Today we have that, thanks to the efforts of astronomers in measuring the universe. Ours is the only generation of man that has ever lived to witness the measuring of the universe. This wasn’t the case 15 years ago.
Earth: An Insignificant Speck?
When I was a young man, questioning the holy books of the religions of the world, I knew God must exist because of the Big Bang. There’s a beginning, there must be a beginner. But I doubted that God was personal and caring because I felt that planet Earth was just an insignificant speck in the eyes of a God that created a hundred trillion stars. What could we matter to such an awesome God?
Mass of the Universe
Astronomers have discovered that the total mass of the universe acts as a catalyst for nuclear fusion and the more massive the universe is, the more efficiently nuclear fusion operates in the cosmos. If the universe is too massive, the mass density too great, then very quickly all the matter in the universe is converted from Hydrogen into elements heavier than iron, which would render life impossible because the universe would be devoid of Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen, etc.
If the universe has too little mass, then fusion would work so inefficiently that all that the universe would ever produce would be Hydrogen, or Hydrogen plus a small amount of Helium. But there again, the Carbon and Oxygen we need for life would be missing.
What does this tell me about the Creator? That God so loved the human race that he went to the expense of building one hundred billion stars and carefully shaped and crafted those hundred billion trillion stars for the entire age of the universe, so that for this brief moment in time, we could have a nice place to live.
We live in a Special Solar System, Too
We can extend this argument of design from the universe to the solar system itself. When we look at the solar system, we discover that we have a heavenly body problem. It’s not that easy to get the right galaxy.
Life can only happen on late born stars. If it’s a first or second-generation star, then life is impossible because you don’t yet have the heavy elements necessary for life chemistry. There’s a narrow window of time in the history of the universe when life can happen.
If the universe is too old or too young, life is impossible. Only spiral galaxies produce stars late enough in their history that they can take advantage of the elements that are essential for life history, and only 6% of the galaxies in our universe are spiral galaxies. Of those 6%, you must go with galaxies that produce all of the elements that are essential for life. It’s not that easy.
Besides Hydrogen and Helium, the other elements are made in the cores of super giant stars. Super giant stars burn up quickly; they’re gone in a just a few million years. When they go through the final stages of burning up their fuel, they explode ashes into outer space, and future generations of stars will absorb those ashes.
Births & Deaths of Multiple Stars Required to have Metals in Earth’s Crust
When those stars go through their burning phase, they will take that heavy element ash material. This time when they explode, they make a whole bunch of material, capable of forming rocky planets and supporting life chemistry.
But we want these supernovae exploding early in the history of the galaxy. We don’t want them going off now. If the star Cereus goes Super Nova, we’re in serious trouble because it’s only eight light years away. It would exterminate life on our planet.
We observe in our galaxy that there was a burst of Super Nova explosions early in its history, but it tapered off to where it isn’t a threat to life that is now in existence. The Super Nova explosions took place in the right quantity and in the right locations so that life could happen here on Earth.
What does location have to do with it? Life is impossible in the center of our galaxy, or in the heel of our galaxy. It’s only possible at a distance 2/3 from the center of our galaxy.
The stars at the center of our galaxy are jammed so tightly together that the mutual gravity would destroy the planetary orbits. Moreover, their synchrotron radiation would be destructive to life molecules. But we don’t want to be too far away from the center, either. If we get too far away, then there aren’t enough heavy elements from the exploded remains of supernovae to enable life chemistry to proceed.
There’s one life essential element that the supernovae do not make, however, and that’s Fluorine. Fluorine is made only on the surfaces of white dwarf binaries. A white dwarf is a burned out star. It’s like a cinder in a fireplace, just glowing.
Orbiting this white dwarf is a star that hasn’t yet exhausted its nuclear fuel. It’s an ordinary star, like our Sun. The white dwarf has enough mass relative to the ordinary star orbiting around it that it is capable of pulling mass off of the surface of the ordinary star and dragging it down so that it falls on its surface. When that material falls on the surface of the while dwarf, it ignites some very interesting nuclear reactions that produce Fluorine.
We need a white dwarf binary whose gravitational interactions between the white dwarf and the ordinary star are such that a strong enough stellar wind is sent from the white dwarf to blast the Fluorine beyond the gravitational pull of both stars, putting it into outer space, so that future generations of stars can absorb it. Then we have enough Fluorine for life chemistry.
A Trillion Galaxies – but as far as physicists know, only ours can support life
Two American astrophysicists concluded about a year ago that rare indeed is the galaxy that has the right number of this special kind white dwarf binary pair in the right location, occurring at the right time, so that life can exist today. The universe contains a trillion galaxies. But ours may be the only one that has the necessary conditions for life to exist.
The right star is needed. We can’t have a star any bigger than our Sun. The bigger the star, the more rapidly and erratically it burns its fuel. Our Sun is just small enough to keep a stable enough flame for a sufficient period of time to make life possible. If it were any bigger, we couldn’t have life on planet Earth. If it were any smaller, we’d be in trouble, too.
Smaller stars are even more stable than our star, the Sun, but they don’t burn as hot. In order to keep our planet at the right temperature necessary to sustain life, we’d have to bring the planet closer to the star.
The physicists in the audience realize that when you bring a planet closer to its star, the tidal interaction between the star and the planet goes up to the inverse fourth power to the distance separating them. For those of you who are not physicists, that means that all you have to do is bring that planet ever so much closer to the star, and the tidal forces could be strong enough to break the rotational period.
That’s what happened to Mercury and Venus. Those planets are too close to the Sun; so close that their rotational periods have been broken, from several hours to several months.
Earth is just barely far enough away to avoid that breaking. We have a rotation period of once every 24 hours. If we wait much longer, it will be every 26 or 28 hours, because the Earth’s rotation rate is slowing down.
Going back in history, we can measure the time when the Earth was rotating every 20 hours. When the Earth was rotating once every 20 hours, human life was not possible. If it rotates once every 28 hours, human life will not be possible. It can only happen at 24 hours.
Speed of Earth’s Rotation
If the planet rotates too quickly, you get too many tornadoes and hurricanes. If it rotates too slowly, it gets too cold at night and too hot during the day. We don’t want it to be 170 degrees during the day, nor do we want it to be below –100 at night, because that’s not ideal for life.
We don’t want lots of hurricanes and tornadoes, either. What we currently have is an ideal situation, and God plays this. He created us here at the ideal time.
We need the right Earth. If the Earth is too massive, it retains a bunch of gases such as Ammonia, Methane, Hydrogen and Helium in its atmosphere. These gases are not acceptable for life, at least, not for advanced life. But if it’s not massive enough, it won’t retain water. For life to exist on planet Earth, we need a huge amount of water, but we don’t need a lot of ammonia and methane.
Remember high school chemistry? Methane’s molecular weight 16, ammonia’s molecular weight 17, water’s molecular weight is 18. God so designed planet Earth that we keep lots of the 18, but we don’t keep any of the 16 or the 17. The incredible fine-tuning of the physical characteristics of Earth is necessary for that.
Jupiter Necessary, too
We even have to have the right Jupiter. We wrote about this in our Facts and Faith newsletter a few issues back, but it was also discovered by American astrophysicists just this past year. Unless you have a very massive planet like Jupiter, five times more distant from the star than the planet that has life, life will not exist on that planet.
It takes a super massive planet like Jupiter, located where it is, to act as a shield, guarding the Earth from comic collisions. We don’t want a comet colliding with Earth every week. Thanks to Jupiter, that doesn’t happen.
What these astrophysicists discovered in their models of planetary formation was that it’s a very rare star system indeed that produces a planet as massive as Jupiter, in the right location, to act as such a shield.
We Even Need the Right Moon
The Earth’s moon system is that of a small planet being orbited by a huge, single moon. That huge, single moon has the effect of stabilizing the rotation axis of planet Earth to 23½ degrees. That’s the ideal tilt for life on planet Earth.
The axis on planet Mars moves through a tilt from zero to 60 degrees and flips back and forth. If that were to happen on Earth, life would be impossible. Thanks to the Moon, it’s held stable at 23 ½ degrees.
We Even Need the Right Number of Earthquakes
I’ve got so many characteristics here, and I let the Californians know that you have to have the right number of earthquakes. Not too many, not too few, or life is not possible. I share them with my wife, who doesn’t like earthquakes, but I just tell her that when you feel a good jolt, that’s when you have to thank God for his perfect providence.
At Least 41 Fine-Tuned Characteristics, to have One Planet that Supports Life
The bottom line to all of this is that we have 41 characteristics of the solar system that must be fine-tuned for life to exist. But even if the universe contains as many planets as it does stars, which is a gross overestimate in my opinion, that still leaves us with less than one chance in a billion trillion that you’d find even one planet in the entire universe with the capacity for supporting life.
Planet Earth: Not an Accident
It also tells us that God wasn’t wandering throughout the vastness of the cosmos saying, “Wow, that’s the best one, I’ll use that”. No. With odds this remote, we must realize that God especially designed and crafted, through miraculous means, planet Earth, so that it would support life and human beings. Planet Earth is not an accident; it is a product of divine design.