Doom and gloom from the BBC

Comment on Wonders of the Universe: Destiny

by Russell Grigg

Published: August 2, 2011 Centauros

This is a BBC TV program on evolution, the universe and us, broadcast in the UK in March 2011; and in Australia and the USA in July. It is narrated by particle physicist, Professor Brian Cox, who is a ‘Distinguished Supporter’ of the atheistic British Humanist Association. This is par for the course for the BBC, long known for its anti-Christian bias.

Prof. Cox begins by asking: “Why are we here?” and “Where do we come from?” These are good questions, but instead of answering them, he says, “ … we are part of the universe, so its story is our story”, and he then talks about time and change according to the atheistic long-age worldview. We shall discuss what he says (influenced by his atheistic faith), then consider our human story according to the Christian or biblical worldview. (See also Evolution & creation, science & religion, facts & bias about the way one’s worldview influences the assumptions one brings to the data.)

The ‘arrow of time’

Cox shows us how at Chankillo in Peru one can tell the date from where the sun rises on the horizon, and he then reminds us, “A day on Earth is the 24 hours it takes our planet to rotate once exactly, our month is based on the 29½ days it takes for the moon to wax and wane in the night sky, and the year is the 365¼ days it takes us to orbit once around the Sun.” However, this temporal accuracy and repetitiveness is hardly relevant to or supportive of the idea, as he implies, that ‘light from the stars marks millions and billions of years” or that “time scales in the universe are unimaginatively vast”. It also doesn’t explain where the week comes from; this is not an astronomic cycle, but patterned on Creation Week revealed in Genesis 1 (cf. Exodus 20:8–11).

He also shows a video of turtles, which he curiously calls ‘prehistoric creatures’—although there is no such thing as ‘prehistory’ since there is no time before Creation Week, recorded historically in Genesis 1. This shows them laying their eggs on a beach in Costa Rica on one particular night of the year and Cox claims that they’ve been doing this for one hundred million years. But the idea that any species has existed for millions of years unchanged has problems of its own—see Evolutionary Stasis: Double—Speak and Propaganda.

NASA The Milky Way galaxy in which planet Earth is located
The Milky Way galaxy in which planet Earth is located

And the fact that “our Solar System would take 250 million years to make just one circuit of the Milky Way” surely does not demonstrate anything other than that the Milky Way is quite large. It doesn’t follow from this that it has actually completed a revolution. In fact, in the alleged billions of years, spiral galaxies like ours would have ‘wound themselves up’. And on the other hand, distant galaxies that were supposed to have formed not long after the big bang should not have had time to form a spiral structure naturalistically. See ‘Early’ galaxies don’t fit!

Cox then shows us a large glacier in Patagonia, South Argentina, that he says “drops well over a quarter of a billion tons of ice into the lake [at its base] every year”. However, the reverse does not happen, i.e. blocks of ice don’t jump up out of the lake into the glacier. “The sequence of events at the glacier contains a profound idea,” he tells us. “Events always happen in the same order, they’re never jumbled up, and they never go backwards.” This irreversibility he calls ‘the arrow of time’, and hence, we are told, “Permanent change is a fundamental part of what it means to be human … people are born, they live, and they die.” Cox then tells us, “In the life of the universe, everything is irreversibly changing.” He then makes the extraordinary claim, “The arrow of time drives the evolution of the entire universe.”

While it is true that change occurs within time, time itself is not a force any more than chance is. Time does not cause or drive anything, much less bring about events that are contrary to the laws of science. And too many claims of the big bang contradict science, as even some secular cosmologists point out (see Secular scientists blast the big bang: What now for naïve apologetics?).

A little red blob

Cox then shows us a photo of the night sky containing “a little red blob” which, he says, “is the afterglow from the death of star GRB 090423”, the light from which “has been travelling to us for almost the entire history of the universe … making it the oldest single object we have ever seen”.

Note that GRB = gamma ray burst. This is thought to have formed from a black hole, in turn the result of the gravitational collapse of a star. Certainly, we agree that black holes exist. Yet the origin of first stars from the big bang in the first place is an unsolved problem for secular cosmologists (see Stars could not have come from the ‘big bang’). Further, the first stars should lack any elements higher than helium, yet such ‘Population III’ stars have not been observed (see Stellar evolution and the problem of the ‘first’ stars).

Also, it wasn’t seen as ‘red’ but in the ‘infrared’, radiation that has too long a wavelength to be detected by the human eye. This means it has a very high redshift, and (from the Hubble Law) this is interpreted as a huge distance, allegedly the second most distant object detected as of October 2010. See how this is supposed to work, then why it clearly doesn’t in many cases, in Bye-bye, big bang? An unsolvable riddle for the most popular view of evolutionary astronomy.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Moving on, Cox asks, “What drives this evolution? Why is there a difference between the past and the future? Why is there an arrow of time at all?”

His answer: “The most important law of physics for understanding the evolution of the universe and the passage of time is called the Second Law Of Thermodynamics. It contained a radically new concept … entropy.” Entropy is to a large extent a measure of the amount of disorder in any system. So a pile of sand (where the individual grains can be arranged in “trillions of ways” without changing the shape of the structure) has high entropy or high disorder, compared with a sand castle (where the grains are arranged in order) and so has low entropy or low disorder.

He continues, “Entropy [disorder] always increases … because it’s overwhelmingly more likely that it will. The Second Law says that everything tends to go from order to disorder. Thus there is a difference between the past and the future. In the past the universe was more ordered; in the future the universe will be less ordered. … So the Second Law of Thermodynamics has introduced the concept of an arrow of time into science.” However, he then adds the evolutionary credo, “The arrow of time has been playing out in the universe for almost 14 billion years.”

There are a lot of philosophical assumptions here. ‘Time’s arrow’ is actually a circular argument from a naturalistic viewpoint. Time can be defined by the direction of entropy increase, certainly, as per the second law of thermodynamics. But on a microscopic level, the equations of motion are reversible, so have one solution in ‘forward’ time, and another in ‘reverse’ time. Both are equally valid mathematically, but one solution is discarded as ‘non-physical’. So the notion of ‘Time’s arrow’ is not actually derived from the physics, but is decreed. From a biblical point of view, God created time.

Heat death of the universe

In the rest of the program, Cox expounds the doom and gloom involved in the coming heat death of the universe. In the trillions-of-years evolutionary scenario for this, he tells us, “All life on this planet will become impossible; the sun will become a red giant—then explode … and become a white dwarf. All stars will eventually die … and the last matter in the universe will eventually be carried away, leaving absolutely nothing behind. The universe will be nothing but a sea of photons, and entropy finally stops increasing, because the cosmos cannot get any more disordered. Nothing happening, and it keeps not happening forever! There is no way of measuring the passage of time because nothing in the universe changes; the arrow of time has simply ceased to exist.”

But this scenario implies a huge problem for evolutionists. The Second Law does indeed imply that the universe is on a relentless progression towards an irreversible heat death—if natural processes were ‘all that is’. But this unstoppable ‘running down’ of the whole universe is the opposite of the ‘chaos to cosmos’ that big-bang-to-you believers postulate. Where did all the immense order come from that has been steadily eroding?

See also If God created the universe, then who created God? and The future: some issues for ‘long-age’ Christians.

A better answer: the biblical worldview

The many problems for evolutionists inherent in the atheistic worldview promoted by Prof. Cox are resolved by the biblical or Christian worldview:

This worldview makes an enormous difference to not just our view of science and history, but just about everything else. Instead of gloom and doom as the culmination of history, there is hope.


  1. Williams, A., and Hartnett, J. Dismantling the Big Bang, Master Books, 2005, pp. 247, 255 Return to text.
Williams, A., and Hartnett, J.

Related Articles

Readers’ comments
Jason M., Australia, 17 September 2012
I happened to catch a repeat of this program last week. I was particularly struck by the self-defeating nature of Cox's sand castle illustration of entropy. The very point that Cox makes with this illustration (and that of the glacier) is the chief physical argument against biological evolution. If water molecules cannot jump out of the ocean and reattach themselves to a glacier as a block of ice, and if grains of sand blown by the wind cannot spontaneously form a sand castle, then a living, reproducing cell cannot spontaneously form from a primordial soup. Note that by "cannot" I mean "is so utterly unlikely that realistically it will never happen". Note also that the sand castle and the block of ice are orders of magnitude more likely than the cell.
Aleksandar K., Croatia, 29 January 2013
It is interesting how evolutionists contradict themselves. It is clear that entropy is increasing and that it points the directions of time. Past - less entropy, future - more entropy. And yet they talk about evolution of the universe, which implies an increase in structure and decrease in entropy. Actually, evolution of the universe implies quite a large decrease of entropy since it means the conversion of cloud of gas into stars, planets and galaxies. They contradict themselves and get away with it.
Carl Wieland responds
Thanks, Aleksandr. We have a video download of a talk I did on Understanding the Law of Decay on this very subject, as there is a lot of misunderstanding about entropy and the Second Law on both sides of the debate. Plus in early 2013 we should have released a book on the subject, layman-friendly but accurate.
John J., United Kingdom, 29 January 2013
The BBC has just started another 5-part series presented by Prof. Cox entitled : Wonders of Life. His mission in pt. 1 is to seek answers to the question : What is Life? What he says, as usual, always comes across as 'fact' with absolutely no 'we think' or 'probably' or even a 'maybe' to show there are gaps (gaping holes) in his understanding. Dreadful mis-information as usual and one has to see it to understand that we are not drip-fed this nonsense, but it now comes in torrents! No wonder we are having a tough time out there. I'm getting to the stage were I refuse to watch this stuff as I get very irritated. So, thank you CMI for your excellent work, and I pray that your voice of reason will cause people to sit up and take notice and stop being 'conned' by so-called 'learned professors'.