In the Headlines: What Have Astronomers Really Discovered?

I love the universe. I was an astronomy minor at university, and like a bug to light I’m drawn to all the latest star-science. And as you can guess, this is a dilemma. I’m a follower of Jesus—I love cosmology and believe in the most grandiose terms that God made the universe to declare His glory to anyone who can perceive it.

But astronomy is also a desperate science—one that seeks the eternal origin and fate of everything temporal. And that’s a room with no doors. God is an affront to science, but kill him and the only solution to the problem of “life, the universe and everything” is that it all burst from nothing and is hurtling into infinite discontinuity. From nothing to nothingness. At least for the moment we have ashes and dust. In the end, science says, there won’t even be dust. That dark conclusion means humanity is far more meaningless than it ever imagined.

But the show must go on, because humanity, scientists tell us, must discover life off the earth, and the non-science of God interferes with their enormous view of the universe. So they turn their desperate search toward new, potentially habitable worlds in the hope of staving off inevitable extinction, validating humanity’s existence and pinpointing our true bio-evolutionary origin. And perhaps along the way they will even meet intelligent life, which, if discovered, they believe, will render Jesus and the Bible obsolete. Happy day. There’s just one question left: And then?

No doors.

With the discovery of yet another “earth-like” planet in the habitable zone of a neighboring star, another journalist has hailed the death-knell of Christianity (other religions seem to be meritless targets to critics).

But no one found a habitable planet. What we’re hearing is common, frequent, journalistic embellishment based on wishful thinking. A planet was detected—in the habitable zone—of a star so distant it would take several hundred thousand years to travel there at our best achievable speed (aside from the innumerable and deadly challenges of theoretical interstellar space travel).

Are our telescopes that good? Yes. So is it possible the planet is earth-like? Yes. Are scientists sure of this? No. It’s a heavy world, meaning rocky like earth, not gaseous like Jupiter, and it’s in the “habitable zone”, orbiting its parent star about the same distance as earth does from the sun. Does it have oceans, an atmosphere or life? No one knows. Everything outside the mass of the planet and the orbital location is a best guess. Is it possible they found another earth? Yes. Is it probable? No. Just because Carl Sagan mused that if no other life existed in the universe it would amount to “an awful waste of space” doesn’t make it so. That was his wish, not his understanding.

The data tells us there are innumerable planets out there; it can even tell us their approximate mass, size and makeup—but little else—including the possibility of life. In the scientific community there’s a gross assumption that the biological evolution presumed to have occurred on earth also occurred elsewhere by the same mechanisms and for the same reasons. But in fact they have no idea—and until they can discern bugs or structures on a distant world, they have no way of knowing (aside from radio signals, which are so far entirely absent).

Journalistic embellishment is designed to sell news, and journalists also know that headlines alone can indoctrinate the masses, especially those who take no time to read the article (which is most people).

Is life “out there” possible? Why not. Is it probable? Who knows. And don’t forget—the same questions confront those who declare new evolutionary discoveries as though they had completely nailed down a nearly opaque past. While reported as fact, they are only expressing a best guess. Possible? Within the realm of scientific theory, yes. Probable? Impossible to say. Destructive to faith? Not at all—in fact there’s an almost comical irony here: to search for human meaning in a doomed universe is to demonstrate greater faith and hope than the religious people who offend their scientific sensibilities with their faith and hope.

Those people say there is a door—that the Landlord installed it a while back, and though most have tried to ignore it or block it up, and though few use it, it remains stubbornly wedged open.

Hope will not vanish as long as there’s a Door in the universe.

Which is why I love the Landlord.

—j

4 thoughts on “In the Headlines: What Have Astronomers Really Discovered?

  1. Great one Jay. I was talking with a friend here ( retired Christian chemistry professor) and he mentioned reading an article where the first page would lay out some premises, which were soon treated as facts, then the next page drew conclusions from those assumptions. The next page would extend this even further. I’ve seen this in places like the Discovery Channel. ” If Moses had a wart, and the humidity then was 88%, and there was a full moon, then the Red Sea parted due to natural causes.”
    There seems to be a lot of this sort of logical fallacy by unwarranted assumption.
    http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logical-fallacies
    “Another type of premise error occurs when one or more premises is an unwarranted assumption. The premise may or may not be true, but it has not been established sufficiently to serve as a premise for an argument. Identifying all the assumptions upon which an argument is dependent is often the most critical step in analyzing an argument. Frequently, different conclusions are arrived at because of differing assumptions.

    Often people will choose the assumptions that best fit the conclusion they prefer. In fact, psychological experiments show that most people start with conclusions they desire, then reverse engineer arguments to support them – a process called rationalization.”
    Randy Petty

    Like

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