It’s as busy as Grand Central Station. This New York landmark, correctly referred to as Grand Central Terminal, is often thought of as the epitome of chaos. Rightfully so. I happened to be there on its 100th birthday, February 1, 2013. The terminal teemed with performers and cameras, with local commuters undeterred from their path, and with overwhelmed tourists trying to soak it all in. Displayed above the chaos: an astronomical mural framed by intricate architecture.
I exhaled slowly and thanked God for the quiet reminder of his handiwork. Then I looked with new eyes at the hectic scene on the ground. All around me literal signs whispered “Grand by Design,” as if offering a silent confirmation that underneath all the busyness and chaos is intentionality, order, and design.
A train station with 67 tracks is busy enough, but when we look up at the sky, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the “muchness” of it all. Astronomers estimate that perhaps billions of planets exist in our galaxy alone, not to mention what’s yet to be detected in other galaxies. It’s all so much to take in, and yet every brush stroke in the night sky canvas reveals God’s handiwork.
From the placement of our planetary neighbors who shield our planet from harmful impacts, to the just-right ratios of elements to support advanced life, the grand-by-design features of our universe point to the skillful hand of an Artist.
Astronomer Hugh Ross lists five recent examples (discoveries) that reveal a solar system that is not only fine-tuned but also rare.
- The abundance ratios of carbon, sodium, magnesium, and especially oxygen relative to iron in our Sun must be fine-tuned for advanced life to be feasible.
- Our Sun must have the just-right elemental composition to maintain the kind of atmosphere and geochemical cycles necessary to sustain life for billions of years.
- Our solar system’s primordial planets must be exposed to a certain kind of supernova (exploding star) in order to have established the just-right amount of rare-earth elements to sustain life.
- Our planet must have a long history of strong plate tectonics for appropriate nutrient recycling (necessary for life) to be possible.
- Earth must have enduring, continuous, and aggressive silicate (rocks comprising 95 percent of Earth’s crust) weathering to sustain life. This weathering removes greenhouse gases from our planet’s atmosphere to compensate for the Sun’s increasing luminosity (brightness).
Hugh explains that, “These five studies establish that habitability lifetimes in the billions of years demand such a long list of exceptionally fine-tuned planetary characteristics as to defy naturalistic explanations.”
In the search for life on other planets, astronomers have found that our solar system and planet reveal order amid so much “chaos.” Other planetary systems fall short of meeting the requirements for a planet that can sustain advanced life. As the search for life-friendly planets continues, we expect astronomers—who enjoy a viewing platform akin to that of a bustling terminal—will find more evidence that our home planet is grand by design.