Science in Christian Perspective
FIFTY YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT IN ASTRONOMY AND ITS
IMPACT ON SCRIPTURAL INTERPRETATION
P. W. Stoner
Chairman, Dept. of Mathematics
Pasadena City College
From: JASA, 2,
The subject could just as well have been "Thirty-five Years of Development in Astronomy and its Impact on Scriptural Interpretation.." Or, "The One hundred inch Telescope and the scriptures." It was the 100 inch telescope that gave the great impetus to astronomical research about 35 years ago.
Genesis 1.1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Forty years ago this verse was under attack. We were taught in the class room that matter was eternal, it could neither be created nor destroyed. You could drastically change the form of a given piece of matter but all of the original matter still existed as matter in some form. The conclusion, of course, was that our physical universe always existed, there was no creation and there could be no end..
Today we teach in our colleges that matter can be changed into energy and energy into matter, We even have a formula giving the equivalence of matter in energy. Thus the old ground for doubting the accuracy of this first verse is gone. Not only that
but many new findings of science point to its absolute accuracy. 1. Radioactive methods have dated the ago of the earth itself in the general neighborhood of 2 billion years. 2. Meteorites coming to us from outer space have been dated by the
same process and it appears that the oldest of these are also about 2 billion years old. 3. The tidal effects between the earth and the moon cause the moon to recede from the earth. The problem, if the moon were originally very close to the earth
how long would it take t he tides to move it to its present place, has the answer of about 2 billion years. 4. Astronomers have long known that the energy from the sun can not-be produced by the simple cooling off of a hot body. The Astronomer believed atomic energy -to be the main source of the sun's radiation long before the physicist knew how to liberate atomic energy. It is now believed that the sun liberates energy in the change of hydrogen into helium. Since the amount of helium on the sun can be fairly well determined by the spectroscope it is possible to solve the problem if the sun has always given off energy at its present rate and this energy is produced by ,changing hydrogen into helium, how long would it take to develop the observed amount of helium on the sun. The answer has boon given as about 2 billion years. 5. There it a considerable degree of uniformity of motion among the stars of our galaxy and the tendency is to ever increase the degree of uniformity, Since we can not know what degree of uniformity of motion existed at the creation or the beginning of our galaxy, the most extreme problem possible has boon stated, that is, if there was no uniformity of motion but all stars moved with random velocities and in random directions how long would it take to roach the present degree of uniformity of motion.
This problem has an answer of about 10 billion years. This, of course, is the extreme outside limit to the possible age of our galaxy. It is not at all likely that our galaxy started in such a confused state. We are quite sure therefore, that the age of our galaxy is far under 10 billion years. 6. There is some question about the interpretation of the red shift of the spectra of the island universes. The velocities indicated by the shift are tremendous, present measured shift's indicate velocities as great as 600,000 miles per second,'. So many astronomers would like to find some interpretation for the shift other than velocity. Up to the present no such interpretation has been found. Our best authorities say that if the shift is not velocity its interpretation lies outside of the present knowledge of science. If this shift does measure velocity then all of our galaxies would have had a common starting point some 2 billion "years ago.
Thus every bit of evidence which we have points to a definite beginning of the physical universe. The astronomer does not hesitate to speak of the day of creation. 'Two physicists from John Hopkins University have even gone so far as to attempt to determine haw the creation took place. They have presented the startling theory that the matter of the physical universe came fro--ri very dense light. They believe the light to have been as dense as water and that this light changed into matter to make the universe and that it all took place in one hour, 60 minutes.
We should not give this theory too much weight as it is very new and will probably undergo rapid changes. It does however, have interest as the power of God is often demonstrated as light and light would have been a natural source of energy for God to use in creating the universe.
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and science says "Amen."
Genesis 1:2, "And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. - - "
Perhaps there is no other verse in the whole Bible which has been subjected to such damaging criticism. The Nebular Hypothesis held sway, in the scientific field, for at least 150 years. This theory had the solar system start as a rather dense gas$ disc shaped and giving off tremendous amounts of light. The critic looked at the second verse and said', you can not possibly believe your Bible for the second verse is evidently extremely erroneous. He also asked, what is the verse talking about? What Astronomical body is shapeless, rare and dark? We had no answer. This condition continued until less than 35 years ago when Dr. Hubble turned the new 100 inch telescope to the study of the spiral nebulae. At this time the spiral nebulae were thought to be solar systems in the process of formation. They were thought to be members of our own galaxy and in various stages of solar system formation. In fact, the photographs of spirals was one of the very strongest evidences for the truth of the Nebular Hypothesis. The 100 inch telescope was powerful enough to resolve some of the closer spirals into individual stars. These nebulae were found to contain tremendous numbers of stars, they also contained variable stars, star clusters, bright and dark nebulae, etc.
Later, cepheid variables were isolated in a few of the nebulae, their periods were observed and their distances computed. The spirals were found to be far outside of our own galaxy. In facts they were galaxies very similar to our own.
This was a serious blow to the Nebular Hypothesis, but the death blow came when a mathematical physicist set himself the problem, if we should have a hot gaseous body, disc shaped and rapidly rotating what will happen as it contracts? The answer came out that if it divided it would divide making two nearly equal bodies, Since the sum of all the planets is less than one tenth of one percent of the mass of the sun they could not have been formed as the Nebular Hypothesis indicated. Thus the Nebular Hypothesis died and in its place sprang up the planetessimal and tidal theories. These were short lived as they were both shown to be theoretically untenable. For a considerable period of time we were without any theory regarding the formation of the solar system. During this time the stellar sequence was developed and was quite generally accepted-O It started a star as a tremendously big gaseous body just hot enough to glow red, it then contracted, heated up and went through a long period of changes before becoming a dead body. Of course, vie all had to wonder just what the star was before it became hot enough to glow red. So during a considerable period of time the concept of a new astronomical body coming from a nebula grew until it met nearly universal acceptance. During this last year the concept of a solar system coming from a diffuse nebula has been put in the form of a theory and has the promise of general acceptance. Dr. Henry Norris Russell has said that they are observing collections of matter in several diffuse nebulae and expect eventually to have observational evidence that new stars do evolve from diffuse nebulae.
Up until 35 years ago dark spots in the sky were thought to be holes through which we were looking out into outer space. Soon after the 100 inch telescope was put into service it made a photograph of one of these spots and proved it to be a dark cloud. There followed an intensive study of dark nebulae. They were found to occur in 9very conceivable shape, they were found to be extremely rare and certainly dark. Dr. Alter, director of the Griffith planetarium' in a lecture on nebulae, quoted this second verse and said that that was the best description of a dark nebula that had yet been written.
This second verse thus is no longer a point of attack on the scriptures but stands as remarkable evidence of the inspiration of the Bible as it was probably written 4000 years before a dark nebula was discovered.
"And-the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep - -." Again science says "Amen."
Genesis 1:3-5, "And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. - - "
It was earlier thought that the earth cam off from the sun and shared its heat, merely a smaller star. If this had been true it would have given off its own light and there could have been no night. A limiting size has now been set for a star. If it is less than 1/100 the mass of our sun it will be too small to form a star. Our earth is only 17333,000 the mass of the sun and therefore never could have been a star. It had its day and night as soon as the sun became hot enough to shine.
Genesis 1:14-18 "...."
The critic has used this passage saying, your Bible claims that vegetation was on the earth before there was a sun, but vegetation can not exist without the heat and light from the sun. The sun was created in verse one and its shining on the earth is recorded in verses 3 to 5. Here it is made to shine on the earth so it can be used "for signs and for seasons, and for days, and years." Geology and Physics together tell us that the earth in an early stage was warm, so warm that most or all of the free water was in the atmosphere. The clouds were very dense, so dens that there were tropical conditions from polo to polo, every place was warm and very humid, there were no breaks in the clouds. There was no rain, only dampness and mist. The clouds broke before the devonian period and then very heavy rains and great erosion ensued. Genesis 2:4-6 says, " - - the Lord God made - - every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grow; for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth - - But there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground." This refers to the time when God created vegetation, so both science and the Bible agree that the clouds so completely covered the earth that the sun could not have boon used "for signs, and for seasons, and for days and for years," until a time before the advent of fish as recorded in this Genesis account of vorses.14 - 18. They also agree that before this time the earth was a perfect hot house, just suited for the introduction of vegetation. The Bible implies that the clouds first broke between the pre-cambrian and devonian times, that the sun then first appeared and heavy rain first fell upon the earth. This sounds like a chapter from Historical Geology.
Thus recent developments in science have shown that there was a creation of the physical universe as stated in the first verse of Genesis. It has even set a date for that creation. It has shown that the earth probably came from a diffuse nebulae. and most likely from a dark nebula as stated in the second verse. That the earth was never a star but always obtained its light from the sun as implied in verses 3-6, It has shown that the earth in its early stages was completely covered with dense clouds and that the clouds broke before the advent of fish as stated in verses 14-18. That there was no rain on the earth until after the advent of vegetation, just as stated in Genesis 2t4-6.
Time-after time, in my own life, I have seen a disagreement between science and the Bible., then I have seen changes come in science which have proved the truth of the scriptural account. Never have I seen science once agree with the Bible and later change so as to contradict it. I have often seen it make additional changes which have further strengthened the former agreement and have helped to clarify the interpretation of the scriptural account. To the best of my knowledge there remains no statement in the Bible with which Astronomy in any way disagrees.