Seven Vivophilic Traits of Earth: partial science in the Old Testament
Copyright 2010, John Manimas Medeiros
There may be some science in the Old Testament, but only physical science and social science that is consistent with modern science and the science that Jesus taught. The content of the Old Testament is usually described as history, poetry and law. The history is partly true, and some of the historical accounts may be reasonably accurate as statements of ancient history, such as the stories of David and Solomon, Ruth and Esther.
Even the story of the Exodus is probably true in the sense that there was a departure from Egypt of a group of people who were nomads for decades and then fought a war to take control of the territory known as Israel and Judea. They may not have started out as Hebrews but became Hebrews. The detachment and rebellion against the religion of ancient Egypt may be exaggerated. It may be that ancient Hebrew religious ideas had their origin in Egypt. Moses, according to the Old Testament, grew up to advanced adult age in the house of the Pharaoh. He must have been influenced by the culture of the ruling class in ancient Egypt.
What is contrary to science in the Old Testament is Genesis. Genesis is described by scholars as a "creation myth." This means a story that is primarily mythical, or fictional, but which might contain some element of scientific truth or metaphorical truth.
Partial science in Genesis:
For example, my viewpoint is that the idea that the Earth was created in six days is simply a statement that the Earth is an artifact, meaning it is made of natural materials but that some form of intelligent being may have participated in bringing about the astoundingly precise details of the conditions of the planet. So it was not "made in six days" and it was not made out of nothing. The creation myth aspect of Genesis is that the words suggest that the entire universe, not just Earth, was created out of nothing by a Creator God. This concept is the concept that prevents the reconciliation of science and religion, the concept that: the universe was created by a person, or a magical being who is like a human person, who existed before the universe existed and created the universe, the same way a human could build a birdhouse, or a real house, or a titanic ship, except that when a human being makes something it has to be made out of materials that already exist in Nature, whereas when the Creator God creates the universe, the real, material universe comes into being magically, that is, God creates something -- the universe being the largest of all things -- out of nothing.
If we modify Genesis to state that it is an imagined story of how the planet Earth, a unique water planet, a planet that has the special set of conditions that enable Earth to support "life in abundance," then we have a story that might be consistent with modern science. The details of the conditions of planet Earth are astounding for their precision and the reality that the precise set of conditions enables an enormous quantity of water to remain in the liquid state permanently. This means that this enormous quantity of water exists in a very tiny temperature window that is between 32 degrees and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, in a universe where temperatures of less than 32 degrees and more than 100 degrees exists practically everywhere. How did such a unique planet, which appears to be intelligently designed, come into existence? It could have come about naturally, however, it is fascinating to contemplate the exact set of physical conditions to sustain the Earth as we know it.
1) The size of the Earth is precisely right, in combination with the core of iron and nickel, to generate the force of gravity that holds the especially life-supporting atmosphere of approximately 70% nitrogen and 20% oxygen, and the small amount of carbon dioxide, conveniently provided by plants that photosynthesize sugars.
2) The radioactive hot core of iron and nickel is precisely right to generate the magnetic fields that deflect life-killing radiation away from the surface of most of the planet while allowing some to descend toward the surface only at the magnetic poles.
3) The distance of the Earth from the Sun is just right to allow maintenance of the right amount of radiation to support the liquid water temperature and power the photosynthetic plants with light energy.
4) The velocity of rotation is just right to maintain the temperature window that sustains the enormous quantity of liquid water and the weather patterns of rainfall and snowfall on dry land. Faster rotation would cause a much cooler planet. Slower rotation would cause daylight periods to increase daytime temperatures to extremes above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, and to nighttime extremes below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Such a rapid alternation from extreme cold to extreme heat does not support life as we know it.
5) The tilt of the axis of rotation (23 degrees) is nearly perfect for the purpose of exposing the largest portion of the surface of a rotating sphere to the radiation from the central star, our Sun, so that life can thrive seasonally on a much larger portion of the spherical surface than would arise if the axis of rotation were perfectly perpendicular to the plane of revolution. If the axis of rotation were perpendicular, the planet would have horizontal "stripes" of life zones and there would be no part of the planet that had seasonal changes. Most likely, life forms that existed in one horizontal stripe zone of constant temperature, with far less variations in weather conditions or climate, would not be able to transfer to another "stripe zone."
6) The single moon, exactly the size that it is, and revolving around the Earth at exactly the distance that it is, and on a plane of revolution that is not the same as the plane of Earth's revolution around the Sun, all make the moon the ideal contributing cause of the tides and climate on Earth. The tides are the cause of tidal basins, usually described as the incubators of life on Earth. The effects of the moon contribute to the storms, hurricanes and tornadoes on Earth that cause the patterns of creation and destruction, cleansing, changing of the distribution of fresh and salt water on the Earth's surface. The cycle of the moon's movement is imprinted on the cycles of most living things. If the moon revolved around the Earth on exactly the same plane as the Earth's revolution around the Sun, then the Earth would experience a permanent "eclipse" with the moon blocking the light and heat from the Sun across the face of the Earth on the same path every day. This would change the effect of the moon on the physical conditions of the planet and contribute to a horizontal stripe zone pattern of life on Earth because the tides created by the moon would be less variable, always causing the highest tidal differences at the equator and successively lower tides at each distance from the equator.
7) The single moon with its precise set of characteristics contributes to a stable pattern of stirring the ingredients of life support -- air, salt water and fresh water, movements of soil -- that would be far more variable and destructive of life if there were two or more moons. It appears that one moon supports life, and two or more moons would discourage or destroy life.
Why does Genesis refer to "life in abundance"?
Therefore, it is consistent with modern science to marvel at the precise set of conditions that make Earth a planet of abundant life. And, there is a statement in Genesis that is puzzling and immensely challenging as to why it is there. Genesis says that God created the world -- which we can take to mean only the Earth and not the universe -- so that we "might have life and have it abundantly." Why does the Genesis myth, supposedly originated in pre-historic times, suggest that the speaker, or story-teller, is aware that Earth has life in abundance? This communication, that we have life in abundance, is a comparison. One cannot say that something exists in abundance except to imply that there are other locations or other conditions where there is less than abundance. Therefore, whoever or whatever is the source of the Genesis story, that origin appears to be aware that there could be less life in the world than there is; seems to be aware that life in our world, meaning on our Earth, is abundant rather than sparse. How could the source of the story know that? Think about this. If the origin of the Genesis story is an ordinary human being who lived in distant ancient times, then there is no basis for that speaker to state a claim that life on Earth is for some reason "more abundant" than it could be. That speaker would not know any other quantity or level of life. That speaker would not know anything about life except what is visible and known on Earth. Why would the story teller imagine that life could be less abundant than it is?
In any case, physical scientists do in fact marvel at how the precise set of conditions of Earth support life in abundance, and changing any one of these precise conditions could cause life forms to be either strictly limited or non-existent on Earth.
There may have been intervention in the development of our planet, but the entire universe itself was not created by an anthropomorphic person. Nature comes into existence first, then life, then technological animals, and then intelligent beings. We are technological animals. Intelligent beings produce no unintended consequences.
Rare Earth, by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee. Single text that focuses on the set of special physical conditions that make permanent liquid water and abundant life possible on the planet Earth.
The Intelligent Universe, by Sir Fred Hoyle (1984) and many other sources listed in the science sections of the bibliography for my book The Primacy of Stewardship. Each source contributes to the concept that the special conditions that support abundant life are "rare" in the absolute sense, but still may include a very large number of planets, possibly millions, if counted among the estimated 100 billion galaxies that we currently see.
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