Does the earth exist because of random chance or was it finely tuned by a designer?
Last week we saw that Princeton physicist Peter Steinhardt rejects The Big Bang Theory out of hand because he refuses to believe anything could come into being with such a fine tuned design. He is not alone. The Big Bang Theory haunts science because if it is true then the universe had a beginning and no plausible naturalistic explanation can account for it. But it is not just the beginning that bothers naturalists, it is what happened immediately afterward that is truly mind-boggling.
The enlightenment view interpreted the work of Copernicus to produce The Principle of Mediocrity, which holds that the earth does not hold a special or privileged place in the universe. The late Carl Sagan popularized this view with his bestselling book “Pale Blue Dot.” But, as we learn more about what factors it takes to produce a life-giving planet, it appears we may be pretty special after all.
What factors are necessary? You need water to evaporate and transport nutrients across the globe and to absorb heat from the sun and give us a temperate climate. But in order to have water you have to be a certain distance from a star or what NASA scientists call “The Goldilocks Zone” where it is not too hot and not too cold. Otherwise, water will boil away or freeze out.
If the earth were 5% closer to the sun, it would be a greenhouse with temperatures running up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit. If the earth were 20% farther out it would produce carbon dioxide clouds that would freeze the planet.
Speaking of location, a planet in our galaxy would have to be away from the center of it where a giant black hole exists and outside of one of the spiral arms where supernovas are common and we are exactly in the right place to avoid harm.
But you need much more than just water and location.
In fact, astrobiologists have determined that as many as twenty factors are needed for a life-sustaining planet, or at least one that sustains complex life. These include factors related to such things as:
*within Galactic Habitable Zone
*orbiting main sequence G2 dwarf star
*protected by gas giant planets
*within Circumstellar Habitable Zone
*orbited by large moon
*oxygen rich atmosphere
*ratio of liquid water to continents
*moderate rate of rotation
We will begin looking at these tomorrow and what the odds are that all of them would come into being together by accident.
Until then, grace and peace.