The Great Eclipse

August 25, 2017

Did you watch the eclipse? The sun was only covered 81.1% from our location, but with special glasses and a pinhole box, it was still a glorious site. For the scientist, it is an important time of investigation.

Our sun is 400 times bigger than our moon, but our moon is 400 times closer than our sun. The math works out so that in a total eclipse of the sun, scientists can study the sun’s corona. Helium was discovered by studying an eclipse. The connection between spectral colors and elements was discovered from studying eclipses which has led to much knowledge about the universe. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was confirmed by studying an eclipse.

Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards in their book The Privileged Planet note “how our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery” as their subtitle says. There is a narrow band of conditions that have to be correct for life to be found. They call this the “Goldilocks Zone.” The temperature is not too hot or too cold to prevent having liquid water. But they note a high number of conditions that must be present for life.

  • just the right distance from the sun for the correct temperature
  • just the right thickness of the earth’s crust to allow tectonic plate movement
  • the interior of liquid iron which generates a magnetic field
  • a moon just the size of ours to stabilize the angle of our planet’s axis
  • a sun just the mass of ours

This is just a sample. One estimate is that there are 322 parameters that must be finely tuned for life to exist, in other words the odds of 1 chance in 10304. And not only must all of these things be finely tuned for life to exist, but these are also the conditions which produce total eclipses of the sun, our transparent atmosphere, and our position in the galaxy which makes our world a perfect place for scientific discovery. All of this raises the question of design rather than chance.

Some will look at all of this and still affirm chance. Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt give an illustration in A Meaningful World that puts this in perspective.

Oxford philosopher Richard Swinburne likens such strange reasoning to the situation of a man before a firing squad who opens his eyes to find that the bullets have missed him and formed a precise outline of his body on the wall behind him. Instead of immediately and sanely looking for some purpose behind the firing squad’s precision firing that spared his life, “The prisoner laughs and comments that the event is not something requiring any explanation because if the marksmen had not missed, he would not be here to observe them having done so.”*

For me, the evidence points to a Designer. The eclipse was awesome, because “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1, ESV).
— Russ Holden

*Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World, p. 168.