Darwin : Biology :: Galileo : Astronomy

Evolution is so incredibly beautiful!  Soak yourself in this video, the Millennium Simulation of dark matter in the relatively local Universe:

From the website of the creators: “The movie shows a journey through the simulated universe. On the way, we visit a rich cluster of galaxies and fly around it. During the…movie, we travel a distance for which light would need more than 2.4 billion years.”  The teensy points of light you see are galaxies.

Now get this:  I used to be a young-earth creationist.  From about age 16 to 23, I believed that the Earth and the Universe are only thousands of years old, not billions, and were created in 6 days, as told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

In my defense, I somehow didn’t learn about evolution in school – it’s like my science classes just glazed right over it, or maybe just my mind did.  So when I attended a conference given by a well-known young-earth-creationist-group-who-happens-to-have-a-museum-but-will-not-be-named, I was ripe for the picking when they said, “Well, does the Bible say that the Earth is millions of years old?  No, thus it’s only thousands of years old.”  At 16, I was very suggestible, and likely trying to impress a boy, so of course I believed them.

They had all manner of evidence for why they were right and science was wrong, including that carbon-14 dating is flawed, because there was allegedly something live that was dated to be some exorbitant number of years old; and there are, also allegedly, trees growing up through layers of rock, which means that there must have been some sort of cataclysmic flood, just like the Bible says in the story of Noah’s ark.

As a sophomore in college, I heard the most convincing argument out of them (in fact it was one of the last I heard): they wanted to reconcile the fact that we see objects (stars, galaxies) that are billions of light years away, with their belief that the entire Universe is only thousands of years old.  To do this on a cosmological front, they say that Earth is situated at the center of a white hole, which they say is the opposite of a black hole in that instead of the attracting force you feel to the center of a black hole, you feel a repulsive force from the center of a white hole.  Due to the expansion of space and the dilation of time, they explain, it has been billions of years to us but was only thousands of years if you are looking from outside the white hole.

My goodness, but that’s convoluted.  And so wrong!  I’m reminded of Ptolemy and his epicycles, a last-ditch effort to reconcile the wandering motion of planets on the sky, with the Church’s beliefs that the planets must move only in circles because circles are perfect.  (This problem was solved by Kepler about 1500 years later, when he said that the Earth and the planets orbit the Sun in ellipses.)

So, I’m sure you can see why evolution is something at which I marvel:  it’s still pretty new to me, and just so beautiful.  Learning this, really digesting this, has allowed me to open my mind to just how unfathomably enormous our Universe is.  With a young Universe, there just cannot physically exist the extent of the space we see around us.  Physics has given me the intuition to attempt to fathom these literally astronomical distances – I honestly cannot find a word that describes just how big space is, because it’s infinite.  Seeing that we, you and I, are finite, I find it highly unlikely that it is physically possible for us to grasp the infinite.


*** A Note Aside ***
I think I want to include a little note every so often about why I feel the way I do about something I post, or a little addendum.  For today’s, I want to say that I have family and dear friends who are young-earth creationists.  I have not written this post to harm them, but I do have a message for them:

Dear ones, I love you deeply, but I no longer believe the way you do.  Please, let’s try not to let this get in the way of our relationships!  I am still me, because this and YOU are part of what made me.  I’ve just grown.  If you are interested in how scary this is for me to say these things to you, please read this, and then come back here to see the comment I thought most interesting:

The blogger’s response to a commenter: “This is the most common of all the topics I get in the letters people send me; they speak either of their well-founded fear that their family will abandon them, or the heartbreaking reality that their family has done so.
Of all the destructive and hurtful things that religion can do, this, in my mind, is the most reprehensible, and the most incomprehensible. To think that a system of superstitions can override so primal and powerful a human instinct as familial love, devotion, and protection still leaves me in horrified awe every time I witness it.
Nothing destroys religion’s credibility so thoroughly as this; nothing cancels out religion’s ‘benefits’ so completely as this.”

Heavy words, friends, heavy words.

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