The Unfailing Import of Airy’s Failure

Like everybody else I was of course, from my tender youth on, imprinted with pictures of an Earth going around the Sun and with assurances about countless galaxies of similar great lights far away. But in my adolescent years, after a long time of dodging the haunting issue and postponing a decision, I “somehow” was compelled to realize that among all messages claiming to possess the truly transcendent answers to the “Whence, why, whither?” of our being only the Bible had a convincing, that is a fully immanent, systematic comprehension surpassing, ring of truth. That Jesus – and His good news of God’s eternal Kingdom to come -verily is the way, the truth, and the life I dared no longer deny.

Perusing and studying Holy Writ confronted me, however, with problems still requiring choices in relation to creation. That evolution a la Darwin is a piece of preposterous fiction I was already assured of in my willfully agnostic years. Nobody ever needed to tell me that behind the scene a mysterious active Intelligence had to be pulling the wires and calling the tune. Dead dust or something called “Nature”, somehow endowed with impersonal but pan-scientific expertise, “designing” and “adapting” countless forms of life and transmitting by means of sperm and egg intricate patterns from mortal generation to mortal generation – I never saw, nor see, how a level-headed observer could, or can, accept such arrant nonsense. Still, under the sway of the prevailing varieties of theistic evolution in the country of my birth, the Netherlands, I began my personal pilgrim’s progress. But reading and rereading Genesis in the context of the whole of Scripture I became more and more uneasy about glibly approving the manner in which even orthodox theologians manhandled the first eleven chapters of the sacred text to make it fit with the “facts” of science. That is, by treating the story as literal history from Abraham on, but declaring God’s revelation about our present world’s origins to be expressed in a sort of non-factual mood. For try as I might: at no point in the Biblical story-flow could I find the slightest indication of a change from poetic or mythical propensity into matter-of-fact history. Which made me conclude that for me the only way of faithfully and reverently doing justice to its informative content was to take the Genesis account literally. And becoming aware, after my emigration to Canada, of the resurgence of such an old-fashioned view on the subject, I eagerly jumped on the Creation Society bandwagon of Drs. Lammerts, Morris, et al.

Thinking, however, allows few standstills. Gradually it dawned on me that these brethren are still halting between two opinions. Rejecting secular scientific theories about the origins of life on Earth, they still go along with those about our habitat’s position in the cosmos. For apart from the trio of astronomers publishing their geocentric views in the Bulletin of the Tychonian Society, I still have to find one all-out creationist who takes Genesis 1:1-19, minus the verse 11,12 and 13, just as straight-forwardly as Genesis 1:20-31. But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander: he who accepts instantaneous fiat creation of our planet’s flora and fauna has with regard to cosmogony thereby committed himself to a beginning of a Heaven containing nothing but a primeval Earth. Which Earth only after being proclaimed fit for plant life and having brought forth grass and herbs and trees, on the fourth day of the Hexaemeron found itself surrounded by Sun, Moon and stars for signs and seasons, days and years. Popularly formulated: a Bible-believing Christian cosmogony must reject a Big Bang now having resulted in countless Suns, millions of them possibly surrounded by a set of aggregates of matter, on many of which through aeons of time, life may well have evolved. Contrariwise it has to postulate sudden emergence of, to quote Hoyle, “the bubble in which we live”, and a dump of matter without form providing after five days of formation the dust out of which we are fashioned. Vexed by this exegetical inconsistency with regard to the sacred text I felt myself driven to examine the solidity of the evidence on which present day astronomers erect their multiform models. And found – to cut a long story short – that the old, in Scripture assumed as self-evident, and until Galileo never widely or seriously doubted geocentric view of the world has never been disproven. Not only that: without exception all historians, secular as well as sacred, whom I consulted about the impact of Canon Koppernigk’s heliocentric turnabout on mankind’s Weltanschauung stressed its far reaching consequences. To quote one comment on the widespread effect of Darwin’s Origin of Species summarizing the whole matter: “The theory of natural selection brought home as nothing else could do the radical change in man’s status in the Universe and made dramatically clear the attack on old values that had actually been implicit in the whole scientific development beginning in the sixteenth century.”(54)

Granted: whether modern man is, or is not, more than the still flawed product of a mega-evolutionary guided, or unguided, process is therewithal neither answered, nor settled. By what is called “natural light” and by the logic under the aegis of which man is compelled to think – at his impartial best he has to judge the contest between Creation and Evolution an insurmountable draw To turn the clock back either six thousand or six billion years is impossible. With regard to geology, fossilization, and biology it is therefore still each according to his acquired taste. If a transcendental Intelligent Force at some moment in time past called all being into being, we shall see the world of life we see. If the Darwinians, now by the scant supply of data pressed to posit a punctuated equilibrium, have hit the nail on the head we shall see the same, yet still supposedly evolving. Only with regards to the specifics assumed to have happened before the first amino acids arranged themselves in the murky soup-seas of the pristine Earth are we Anno Domini 1988 in a position to ask something sober-scientifically. To wit: is an Earth around which the Heavens revolve a superstitious fancy or a hard fact? Prior to Galileo’s 1533 condemnation by the Church of Rome the latter view was taken for granted. From then on until 1916 the former one was imprinted on thinkers and non-thinkers alike. But after Einstein in that year burst for the second time upon the scene the tables were turned again: the geocentric model of the Universe, be it absolutely unacceptable, science cannot show to be wrong.