Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Supernova Worry

I just came up with a silly little argument. It contains a fairly large amount of reasoning that many Christians would reject outright—not on the basis of the reasoning being faulty, but on the basis of it conflicting with Biblical “science”—so I don’t know how far it’ll get me, but oh well. I’m going to call it…

The Supernova Worry

I feel that this would be better laid out as a narrative rather than in premise format, so that’s what I’ll do.

Suppose God exists. Suppose He designed the universe and everything in it. Moreover, suppose the Bible is accurate in its depiction of the creation of the universe. God spent a couple days creating everything else out there, from galaxies to black holes to comets, and then devoted a huge amount of time to crafting one tiny planet. He stuck that planet in orbit around one of the flaming gas-balls He’d made and kick-started life. If the universe was designed by God, a perfect being, then that would mean everything that occurs here—from flowers blooming to atoms splitting to stars exploding—is part of God’s grand plan, and that what God has made is good and does not at any point need to be fixed or repaired. God did not create an imperfect universe.

But if this is the case, then what of our own sun, the star that provides heat and light to our planet? One day—granted, a day so far in the future as to be incomprehensible to those currently living—that star will erupt into massive flames, and the Earth will be burnt to a crisp. Is this part of God’s beautiful, majestic design? If He cares so much for humans, why would he put them on a planet that has a limited lifespan? Surely it is within the scope of God’s powers to create a sun with infinite energy, or a planet that supports itself without the need for a star to nourish it? But God has done neither of these things. It would appear as though God has placed human beings on a very unstable tract of land, one that He put a ton of effort into designing just for us but seems content to allow to be annihilated by another one of His creations—for recall that God also made the sun, and designed it to explode violently when it runs out of fuel.

The fact that our Sol will one day consume us suggests one of several options: a) that God created things this way for a reason, b) that God created an imperfect solar system and will need to step in to prevent the destruction of Earth, or c) that there was no special favor garnered to Earth (and therefore its inhabitants) in the designing of the universe.

If (a) is true, then what would the reason be? Some might argue that it is the unfathomable will of God, but this is just as much a cop-out now as ever. Oh! Could it be because God is encouraging us to develop space travel and find a new planet to live on? But wait… why would God want that? He made the Earth for us; doesn’t He want us to stay? And the Earth is where saints, prophets, and Jesus himself walked and spoke. People kill each other for control of places that Christ visited or lived. Wouldn’t God want us to remain here, if those places are that important? Maybe it’s because of “evil” (this feels like the Catholic answer, although I don’t know what the Catholic answer would actually be). My reply is: how? How does “evil” have anything to do with the machinations of the stars? Is Satan going to make the sun blow up? Ooh, bad Satan! Naughty Satan! And obviously God can’t intervene, because doing so would interfere with Satan’s free will, right? Or maybe the free will of the sun? Or wait, was it only humans who have free will? So how would preventing Satan from detonating the sun affect our free will in the slightest? Perhaps I’ve taken the wrong tack here; maybe it’s supposed to coincide with the Rapture, and all that fire the Bible talks about is actually the rapidly expanding sun coming to eat us up. But if that’s the case, then we know when it’s gonna happen. Isn’t it written that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2)? Could it be that we, mere humans, have unlocked the secret of the Apocalypse? And more importantly, if the sun going supernova is the Day of Judgment, then why are people so convinced it will be sooner than that? It can't be both ways; either the sun’s temper tantrum is the end of the world, or it isn’t. If it is, we can rest assured that we’ll all be long dead before it occurs. If it isn’t, then there must be another reason for God to let the sun expand and kill us, or (b) or (c) is true.

If (b) is true, then God is certainly much less perfect than was initially reported. Perhaps it’s just unavoidable; despite His power, God is not omnipotent and thus cannot create a fully functional universe on the first try. Or perhaps it’s a matter of awareness; God is not omniscient, and thus couldn’t foresee the vaporization of Earth before it happened (although how we, just tiny insects compared to God, are able to predict it remains a mystery). Denying God either of the properties I just mentioned makes God seem a whole lot less worthy of worship than most people would like. Do you want a God who can’t do everything to be looking out for you? What if He can’t protect you from a more powerful evil? How about a non-omniscient God? Do you really want a being who doesn’t know everything to be your judge when you’re put to trial for your “sins”? Maybe it’s just a matter of God not wanting the Earth to last forever; but this brings us back to point (a), and the refutations explained there still stand.

If (c) is true, then nothing happens. God’s behavior or creative “error” doesn’t need to be explained, because human beings are not (shock of shocks!) the center of the universe. This option allows for design theories to remain on the table (only to be brushed aside by other arguments) while simultaneously pruning away our arrogant assumption that everything in the universe happens with us in mind. We’re the center of nothing but our own worldviews.

Questions? Comments? Feedback is appreciated.

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