"One can't believe impossible things," Alice laughed.
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." -Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll 1
For a presumably enlightened culture, our lives - and schoolbooks - are littered with an astonishing array of beliefs that pose as being scientific, but are actually in contradiction to available evidence. We need to regard many of our cherished myths with cautious skepticism and not allow conjectures to masquerade as proven facts. With all of the interest in the recent alignment of five planets - Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the western evening sky - one of the finest gatherings in 20 years (see graphic below),2 this may prove an interesting conversation piece.
The Nebular Hypothesis
Most of us have been taught that the planets of our solar system came out of the sun. It may come as a surprise that there are serious scientific difficulties with this presumption. In fact, a careful analysis of existing evidence suggests some surprising alternative possibilities.
Immanuel Kant, in his General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens, in 1755 in Germany, theorized that some four billion years ago, the sun had ejected a tail, or a filament, of material that cooled and collected and thus formed the planets. Kant is generally credited as the originator of what is commonly called the "Nebular Hypothesis," but the originator was actually Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Swedenborg wrote his treatise on cosmology in 1734, in Latin: Prodromus Philosophiae Retiocinantis de Infinito et Cause Creationis . Some 21 years before Kant's publication, Swedenborg proposed that the planets were the result of condensations of a gauze or filament ejected out of the sun. Swedenborg was a mining engineer with a wide range of interests and also claimed to have psychic powers. Historians and biographers seem to take him quite seriously and a number of public incidents caused his fellow Swedes of Stockholm to regard him as irrefutable. He claimed confirmation of his nebular hypothesis from seances with men on Jupiter, Saturn and places more distant. (Some 20 years earlier, in 1712, when Swedenborg was 24 years old, he had the opportunity to visit with Edmund Halley at Cambridge, who described to him the various aspects of comets and their tails. Halley had made a study of the reports of various medieval comets, their orbital trajectories, dates, and descriptions, and, of course, is famous for his predictions regarding the comet that still bears his name.)
The famous mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827) lent his endorsement to Kant's theory, but without checking the mathematical validations he was capable of providing. Thus, the nebular hypothesis gained widespread respectability despite serious mathematical flaws. Subsequent writers have continued to develop variations of this view even though increasing difficulties render it rather doubtful.
The sun contains 99.86% of all the mass of the solar system. Yet the sun contains only 1.9% of the angular momentum. The nine planets contain 98.1%. (This was known in the time of Laplace a century ago.) There is no plausible explanation that would support a solar origin of the planets. James Jeans (1877-1946) pointed out that the outer planets are far larger than the inner ones. (Jupiter is 5,750 times as massive as Mercury, 2,958 times as massive as Mars, etc.) This is also a difficulty with current theories. Other observations seem to raise even more provocative enigmas concerning our planetary history:
- There are three pairs of rapid-spin rates among our planets: Mars and Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, and Neptune and Uranus, are each within 3% of each other. Why?
- Earth and Mars have virtually identical spin axis tilts (about 23.5). Why? (From angular momentum and orbital calculations, it would seem that three pairs of these planets may have been brought here from elsewhere.)
- Why does Mars have 93% of its craters in one hemisphere and only 7% in the other? It would appear that over 80% occurred within a single half-hour!
The Shrinking Sun
Has the size of the sun changed over the years? John A. Eddy (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and High Altitude Observatory in Boulder) and Aram A. Boomazian (a mathematician with S. Ross Co. in Boston) seem to have found evidence that the sun has been contracting about 0.1% per century, corresponding to a shrinkage rate of about 5 feet/hour.3 The data Eddy and Boomazian examined spanned a 400-year period of solar observation, so that this shrinkage of the sun, though small, is apparently continual. If the sun was larger in the past than it is now by 0.1% per century, a creationist, who may believe that the world was created approximately six thousand years ago, has very little to worry about: the sun would have been only 6% larger at creation than it is now. However, if the rate of change of the solar radius remained constant, 100 thousand years ago the sun would have been twice the size it is now, and it is hard to imagine that any life could exist under such altered conditions. Yet 100 thousand years is a minuscule amount of time when dealing with traditional evolutionary time scales.4
Furthermore, assuming (by uniformitarian-type reasoning) that the rate of shrinkage has not changed with time, then the surface of the sun would have touched the surface of the earth at a time in the past equal to approximately 20 million B.C. And, since the time scales commonly assumed for organic evolution range from 500 million years to 2,000 million years,5 it would appear especially amazing since all of the evolutionary development, except the last 20 million years, took place on a planet that was inside the sun!
Most writers dealing with the origins of the universe - and our solar system - tend to be uniformitarian in their presuppositions (as are the typical astronomers). Uniformitarians cling to the presumption that things have remained essentially unchanged over billions of years. There is evidence, however, that our solar system has endured a series of catastrophic events, and it is hard to ignore the innumerable craters and other evidences on the planets - including the Earth, the moon, et al. - as indications of an extensive and turbulent history. Look at the moon through any pair of binoculars and it's clear that it has been in a rough neighborhood!
Unresolved anomalies in the orbits of the nine known planets have led to numerous searches for a yet-to-be-discovered "Planet X," which has gone by many other names: Vulcan, Oceanus, and other designations. The "Planet X" comes from Percival Lowell who built a private observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona, and devoted considerable effort in his searches before he died in 1916. Of the nearly 1,000 photographic plates in his last search were 515 asteroids, 700 variable stars, and, ironically, two images of Pluto (which wasn't discovered until 1930!)
Clyde Tombaugh began his searches in 1929, and found Pluto in February 18, 1930. He continued his searches for another 13 years and examined 90 million images of some 30 million stars over more than 30,000 square degrees of the sky. He found one new globular cluster, five new open star clusters, one new supercluster of 1800 galaxies, and several new small galaxy clusters, one new comet, about 775 new asteroids - but no new planet except Pluto. He concluded that no unknown planet brighter than magnitude 16.5 did exist. 6
Many provocative conjectures continue of the wandering antics of comets or other remote planetary bodies, with Immanuel Veilikovsky and his Worlds in Collision as a well-known example. The remarkable possibilities suggested by Donald Patten, Loren Steinhauer, and Ronald Hatch are featured in our commentary on "the long day of Joshua," and some of our other publications. 7 They have proposed a surprisingly comprehensive model based on orbital resonances between the orbit of Mars and the Earth that would seem to explain seven major Biblical catastrophes, and which, strangely, seems to be corroborated by the writings of Jonathan Swift in his Gulliver's Travels !8
It is clear from the Scriptures that the disruptions within the Solar System are not yet over, and several exciting climaxes are actually going to impact the Planet Earth shortly. It is also astonishing that the Ruler of the Universe is going to set up His Headquarters on a particular piece of real estate on this very planet in the not-too-distant future! (Read about it in Revelation 19-22, and the final chapters of Isaiah, etc. Fasten your seat belts! It's going to be a grand adventure for those who have done their homework and are prepared!)
In the meantime, let's be particularly cautious about "believing unbelievable things." Let's recognize the foolishness that masquerades as science and discern the differences between interesting conjectures and verifiable truth. And let's measure the true nature of reality by the established reference provided by the Creator Himself: the Word of God. Finally, let's be sure we haven't disregarded our forthcoming appointment with Him. He is coming, "Ready or not!" Are you?
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