Monday, April 22, 2013

Disasterous advice



Ah, that's the Billy Graham we know. Giving bad advice with the smug confidence that only he can deliver. Let's take a look...
Don't live in fear of disasters, but put your trust in God

Q: I've heard a lot lately about the possibility that some day the earth (or at least human life) will be destroyed by a large meteor or asteroid. This worries me, because apparently it's happened before and we don't have any way to prevent it. Is this how the world is going to end, according to the Bible? -- J.J.

A: The Bible does tell us that someday this world will come to an end, but it won't happen because of a stray meteor or asteroid.

This doesn't mean a large meteor never could cause serious damage; after all, small ones (and occasionally larger ones) strike the earth every day, and are usually burned up in the atmosphere. Incidentally, where would we be if God hadn't provided the earth with its atmosphere as a protective shield?

But the Bible tells us that at the end of the present age, God won't only destroy the earth, but the whole universe will also be destroyed -- and then re-created and made perfect. This present world is imperfect and riddled with sin and corruption and injustice, but some day God will change all that, and everything will be made new. The Bible says, "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:12-13).

Don't live in fear of disasters that may or may not happen during your lifetime. Instead, put your faith and trust in God, for He holds the world and its future in His hands. Most of all, commit your life to Christ and learn to walk with Him every day. Jesus' promise is for you: "My peace I give you" (John 14:27).

Personally I do feel that Graham is correct that a meteor won't bring an end to human life on Earth. If I were to guess, I would say that we'll kill ourselves off before that possibility comes around to snuff us out. Whether our end will come from horrible war or climate change, is still the open question. But one day our end will come. I would like to think that we'll one day leave this globe and move to new worlds. But this seems to be becoming more of a dream as governments feel that funding pointless wars or developing new (unneeded) fighter jets is a much higher priority than real space exploration.

That said, I feel Graham is wrongfully dismissing the potential threat that a large asteroid could pose. Yes, any impacts are more likely to come from smaller ones that do no damage or only localized damage. But that doesn't mean that we should write off the possibility. Yes, I did say that I don't think an asteroid will do us in. But I'm humble enough to realize I might be wrong. Astronomers are finding new space debris every day, so it stands that finding a large and threatening meteor or comet is still very much in the realm of possibility.

Because of this, it makes me glad when I read of NASA's plans to capture and tow a small asteroid into orbit so that we can examine it and test technology. This is also very important because this technology could be very useful is we every do find a large mass on a collision course with our home. This is because the solution to that threat wouldn't be to 'blow it out of the sky' like the movies tend to show, but to tow it out of harm's way. The same technology that will be used to tow that small asteroid could potentially be used to change the trajectory of an Earth-bound meteor so that it misses Earth without creating a shower of smaller debris.

Yet Graham would tell us not to worry. His God's not going to 'end everything' that way, so we don't even need to bother being prepared for that eventuality. This line of argument feels like the Biblical literalist's claim that there's no need to worry about climate change since God said he'd never send another great flood again, as I covered in an earlier post. This is just a dangerous mindset that puts way to much faith on wholly speculative claims.

Graham also claims that God put the Earth's protective atmosphere in place so that it would burn up smaller objects before they ever impact Earth. So what about Mars? Mars ' atmosphere was once very much like Earth's, and the Curiosity rover has recently shown that the red planet once had conditions that could have supported life. But if our atmosphere is so great Venus' must be even better. Because the atmosphere of Venus is so much thicker than Earth's atmosphere, it would be much more efficient at burning up debris. So why did God 'bless' such an inhospitable world with such a safety net of an atmosphere? Or why not grant Earth with an enormous helping of gravity like Jupiter's, that has been shown to fracture asteroids as they got dangerously close to the great planet? What about all the possibly habitable planets that Kepler has been finding? The simple fact is that the hospitable conditions, coupled with the protective atmosphere is what allowed life to get it's start on Earth, and eventually evolve into us. We weren't given this atmosphere. Out atmosphere was one of many things that allowed the long road that has led to us to get it's start.

Next Mr. Graham claims that God will one day destroy everything by 'destruction of the heavens by fire, and heat so hot that the elements will melt'. Um... How exactly is the entire universe supposed to go up in flames? Fire requires oxygen. Outer space is largely a vacuum. Fire could be present in
localized areas here oxygen is present (like a planet). But fire simply can't sweep the universe due to the simple lack of oxygen. Perhaps he's being confused by stars like our Sun. Sit right down Billy, because it's time for elementary school level science class... The sun, and the other stars are not on fire or comprised of fire. Stars are actually made up of what is called plasma. Instead of burning like a fire, it is powered by nuclear fusion. The immense gravity coupled with the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium is what drives the star. No fire, just physics at work.


The next aspect is the claim that the elements will be 'melted in the heat'. Hate to break it to you Mr. Graham, but elements can't be destroyed. Matter can not be created nor destroyed. It can be converted to another form of matter or into energy, but it can not be destroyed. So no, the elements will not, and can not just 'melt away'.

But one interesting point is for all this talk of heat and fire signaling the end of the universe, it is cold that we need to be worried about. Ever since the Big Bang, the universe has been cooling. One theory of the end of the universe is one of entropy. That the universe will continue cooling toward absolute zero and eventually suffer a heat death. So that maximum entropy is one such possible fate for our universe.

As you can see the notion that we should just live lives oblivious of potential disasters, and to just carry on like there's nothing to worry about is a silly one. There are things to worry about, probable or not. To simply claim that your erroneous holy book claims that we needn't worry is just silly and irresponsible. We need to be prepared for things that we could potentially prevent. Yet Graham would sit back and say not to worry about it. Sorry, but I'm not content to rely on a book of flaws and absurdities. Give me real scientific solutions any day.

-Brain Hulk


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