The crew of Apollo 8 were the first humans to witness Earthrise, on December 24, 1968
Posted in the Wall Street Journal‘s science section on Dec. 25, 2014, is this stunning piece by Eric Metaxas, which I humbly submit to you here:
In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researchers have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Credit: Photo by David Morrow: Dave’s Free Star Photography Tutorial
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Impressive Precision By A Creator Makes Earth Home To Humans
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.
An earlier version UNDERstated the number of zeroes in an octillion and a septillion.
A science video by Eric Metaxas of this same piece to watch together with your family (or – homeschooling Moms, watch this with your young science and physics students!)
AND from NASA: Apollo 8 astronauts read from Genesis on Christmas Eve, 1968.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” ~Psalm 19: 1-4
Eric Metaxas is the author of recently published “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014). I am reading this now!
What do you believe about God?
Hi Jacqueline! I really enjoyed this post, not that I have an “I told you so.” attitude or anything. 😉 It just does my heart good to hear well-read scholars attest to the fact that the universe was created by our Savior and Lord. Love that. 🙂
Hope you are doing well. You’re in my heart and prayers as I know you and your sweet family are doing all you can to further the gospel and reach the lost and hurting.
Blessings to you!
Yes! Thank you for reposting this. I had not read it and it is all so true. I am a scientist, moving into the history/philosophy of science area and this article is a powerful expression of important truth.
Have you read God’s Undertaker by John Lennox? Even though Lennox distances himself from young earth creation ideas (straw man argument, it seems to me) he convincingly points to the evidence of design. It’s a beautiful book and I think you would love it.
Annie Kate,I have had a mind to get it and read, but will it be over my head? Thanks for the prompting, dear friend…xoxo
I loved this post!!
Hi Jacqueline, this is good. God is alive whether or not science choose to acknowledge it.
Thank you, Ifeoma! Yes, we have a amazing Creator God and nature cannot deny His design of brilliance! God bless you, friend <3
When we visited the Creation Museum in Kentucky, one of my favorite places was the Planetarium. By the time the presentation was over, I was even more amazed by space but more importantly, more humbled!!! Our little planet seemed so insignificant compared to what is out there. It was so small! YET, this is the place that God chose to create a habitable planet… and science will soon learn the truth when He returns. What a day that will be!
JES – I long for Christ’s return to hurry up! I cannot even begin to imagine how exciting it will be to behold the revealed workings of the creation. Yes, it is very humbling!
P.S. Thank you for taking the time to link up all your excellent posts with the Art of Home-Making Mondays last week! 🙂
This is great–I was glad to find out there are collaborating scientific investigations on this subject. We have really enjoyed watching “The Privileged Planet,” the documentary, and there is also a book by the same name. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnWyPIzTOTw&list=PL61BE8DBE544FE20C
I need to look into that documentary, Sherry. I have heard the name only. Thank you for telling me of it now.
Hi Ms. Jacqueline,
I’ve been praying for you and your family since your comment on my blog last week. I’m sorry I haven’t been back in contact sooner to let you know. We’ve actually had the chicken pox at our house for the past two weeks. 🙂 You and yours are constantly in my prayers.
Hilary at Wholesome Reads
What a blessing that we can pray for each other and the Lord hears no matter how far apart we live! Thank you, dear one. God has been so faithful to us all…
Sending warm hugs to you.
i agree that the universe is s very complicated place, so that means the christian god created it.
why couldn’t it have been one of the other hundreds of gods there are?
I’m on the fence about these questions myself. I’d just like to repeat an argument I’ve heard to these claims, to show that there is another line of thought besides acceptance of God.
There is the multiverse theory, that there are infinite universes, in every possible combination. Most of them don’t support life, either because the 4 forces weren’t perfect, or some other reason. That’s ok, out of infinite universes, it’s conceivable then that one would have the required conditions. The fact that we’re here talking about it proves that at least one met the criteria on that grand scale.
The same idea can be applied to any level of detail. With infinite number of universes to call on, there are infinite many universes exactly like our own, with maybe one or two details different. So in another universe like ours, there could be another one with our solar system, but missing the big planet that attracts asteroids, so the earth-like planet in that system gets beat up too much and no life exists there. Yet in an infinite number of similar universes, with most of them incapable of supporting life, it’s probable that one of them will have the right combination of factors, and life will exist. Again, the fact that we’re here talking about it proves that is correct.
So it’s a matter of scope. When we only look at our own universe by itself and say look at all the things that had to be just so in order to support life as we know it, we are overcome by the seeming impossibility that it just happened by chance.
But when we consider our universe as one of infinite many other universes, then it’s clear that infinity minus one may not support life, but the odds are that that last one will have all the factors correctly in place.