Extra-Solar Planet Update: May 2020

These posts always drive creationists crazy, so it’s time for another update in our ongoing series about planets beyond our own solar system. We do this every two months (more or less) on days when there isn’t any other creationism news.

Our last post in this series was Extra-Solar Planet Update: March 2020, and it will horrify the creationists to learn that — once again — the new numbers are bigger than ever. The increase this time isn’t as much as it usually is, but it’s still an increase, and that’s good news indeed.

First, however, we’ll repeat some background material you’ve seen before. We keep repeating it because it infuriates the creationists. You can skip right to the numbers, if that’s your preference.

The picture above this post illustrates the universe described in Genesis, written around 1,000 BC at the time of the Babylonian empire. Immovable in the center of the universe is the flat Earth, which was created as the abode of man. It’s supported by pillars. The Sun orbits the Earth, as does the Moon. Above them are the stars. They’re not suns, they’re lights embedded in a presumably solid firmament, which also revolves around the Earth. Above the firmament is heaven, the glorious realm of Yahweh. Below Earth is the lake of fire, described later in scripture. That’s the universe and we’re in the center — the focus of divine attention. No other worlds are mentioned in Genesis — or anywhere else in the bible. There’s no place for them.

Creationists believe that the universe described in Genesis is The Truth. However, virtually everything learned since then seems to contradict that primitive universe. Creationists don’t like any of it, but to avoid looking too crazy they’ve accepted some of it. Most of them are no longer flat-Earthers. Although many passages in the bible say that The Earth Is Flat!, and none say otherwise, most creationists now deny that the bible is a flat-Earth book. And since Galileo, creationists have reluctantly accepted that the Earth is merely one of several planets in our solar system — but that’s where they drew the line.

Until very recently, they insisted that ours was the only planetary system in existence. Why? Because the bible doesn’t mention any others. We keep reminding you of this oldie-goldie from the 1970s at the Institute for Creation Research: The Stars of Heaven. It was written by Henry Morris himself, who said:

[T]he earth is unique in the solar system and, for all we know, the solar system is unique in the universe. So far as we can observe, there are not even any planets anywhere else, let alone a planet equipped to sustain biological life.

With a lot of grumbling, most creationists have accepted that there are other planetary systems out there — but no life! That’s important. Although some are now hedging their bets and saying, “Well, okay, maybe primitive life — but no intelligent life!”

We haven’t found any life out there yet, but the search has only barely begun. Meanwhile, just the number of planets out there is enough to drive creationists crazy — and the number keeps growing!

Our information comes from NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — see Exoplanet Exploration. For each statistic, we’ll give you the latest figure as well as the figure we reported two months ago, which will show you how things are progressing:

Confirmed planets: 4,154 (old figure: 4,135) 19 more!
Planets awaiting confirmation: 5,142 (old figure:5,075) 67 more!
Planetary systems beyond our own: 3,078 (old figure: 3,067) 11 more!

Remember — our observations are only of nearby stars (relatively speaking). Considering the percentage of neighboring stars that have planets, it’s generally accepted that most of the stars in our galaxy have planetary systems — which means that the odds against a life bearing world out there are getting slimmer by the day.

And so we leave the creationists — writhing in pain and anger. Whether they’re Hambo-type creationists or Discoveroids, it makes no difference. They all insist that Earth is unique, and there’s no life — certainly no intelligent life — anywhere else. But every day the facts keep piling up against them. That’s why we like to bring you these updates, and why the creationists don’t like us. They don’t like reality either, but that’s their problem, not ours.

Copyright © 2020. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Extra-Solar Planet Update: May 2020

  1. “written around 1,000 BC at the time of the Babylonian empire”
    No. While the area called Babylonia had known kingdoms since 3200 CE the first empire called Babylonia (of Hammurabi fame) had desintegrated around 1100 BCE. Around 1000 BCE the Assyrians had taken over. Their empire lasted until 612 BCE, when a second Babylonian empre (of Hebrew exile fame) was established. This one was conquered by the Persian king Cyrus the Great.


    These days the conclusion is that pretty soon after this time – ie about 500 years later than you think – Genesis was cobbled together, not even as the first OT book.


  2. 3200 BCE.
    Of course creacrappers don’t want have anything to do with the history of the OT as decribed at WIkipedia.

  3. Let’s not get too precise about such things, FrankB. We’re talking about the writing of Genesis, so “written around 1,000 BC at the time of the Babylonian empire” is good enough. Hey — were you there?

  4. By YEC chronology, Genesis was written by Moses about 1500 BC.

  5. Dave Luckett

    I’ll add my two cents’ worth: 1000 BCE is considered very early for the substantive bulk of the Pentateuch, and Genesis is often thought to have been the last of the five to be written. Probably it didn’t reach its final form until 400 BCE or so, by which time the Universe SC describes was getting a little old-fashioned. For one thing, by that time the Babylonian astronomer-priests were aware that the Earth was a sphere, not a disc, and that knowledge was already circulating.

    But Israel no longer existed by that time, nor would again until 1948 CE, and Jerusalem was no more than a provincial backwater inhabited by a peculiar sect of purity-obsessed religious fanatics. Touchy, and always troublesome, but learned? Please!

  6. Dave Luckett

    TomS, Maybe not 1500 BCE. Most put it at about 1250 BCE, and the Exodus the same, of course. Moses wrote it, they think, sure. Moses died before the Hebrews reached the Promised Land and started killing all its inhabitants, but it gives a (fairly) detailed account of events up til then, so it must date from close to Moses’s death. All bar the last few verses of Deuteronomy, which were written by Joshua, obviously, because they record Moses’s death and burial.

    But there never was such an event – an exodus on anything remotely like the scale claimed. It didn’t happen. It’s a legend.

  7. I agree with the outline that you give. But if we follow Ussher, the Exodus took place in the year 2666 after the Creation, that is 4004-2666=1338 BC.
    BTW, the idea of a spherical Earth is often credited to Pythagoras some time before 500 BC.

  8. @Dave Luckett
    BTW, another irrelevant point: the authorship of the ending of Deuteronomy. I don’t understand why people make an exception. Why can’t Moses write about his death and burial? All through the Pentateuch there are statements which are inconsistent with being written by Moses by the same criterion used against the ending of Deuteronomy.
    These days, I often find myself saying to myself that I don’t understand why people are saying such-and-such.

  9. Michael Fugate

    If God is revealing the whole thing to Moses, then God could surely tell Moses how and when he dies and how his funeral is going to go, no?

  10. @TomS: exactly – according to historical consensus Ol’Hambo is not 500 years (or 250 if we accept DaveL’s data) off, but 1000 years (750). Quite a difference. That’s why our dear SC’s dating is not ” good enough.” The more wrong Ol’Hambo is the more entertaining.

    “Hey — were you there?”
    Yes and you weren’t.

  11. @Dave Luckett, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hasmonean_dynasty Judaea was an independent state for over a century, following the successful revolt against Antiochus III that is celebrated in the festival of Chanukah, before becoming a client kingdom of the Roman Empire in 66 BCE. The Old Testament had been compiled long before then, and most scholars would say that it reached something like its present form in the period between roughly 500 and 300 BCE, in a largely self-governing Jewish province within the Persian Empire, and was compiled from older materials largely to justify the Jewish claim to Jerusalem and territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. This stuff fills whole libraries

    The accounts of the Hasmonean revolt against Antiochus, in the Book of Maccabees and in Josephus, are highly self-serving, but the fact of the independent Hasmonean kingdom is not in serious doubt.

  12. Dave Luckett

    I stand corrected. I didn’t realise that there was such a consensus that the Hasmonean state was actually fully independent.

  13. Well, only thanks to the benevolence (or if you prefer, weakness) of Ptolemaean Egypt and Seleucid Persia.

  14. @FrankB, that’s a bit like saying that the US owes its existence to “the benevolence (or if you prefer, weakness)” of the British Empire. Obviously true in a sense (the US, in order to come into existence, had to win its war of independence, just as the Hasmoneans had to win theirs), but not very illuminating

  15. @Paul Braterman
    Do I understand you correctly as saying that there is a consensus that much of the history in the Bible was compiled to make a claim that Judea was won by conquest, with the help of their god? Rather than an unstated alternative, that they just happened to live there from time immemorial.

  16. @TomS, exactly. I’ve taken this for granted for so long that I suspect your question may be ironic, but here, anyway, is a straight answer.

    Any history before David, And perhaps even before the two kingdoms period, is garbled, and written to disguise the fact that the Israelites actually *are* the Canaanites, and that henotheism, and later monotheism, emerged from the Canaanite assemblage of gods. Then to-ing and fro-ing between the claims of the Northern Kingdom and the southern kingdom, the attempts of the kings of Judah to centralise worship in Jerusalem, the conflicting claims of the Levites and the Cohanim, then the Babylonian exile, At some stage the importation (clearly more than once) of Mesopotamian material such as the Flood narrative … a huge subject.

    I may have got a lot of this garbled, but think this rough outline is more or less correct. For detailed analysis of particular episodes, I recommend Paul Davidson’s https://isthatinthebible.wordpress.com/ and the links he gives in his articles

  17. @Paul Braterman
    Thank you. I was interested in whether this outline represents a consensus. I do not presume to ask another, especially in public, such a personal question. Thus I often avoid making comments about personalities, for my interest is in ideas.

  18. I don’t mind discussing my own views, for what they’re worth, and they correspond to that last summary, although I would date much material from the two kingdoms period. “Consensus” is probably unobtainable among biblical scholars, because of bias. The traditional Jewish view was that the old Testament as a whole was verbally inspired, while the Pentateuch was actually dictated by God to Moses, apart from the bit right at the end. I have read that now even many observant Jews have come round to the admission that the Pentateuch and Joshua are works of fiction. Some respected scholars, such as Gary Rendsburg at Rutgers, see the old Testament as having begun to take shape In Davidic times, and he argues persuasively that Samuel shown signs of revision and overwriting by competing priestly, Davidic, and Saul-following factions. I find his analysis, based on close reading of the text, persuasive, but would replace Davidic and Saul-following by southern kingdom and northern kingdom. I have read that the original documentary hypothesis in its early 19th century form was evangelical, anti-Semitic, and anti-Catholic in motivation, claiming that the *real* OT message was in J, as opposed to the hierarchical and ritualistic P (idolatrous Catholics) and legalistic and unspiritual E (benighted Jews). Recent scholarship, as I see it, is descended from the documentary hypothesis, very much changed, in rather the same way that current evolution science is descended from Darwin and Wallace, although dissent is reputable in the way that dissent from evolution science ceased to be reputable in the 1920s.

    Having no special knowledge of the subject, however, I’ll just leave it there

  19. @Paul Braterman
    Thank you again. That seems to me a common scholarly opinion, but it would be unlikely to expect a consensus in such a field.
    What struck me in your post was the idea that the scriptural history was constructed to be a justification for the land of Judea. I hadn’t heard that that had any scholarly backing, if I interpreted you correctly.

  20. @PaulB: “that’s a bit ….”
    WIth the not entirely insignificant difference that there is no way the USA will lose its independence within 100 years, while Hasmonean Israel lost its independence within 150 years when we are very charitable and within 50 years if we are not. Whether you call that illuminating or not is rather subjective. I’d say that it is, because apparently independence for Hasmonean Israel was not the same as independence for the USA.
    A better analogy for your case would be the independence of Luxemburg.

    @TomS: “whether this outline represents a consensus.”
    Yes and no. Compare it with cosmological research of the Big Bang. Historians (including those of Antiquity) have developed reliable methods to reach consensus, provided that there are sufficient empirical data. For different reasons data are lacking, but in both research fields the result is the same: disagreement to some extent.

    “idea that the scriptural history was constructed to be a justification for the land of Judea”
    I’ve met this before, with an addition: the Hebrew god is such a badass one to deter the two superpowers (Egypt in the south and Assyria/Babylonia/the Seleucid Empire in the norht) and to unite the population. The corroborating evidence is that the area was threatened by those two superpowers many times. This would make clear why the Hebrews disobeying YHWH is such an important theme: that explains the misfortunes of the Holy Land.
    Given the aforementioned lack of data I have no doubt that there are several objections to this hypothesis.

  21. @TomS, I did not mean the deliberate construction of a dishonest narrative by those returning from the Babylonian exile (though I think that Hobbes and Spinoza floated that idea, and the unfortunate Thomas Aikenhead https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Aikenhead described old Testament history as “Ezra’s Fables”), so much as the coalescence of traditions in a way that generated a politically and theologically convenient narrative.

  22. @Paul Braterman
    I think of Vergil. (Although I may have a bias against him from the Latin of the Aeneid.)