John Gribbin & Humans as Stardust

John Gribbin & Humans as Stardust

John Gribbin is an astrophysicist who trained at Cambridge and has written a number of scientific books.His book, Stardust is a book about the relationship between life and the universe. It is an Universe informative history of discoveries about the universe with technical facts mixed with understandable explanations. A few excerpts from the book are worth repeating. The most startling to me is the fact that we are made of stardust. As Gribbin points out: "In fact, life begins with the process of stardust. Every atom of every element of our body, except for hydrogen has been manufactured within stars, scattered across the universe in great stellar explosions, and recycled to become part of you." I never thought of myself as one with the galaxy and the universe nor made up of elements from stardust.

We are made of four elements, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen referred to in science as CHON. These are the most common reactive elements in the universe. Sixty five percent of the mass of our body is water. The mass without water is fifty percent is carbon and twenty five percent oxygen with ten percent nitrogen.

Gribbon says that some 12 billion years ago, in the Big Bang, hydrogen and helium together formed the raw material for the first generation of stars and everything else was created by nuclear fusion in stellar furnaces. He points out that the sun is a star, but only one of a couple of hundred billion similar stars which together form a system we call the Milky Way or the Galaxy. This galaxy is about 100,000 light years across its disk shape. It is 1000 light years thick containing an estimated 200 billion stars. A light year is the distance light travels in a vacuum in one year. Light travels at an amazing 186,282.397 miles per second so this is a very great distance. We are talking about 5,879,000,000,000 miles per year.

The total number of stars is roughly equal to the number of rice grains that could be packed into a cathedral. Our solar system is orbiting the center of the Milky Way about two thirds the way from the center. The Milky Way is one of several hundred billion similar objects scattered throughout the visible sky.

He says DNA uses an "alphabet" of just four letters to convey it’s meaning which are usually referred to by the initial letters of their chemical names: C, G.A and T. But, he observes the binary code for computers uses only two letters o & i and  he says, you can buy the complete works of Shakespeare all stored a strings of those two letters. It also occurs to me that all of the great literature              written in English use only 26 letters, paintings used three primary colors of red, yellow and blue.

He notes that Einstein published his theory of relativity in 1905 as we all know withe the formula E=mc2. This theory states that mass and energy interchangeable. That is, a mass – M is equivalent to an amount of energy – E found by multiplying the mass by the square root of the speed of light. Consequently, even a small amount of mass is equal to a very large amount of energy.

Less then 4.5 billion years ago our moon was already orbiting the earth which was a red hot ball of rock gradually cooling down. Life began on earth about 3.8 billion years ago. During the first 500 – 600 million years of its existence, the earth was bombarded with impacts from comets. We see the evidence of the moon being struck by its craters. Radioactive dating shows this bombardment stopped about 4 billion years ago. The moon’s gravitational pull was too weak to retain the ice and other elements that were deposited by these collisions on the moon, but earth did retain them. This in turn resulted in water as well as all the things necessary to the origin of life on earth.

Science and religion have been on a collision course since man first began to understand scientific evidence. Today we have scientists who regard any religious belief as voodoo. We even have highly placed cosmologists who think it possible the universe was not created by God, but by intelligent beings. Then we have a sizable group of Christians who take the narrow view that the Bible describes the exact process by which the world and the universe was created and reject all of the scientific evidence to the contrary. Apparently, the Scopes trial wasn’t the end of this group of thinkers. My view is that there isn’t a conflict between scientific proof and religious truth. Today we also have highly regarded scientists who are comfortable accepting the role of a Supreme Being in creation as well as theologians who agree and are comfortable accepting scientific evidence as compatible with religious belief in a Supreme Being. I think it obvious If we reject the scientific evidence we are like the people who still belong to the Flat Earth Society. I also  believe the evidence of a Supreme Being is compelling. So I think we should be focused on reconciling the two. Take the writings of great theologians like Pierre Tielhard de Chardin who was himself a scientist, but one who saw God in every aspect of scientific knowledge about our earth and the universe. He and other scientist theologians offer logical reasons why the two are not in conflict and bear our study.

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