Saturday, February 23, 2019

The Universe: Fine-Tuned For Our Redemption

This blog is a summary of three works: 
1.    The calculation done by Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe determining the probability of a planet existing that can sustain a global, high-tech civilization.
2.    Portions of the book Improbable Planet, by Hugh Ross
3.    Hugh Ross’s talk at the 2017 AMP Conference[1]on the events necessary for the gospel to be spread world-wide to a population of 8 billion people.

The Bible makes it clear that everything which God creates is for the purpose of bringing humans into a redemptive relationship with Christ. There have been many articles written on how Jesus was born at the perfect – and the earliest – time in history to enable the gospel message to spread to the most number of people.  The Roman Empire had a highway system and a unified Greek language, ships had come of age, and the “Pax Romana” created a stable environment that allowed for the spread of a new idea. But it is not just historical events that align perfectly. In nature, the entire universe and every geological event that has occurred is for the purpose of making that redemption possible.

Every event in the history of our universe, our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet plays a role in making the redemption of billions of people on Earth a possibility.

The chances that life can exist on a planet become exponentially greater as you move from simple bacteria to animals and plants to humans simply existing to the capability of spreading the gospel message to 8 billion people all over the planet. Several hundred events must all coincide for this to happen. The incredible odds against all of these events occurring provides reasonable evidence to conclude that an intelligence planned it all.

The recognition that Earth today possesses abundant and diverse species of multiple levels of advanced life and that the existence of such life requires a very long history of much simpler life has spawned what is known in the scientific literature as the “rare Earth” hypothesis.  Even scientists who believe the origin of a bacterium is an easy step and that natural processes efficiently evolve life acknowledge that it takes an extraordinary planet for all these supposedly easy steps to occur.
The panoply of advanced life on Earth also requires a universe with an extraordinary history for there to be any possibility for the kind of spiral galaxy in which such an exceptional planet can exist.  Furthermore, that planet must reside in a planetary system that experiences a highly specified birth and journey within its extraordinary galaxy.[2]

Reasons to Believe has compiled four lists, with references, of all the necessary events that must occur for a global, advanced civilization to exist on Earth. The probability of each event is also calculated.

Billions of years before life first began, the universe itself must be fine-tuned. For physical life to be possible in the universe, several characteristics (140 in this list) must take on specific values.[3]You can view the first list by clicking here.

Once all the parameters of the universe are set, you must have specific parameters for a galaxy, a sun, a solar system, a moon, and of course the specific planet that each fall within an extremely narrow range of values for intelligent physical life to exist.[4]You can view this second list by clicking here.

Hugh Ross has calculated that the chance of a planet having all the requirements to sustain our current civilization is 1 out of 101032. This list contains the probabilities and the references. You can view this list by clicking here.

For human life (or its functional equivalent) to possibly establish a globally distributed high-technology civilization on some kind of astronomical body, many characteristics of its environment — from large-scale to small, galaxy cluster to proximate ecosystems — must take on specific values. These characteristics are listed on eight specific size scales, large to small, along with estimates from a naturalistic perspective (assumption that no supernatural Being is responsible for fixing the value of any of the characteristics) of the probabilities that the values of these characteristics will fall within the required ranges.[5] You can view this list by clicking here.

As you can see from the above lists, there are hundreds of parameters that must be fine-tuned within a very narrow range for our civilization to even exist.  Even more fine-tuning is required if the gospel is to be carried to every human on the planet.  Hugh Ross spoke on this at the 2017 AMP Conference, focusing on just four (he said three, but I made it four) of the factors that are necessary for the Great Commission to be fulfilled[6].

Factor Number 1:  We are living at the end of a fine-tuned ice age cycle.
The Earth is in an ice age right now, with about 10% of the planet covered in ice. We are currently at the end of a hundred-thousand-year cycle, a periodic change from 10% ice to 20% ice that has been present on Earth for only about 800,000 years.[7]This cycle is critical because large amounts of melting ice are necessary to irrigate the great agricultural plains of China, India, and North America.  The melting ice also uncovers high plateaus from which wind-blown dust can fertilize these plains. Water and fertilized soil is obviously required to grow enough food for billions of people to survive.

Factor Number 2:  The Sun is exactly the right age and mass.
Stars are unstable when they are young and then unstable again when old. Our star also has a stable mass, as both large and small stars are unstable. This means that solar flare activity for the Sun is at a minimum for the life of a star right now.  Bacteria could live with more flaring, more UV radiation, and more x-rays than the Sun is producing right now, but an advanced life could not. Neutrinos also show that the Sun entered this extremely stable phase about 50,000 years ago and that it will exit this stable phase in about 50,000 years.  This means that our current 100,000 year window is the only one in which advanced life could exist on Earth.

Factor Number 3:  Tectonic events cool the planet.  
As the sun ages, more hydrogen gets converted to helium, increasing the core density, which results in a more efficient fusion reaction, increasing the brightness. Our Sun has been getting brighter for the last 4 billion years, resulting in an increasing amount of heat being transferred to Earth. In fact, given how bright the sun is right now there should not be any ice at all on our planet. It took five simultaneous events, all happening within the solar stability window, to help keep the Earth cool.

1st Tectonic Event: Antarctica’s Move
Antarctica used to be attached to Australia but split away and began moving south 40 million years ago, stopping on the South Pole.  All around Antarctica is open ocean with nothing to stop the flow of wind that always blows at a minimum of 40 mph.  These winds create an ocean current that helps to cool the Northern Atlantic. The large amount of ice on Antarctica also reflects sunlight which also helps to cool the planet.

2nd Tectonic Event:  Greenland’s Uplift
The northward movement of Greenland from next to Newfoundland to its current location, passing over a mantle plume in the process, caused the eastern parts of Greenland to be elevated high enough to support a massive build-up of ice. This vast ice sheet reflects much of the Sun’s heat and light and is a major factor in cooling the planet.

3rd Tectonic Event:  Pangea
After Pangea broke up, landmasses replaced oceans in the northern hemisphere and nearly enclosed the Arctic Ocean. Becauseof the lower heat-storing capacity of continents compared to oceans, this configuration dramatically cooled the northern hemisphere and played a significant role in the formation of the polar ice cap.[8]  

4th Tectonic Event: Isthmus of Panama Formation
Approximately 3 million years ago, converging tectonic plates led to the formation of the land bridge connecting North and South America. This shut down the flow of warm water from the Pacific Ocean into the cooler Atlantic Ocean, rerouting ocean currents and atmospheric circulation to a north-south direction. The new ocean currents enhanced global cooling as well as providing more moisture to the Arctic, contributing to the formation of a large Arctic ice cap. [9]

5th Tectonic Event:  Rise of the Tibetan Plateau
About 50 million years ago, the Indian tectonic plate hit the Eurasian tectonic plate at the extraordinarily high velocity.  This ongoing collision between India and Asia raised the Tibetan Plateau high enough to store vast amounts of ice.  This huge amount of low latitude ice reflects sunlight four times more efficiently than polar ice.[10]

Given the Sun’s current brightness and the abundance of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, nothing less that the simultaneous tripping of the five tectonic triggers could have launched the Earth into an ice age.[11]                     

Factor Number 4:  Extreme Climate Stability 
Because of the unique alignment of the Earth’s tilt and orbit, we are currently in a time of exceptional temperature stability. For the past 9000 years, Earth’s temperature has remained at an optimal temperature for maintaining a large, globally distributed, technologically advancing human population; extreme temperature variation kept early humanity from having large population, as large-scale agriculture was not possible; almost every family had to farm individually. 9000 years ago, seven out of sync rotational, orbital, and tilt cycles all came in sync and created what is known as the “long cool summer.”  We can now feed the entire world with only 2% of the population involved in agriculture.

We now have the technology, wealth, and people power to take the Gospel to everyone on Earth before we enter another period of climate instability. This would only have been possible with the unusual climate stability, along with the large amount of ice, allowing large scale agriculture and helping to cool the planet. It is reasonable to conclude that there is no way this could all be a coincidence. We need a highly fine-tuned universe, galaxy, solar system, and planet just to have advanced life; with odds so high that it is reasonable to conclude that it was planned by an intelligent being.  We needed five simultaneous tectonic events that all had to happen at the exactly right time to combat the brightness of the sun at a time when the sun was exceptionally stable. In addition, we needed seven different Earth orbit, rotational, and tilt variations to all be in sync at this exact right tectonic and sun moment.

It is reasonable to conclude that everything which God creates is for the purpose of bringing humans into a redemptive relationship with Christ. God has planned every event in the history of our universe, our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet plays so that redemption will be a possibility for every one of the billions of individuals on Earth.

[1]Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, AMP Conference 2017 
[2]Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet,Baker Books, 2016, page 22
[6]Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe, AMP Conference 2017 
[7]Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet,Baker Books, 2016, page 200
[8]ibid, page 200
[9]ibid, page 201-202
[10]ibid, page 204
[11]ibid, page 204

Monday, February 18, 2019

New Website:

I now have my own website!

I have indexed and posted the majority of my blogs on this site.  I also have links to other science and christianity websites and a list of recommended books.

I will continue to post new blogs at this site for a while, but would like to eventually post exclusively on .

Please visit my new website dedicated to the synergism between science and christianity!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Removing the Stumbling Block of Genesis

The Genesis creation account has been a stumbling block for both Christians and non-Christians. A common objection to even considering the Christian faith has been, “I tried to read the Bible, but I just couldn’t get past the first chapter Genesis.” Sadly, the controversy that has come with these opening chapters of the Bible has kept countless people from ever hearing the important parts that come later; the truth about Christ has been hidden by misunderstandings about the creation account. The gospel is hard enough already, we shouldn’t add to the difficulty by insisting on debatable interpretations of Genesis. 
Misconceptions about Genesis have, sadly, also kept many Christians from studying science and have created a mistrust of science in the Christian community. When interpreted correctly, Christian scripture and nature should be in harmony. God created the universe and inspired the Bible, so both should agree. If we read the Genesis creation account correctly, it doesn’t have to be a barrier to either science or Christianity.
As a science teacher and a Christian, it is important to me to look at both subjects objectively and rationally, realizing that salvation is based on belief in Christ, not the age of the earth and not the age of the universe. I think the evidence from both the Bible and current science support an old earth view. You canbe a Christian and at the same time accept the scientific evidence that overwhelmingly shows the earth to be 4.5 billion years old and the universe to be 13.8 billion years old.
Really good science is done by non-Christians. In fact, science that actually confirms what the Bible teaches is done by people who assume a naturalistic position. While I am sure there are dishonest scientists, the vast majority look honestly at the evidence.  Just because they may have a non-Christian world view does not mean that they will come to bad conclusions. For example, we accept all kinds of scientific research done by atheists in the areas of medicine, automobile and airline technology, and electronics.  Why do we question it when it has to do with the age of the Earth and the universe?
Most scientists know that when they propose a modelfor nature, it is probably not fact and is probably not representing exactly what nature is like. Scientists generally enjoy that our view of nature constantly changes and what we state as “fact” now might not be “fact” 50 years from now. For a scientist to become famous, they usually need to find evidence that overturns an accepted paradigm or disproves an existing theory, so most are trying to do just that! In terms of evolution, the mechanistic model for howlife evolves has changed in the last few years; this is why we continue to do research. However, there are areas in science that have been studied so exhaustively they do disserve the “fact” label. One example is speciation; the fact that micro-evolutionary changes in an isolated population can cause a new species to emerge. The age of the earth and the universe, confirmed with multiple lines of evidence, is also in this category.
Scholars have been analyzing Genesis for thousands of years and there is no conclusion as to the onecorrect way to interpret the creation account. Historically, most scholars have emphasized that the Genesis creation account does not specify the date or the time period over which the creation took place. The view that the earth is 6000 to 10,000 years old is not taught in the Bible. The 6000-year date came from Archbishop James Usher in the seventeenth century and almost no evangelical scholar today holds this view. 
There are several possible interpretations that are not “literal”; many theologians take the account to be figurative. Genesis does not specify that creation was done in six 24 hour days. The earliest commentaries on Genesis from first century Jewish scholars show a mix of views on the age of the earth and 24-hour creation days. Philo (where?)wrote that the six days are figurative and are a metaphor for order and completeness. Josephus was undecided about the meaning of the expression “one day.”

It is important to realize that those who advocate long periods of time for the six “days” of creation are not saying that the context requiresthat these be understood as periods of time. They are simply saying that the context does not clearly specify for us one meaning of dayor another, and if convincing data about the age of the earth, drawn from many different disciplines and giving similar answers, convinces us that the earth is billions of years old, then this possible interpretation of dayas a long period of time may be the best interpretation to adopt.[1]

New Testament writings do not confirm that Jesus believed in a literal, historical interpretation of Genesis 1. In fact, many of the early church fathers (who were closer in time to the teachings of Jesus) were tolerant of several views of the creation week; early Christian writings on the subject were also inconclusive and open to several views. Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (a student of Ignatius, Papias and Polycarp, who were all students of the Apostle John)both suggested that the “days” could be thousand-year epochs. Clement of Alexandria (a third-generation student of Mark and a fourth-generation student of Peter) echoed Philo’s teaching that the six days are figurative and are a metaphor for order and completeness. Augustine wrote quite a bit about the creation days and concluded that the Genesis creation day is different from our understanding of a day.

Except for Augustine, the early church leaders expressed their views [on the Genesis creation account] tentatively. There is no indication that they sharply debated the issue or took a dogmatic stance. Instead, they charitably tolerated a diversity of views.[2]

Genesis is, of course, more about theology than it is about science. Since the Bible is a theological text, the emphasis is about God and what He wants us to know about Him. The crucial, undebatable points of Genesis are as follows: 
1.    God is the creator of the universe. 
2.    Creation (nature) is separate from God.
3.    Creation is ordered and under the control of God.
The creation story in the first chapter of Genesis is the introduction of this theology. The day-by-day structure of the narrative shows that creation is very systematic, and the text makes it obvious that the true God is the only onedoing the creating. The seven-day motif also sets up the Jewish doctrine of the Sabbath. As an aside, for the scientist, nature being orderly and separate from God allows us to do science! 
An interesting interpretation of Genesis comes from Johnny Miller and John Soden, in their book, In the Beginning… We Misunderstood. Miller and Soden show how the main purpose of the Genesis creation account is to correct the Hebrew people’s improper view of creation that had been corrupted by 400 years of living in Egypt. They claim that the teachings were necessary to break free from ancient Egyptian creation myths and teach the Hebrew nation the correct way to think about the beginning of the universe. This view does explain why Genesis 1 roughly matches an Egyptian creation myth, while Genesis 2 has the general pattern of Ancient Near Eastern creation myths.

Genesis is not presenting a new local deity to Israel, but, as the introduction to the Pentateuch, it is calling for Israel’s absolute allegiance to God, who claims absolute sovereign control. At the same time, the account demotes all the gods of Egypt and every other civilization with which Israel may have contact.[3]

The view that Genesis is a theological text, with the fact that scholars throughout history have disagreed on what a creation “day” means, ensures us that a scientist who holds to the earth being 4.5 million years old can be confident that they are not “creating a partition in their head.” Skeptics can also be certain that to become a Christian does not require you to think that God created the universe in a week only thousands of years ago. 
Jewish Genealogies are theological, and they have gaps and cannot be used to specifically date a historical event in the Bible. The “witness who was there” did not tell us the age of the earth because the writings were concerned with teaching something more important.

It seems fair to conclude that the genealogies of Scripture have some gaps in them, and that God only caused to be recorded those names that were important for His purposes. How many gaps there are and how many generations are missing from the Genesis narratives, we do not know. The life of Abraham may be placed at approximately 2000 B.C., because the kings and places listed in the stories of Abraham’s life can be correlated with archaeological data that can be dated quite reliably, but prior to Abraham the setting of dates is very uncertain.[4]
Moving to science, almost everything about observational astronomy contradicts a recent creation! We doobserve the past directly. When you look out into space, the light you are seeing is from the past! We view the moon as it was 1.3 seconds ago, the sun as it was 8 minutes ago and the Andromeda Galaxy as it was 2.5 million years ago. We actually have a “picture” of the universe when it was 380,000 years old. The horizon “light travel time problem” no longer exists with the recent data we have from the Planck satellite.
We are also observing the past directly when we are studying fossils and when we are investigating old atmosphere trapped in ice cores. When radiometric dating is used correctly and corroborated with several dating techniques (as is usually done) it is accurate. Here is a long explanation for the accuracy of radiometric dating:
The discoveries in the past 50 years are getting closer to confirming that the laws of nature haveremained constant throughout the history of the universe – including the speed of light -, so you canextrapolate what you see now to what has happened in the past. For a discussion of this, go here:
The Genesis Flood account has also been a stumbling block for both Christians and non-Christians; the truth about Christ has also been hidden by misunderstandings about the Flood account. The Bible is indifferent as to age of the universe and it also does not have to be interpreted as teaching a global flood. I believe the Genesis flood is better understood as a local phenomenon from boththe evidence in the Bible and the evidence from nature. 
In his book, Navigating Genesis, Hugh Ross lays out both the scientific and the biblical evidence to show that it is reasonable to believe that the Genesis Flood was not universal, but instead was a local phenomenon.[5]
The Biblical Evidence (taken from Navigating Genesis):
1.    Six other “worldwide” events are mentioned in scripture – that are obviously not referring to the entire world.  Genesis 41:57 says that the entire world came to Joseph because the famine was world-wide. 1 Kings 10:24 says the entire world sought audience with King Solomon. Luke 2:1 says that all the world should be registered.  Acts 2:5 states that Jews from every nation under heaven were staying in Jerusalem. Paul writes several times that “Your faith is being reported all over the world.” Each of these references to a “world-wide” occurrence point to an area less than the Earth’s entire surface.
2.    The permanence of “dry land” and ocean boundaries is affirmed in several passages elaborating on the creation days(Job 38, Psalm 33, Psalm 104, Proverbs 8).
3.    When Peter writes about the Genesis Flood, he adds a qualifier that refers to the world at that time, implying that the extent of the world at the time of the flood is not the same as the extent of the world in Peter’s time.

Twice in his second epistle, Peter addresses the extent of Noah’s flood. In both cases, Peter qualifies the Greek word cosmos, translated as “world.” In 2 Peter 2:5 he writes that the “world of the ungodly” was flooded. Here, Peter implies a distinction between the whole of planet Earth and that part of Earth inhabited by ungodly human beings. He does this again in 2 Peter 3:6 where he refers to the world that was deluged and destroyed as cosmos tote, which literally means “the world at the time the event occurred.” By attaching the adjective tote to cosmos, Peter implies that the world of Noah is not the same as the world of the Roman Empire. The limitations that Peter imposes upon Noah’s flood are consistent with a great many biblical texts that declare the doctrine that God’s judgment wrath is always limited to the extent of human reprobation. An obvious example is God’s refusal to wipe out the Amorites living in the hills of Canaan at the time that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.[6]

4.    We can deduce, from Genesis 1:28, Genesis 9:7, and Genesis 11 that God’s command to multiply and “fill the earth” was being ignored and that humanity had stayed in one geographical area.
5.    In Genesis 1-9 all the place names mentioned belong to settlements in Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf Oasis.
6.    Genesis 7:22 uses the Hebrew word harabain reference to the land that was flooded. Unlike the Hebrew words eresand adamaharaba’sdefinitions constrain it from ever applying to the entirety of Earth’s surface.[7]
7.    The Hebrew word kasathat has been taken as meaning that the mountains were covered with water could merely mean that the mountains were hidden from view by the storm, as well as a few other translations that would not require mountains to be covered by twenty feet of water.

If the Ark were floating anywhere near the middle of the Persian Gulf or the vast Mesopotamian plains on water as much as two or three hundred feet deep, no hills or mountains would be visible from his position. From there Noah would only see water. The high mountain ranges surrounding the Mesopotamian region and the Persian Gulf would lie beyond Noah’s line of sight.[8]

8.    The Hebrew term for “all the high mountains” can also be interpreted as a small hill.
9.    The Hebrew adjective gaboahapplies to any elevation above the plains.
10.  Genesis 8:4 reports that the Ark came to rest on the mountainsof Ararat, not Mount Ararat. The entire Ararat range extends all the way down to the Mesopotamian plain and contains elevations ranging from hundreds to thousands of feet.
11.  Genesis 8 also tells us how God removed the floodwater from the land: He sent a wind. This drying technique perfectly suits what a flooded plain such as Mesopotamia would require. This drying technique would prove of no use for removing the waters of a global flood.
12.  Genesis 7 and 8 reports where the water came from and where it returned. The quantity of water in these subterranean reservoirs (aquifers), and in heavy rain clouds measures vastly less than the quantity required for global inundation.  The verbs used also suggest that the floodwaters returned to the places from which they came, implying that God moved water from one location on the Earth to another and then returned it.
The Scientific Evidence (taken from Navigating Genesis):
1.    Marine fossils found on high mountains are a result of 15 million years of plate tectonics.
2.    Earth only contains about ¼ of the water necessary to cover the entire globe.
3.    The energy required for rapid, aggressive tectonic activity (needed to explain a worldwide flood causing all the features of the earth we now see) exceeds what the laws of physics would permit and would destroy the planet.
4.    The radical, temporary acceleration of radioactive decay rates necessary to explain the rapid plate tectonic activity is ruled out by scripture as well as scientific observations.  Scripture tells us that the laws of heaven and earth are “fixed,” unchanging from the moment God put them in place (Jeremiah 33:25, Ecclesiastes 1:1-11). Scripture also tells us that God does not deceive and He often refers to nature to teach us about Himself.
5.    For all land animals on the earth today to have descended from the pairs aboard the ark contradicts firmly established biological limitations. Also, the idea that eight people could care for the needs of the numbers of animals required defies reality.
It is impossible with our current scientific understandings to explain how a flood could cover the entire earth and how a single boat could carry every species of animal; these are the main stumbling blocks within the Flood account that keep many from pursing Christianity further. God’s purpose for the flood was to get rid of the evil on the earth at the time.  If humanity was not spread over the entire earth, it would not have been necessary to flood the entire earth.  God could accomplish His purpose by flooding only the populated areas and killing only those animals that had been affected by the evil; it would not have been necessary to kill a cougar in North America if it had not been affected by the evil of humans. This logic by itself removes the two stumbling blocks:  The Flood only had to be in the areas occupied by humans at the time and the ark only had to carry the land animals that existed in those locations.
Many Christians are concerned with an old earth perspective because it requires that animals and plants died before the fall of man.  This is also not contrary to the Bible. For a good explanation of this, go here:
God both inspired scripture and created nature; they should not be in conflict!  By taking a strong view of scripture and a strong view of nature, we can remove barriers to belief and show how unified the record of nature and the Bible are; providing reasons why it is rational to trust the Bible and why it is reasonable to be a Christian.
In conclusion, I want to again stress that salvation is based on belief in Christ, not the age of the earth, not the age of the universe, and not a global flood. The purpose of this post reflects the overall purpose of the blog: To show skeptics and Christians that you can believe the Bible, you can be intellectual, and you can use your mind without having to fear or belittle science. Current science that shows the earth to be 4.5 billion years old and the universe to be 13.8 billion years old; both these dates agree with what the Bible teaches. When interpreted correctly, Christian scripture and nature should be in harmony. God created the universe and inspired the Bible; both should agree. 

[1]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Zondervan, 1994.
[2]Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days, NavPress, 2004.
[3]Johnny Miller and John Soden, In the Beginning … We Misunderstood, Kregel, 2012.
[5]Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis, Reasons to Believe, 2014, pages 145-182
[6]Hugh Ross, Reasons to Believe,
[8]Hugh Ross, Navigating Genesis, Reasons to Believe, 2014, pages 150-151