Thursday, April 08, 2010

The origin and destiny of our earth and sun (part two)

In part one of this series, we watched a National Geographic documentary about the death of the sun. In part two, we consider the same subject from the point of view of Carl Sagan (1934-1996) who co-wrote and presented the TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (viewed by more than 500 million people worldwide). Carl Sagan wrote a companion book titled Cosmos in which he talks about the death of our sun:

"Billions of years from now, there will be a last perfect day on Earth. Thereafter the Sun will slowly become red and distended, presiding over an Earth sweltering even at the poles. The Arctic and Antarctic icecaps will melt, flooding the coasts of the world. The high oceanic temperatures will release more water vapor into the air, increasing cloudiness, shielding the Earth from sunlight and delaying the end a little. But solar evolution is inexorable. Eventually the oceans will boil, the atmosphere will evaporate away to space and a catastrophe of the most immense proportions imaginable will overtake our planet. In the meantime, human beings will almost certainly have evolved into something quite different. Perhaps our descendants will be able to control or moderate stellar evolution. Or perhaps they will merely pick up and leave for Mars or Europa or Titan or, at last, as Robert Goddard envisioned, seek out an uninhabited planet in some young and promising planetary system.

"The Sun's stellar ash can be reused for fuel only up to a point. Eventually the time will come when the solar interior is all carbon and oxygen, when at the prevailing temperatures and pressures no further nuclear reactions can occur. After the central helium is almost all used up, the interior of the Sun will continue its postponed collapse, the temperatures will rise again, triggering a last round of nuclear reactions and expanding the solar atmosphere a little. In its death throes, the Sun will slowly pulsate, expanding and contracting once every few millennia, eventually spewing its atmosphere into space in one or more concentric shells of gas. The hot exposed solar interior will flood the shell with ultraviolet light, inducing a lovely red and blue fluorescence extending beyond the orbit of Pluto. Perhaps half the mass of the Sun will be lost in this way. The solar system will then be filled with an eerie radiance, the ghost of the Sun, outward bound.

"When we look around us in our little corner of the Milky Way, we see many stars surrounded by spherical shells of glowing gas, the planetary nebulae. (They have nothing to do with planets, but some of them seemed reminiscent in inferior telescopes of the blue-green discs of Uranus and Neptune.) They appear as rings, but only because, as with soap bubbles, we see more of them at the periphery than at the center. Every planetary nebula is atoken of a star in extremis. Near the central star there may be a retinue of dead worlds, the remnants of planets once full of life and now airless and ocean-free, bathed in a wraithlike luminance. The remains of the Sun, the exposed solar core at first enveloped in its planetary nebula, will be a small hot star, cooling to space, collapsed to a density unheard of on Earth, more than a ton per teaspoonful. Billions of years hence, the Sun will become a degenerate white dwarf, cooling like all those points of light we see at the centers of planetary nebulae from high surface temperatures to its ultimate state, a dark and dead black dwarf." (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980, Ballentine paperback edition, pp.188-189.)

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The implications of key LDS doctrines for evolution, part II

In part one, (click here), we examined a 1988 paper by Boyd K. Packer about the evolution and the origin of man. [1] Today we look briefly at an article President Packer prepared twenty years later, in 2008, for the Church's web site about Jesus Christ (click here).

In his 2008 article, President Packer talks about the origin of man's mortal body and explicitely dismisses fossil evidence for the evolution of man, proclaiming instead that man's creation in the image of God was a "separate" creation:

"Created in His Image

"We are taught in Genesis, in Moses, in Abraham, in the Book of Mormon, and in the endowment that man's mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation. Had the Creation come in a different way, there could have been no Fall.

"If men were merely animals, then logic favors freedom without accountability.

"How well I know that among learned men are those who look down at animals and stones to find the origin of man. They do not look inside themselves to find the spirit there. They train themselves to measure things by time, by thousands and by millions, and say these animals called men all came by chance. And this they are free to do, for agency is theirs.

"But agency is ours as well. We look up, and in the universe we see the handiwork of God and measure things by epochs, by aeons, by dispensations, by eternities. The many things we do not know, we take on faith.

"But this we know! It was all planned ' before the world was ' (D&C 38:1; see also D&C 49:17; 76:13, 39; 93:7; Abraham 3:22—25). Events from the Creation to the final, winding-up scene are not based on chance; they are based on choice! It was planned that way.

"This we know! This simple truth! Had there been no Creation and no Fall, there should have been no need for any Atonement, neither a Redeemer to mediate for us. Then Christ need not have been." [2]


  1. Boyd K. Packer, "The Law and the Light," The Book of Mormon: Jacob through Words of Mormon, to Learn with Joy (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1990), 1.
  2. Boyd K. Packer, "Who Is Jesus Christ," Ensign, Mar 2008, p.19.


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Sunday, April 04, 2010

President Thomas S. Monson on Earth's Grand Designer

In the Jan. 2008 Ensign, Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy teaches that "the passage of time, even long intervals of time, is not a 'cause' and provides no answers without an intelligent designer." ("Our God Truly Is God," Ensign, Jan. 2008, p.67.) Elder Callister's words "intelligent designer" refer to a Creator God and not the Intelligent Design movement led by the Discovery Institute (discussed here). We have also previously discussed President Thomas S. Monson's comments about science and religion (here and here).

"Who can doubt that there is a designer?" declared President Monson in this morning's session of general conference. With thoughtful consideration he reasons, if there is design in the world, there "must be a designer." According to President Monson, "the Grand Designer" created the heaven and the earth. For example, there was light, President Monson said, because the Grand Designer said "Let there be light." The sun, moon, and stars "came by His design."

"Man alone," said President Monson, "received intelligence, a brain, a mind, and a soul. Man alone with these attributes had the capacity for faith and hope, for inspiration and ambition." He said man is "the noblest work of the Great Designer."

The point is NOT what "man alone" received. The point is the Prophet's teachings clearly support the idea that "man's mortal body was made in the image of God in a separate creation" (Boyd K. Packer, 2008, discussed here).

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