Fine tuning Intelligent Design

50th anniversary of Apollo 8: Earth as a privileged planet

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We know far more about that now than we did then:

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. At a deeper level, physicists now know that the universe itself exhibits extreme fine-tuning. Guillermo Gonzalez & Steve Meyer , “Apollo 8 and Our Privileged Planet” at National Review

Sadly, in the intervening years, computer-modelled claims about string theory, eternal cosmic inflation, the multiverse, and the universe as a computer sim have come to rival news of exploration of Mars for public attention. TED talks are easier, cheaper, and safer than space missions too.

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See also: What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

7 Replies to “50th anniversary of Apollo 8: Earth as a privileged planet

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is the Christmas Eve reading of Genesis on Apollo 8, 50 years ago in 1968

    Apollo 8 : NASA Astronauts Christmas Eve Bible Reading From Lunar Orbit

    Trivia note: Madalyn Murray O’Hair sued the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) because of the Apollo 8 Genesis reading.

    Humorously, the case was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court for “lack of jurisdiction.” 🙂

    Also of note: In 1960, O’Hair, naming her son William as plaintiff, sued to have prayer removed from school. Her case was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1963. (Subsequently, SAT scores, (which had for decades previously to 1963 consistently ranked among the top SAT scores in the world for public schools), declined for 18 years straight from 1963 and have never recovered to their once top position in the world.

    SAT Total Scores
    Figure 1 shows how drastically the actual knowledge of high school students began to drop at an accelerating rate after 1962. Barton notes in his report that the upturn in SAT scores since 1981 is due to the increase in private Christian educational facilities which began to flourish at that time. Statistics have proven that students from private Christian schools showed higher academic achievement and higher test scores.

    The Devastating Effects When Prayer Was Removed From School in America in 1962-63 – David Barton–GpdqCY

    Public School vs. Private School: Test Scores
    Looking at national test scores, private schools come out on top. A recent recap of high school graduates showed private school students scoring 3.1 points higher on the ACT test. The same disparity is found in primary and middle schools according to the NCES. A comparison of mathematics tests showed private schools scored 18 points higher for eighth graders and 8 points higher for fourth graders. Reading had the same results with the private schools outscoring their public counterparts by 18 points in eighth grade and 15 points in fourth grade.

    Religiously engaged adolescents demonstrate habits that help them get better grades, Stanford scholar finds – April 15, 2018
    Excerpt: Adolescents who practice religion on a regular basis do better in school than those who are religiously disengaged, according to new research from Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE).,,,
    The link between religiosity and grades remained after accounting for race, class, gender and religious denomination, Horwitz said. It also held after controlling for certain behaviors associated with strict religious practice among teenagers, like lower alcohol consumption and limited sexual activity.
    “Generally, kids who are religious drink less, have less sex, and are more closely supervised by their parents,” said Horwitz. “These variables explained some of why religious kids do better in school. But my models showed there’s something above and beyond those factors that the survey data couldn’t explain.”

    The History of Christian Education in America
    Excerpt: The first colleges in America were founded by Christians and approximately 106 out of the first 108 colleges were Christian colleges. In fact, Harvard University, which is considered today as one of the leading universities in America and the world was founded by Christians. One of the original precepts of the then Harvard College stated that students should be instructed in knowing God and that Christ is the only foundation of all “sound knowledge and learning.”


    John 13:13
    “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.”

    Also of note: O’Hair’s son, William J. “Bill” Murray III, whom was used by his mom to remove prayer from school, is now a Christian, a Baptist minister on top of that, who is the chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition. Which is an organization that seeks to protect religious expression in public, as well as protecting our other religious freedoms, from the continual attempts at censorship from atheists.

    With that in mind, let’s remember that Jesus is the reason for the season!

    May everyone on UD have a very Merry CHRISTmas.

    Isaiah 7:14
    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

    O come, O come, Emmanuel – (Piano/Cello) – The Piano Guys

  2. 2
    john_a_designer says:

    I can see why atheists might be upset with the reading of Genesis 1 on Apollo 8. Clearly, from their perspective, besides violating the “separation clause,” the text is not scientific. Some Christians and Jews would agree that “Genesis is not a scientific text.” Indeed, there is a lot of disagreement among Christians as to exactly how Genesis 1 ought to be interpreted. (The astronauts, by the way, did not interpret the text, they just read it. It was Christmas Eve after all.)

    Young earth creationists (YEC’s), for example, insist that the days of Gen. 1 must be interpreted as literal 24 hour solar days. Never mind the fact that the sun, according to the literal reading, wasn’t created till the fourth day. So, how can you have solar days before there was a sun? Furthermore, since the earth is a rotating globe and it’s always morning or evening somewhere, where do you begin your days?

    Old earth or progressive creationists argue that days of Genesis should be interpreted figuratively. Clearly, from what we know from science the only viable interpretation is the day-age view. Astrophysicist turned Christian apologist Hugh Ross is currently the champion of this view.

    Both the YEC and old earthers adhere to what is known as a concordist interpretation of the Gen. 1. That is, they both interpret the days as following a chronological order.

    There is also a third non-concordist view, which interprets the days allegorically or non-literally. A lot of theistic evolutionists interpret the text that way.

    So who is right? Logically it has to be one of these views or none of them. I don’t see how they are compatible.

    YEC’s argue that the best (and only) interpretation is a plain strait forward reading of the text. They also dismiss the other two interpretations as being “accommodationist.” In other words, both interpretations are an anachronistic reading-into-the-text of a modern scientific view that’s primarily based on naturalistic presuppositions. Is it?

    It turns out, however, that St. Augustine (354-430 AD,) one of the top 3 or 4 theologians in all Christian history, interpreted Genesis 1 from an allegorical non-concordist perspective. The article cited below discusses that view in some detail.

    Augustine affirms that ordinary 24-hours days “are not at all like [the days of Genesis 1], but very, very different.”8 In Augustine’s view, God creates all things simultaneously, and the 7-day construct in Genesis 1 is an accommodation in which “the Scriptural style comes down to the level of little ones and adjusts itself to their capacity.”9 Specifically, he affirms that the ordering of Genesis is not according to temporal sequence but rather the ordering of angelic knowledge.10 Thus, Augustine not only distinguished the days of Genesis 1 from ordinary 24-hour days, he also distinguished God’s initial creative act from his subsequent activity in creation:

    “When we reflect upon the first establishment of creatures in the works of God from which he rested on the seventh day, we should not think either of those days as being like these ones governed by the sun, nor of that working as resembling the way God now works in time; but we should reflect rather upon the work from which times began, the work of making all things at once, simultaneously.”11

    Since, Augustine lived in a pre-modern science era he can hardly be accused of being an “accommodationist.” Indeed, he had textual reasons for interpreting Gen. 1 the way he did. On the other hand, he was at least as far from the original writing of Genesis as we are from him. So was he in any better position to interpret it more accurately and correctly than we are?


  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    A few more trivia notes:

    Apollo 8 was the first flight to take humans beyond the grip of Earth’s gravity. During the Christmas season of 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and Bill Anders flew to the moon, entering orbit around its cratered surface and then safely returning to earth. They did not land on the lunar surface, but they did beat a Russian spaceship named Zond into an orbit around the moon.

    At the time, we were in a heated battle with Russia to be the first ones to land men on the moon.

    The Christmas Eve reading of Genesis served as a counter-balance to the Russian propaganda that was propagated concerning what Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, said, “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God.”

    Like most claims from atheists, that claim for what Yuri Gagarin said was found to be false. In fact, Gagarin was, of all things, a devout Christian.

    Yuri Gagarin, first human in space, was a devout Christian, says his close friend
    Excerpt: The first man in outer space 50 years ago believed fervently in the Almighty — even though the atheistic Soviet government put famous words in his mouth that he had looked around at the cosmos and did not see God.
    Mankind’s first space flight lasted 108 minutes on April 12, 1961.
    It was the height of the Cold War. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was proclaimed by the Soviet leadership to have announced, “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God.”
    However, he never uttered those often-quoted words, says a close friend.,,,
    In fact, Gagarin should be remembered for completely different words, says his friend:
    ” I always remember that Yuri Gagarin said: “An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and his heart.”

    Also of note:

    “When a Russian cosmonaut returned from space and reported that he had not found God, C. S. Lewis responded that this was like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle looking for Shakespeare.”
    – Tim Keller – The Reason for God (2008) pg. 122

    “Some people … still maintain that since science has provided us with so many answers the day will soon arrive when we will be able to understand even the creation of the fundamental laws of nature without a Divine intent. They challenge science to prove the existence of God. But must we really light a candle to see the sun?”
    — Wernher von Braun, rocket pioneer, 1972 – genius behind Apollo program that landed a men on the moon

    ,,, it was von Braun who, in the morning hours of that fateful 16 July 1969, had to give the final answer to the question: “Are we ready to launch?”,,,,
    A week later, when the astronauts were safely back on Earth, a reporter wanted to know: “Dr. von Braun, what did you think after you had given your final ‘yes’ a week ago?”–“I quietly said the Lord’s prayer,” was his answer.
    In 1962, an engineer led Dr. von Braun to Christ using a Gideon Bible. Upon praying to repent of sin and receive Christ, the eminent rocket scientist confessed that he felt like a great burden had been lifted off him. He became a fervent Christian,

    as well:

    Eric Metaxas – Does Science Argue for or against God? – animated video of Wall Street Journal article that was published on Christmas Day in 2014

  4. 4
    ScuzzaMan says:

    So, how can you have solar days before there was a sun?

    Well, john: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

    Firstly, the text says that on the first day God said, ‘Let there be light’ and THERE WAS light. If that is insufficient for you, then Revelation also provides a clue:

    And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.

    Parenthetically, positing a God who creates the entire universe in 6 days, and then quibbling that he needed light from a nearby star to see by, is kind of missing the point of the whole concept of God. Just saying, this is not the cleverest objection to a plain reading of the Word.

    There are overwhelming linguistic, cultural, historical, logical, scriptural and theological evidences that the Genesis 1 account is intended to mean what it plainly says.

    I’ve given you a starter.

  5. 5
    john_a_designer says:

    My intention here was not to start a debate on how to interpret Genesis 1. It was only to point out that Christians (and Jews) have different interpretations of the text. Does one’s salvation depend on how one interprets the first chapter of Genesis?

    For example Hugh Ross who pursued degrees in physics and astronomy, (he earned his PhD at the University of Toronto) became a Christian by studying the Bible on his own. From day one his interpretation was that the days in Genesis were not to be taken as literal 24 hour days. If his interpretation was wrong does that mean he’s not saved?

    Many other Bible believing evangelical Christians interpret Genesis 1 the same way. Are they all heretics?

    Ross believes (as do I) that the Bible, in its original form, was divinely inspired, inerrant and infallible. However, what is not divinely inspired and infallible is anyone’s interpretation– that includes the YEC’s interpretation. And Ross could be wrong, I could be wrong and even St. Augustine could be wrong.

    I was somewhat partial to Ross’ interpretation till I read St. Augustine a few years ago. Augustine was not reacting to scientific discoveries in geology or paleontology– those scientific fields did not even exist in ancient times– instead he drew his interpretation from the text alone. My tentative conclusion is that maybe original intent of Genesis was not to tell us anything scientific but simply tell who and what, not how or when.

    However, there is a new interpretation put forth by a couple of evangelical Hebrew scholars with which I adamantly do not agree. They claim that the first verse of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” is not a propositional claim but simply the title for chapter one. I disagree because that claim is not supported by the Gospel of John which begins “In the beginning was the Logos* and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God…” [*most English translations use the word “word” but Logos has a much fuller and deeper meaning]. John 1:1 is clearly making a propositional claim and it’s clearly alluding to Genesis 1:1. The text which follows (verses 3-18) is probably the most explicit statement of the incarnation that there is in the New Testament, which is where I want to transition this post since tomorrow is Christmas.

    “And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

    Why did the Apollo 8 astronauts read the first chapter of Genesis? Because they were the very first human beings to ever see the earth from the vantage point of the moon. They were awestruck. They were also worshipful.

    One thing that not even an atheist can deny is that human beings are “hard wired” for worship. Worship has been a part of virtually every culture since the beginning of human history. Is there a true form of worship? I believe there is. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

    Ironically, even people who are somewhat secular in their world view are drawn to worship, and even the sceptic understands there are things that he does not understand that “transcend” him.

    In the spirit of Christmas, here is a Christmas version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (Cohen was a somewhat “eclectic” Jewish-Canadian songwriter. I don’t believe these lyrics are his.) It’s a 2016 non-professional production featuring Irish school children that’s since gone viral.–WjeN7o

    And as an encore, here is the “flash mob” version (original lyrics) which has also gone viral.

    Merry Christmas

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Merry Christmas ! 🙂

    A Savior Is Born—Christmas Video

    Luke 2:10-14
    And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
    For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
    And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
    And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
    Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

    THE GREATEST GIFT – Yancy – music video

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