As technology progresses, we get better and better pictures from outer space. We are now seeing images from the Webb space telescope showing previously unknown details. The new information also challenges some of the assumptions of astronomy and cosmology. Researchers have an old saying: “Every discovery that answers one question raises a dozen more.” The general public may feel that we have a complete understanding of the cosmos and creation itself, but nothing could be further from the truth.,
A classic example of that is the red spot on Jupiter. Giovanni Cassini saw and made note of it 357 years ago. Astronomers have studied and analyzed that mysterious massive storm on Jupiter over and over ever since. Yet, here we are in 2022, and we still have no idea why it is red. We are now detecting rapid radio bursts from outer space, but we don’t understand them. Interestingly, they have a pattern similar to a beating human heart. The cosmos is full of challenges we are still trying to understand. Many of them have been brought to our attention by advances in technology.
Voyager 1 left the Earth 45 years ago and has added more to our solar system knowledge than any other probe. However, scientists still cannot understand many of its discoveries. Every discovery that answers one question raises a dozen more.
As the Webb telescope sends incredible pictures like never seen before from deep space, it’s an exciting time to be alive and view areas of the creation that human eyes have never witnessed. Every new observation and discovery tells us more about the magnitude of God’s power, wisdom, and design.
Despite all this, the primary cosmological proof of the existence of God remains. Our discoveries continue to show us that there was a beginning to time, space, and matter/energy. Since the cosmos could not have come from absolute nothingness, we know that beginning had a cause, and the nature of that cause was an intelligence – not blind opportunistic chance.
The ancient words of the psalmist in Psalms 19:1-2 continue to ring true: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day after day, they utter speech, and night after night, they show knowledge.”
As we said in our previous post, scientists have been tracing the process of creation back to almost the beginning. However, they hit a roadblock called Planck density (named for German physicist Max Planck) just before they reach the starting point. So, thus far, science finds it impossible to go back to the precise moment when the universe began.
Since tracing the process of creation back to BEFORE the cosmic creation event will probably never be possible, scientists can only study secondary causation. They can see the processes that lead to the universe we live in, but they can’t study the primary causation. Could God be the primary cause operating behind the secondary causation we can see? Science cannot say. The best science can do is to suspend judgment. Personal beliefs are not science.
Science today has set limitations on itself, confining its study to the physical realm. To go beyond that would be considered metaphysics or theology. However, some scientists don’t hesitate to make theological statements. An example is the late Carl Sagan opening the old Cosmos series on PBS television with the statement, “The cosmos is all there is or was or ever will be.” That is not a scientific statement. It is a materialistic, atheistic theological statement beyond what science can measure and examine.
Biologist Richard Dawkins is also not afraid to venture beyond science into theology when he states in River Out of Eden, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.” Scientists such as Sagan and Dawkins contribute to the war between science and theology, and specifically science and the Bible. All the while, they fail to acknowledge that they are making faith statements.
If you have followed these discussions for the past week, I hope they help you understand why we say science and faith are friends, not enemies. We will have some final thoughts on that tomorrow.
Astronomers are constantly looking for signs of life on other planets or moons. One of the potential clues they seek is methane, a hydrocarbon gas consisting of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. It is classified as a “greenhouse gas” because it can trap heat on Earth’s surface resulting in “global warming.” It’s a more effective greenhouse gas than the much-discussed carbon dioxide. Methane is produced by organic decomposition and in the digestion process of ruminants such as cows and other animals. Scientists seek to learn more about a possible connection between methane and life on other planets.
Since living things create methane, scientists regard it as a potential “biosignature” indicating life on an astronomical body. For that reason, astronomers are searching for methane on planetary bodies. News reports have sometimes gone overboard with stories about methane and life on other planets. However, not all methane is created biologically. Volcanic eruptions can release methane gas, and even asteroid impacts can add methane to a planet’s atmosphere. So how can scientists tell if the methane is a sign of life on a body far out in space?
For one thing, gasses from a volcano would contain not only methane but also carbon monoxide. The biological creation of methane would consume carbon monoxide. When examining the gasses in a planet’s atmosphere, a large amount of BOTH methane and carbon monoxide would probably indicate that the methane was not a biosignature. Methane alone would be a more likely indicator of the possibility of life.
However, an abundance of methane without carbon monoxide would not prove the existence of life on a planet. As we have said before, many factors are required to make a planet suitable for any kind of life, especially advanced life. NASA’s James Webb telescope, launched in December, is still working to reach full functionality. When it does, a significant part of its purpose will be to look for methane in the atmosphere of exoplanets.
When results indicate that the Webb telescope has detected methane on a planet, news reporters may sensationalize the facts to suggest more than they deserve. Reputable scientists are more cautious in their predictions about methane and life on other planets. Nevertheless, we are excited about the possibility of learning more about the universe with the new Webb space telescope.
As we have said before, the Bible doesn’t tell us if there is life on any other object in space. If there is, we believe that God put it there. We are not afraid of scientific investigation because the more we learn about the creation, the more we stand in awe of the Creator.