“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”Genesis 1:1
CHAPTER 1 IN THE BEGINNING….CLASSIC CHRISTIAN ASTRONOMYLESSON 1
What is astronomy? From an academic viewpoint, astronomy is the scientific study of the universe. According to Encarta Dictionary, this study is “especially of the motions, positions, sizes, composition, and behavior of astronomical objects. These objects are studied and interpreted from the radiation they emit and from data gathered by interplanetary probes”.
Why study astronomy in as part of a Classic Christian education? From a Biblical perspective, astronomy is taught as part of the debate between evolutionists and creationists. Conflict is often centered in the subject of biology with the argument between life either developing from earlier forms of life through “natural variation of genetic material” or life being created and sustained by God, The Creator. This debate is also an issue in astronomy. The age (6 thousand versus 14 billion years) and the method of creation (the Creator God versus the Big Bang and nebular accretion theories) are the most well-known differences.
From a Classical perspective, astronomy was taught as part of the Quadrivium. The Quadrivium comprised the four subjects, or arts, taught after the Trivium. The word is Latin, meaning "the four ways" or "the four roads". Together, the Trivium and the Quadrivium comprised the seven liberal arts. The Quadrivium consisted of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. These followed the preparatory work of the Trivium made up of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In turn, the Quadrivium was considered preparatory work for the serious study of philosophy and theology. (Wikipedia)
Asaph Hall, the discoverer of the moons of Mars, gave his view on teaching astronomy in high school in 1900:
To begin with the elementary Astronomy, it seems to me that it should be taught in the high schools and preparatory schools, as well as in the colleges. Preparatory work in it ought to be accepted for admission to college. By elementary Astronomy I mean those common, every-day facts of the science which can be learned by any intelligent student without mathematical training; for example, why the stars rise and set, the motions of the planets and the moon among the stars, the reasons for the seasons, the names of the principal constellations and why they seem to change with the seasons. These are things that are before our eyes all the time, and every one who is fairly well educated ought to know something about them.
The foundation of this course will be Classical Astronomy based on Biblical teachings to allow students to strengthen and to develop an accurate defense for their beliefs. Students will learn how to navigate using the stars, tell time using the movements of the sun and constellations, determine causes of eclipses of the Sun and Moon, and track the path of the planets as they move through the fixed constellations. Good astronomy based science will also be taught to include learning how to view the heavens, a study of the galaxies and stars, our solar system including comets, meteors and meteorites. In order to help achieve this goal, secular theories will be introduced and challenged on the basis of their non-biblical world views. In order for science to be accurate, it must agree with God’s Word for it is God who created all things including science.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Rev. 4:11Biblical View of the Cosmos “The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1
The Bible clearly tells us in Genesis that God is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He created all that is or ever will be. The purpose of that creation is found in Psalm 19:1. He declares His glory through His creation. It is impossible to look at a night sky, to watch a sun rise, to marvel at the phases and movement of the moon without knowing “the work of His hands”. Knowing that there was a Creator of this earth and this universe is part of the knowledge all people have from the time they are born. In Psalms 19: 1-6 David writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”LESSON 2:
If Astronomy is the study of the universe and all that it contains, then “What is the Universe?"
View Powerpoint in class
Describe how each of the following terms is related to one another: solar system, earth, moon, the sun, Milky Way galaxy, galaxies, nebulae, universe, comets, stars, planets
God and Natural Laws of the Universe
The universe obeys certain rules—laws to which all things must adhere. These laws are precise, and many of them are mathematical in nature. Natural laws are hierarchical in nature; secondary laws of nature are based on primary laws of nature, which have to be just right in order for our universe to be possible. But, where did these laws come from, and why do they exist? If the universe were merely the accidental by-product of a big bang, then why should it obey orderly principles—or any principles at all for that matter? Such laws are consistent with biblical creation. Natural laws exist because the universe has a Creator God who is logical and has imposed order on His universe (Genesis 1:1).
The Word of God
Everything in the universe, every plant and animal, every rock, every particle of matter or light wave, is bound by laws which it has no choice but to obey. The Bible tells us that there are laws of nature—“ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). These laws describe the way God normally accomplishes His will in the universe.God’s logic is built into the universe, and so the universe is not haphazard or arbitrary. It obeys laws of chemistry that are logically derived from the laws of physics, many of which can be logically derived from other laws of physics and laws of mathematics. The most fundamental laws of nature exist only because God wills them to; they are the logical, orderly way that the Lord upholds and sustains the universe He has created. The atheist is unable to account for the logical, orderly state of the universe. Why should the universe obey laws if there is no law-giver? But laws of nature are perfectly consistent with biblical creation. In fact, the Bible is the foundation for natural laws.
The Law of Life (Biogenesis)
There is one well-known law of life: the law of biogenesis. This law states simply that life always comes from life. This is what observational science tells us: organisms reproduce other organisms after their own kind. Historically, Louis Pasteur disproved one alleged case of spontaneous generation; he showed that life comes from previous life. Since then, we have seen that this law is universal—with no known exceptions. This is, of course, exactly what we would expect from the Bible. According to Genesis 1, God supernaturally created the first diverse kinds of life on earth and made them to reproduce after their kind. Notice that molecules-to-man evolution violates the law of biogenesis. Evolutionists believe that life (at least once) spontaneously formed from nonliving chemicals. But this is inconsistent with the law of biogenesis. Real science confirms the Bible. Everything in the universe, every plant and animal, every rock, every particle of matter or light wave, is bound by laws which it has no choice but to obey.
The Laws of Chemistry
Life requires a specific chemistry. Our bodies are powered by chemical reactions and depend on the laws of chemistry operating in a uniform fashion. Even the information that makes up any living being is stored on a long molecule called DNA. Life as we know it would not be possible if the laws of chemistry were different. God created the laws of chemistry in just the right way so that life would be possible.The laws of chemistry give different properties to the various elements (each made of one type of atom) and compounds (made up of two or more types of atoms that are bonded together) in the universe. For example, when given sufficient activation energy, the lightest element (hydrogen) will react with oxygen to form water. Water itself has some interesting properties, such as the ability to hold an unusually large amount of heat energy. When frozen, water forms crystals with six-sided symmetry (which is why snowflakes are generally six-sided). Contrast this with salt (sodium chloride) crystals, which tend to form cubes. It is the six-fold symmetry of water ice that causes “holes” in its crystal, making it less dense than its own liquid. That’s why ice floats in water (whereas essentially all other frozen compounds sink in their own liquid).The properties of elements and compounds are not arbitrary. In fact, the elements can be logically organized into a periodic table based on their physical properties. Substances in the same column on the table tend to have similar properties. This follows because elements in a vertical column have the same outer electron structures. These outermost electrons determine the physical characteristics of the atom. The periodic table did not happen by chance. Atoms and molecules have their various properties because their electrons are bound by the laws of quantum physics. In other words, chemistry is based on physics. If the laws of quantum physics were just a bit different, atoms might not even be possible. God designed the laws of physics just right so that the laws of chemistry would come out the way He wanted them to.
The Laws of Planetary Motion
The creation scientist Johannes Kepler discovered that the planets in our solar system obey three laws of nature. He found that planets orbit in ellipses (not perfect circles as had been previously thought) with the sun at one focus of the ellipse; thus a given planet is sometimes closer to the sun than at other times. Kepler also found that planets sweep out equal areas in equal times—in other words, planets speed up as they get closer to the sun within their orbit. And third, Kepler found the exact mathematical relationship between a planet’s distance from the sun (a) and its orbital period (p); planets that are farther from the sun take much longer to orbit than planets that are closer (expressed as p2=a3). Kepler’s laws also apply to the orbits of moons around a given planet.1As with the laws of chemistry, these laws of planetary motion are not fundamental. Rather, they are the logical derivation of other laws of nature. In fact, it was another creation scientist (Sir Isaac Newton) who discovered that Kepler’s laws could be derived mathematically from certain laws of physics—specifically, the laws of gravity and motion (which Newton himself formulated).
The Laws of Physics
The field of physics describes the behavior of the universe at its most fundamental level. There are many different laws of physics. They describe the way the universe operates today. Some laws of physics describe how light propagates, how energy is transported, how gravity operates, how mass moves through space, and many other phenomena. The laws of physics are usually mathematical in nature; some laws of physics can be described with a concise formula, such as E=mc2. The simple formula F=ma shows how an object with mass (m) will accelerate (a) when a net force (F) is applied to it. It is amazing that every object in the universe consistently obeys these rules.There is a hierarchy in physics: some laws of physics can be derived from other laws of physics. For example, Einstein’s famous formula E=mc2 can be derived from the principles and equations of special relativity. Conversely, there are many laws of physics that cannot be derived from other laws of physics; many of these are suspected to be derivative principles, but scientists have not yet deduced their derivation.And some laws of physics may be truly fundamental (not based on other laws); they exist only because God wills them to. In fact, this must be the case for at least one law of physics (and perhaps several)—the most fundamental. (Logically, this is because if the most fundamental law were based on some other law, it would not be the most fundamental law.)The laws of physics (along with their associated constants) are fine-tuned in just the right way so that life, particularly human life, is possible. This fact is called the “anthropic principle.”11Anthropic comes from the Greek word for man, anthropos.
The Laws of Mathematics
Notice that the laws of physics are highly mathematical in nature. They would not work if there were not also laws of mathematics. Mathematical laws and principles include the rules of addition, the transitive property, the commutative properties of addition and multiplication, the binomial theorem, and many others. Like the laws of physics, some laws and properties of mathematics can be derived from other mathematical principles. But unlike the laws of physics, the laws of mathematics are abstract; they are not “attached” to any specific part of the universe. It is possible to imagine a universe where the laws of physics are different, but it is difficult to imagine a (consistent) universe where the laws of mathematics are different.2The laws of mathematics are an example of a “transcendent truth.” They must be true regardless of what kind of universe God created. This may be because God’s nature is logical and mathematical; thus, any universe He chose to create would necessarily be mathematical in nature. The secular naturalist cannot account for the laws of mathematics. Certainly he would believe in mathematics and would use mathematics, but he is unable to account for the existence of mathematics within a naturalistic framework since mathematics is not a part of the physical universe. However, the Christian understands that there is a God beyond the universe and that mathematics reflects the thoughts of the Lord. Understanding math is, in a sense, “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”3 (though in a limited, finite way, of course).Some have supposed that mathematics is a human invention. It is said that if human history had been different, an entirely different form of math would have been constructed—one with alternate laws, theorems, axioms, etc. But such thinking is not consistent. Are we to believe that the universe did not obey mathematical laws before people discovered them? Did the planets orbit differently before Kepler discovered that p2=a3? Clearly, mathematical laws are something that human beings have discovered, not invented. The only thing that might have been different (had human history taken a different course) is the notation—the way in which we choose to express mathematical truths through symbols. But these truths exist regardless of how they are expressed. Mathematics could rightly be called the “language of creation.”
The Laws of Logic
All the laws of nature, from physics and chemistry to the law of biogenesis, depend on the laws of logic. Like mathematics, the laws of logic are transcendent truths. We cannot imagine that the laws of logic could be anything different from what they are. Take the law of noncontradiction for example. This law states that you cannot have both “A” and “not A” at the same time and in the same relationship. Without the laws of logic, reasoning would be impossible. But where do the laws of logic come from?The atheist cannot account for the laws of logic, even though he or she must accept that they exist in order to do any rational thinking. But according to the Bible, God is logical. Indeed, the law of noncontradiction reflects God’s nature; God cannot lie (Numbers 23:19) or be tempted with evil (James 1:13) since these things contradict His perfect nature. Since we have been made in God’s image, we instinctively know the laws of logic. We are able to reason logically (though because of finite minds and sin we don’t always think entirely logically).
The Uniformity of Nature
The laws of nature are uniform. They do not (arbitrarily) change, and they apply throughout the whole cosmos. The laws of nature apply in the future just as they have applied in the past; this is one of the most basic assumptions in all of science. Without this assumption, science would be impossible. If the laws of nature suddenly and arbitrarily changed tomorrow, then past experimental results would tell us nothing about the future. Why is it that we can depend on the laws of nature to apply consistently throughout time? The secular scientists cannot justify this important assumption. But the Christian can because the Bible gives us the answer. God is Lord over all creation and sustains the universe in a consistent and logical way. God does not change, and so He upholds the universe in a consistent, uniform way throughout time (Jeremiah 33:25).
We have seen that the laws of nature depend on other laws of nature, which ultimately depend on God’s will. Thus, God created the laws of physics in just the right way so that the laws of chemistry would be correct, so that life can exist. It is doubtful that any human would have been able to solve such a complex puzzle. Yet, the Lord has done so. The atheist cannot account for these laws of nature (even though he agrees that they must exist), for such laws are inconsistent with naturalism. Yet, they are perfectly consistent with the Bible. We expect the universe to be organized in a logical, orderly fashion and to obey uniform laws because the universe was created by the power of God.
Dr. Jason Lisle holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Lisle is a popular author and researcher for Answers in Genesis and also uses his knowledge of the heavens to proclaim the handiwork of God in DVDs, such as Distant Starlight and Creation Astronomy.Accessed from the Worldwide Web June 1, 2011 at http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v1/n2/God-natural-law&vPrint=1&vPrint=1