Agony and ecstasy—12 months of turmoil, disaster, death, rescue, victory, and celebration
A much-anticipated solar eclipse will sweep across the United States on Aug. 21, cutting a path of totality from Oregon to South Carolina. But more than just a fun fest for sky gazers, the coming eclipse will be an example of design in the universe.
Total solar eclipses occur because the sun, while 400 times bigger than the moon, is also 400 times farther away, making the apparent size of both in the sky approximately equal. Many modern astronomers view this perfectly orchestrated phenomenon as a remarkable “coincidence.”
But Guillermo Gonzalez, a Ball State University astronomer, offers a different view. Far from coincidence, the solar eclipse is evidence that we live on a planet designed to support complex life and to be a perfect place from which to observe and study the universe, Gonzalez argued in an Illustra Media video, The Privileged Planet.
Astronomers have learned much about the universe by studying total solar eclipses. It was a total eclipse in 1919 that allowed astronomers to photograph stars adjacent to the sun that were not ordinarily visible during daylight. Later analysis showed that the sun’s gravity bent the starlight traveling toward Earth at exactly the angle Albert Einstein had predicted, verifying his general theory of relativity. Nineteenth-century total eclipses also enabled scientists to learn about the sun’s atmosphere and composition.
Gonzalez ran mathematical calculations on 65 of the major moons in our solar system to see if the right conditions existed for any other moons to produce a perfect, total solar eclipse on their host planets. He found only one, Saturn’s moon Prometheus. But, as Gonzalez described in the 2004 book The Privileged Planet, co-authored with Jay Richards, even a Prometheus eclipse wouldn’t be perfect. It would only last half a second, and the elongated shape of Prometheus would not afford a good view of the sun’s atmosphere.
Earth’s unique location and vantage point for eclipses and other astronomical phenomena is evidence of intelligent design, Gonzalez and Richards wrote: “Simply stated, the conditions allowing for intelligent life on Earth also make our planet strangely well suited for viewing and analyzing the universe.”
According to the Bible, in ancient times Joshua led the Israelites in a campaign to conquer the land of Canaan. Ancient Canaan included modern-day Israel, Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.
Eventually, the Israelites divided the land among the 12 tribes and enslaved some of the surviving Canaanites, but experts have been unsure what happened to the rest of the survivors. Now, a study published in The American Journal of Human Genetics on July 27 suggests the Canaanite genes have been preserved in the people of Lebanon.
Researchers extracted DNA from the preserved skulls of five Canaanite individuals who lived almost 4,000 years ago and compared it to genome sequences of 99 living Lebanese individuals.
“In light of the enormously complex history of this region in the last few millennia, it was quite surprising that over 90 percent of the genetic ancestry of present-day Lebanese was derived from the Canaanites,” said Chris Tyler-Smith, one of the researchers. —J.B.
A 9-year-old South African child born with an HIV infection and treated with antiretroviral drugs for the first few months of her life has now been in remission for 8½ years. She appears to be the third case of sustained HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment, the U.S. National Institutes of Health reported in July. Though one child has relapsed, health officials hope early treatments can help other HIV-positive infants. —J.B.