא אֶת-בְּנֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדְעוּ וַאֲשֶׁר לֹא-רָאוּ אֶת-מוּסַר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֶת-גָּדְלוֹ אֶת-יָדוֹ הַחֲזָקָה וּזְרֹעוֹ הַנְּטוּיָה: ג וְאֶת-אֹתֹתָיו וְאֶת-מַעֲשָֹיו אֲשֶׁר עָשָֹה בְּתוֹךְ מִצְרָיִם לְפַרְעֹה מֶלֶךְ-מִצְרַיִם וּלְכָל-אַרְצוֹ:
10:22 ‘Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. 11:1 ‘You shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. 11:2 ‘Know this day that I am not speaking with your sons who have not known and who have not seen the discipline of the Lord your God His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, 11:3 and His signs and His works which He did in the midst of Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to all his land; (NASB)
Here we see in these examples the Lord God uses the stars of heaven and the sand on the shore to represent a large quantity of people. The Lord God promises Abraham that He would multiply Abraham’s descendants as the stars of the heaven and the sand on the sea shore. Bereshit / Genesis 32:12 clearly describes the sand as a number which is uncountable. The number of grains of sand on the sea shore and the number of stars can only be estimated, no human is capable of numbering either one of these. Today with the help of modern science, we have an even greater appreciation of just how innumerable the stars actually are. Powerful telescopes that have been launched into space, and those that are here on earth, are capable of viewing the stars which are too faint for us to see by the unaided eye. Using the latest in technology, in our Milky Way galaxy alone the estimate is over 100 billion stars. Astronomers believe there are more galaxies in the visible universe than there are stars in our own galaxy, that is a tremendous number of stars in the universe. These galaxies would have hundreds of billions or trillions of stars. Bereshit / Genesis 22:17 speaks of the innumerability of the stars, and modern science is proving this to be true! The prophet Jeremiah also said the following:
כב אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִסָּפֵר צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא יִמַּד חוֹל הַיָּם כֵּן אַרְבֶּה אֶת-זֶרַע דָּוִד עַבְדִּי וְאֶת-הַלְוִיִּם מְשָׁרְתֵי אֹתִי: כג וַיְהִי דְּבַר-יְהֹוָה אֶל-יִרְמְיָהוּ לֵאמֹר: כד הֲלוֹא רָאִיתָ מָה-הָעָם הַזֶּה דִּבְּרוּ לֵאמֹר שְׁתֵּי הַמִּשְׁפָּחוֹת אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר יְהֹוָה בָּהֶם וַיִּמְאָסֵם וְאֶת-עַמִּי יִנְאָצוּן מִהְיוֹת עוֹד גּוֹי לִפְנֵיהֶם: כה כֹּה אָמַר יְהֹוָה אִם-לֹא בְרִיתִי יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה חֻקּוֹת שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ לֹא-שָֹמְתִּי:
33:22 ‘As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’‘ 33:23 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 33:24 ‘Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the Lord chose, He has rejected them’? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight. 33:25 ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, (NASB)
God established the Physical laws of the Universe according to Jeremiah 33:25. This indicates to us how the way things work in the Universe, the natural laws, were designed and conform to logic and mathematical expression. These laws of chemistry and physics are the way in which God established His creation, so that life is not haphazard or arbitrary but precious, special, and unique. This is what Isaiah meant when he spoke inspired by God saying, שְׂאוּ־מָר֨וֹם עֵינֵיכֶ֤ם וּרְאוּ֙ מִי־בָרָ֣א אֵ֔לֶּה הַמּוֹצִ֥יא בְמִסְפָּ֖ר צְבָאָ֑ם לְכֻלָּם֙ בְּשֵׁ֣ם יִקְרָ֔א מֵרֹ֤ב אוֹנִים֙ וְאַמִּ֣יץ כֹּ֔חַ אִ֖ישׁ לֹ֥א נֶעְדָּֽר׃ (ס) “Lift high your eyes and see: Who created these? He who sends out their host by count, Who calls them each by name: Because of His great might and vast power, Not one fails to appear.” This means that the laws of chemistry and physics will not fail in the sense that they will work today just as they did yesterday. This is a fundamental postulate in science and the reason the scientific method is possible is due to this consistency of physics and chemistry which obey simple mathematical formulae. We were created unique among all of God’s creation, as God had given us the ability to reason, to think, to ponder, and to interpret the data that consists of these things, and then draw out logical conclusions, and use these conclusions to design, build, manufacture, and create new things, technologies, etc. Because of our ability to observe and have rational thought, we are able to discover these things that God has established to govern the Universe through experimentation and logical reasoning. The Scriptures speak of both heaven and earth obeying the laws of nature. In Israel’s history, and in the history of the various nations of the ancient world, people believed the place that is beyond this world (Earth) was the realm of the gods, and so they worshiped the stars of heaven. The practice of star worship also thrived under the Assyrians and especially the Chaldeans. Spiritual experiences often included worshiping the heavenly bodies, such as the Sun, Moon, and stars. (see 2 Kings 17:16-20, Ezekiel 8:16-18) In reality, the planets are simply created objects which obey the same laws of nature which we can study here on earth. Isaac Newton realized this when he concluded that the moon orbits the earth because the moon is pulled by earth’s gravity.
I have only listed a few of the references found in the Scriptures which support the findings of modern science. It is important to realize how often the Scriptures are attacked as not being scientific. Based upon this study, we can with confidence trust in the words written in the Bible in our modern age of technology and science! Modern science is continuing to confirm much of what the Scriptures teach about astronomy, chemistry, and physics. Many of the biblical teachings in the past have been difficult to understand or explain, such as the expanding Universe, which are not accepted as fact in the Scientific textbooks. These are important lessons to learn, how our ideas on science can change due to new findings, etc, whereas, the Scriptures demonstrate to be consistent, solid, and true, and do not have the need for change.
There are many more examples that may be given from the Scriptures. For example, The universe is governed day-to-day by rational natural laws that God has established and not by the whims of deities. (Job 38:33, Jeremiah 33:25) Greek Mythology for example teaches that humans are helpless before the unpredictable and sometimes merciless acts of the gods. The Scriptures on the other hand describe how rivers and springs are fed by water that has evaporated from the oceans and other sources and then has fallen back to earth as rain, snow, or hail. (see Job 36:27-28, Ecclesiastes 1:7, Isaiah 55:10, and Amos 9:6) The ancient Greeks thought that rivers were fed by underground ocean water, and this idea persisted into the 18th century. We are also told in the Scriptures that the mountains rise and fall, and today’s mountains were once under the ocean. (Tehillim / Psalm 104:6-8) And, when we consider the study of infectious disease, the Torah provides a regulation on touching the dead and disposing of human waste. (Leviticus 11:28, 13:1-5, Deuteronomy 23:13) There are a lot of lessons that can be learned from the Scriptures, and from history. Based upon this survey of the Scriptures, we can see how the Scriptures prevail against the changing times and thoughts of men. Science is not at odds with the Scriptures, and where it is at odds, the Scriptures have shown to be true. Science is defined as the observation, experimentation, identification, investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena. It is the method of gaining greater understanding of the world as we know it. It has evolved over time as man learned new things, mathematics, physics, chemistry, which lead to new theories and the search for more knowledge through observation. The advances in science as we read in the scientific literature demonstrate the capacity of man in logic and imagination to study the natural world. Our belief in the Scriptures, in God’s Word, does not necessarily go at odds with scientific discovery. Much of what we have talked about in the Scriptures supports the claims of science, as we see “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Tehillim / Psalms 19:1) These things reveal to us how we can trust the Scriptures for what they say, especially in matters of faith. The Lord has shown us what it means to have faith in Him and in his Son for salvation. To have faith in His word for instruction! And to have faith in His presence in our lives via the Holy spirit for guidance. And to believe that the Lord God in heaven is able to do all of these things! We do not doubt the promises of God, and we depend upon his omnipotent power to overcome all things. As modern science discovers more about creation, we find more and more complexity in His creation, i.e. replication of DNA, the working of physics and chemistry in this world, the ecosystem God has established to allow life to exist here on earth, etc. These things support the idea of a creator God, and so we should support and embrace scientific discovery in the search for truth! The one thing we need to be careful of, is not to put human knowledge above the knowledge of God!