New Exoplanet Discovered - Rejoice in Insignificance?


(SeanO) #1

An article on Wired described how machine learning and neural nets were used to potentially discover a new exoplanet around Kepler90 - which would make 8 total.

Pretty neat in and of itself.

But here are the articles’ closing words:

“We can look forward to more significant confirmation of our insignificance”

Why do you guys think people in our culture are so excited to come to the conclusion that life has no inherent ultimate meaning??? Especially at the level of pop culture


Astronomical discoveries and thinking about God
(Melvin Greene) #2

That’s such a great question @Sean_Oesch. It doesn’t seem to make sense to those of us who believe that we were created by an intelligent being with an inherent purpose, or meaning. My only guess would be that if they acknowledge that we have inherent ultimate meaning, that would have to deposit an intelligent creator. You can’t have inherent ultimate meaning if we are nothing more than some random act of nature.


(SeanO) #3

Great point @Melvin_Greene, I certainly think a large part of it is rooted in peoples’ desire for autonomy & a world where there is no day of judgment. In spite of the inherent goodness and beauty of God’s laws when lived out, those enslaved to sin cannot rightly distinguish good from evil.


(Helen Tan) #4

Hi @Sean_Oesch and @Melvin_Greene , it is sad that the writer sees the insignificance of man when confronted by the vastness of the universe. I think the following quotes from Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe will put things in proper perspective:

The first is that there can be no planet Earth unless the universe is precisely the mass and size that it is. A universe even a tiny bit less massive than ours would never possess elements heavier than helium. A universe even a tiny bit more massive would not possess elements lighter than iron. Likewise, unless the mass, expansion rate, and size of the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned, the universe will never produce galaxies, stars, and planets. In other words, given the laws of physics that God has chosen to govern the universe, there is no chance of a single planet like Earth existing on which physical intelligent life is possible unless the universe is exactly the mass, size, and age that ours is.” (http://reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2016/09/28/how-would-the-discovery-of-extraterrestrial-life-affect-biblical-creation-models)

And in his book, “Why the Universe is the way it is” (pages 40-41), Ross makes these statements:

“_Both cosmic mass density and dark energy density hugely impact not only the possibility for human life but also the possibility for individuals to observe, explore, and understand the universe. Given the particular laws and constants of physics that govern the universe, the possibility for life and discovery mandate that the universe be vast in all ways, including volume and mass, at the particular epoch during which intelligent life exists.” _

“And though its enormity strains the human capability to imagine, that vastness says something about the high value of and high purposes for humanity’s existence. Rather than seeing ourselves as insignificant specks in the immensity of the cosmos, we can consider that immensity an indicator of our worth. It seems the Creator invested a great deal – a universe of 50 billion trillion stars, plus a hundred times more matter, all fine-tuned to mind-boggling precision – for us. If not for the strength and abundance of evidence in support of that notion, it would seem the height of arrogance. Humility demands that we take a deeper and wider look at the evidence.”

We are far from being insignificant. The entire universe was lovingly designed and created for our existence. Perhaps many are just not aware of how much it took for that to happen.


(Melvin Greene) #5

Thank you, @Helen_Tan for posting that. It always blows my mind when I read articles from very intelligent Christian scientists who describe just how precisely balanced the universe is in order to sustain life on this planet. You’re right in saying that that alone is overwhelming evidence that we are significant. It also shows me just what kind of mental gymnastics some people are willing to perform to assert that there is no God. It’s like what @Sean_Oesch said about people not wanting there to be a judgment day. It can be frightening to think that you will be held accountable for your behavior here on earth.


(Melvin Greene) #6

By the way @Sean_Oesch. I like your comment on the goodness and beauty of God’s laws. People who do not believe in God see God’s laws as restricting and burdensome. I remember when I wasn’t a Christian thinking that if there was a God, he must be a great cosmic killjoy. It wasn’t until I accepted Him as my savior that I saw the beauty in His laws. I was so much happier and my life seemed a lot less complicated when I was living according to His laws. I saw His laws as a loving parent keeping us from harm.


(SeanO) #7

@Helen_Tan I think that is the appropriate response. Unfortunately it seems the modern western imagination is so filled with Carl Sagan quotes and sci-fi flicks that we struggle to acknowledge where the evidence actually points. Thanks for sharing the quotes!


(SeanO) #8

@Melvin_Greene Yes - ever since I read The Silver Chair where Puddleglum obeys Aslan in the Witch’s cave even when he was not sure what the consequences of doing so would be, I have had a deep sense of the reality that obedience to God, even if difficult at the time, always brings beauty and glory - now and in the age to come!

“Don’t you mind," said Puddleglum. "There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant king caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this.”


(Helen Tan) #9

HI @Sean_Oesch, our role is to stay prepared and present the evidence, sowing the seeds faithfully and praying for the Holy Spirit to work in their lives, and He’s done some amazing work among even the most atheistic scientists.


(SeanO) #10

@Helen_Tan Amen! May many more choose Christ over futility!


(Carson Weitnauer) #11

9 posts were split to a new topic: Role playing: what if they say, “I just want everyone to be happy”?


Role playing: what if they say, "I just want everyone to be happy"?
(Carson Weitnauer) #14

A post was split to a new topic: Astronomical Discoveries and Thinking About God


(Jimmy Sellers) #16

Apparently these guys don’t believe in the multiverse because if they did they would understand that they might actually be living in the universe where we are significant. :grinning:


(LaTricia January) #17

The entire closing paragraph of the article is:

Vanderburg and Shallue will continue polishing the neural network to look for more exoplanets. Vanderburg thinks that as they sift through more of Kepler’s data, they’ll find more solar systems of a comparable size. “When I think about this, I start to wonder, is an eight-planet system like our own solar system really that extraordinary?” he said during the press conference. With 200,000 stars’ worth of data to study, we can look forward to more significant confirmation of our insignificance.

In the context of the entire paragraph, I wouldn’t say that the sentiment of we as humans are insignificant all (as arrogant as we, in general, I’ve never found that to be a prevailing thought, especially in close circles). However, what is being pointed out is that the structure of our solar system isn’t unique, and given the vastness of the universe, what we once believed as unique about our solar system (central star, orbiting planets, moons, number of planets, and so on) is really not so unique at all. In a universe with many other solar systems that have central stars, orbiting planets, and multiple planets, the solar system that we call home ends up being rather insignificant in that respect. And this is what I believe the author is pointing this out as well as the quote that lead to the closing sentence of the article.

And frankly, as a human, in comparison to the expansive universe that I’m living in, I am rather insignificant. I only have significance because God says I do. Recently, I felt so humbled that God would even be mindful of me, one who was once separated from Him. Yet, He thought of me and a purpose for me from before the foundations of the Earth… This reflection was brought on by watching a short video detailing the sizes of other stars and planets in comparison to the star and planet in our solar system. Then it went on to describe the size of other solar systems and galaxies and clusters…

Again, if anything I’m humbled at knowing that even though I’m nothing but a blip like an ant going about it’s life amongst the enormity of the universe, God is compassionate enough to show me favor and save me.


(Bryan McCoy Forman) #18

@SeanO Do you think people today desire on some level to be insignificant because it releases them from personal responsibility? I am constantly amazed at how people don’t want to or simply will not take personal responsibility for anything. The more insignificant we see ourselves the easier it is to point the finger at someone else and release ourself from any responsibility. (IMHO)


(SeanO) #19

@Hamlet44 Great question! I think the answer to that is complicated because each person is so different. I do agree that people generally want to see their sins as insignificant - we as humans are so good at rationalizing our sin.

However, I think people do desire significance - they simply want their own significance / honor rather than the honor that comes from God. This desire manifests itself very differently in different people - from petty sensuality to a truly sincere desire to be thanked for making the world a better place. But the one thing it has in common is that God is not in the picture - they have ‘no room for God in their thoughts’.

So, I think people in our culture generally desire their sin to be insignificant, but still thirsts for the significance that can only truly come from God. But there are people like Luther - who was obsessed with his own guilt and I have met people even in our culture who similarly are very aware of their sin but do not understand how to be free from the burden of it.


(Biju Varghese) #20

The significance of our lives is because of GOD (Christ) and leaving Him out of his creation just gratifies the guilt of rejecting him in the first place for the writer. This then creates a question of purpose / morality / significance etc especially in the attempt to justify human existance to random chance creation. Another way to look at it is leave the image of God out of mankind (Gen 1:27) and seek a reconfirmation of insignificance in creation story to attempt to reduce His (God’s) image on man - A cyclical attempt at rejecting God in the name of science (No God - No significance for his creation - No answerability)


(SeanO) #21

@biju777 It is certainly true that our ultimate significance must come from Christ.

But for an unbeliever like the one who wrote this article, what do you think is the job of the apologists?

For me, it would be helping them to call into question their confidence that life has no significance - to raise what Os Guiness calls signals of transcendance - events or sensations in their lives that point to meaning in the universe.