15 September 2007

A Collision Billions of Years in the Making

I found the following items in this week's TIME magazine:

New Look at Dinosaurs' Demise

A recent study pinpointed the interstellar collision that eventually led to the dinosaurs' extinction. The event was so deep in space that the meteorite it created didn't slam into Earth and kill off the dinosaurs until nearly 100 million years later. While the findings, if true, would "link the biological history of the earth to events far from earth," according to William Bottke, who led the study, they would also alter what we know about the history of dinosaurs:

(The pictures at right are of the Yucatan Peninsula, site of the Chicxulub meteorite site. In the top picture, a faint green line shows the extremity of the huge crater. The bottom picture has a white dot, which identifies the impact point.)

This brief was hard for me to really "get." My mind simply cannot conceive of the idea of one million years. I've tried. I couldn't. I guess my mind is just too small.

The article is based on science, however, so I try to understand. The timeline looks like this: 250 million years ago, dinosaurs become the dominant land animals.

Ninety million years later, on the other side of the Universe, two asteroids, one 106 miles in diameter, the other 37 miles, slam into each other and explode, creating a field of interstellar meteorites, The Baptistinas.

One of these meteorites, a six-mile behemoth, travels for 95 million years through desolate space. At the appointed time--the time mathematically destined since the collision that created it--it slams into earth, just off the shore of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Clouds of dust arise and blot out the sun for months, years. The dinosaurs go extinct.

Now, I said before that I can't comprehend one million years in time, much less the distances of time and space, the mathematical precision, and the tens of millions of years between explosion and impact that this study explains. Anything that vast, I tend to ascribe to the Mind of God.

I mean, think about it. According to this scenario, life on earth developed, existed, thrived under a death sentences. Tens of millions of years earlier, an explosion far across the universe doomed life on this planet. My bounded imagination cannot explain this without God.

But what would an event like this tell one about God? Here's what I think:

I think these adjectives need to be forever banned from discussions of God: impetuous, arbitrary, and capricious.

In fact, His will is so vast as to understand causes and effects when they are separated by the tens of millions of years, miles, units of energy, etc. Mankind cannot understand this, and we deceive ourselves if we claim to do so. When God creates, He does so in a way that is timeless and mind-blowing. When God destroys, that too is an event set in motion eons and light-years away from those ultimately affected.

With a God who spans tens of millions of ages, then, 'what is Man that [God] is mindful of him?' (Psalm 8). We are probably a lot smaller than we think! We are too willing to exalt ourselves, considering the actions that God set in motion before our lives that may or may not come to fruition during our days on earth.

I'm reminded of this exchange, found in the book of Job (40.2-4):
The Lord said to Job, "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!"

Then Job answered the Lord: "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth."
My mind is still trying to take it all in. Maybe your minds can help me with this.

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