Over the past month, three different topics important to the science-faith discussion have appeared in scientific literature. Discoveries in each of these areas showcase an apologetic intersection that helps buttress the Christian faith and point to God’s work in fashioning the cosmos—from distant galaxies to Earth’s mountain ranges—for life.
1. Distant Galaxy Affirms Big Bang
Scientists found the most distant galaxy yet discovered. Light from this galaxy has traveled toward us for over 13 billion light-years, meaning our telescopes see this galaxy as it appeared a mere 500 million years after the big bang. Pandora’s Cluster(or Abell 2744), the large galaxy cluster between Earth and this most-distant galaxy, gravitationally lenses the more distant light into three images captured by Hubble. Scientists used the brightness, spacing, and color of the lensed images to determine the galaxy’s distance with multiple techniques—all of which gave the same answer.1Finding these dimmer galaxies at such great distances allows astronomers to more stringently test—and affirm—the big bang model of creation.
2. Dark Matter Search Continues
Two interesting papers addressing dark matter were published recently. The first claimed evidence pointing to an axionic version of dark matter coming from the Sun. In all likelihood, this claim will take its place along side a string of dark matter “detections” that most dark-matter scientists think won’t hold up (for a few other examples, see here, here, and here). The second article presented a measurement of the total mass of our Milky Way Galaxy (MWG) and found that the MWG’s dark matter amounted to only 800 billion times the mass of the Sun.2 At first glance, 800 billion seems like a huge number, but it resides on the lower end of the range of possible dark matter components for our galaxy.
Scientists continue to explore the nature of mysterious dark matter, but two conclusions seem firm thus far. First, although it remains elusive, dark matter exists. Second, dark matter plays a prominent role in making the universe a place friendly to life, humanity in particular.
3. Ancient Mountain Erosion Fed Cambrian Explosion
Geoscientists found evidence of a 2,500-kilometer-long, Himalayan-style mountain range that ran from west Africa to Brazil on the supercontinent Gondwana. Formed roughly 600 million years ago over a brief period (20 million years), this mountain range resulted when two continents collided and one subducted under the other. The subduction pushed continental material 100 kilometers into the crust where the increased temperature and pressure formed a distinct set of minerals.3 As one continent subducted, the other rose to heights similar to the Himalayas.
The timing of this event corresponds to Earth coming out of a severe ice age where glaciers covered the entire surface of the planet (or nearly so). The incredible heights of this mountain range and the end of the ice age mean that the peaks eroded quickly, washing voluminous amounts of nutrients into the oceans. Such nutrients played a critical role in the explosion of complex, multicellular life during the Cambrian era. This research provides one more example of the interaction of disparate processes (atmospheric, astronomical, geological, and biological) at the right place and time to bring about a habitable environment teeming with diverse life. It seems reasonable to conclude that the confluence of such events was orchestrated by a Mind.
- Adi Zitrin et al., “A Geometrically Supported z ~ 10 Candidate Multiply Imaged by the Hubble Frontier Fields Cluster A2744,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 793 (September 20, 2014): L12.
- Prajwal Raj Kafle et al., “On the Shoulders of Giants: Properties of the Stellar Halo and the Milky Way Mass Distribution,” Astrophysical Journal 794 (October 10, 2014): id. 59.
- Carlos E. Ganade de Araujo et al., “Ediacaran 2,500-km-long Synchronous Deep Continental Subduction in the West Gondwana Orogen,” Nature Communications 5 (October 16, 2014): id. 5198.