Part 8 of a Series: Evolution or Intelligent Design
Presented by Vin Sparks
We are presenting, in a series of posts, evidence of design in the universe by looking at some of the sciences – Cosmology, Biochemistry, Biological Information (DNA), Physics and Astronomy. We’re doing so through the work of Lee Strobel in his book, The Case for a Creator. If it can be shown that the universe is constructed according to a grand design, then there must be a designer.
In this part, I want to turn your attention now to more evidence for the intelligent design and creation of the universe which is present in Astronomy and, more specifically, the conditions necessary for life to exist.
The Evidence of Astronomy (the branch of science that deals with celestial objects, space and the physical universe as a whole) – particularly, the conditions of life.
Earth’s location, it’s size, it’s composition, it’s structure, it’s atmosphere, it’s temperature, it’s internal dynamics provide overwhelming evidence that the earth is meticulously ordered and delicately balanced. Earth is, in fact, quite special and our sun is far from ordinary and even the placement of our solar system in the galaxy, as we discovered in Part 7 of this series, is optimal for the development of the earth and the subsequent protection of it once it was fully developed.
“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.
Nobel laureate Arno Penzias
A FINELY TUNED MECHANISM
Against all odds, our Earth manages to fulfill a very large number of finely balanced criteria that are absolutely crucial to supporting a habitat suitable for humankind. Like a finely tuned mechanism the sun, the other planets in our solar system, the moon and our earth are orchestrated in such a manner as to exhibit an incredibly balanced system that is peculiar and perfect to sustain life on earth.
Earth’s interior is a gigantic, but delicately balanced heat engine fueled by radioactivity:
- If it ran slower the continents may not have evolved to their present form, iron would never have melted and sunk to the liquid core and the giant magnetic field would never have developed.
- If there had been more radioactive fuel, and therefore a faster running engine, volcanic dust would have blotted out the sun, the atmosphere would have been oppressively dense and the surface would have been racked by daily earthquakes and volcanic explosions.
The size and mass of the earth, it turns out is exactly what it needs to be:
A terrestrial planet must have a minimum mass to retain an atmosphere and to keep the heat from it’s interior from being lost too quickly:
- Our atmosphere provides for the free-exchange of the chemicals of life. An oxygen-rich atmosphere is also critical for sustaining big-brained creatures like humans. The earth’s atmosphere is 20% oxygen – just right, as it turns out.
- Oxygen content of 10-20% in the atmosphere is also what is necessary to produce fire which is critical to our existence on many levels and makes the advancement of technology possible.
- Our atmosphere filters out harmful ultraviolet radiation while working with the oceans to moderate the climate through the storage and redistribution of solar energy. Earth is just large enough to create a gravitational pull that retains the atmosphere.
- Earth is just small enough so that it doesn’t keep too many harmful gases.
- It just so happens that the composition of our atmosphere also gives it transparency, which it wouldn’t have if it were rich in carbon-containing atoms, like methane. That transparent atmosphere allows the sciences of Astronomy and Cosmology to flourish.
The placement of the earth in our solar system is incredibly strategic:
- If it was closer to the sun, too much water evaporates into the atmosphere and causes a runaway greenhouse effect and boils off the oceans.
- If it was farther from the sun, it gets too cold. Water and carbon dioxide freeze and you eventually develop runaway glaciation.
The placement of other planets in our solar system plays an important role in keeping Earth safe:
- Jupiter is twice as massive as all other planets combined and has a mass 318 times that of Earth. This enormous sentinel has a gravitational pull that’s tremendous and attracts comets and other dangerous space debris keeping them from hitting the earth with life-extinguishing impact.
- Saturn and Uranus participate in this offensive blocking scheme as well, as does Mars – it’s orbit is closest to an asteroid belt where dangerous projectiles are frequently hurled toward Earth.
Our sun, once thought to be just a common fixed star with properties much like a million others, is now recognized as quite a unique occurrence. Not all stars are conducive to supporting life on an orbiting planet:
Red dwarf stars –
- Make up about 80% of the stars in the galaxy and emit most of their radiation in the red part of the spectrum which makes photosynthesis less efficient impacting the growth of vegetation – our food.
- Being smaller than our sun, red dwarfs give off less luminosity, so a planet would have to orbit much closer around it causing a tidal lock state in which only one face of the planet is ever toward the star. As a result large temperature differences would exist between the lit side and the dark side. One side of the planet would be terribly dry and hot while he other side would be prohibitively icy and cold.
- Solar flares are more disruptive on a smaller star with a planet in a closer orbit. Huge temperature spikes would occur on the surface and the particle radiation would be devastating, so, red dwarfs don’t create a very hospitable environment for an earth-like planet.
G dwarf stars –
- Another 8% or 9% of the stars in the galaxy are G Dwarfs, and are smaller yet than the Red Dwarf and would present much the same set of issues.
G2 Spectra Type yellow dwarf –
- 10% of the stars in the galaxy are these most massive stars. Our sun is one of these and is the perfect size to sustain an inhabitable environment.
Our moon scientific evidence supports the fact that this parched, airless satellite actually contributes in unexpected ways to stabilizing the earth:
- The moon actually helps to stabilize the tilt of the earth on its axis at 23.5 degrees giving us very mild seasons. Without the moon, the earth’s tilt would swing wildly over a large range giving us major temperature changes. Instead, the tilt of the earth’s axis varies only about 1½ degrees, because the gravitational pull of the moon stabilizes it.
- The moon is responsible for about 60% of our tides which keep flushing continental nutrients out to sea to support ocean life – an important link in our food chain. Tides also provide for warmer water circulation in the northern hemisphere during the winter to keep the seasonal temperature fluctuations in check. If the moon were larger, the tides would be much too strong and not nearly strong enough if the moon were any smaller.
- The moon actually slows down the earth’s rotation, keeping the temperature fluctuations from running away. If the moon were any larger it would slow the earth’s rotation too much resulting in longer days and longer nights creating those wild temperature changes – much too hot during the day and much too cold at night.
A BOLD AND AUDACIOUS CLAIM
“No other theory or concept ever imagined by [a human being] can equal in boldness and audacity this great claim…that all the starry heavens, that every species of life, that every characteristic of reality exists [to create a livable habitat] for [the human race]…
But most remarkably, given its audacity, it is a claim which is [no where near being] a discredited pre-scientific myth. In fact, no observation has ever laid the presumption to rest. And today, four centuries after the scientific revolution, the doctrine is again re-emerging. In these [first decades of the 21st century], its credibility is being enhanced by discoveries in several branches of fundamental science.”
Michael J Denton, a senior research fellow in human molecular genetics at the University of Otago, New Zealand
You’re the fact finders, the jury if you will. Consider the evidence and decide for your self – does the evidence presented in this series point to the spontaneous evolution of life from inanimate matter or does it point to an intelligent design?
Other posts in this series looking at evidence in science:
Intelligent Design: The Evidence of Cosmology
Intelligent Design: The Evidence of Biochemistry
Intelligent Design: The Evidence of Biological Information (DNA)
Intelligent Design: The Evidence of Astronomy – Galaxies
In this discussion I relied heavily on Lee Strobel. The Case for a Creator, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan – c. 2004