There has been a fair amount of astronomy news lately, the biggest of which is the possibility of a new, massive planet in our solar system out beyond the Kuiper Belt. No one has seen the planet, but positing its existence makes the most sense of the other things we see. That’s often how discoveries in science happen—from black holes to electrons to evolution. Sometimes those are confirmed through further empirical discoveries; sometimes they’re disconfirmed (anyone remember phlogiston?) Here’s a Science Friday article summarizing the indirect evidence for Planet Nine.
Most of us think there is pretty good direct evidence for the earth being a sphere (or close to it). Among the public dissenters this week was a rapper I’ve never heard of (which, to be honest, describes most of them since my junior high favorite, The Sugarhill Gang). He goes by the name B.o.b. and started tweeting about the earth being flat. That led Neil deGrasse Tyson to appear on Comedy Central to sort things out (DISCLAIMER: BioLogos does not endorse Comedy Central or NdGT; I just thought this was really funny).
To set history straight: The idea that the earth is flat may have been a feature of ancient Near Eastern cosmology, but since the development of the Judeo-Christian worldview in the West, no one has ever really thought the earth is flat. This great article at Newsweek gives an overview of the history.
It never ceases to amaze me that people could go out at night and observe the sky and figure out the geometry of our universe. Of course a big part of that was the five planets you can see with the naked eye. These “wanderers” as their name means in Greek didn’t stick to the same rhythm as the stars, which was confusing to people who were certain that everything in the heavens must move in perfect circles and at constant rates. They figured out a clever way to account for the observations and hold on to their cherished metaphysics. But ultimately the erroneous metaphysics had to give way to undeniable empirical evidence (I’ll let the reader draw the parallel I’m trying to subtly insinuate here!). The five Wanderers are now visible together in the pre-dawn sky. I got up early the other morning to check them out and found myself declaring the glory of God along with the heavens, and thanking God for the gift of using our minds to understand his creation.
On that note, I bring Missing Links to a close by pointing you to a new series at NPR exploring the scientific understanding of the origin of life. This is notoriously difficult stuff in the scientific community, and nothing like a consensus has emerged. But remember, coming up with a plausible scientific explanation for the origin of life doesn’t preclude God’s responsibility for creating life any more than does our understanding of your parents’ role in your origin preclude God’s knitting you together in your mother’s womb!