The Cosmos and our connection to it.
Huge numbers confront us when contemplating the mystery of the Cosmos. Huge numbers!!! A billion is a thousand million. A trillion is a million million.
One of the numbers we need to try to understand relates to light. A Light Year is a measure of distance. It may not sound that, but that is what it is. It is the distance light can travel in 1 year. Light does travel. It travels at about 300,000 klm /sec. So, to calculate the distance of a Light Year, we need to find out the number of seconds in a year; about 31,000,000 seconds, and then to multiply that by 300,000; the speed of light. So, the distance of 1 Light Year is approximately 9.5 trillion kilometres, or 9,500,000,000,000 klms.
In the Cosmos, there are approximately 2,000,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe – that’s 2 trillion. Scientific estimates vary quite a bit. Andromeda is the name given to the closest galaxy to the galaxy Earth is in, – the Milky Way. However, it is more than 2.5 million Light Years away. That is more than 20,000,000,000,000,000,000 klms! Andromeda is bigger than the Milky Way. In billions of years or so into the future, it will collide with our galaxy, the two will probably become a single galaxy, and all the structures of both will be changed, destroyed or modified.
The Cosmos contains countless stars. Our Sun is just one star, among astronomers’ estimate of about 100 thousand million stars in the Milky Way. Our whole cosmos contains approximately 200 billion trillion stars in the Cosmos. Or, to put it another way, 200 sextillion. That’s 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! Quite a few! Estimates vary, but this is science. No one has made a count yet!
Have I lost you? I have lost myself! I just cannot understand or even begin to comprehend the meaning of such numbers and such distances. They are just too gigantic!
Cosmologists and astronomers now believe that most stars have one or more planets that revolve in orbits around them. Millions, if not billions, of these revolve around their ‘parent’ star in orbits that are in the ‘goldilocks zone’; the zone where it is not too hot nor too cold for some form of life, as we perceive it to be, to exist. Surely there is life elsewhere in the Cosmos!
The ancient Hebrew, biblical concepts of creation.
The diagram below is from the Teachers’ Commentary, edited by Hugh Martin M.A., on page 406.
It is very important to read the biblical references accompanying the diagram. They point to the physical features about the ‘Heavens and the Earth’, that were thought to exist at the time the Bible was written. For us in the 21st Century, they are quaint ideas and without any semblance of valid foundation. We might learn some theological truths from the Bible creation stories, but we learn nothing at all that is helpful regarding its physical reality. It is absurd to think we can!
As you can see from the above diagram, this is not a diagram of the Cosmos. It is totally different to that which is held today, but this is what the writers of the Genesis myths were writing about. They had no idea at all about the cosmos as we understand it today. You will not find the words ‘universe’ or ‘cosmos’ in the Bible. The concepts we have today were totally beyond their comprehension and imagination. We should not criticise these ideas too much, because the writers had no scientific information that is readily available to us today. Biblical ideas belong to the human imaginations of more than 2½ thousand years ago.
If we seek verses from the Bible to use when speaking of the physical nature of the Cosmos, we will find none of any value. We can find verses which point to very important theological ideas, but for the actual structure of the Cosmos itself, NO! Nothing.
One of the theological ideas that comes to us from the 1st creation story in Genesis chapter 2, is that of humans, animals and birds being made from the dust of the Earth; Genesis 2:7, 18 and 3:19, ‘You are dust, and to dust you shall return’. Theologically, this could remind us that we should practise humility and not think of ourselves ‘more highly than they ought to think’, Romans 12:3. We are dust; dust of the Earth!
However, our modern knowledge suggests that we are ‘star dust’, not dust of the Earth.
Our/my connection with the Cosmos.
Humanity has always sought to discern how and when we, as humans, came to be. We have been told numerous stories and myths about how we all started. Many of these stories point to truths about humanity but none have given us solid information about this issue. As followers of Jesus, we are familiar with the Hebrew myths in the Bible, in Genesis. They point to theological insights but give us no solid information about the physical structure of the Cosmos.
We need a new origin story. And now we have it and it has scientific validation.
A smattering of the science about the Cosmos.
This is not theological or poetical. It purports to say what the situation actually was.
In the beginning, there was a tiny ball of matter of nearly infinite energy and density. It underwent a sudden violent expansion; we call the Big Bang. This Big Bang happened about 13.7 billion years. After this sudden burst, the expansion continued at an astonishingly high rate, doubling in size every 10-34 seconds, creating space as it rapidly inflated. One of the results of the Big Bang was coming into being of stars, galaxies, as well as much of the stuff of the Cosmos, we can observe today. We know that Hydrogen, came to be with the Big Bang. We also know that Oxygen, Carbon, and Nitrogen came to be with the burning of stars, a short time after the Big Bang – about 300 million years.
A smattering of chemistry, with comments about our physical human body.
There are over 100 different elements. Each element has been given a chemical symbol, e.g. Oxygen-O, Hydrogen-H, Carbon-C, Nitrogen-N, Chlorine-Cl, Sodium-Na, Iron-Fe, Calcium-Ca, and so on, for all the more than 100 different elements. Using these symbols makes it very easy to tell us a lot about a compound. Compounds are the results of ‘bonding’ of different elements. For instance, water is formed by the bonding of Hydrogen and Oxygen – H2O. The symbols denote what elements are present and the little number denotes how many atoms of each element are present. For water, there are 2 atoms of Hydrogen to every 1 atom of Oxygen. Another example is table salt. Another example is table salt. It is formed by the bonding of Sodium and Chlorine, NaCl – arranged in a crystal lattice with equal numbers of each atom.
Most importantly for us, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, and Nitrogen atoms make up 96% of our human body, 65% Oxygen, 18% Carbon, 10% Hydrogen and 3% Nitrogen. They don’t occur by themselves but occur as bonded with each other or bonded with other elements to form compounds, some of which are very complex.
Water, H2O – is the most abundant compound in our bodies. Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. According to H.H. Mitchell, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, and the lungs are about 83% water. The skin contains 64% water, muscles and kidneys are 79%, and even the bones are watery: 31%. Water is made up of Hydrogen and Oxygen, H2O.
The Hydrogen atoms in you and me came into being with the Big Bang, and the Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen atoms in us, were produced by stars burning. These atoms, 96% of us, existed at the time of the Big Bang and just after, when stars began to burn. We have billions upon billions of these atoms in us, and they all are many billions of years old. Being naturally indestructible, they have had an extremely long and complex journey, getting into us, but that is the result of the processes of evolution, over billions of years. What we are made of, is as old as the Big Bang. We may not look it, but that’s the truth! That’s where we originally came from. We are star dust. We are part of the Cosmos, always have been and always will be.
However helpful the teaching of Genesis might be, we have needed a new origin story.
Now we have it! Actually, we have had it for some time!
It is very appropriate to use our 21st Century knowledge and say we are not really dust of the Earth, as Genesis tells us. We are ‘star dust’. As such, we are physically part of the Cosmos. We are all part, a very privileged part. Let us be thankful and celebrate this, our origin.
And when I die? The Cosmos will reclaim all the indestructible atoms of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, and Nitrogen atoms in me, that it has loaned to me for my 3 score years and 20, to use them in some other way for a different important purpose. This is evolution. I continue to belong.
To all this, I confidently add my belief, that the same unknowable life-force-energy mystery that was active in the Big Bang and exploding stars, etc, is now active in my life, as it is in all life around me. This has been the case for always. We are all part of this wonderful Cosmos, always have been and always will be. This unknowable life-force-energy mystery, which I am comfortable calling ‘God’, has been, is, and always will be the active creative force in this changing, expanding and evolving wonderful Cosmos. And in ME!!!
I was there at the beginning, and I will be there at the end.