Scientific Discovery & God: The Solar System, Part 2

shutterstock_311871896In part 1 of this series, I discussed how scientific evidence demonstrates that the universe had a beginning and that such a notion best comports with the expectations of theism over atheistic naturalism. Yet that conspicuous beginning took secular scientists by complete surprise. In this article I will briefly discuss what the expectations of secular scientists concerning our solar system were, and what science has revealed. The results will also show which worldview— naturalism or theism—is preferred.1

Our Solar System

The consensus of secular scientists a quarter century ago when it came to our part of the galaxy was that the solar system was garden-variety typical. The thought was that our solar system was no different from any number of other systems throughout our galaxy or even throughout the expansive universe. Scientists viewed the Sun, Earth, and Moon in our system as being in no particular way uncommon or special. This was a broader implication of the Copernican principle (the idea that the earth does not rest in a privileged or special physical position in the universe).

However, this initial expectation has proved to be untrue. Astrophysicists now know that our solar system exhibits an exquisite fine-tuning that allows for the emergence of complex, intelligent life. Specifically, the relationship of the Sun, Earth, and Moon provide a rare, if not unique, habitable zone for life to thrive on planet Earth. These “just right” conditions of the bodies in our part of the galaxy seem to be unmatched from what scientists know about other systems. In fact, the number and exquisite combination of factors (at least 150) that require fine-tuning to allow for life are so exceedingly improbable, through purely natural means, that the intuition of cosmic design is utterly probative.2

While scientists who embrace a purely naturalistic worldview expected the solar system to prove to be commonplace, instead they discovered a seemingly unique system. Along with the universe overall, the solar system exhibits all the narrowly drawn parameters, characteristics, and content to allow for intelligent life to emerge and thrive. This discovery has led some members of the scientific community to conclude that divine design seems intuitively obvious.

This extraordinary fine-tuning comports well with a theistic worldview, but seems out of place and unexpected from an atheistic, naturalistic perspective.3 So what would our solar system look like if theism were true? Apparently, very much like it appears right now.

In part three I’ll discuss some of Earth’s features and what scientists both anticipated and have discovered about it.

Reflections: Your Turn 

For Christians, what does living in an exquisitely fine-tuned world that allows human life to flourish invoke?

Endnotes

  1. For a discussion of naturalism and theism as worldviews, see Kenneth Richard Samples,  A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), chapters 12 and 16 respectively.
  2. For more on the fine-tuning of the universe and the solar system, see Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 243–66.
  3. For more on the argument for God from fine-tuning, see Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), 113–15.

  One thought on “Scientific Discovery & God: The Solar System, Part 2

  1. January 22, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:
    Security with free will to worship our Creator thru Christ our LORD.

  2. Chris Morris
    January 22, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    You write that scientists “expected the solar system to prove to be commonplace, instead they discovered a seemingly unique system.” This seems, at best, an odd way of describing a process which continues. It would, surely, be more accurate to say that scientists have not yet discovered systems identical to ours but they are finding increasing evidence of other planetary systems. As such, would it not be premature to conclude that “divine design seems intuitively obvious”?

    • January 22, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      Chris:

      I think what I’ve written is fair and accurate.

      With all due respect, your comments strike me as odd.

      I mention that scientists are growing in their understanding of other planetary systems.

      For example: “These ‘just right’ conditions of the bodies in our part of the galaxy seem to be unmatched from what scientists know about other systems.”

      I personally don’t say divine design is obvious. Here’s what I wrote:

      “This discovery has led some members of the scientific community to conclude that divine design seems intuitively obvious.”

      Pick up the book Rare Earth by Ward and Brownlee and you’ll see that some secular planetary scientists view the earth as at least rare and maybe even unique.

      Science is by its very nature provisional so the discovery process is never completed but that doesn’t stop scientists from drawing robust conclusions.

      You seem to miss the point of my article. Which is secular scientists expected to discover a garden variety solar system but instead have been struck by its apparent uniqueness. And that is quite probative for theism.

      Best regards.

      Ken Samples

      • Chris Morris
        January 22, 2019 at 4:14 pm

        Ken, although you only ascribe the view that ‘divine design seems intuitively obvious’ to some anonymous members of the science community, you do appear to be suggesting that it supports your view here. As you say, science is provisional in nature so any conclusions drawn from it, no matter how robust they may appear, remain equally provisional and any expectations would be even more so, rather like opinion polls before an election. You repeat your point about conditions in “our part of the galaxy” seeming to be unmatched “from what scientists know about other systems” but the problem with this, the point of my first post which you seem to have missed, is that at the moment scientists know virtually nothing about other planetary systems. However, this knowledge is likely to grow rapidly as the technology for studying them improves leaving open the possibility that we may actually find out that our solar system is not rare. If this proved to be the case, how would it affect the way you present your views?

      • January 22, 2019 at 5:29 pm

        Chris:

        This will have to be my final response to you.

        I talked with my science colleagues at RTB about the content of your posts.

        Let me enumerate where I differ with your second post adding some of their science expertise. My formal training is in philosophy, history, and theology.

        1. “Anonymous members of the science community”: I did mention in response to you the specific and fairly influential science text Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe by Ward and Brownlee.

        2. Equating present scientific knowledge and especially “expectations” (because of its provisional nature) to “rather like opinion polls before an election”: According to my science colleagues at RTB (physicist Dave Rogstad and astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink) that’s not a fair representation of how scientific knowledge generally develops. For example, even Einstein’s theory in physics didn’t totally replace Newton’s theory but corrected and expanded it. Seldom is present scientific knowledge truly overturned.

        3. “Scientists know virtually nothing about other planetary systems.” While it is correct that current scientific knowledge of other planetary systems is limited, astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink and astronomer Hugh Ross thinks your comment is an overstatement. See the RTB website for more information about what is known about some four thousand extra solar planets.

        4. “We may actually find out that our solar system is not rare.” Possible but the content of the book Rare Earth by two secular scientists makes a powerful case for Earth being rare. And astronomer Hugh Ross makes a case for the uniqueness of our solar system in the book mentioned in the endnotes The Creator and the Cosmos.

        Respectfully yours.

        Ken Samples

  3. January 22, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks Ken. Aside from the sheer awe and wonder invoked by the size and interplay of all the bodies in our solar system and beyond, the fine-tuned detail points to a Creator who had a definite purpose for the human beings in this creation, and He showed some of His attributes of boundless wisdom, love, and patience in crafting and preparing the physical structure for us. All this is not because we deserve it; instead we should be humbled and motivated to serve Him in eternal gratitude.

    • January 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

      Thanks for your comments, MFD.

      Ken Samples

  4. January 24, 2019 at 1:38 am

    Fantastic article
    Sharing this on Twitter!!

    • January 24, 2019 at 8:19 am

      Thank you, Rinnie.

      Ken Samples

  5. Linda M. Wagner
    January 24, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Can you please provide some background on anthropic principle. I research it and understand it as a multi-universe explanation. I don’t see it as precluding the existence of God. For background, I sent my atheist son your article on the Universe Part 2. He was wondering if you ever heard of this principle. I am wondering if it conflicts with a biblical view of the world. I don’t think it does. Your thoughts?

    • January 24, 2019 at 8:49 am

      Hello, Linda.

      Put simply the Anthropic Principle is the idea that the fundamental constants of the universe appear to be ordered or arranged to allow for intelligent (human) life.

      I think this fine-tuning that appears to extend to the physical, chemical, and biological aspects of the world best fits with a Creator.

      View this short video by scientist and Christian theologian Alister McGrath:

      Best regards in Christ.

      Ken Samples

    • June 18, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks for the link.

      Ken Samples

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