Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Global Cooling and Planet Habitability

BY HUGH ROSS – DECEMBER 9, 2019

At this time of year, Christmas carols and songs are in full swing. One song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” won an Academy Award in 1949 and we hear it often in December because it’s the month when we who live above the Tropic of Cancer all notice that it’s getting a lot colder.

Now, a research paper explains why the surfaces of Earth-twin planets orbiting other stars are very likely to get a lot colder. For such planets Winter is coming, and there is no hope of spring.

By contrast, we live in an amazing planetary system. Our star has gotten 18–22 percent brighter over the past 3.8 billion years of life’s history on Earth (see figure).1

blog__inline--baby-its-cold-outside

Figure: Sun’s Luminosity throughout Its History
Image credit: Hugh Ross

During that same period, geological and biological processes have combined to continuously cool Earth’s surface at rates that nearly perfectly compensate for the increased heating due to the Sun’s brightening. Those processes include:

    • gradually falling rates of volcanic outgassing of greenhouse gases (predominantly carbon dioxide and methane);
    • falling rates of continental growth and tectonic plate spreading, which lessens the rates at which carbon that is subducted into Earth’s mantle is returned to the atmosphere; and
    • increasing biomass and biodiversity, which results in more carbon dioxide being removed from Earth’s atmosphere through photosynthesis and thereby converted into organic carbon, much of which gets buried and subsumed into Earth’s crust and mantle.

Earth’s geological and biological processes have induced more cooling through the gradual removal of greenhouse gas from Earth’s atmosphere and the gradual increase of Earth’s albedo (reflectivity). The latter results in increasing proportions of solar radiation being reflected into interplanetary space.

This long-enduring delicate balance between the Sun’s brightening and resultant cooling from geological and biological processes has allowed a diverse and super-abundant ecosystem of microbes over the course of 3.2 billion years to chemically transform Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and continents so that animals could exist and thrive. With the balance extended for another 0.6 billion years, Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, and continents became further transformed so that human beings could exist and thrive.

In a recent issue of the journal Astrobiology, British planetary astronomer David Waltham explains why the enduring delicate balance between the Sun’s brightening and cooling from geological and biological processes is unlikely to occur on any other star-planet system.2 He shows that for the delicate balance to be sustained the star-planet system must be comprised of a star that is exactly like the Sun and a planet that is exactly like Earth.

Problem of Alternate Planets
As I explain in my book Improbable Planet, it takes extraordinary fine-tuning of Earth’s photosynthetic life and Earth’s plate tectonics to sustain tectonic plate subduction at rates sufficient to continuously remove greenhouse gases from Earth’s atmosphere so as to compensate for the Sun’s brightening.3 In two recent blogs on Earth’s carbon cycle (Part 1Part 2), I describe how sixty different features and processes on Earth must be fine-tuned in different ways and at different rates for life to be continuously sustained throughout the past 3.8 billion years. As geophysicist Robert Stern observed, “Earth is the only known planet with subduction zones and plate tectonics, and this fact demonstrates that special conditions are required for this mode of planetary heat loss.”4

Microbial life may be possible on Earth-like planets but only for a short time period. Unless an Earth-like planet possesses the sixty different features and processes that I describe in the blogs, it will not be able to continuously compensate for the brightening of its host star. Such a planet will never be able to sustain animals or the equivalent of human beings.

Problem for Stars More Massive Than the Sun
The mass of a star determines how rapidly it brightens during that part of its history when its nuclear furnace is fusing hydrogen into helium. Stars more massive than the Sun brighten at a much more rapid rate. This enhanced brightening implies that the maximum possible time window for life to be sustained on one of its planets will be too short for the equivalent of humans to ever exist.

On Earth, the combination of geological and biological processes has compensated for the Sun’s increasing luminosity by progressively taking greenhouse gases from Earth’s atmosphere, chemically transforming them into carbon minerals, and depositing those minerals into Earth’s crust and mantle. However, over time these processes could remove too much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Photosynthesis requires a minimum level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Photosynthesis rates plummet when the carbon dioxide level falls below 200 parts per million, and it ceases altogether in all plant species responsible for producing food for human consumption when the carbon dioxide level falls below 150 parts per million.

Within just a few tens of millions of years or less the Sun will be so bright (see figure) that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will have to fall below 150 parts per million to keep Earth’s surface temperature cool enough for advanced life to survive. Hence, advanced life on Earth is doomed. Within a few tens of millions of years or less either the Sun will be too bright or there will be too little atmospheric carbon dioxide.5 To put it another way, we humans are living in the last half percent of the maximum time window for life on Earth.

The luminosity of a star correlates with the fourth power of its mass. The rate at which a star consumes its hydrogen available for fusion into helium rises roughly with the third power of its mass. Therefore, a star just 1 percent more massive than the Sun will either become too bright or its planet’s atmosphere will possess too low of an abundance of greenhouse gases by the time primitive life is able to transform the planet to make it a fit place for advanced life.

Problem for Stars Less Massive Than the Sun
Waltham devotes most of his Astrobiology paper to addressing the problem of stars less massive than the Sun. He explains how such stars experience luminosity increases that occur at rates much slower than the Sun’s. For planets with the geological and biological processes at levels adequate to make possible a long history of life, the removal of greenhouse gases from their atmospheres will occur at rates that overcompensate for the increases in their host stars’ luminosities. Therefore, Waltham writes, “Their climates will cool at a faster rate than is compensated by the relatively slow evolution of their smaller stars.”6

Planets orbiting stars less massive than the Sun will become permanently globally glaciated (baby, it’s cold outside) before any conceivable primitive life can chemically transform the planets’ surfaces so as to make the existence of advanced life possible.

No Problem for Our Planetary System
More than 90 percent of all stars are less massive than the Sun. More than 9 percent of all stars are too massive for advanced life to possibly exist on any of their planets. As explained in my two recent blogs (Part 1Part 2) on Earth’s carbon cycles, much, much less than one Earth-like planet out of a million will possess the necessary geological and biological processes required for the existence of advanced life. Both the Sun and Earth are rare indeed.

In this way, scientific advance reveals results consistent with a science-faith integration model. Waltham’s research has provided yet more evidence that only the God who created and designed the universe for humanity’s specific benefit possesses the power, knowledge, intellect, and care to design the Sun and Earth so that we humans can live and thrive.

 

Endnotes
  1. For an up-to-date review of solar brightening, see Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016), 143–64.
  2. David Waltham, “Intrinsic Climate Cooling,” Astrobiology 19, no. 11 (November 2019): 1388–97, doi:10.1089/ast.2018.1942.
  3. Ross, Improbable Planet, 111–18.
  4. Robert J. Stern, “Evidence from Ophiolites, Blueschists, and Ultrahigh-Pressure Metamorphic Terranes that the Modern Episode of Subduction Tectonics Began in Neoproterozoic Time,” Geology 33, no. 7 (July 1, 2005): 557, doi:10.1130/G21365.1.
  5. Hugh Ross, Weathering Climate Change: A Fresh Approach (Covina, CA: RTB Press, forthcoming), chapter 17.
  6. Waltham, “Intrinsic Climate Cooling,” 1388.

About Reasons to Believe

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What Are Science’s Operating Limits?

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – DECEMBER 10, 2019

Modern science has dramatically changed the world for the better. All of us have benefitted from medical and technological advances. Because of that success, some people have concluded that science can answer all of humankind’s ultimate questions. This philosophy, called scientism (science is the only or best path to discovering truth), is to be differentiated from science (the study of the natural world through observation and experiment) and is reflected by such prominent secular scientists as Richard Dawkins, Peter Atkins, and Lawrence Krauss.

Does science have “operating limits”? In other words, are there areas of knowledge or questions that the scientific enterprise—because of its very nature—can’t adequately address? Let’s consider this issue.

Science: A Definition

Science involves a general inductive approach to obtaining knowledge about the world. It weighs probabilities and moves logically from the particular to the general. Scientific data generally comes directly through observation and experimentation about the physical universe. Thus science does an excellent job of explaining the physical mechanisms of the material world. It serves as a great tool for understanding the reality of that world. Science helps explain the what and how questions of life. And this practical aspect is what has made science such a successful, deeply valued human endeavor.

Science’s Limits

But science founders when it comes to the truly big questions of meaning, purpose, and significance. These are the ultimate why questions that people naturally and necessarily ask. For example, revealing that something happened in the physical world doesn’t explain why it happened or what it ultimately means. Biologist and philosopher Francisco Ayala has put it this way: “In matters of values, meaning, and purpose, science has all the answers, except the interesting ones.”1 And the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper, reflecting a modest view of how science functions, stated: “It is important to realize that science doesn’t make assertions about ultimate questions—about the riddles of existence.”2

So what are science’s specific operating limits? They consist of key truths that science can’t formally prove but also that people can rationally affirm as being real and true:3

1. Mathematical and Logical Truths

Math and logic reflect laws and principles that are necessary for scientific theorizing and are foundational assumptions upon which science depends but that science can’t itself prove. Math and logic are conceptual (abstract) in nature rather than being empirically (sensory) derived. Science tends to confirm the truth of math and logic but it can’t justify these conceptual realities.

2. Metaphysical Truths

Metaphysical truths (relating to reality) include ideas like the existence of a real external world (not a mere illusion) and that minds exist (other than our own) that are capable of understanding that world. These critical ideas about reality are also foundational assumptions upon which science begins but can’t justify through the scientific method itself.

3. Ethical Truths

Objective moral truths and values exist (right, wrong, good, bad) and are required to do good science. For example, scientific experiments and the results they provide are valid only if they are conducted with exacting honesty and fair-mindedness. But these ethical and moral principles can’t be derived through science’s observational and empirical means.

4. Aesthetic Judgments

Aesthetics is that branch of philosophy that refers to the nature and appreciation of beauty, taste, and art. Beauty abounds in the natural world. But pure value judgments concerning the meaning and appreciation of beauty, taste, and art cannot be addressed by the scientific method. Again, value judgments about either morality or beauty are formed outside the operating lane of science.

 

5. Science Itself

The scientific enterprise is based upon critical assumptions that can’t be derived by the scientific method. Science cannot validate those assumptions nor can science tell us how scientific knowledge should be properly used. If scientists are to go about their work with any confidence, they must, for instance, believe in such presuppositions as:4

  • The objective reality of the cosmos
  • The basic intelligibility of the cosmos
  • The order, regularity, and uniformity of nature
  • The validity of mathematics and logic
  • The basic reliability of human cognitive faculties and sensory organs
  • The congruence between the human mind and physical reality
  • That an acceptable criterion for an adequate hypothesis exists
  • That what is observed in nature can provide clues and indicators of unobservable patterns and processes

These eight profound assumptions are just that: assumptions. That is, these preconditions for doing science are not first proven by science. Rather, scientists assume these ideas to be true before beginning to practice science. Science helps to confirm the truth of these preconditions of reality, but the scientific method itself did not establish or justify these prerequisite starting points. In this way, scientists operate on faith in these extraordinary givens—the necessary preconditions of intelligibility.

Ultimate Questions

There are many more areas of knowledge (historical, existential, experiential) that cannot be proven scientifically because they are not matters that can be repeated through critical observation and verified or falsified through the scientific method.
Nobel prize recipient Sir Peter Medawar (1915–1987) offered this statement concerning science’s operating limits:

That there is indeed a limit upon science is made very likely by the existence of questions that science cannot answer and that no conceivable advance of science would empower it to answer. These are the questions that children ask—the “ultimate questions” of Karl Popper. I have in mind such questions as: How did everything begin? What are we all here for? What is the point of living? It is not to science, therefore but to metaphysics, imaginative literature or religion that we must turn for answers to questions having to do with first and last things.5

Science, though robust and fruitful in addressing questions about the mechanisms of the natural world, nevertheless has real operating limits. However, the Christian worldview, which is responsible for giving rise to modern science, can augment science’s limited explanatory scope by offering reasonable explanations of questions about meaning, purpose, and significance.

Reflections: Your Turn

Does recognizing the limits of science in any way diminish the importance of this enterprise? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Endnotes
  1. Francisco J. Ayala, Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion (Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2007), 177.
  2. Karl R. Popper, “Natural Selection and the Emergence of Mind,” in Evolutionary Epistemology, Rationality, and the Sociology of Knowledge, ed. Gerard Radnitzky and W. W. Bartley, III (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1987), 141.
  3. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig identified these points as being outside of scientific verification yet justifiably rational and acceptable in his debate with atheist scientist Peter Atkins, “Does Science Prove Everything?” (April 21, 2010), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxJQe_FefxY.
  4. For more on these preconditions of science, see Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 191–96.
  5. Peter Medawar, The Limits of Science (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1984), 66.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Debating Denominational Differences while Non-Christians Watch

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – OCTOBER 30, 2018

Christian unity is very special to me as a believer in Jesus Christ. In fact, I feel called by God to promote truth, unity, civility, and charity among all who embrace the historic Christian faith. Personally, I would much rather talk about what all historic Christians affirm theologically than discuss the doctrinal distinctives of my particular theological tradition. I guess that is one reason I find the ecumenical creeds of Christendom (Apostles’ CreedNicene CreedAthanasian Creed) so appealing.

Nevertheless, I am well aware that there are critical—perhaps intractable—theological differences among the three conservative branches of Christendom (Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism). The most challenging differences lie in the areas of authority (Scripture and tradition) and soteriology (salvation, specifically the relationship between grace, faith, and works). And yet, while the Protestant denominations share more doctrinal common ground together, there are also some very strong theological disagreements present within the Protestant ranks. For example, the differences between the Reformed and Wesleyan traditions over God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are quite evident.

Yet even with all of the ecclesiastical differences and debate over the centuries, I agree with C. S. Lewis that, “When all is said (and truly said) about the divisions of Christendom, there remains, by God’s mercy, an enormous common ground.”This enormous theological common ground of which Lewis speaks is reflected in the Nicene Creed. All conservative branches of Christendom affirm this ecumenical statement of faith, and the creed is also accepted among the many Protestant denominations.

The Appearance of Disunity

In reality, much more agreement exists among the churches of Christendom than disagreement, but I think non-Christians view the divisions, and particularly the frequent bickering among Christians, as a huge turnoff. Thus, I think the appearance of a fractured and divided Christendom seriously hurts the Christian witness to an unbelieving world. As one skeptic said to me, “Why should I seriously consider Christian truth claims when Christendom is so deeply divided?”

Consider C. S. Lewis’s comment about how the doctrinal differences among Christian bodies affect the non-Christian’s openness to the faith:

I think we must admit that the discussion of these disputed points has no tendency at all to bring an outsider into the Christian fold. So long as we write and talk about them we are much more likely to deter him from entering any Christian communion than to draw him into our own. Our divisions should never be discussed except in the presence of those who have already come to believe that there is one God and that Jesus Christ is His only Son.2

A Proposal for Unity

In order to promote unity and protect the integrity of evangelism, I have a proposition for my Christian friends on social media and on the web. When non-Christians are present and watching, I strongly advise to avoid debating the denominational differences within Christendom.

Because social media and the internet involve a community of believers and nonbelievers, I suggest finding a more private and appropriate venue for such important and needed interactions among Christians to take place. I recognize that Christians need to discuss different doctrinal points of view within the faith, but why not do so on pages and within groups on social media dedicated to that very purpose apart from a public venue?

When Christians do find it necessary to publicly discuss, debate, or clarify issues over which Christendom is divided, then be aware that non-Christians may be observing. In such cases, it may be prudent to first insist upon discussing what all historic Christians affirm (mere Christianity, ecumenical creeds) before moving to the distinctive denominational differences. It is also important for believers in Christ who engage in ecumenical dialogue to consider how they can express their affirmation of Christian truth claims with genuine civility, unity, and charity toward others within Christendom.

Non-Christians need to know that while Christians don’t hold everything in common, they know how to disagree in a respectful, gracious manner. Unfortunately, many Christians—especially on social media and the web—show that they don’t know how to disagree with grace and respect.

Even if you disagree with my proposal, as a Christian I hope you’ll think about the challenge that the appearance of disunity poses for the faith and consider how to address it appropriately. A watching world stands to benefit greatly from our civil, unified engagement.

Resources

For further study of both the unity and disunity within Christendom, listen to my Straight Thinking podcast, “The Idea of Mere Christianity.”

Endnotes
  1. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,1967), vii.
  2. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity(New York: Macmillan, 1952), 6.

-end-

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Complex Life Requires a Lot of Energy

BY HUGH ROSS – JANUARY 13, 2020

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wonder where your get-up-and-go went? It takes a lot of energy to face the challenges of modern civilization. The difficulties facing humanity have differed over the millennia, but have always demanded a lot of energy expenditure.

Now, in a paper published in Astrobiology, astronomer Jacob Haqq-Misra at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle explains how it takes a lot of energy to sustain humans but also a whole lot more energy to prepare the necessary conditions and history of life to make human existence or any other conceivable intelligent physical life possible.1

Requirements for Complex Intelligent Life
The requirements for complex intelligent life are much more stringent than those for microbial life. For example, microbes do not need much, if any, atmospheric oxygen. Intelligent life needs it at a fine-tuned level—any less atmospheric oxygen would limit activity; any more would generate uncontrollable wildfires and would shorten the life spans of intelligent life. On Earth, it took 3.7 billion years for atmospheric oxygen to accumulate to a level conducive for intelligent life. It would have taken much longer if not for Earth’s being continuously packed with an enormous quantity of photosynthetic life.

Intelligent life also requires aggressive, long-lasting plate tectonics. Without such, the ratio of surface continents to oceans would either be too high or too low to sustain intelligent life. Geophysicists cannot conceive of the necessary ratio being achieved in less than 3.7 billion years.

Several biogeochemical cycles must be sustained at high levels for billions of years in order to compensate for the brightening of a planet’s host star. I have written about these cycles in previous blog posts.2

Host Star Constraints for Intelligent Life
Several life-critical chemical reactions require a fine-tuned level and spectral range of incident ultraviolet light from its host star.3 All the life requirements listed above also require a minimum energy flow from the planet’s host star. Haqq-Misra calculated that, for multicellular life to be possible, the planet must receive at the top of its atmosphere 1034 joules of energy in the spectrum range between 200 and 1,200 nanometers (2,000 to 12,000 angstroms).4

This energy requirement poses a problem for planets orbiting stars less massive than the Sun. The energy output of hydrogen-fusing stars (main sequence stars are the only possible candidates for hosting a life-harboring planet) is proportional to the 3.9 power of its mass. At 13.8 billion years old the universe is too young for any star less than 70 percent the Sun’s mass, regardless of when it formed, to have expended enough energy between 200 and 1,200 nanometers for animal life to exist on any of its planets.5

It was at this point of considering requirements for multicellular life that Haqq-Misra ceased his analysis. He concluded that planets orbiting stars less than 70 percent the Sun’s mass—which includes 80 percent of all existing stars—are noncandidates for hosting multicellular life.

For the equivalent of animal life and especially human life the constraints are more stringent. Stars that are birthed early in the universe’s history (the first 8 billion years) lack the heavy elements needed to form planets on which the equivalent of human beings could conceivably exist. Conservatively, stars less than 90 percent the Sun’s mass are eliminated as candidates.

What about stars more massive than the Sun? Such stars burn their nuclear fuel at much more rapid rates than the Sun. The faster a star fuses hydrogen into helium the brighter it becomes. Life cannot tolerate more than about a 2 percent increase in incident stellar radiation on the host planet’s surface. Over the 3.8-billion-year history of life on Earth, the Sun has brightened by a little more than 20 percent.6 Earth’s extremely efficient biogeochemical cycles have continuously removed greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at rates sufficient to compensate for the brightening of the Sun.7 Stars more massive than the Sun will brighten by a whole lot more than 20 percent over the course of 3.8 billion years. Any conceivable set of biogeochemical cycles will not be able to sufficiently compensate for such stars’ brightening.

The rare earth doctrine8 states that only planets virtually identical to Earth in its characteristics will be possible candidates to host complex life. Haqq-Misra’s research provides more evidence for the rare Sun doctrine—the idea that only stars virtually identical to the Sun will be possible candidates to host planets on which complex life could exist. The only plausible explanation for the rare Earth, rare Sun,9 rare Moon,10 rare planetary system,11 rare galaxy,12 rare galaxy cluster,13 and rare supercluster of galaxies14 is that a supernatural, super-intelligent, super-powerful Being purposely designed and manufactured all these things for the specific benefit and purpose of human beings.

Endnotes
  1. Jacob Haqq-Misra, “Does the Evolution of Complex Life Depend on the Stellar Spectral Energy Distribution?”, Astrobiology 19, no. 10 (October 3, 2019): 1292–99, doi:10.1089/ast.2018.1946.
  2. Hugh Ross, “Carbon Cycle Requirements for Advanced Life, Part 1,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), November 18, 2019, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/11/18/carbon-cycle-requirements-for-advanced-life-part-1; Hugh Ross, “Carbon Cycle Requirements for Advanced Life, Part 2,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), November 25, 2019, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/11/25/carbon-cycle-requirements-for-advanced-life-part-2; Hugh Ross, “Weathered Bedrock: Key to Advanced Life on Earth,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), May 7, 2018, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/05/07/weathered-bedrock-key-to-advanced-life-on-earth.
  3. Hugh Ross, “Overlap of Habitable Zones Gets Much Smaller, Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), December 27, 2016, https://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2016/12/27/overlap-of-habitable-zones-gets-much-smaller.
  4. Haqq-Misra, “Evolution of Complex Life,” 1292.
  5. Haqq-Misra, 1292.
  6. Hugh Ross, Improbable Planet (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 143–59, https://shop.reasons.org/product/283/improbable-planet.
  7. Ross, Improbable Planet, 159–64; Ross, “Carbon Cycle, Part 1,”; Ross, “Carbon Cycle, Part 2,”; Ross, “Weathered Bedrock”; Hugh Ross, “Thank God for Sand,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), December 3, 2012, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2012/12/03/thank-god-for-sand.
  8. Ross, Improbable Planet: 16–219; Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 199–222, 243–66, https://shop.reasons.org/product/599/the-creator-and-the-cosmos-fourth-edition; Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe (New York: Copernicus Books, 2003).
  9. Hugh Ross, “Rare Solar System, Rare Sun,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), December 13, 2009, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2009/12/13/rare-solar-system-rare-sun; Hugh Ross, “Sun’s Rare Birth,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), September 3, 2012, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2012/09/03/sun-s-rare-birth; Hugh Ross, “Our Sun Is Still the One and Only,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), April 17, 2017, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2017/04/17/our-sun-is-still-the-one-and-only.
  10. Hugh Ross, “Rare Moon Just Got Rarer,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), June 5, 2017, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2017/06/05/rare-moon-just-got-rarer; Hugh Ross, “Yet More Reasons to Thank God for the Moon,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), November 22, 2016, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2016/11/22/yet-more-reasons-to-thank-god-for-the-moon; Hugh Ross, “Confirming the Moon’s Vital Role,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), November 10, 2008, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2008/11/10/confirming-the-moon’s-vital-role; Hugh Ross, “Design of Moon’s Mass,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), February 20, 2005, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2005/02/20/design-of-moon’s-mass
  11. Hugh Ross, “Rare Solar System Gets Rarer,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), November 5, 2018, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/11/05/rare-solar-system-gets-rarer; Hugh Ross, “More Evidence for Rare Solar System Doctrine,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), December 11, 2017, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2017/12/11/more-evidence-for-rare-solar-system-doctrine; Hugh Ross, “Rare Planetary System,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), June 12, 2017, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2017/06/12/rare-planetary-system; Hugh Ross, “How Unlikely Is Our Planetary System?“, Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), August 3, 2009, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2009/08/03/how-unlikely-is-our-planetary-system; Ross, “Rare Solar System, Rare Sun.”
  12. Hugh Ross, “Our Galaxy’s Heart: No Longer Bubbling Deadly Radiation,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), October 7, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/10/07/our-galaxy-s-heart-no-longer-bubbling-deadly-radiation; Hugh Ross, “Spiral Arms Designed for Life,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), June 3, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/06/03/spiral-arms-designed-for-life; Hugh Ross, “A Supermassive Black Hole Like No Other But Optimal for Life,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), May 20, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/05/20/a-supermassive-black-hole-like-no-other-but-optimal-for-life; Hugh Ross, “The Milky Way Galaxy’s Midlife Crisis,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), October 3, 2011, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2011/10/03/milky-way-galaxy-s-midlife-crisis; Hugh Ross, “The Milky Way: An Exceptional Galaxy,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), July 30, 2007, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2007/07/30/the-milky-way-an-exceptional-galaxy.
  13. Hugh Ross, “No Nearby Nasty Supermassive Black Holes,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), May 13, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/05/13/no-nearby-nasty-supermassive-black-holes; Hugh Ross, “Life Requires Galactic and Supergalactic Habitable Zones,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), April 8, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/04/08/life-requires-galactic-and-supergalactic-habitable-zones; Hugh Ross, “Your Galaxy’s Diet Is Important for Your Health,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), September 7, 2015, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2015/09/07/your-galaxy-s-diet-is-important-for-your-health; Hugh Ross, “Strangulation Efficiency in Galaxy Clusters,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), February 18, 2008, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/tnrtb/2008/02/18/strangulation-efficiency-in-galaxy-clusters.
  14. Hugh Ross, “Supercluster Design, Part 1, Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), October 14, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/10/14/supercluster-design-part-1; Hugh Ross, “Supercluster Design, Part 2, Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), October 21, 2019, https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2019/10/21/supercluster-design-part-2.

About Reasons to Believe

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Suicide: An Unpardonable Sin for Christians?

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – SEPTEMBER 24, 2019

Throughout my professional career as both a college professor and a Christian scholar I have been asked thousands of questions. However, whenever I’m asked about suicide it always strikes an emotional chord deep within me. A close member of my family died by suicide more than 40 years ago when I was just a teenager. My wife also lost a member of her family in the same tragic way.

In this post I’ll make four points about the tragedy of suicide. My central focus will be on the question of whether God forgives this act.

  1. The Serious Nature of Suicide

To intentionally take one’s life is indeed a sin of great magnitude. Why? Because suicide is self-murder. And what makes murder such a horrific act is not just the stealing of innocent life, but also the fact that all human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore, murder constitutes an attack upon God himself (Genesis 9:6). To murder another person or one’s self is a serious sin against both human beings and God.

2. Suicide and Mental Illness

According to mental health professionals, taking one’s life is often connected to some form of mental illness. Because of these challenges, those who die by suicide are often not in complete or balanced control of their mental state. This instability factor brings the degree of volitional responsibility for the suicide into question. Christians are not immune to mental health struggles and are susceptible to thoughts of suicide just like anybody else.

3. Suicide and Youth

There is a serious problem in the Western world when it comes to suicide among teenagers and young adults. Unfortunately, for far too many troubled young people, suicide becomes a permanent solution to temporary problems such as substance abuse or untreated depression. “At risk” young people who show signs of suicide risk should receive swift help from parents, doctors, counselors, and pastors.

4. Suicide and Divine Forgiveness

Suicide is unique among the sins of humanity because the person who commits this sin cannot confess it and repent. But does God forgive the sin of suicide?

Nowhere in Scripture does it state or imply that suicide is the unpardonable sin. The only unpardonable sin is committed by those who willfully and permanently reject God’s offer of love in Jesus Christ (John 3:36). Without faith (confident trust and reliance) in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, a person will face God’s just wrath in the afterlife (1 Timothy 2:5–6).

I argue, on the basis of Scripture, that God can and does forgive his children who take their lives. This affirmation of forgiveness in no way condones suicide, which is a great sin. Nevertheless, Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death atones for all the sins of his people—past, present, and future (Romans 3:25). And God will not remove his forgiving love because a mentally ill person in a state of desperation commits a terrible self-destructive deed (Romans 8:38–39). Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ enjoy God’s enduring and complete forgiveness for all their sins (2 Corinthians 5:18–19).

Resources

  • If you are contemplating suicide, someone at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is available to chat with you right now (24/7).
  • Here’s a helpful article on the topic of suicide especially for Christians, “The Truth about Suicide.”
  • For more about Christianity and mental health, I recommend Mark P. Cosgrove and James D. Mallory Jr., Mental Health: A Christian Approach.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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Will Technological Development Bring Us To God?

By Will Myers

One of the uttermost questions in theology is how far will God allow mankind to develop technology because everything has an end. Mankind can develop into a situation that is conducive to receiving God’s Holy Spirit who is Christ Jesus. God is infinite and mankind can not overtake God. There must be a final judgment by God to place mankind into its final state in Heaven.

Regarding our personal faith, can technology make easy to believe in God and His Son? Yes, but the problem is believing in His Son, Jesus. Satan shall continually work to be a god and denounce Jesus in this world.

Will technology reveal our justification from God as technology continuously reveal what is right unto a state of perfect righteousness? NO. Technology shall develop toward the perfect book of nature; although, it shall help to correct false interpretations in the perfect book of life. The book of matter can not give life, only the spirit.

Is there a long period of development unto man reaching heaven? In other words, can we work ourselves to heaven? NO. Selfness, secular man shall prevail until the Savior comes who establishes our eternal spiritual state. All things must end. We live in a temporary existence.

Do we go into a spiritual state at the end or do we have a new heaven and earth with us existing in a utopia on earth? There can not be earth without heaven. The spiritual state necessarily must exist because the Spirit creates earth. I believe that, in the end, the eternal heaven shall exist and the earthly state is up to God. If God so desires He can certainly create another universe even with different laws of physics.

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Quantum Mechanics and the Laws of Logic, Part 2

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – JUNE 18, 2019

Do the experimental results of the incredibly small and unusual quantum world undermine our traditional understanding of reason and the laws of logic? In part 1 of this three-part series I described a social media dialogue I had with a scientist on why the results of quantum mechanics (QM) need not be interpreted to invalidate the law of noncontradiction (LNC). Here’s a summary of what I briefly argued:

The law of noncontradiction cast metaphysically (in terms of being) states the following: “Nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect.” And light (a subatomic object) is not a particle that is also a nonparticle or a wave that is also a nonwave; rather, light under certain experimental conditions behaves as a particle and under other experimental conditions behaves like a wave. Thus, light appearing as both a particle and a wave is understood in different logical respects and does not undermine the law of noncontradiction’s statement of A cannot equal A and equal non-A.

Trying to Understand God’s Creation

My social media interaction about quantum mechanics and the laws of logic with the scientist continued into a second phase. This time the topic shifted to a person’s comprehension of the world and God.

Here is the scientist’s rejoinder:

You may be right about the relationship between QM & LNC, but I remain skeptical. I have been transparent about my doubts as I do not think faith and doubt are incompatible. I think that, given an infinite God, we should not expect, in our finitude, to fully comprehend either God or the universe he created. This notion is not without biblical precedent (Isaiah 55:8Proverbs 3:5). Don’t get me wrong, there is much we can know (Romans 1:18–20) and I am all for pushing our understanding to its limits. But, there ARE limits and I am OK with that. Perhaps God created us in such a way to increase the likelihood we stay humble.

In my reply, I stated that I agreed that finite creatures will never fully fathom God nor the amazingly complex cosmos. I concurred that many profound mysteries remain in life and in the world. I also think reason, faith, and doubt are compatible. But affirming the laws of logic does not rule out mystery nor does it affirm a dogmatic rationalism. Rather, the laws of logic make cognitive thought possible. So a denial of the LNC would mean no knowledge is possible. I said that logicians have made a powerfully convincing case that the laws of logic are ontologically real, cognitively necessary, and irrefutable.1

A Takeaway

In historic Christianity, “faith” has been defined as confident trust in a reliable source. Thus for the Christian, faith involves knowledge and is compatible with reason. Yet knowledge of God, including his creation, continues to include mystery because the finite creature will never fully comprehend the infinite Creator and Lord. But the laws of logic are still considered necessary and inescapable because all thought, correspondence, and action presuppose their truth and application.

Reflections: Your Turn

Christian thinkers St. Augustine (354–430) and St. Anselm (1033–1109) affirmed “faith seeking understanding.” How can faith involve knowledge and be compatible with reason? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. For more on this point, see Peter A. Angeles, “Laws of Thought, The Three” in The HarperCollins Dictionary Of Philosophy (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 167.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

Support Reasons to Believe

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