Friday, August 1, 2008

Dynamic Planet Earth

Science writers are fond of describing our planet with phrases like “Our Dynamic Earth.” Dynamic is a word used to convey force, power, and energy. Even in social contexts we refer to dynamic human personality or dynamic societal trends. In any field of science, many phenomena can aptly be described as dynamic. That word may be overworked, but it doesn’t begin to convey the enormity of power and process in connection with our Earth. In events like earthquakes and volcanoes, Earth is more like a complex machine with integrated moving parts and precisely tuned events. The possibility of design is difficult to reject.

Earthquakes and volcanoes have similar causes. Gigantic convection currents, caused by latent heat in the earth’s interior and decay of radioactive elements, slowly drag crustal plates around the surface over millions of years. These plates may slide past one another, converge (one dives beneath another), or diverge (separate from each other). As stresses build from these movements, a breaking point is reached and an earthquake occurs, like a breaking rubber band stretched too far. However, laboratory models have also shown directional reversals of these currents. These reversals are needed for super-continents to assemble and later break apart; without current reversals, tectonic movements would cease. On the extended timetables of geology, our earth would eventually become uninhabitable because valuable life-sustaining minerals could not be recycled to the earth’s surface. While no one appreciates the damage and alarm generated by earthquakes, the dynamic processes giving rise to them have made abundant life possible.

Volcanoes also have potential for destruction. The same movements which drive plate tectonics result in pressure and thermal variations in the mantle rock over long time frames. Melting of the rock sometimes follows, resulting in surface eruptions of various types and intensities. These eruptions of molten material return mineral and bio-deposits to the surface, materials necessary for sustaining life over earth’s long history. Given a choice, many people would opt for elimination of all earthquakes and volcanoes, not realizing that such elimination would sound the eventual death knell for abundant life on our planet.

Naturalists complain that belief in God and His action in our world is “irrational.” But when we examine thousands of intricate earth systems, whose successful operation depends on multiple interdependent events nearly impossible to ascribe to pure chance, we conclude that belief in the existence of a creator’s hand is entirely rational.