When I was eight years old the Apollo 8 astronauts took the first ever trip around the moon. The trip was launched on December 21, 1968, and became the first manned spacecraft to leave low Earth orbit, reach the Moon, orbit it, and return. Even as an eight-year-old I remember it well. The three-astronaut crew—Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders—were the first humans to witness and photograph an Earthrise. The picture beamed back to earth was stunning; a little blue ball of life in a vast cosmic wasteland. Human eyes had never beheld such a contrast human minds had only speculated about. It inspired the crew to read the first verses of Genesis 1 as a billion people on that little blue ball listened and watched. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that this happened on Christmas eve.

Fifty years is a long time in an age when scientific and technological knowledge are exploding. What we’ve learned about this little blue ball since Apollo 8 is that the odds of life happening without an all powerful designer are increasingly remote. Non-biased observers would say impossible. Guillermo Gonzalez and Stephen C. Meyer give us just a few examples of why the astronauts’ religious impulse at seeing the earth rise over a barren moonscape was justified:

Astronomers now know that Earth is a rare, life-friendly “oasis in the big vastness of space,” as Borman later reflected. In the past few decades they have discovered that life on our planet depends on many improbable “rare-earth” factors. Earth must orbit the sun at just the right distance, with just the right axial tilt, and with just the right-shaped orbit and right planetary neighbors. Life depends on Earth having a moon of the right size at the right distance. The solar system as a whole must also reside in a narrow life-friendly band of space within our galaxy, the “galactic habitable zone.”

We’ve also come to appreciate that we inhabit a privileged platform for scientific discovery. Earth’s crust is endowed with the abundant mineral and energy resources required for advanced technology, including that necessary for sending astronauts to the moon. Our clear atmosphere and location far from the center of a large galaxy allow us to learn about the universe near and far.

Monkeyed indeed. And this just scratches the surface of the improbables that make life possible. What this confronts us with, and what I confront my children with all the time, is that we have a choice. Either life in all its complexity, glory, and beauty is just a cosmic accident, or a personal, almighty God created it a la Genesis from nothing. As I like to say, either we can believe everything came from nothing for no reason at all, or we can believe the evidence. Whenever I, or my children, are tempted to become materialists (the material is all there is), I simply look outside and say, I’m sorry, this amazing world cannot be a product of random matter slamming together, a mere cosmic coincidence. Earthrise only confirms it.



Share This