The Insignificance of Man

It had been a dream come true. Through an airline quirk, we had been given a trip to the island of Hawaii or, as it is sometimes called, the Big Island. As an earth science teacher, I was especially interested in seeing the island because an active volcano had been erupting gently on the island for some time. My geology courses in college had told me all about volcanoes, but actually seeing a caldera, a lava tube, steam and sulfur vents, and still-hot-lava were things I had only dreamed about.

  Volcano We had been told by local folks that a flow had reached the village of Kalapana and that, if we went there, we might be able to see a moving flow. We drove from Kona toward Kalapana and, as we came around the corner, we were confronted with the scene (and sign) on our cover. You could see the lava moving. As fractures developed in the slowly moving mass, you could see the fiery red interior. Looking off in the distance, we saw a car imbedded in the lava moving slowly along with a couple of metal roofs off of houses. Nothing any human could do would stop the movement of this huge mass of molten rock. Attempts to dynamite it, pour cold water on it, bulldoze it, or put barriers in front of it would not stop its march to the sea. As man builds his first space station, it is interesting to notice how relatively small the station is and how many things could go wrong producing tragedy for those living inside it. Many attempts to go to the bottom of the sea have also been great examples of how weak we are compared to the cosmic forces around us.

In a recent article titled "Why Is There Life?" (Discover, November, 2000, page 84), Dr. Martin Ries, Britain's Royal Astronomer, discusses six numbers that "constitutes a recipe for the universe."

1. The percent of nuclear fusion energy released as heat in the hydrogen fusion process into helium is .007

2. 1 X 1036 the ratio of atomic force to gravitational force

3. Density of material in the universe

4. A measure of cosmic antigravity controlling the expansion of the cosmos

5. The amplitude of ripples in the expansion of the cosmos-- 1,100,000

6. The number of spacial dimensions--3

Just trying to formulate a theory--anything that would include these constraints for a system in which life can exist is a challenge. Ries has formulated a "multiverse theory" to try to do this. He admits the calculations are "highly arbitrary." We would suggest that human attempts to find an alternative to God as the creator are even more futile than stopping the lava flow at Kalapana. All of this highlights even more the biblical statement, "What is man that thou art mindful of Him.." --John N. Clayton

--John N. Clayton

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