Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Total Solar Eclipse: Reflections

As we approach the total solar eclipse “zero hour” on August 21, we have a few days to reflect concerning Earth’s Moon—our planet’s constant companion in space. The event will generate genuine awe, punctuated by audible “oohs” and “aahs.” The glory of the visual spectacle will take precedence on the actual day. Temporarily obscured by the wondrous event is knowledge of the Moon’s history, how it formed, its effect on Earth history, and its influence on our home planet in our day. In each of these knowledge categories, the Moon story provides opportunity for deep and thoughtful contemplation in the days before and after the actual event.

Several decades ago scientists developed a theory, generally accepted today, that the Moon formed from a glancing collision of a fairly large astronomical body with the Earth over 4.5 billion years ago, not long after the formation of Earth as a solid body. It is known as the Giant Impactor theory. The theory has replaced several unlikely earlier speculative proposals concerning the origin of our satellite. Astronomers still debate many details of the modern theory, but some fundamental concepts have become established in the minds of modern theorists. The moon formed from material blown away from the Earth and the impactor itself. There is substantial supporting evidence that the two resulting bodies have similar characteristics. The impactor imparted a fast rotation to the Earth and debris from the collision coalesced into our Moon and solidified.

Almost all the Moon’s visible craters could only have been formed long ago. The Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts returned Moon samples that are 3.5 billion years old. The oldest Moon samples were recovered by Apollo 17 crew members. Their age was 4.5 billion years. Erosion measurements indicate nearly 90% of moon craters formed about 3.9 billion years ago during a period known as the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB). Tens of thousands of asteroids and comets pummeled the Moon and many other Solar System bodies.

Life sprang up on Earth 700 million years later after the formation of Planet Earth as a solid body. Modern scientists have proposed that emergence and development of life on Earth has been and continues to be strongly influenced by the presence of the Moon. Whenever secular scientists comment about the formation and development of the Solar System, the Earth, the Moon, and the appearance of life on this planet, the word “evolution” is generously salted into the discussion. Most modern scientists use the term evolution to indicate that all processes of solar and planetary formation, and life development are natural. Herein lies a primary disagreement between non-theists and theists and between evolutionists and creationists. Where does naturalism end and creationism begin when we talk about the origins of Solar System bodies and life forms which initially inhabited Planet Earth? This is one of the most significant origins issues we could discuss as we speak of the role of God the Creator in the cosmos.

We concur with concepts of the Big Bang singularity, the “cosmic egg” or “primeval atom” from which all matter originates as proposed by Roman Catholic priest George LeMaitre in 1931. This is one of the true meanings of “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This inspired vision has been refined and affirmed by scientists for nearly a century. Theologians affirm, “In the beginning God created” ex nihilo, from nothing. God created the matter, time, space, and energy of our cosmos. He also created and put in place “natural” laws which govern operational processes involving physical matter.

When most secular scientists speak of “evolutionary processes” they refer to “natural,” unguided processes. Most origins scientists do not attribute the development of galaxies, the formation of our Solar System, and the appearance of Earth’s Moon, to creative acts of the Judeo-Christian God. Theologically, this an errant concept. There have been many instances of divine creation acts which do not fall into the category of “transcendent” miracles such as the Virgin Birth, the resurrection of Christ, or the feeding of the five thousand. Nevertheless, they are creative miracles. They are impossible without the transformational or sustaining power of the Creator. Some writers describe such actions as “extraordinary providence.” Some theist creationists conceive the formation of our Solar System over billions of years as fully miraculous, to the consternation of some creationists who propose that God could only have spoken the present universe into existence 6000-10000 years ago. 

Many secular scientists do not see anything especially miraculous in the sudden, initial appearance of life on Planet Earth nearly four billion years ago. This life was, from its inception, morphologically simple yet bio-chemically complex—a formula for the description of a transcendent miracle. Evolutionists are untroubled by the enormous difficulties inherent in explaining the appearance of chemically complex Earth life from an evolutionary viewpoint. Our blog has advocated belief in creationism, rather than belief in evolutionism. We link a previous post from 5/27/2008:

Planet Earth was meticulously prepared for life by hundreds of geological events shortly after the Earth appeared as a solid body 4.5 billion years ago. In his recent volume Improbable Planet (2016), astrophysicist Hugh Ross states, “…the Moon’s formation nevertheless represents an intricate series of coincidences that happened to prepare Earth for life—advanced life, especially.” Our Creator is not limited by human time frames. The passage of millions or billions of years does not limit God’s creativity in this cosmos. Here is a link which mentions “extraordinary providence” as we could apply the term to the formation of the Moon and its life-supporting characteristics:

If our readers are blessed to view the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse, especially if they are located in the glory provided by the Moon’s total shadow at mid-day, we suggest they take time to consider the benefits this unique satellite provides Earth dwellers, past and present. In our next post we discuss the benefits of Earth’s “Giant Impactor.”