On Feb. 15 an asteroid will pass by the earth in what is considered by NASA to be a close approach (see record setting asteroid flyby). There’s no danger of collision, and even if there was, it wouldn’t be the end of world. But what if it was? Or to put it another way, do you believe God would allow an asteroid to end it all?
Think about that old song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” World religions teach that God will never allow anything to happen to the earth, at least not before its time, before the apocalypse, before the End Times. This is the thinking behind much of the opposition to global warming. God is in control, so why should we worry? We’re the center of God’s creation, right? If not physically then at least metaphorically. We’re made in his image. How could God ever let an asteroid annihilate us?
But let’s take a step back. In late antiquity (something like 300 to 700 CE), people believed Jerusalem was the center of the world. See the ancient map below. Notice also it’s a sphere, not flat. Don’t believe the popular myth that people once believed the earth was flat. They never did. But I’m off topic.
Then in the high middle ages, Christianity taught that the earth was the center of the solar system. If you know the story of Galileo, he showed that wasn’t true either. In many respects, world religions still hold we’re the center of God’s universe. Unfortunately, we’re just one of more than 100 billion systems in the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way is just one of over 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Do the math and there are over 10 sextillion stars (1 followed by 22 zeroes). We’re an insignificant star on the edge of an insignificant galaxy. And who knows how many other life forms are out there on other planets? Are we so much better than all of them that God should make us the center of it all?
Think about this scientific idea called the Copernican Principle, named after Nicolaus Copernicus, that says our place in the universe is not special. One place is pretty much like any other place. There are no privileged positions in regards to the laws of science or asteroids. Einstein used this principle in developing his theories with regard to relativity. An asteroid is just as likely to strike the earth as it is any other object in space.
This can be seen historically also. Take the black plague as an example. When it was all done, the plague killed something like one-third the population of the earth, something that might happen if we were struck by an asteroid. The fascinating question for me is why did it stop? Why didn’t the plague just go ahead and annihilate all of us? It certainly could have. Somewhere around 99.9% of all species that have ever existed are now extinct. So is it by genetic variance, luck, or God’s providence that we are still here?