What does young Pluto teach us?
Recently I saw this article on the Discovery website puzzling over Pluto (the planet, not the Disney character.) It points out that, coming out of the recent fly-by of that remote planet by the New Horizons space probe, it appears that Pluto doesn’t quite line up with what they expected; it appears young. I also read this article on the Answers in Genesis website sharing the same piece of news.
(Note: For the purpose of this post I am not going to use the term “dwarf planet” for Pluto, even though the International Astronomical Union decided in 2006 that is what Pluto is. This is not because I am protesting that decision but rather because when I use the term “dwarf” in juxtaposition with “Pluto” my mind keeps going back to Disney.)
In any event, if you read the two articles you can see that they are both quite excited by the news that Pluto is other than expected. But the way in which they are excited is strikingly different. There is a great deal of factual similarity between the two articles; they quote the same data. But why they are excited and their conclusions could not be more different.
At Discovery, they seem to be tickled pink that there is a new mystery to solve. Just why is Pluto so different from other planets? How do we explain this? What can it teach us? They seem eager to learn the answers to those questions; eager to debate and theorize. It wouldn’t surprise me if soon they began lobbying to send another probe to Pluto.
Over at Answers in Genesis, while they are tickled pink too, it is because they think that Pluto confirms something they already believed, that the earth and the universe are only a few thousand years old. Their joyous conclusion says it all – “While this is unexpected and hence unexplainable for evolutionists, this is something that we might expect if the universe is only thousands of years old as the Bible indicates.” Left unaddressed is why the other planets are quite different than Pluto.
What we see here is something that makes the whole creation/evolution debate a waste of time. There are two different ways of reasoning present. The science guys love debating theory and are firmly committed to the concept of making proposals and having them analyzed and critiqued. They live in a world where theories are made, shot at, defended, and modified. For example, I saw a recent hot and heavy debate on whether the singularity at the edge of a black hole was “fuzzy” or “smooth.” 90% of the debate was incomprehensible to me but it was clear they were having a jolly good time.
The AiG people however don’t think like that. They already have their answer – the specific way they interpret Genesis. All information is read through this filter and rejoiced over, squeezed into, or called inconclusive depending on how it fits. That attitude is the cardinal sin of science; they despise preconceived notions influencing investigation. There is no more cutting critique you can make than to say one of them has done that. Hence, they will never be able to agree with the AiG people on anything.
We always need to be aware of the human tendency to find exactly what we are looking for. This was never clearer than in this CNN story where people on the internet, desperately looking for life on Mars, studied the continual stream of pictures from the Mars Curiosity Rover and found all sorts of alien life there; evidence that the 500+ scientists who have been studying them professionally missed. CNN played the story for laughs and I confess I did chuckle but then I realized that I am just as prone to do something like that as they are.
In an ideal world both the scientists and the AiG crowd would always be ready to accept any valid data that contradicts their preconceptions and, when necessary, modify their beliefs. The science folk, at least in the article, seem excited to do so. I suspect that AiG would see that see that idea as appalling, if not as heresy.
Personally I don’t feel the need to fall into line behind Answers in Genesis in order to believe that the Bible is God’s word and is truthful in all it teaches. I absolutely don’t see this as a “Gospel issue” as so many claim; saying that if I can’t believe their interpretation of Genesis then I have no business believing anything the Bible says. Tens of thousands of Christians live faith-filled lives and still differ with AiG.
I will be watching with interest to see how the scientists try to figure Pluto out. But the life lesson for me is to be on guard for my own tendency to read my preconceptions into Scripture. God knows I have them; the least I can do is admit he is right.