Friday, September 22, 2017

Universal Perfection

“In a perfect world there would be no hurricanes.” Does this pithy aphorism involve a universal truth? Depending on how we define perfection and, in particular, what a perfect world would be, we acknowledge there may be truth to this aphorism. Some skeptics who reject the existence or work of a Creator of our universe may challenge people of faith that a “perfect” God should have created a “perfect” world in which destructive hurricanes did not occur. There would be no disasters or human experiences of any type accompanied by discomfort or pain, they claim.

Both skeptics and Christians idealize what a perfect world would be like. Skeptics  believe they are challenging the notion of God. Within the broad variety of Christian viewpoints, we mention two: (1) Young Earth Creationists believe the Garden of Eden was initially a perfect home for humans, not impacted by weather disasters causing discomfort or injury. Our present world is often described by YEC as a place of brokenness and despair because of the spiritual fall of Adam. (2) Old Earth Creationists and theistic evolutionists generally see the world as imperfect yet “very good.” There are many commentaries about God’s purpose for allowing hurricanes or other disasters. Such phenomena are examples of “natural” evil. 

“Natural” evil is defined as evil for which no human can be held morally responsible. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and diseases causing suffering and death are examples of natural evil. In contrast, “Moral” evil is caused by human activity and needs little explanation. It is the product of the human race’s proneness to sin. Since the onset of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and more recently, Hurricane Maria and destructive earthquakes taking lives in Mexico, we have many powerful examples of natural evil and its impact on human life on Planet Earth. We make no secret of our grief at the results of natural evil from recent severe hurricanes and other profoundly disastrous events. We could cite many quotes from analysts, including theologians who ask, “Is God punishing us or trying to tell us something?” Or, “Are these events forewarnings of Biblical end-times events?” 

We do not condemn people who suggest God’s punishments or forewarnings. They may be correct. God may be telling us something. He has forewarned us concerning many end-times events in early Christian New Testament writings. Some Old Testament writings are also prophetic and relate to our day. In this sense we do not require further warnings. The error occurs when prognosticators set dates for specific end-time events. As we write, a Christian “numerologist” has predicted the world would end on September 23. A very well-known radio commentator, Harold Camping, wrote a book entitled 1994 proposing detailed rationale why the world would end that year. When the event did not materialize he began to promote a day in May 2011 for the return of Christ. After this also failed to come to pass, he finally         confessed that, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matt 24:36). Camping later stated his attempt to predict a date was “sinful.”

Many commentators have been moved to offer their input concerning the meaning of these natural disasters. We must guard against oversimplifying our responses. Secularists often envision a better universe. They fantasize idealistically about a “more perfect world”—the human conception of a “perfect” reality. The perfect creation is a scriptural concept yet to be revealed. According to the opening chapter of Hugh Ross’s Improbable Planet, Baker Books, 2016, our “present universe serves as a launchpad for the New Creation to come—a reality more perfect than any of us can think of or imagine, one that fulfills all our greatest hopes and deepest longings.” The New Creation is described in the New Testament Book of Revelation, chapters 21-22.

Planet Earth is a special place, but not a perfect place where there is no sorrow, pain, or inconvenience. Moreover, Earth may hold the potential for significant sorrow and even death. To explain the sorrow and death, we must understand that there is a “higher purpose” in God’s order and plan. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) This is sometimes a difficult reality.                


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hurricane Genesis

Genesis: the origin or mode of formation. In the context of hurricanes, two of which devastated the Caribbean region and the US mainland in late summer 2017, we wonder about the sequence of events which results in a fully mature hurricane. The energy of a hurricane exceeds by 200 times the electrical generating capacity of the entire world according to US Department of Energy figures. What sorts of forces could generate such powerful storms?

Scientists have informed us of constant powerful forces operating in our worldwide weather system. Some are explained by familiar terms we may have learned in weather units in middle school, high school, or college. We have heard that evaporation of liquid water is a cooling process. This is illustrated by the fact that when our bodies perspire a large quantity of heat is removed from our body surface. When water vapor condenses back into liquid water, a large quantity of heat is returned to the air. These processes are more formally called latent heat of evaporation or latent heat of condensation. In terms of the scope of total energy flow on our planet, the quantities are unimaginable.

After receiving heat from radiation of the sun, heat energy spontaneously flows from warm to cold regions. Most Earth weather phenomena are driven by this flow. Warm regions and cold regions are characterized by different air pressure conditions. Generally, cold air is denser than warm air because atoms and molecules are packed together more closely. Movement of air spontaneously occurs from high pressure regions to low pressure regions. Weather events are powerful forces of heat movement and pressure equalization producing mighty environmental effects. Some of these effects cause serious inconvenience and pain albeit they are relatively infrequent. In perspective, Earth’s weather more frequently provides seasonal warmth for human enjoyment, growth of food crops and beautiful ornamental plant varieties for human enjoyment and even pleasant spring warming for family picnics or Little League baseball or autumn cooling for high school football or soccer matches. Our blog has more often characterized Earth as “a place to thrive” rather than “a place of brokenness and despair.”

Humanity is embedded in a wondrous collection of weather phenomena. Consider the term cyclogenesis. Two parts of the term are cyclone, a rotating low pressure area in which air spirals inward from high pressure toward low pressure, and genesis, meaning formation. Cyclogenesis explains the formation of tropical hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean and other storms in mid-latitudes. In other parts of the world hurricanes are known as typhoons or simply, cyclones. They form over warm water where there is much moisture in the air. An organized region of thunderstorms forms over the ocean and these regions are later called tropical waves. A tropical depression develops and the air begins to spin around the low pressure center at a speed above 39 mph. If the storm strengthens to 75 mph, it a Category 1 hurricane. Wind speeds sometimes increase to 157+ mph—a Category 5 hurricane.

On our spherical earth there exists a phenomenon called Coriolis effect. Large moving objects, including moving air, are deflected to the right in the northern hemisphere, away from an expected straight line path. Air rushing from high pressure to a low pressure center as in tropical depressions and hurricanes are deflected from their direction of travel owing to the different speeds of rotation on a spherical earth. This causes a counter-clockwise rotation of storms in the northern hemisphere (clockwise in the southern hemisphere), and forms a well-developed “eye.” Heavy rains, severe winds, and sometimes tornadoes are generated many miles from the hurricane’s eye.

The God of Creation is author of the orderliness of matter. In terms of Earth’s weather, this includes the predictable, uniform characteristics of air molecules—several quintillion of them in each cubic centimeter of volume. Latent heat, the tendency of energy to flow from warm to cold regions, the tendency of air to flow from high pressure to low pressure, the constant forces of gravity: We affirm, in concert with the scriptural statements such as “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3 NIV), that God originated the concepts of an orderly universe. The truth of God as Creator of all things seems discoverable intuitively.

Foundational principles of energy flow, pressure phenomena, and hundreds of constant characteristics of matter form the framework for understanding the genesis of hurricanes. With the passage of time humanity has discovered more information on knowing a hurricane is approaching and how to prepare for it. The two recent hurricanes produced relatively few fatalities. Beyond this some are not sufficiently aware of strategies for risk aversion and willing to act on the information. For example, many are unwilling to obey heroic building codes or locate their homes and businesses away from flood prone areas. Humans still have much to learn.    

God created a very good but not a perfect world according to the idealism of some people. Many religious people and skeptics question why God permits hurricanes and other natural disasters to occur. In a future post we will address these questions in more depth, but not as an effort to present final answers. Some questions may be unanswerable in human terms.    




Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pondering Hurricanes

The onset of two deadly hurricanes in late August and early September 2017 broke a twelve year stretch of relative calm with respect to the most destructive Category 3 or stronger hurricanes. We acknowledge that many Christian and secular commentators are searching for answers to the difficult problem of horrific destruction. The apparent paucity of destructive hurricanes for the past twelve years does nothing to mitigate the questions of why God “permits” such tragedies to occur even today. The two observations about hurricanes, (1) no severe ones struck the US mainland for twelve years, and the question of (2) “Why does God permit such devastating storms?” are entirely peripheral to the multifaceted primary questions about hurricanes.   

Many Christian theologians have offered explanations for horrifying tragedies which have punctuated our planet with regularity even before written records. Hurricanes are part of a family of weather and climate events. These include tornadoes, violent thunderstorms, hailstorms, straight line windstorms, floods, droughts, heat waves, extreme cold spells, and blizzards. Add to this catalog other impactful environmental events such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other upheavals. Some analysts energetically vocalize, “Earth is a chaotic place of brokenness and despair.” We do not concur with this generalization. 

What would imaginary visitors from outside our Solar System discover as they approached Earth for the first time? Would they discover a wonderful “Blue Marble” suspended majestically and beautifully in space? (The Apollo 17 astronauts snapped a famous picture of Earth from 28,000 miles during their lunar journey in 1972. Their famous photograph was reassuringly dubbed the “Blue Marble.”) As we consider our “Blue Marble” planet, what do we see? We offer a trite cliché:   The answer depends on whether we view the glass half empty, or half full. The underlying purpose of our science/faith blog is to call attention to the works of God in the physical realm in order to relate them to strengthening our faith. The Creator is the author of the physical creation. He is also the author of truths in the spiritual world, imparting to his people the gift of faith.

At this time of tragedy and destruction brought upon the victims of the hurricanes, we  are challenged to blend concepts of tragedy and triumph. The hurricanes have imposed an overwhelming dose of tragedy on their victims—tragedy which may take years to repair. We stare in horror at the graphic images on news channels on a near constant basis. At the same time, we long for the relief which inevitably comes as repair and restoration progress in the future.

In August and September 2017 US hurricane victims may be forgiven for temporarily viewing the glass as half empty, even close to completely empty. When life circumstances change, we see the dividing line between empty and full becoming variable, even on a daily basis. Hurricane victims hope and pray for a rapid positive trend in the levels within the glass.

We search for opportunities to view the glass as more than half full. In our vision of Planet Earth, there are many opportunities to reinforce our view of “fullness.” Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards DVD Privileged Planet enables us to rejoice in Earth’s “very good” quality. Gonzales and Richards present Earth as a wonderful place specifically designed by God for human habitation. Their DVD describes in graphic detail a planet (1) having the proper distance from the sun (2) having liquid water (3) that is terrestrial (a rocky planet of our size and composition)(4) having tectonic plates (5) protected by large planets (6) orbiting the correct type of star (7) having a large moon (8) having a magnetic field and (9) being oxygen rich.

Our obligation to be positive and work to remedy the brokenness brought about by these storms is a gift we may achieve with the help of God. We do not live in a perfect world. God has higher purposes in permitting suffering of humanity in the earthly sphere. Some of those purposes will remain unknown until the onset of the New Creation if the Creator chooses to reveal them.

My father passed into eternity at age 90. He endured the destruction of several east coast hurricanes in his farming operation in the 1960s and later. In each case there were remedies for damage and inconvenience. As he approached the end of his life he often expressed satisfaction for the blessings he experienced during his long, earthly journey. He lived according to the instructions in I Thessalonians 5:16: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (NIV).               


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Galveston or Houston?

In three weeks we have transitioned from the summit of natural wonder, a total solar eclipse visible over a 70-mile swath of the US from coast to coast, to the depths of tragedy in coastal Texas. Hurricane Harvey is projected to be the most costly national disaster on record. Experts estimate the Houston cataclysm will require up to $180 billion in costs. In comparison, Hurricane Sandy required $160 billion and Hurricane Katrina $70 billion. Harvey has tragically taken the lives of 60 people. As I write, we are threatened by Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm. 

When such an event strikes many people justifiably focus on the natural disaster at hand. Notwithstanding journalists’ citations of comparable past events, the present catastrophe overwhelms public attention. People desire detailed reporting of the present event and many journalists oblige them eagerly. Interest in the current disaster overcomes public desire to discover realistic historical perspectives of our planet’s long history of natural catastrophes. We do not minimize the present disaster in any way. Rather, we encourage analysis of historical records of hurricanes to acquire an overview of their past frequency, intensity, cyclicity, causes, and effects.

Hurricanes have been a feature of planet Earth’s weather throughout its long history. Bible students may be familiar with the account of Euroclydon in Acts 27. The Apostle Paul was caught in what might have been a Mediterranean tropical-like depression similar to an Atlantic hurricane. During an extensive sea journey lasting two weeks, the apostle was wind-driven around the Mediterranean, finally landing at Malta. His fourteen day saga was testament to the unpredictability of hurricanes. Some travel fast. Others travel slowly and even divert or reverse course. Hurricane Harvey’s 52 inches of rainfall at one Houston location was the result of its slow movement.

In North America, east coast hurricanes are generated in the broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Their formation and strength is dependent on many factors over the ocean. The impact of landfall is dependent on a great variety of other factors. Hurricane science is exceedingly complex as are many weather and climate phenomena. In the aftermath of the tragic impact of Hurricane Harvey, there have been many ambitious reporters who have joined the rampant cadre of modern climate change enthusiasts. Global warming enthusiasts have convinced a large segment of the population that climate change, formerly more often described as global warming, exacerbates the severity of these great storms. For example, a small increase in ocean surface temperature (0.85ºC from 1880-2012) has been cited as likely increasing the wind speed in hurricanes by a few miles per hour. A number of commentaries on Harvey have focused on climate change as causative. Much less attention is given to the fact that climate has changed naturally hundreds of times in the history of our planet.

As we composed this post, Hurricane Irma was threatening the US with potential for another meteorological tragedy. We quote Dr. Calvin Beisner, founder of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He addressed the question of increased hurricane severity resulting from anthropogenic climate change in an email he sent on 9/5/17. Beisner accounts for the additional CO2 added to Earth’s atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. He states, “…Of the 175 mph maximum sustained winds of Hurricane Irma today, 173.3-174.6 mph would have occurred anyway, and of the 50 inches of rainfall that fell on some places from Hurricane Harvey, 49.5-49.9 would have fallen anyway.” Most journalists do not cite such specifics, but many people are persuaded by the claim of “increased severity” without knowledge of such statistics. It has been twelve years since a major hurricane (Category 3 or larger) has struck the United States mainland. Dr. Roy W. Spencer, NASA award-winning climatologist, reports, “This is the longest ‘drought’ in landfalling major hurricanes since records started in 1850…It goes to show how variable nature is.” Attributing the severity of Harvey to climate change illustrates the logical fallacy of “oversimplified cause:” an effect has multiple causes, but only one cause is identified.

The Galveston TX hurricane of 1900 claimed about 8000 lives. Some estimates are much higher. More lives were lost in that tragedy than in all US hurricanes combined since that time. We counsel readers to pray for those impacted by Harvey and Irma. We encourage readers to search for websites under topics such as “historic hurricanes” in order to lend valuable realistic perspective to the lively current topic of climate change. Our planet is a beautiful place to thrive, but subject to potent meteorological forces and effects on occasion. Hurricanes are but one destructive weather event. In perspective, they do not occur often enough to transform our planet from a place to thrive to a place of disaster. In this light we remain convinced that during the present age, Earth is still a wonderful place to thrive.

Passages from Job 37-38 relate many frightening but wondrous meteorological events. The lofty poetry of these chapters does not conceal some of the tragedies such weather events may cause. Many other scriptural passages describe the overall beauty and abundance provided by the planet. The Earth may still be described as “very good.” For this, we offer thanks to the God of Creation. 





Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse "Everest" Experience

What is the “Everest” event to which we refer? My wife and I experienced the “Great American (total solar) Eclipse of August 21, 2017 at Marion, Illinois. The town was a few miles from Carbondale which has achieved notoriety as the Great American Eclipse capitol. The low 90s summer day dawned essentially cloud free with only occasional passing cumulus and cirrus clouds. Natural air movements swept away the few clouds threatening our view of totality in plenty of time. Our eclipse viewing area was Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge, an ideally serene venue. A company of perhaps 200 folks from several states, primarily Illinois, formed the compatible and friendly gathering in the area of the Refuge we claimed as our viewing area. Untold thousands of visitors had descended on this town as well as many hundreds of towns across the United States in the 70-mile strip of totality.

We add our personal impressions of the most observed, most studied, most photographed, and most viewed solar eclipse of all time. For many years we have been amazed at precision predictions concerning these events—when they occur, where they occur, how long they persist, and how earth dwellers are specifically impacted. Basic answers for these questions have been known for hundreds of years. In more recent years mathematicians have refined their knowledge to an astonishing  degree of accuracy. Knowledge of physical processes impart a picture of an incredibly ordered world. Eclipse events produce reverential awe of cosmic orderliness.

Precisely at 11:52 A.M., fulfilling the long-standing prediction, our viewing devices, safety glasses and binoculars, revealed the moon’s initial contact with the sun. Safety glasses were effective, displaying the sun as an orange orb. In addition, binoculars pointed at the sun with eyepieces directed upon a nearby sheet of light paper produced a large, sharp solar image. (We never looked through the binoculars. This is merely a method of image projection.) Binoculars were more effective than the often recommended  pinhole “cameras.” The next hour and twenty-eight minutes was an experience of patient anticipation. We sent periodic iPhone pictures of the progress of the eclipse to our children and other relatives. The Moon’s slow progress across the Sun’s face portrayed its actual revolution around Planet Earth.

Some eclipse events exceeded our expectations; only a few did not match the descriptions provided by previous total eclipse observers. However, all events were electric with excitement and provided reverent wonder. We viewed the eclipse experience as an unparalleled divine gift. No human words adequately capture our profound and powerful personal emotions. 

As totality approached at 1:20 P.M., we prepared by getting ready to remove our safety glasses. At a precise instant, the Moon became a darkened sphere. At virtually the same moment the famous diamond ring effect flashed its dazzling glory for a few moments. This bright diamond ring visual experience exceeded anything I had expected. Immediately the corona appeared—larger and brighter than I had imagined. For over two minutes a dark Moon was surrounded by an unexpectedly brilliant corona. The two minute totality seemed to persist for a nearly timeless interval. I was not even tempted to count off the seconds!

The temperature had been around 90ºF. The temperature dropped slightly and the park became essentially silent as totality approached. At the sudden onset of totality and the flash of the diamond ring, the assemblage cheered, shouted, and applauded. We had been led to believe that the sky would rival the darkness of a moonless night. This expectation was not fulfilled, but not to my disappointment. There were too many other phenomena to enjoy. Perhaps the brighter than expected corona and a subdued glow from the horizon provided the unanticipated twilight-similar light. Bright Venus was clearly visible to the west of the Sun. I did not see any other planets or stars, perhaps a function of not observing intently enough.

At the conclusion of totality, the diamond ring flashed again. We observed one or two tiny spots of light at the edge of the Moon. These are called Baily’s Beads, formed by light passing through irregularities on the Moon surface. The diamond ring is also caused by a momentary passage of sunlight through these surface irregularities. Almost immediately a sliver of sunlight reappeared. The countryside was soon bathed in light again, subdued but slowly brightening. It is interesting that even a tiny sliver of sun surface provides so much light. 

Most eclipse observers departed soon after totality concluded. It is likely that tens of thousands of eclipse enthusiasts had the identical idea at the same time: “Let’s get a head start and begin our trip home.” For many, the trip home was many hundreds of miles. Our trip from Marion, IL to extreme northwest Illinois should have consumed just over six hours. The journey actually took ten hours. But we were fortunate because many eclipse lovers were delayed much longer. Monumental traffic delays generated by people returning home were rampant all across our great land. On the positive side we were able to enjoy miles of lush corn and soybean fields and discover an intricate network of country roads. Had we not followed the GPS voice on our iPhone instructing us on many occasions that, “You can save 27 minutes (for example) by taking this alternate route…” our trip may have extended until daylight the following day.

Pantheism is an errant belief that the universe itself is a manifestation of God. In brief, pantheists believe “Nature is God.” In contrast, we believe nature displays God’s glory in manifold ways. The 2017 total solar eclipse gave glory to the God of Creation. Of all astronomical wonders, this event is superlative. The Creator is author of the order and beauty he permits man to recognize and enjoy. For this moment at the mountaintop we give glory and praise to God. We worship Him!       





Friday, August 18, 2017

Reality Of Shadows

In our final post prior to the Great American total solar Eclipse, we examine additional science related to the physical eclipse. As we anticipate this experience with excitement, we ask if there is a deeper meaning to the upcoming events in our sky. In so doing we may describe metaphysical phenomena. Philosophy is the nature of knowledge, reality, and existence according to many definitions. Metaphysics is considered an important branch of philosophy. When we observe total lunar or solar eclipses, we experience deep emotions. Most readers have experienced total lunar eclipses. It is likely that only a few of our readers have ever been in the path of totality during a total solar eclipse. Dr. Kate Russo, eclipse consultant involved in community planning for previous total solar eclipses during the last few years says such an event is “…eerie, awe-inspiring, unsettling, beautiful, and often emotionally overwhelming. Most people find it hard to describe the totality experience.”

Awareness of scientific, metaphysical, and theological realities provide a robust complement of eclipse day experiences on August 21, 2017. The relatively tiny total shadow of the moon sweeping across the country envelops observers in virtual complete darkness for over two minutes in the middle of the day. We wonder how ancient Earth dwellers coped with eclipse experiences in pre-scientific days. Metaphysical speculation may have troubled them. Most ancient societies did not have a meaningful theological anchor.

Come with us as we review “astronomy geometry:”       

We know that the Moon’s total shadow of complete darkness shrinks from 2159 miles wide to just over 70 miles wide during this particular eclipse as it travels to Earth from its 229,807 mile distance. Our large Sun produces a very small Moon shadow shaped like a cone. Sun diameter is 400 times the Moon’s diameter. If the Moon were only a few thousand miles more distant from Earth, our lunar companion’s shadow would pinch off completely before striking our planet. In some solar eclipses this occurs because the Moon revolves around Earth at variable distances, sometimes closer, sometimes farther away. Earth dwellers would experience an annular eclipse—a moon appearing slightly smaller than the apparent sun—permitting a ring of sunlight to fall on us. Total darkness would not occur. This is an interesting astronomical phenomenon, but eclipse observers hope for total darkness instead.

The total shadow is known as the umbra. Social media have made abundantly clear how small the 2017 eclipse umbra actually is when it reaches our planet. The shadow is produced by a 2000 mile wide Moon, but specific straight-line sun rays passing from the Sun’s perimeter past the Moon’s perimeter project a diminishing, converging shadow on Earth only 70 miles wide during our Great American eclipse! Other straight line sun rays passing by the moon’s perimeter diverge as they travel into space. This area is called the penumbra, a partial shadow where sunlight intensity is somewhat dimmed because the sun is partially obscured. All 50 states in the US will experience different degrees of a partial solar eclipse. Once again, we have an interesting astronomical phenomenon, but not nearly as spectacular as totality. Observers may fantacize that the Sun is missing a “cookie bite” while looking through their special eclipse-viewing glasses.

Our viewing experiences extend our awareness beyond the understanding of physical phenomena. Is there a deeper meaning underlying the marvelous precision and visible glory of our Solar System bodies? In pre-biblical days residents were superstitious and prone to the mystical. Some of our contemporaries retain their superstitions. Modern adherents of astrology rely on daily horoscopes and inordinately focus on heavenly bodies, thinking their positions and movements influence human affairs or future events. In 2015 we wrote of the “Supermoon Eclipse” which garnered its share of attention and speculation:

Interesting object lessons could be offered relating to the Great American total solar Eclipse. The Sun’s beautiful corona—an “aura of plasma” or a “jacket of gases” is visible only when intense illumination from the Sun is temporarily shielded. Likewise, the “diamond ring effect” is visible only at this time. In a 1919 eclipse, observations were made relating to the reality of Einstein’s famous theory of general relativity which demonstrated that massive objects like the Sun cause a distortion in space/time. One object lesson relates to the fact that some human knowledge could be undiscoverable unless we observe and perform our research in a novel and imaginative way.

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 demonstrates the reality of God-ordained natural laws operating in our everyday environment. Meteorological phenomena may not be controlled or predicted, including the hoped-for clear skies for all observers on the day of the eclipse. But the glory of the eclipse will still occur above the clouds!

Some of the commentary in this post relates to mysterious metaphysical realities. In terms of theological realities, we quote once more the majesty of Psalm 19:1. The King James Version was the parental preference in my early childhood home. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1 KJV).    





Monday, August 14, 2017

Accidental Moon?

We live at the exact moment in Earth’s extensive history when perfect solar eclipses, such as the event of August 21, 2017, are possible. These eclipses occur because the apparent disc of the Moon and the apparent disc of the Sun are virtually identical. Much earlier or much later in geologic history the moon would be either too close or too distant from earth because the Moon’s orbit is very slowly spiraling away from Earth. Contemporary eclipse events have enabled humanity to make many important physical discoveries concerning our Solar System, the universe, and the laws of physics. Scientists are reminded of this fact each time a total solar eclipse occurs. Understandably, laypeople bask primarily in the splendor of the event.

Early models of Moon formation failed to explain its existence. Decades ago I proposed models of moon formation to my students without much confidence that any model was true. The models ranged from highly unlikely to impossible. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross has commented, concerning the proposals of early theorists, “In their frustration some researchers went so far as to comment that the Moon must be some kind of illusion—or, perhaps, a miracle.”

Ross’s previously cited volume Improbable Planet uses the effective imagery of a home building project in which the owner and builder both insure that all the conditions for building a new home meet all the “just right” criteria. Home building is not an opportunity to pray for a sequence of “lucky accidents.” We repeat a quote from Ross concerning how “…the Moon’s formation nevertheless represents an intricately layered sequence of coincidences that happened to prepare Earth for life—advanced life, especially.” We quote the nine points made in Ross’s “brief list of what the (Giant Impactor) collision accomplished:”

“1. The collision replaced Earth’s thick atmosphere, providing in its place an atmosphere with optimal (for life) chemical composition, appropriate (for life) heat-trapping capacity, appropriate transparency for efficient photosynthesis, and precise air pressure for making possible the eventual operation of lungs.

“2. Earth’s mass and density were augmented, enabling Earth to retain (via its gravity) a large, but not too large, quantity of water vapor for billions of years.

“3. The amount of iron in Earth’s core increased, bringing it closer to the level needed to provide Earth with a strong, enduring magnetic field (the remainder came later) to shield Earth’s future life from deadly cosmic rays and solar X-rays and to prevent the sputtering away of Earth’s atmosphere.

“4. The collision delivered iron and other critical elements to Earth’s core and mantle in just-right ratios to produce long-lasting, continent-building plate tectonics at levels just right for life.

“5. The quality of iron delivered via the collision to Earth’s crust was just right for supporting an abundance of ocean-dwelling phytoplankton that, in turn, supports the entire oceanic food chain and also provides oxygen for advanced terrestrial life.

“6. Earth’s interior was salted with an abundance of long-lasting radioisotopes, the heat from which drives most of Earth’s tectonic activity and volcanism.

“7. Earth’s crust and upper mantle were peppered with just-right quantities of HSEs (iron loving elements)—not so much as to prove poisonous to (later) life but to sustain myriad plants and animals, as well as to allow for the eventual launch and maintenance of global high-technology civilization.

“8. The collision produced a moon with sufficient mass to stabilize Earth’s rotation axis tilt, protecting the planet from rapid and extreme climatic variations.

“9. The resulting Moon also gradually slowed Earth’s rotation rate to a life-sustaining level.”

The concept that home building projects must manifest near-perfect perfection is analogous to the idea that Planet Earth benefits from a divinely designed sequence of events with respect to the formation of Earth’s lunar companion. The story of the Moon reveals not merely a catalog of its physical characteristics but also how the Moon provides for life on Earth. We are mindful of this provision as we observe the glory of the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.