Jewish World Review Nov. 20, 2001 / 5 Kislev 5762
For example, according to a new study called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, there is only one chance in 5,000 that during the next 100 years an asteroid will wipe out the human race. This is a substantial improvement over previous estimates, which put our chance of extinction at one in 1,500 over a 100 year period. The change in odds is based upon a finding that there are only 700,000 asteroids in the solar system big enough to destroy the earth, rather than the previous scientific estimate of 2,000,000. Surely, this is a cause for thanksgiving.
Any mention of mass extinction invites a discussion of the dinosaurs. Scientists have fretted, stewed and suffered professional embarrassment about the mysterious disappearance of these huge creatures. The question they hate the most is this: "How do you, as knowledgeable scientists, just 'lose' tens of millions of animals, each the size of a locomotive?"
As a young child, I remember being told that the dinosaurs were wiped out by glaciers. I had an image of these monstrous animals somehow being overrun by glaciers racing across the land at about 14 inches per year. This theory was supported by another theory that the average dinosaur had a brain the size of a peanut and it took two days for a message to get from the tail to the head.
The current explanation is that the dinosaurs were killed by a tremendous asteroid that beat the odds and crashed into the earth. It generated a massive cloud of debris and noxious fumes that permeated the atmosphere and blocked out the sun.
The problem with this explanation is that the scientists never talk about what happened as being part of a plan or a program. For them, it was bad luck, just one of those things.
That particular line of thinking offends common sense and assaults the very idea of fair play. It's hard to accept that everything and every event in the universe is pointless, no one is in control, and an entire species, even a dominant one, lives or dies based on some cosmic stray shot.
It is demeaning to think that human destiny may be ingloriously and randomly terminated by an unguided asteroid somewhere out there hurling through space in our direction.
As a general rule, atheists and secular humanists have morbid mind-sets concerning human destiny. Bertrand Russell, in his book "Mysticism and Logic," made this prediction: " ... the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruin." In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, noted scientist Stephen Hawking predicted the entire human race will be wiped out by man-made viruses sometime in the next 1,000 years. He recommends that we escape to another planet.
In his brilliant book "Thinkers of Our Time," Philip Vander Elst puts such views into the context of pagan myths about the human condition: " ... evolutionism portrays the accidental emergence of life and intelligence in the Universe as a heroic struggle against the odds whose tragic grandeur is ensured by the fact that it is doomed to ultimate defeat. The whole Universe will eventually run down, and every form of life will be banished from every inch of infinite space."
All things said, one has to have a measure of compassion for those with a vision of doomsday as the ultimate resolution. There is no morality or justice or mercy or hope in the workings of their mechanistic, insensate universe. To whom do they give thanks, and for what? To whom do they appeal for rescue and redemption?
As British author Aldous Huxley observed, "Science has 'explained' nothing; the more we know, the more fantastic the world becomes and the profounder the surrounding darkness."
Give thanks. There is a light that overcomes this dread, dead-ended darkness. There is a Creator who will find those who seek Him and lead them to it.
My personal statement remains the same, year after year: If I could identify
just two things for which to be thankful, I would choose first to be
thankful for amnesty, that is, forgiveness for all those accumulations of
sin and error which could otherwise weigh us down and steal away our freedom
of spirit and enthusiasm for life. Second, I would give thanks for the
promise that one day you and I will see His
11/13/01: Being 'sensitive' at our own risk