Sunday, May 11, 2008


If you know Louis Giglio or heard me mention him you know that he has pictures of stars and the universe. One of the guys he received his pictures from is Professor David Block of Wits (abbreviation) in Joburg. He’s a Professor of Computational and Applied Maths and applies his mathematics to astronomy. He believes in design and has written a book called the “Our Universe: Accident or Design?” which rivals/contradicts Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion.”

In the morning he gave a “kid-friendly” talk (I asked a kid about it; she said the pictures were cool but it was too long and boring) so we had all of the kids grades 1-7 in the sanctuary instead of in their respective Sunday School (or Children’s church) classrooms. At night, he gave a deeper talk about the scientific evidence pointing towards the existence of a God (which Richard Dawkins speaks against in his book).

First I love astronomy. If you know Lee Strobel and his books “Case for Christ,” “Case for Faith,” and “Case for a Creator” I loved the third the most because it involved science. Though many people had issues with his approach and the acceptance of faulty arguments I really like the physics, astronomy, biology, geology, etc. in the last one. So it was nice to hear the talk at night. Both services were overpacked; people stood at the back and sat at the back or in the aisles. It was crazy. We had not only first-time visitors who were churchless, we also had churched people visiting just to hear David Block.

Well, it was enjoyable. One girl (in the complete minority) found him pompous and unenjoyable. But he was funny and engaging. He spoke very loudly like a preacher or a professor who knows he’s in demand and at the top of his game. His slide presentations which he spoke through had accompanying music which made me think he was no going to talk but generally he talks over it.

He showed how the forces of gravity and electromagnetism and the speed that the galaxies are moving away from each other are so exact that to change them even so slightly (say 1 in 10 followed by 54 zero’s parts) would make the universe uninhabitable (gravity too strong stars and planets collapse into each other, too weak planets and stars wouldn’t form; speed too fast then planets and stars wouldn’t form, to slow and the universe would have collapsed back on itself into the original big bang singularity (starting point of infinite mass, density, etc. at a single point), same with the atom—electrons and protons would collide forming neutrons if the electromagnetic force were greater, electrons would be unbounded to atoms if the force were slightly less). I’m not explaining any of this in any detail. Just suffice it to say he showed that there are some physical constants like gravity or the speed that the galaxies are moving away from each other that appear as if someone set it perfectly like that in order for our universe to work.

Lastly he spoke about irreducible complexity an argument put forward by Michael Behe. I wrote at length on this in some of my earliest updates and so do not want to go into it again. I just thought it was interesting how he only did those four reasons. There are more points to be made so when you shorten how do you choose which ones you mention and which ones you do not? Well, those were the ones he chose. And the people were amazed. Interestingly, though he tried to make it very simple, it was over the heads of a lot of people. This surprised me, but I was told that South Africans were weak in math and science and they do not do a liberal arts education so if you know you want to study philosophy you ONLY take those courses and that’s it. You only take other things if you don’t know what you will major in or if you want to take an elective.

So it was a good day, Sunday. I remember why I first liked science as a little boy—because of astronomy. It reminded me that I tried to volunteer with the South African Large Telescope (SALT) group. It reminded me of where my astronautical aspirations come from. It reminded me that I should still get back to it, that my love of general science and reporting to you (I haven’t done it lately) of advancements in areas of biology, physics, geology, etc. I would love to do work in astronomy or try applying my math to that area as well. Such interesting questions to be answered. And I look forward to seeing what CERN (remember I mentioned this a few months ago, the group in Switzerland with the very large particle accelerator) is able to open up our understanding of physics and the world.

Amazing talk and brought me back home through it.

Then I had someone ask me about questions of faith and the questions that are “stumbling blocks” to those that want to believe but cannot. I would include the arguments here, but most people are asleep if you’ve even read this far.

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