Sunday, 23 February 2014

Water on Earth-where did it come from?

So where did the water on Earth come from?

I listened to a brief item early morning on Radio 4 last week with an interviewer and scientists talking about water in space. The context was the recent flooding in England and the water cycle, and the question came up about the total amount of water on earth.  The interviewer asked the scientist (sorry I wasn’t able to listen again and forget the name) how water came to be in the first place. It’s a question worth asking.

He said there were ‘... 2, maybe 3, theories’ about where the water came from. The first was that ‘when the earth and moon were formed by a planet the size of Mars smashing into a collection of rocks’ the water was present in the rocks and leaked out or something to form the sea. The second was that the water arrived in comets. (That would be an awful lot of comets, given how very few are seen-ever- let alone how few crash into the earth. Do any? And what about collateral impact damage from crashing comets? But we always have the appeal to 'deep evolutionary time' to sort out issues like that-ED.) The third, which he seemed rather vague about, was that the water had come out of volcanic magma. Or maybe the water came from asteroids. Whatever.
The interviewer appeared to share my feelings about the level of explanatory power of this stuff. She said ‘So we don’t have a clue then?’ He was unable to find a response to this and the item ended. It seemed to me that the scientist had merely reeled off a list of known celestial objects and said 'Any of them could have done it...although we have no evidence at all.'

There was no consideration of the possibility that the planet had been created by a superior being in something like its present form with water and other necessities to support organic life. This possibility was not mentioned, even to dismiss it. This demonstrates a pretty good example of  ‘the philosophical assumption of materialism’ by means of which any discussion about origins begins by axiomatically excluding the possibility of divine action. This assumption is understood to be too basic to need stating. 

n  I thought I’d do a little bit of research, and Googled on ‘origin of water’. Wikipedia came up first and began by saying
The origin of water on Earth, or the reason that there is clearly more water on the Earth than on the other planets of the Solar System, has not been clarified. There are several acknowledged theories as to how the world's oceans were formed over the last 4.6 billion years.’
I’m not going to quote from the article in detail or argue against its assumptions, but it certainly contains conflicting and contradictory ideas and illustrates the lack of evidence and indeed calls for citations. Evidence. Lack. Of.

The next item to come up was from the Smithsonian mag and included the following paragraph

“Water is so vital to our survival, but strangely enough, we don’t know the first thing about it—literally the first. Where does water, a giver and taker of life on planet Earth, come from? When I was in junior high school, my science teacher taught us about the water cycle—evaporation from oceans and lakes, condensation forming clouds , rain refilling oceans and lakes—and it all made sense. Except for one thing: None of the details explained where the water came from to begin with. I asked, but my teacher looked as if I’d sought the sound of one hand clapping.” (my bold-ED)

The author went on to state standard Big Bang theory, which has been summarised by creationists as ‘Once upon a time there was nothing, then the nothing became unstable, exploded, and made everything.’ Crude though this might be, I still think it is fair to ask where the 'something' came from, and how the laws of physics which as we all know are VERY precisely fine tuned for life came to be, and how you get order from a explosion. Anyway, we were told that water was made in the stars which earlier made themselves from the stuff thrown out in the 'Big Bang’. And then the water the stars made somehow got dumped on Earth and stayed there. Why it didn't all boil off into space wasn't explained, although no doubt some Darwinian 'might have's could be produced.
This 'maybe...could have been...probably did...must have done....' account of water's origin seems to me rather less satisfactory, less probable and to depend on more unseen and untestable entities (Occam's Razor) that the Genesis account of creation. And again, we return to the (usually unstated but always present) philosophical assumption of materialism. This essentially runs that there must be a materialistic explanation, however improbable and even if we have conflicting evidence and absolutely no idea what it is, because it MUST NOT have been God. This assumption was evident in the radio conversation that started me on this piece. 

A few other Googled 'origin of water' items made similar broad assertions about the origin of water on Earth and admitted to general ignorance. One on UCL suggested a different theory that water atoms has been present attached to the various bits of space dust that accreted together to form the Earth. The item mentions that Professor Nora de Leeuw had taught the standard theories of origin of water on Earth for years but increasingly seen that they did not fit the evidence, so developed a new theory which apparently is supported by some computer models.

Of course as with all origins science, it is not possible to test this theory one way or the other. Computer models are just that, however well designed they inevitably depend on inputs and assumptions. They can never re-create the original conditions or repeat unique historical events. They certainly can't rule out the creation of a mature cosmos, solar system and Earth at a moment in history consistent with the biblical genealogies (around 4,000 BC).

On the latter point, I don't want to go off at length about the age of the Earth today beyond repeating that (A) due to the shortage of time machines, all dating methods are based on assumptions about the distant past that we can't validate by repeatable testing, and (B) a deity of the power and wisdom of the One described in the Judaeo-Christian Scriptures 'could have' (if I may borrow that favourite Darwinian term) spoken into being the cosmos, Earth, sea and all that is in them in 6 days. If this happened then the cosmos and Earth, like mature trees, a breathable atmosphere and the first adult human couple, would INEVITABLY have seemed older than 6 days  due to the necessity of being fit for immediate use. Same as the water into wine miracle.

Observing Mars and Venus, our nearest planetary neighbours, is instructive. They are roughly the same size as Earth and not very different in their orbits of the Sun. We now know that neither have liquid water (*) and for various other reasons neither can support life (although we can still enjoy sci-fi written about Mars and Venus in earlier years-especially C S Lewis' brilliant Ransom trilogy). Conditions on Earth are VERY special in many ways, not least in the presence of large amounts of liquid water. Water is only liquid (i.e. not steam or ice) in a very narrow temperature range, one of many 'Goldilocks factors' pointing to design. Our planet certainly looks as if it was designed to support carbon based life including humans. Why is this possibility never considered in media discussions about origins?
Just as the Earth looks designed, the various speculations about a non-designed origin also look designed. Designed by the opponents of biblical Christianity to nudge men and women into believing that science has quite properly and by a process of reason and evidence ruled God out of the picture. Not only is this both incorrect and a logical fallacy, but ignores the fact that God has revealed Himself to us not only in nature but also though Israel, the prophets and through Jesus, who rose from the dead.

Why do those who control our mainstream broadcast and print media and education systems struggle so hard to prevent this  possibility even being discussed? In any discussion of origins, the unstated assumption is that God is not to be even considered as a possibility. It is a recurring themes of this blog that the continual repetition of this kind of speculation deliberately builds up the impression that science has disproved God and particularly ruled out creation. Both assumptions are simply not true.

Jesus said ‘I am the water of life. He who drinks of this living water will never thirst again.’ see John’s Gospel 4:10 and 7:37. Water is often used in Scripture as a metaphor for life. Anyone who comes to Jesus in penitent faith will be allowed to drink water from the River of Life (Revelation 22:1.) That is an immeasurably  better prospect than casting around in ever decreasing circles trying to find some explanation other than the one which we have been given in God’s account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2.

(*) Whether Mars has buried frozen water now and/or liquid water in the past is another matter. I have posted about the 'search for water and therefore evidence suggesting possible life on Mars' hype several times in the past.

PS there is plenty enough water on the planet for a global flood. All you need to do is raise the deep ocean trenches and lower the major mountain ranges and you get the whole planet covered. Speeded up tectonic plate activity could have done this and would also account for past continental drift e.g. America drifting away from Africa etc. Terrifying but plausible given a VERY angry God judging a wicked humanity (Genesis chapters 6 and 7). Jesus and Peter both compared the suddenness (although warned about) and finality of the Noah Flood to that of the coming judgment.

 People laughed about the Flood before it happened. Not subsequently. 'As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the day of the son of Man' Matthew 24:37-44

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