I needed a break from the Lunar mineralogy, so I decided to delve into the Cultura Lunaris section of the Lunar Library to see if I could find something interesting. I’m not terribly interested in reviewing the Moon-hoaxer books, in part because I have no desire to attract that kind of commentary to my website. I probably should have gone with one of the “Moon in human history” books, but decided that it might be interesting to look at a Christian perspective on Moon science.
For full disclosure purposes, let it be noted that I was baptized at St. Eleanor’s in Collegeville, PA (and my dependent dogtag notes Catholicism as my religion), went to Anglican Church (on occasion) while dad was stationed in England, and was confirmed at Palm Valley Lutheran Church in Round Rock, TX. Still have the Bible, too. That having been said, let it also be noted that I have been an atheist since about the age of 12. I’ve done varying degrees of study of various religions from around the world, and have tried to guide my path through life using the ‘best practices’ that I’ve found therein. I do not see the ‘hand of a creator’ in our universe that others see, although I have to tell you that quantum mechanics does baffle me.
So I pulled a pair of tomes from the bookshelf by Mssrs. John C. Whitcomb and Donald B. DeYoung. We’ll start off with the first of the two, “The Moon: It’s Creation, Form, and Significance”, published in 1978 by BMH Books and weighing in at 180 pages all-in.
We begin with a foreword by a Mr. Larry Redekopp, PhD, an Assoc. Professor of Aerospace Engineering at USC. He summarizes the premise of the book as follows:
“By the title alone, the authors manifestly declare their underlying tenet which is carefully and distinctly elaborated in the text; i.e., they accept the entire Biblical record as authoritative in regards to beginnings, history, science, and ultimate meanings. The Bible teaches explicitly that the Moon was created instantaneously as a functioning body in the heavens and at a time simultaneous with the sun, planets, stars and galaxies, but three days subsequent to the creation of the earth. Furthermore, the Bible states clearly the intended purpose for the moon’s existence and its proximity to the earth. Their literal acceptance of these truths is amply evident in the text and comprises the cornerstone on which the geology, lunar data, observable phenomena, and origin of the moon are discussed.”
That’s quite a challenge, but one that the authors enthusiastically embrace. The introduction further lays the groundwork for conveying a Christian perspective for the origin of the Moon based on “the foundational premise…that Christian theology (exegetically based upon the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible) is absolutely crucial for meaningful answers as mankind searches the universe that surrounds him”, while noting the “repeated and widely publicized failure of astronomers to present even remotely possible mechanisms for the evolution of our nearest astronomical neighbor, the moon”. The authors state that
“G[-]d [note, I’ve had a lot of Jewish friends in my life and have adopted some of their mannerisms], being omniscient, can discover nothing new. So it has pleased Him to create a universe filled with things that are mysterious and challenging to the minds of men created in His image and likeness. And since those who ‘search out a matter’ are described as ‘kings,’ we may say that science is a royal activity in the sight of G-d”.
while noting also that
“The contemporary tensions between Biblical creationists and natural scientists have come about, therefore, through a basic misunderstanding. It has been widely assumed that while Biblical creationism involves a subjective faith-commitment to a world and life view (cf. Heb. 11:3), the consensus of modern science on origins is the end product of purely unbiased objectivity. The utter naivetÃ© and, in fact, absurdity of such a contrast is now, at long last, becoming clear to a large number of philosophers. By the very nature of the case, a concept of ultimate origins involves basically unprovable presuppositions that are religious in character. Honesty and wisdom require that these presuppositions be recognized and stated at the outset. Christians must do this because the Bible requires them to do so in the name of their G-d. But proponents of evolutionary cosmogonies have generally fallen short of the basic requirements of objectivity and honesty in this regard.
Science, then, can be a magnificent and royal enterprise in proportion to its acknowledgment of the supremacy of the King.”
Thus, down is the gauntlet thrown. I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that “a concept of ultimate origins involves basically unprovable presuppositions that are religious in character.” The application of physics (to the extent that we understand it) works irrespective of religious persuasion, and I think it’s arrogant and presumptuous to assume that we know anywhere near enough to make definitive statements regarding “ultimate origins”.
The preface gives some background not just on the authors, but also Christian science. The acknowledgments are rather interesting, as the authors appear to have sent the manuscript to a large number of individuals at scientific organizations in addition to religious institutions for input.
Then we get to Chapter One – Lunar Exploration, which opens with a quote from Apollo 8 from Christmas Eve, 1968. The authors note that while there were many man-made satellites orbiting the Earth, none could match the grandeur of our Moon. They then provide a rather interesting take on Apollo and NASA:
“The current space program has been a disappointment to many, with its emphasis on a futile search for evolutionary evidence contrary to a Biblical creation. This is true of the analysis of space radiation for intelligent signals, of the Viking quest for life on Mars, and it is also true of the Apollo search for a natural model of lunar origin. All too often the conclusions of the secular scientific establishment are disseminated as final authority. However, with the continuous flow of new and more refined data, the natural laws and models discovered by scientists never really arrive at a final, perfect state.”
The authors provide some basic background and a summary of major Lunar exploration events, as well as some color plates. While noting that Apollo was a major achievement, they also proclaim that
“Amidst the glory of scientific achievements such as Apollo, it is well to remember the prophet Jeremiah’s counsel that creation is in the end inscrutable: the heavens can never be fully measured, nor the foundations of the earth searched out (Jer. 31:17). Only the special revelation of G-d through His Son and His Word provides final answers in matters of origins. G-d was, after all, the only One there! Thus, the Christian can be confident that valid scientific conclusions will be in accord with G-d’s creation message, and the Apollo mission to the moon is no exception. All findings have been found to be in harmony with the teachings of Scripture concerning the moon, for the earth’s satellite is apparently designed for the specific purpose of meeting human needs and is recent in origin (Gen. 1:16).”
The second chapter looks at Naturalistic Theories of the Moon’s Origin, visiting the several unresolved scientific theories regarding our Moon that were extant at the time of the book’s writing. Not that the authors were inclined towards any of them, or as they note, “In fact, no naturalistic lunar explanation conforms to the established laws of celestial mechanics.” First up is of course the famous fission theory, wherein the early proto-Earth was spinning so fast that a piece of it came off and ended up in orbit. Interesting, but the initial conditions are a bit implausible. Some of the problems that the authors note are:
-an earth rotation period of about 2.6 hours is necessary for the proposed resonant rotational instability
-the disappearance of one-half of its initial spin angular momentum
-the slow rate of tidal dissipation of energy is extremely large when compared with the fission theory and its assumed 4-billion-year earth history
-such an occurrence of tidal separation could not even lead to a permanent moon
-the extreme differences in water content, density, and element abundances of the two bodies
-a moon thrown off from the earth must pass through “Roche’s Limit”
Next up is the Capture Theory, whereby the Moon formed elsewhere (i.e. not even necessarily in our Solar system) and was captured in the Earth’s gravitational attraction as it wandered by. Again, a rather implausible explanation, but not beyond the realm of orbital mechanics given the right starting conditions. Still, the initial orbits of the Moon around the Earth must have been real doozies and probably wreaked havoc on the landscape. The author’s note that research has shown that due to the orbital eccentricity of the Earth around the Sun (0.01673), it’s possible that at some point in the future our Moon could escape the Earth’s embrace and enter into a heliocentric orbit. They also claim that the elliptical orbit of our Moon is not eccentric enough (at 0.0549) to make a capture origin likely.
So we move on to the last of the major pre-Apollo theories for the origin of the Moon, that of the nebular, or condensation, theory. This holds that the Earth and Moon formed in close proximity from the original cloud of dust and gas that served as the feedstock for the formation of our Solar system. The main objection noted by the authors is that of the “precise balance needed during the proposed buildup of the proto-earth and proto-moon”. They also note that “One must be fully aware of the fundamental assumption of the nebular theory, that gases in space will condense to form initially a nebula and eventually a dense body.” Well, yeah, we’ve actually seen it in action in the Eagle nebula, and it’s not just gas, but gas and dust, with the dust being composed of elements up to Uranium formed in the tremendous unleashing of energy that is a supernova.
Given the problems with the accepted theories, the authors propose that the uncertainty regarding the origin of the Moon lies in the fact that all of the ‘naturalistic’ origin theories are incorrect –
“When all other ideas are seen to fail, the world is faced with the full power and truth of the Genesis record of the creation of the moon and of the universe. It is the one proposition that fits all the known facts. Unfortunately it is also the one proposition that is almost universally scorned and suppressed, in spite of the fact that those who do so are empty handed.”
Our next chapter, then, looks at the Genesis Record of the Moon’s Creation. It is noted that the Moon is mentioned about 30 times in the Old Testament and 9 times in the New Testament.
“In almost every instance, the theological significance of the moon for mankind is set forth. This should not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the basic teachings of Scripture, for G-d’s Word constitutes the divinely authoritative frame of reference within which all human activities, including science and engineering, are to be conducted, in accordance with G-d’s original mandate to Adam and Eve and their descendants to ‘subdue’ the earth and rule over it (Gen. 1:28).”
The author’s begin by addressing what they consider a fallacy shared by many Christian theologians and scientists, in that there is a special revelation (Biblical in nature) and a general revelation (derived from nature), each of which is fully authoritative in its own realm.
“Although these two revelations differ greatly in their character and scope, they cannot appear to intelligent men to contradict each other, since they are given by the same self-consistent G-d of truth. The theologian is the G-d-appointed interpreter of Scripture, and the scientist is the G-d-appointed interpreter of nature, each having specialized lenses for reading the true message of the particular ‘book of revelation’ which he has been called upon to study.”
The authors then note that this concept has “failed to come to grips with major theological and scientific realities”:
-it fails to give due recognition to the tremendous limitations which inhibit the scientific method when applied to the study of ultimate origins.
-the scientific method…is incapable of coping with once-for-all and utterly unique events, or even the moral and spiritual (and thus empirically elusive) realities that give significance to human endeavor.
-it fails…when an attempt is made to employ it in analyzing the supernatural and miraculous acts of G-d (as recorded in Scripture) which form the foundation pieces of the Judeo-Christian world view.
-those who exclusively employ the scientific method in historical sciences (e.g. paleontology) uncritically apply this method in a uniformitarian manner by extrapolating present natural processes forever into the past.
-they ignore the possible anti-theistic bias of the scientist himself as he handles the facts of nature in arriving at a cosmology…and a cosmogony.
They also note that there are “insuperable scientific problems which continue to plague currently popular naturalistic/evolutionary theories concerning the origins of the material universe and of living things.” Amongst these insuperable problems are:
-the thermodynamic and mathematical barriers to a chance transition from non-life in a primeval sea, the debilitating and lethal effects of the vast majority of mutations;
-the debilitating and even lethal effects of the vast majority of mutations;
-the large and as yet unbridged gaps between the various kinds of plants and animals in the fossil record;
-clear evidence of global catastrophes (rather than generally uniform processes) in the formation of coal seams and other fossil strata.
After pointing out all of the “problems” of relying on anything other than the divine revelation of the Bible, and how that clearly can only lead to wrong conclusions, has led to a renaissance of those looking to Biblical authority in understanding the ultimate origins of the universe. They provide further examples of how “uniformitarianism” doesn’t work, like decay in the Earth’s magnetic field, which is apparently accelerating at an exponential rate, a fact which lends credence to the possibility/fact that the Earth might be much younger than anticipated. Increasing its scientific creds, the authors cite that the Bible has “64 geographical terms,88 personal names, 48 generic names and at least 21 identifiable cultural items (such as gold, bdellium [?], onyx, brass, iron, gopher wood, bitumen, mortar, brick, stone, harp, pipe, cities, towers)” in its first eleven chapters as compared with “the paucity of references in the Koran”.
“Thus, Genesis 1-11 is detailed, accurate, authoritative, non-poetic history”
I’m not sure I necessarily follow that train of logic to the same conclusion, but that proved to be a problem throughout my reading of this book. Oftentimes other diners would look around when I would exclaim “What?” and throw my hands up in the air with a complete look of befuddlement on my face as I was presented with yet another non sequitur. Still, I plowed on.
“Biblical creationism is, strictly speaking, non-scientific (…). But so is evolutionism! Neither model can be empirically proved…”
Here, I would hold, the difference is in the fact that evolution does have significant empirical data in its support, whereas I would argue that creationism is significantly hampered in its ability to provide empirical (I.e. repeatable and provable by disinterested parties) support for its assertions. Furthermore, as can be seen in the review so far, one does not build a hypothesis by tearing down the opposing party. Rather, one builds one’s hypothesis from fact and process so as to be unassailable. Science, in its myriad forms, has given us the theory of evolution. This theory sufficiently fits the world in which we live that we have been able to use that theory as a foundation to build a knowledge of biological function sufficient to create an incredible system of medicine. Given that scientific efforts can really only be considered to have been pursued in earnest by human society for about the last 500 years or so, whereas the position of creationists can be considered to have a foundation of several millenia, one has to wonder whether our current state of medical skill could have been achieved in the absence of cold scientific rigor. [I’m sure I just opened a huge can of worms there]
Once the factual credence of the Bible is established to the authors’ satisfaction, they delve into the actual creation of the Moon. They posit that “[s]ince all facts must ultimately be G-d-oriented facts, the moon, like all other facts of human experience, must first be seen within the context of special divine revelation.” The revelations of the Bible center on three basic concepts for the Moon:
1) the manifestation of G-d’s wisdom and power through the direct creation of the moon;
2) the dependability and destiny of the moon as a divinely ordained sign;
3) the spritual disaster of moon worship
The Moon is referenced throughout the Old Testament, but especially in Genesis and Psalms. One of my favourite Psalms is a psalm of David (Ps.8:3-6):
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
On the rare occasion when I do discuss the Moon with those of the religious persuasion, I’ll cite this verse as evidence that those of the tribes of Abraham have a reason to go out and explore the Moon and the rest of the heavens, given that their G-d made man ruler over the works of His hands, the Moon and the stars.
Back to the book at hand, the authors note two important facts regarding the Moon and stars:
1) the astronomical bodies were created suddenly, and
2) the astronomical bodies were created after the earth and plant life had been created.
Since all of the astronomical bodies were created from nothing, and instantaneously, and therefore the origin of the astronomical bodies could not have been spontaneous or self-acting. This begins a long section of semantic analysis of both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible which I’ll skip. The conclusion is that the fact that the vast infinities of the cosmos were instantaneously created bear testament to the power, omni-potence even, of G-d.
Having thus established the manner of creation of the Moon, the book next delves into the topic of Lunar Geology. The first part of the chapter establishes that the authors did in fact read the scientific literature, and is actually pretty impressive given the contents up to this point, even laying out a brief comparative timeline of the Earth’s and Moon’s history back to 5 billion years ago.
But, it seems, there’s a problem with the 5 billion year timeline:
“…evidence for this is limited to uncertain radiometric dating interpretations…The long ages suggested for both the earth and moon are really not surprising since radiometric methods commonly used for rock are not sensitive to ages less than many thousands of years…In truth, the uncertainties of initial conditions and environment may render radiometric dating meaningless over eons of time.”
If the Moon is supposed to be as old as some folks say, then three paradoxes are created:
1) the moon has not accumulated the amount of dust that some scientists believe eons of time would provide;
2) the moon’s present instability makes it by no means a “dead’ or “fossilized” planet;
3) the dating of moon soil yields inconsistent results from expectations.
The last point is supported in an interesting way. The authors note that “Rubidium-strontium radiometric dating shows that in many cases the soil is ‘a billion years older’ than the adjacent rocks. They then provide an interesting quote; “An Apollo 11 soil sample was 4.6 billion years old. This moon dust was about a billion years older than the chunks of rock that lay strewn about it.” The source for this quote is a citation from the 1971 Reader’s Digest Almanac and Yearbook. Nothing against Reader’s Digest, but I really wouldn’t consider it to be an authoritative source. Then there’s the weak logic, like “Because of this lack of early rocks, there is no evidence that the lunar craters and mare lava regions were formed over an extreme length of time.” and “A lengthy cratering period is countered by the fact that the earth-side of the moon is less cratered than the far side.” Well, there are reasons for that (like, mare for example). The authors then go into an ‘evaluation’ of radiometric dating methodologies, and why they are so weak in serving as a gauge of age. This leads them to conclude that “a complete understanding of the physical nature and history of the incredibly complex earth and moon, based on the scientific method,is entirely impossible.”
The next chapter looks at Transient Lunar Phenomena, which the authors propose as evidence that the Moon doesn’t conform to scientists’ expectations that the Moon would be an old, cold, dead planetary body. Numerous scientific works are cited, from Willy Ley’s ‘Ranger to the Moon’ to Ralph Baldwin’s ‘A Fundamental Survey of the Moon’. What’s notable is that the footnotes for the chapter date almost entirely to the pre-Apollo era. They explore a number of reported phenomenae across the face of the Moon, building their case that while the Moon in theory has had enough time over 4.5 billion years to have cooled down and become inert, that’s obviously not the case, which points to the Moon being much younger than conventionally believed.
The last chapter dwells on those things that are Lunar Distinctives. Sure there’s neat stuff in the Solar system, and out in deep space, but the Moon features some unique characteristics that the authors believe is evidence of its divine creation. First is the mass ratio of the Moon-Earth pair, which is 10x greater than any planet-satellite pair, and with the exception of the Triton-Neptune pair is 100x greater. The Sun is 400x bigger than the Moon, but 400x farther away, an amazing coincidence (wink, wink) giving us Solar eclipses, the sheer awesomeness of which shows divine intent. The size of the Moon is supposed to be just big enough to be round (although the much smaller Ceres is much closer to the limit).
Earth-Ceres (the largest asteroid)-Moon, to scale. Image Credit: Walter Myers
The same force that binds that binds the Moon to the Earth also provide us with the tides, which provide power. There are other features also, such as the orbital angular momentum, Lunar phases, inclination of the orbit and orbital synchronism. The authors conclude with:
“The multiple evidences of the value and beauty of the moon are not meant in themselves to prove the truth of Christianity. The witness of nature was never intended by G-d to be a substitute for special revelation. Its function is to remind men of what they already know about G-d and to activate their consciences with respect to their spiritual responsibility (cf. Rm. 1:18-23). It is hoped that this presentation on lunar distinctives will provide a basis for further study of creation and the perfect Creator, to whom the moon owes its perfect design and whose glory it eloquently declares.”
There follows several appendices, one on the Dependability and Destiny of the Moon, another on Moon Worship–A Spiritual Disaster, and a listing of writings by Christian theologians and scientists. Rounding out the book is an index, with a supplementary index of Biblical citations.
So was I sold on the idea of the veracity of the Christian explanation of the origin of the Moon? Nope. The effort seemed more geared towards discrediting scientific explanations versus building the authenticity of their case. Given this methodology, I do wonder how the book would read were all the science-discrediting passages removed. The logic didn’t seem sound, and there were many instances of “Wait! That doesn’t follow…” as I was reading.
I seriously considered passing up the second book, having been so discouraged by the first. Nevertheless, I toughed it out.
“Our Created Moon: Earth’s Fascinating Neighbor” is by the same authors, but published much more recently, in August 2003. It has been updated for modern audiences, so the text is larger and more widely spaced. It has also been pared down to 144 pages.
This time around, the authors take a question and answer approach to the topic, 62 in all, arranged around particular themes:
-Our nearest neighbor
-History of the Moon
-Purposes of the Moon
-The Moon in Scripture
-Answering the critics
The first chapter is loaded with almanacal data, even covering topics like the Earth-Moon pair actually rotating around a barycenter that lies just beneath the Earth’s crust. The best way to think of it is as the Earth wobbling in it’s orbit around the Sun. If you’re sitting in a chair move your torso around in a small circle, imagining the Moon orbiting around you and pulling you off center.
The next chapter introduces the Big Whack Theory, but argues that it would have a problem with the Roche Limit. This is the imaginary boundary around a large mass in space where the gravitational difference between the nearest part and the farthest part of an object approaching the big mass starts tearing that object apart. For the Earth-Moon system they note that is 2.44 Earth radii, or about 18,500 km, which is a bit over halfway to Geosynchronous orbit (GEO).
I decided to check with Dana Mackenzie’s “The Big Splat, or How Our Moon Came to Be“, which chronicles the development of the Big Whack theory (he thinks splat is a better descriptive). Concern with the Roche Limit is documented in the book, with the thinking being that irrespective of how you model it, the debris thrown into orbit will be subject to what’s called ‘gravitational torque’. This is driven by the fact that the newborn Earth is rotating faster than the cloud of gas and debris, and in essence dragging it around. This imparts additional energy to the debris, which moves it to a higher orbit.
Actually, I recommend ‘The Big Splat’ from what I’ve read so far; perhaps that will be the next review. For additional info on planets in collision in the universe, check out the latest results from Spitzer.
Back to the book at hand, this section also looks at the issues with radioisotope dating methods. Some of the issues include:
-“Age results in the range of millions or billions of years are not unusual. However, these calculated ages always are subject to interpretation. The number of atoms can be accurately measured, but what does the data really mean?”
-“Assumptions must be made about the initial composition of the sample along with any changes that may have occurred during the history of the sample. For example, parent or daughter atoms may have migrated into or out of the rock sample, thus invalidating the calculated age.” [NB: No methodology for this atom migration is put forth]
-“Also, many creation scientists believe that radioactive decay was accelerated at some point in history, perhaps at the time of creation, the Curse, or else during the year of the Genesis flood.”
Back to ‘The Big Splat’, Mr. Mackenzie gives a nice explanation of how scientists actually use a number of relationships in radioactive decay to determine the age of specimens.
In ‘Our Created Moon’, the authors are much more explicit in calling for a young Earth view of creation, i.e. everything everywhere has only been around for less than 10,000 years or so. This leads to a number of intellectual leaps, from the ‘acceleration in radioactive decay’ noted above, to G-d having created the stars 14 billion light years away, but accelerating the light so that it reaches us now.
And herein lies the inherent difficulty in trying to present a counter-argument to a proposition that can change anything anywhere in any way – because G-d is omni-potent. Scientists don’t get to labor under that luxury, because they need to be able to duplicate results so that anyone anywhere can run the same experiment and get the same results. ‘Special Consideration’ doesn’t get a free pass in science, and are ‘unique’ events really unique, or just statistically very unlikely?
There are a couple of different ways I can approach the ratings for these two books on the creation of our Moon:
-I can look at it as a study in Biblical scripture, in which case it seems fairly comprehensive, although I certainly can’t presume to opine on its adherence to Christian tautology. In this regard I’d probably give it better than a half Moon.
-I can look at it as a cultural study (and they are filed in the Cultura Lunaris section of the Lunar Library). It’s clearly meant for modern readers, but relies on a worldview developed between 6,000 and 2,000 years ago, as evidenced by their heavy reliance on Old Testament references. This makes for some interesting if not always convincing leaps of faith. In this regard it would get somewhere between a quarter and half Moon.
-I can look at this as an attempt at providing a quasi-authoritative explanation of the origin of our Moon. There is really only one way to consider it in that regard, and that is as an Epic Fail. In this I have to quote from ‘The Big Splat’, which notes that:
“Four hundred years ago, Galileo had proved that quantitative reasoning based on experiments, not consultation of ancient authorities, was the gold standard for predicting how objects behave in the real world.”
In this case these books can earn no more than a crescent Moon (waxing or waning, you take your pick), and that only because the almanac data they present (distance from Earth, period of orbit, etc.) is pretty much correct. Beyond that, however…
P.S. Oh hey, and check it out – there’s also a DVD that “explains how a study of the moonâ€™s features points to God the Creator, and how to refuse evolutionary teaching on the moonâ€™s origins.”