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Our Perfectly Placed Planet

There is an off shoot of the Argument by Design that a surprisingly large number of Christians still use. The claim is that the Earth is perfectly placed by God to support life. Those who espouse this argument state that if the Earth was just one degree closer to or further away from the Sun, all life as we know it would not exist. This is true. If the Earth was just one degree closer to or further away from the Sun than all life as we know it would not exxist. Does this fact prove that the Christian God put the Earth in exactly the right place for life? No.

I find this argument particularly interesting because it was refuted rather well and rather publicly two hundred and fifty years ago and yet Christians today are still using it. This argument doesn’t just show an ignorance of science and an ignorance of logic, but also shows an ignorance of literature.

In 1759, French satirist Voltaire published his masterpiece, Candide. This book is considered by most to be a classic. It is even on many High School reading lists. In the book, the master teacher of metaphysico-theologo-cosmolonigology, Pangloss, explains that:

“It is demonstrable,” said he, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles, therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings, accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles, therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle.”

Now obviously the nose was not formed for spectacles. Obviously people made spectacles to fit the nose, just as it is obvious that life on Earth arose because of our placement in the solar system and not the other way around. So while it is true that if the Earth was one degree closer to or further away from the Sun, all life as we know it wouldn’t exist, that isn’t to say that some other form of life (as we may not know it) couldn’t exist nor does it say that life must exist at all. If the Earth was in a different position, perhaps no life would exist on Earth just as no life exists on so many other planets. Voltaire understood this and joked about it with his over the top teacher who claimed that God made stones so that we can build castles. It seems rather obvious that if there were no stones, than we would have built a structure out of something else that was there. This claim that the Earth was put into the perfect position for life is just backwards thinking.

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  • Chris

    Slight correction, the “habitable zone” is actually about 37%, not 1%. that’s several billion meters, and almost out to the martian orbit.. if Mars were only a little closer, we might have started an interplanetary war by sending probes :)

    • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

      Thanks for the educated fact Chris. I was just going by what Christians tell me and as we both know, science isn’t exactly their strong suit. 37% makes much more sense.

      • Mr. X

        You should check out the YouTube video series, “Why Do People Laught at Creationists?”, by the user Thunderf00t. He deals with this and many other “creationism-vs.-science” topics in more depth.

        Also, he just had an informal debate with Ray Comfort! I haven’t finished watching it, but that’s posted up there too.

  • ProgRockGirl

    If the earth really were purposely placed by a creator, why are all these other planets hanging around? They’re kind of superfluous.

  • http://myspace.com/scott888 Scott

    I have seen Christians try to use this argument before. As some have said, the habitable zone is quite big so the probability of a planet being located there seems reasonable. Earth also has to be a certain size to do plate tectonics.

    On Earth, if we get too much CO2 in the atmosphere, the ice caps melt and the higher water levels increase the frequency that the CO2 that gets into the water gets chemically combined into the rocks. Then CO2 gets removed from the atmosphere and earth can cool down again. If it gets too cool then photosynthesis is reduced along with the amount of water to absorb CO2 into rocks so what happens is that volcanoes will eventually release the CO2 stuck in the rocks and eventually warm the earth up.

    This is why during the ice ages we had 3 interglacial periods. In fact, right now we are in a 4th interglacial period and an upcoming ice age looms ahead in the future unless global warming happens.

    Anyhow, the carbon cycle means that earth regulates it’s temperature to be around the 70 degree F mark and it would really have to be moved out of position to boil the oceans away or freeze the oceans solid.

    And as the post above me said, there are 100s of other planets and moons around without life? Why did God make those? Sure, Mars and Venus are future terraforming projects, Jupiter protects us from stray objects and sling shots our space probes faster but then what else? Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune could support sky cities and their moons could be farmed for He3 but we know Christians could care less about the space program. Truth is that we will find uses for the other planets no matter what kind of planet they are for it’s the nature of our species to make the best of what we have and we do a pretty good job of it.

    Perhaps the ecological role we will play is that we will bring life from one planet and put it on all our planets. Much the African Savanna depends on megaherbivores to turn dry deciduous forest into moist savanna to support the grazers, other animals will depend on our constructs to exist through the entirety of the solar system whether it be thru terraforming, bioengineering, or moon base type colonies that exist under domes. It might even be mechanical life that becomes the end result.

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  • Kat

    It still comes down to the one question(to anyone of any RELIGION) “What are your beliefs based on?” I never get a straight answer..If you quote the bible, they say “oh..well..that was written for the times..that’s just a guideline…or some will say “It’s the Word of God, you just have to believe it, no matter what”… Science has already disproved Genesis
    Why DO we have Science? Why Do we explore? Why Do we want to know what the sun is made of, how many stars and solar sytems there are? How the earth has changed? Evolution? If God made it all, why aren’t we just happy with what he made and leave it at that?
    Does anyone really, really believe in God..or do they just WANT to believe? Because it seems to me Man has spent a lot of time on disproving God and has done a pretty good job of doing it…but you still have …what? 80-90% saying they believe in God? I think they lie.

    • http://myspace.com/scott888 Scott

      Good points. This is pretty much it, people still fear death so they want to believe in a god. They also have been indoctrinated into churches which is now the foundation of their social structure so they cannot leave it. What it comes down is that complex explanations don’t satisfy the masses. I have learned that Christian or not, nearly every single person with Asperger’s syndrome follows science because they have a high attention to detail and complex explanations is quality food for their brains. So with that knowledge, it really comes down to the masses being stupid. The role of the masses is the same as it always was: to be sheep that need to be herded by the smarter people.

      Go back to the blog “In The Image of God” and you will see a Christian (Matt) that threw logic out the window after I made my post to counter his. He has yet to respond, otherwise, I win the debate ;) .

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  • Allie

    It’s not backwards thinking.. It’s giving the glory to God because we know He created everything. True believers in Christ don’t try to “prove” God’s existence because we know that His existence is only spiritually discerned. No matter how much “proof” one had; they would not believe in a creator until their eyes were opened by God to see.

    • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

      No, it’s backward thinking just as Voltaire said. Just as the nose wasn’t perfectly designed so that people can wear glasses, the Earth was not perfectly designed for human life.

      • Allie

        Thank you for being kind in your response. I guess I just wanted to give my perspective on it. Have a blessed day.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    I assume you mean nature of reality. You seem to be saying that if someone believes science cannot answer all questions about the nature of reality then they are “abandoning” or “rejecting” science. But you haven’t constructed a valid case for that conclusion. Where is the logical connection between not believing science can answer all questions about the nature of reality and rejecting science?

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    You have constructed a strawman argument and I tried to cut that strawman in half before you made it. But I have failed apparently because you didn’t even acknowledge what I said. Instead, you just barreled on with your strawman.

    Let me attempt to clear this up. The scientific method allows us to understand the world around us. If a claim is made about reality, we can use the scientific method to evaluate that claim. When someone asserts a belief in deities, they are making a claim about reality. They are saying that a deity exists in reality and that the deity actually created reality. There are many more claims about reality that follow from this, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

    So, is there evidence for the claim that a deity exists?

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    If a claim is made about reality, we can use the scientific method to evaluate that claim.

    OK, I see no reason to accept this statement.