Monday, September 26, 2005

"100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars ... overkill"

Erik (copy to my blog CED. I cannot remove all your personal details as I usually do, since I refer to one of your posts on my now terminated list CED).

----- Original Message -----
From: [EL]
To: [SEJ]
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2005 3:16 AM
Subject: billions and billions etc.

EL>Hi, It's been a while since I was on your forum, as Erik. I thought I
would see
>what was new and see that you have closed the forum.

That's correct. After 10+ years of debating on creation/evolution lists between 1994-2005 (including 4+ years on my own list CED 2001-2005), and getting absolutely nowhere with committed atheists (like yourself), I concluded that C/E debates are largely a waste of time. So I started a blog CED and then closed my list, in order that I can post my comments on creation, evolution and design issues without having to waste any more of my time arguing with those who would never be convinced by anything that I said anyway.

EL>We didn't have too much in common back then, since we clearly don't agree on
>what is and isn't science or scientific methodology, but I thought I would
>write again on the one comment you once made about the "billions and
>billions" topic that I raised with you.
>I was pretty well taken aback when you seemed to suggest that (to
>paraphrase)heaven was really all the billions of billions of stars and we now
>know, also planets, that are out there.

Here is the relevant part of what you wrote and my response:

From: "Stephen E. Jones"
Date: Wed Dec 15, 2004 8:14 am

Subject: Re: 100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars ... must seem like ... overkill (was Trying to establish a common ground, at least)


EL>Nevertheless I am still interested to see where common ground lies
>and as this is a "creation/ID" labeled forum and we (I) have not yet
>addressed this area; perhaps I might ask more specifically what the
>believers here think of the universe as we know it from and
>astronomical perspective?
>I'm thinking of things like 13.7 billion years, 100's of billion of
>galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars. There's plenty of
>believers in God who can live with that, but from the Creationist/ID
>aspect it must seem like a lot of overkill since the universe was
>created just for humans; or do I have that all wrong?

Thanks to Erik for this question. This gives me the opportunity to state what I have been thinking for a while now, but more recently. And that is, contrary to popular `Sunday school' impressions about the afterlife, Christianity does not teach that Heaven is floating around on clouds with wings and halos. Indeed, as leading evangelical theologian Anthony A. Hoekema (then but now retired Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, points out), the Bible has much to say about the afterlife being in "new heavens and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). Here are some quotes:
"Though the concept of the day of the Lord often connotes gloom and darkness, there is still another Old Testament eschatological concept which has a brighter ring: that of the new heavens and the new earth. The eschatological hope of the Old Testament always included the earth: The biblical idea of redemption always includes the earth. Hebrew thought saw an essential unity between man and nature. The prophets do not think of the earth as merely the indifferent theater on which man carries out his normal task but as the expression of the divine glory. The Old Testament nowhere holds forth the hope of a bodiless, nonmaterial, purely "spiritual" redemption as did Greek thought. The earth is the divinely ordained scene of human existence. Furthermore, the earth has been involved in the evils which sin has incurred. There is an interrelation of nature with the moral life of man; therefore the earth must also share in God's final redemption.' [Ladd G.E., "The Presence of the Future," Harper & Row: New York NY, 1964, pp.59-60] This future hope for the earth is expressed in Isaiah 65:17: `For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind (cf. 66:22). Other passages from Isaiah indicate what this renewal of the earth will involve: the wilderness will become a fruitful field (32:15), the desert shall blossom (35:1), the dry places will be springs of water (35:7), peace will return to the animal world (11:6-8), and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (11:9)." (Hoekema A.A., "The Bible and the Future," [1978], Paternoster Press: Exeter, Devon UK, 1979, p.11)
"The doctrine of the new earth, as taught in Scripture, is an important one.It is important, first, for the proper understanding of the life to come. One gets the impression from certain hymns that glorified believers will spend eternity in some ethereal heaven somewhere off in space, far away from earth. The following lines from the hymn "My Jesus, I Love Thee" seem to convey that impression: "In mansions of glory and endless delight /I'll everadore thee in heaven so bright." But does such a conception do justice to biblical eschatology? Are we to spend eternity somewhere off in space, wearing white robes, plucking harps, singing songs, and flitting from cloud to cloud while doing so? On the contrary, the Bible assures us that God will create a new earth on which we shall live to God's praise in glorified, resurrected bodies. On that new earth, therefore, we hope to spend eternity, enjoying its beauties, exploring its resources, and using its treasures to the glory of God. Since God will make the new earth his dwelling place, and since where God dwells there heaven is, we shall then continue to be in heaven while we are on the new earth. For heaven and earth will then no longer be separated, as they are now, but will be one (see Rev. 21:1-3). But to leave the new earth out of consideration when we think of the final state of believers is greatly to impoverish biblical teaching about the life to come." (Hoekema A.A., "The Bible and the Future," [1978], Paternoster Press: Exeter, Devon UK, 1979, p.274).
"One question we should face at this point is whether the new earth will be totally other than this present earth or a renewal of the present earth. Both in Isaiah 65:17 and in Revelation 21:1 we hear about "a new heaven and a new earth:" The expression "heaven and earth" should be understood as a biblical way of designating the entire universe: "Heaven and earth together constitute the cosmos." But now the question is, Will the present universe be totally annihilated, so that the new universe will be completely other than the present cosmos, or will the new universe be essentially the same cosmos as the present, only renewed and purified? ... We must, however, reject the concept of total annihilation in favor of the concept of renewal, for the following four reasons: First, both in II Peter 3:13 and in Revelation 21:1 the Greek word used to designate the newness of the new cosmos is not neos but kainos. The word neos means new in time or origin, whereas the word kainos means new in nature or in quality. The ... "a new heaven and a new earth," [Rev. 21:1] ... means, therefore, not the emergence of a cosmos totally other than the present one, but the creation of a universe which, though it has been gloriously renewed, stands in continuity with the present one. A second reason for favoring the concept of renewal over that of annihilation is Paul's argumentation in Romans 8. When he tells us that the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God so that it may be set free from its bondage to decay (vv. 20- 21), he is saying that it is the present creation that will be liberated from corruption in the eschaton, not some totally different creation. A third reason is the analogy between the new earth and the resurrection bodies of believers. Previously we pointed out that there will be both continuity and discontinuity between the present body and the resurrection body. The differences between our present bodies and our resurrection bodies, wonderful though they are, do not take away the continuity: it is we who shall be raised, and it is we who shall always be with the Lord. Those raised with Christ will not be a totally new set of human beings but the people of God who have lived on this earth. By way of analogy, we would expect that the new earth will not be totally different from the present earth but will be the present earth wondrously renewed. A fourth reason for preferring the concept of renewal over that of annihilation is this: If God would have to annihilate the present cosmos, Satan would have won a great victory. For then Satan would have succeeded in so devastatingly corrupting the present cosmos and the present earth that God could do nothing with it but to blot it totally out of existence. But Satan did not win such a victory. On the contrary, Satan has been decisively defeated. God will reveal the full dimensions of that defeat when he shall renew this very earth on which Satan deceived mankind and finally banish from it all the results of Satan's evil machinations." (Hoekema A.A., "The Bible and the Future," [1978], Paternoster Press: Exeter, Devon UK, 1979, pp.279-281)
Therefore (and this represents the new direction of my thinking), I accept that though "the universe was created just for humans", in the "100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars" there may be millions of Earth-like planets, on which at least some of them God may already have created life, but not human-level intelligence ... in readiness for the "new heavens and a new earth," in which the renewed people of God (i.e. Christians and believing Old Testament Jews) will then colonise with God's help and enjoy with Him for the rest eternity. Again, thanks to Erik for giving me the opportunity to put down on `paper' what I have recently (in fact probably on and off in the background for a long time) been thinking on this topic of the purpose of "100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars." [...]

On second thoughts I wish to correct my accepting of your premise that "the universe was created just for humans." That is not a Bible claim and indeed Proverbs 8:22-31 indicates that God (as Wisdom personified, i.e. Christ - 1 Cor. 1:24) enjoyed His creation for its own sake:
"The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed [d] from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind." (my emphasis)
The Bible's claim is that God created all things `just for Him' (to paraphrase your words):
Prov. 16:4 (KJV) "The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil."
Rom. 11:36 "For from him [God] and through him and to him are all things."
Col. 1:16 "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him [Christ] and for him." (my emphases)
Therefore, that the universe (and Earth in particular) was created for humans, does not mean that it was created "just for humans." (my emphasis). God might have had other design goals in creating a such vast and interesting universe including: 1) He enjoyed it (if man is in the image of God [Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6] and man enjoys the workings of complex machinery, then why should not God?); 2) it gives humans a better idea of how great God must be; and 3) it may have some future purpose for humans in the coming "new heavens and a new earth" (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1) - see above.

EL>We never pursued the topic and no one else seemed
>ready to bite; but I'm still curious to know if this belief, as I
>it, is a branch belief of creationists and given how really fundamental (it
>seems to me) it is, whether or not it is also a fundamental tenent of your
>upcoming book?

I am not aware of anyone else answering the `universe is overkill' claim by pointing out that the actual Biblical picture of the afterlife is not "floating around on clouds with wings and halos" but rather is of a "new heavens and a new earth" and that therefore the universe with "100's of billion of galaxies each with 100's of billions of stars" may have a future purpose for humans beyond this present life, or I would have quoted them.

It is not "a fundamental tenet of [my] upcoming book", "Problems of Evolution". But thanks for reminding me of the general "size of the universe is `overkill'" argument (see PS and tagline at the end of this message).

EL>After all, one can either not believe the evidence of the scale of the
>or one can say that one simply doesn't know why it seems such overkill if
>the universe was created for just humans, or one can say as you seem to do
>that it's that large for some benefit of humans after "death".

See above correction of my acceptance of your "created for just humans" premise.

I also don't accept your claim that "it seems such overkill" to most people. The very reason why I, as an atheist, became a theist (or deist) was one night when I looked up at the stars and the thought came over me overwhelmingly that there must be a God. I am sure that is the reason why a lot of (if not most) atheists become theists. The Bible itself indicates that it is the vastness of the visible universe that speaks to man of the existence and greatness of God:
Ps. 19:1-4 "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim thework of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world."
Ps. 8:3-4 "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
Rom. 1:18-20 "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
Even Darwin admitted that "this immense and wonderful universe" was "a source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings":
"Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting, I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist." (Darwin C.R., in Barlow N., ed., "The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882: With Original Omissions Restored," [1958], W.W. Norton & Co: New York, 1969, reprint, pp.92-93)
EL>That's a pretty grand statement you make and even though you probably
don't wish
>to have another debate on the topic, I'm curious to know if there is a
>history to this belief, which I have never heard of other than from you.

See above on my correction to the "pretty grand statement [I] ... make." And agreed that I "don't wish to have another debate on the topic." You had your opportunity on my list CED but now I have closed it down and with it my "debate on the [and any other C/E/D] topic", in order to write my book and post my comments to my blog. I am only answering this in so much detail (indeed at all) so can copy it to my blog that others may benefit from it.


Thanks for your message. But it is my longstanding policy to not get involved in private creation/evolution discussions.


PS. I have added a new section, PE 6.2.3. "Universe's fitness for life ... Size of" under which I have included the following quotes to jog my memory when I get to writing that section of the book, PE 6.2.4. "Fitness of the Universe for life ... Fine tuned parameters".

"In recent years, however, a much more important argument has gradually surfaced against this anthropocentric world view. It is concerned with the tremendous amount of time it took after the Big Bang for humans to appear and to rise to any degree of significance on this planet. In the words of Bertrand Russell, `If the purpose of the Cosmos is to evolve mind, we must regard it as rather incompetent in having produced so little in such a long time.' [Russell B., `Religion and Science,' Oxford University Press: New York, 1968, p 216] However, with the tremendous increase in our cosmological understanding in recent years, a devastating anthropocentric rebuttal to
this objection has suddenly made itself known: carbon-based life forms intrinsically require a universe as big and as old as our own in order to exist, because they are physiologically dependent on an adequate supply of carbon and other heavy elements, which weren't in existence in any appreciable quantities immediately following the Big Bang. Instead, they had to be `cooked' for billions of years in the interiors of dying red giant stars, and then subsequently released into the cosmos via colossal supernova explosions. When this striking fact is taken into consideration (along with the other temporal stipulations on planetary and organic evolution), it turns out that ours is the youngest possible universe that could have evolved carbon-based life forms through natural evolutionary pathways. [Barrow J.D. & Tipler F.J., `The Anthropic Cosmological Principle,' Oxford University Press: New York, 1986, p.385] Furthermore, given the fact that the universe is expanding, ours is also the smallest possible universe that could have evolved life through these same natural pathways. [Ibid] Thus, it would take a universe as big and as old as the present one just to evolve a single race of intelligent beings. Accordingly, as long as we accept the stipulation that life must evolve through natural evolutionary pathways, the vast size and age of our universe is perfectly compatible with an anthropocentric world view." (Corey M.A., "Back to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution," University Press of America: Lanham MD, 1994, pp.368-369. Emphasis original)

"All This for Us. Hawking also rejects the anthropic principle, which is the observation that the universe has all the necessary and narrowly defined characteristics to make human life possible. Hawking apparently finds it impossible to believe that "this whole 'vast construction [the universe] exists simply for our sake." [Hawking S.W., "A Brief History of Time," [1988] Bantam: New York, 1991, reprint, p.126] As support for his incredulity, he says that "there does not seem to be any need for all those other galaxies, nor for the universe to be so uniform and similar in every direction on the large scale." [Ibid, p.133] But, he ignores a growing body of research. The uniformity, homogeneity, and mass density of the universe all must be precisely as they are for human life to be possible at any time in the universe's history [Ross H.N., "The Fingerprint of God," [1989], Promise Publishing Co: Orange CA, Second edition, 1991, pp.124-128]" (Ross H.N., "The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God," [1993], NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 1994, Third printing, p.86)

"The mass density determines how efficiently nuclear fusion operates in the cosmos. The mass density we measure translates into about a hundred- billion-trillion stars for the presently observable universe. ... if the mass density is too great, too much deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus) is made in the first few minutes of the universe's existence. This extra deuterium will cause the stars to burn much too quickly and erratically for any of them to support a planet with life. On the other hand, if the mass-density is too small, so little deuterium and helium are made in the first few minutes that the heavier elements necessary for life will never form in stars. What this means is that the approximately hundred- billion-trillion stars we observe in the universe - no more and no less- are needed for life to be possible in the universe." (Ross H.N., "The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God," [1993], NavPress: Colorado Springs CO, 1994, Third printing, p.118)

"For example, the mass density of the universe determines how efficiently nuclear fusion operates in the cosmos. ... if the mass density were too great, too much deuterium (a heavy isotope of hydrogen with one proton and one neutron in the nucleus) would be made in the first few minutes of the universe's existence. This extra deuterium will cause all the stars to burn much too quickly and erratically for any of them to support a planet with life upon it. On the other hand, if the mass density were too small, so little deuterium and helium would be made in the first few minutes that the heavier elements necessary for life would never form in the stars. What this means is that the approximately 100 billion trillion stars we observe in the universe, no more and no fewer, are needed for life to be possible in the universe. Evidently God cared so much for living creatures that he constructed 100 billion trillion stars and carefully crafted them throughout the age of the universe so that at this brief moment in the history of the cosmos humans could exist and have a pleasant place to live." (Ross H.N.,"Astronomical Evidences for a Personal, Transcendent God," in Moreland J.P., ed., "The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, 1994, p.164)

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol.)
"Problems of Evolution"

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