Creationist Wisdom #684: Lost in Space

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Waco Tribune-Herald of Waco, Texas. It’s titled Heaven rests far beyond our galaxy, and the newspaper has a comments section.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name — but today is an exception. It’s Bill Tinsley, described as the newspaper’s religion editor. That’s sufficient for full name treatment. Hey — he also served as interim pastor for First Baptist, Conroe, Texas, so we’ll refer to him as rev. Excerpts from his letter — it’s actually a column — will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Exoplanet is a new word for me, but scientists are beside themselves. Apparently the term has been around a long time, just not in my vocabulary.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The rev doesn’t read very widely. We’ve been using the expression “extra-solar planet” for decades, but “exoplanet” seems to have become the accepted term. The rev then uses his recently obtained knowledge to explain why “scientists are beside themselves”:

[W]hat scientists are really excited about are earth-like planets, those that orbit in the “habitable” zone of sun-like stars, the so-called “Goldilocks zone.” Twenty-one of Kepler’s planets fit this category and there could be 11 billion habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone!

That estimate seems a wee bit excessive, but let’s read on:

Elen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA Headquarters in Washington said, “This gives us hope that somewhere out there we can eventually discover another Earth.”

The rev takes that a bit too literally. He says:

Just imagine, there could be other planets filled with beauty: oceans with waves breaking upon the shore, trees and forests, rivers and snow-capped mountains, clouds drifting across the sky, birds and beasts and living things.

He then turns to the only other source of information about planets that he knows:

C. S. Lewis posed this possibility in his science fiction novel, “Out of the Silent Planet.” But Lewis went a step further. He proposed that these “habitable” planets in the universe were different in one respect. They were planets without sin. Only on Earth, he suggested, did sin exist and, as a result, it had become the “silent planet” cut off from all the rest of creation. It is an interesting proposition.

What does that have to do with anything astronomers are working on? The rev continues:

Imagine again, a planet like the earth filled with life, including human life, where sin does not exist. A planet like our own where there is no corruption, where no one lies, or steals, no deceit, no suspicion, no fear. A place where there is no violence. Everyone looks out for the welfare of others. Love rules.

That’s difficult for us to imagine, but it’s no problem for the rev:

[T]he Bible assures us there is such a place as we have imagined, not in our galaxy or in our sphere of time and space. It exists in another dimension, eis aionos, or “into the age,” as Jesus said. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

Your Curmudgeon doesn’t know Greek, but the phrase we found was “eis aiona,” and it has a different meaning. But that’s not important. What’s the rev saying — that the Kepler space observatory should start searching for such a planet? No, not quite. The rev’s final paragraph says:

Revelation describes this place: [several scripture quotes, ending with:] “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:4-8).

Okay, dear reader, that’s today’s astronomy lesson. You’re either going to the rev’s planet, somewhere not in our galaxy, or else it’s the lake of fire!

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #684: Lost in Space

  1. Eric Lipps

    [W]hat scientists are really excited about are earth-like planets, those that orbit in the “habitable” zone of sun-like stars, the so-called “Goldilocks zone.” Twenty-one of Kepler’s planets fit this category and there could be 11 billion habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone!

    11 billion “Earth-like planets” might be right, if by “Earth-like” one means rocky (rather than gaseous) planets with some sort of atmosphere, orbiting their parent stars within their respective habitable zones. “Habitable” narrows the field a lot, especially since the good reverend appears to mean “inhabited.”

    Just imagine, there could be other planets filled with beauty: oceans with waves breaking upon the shore, trees and forests, rivers and snow-capped mountains, clouds drifting across the sky, birds and beasts and living things.

    Birds and beasts and living things? Does he think “birds and beasts” aren’t alive? And apparently he thinks God has no imagination and would create similar “kinds” on every habitable world.

    Never mind. Let’s just chalk that one up to careless wording and move on:

    C. S. Lewis posed this possibility in his science fiction novel, “Out of the Silent Planet.” But Lewis went a step further. He proposed that these “habitable” planets in the universe were different in one respect. They were planets without sin. Only on Earth, he suggested, did sin exist and, as a result, it had become the “silent planet” cut off from all the rest of creation. It is an interesting proposition.

    Only to fundamentalist believers who take the myth of expulsion from a literal Garden of Eden as a historical reality. Moving right along . . . !

    Imagine again, a planet like the earth filled with life, including human life, where sin does not exist. A planet like our own where there is no corruption, where no one lies, or steals, no deceit, no suspicion, no fear. A place where there is no violence. Everyone looks out for the welfare of others. Love rules.

    [T]he Bible assures us there is such a place as we have imagined, not in our galaxy or in our sphere of time and space. It exists in another dimension, eis aionos, or “into the age,” as Jesus said. “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3).

    The Bible doesn’t say anything about another “dimension”—sloppy wording again, right out of 1930s and ‘40s pulp SF; he means another universe separated from ours in some higher-dimensional space (though I doubt he’s familiar with the concept).

    In other words, the honorable Rev. Tinsley is spouting nonsense from beginning to end. I’m shocked, shocked!

  2. longshadow

    The Lake of Fire sure is getting crowded.

  3. Don’t worry, Longie. Your place is reserved.

  4. @Eric Lipps: You pretty much said it all. The astronomy isn’t the only science the rev doesn’t know much about. Much like the bronze age sheep herders who wrote the stuff rev likes. So if the rev’s wonderful imaginary place isn’t in this galaxy, which one of the 10^11 or so other ones is it in? Oh, and the lake of fire — which galaxy is that in?

  5. What we know about astronomy makes it difficult to think in biblical terms. The bible doesn’t even hint that heaven is another planet. The word “planet” didn’t mean world, and the stars weren’t other suns. Planets looked like the stars, but for some reason they moved relative to the “fixed” stars. Well, all the stars, including the planets, moved around the Earth, but the fixed stars were set in the firmament and didn’t move with respect to each other, so the constellations always kept their shapes.

    The bible doesn’t contain the the slightest suggestion that planets are worlds, although we use those words interchangeably. Earth was the only “world” they knew of, and heaven was some blissful, fluffy place above the firmament. I don’t know where hell was supposed to be. Probably below the Earth, somewhere.

  6. Reminds me of that movie, “The Invention of Lying”. The other planets’ unimaginative inhabitants just never thought of it. When the sinners of Earth get to those other inhabited planets that are supposedly devoid of sin, all hell will break loose there too.

  7. Imagine again, a planet like the earth filled with life, including human life, where sin does not exist.

    Or, put another way:

    Imagine there’s no heaven / It’s easy if you try / No hell below us / Above us only sky / Imagine all the people / Living for today…

  8. You have to admit, these people have very vivid imaginations, and reality plays no part in their lives. And Lewis actually wrote such a book? My, my, it was indeed purely fiction.

  9. For people with views like mine, and I’m sure that there are many like me, sin doesn’t exist on THIS planet. Sin is defined as a violation of “god’s laws”. I don’t believe that there is a god so, for me, there is no sin. That said, I do believe that there are transgressions of ethics. Some of my ethical principles include some similarities to those that the religious define as sin but my views of acceptable actions are not guided by reference to a bronze age book!

  10. Again some dimwit is making FACT statements using BS dribbling down his chin instead of showing any kind of real evidence. Another nitwit to be ignored.

  11. Dave Luckett

    C S Lewis wrote at least three major works of science fiction, “Out of the Silent Planet”, “Perelandra” and “That Hideous Strength”. He was also a primary reader of “The Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings”. Say what you like, the man was a talented writer.

    And, in the interests of not giving Bible-bashers cheap points, I wish the expression “bronze-age sheep herders” for the writers of the Old Testament was not used. For one thing, it bestows on those writings an early provenance that is false to fact.

    Some of the books of the Old Testament contain some early elements, but probably none of them originate, as written texts, from any earlier than the ninth century BCE, and all of them were extensively revised and redacted no earlier than the post-exilic period. The iron age was fully established in that part of the Levant by 1000 BCE. The writers were not “sheep herders”, because sheep herders were almost by definition illiterate. The originators that we can reasonably identify were scribes, priests, court officials, and preachers – even kings.

  12. @Dave Luckett
    Once again, I agree with you. I don’t like it when the side of reason resorts to such misrepresentations. We know that much of the Bible was influenced by the sophisticated cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The subjects of the stories may have been bronze-age sheep-herders, but the authors were not.

  13. ABeastwood would like to know: “Oh, and the lake of fire — which galaxy is that in?”
    Ours. Don’t look further than the core of our very own planet. Dig deep enough and you’ll meet plenty of burning lost souls.

    Ha! I might disagree with DaveL: “Say what you like, the man was a talented writer.”
    My son and I (as a responsible father I read everything my son read – the perfect excuse!) have read two or three books in the Narnia series. We both didn’t think much of them.