Friday, December 5, 2014

Overview Redo

The Apollo 8 and Apollo 10-17 astronauts who either journeyed to lunar orbit or landed on the lunar surface submitted exhilarating accounts of how the “overview effect” impacted them. Wikipedia defines the Overview Effect as a “cognitive shift in awareness…while viewing the Earth from orbit or the Lunar Surface.” Their accounts surpassed any previous reports of man’s interaction with our cosmic home on this wonderful planet. The astronauts were able to view Earth directly from outside Earth’s dominant gravitational influence. Their vision of Earth has been captured photographically for posterity. One photograph is famously called “The Blue Marble.” Beyond the thrill of seeing Earth as no humans had ever seen it, their reactions ranged through speculations of mystic unity, expressions of awe and wonder, and voiced reverence for the Creator demonstrated by the Apollo 8 crew’s recitation of Genesis 1.

The most startling “overview” photograph may be a famous picture snapped of Planet Earth taken long after the Apollo flights from a remote camera on its way out of the Solar System. It was taken in 1990 from Voyager 1, a space probe designed to collect information about the four giant outer planets of our Solar System. Launched in 1977, the Voyager cameras turned back toward the inner Solar System following completion of the main assignments of the mission at the suggestion of cosmologist Carl Sagan. The photograph was later named the “Pale Blue Dot.” The concept of Earth has suffered historically from the view that the Copernican Revolution “demoted” our home planet from the center of the Solar System to a subordinate position as just another tiny planet circling the “real” center of the Solar System—the Sun.

In terms of our personal “overview” of earth, whether from an Apollo spaceship, or a remote photographic “overview” of Earth from beyond the orbit of Pluto; whether by one of the mere 24 human beings who have experienced the “overview effect” in person, or by one of millions of humans who have vicariously enjoyed the famous Voyager “Blue Dot” photograph; our view of Earth is either that (1) our planet is uniquely special, created specifically by the benevolent provenance of the Creator for the benefit of humanity, or (2) our planet is not particularly special, being merely one of many billions of planets in the universe.

Guillermo Gonzales and Jay Richards of The Discovery Institute produced a brilliant DVD in 2004 entitled “Privileged Planet.” You may review my previous entry here:

Privileged Planet uses the Voyager photograph to pique the readers’ interest in the smallness of our home planet in the vastness of the universe. The Discovery authors cite many physical parameters which must be fine-tuned all across the universe for life to exist. The physical constants of the universe are present all over the universe. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics which benefit earth life across only a small range of locations. For example, at the inner margins of the “habitable zone” the temperature is almost too hot to sustain water in liquid form while at the outer reaches of the habitable zone water would freeze solid. Our Earth in particular is the beneficiary of hundreds of designed life supporting conditions.

The professional science community is not amenable to the concept of an intelligently  designed cosmos. When we examine the natural world, the intelligent design proposal is intuitively sound. Scientists, however, go to extreme lengths to dismiss the concept of an acting “designer intelligence.” For them, only naturalistic explanations satisfy. They forcefully resist other explanations. Skilled scientists like Gonzales and Richards are denigrated by the science community. Misinformed laypeople may avoid The Privileged Planet as a result. Anyone may view the production on YouTube.