Monday, August 6, 2012

Why Christians SHOULD Want to Explore the Universe

I would have to say, watching a live feed from the JPL control room last night was one of the greatest hours I've ever spent watching TV.

I guess it would be an overstatement for me to say that I was surprised this morning when I saw the debate raging on my Facebook connections about the merits of spending 2 Billion on this mission. Virtually everyone I saw, some evangelicals some not, were opposed to the "wasteful use of money."  Maybe my son and I were the only two to differ . . . at least in my Facebook universe.

So, I spent some time today between patients thinking about this topic.  I really think it comes back to the perspective of being a monist Vs  a Dualist, when it comes to thinking Christianly. In some ways it is like a litmus test of monism.  Not quite to the degree that one of the elders in my old evangelical church said that believing the earth is 6,000 years old is a litmus test to being a true believer. Also not to the extreme that Republicans have stated that being pro-life is the litmus test to being a real conservative.

But this is why.  Imagine this.  You created this three acre playground for your kids. It was full of castles, bridges, monkey bars, swings, see saws and sports courts.  Yet your kids stayed in the 20 square foot corner where you first placed them. They had no curiosity (pun intended)  about the rest of the playground. As the designer and creator . . . would that make you feel good . . . or not?

I have a great a compassion for the poor of the world, having spent time with them and tried to help them. Many make the argument of how could we spend 2 Billion on a Mars mission when millions are starving?  I say, if you want to give the 2 Billion for food, take it from some other huge waste of resources . . . such as wars, luxury items and corruption. But don't take it away from the exploration of reality . . . the cosmos which is there, which was made by God.  By knowing Mars, or the far edges of our cosmos, we know God better.  It the same way my kids would have known me and my love for them better if they had taken the courage and priority to explore the whole three acres.

I sense, hidden deep between the lines of conversation, that the Dualist Christians (which is the majority of Evangelicals) that they don't give a rat's ass about the solar system, or the Cosmos because that they think, when compared to the "spiritual," that it has no meaning. It is trash, It is all going to burn up. That even God doesn't like the Cosmos.

But I find the heavens glorious and enticing. We must go. We must learn. It is good stuff to want to know God and His character is expressed in that which he has created. This material world is not the Devil's sad domain.

Psalm 97:6
The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with you! What I can't understand is why the scientists are so eaten up with finding bacteria. They search and scoop and sniff for the slightest sign. I think almost everyone agrees that life is out there somewhere, so I don't believe that finding a single cell organism will cause some kind of paradigm shift. Intelligent, self aware life- now that would be another story. That would blow a lot of evangelicals out of the water.

jmj said...

I think that something will eventually be discovered that will eventually blow everyone's mind and shatter all paradigms for example a perfectly formed trilobite fossil on Mars.

Anonymous said...

He he, yeah that would shake things up. Thing is, if they did find a trilobite fossil, would many hard core evangelicals believe it? Or would they say it's some kind of conspiracy to undermine the Bible?

Richard Greydanus said...

Like any other controversial scientific discovery, once enough people had verified the findings, people would have find a way to fit them into their way of thinking about things. You can make fun of Evangelicals, but in the end, they are just as flexible (and forgetful of those things they once held so dear) as the rest of us are.

Thanks for posting on this. I noted that there weren't too many people writing on the stated motivations behind the Curiosity mission.

What I find so interesting is that everything we do, every dollar we spend, is still in service of that age-old pursuit of self-knowledge.

jmj said...

Richard, maybe evangelicals are flexible over decades or centuries. One of the main reasons I had to leave my last evangelical church two years ago is that the chief elder kept telling me I can't be a Christian if I believed the earth was older than 6,000 years and the pastor supported him. It got old.

I'm sure what you mean by self-knowledge, but the Mars trip is anything but. It is seeking knowledge about God and what he has made.

Richard Greydanus said...

I am familiar with that sort of outlook and can sympathize. Had I known you at the time, I would have suggested that you ask the elder and pastor whether the sun orbited around the earth or the earth orbited around the sun. If they insisted the earth orbited the sun, which is generally understood to be an uncontroversial position to take, then you break out the proof-texts to the contrary. It seems to me that burden of being consist falls to them (--not that they were willing to be persuaded otherwise).

Self-knowledge: the stated purpose of the Curiosity mission is to seek for evidence of life, in order to understand how life arose here on earth. There will, of course, be technological benefits that are derived as a side-effect of the mission; but these aren't held up as the primary purpose for going.

In this context, I agree that the mission is about understanding what God has made.

Anonymous said...

A 6016-year-old, all-gonna-burn-by-tomorrow-at-the-latest, Earth-and-some-lights-in-the-sky Cosmos has no room for Boldly Going where No Man Has Gone Before.

Richard Greydanus said...

I think Anonymous misunderstood. Or maybe I misunderstood him/her. In any case, that was way too much hyphenation...