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Answering coronavirus and flat earth questions

Published: 11 July 2020 (GMT+10)
https://en.wikipedia.org/coronavirus

F.K., US, wrote in:

Pollution, overpopulation, climate change, species extinction, wholesale sin of every kind now a pandemic. I’m 83 and I’ve never heard or seen such goings on. I think it’s the End Times. What’s your take on this?

Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:

Thank you for writing in. I would actually say that the planet is not overpopulated with humans and we’ve made excellent strides in reducing pollution. We are definitely affecting the environment and our activities have directly led to the extinction of some species, but much of this is due to the fact that we live in a sin-cursed world that is subject to decay.

Perhaps previous pandemics and plagues are before living memory, but this is not the first time that a virus has threatened humanity. The bubonic plague wiped out 1/3 of Europe’s population. The Spanish Flu had a greater death toll than coronavirus. While COVID-19 is a serious pathogen, it is not unique, and it is not even the worst that has ever affected humans. So while CMI does not take a view on eschatological matters beyond the relevant elements of our Statement of Faith (which have always been held by essentially all Christians everywhere), I think we can say that COVID-19 is not necessarily a harbinger of the end times.

However, potentially life-threatening events can cause us to focus more on our own mortality and the fact that we will each stand before God. Christians have been waiting for the return of Christ for 2,000 years, but an individual Christian has decades, at most, until they meet Him. The modern world is good at distracting us from the fact of our own inevitable death, but events like a global pandemic bring it to the forefront. We should respond with a renewed dedication to personal holiness, evangelism, and a refusal to give in to the fear and hysteria that so often characterizes discussions about the pandemic.


M.R. from Singapore wrote:

I have been having conversations with a dear friend who is deeply enmeshed in the flat earth belief and other conspiracy theories. Your articles have been invaluable in crafting clear, Biblical responses to him. One question I haven’t found an answer to yet (although I know it exists -- I just don’t yet understand the science behind it): If the sun is so huge, why are there dark sides to any objects in the solar system? (i.e. why isn’t Saturn backlit from stars behind it?) Would appreciate your help in this question. Thank you so much for your faithful work.

Dr. Robert Carter, CMI-US, responds:

Thank you for the interesting question. I will answer it first, then point you to some additional material.

Q: If the sun is so huge, why are there ‘dark sides’ to objects in the solar system?

A: The sun is indeed large, but not compared to the size of the solar system. At earth, the sun is only 0.5 degrees in width. Hence, the sun is a point source. Light in our atmosphere bounces around like crazy. This is why the sky is blue. There are no places where you can escape blue light during the daytime. The same is true for some time after sunset and before sunrise. Scattering of light fills the atmosphere with light. But the same is not true in outer space. There is (almost) nothing upon which light can scatter. Thus, if you are not in a direct line of sight to the sun, you are in blackness.

This, however, brings up an ancient logical problem. Today, we call it Olber’s Paradox, and we mention it in multiple articles on Creation.com but Olber (1758–1840) was preceded by the writer Edgar Allan Poe, several astronomers, and even the ancient Greeks. The paradox is this: if the universe is huge, no matter where you look in the sky you will be looking at a star. Thus, the universe should be as bright as the sun.

The solution to Olber’s Paradox is simple: the universe is not infinitely old or infinitely large. This works great in a creation context, but the big bangers found another solution: the universe only appears to be non-infinite. Anything beyond [an assumed] 13.8 billion light years is moving away from us faster than the speed of light. Hence, light from those stars cannot get to us. This means that the entire sky is not filled with light because there is a finite number of stars to see. The inflationary model of the big bang also stretches the light from the big bang fireball into extremely long wavelengths (microwaves) and into an extreme amount of space (hence a low temperature).

You were probably not writing to ask questions about the big bang! But, as in so many other areas of science, a simple question can open up a world of interesting answers. And I do understand how difficult it is to labor with people who are trapped in the flat earth mindset. But keep your chin up. Every single flat earth conjecture has a simple answer. We’re here to help if you need it.

Helpful Resources

The Coronavirus Catastrophe  tract
by Robert Carter, Lita Cosner
US $0.20
Soft Cover

Readers’ comments

Rod T.
Hi, can you recommend a book explaining what possibly happened during the time between Noah and Stone Age man? Blessings, Rod
Robert Carter
Yes, we can! But first, let us understand that the "Stone Age" never existed. There was a time when people were spreading out on the earth after the Flood. They had no extensive trade networks and had not yet tamed the environment in the places they lived to raise enough food to allow for the natural division of labor we see across the world today. Thus, they left behind evidence of only rudimentary technologies. But they were as intelligent and industrious as modern people; it just took us a while to figure out how to build computers and interplanetary spacecraft.

Resources:
The Puzzle of Ancient Man

The Mystery of Ancient Man

History Questions and Answers
Eileen T.
I agree with your correspondent and his views on the End Times. I too am 83 and have never witnessed these things before, although I did go down with the 1957 flu pandemic. I think the difference between now and previous history is the speed with which we are experiencing one crisis after another - didn’t the Lord Jesus say that the earth would be like a woman in childbirth ?
If I may say so, you sound rather like the ‘scoffers’ in the end times asking ‘where is the promise of His coming? All things are continuing as they always have!’ But there will definitely be an end at some point won’t there? The more Godless the world gets, the nearer that time will be.
Lita Cosner
By definition, the return of Christ is closer than it ever has been, and that is as true if it is still 5,000 years in the future, or if it were to happen before I finish typing this sentence. Yet looking at the history of eschatological interpretation, every attempt to pinpoint what a specific thing is has turned out to be wrong. Hitler, though an evil man, was not the antichrist. Neither were any of the many popes who early Protestants named as that figure. While the current pandemic is serious, it is not on the level of the Black Plague, which wiped out around 1/3 of Europe's population. While the current societal unrest is bad, it is nothing compared to the final days of the Roman Empire. It really does help to take a historical perspective.

Jesus will return at the time the Father has set (Matthew 23:46). Our confidence in that should cause us to be more intentional about sharing the Gospel with the lost, not trying to pinpoint eschatological clues in the news.
Desmond G.
Isn't "overpopulation" a secular concern, partly driven by Darwinian misanthropy? Isn't that partly why abortion is being promoted worldwide? Secular environmentalist complain that there are too many human beings on earth consuming limited resources, killing the planet. So it is worrisome that a Christian questioner cites "overpopulation" as a crisis. CEO Richard Fangrad has 5 Children, I have 4! Perhaps he meant "overcrowding."

Anyway, thanks CMI, love your work!!!
Pratha S.
Flat earth? You've gotta be kidding! I thought that belief died-out long ago. The Bible makes it clear that in verses in the Old Testament,that the earth is ROUND{it's shape is described as a 'circle'}.These verses{I believe in Isaiah},were written some 3,000 years ago -- and they sure didn't have any satellites or rockets back then either! They didn't even have any hot-air balloons! So how did they know that the earth was round? There's only one way -- God told them that! After all,He would know -- since He created everything! And some events that just confirms what God's Word has always said -- the moon landings! That well-known picture that the astronauts took looking back at earth! YOU CAN'T MISS THAT!! Flat earth? It never existed!
Robert Carter
Small correction. That belief did not "die out long ago". At least in the West, that belief never existed. There may have been several world cultures that held to it in ancient times, but it was never a part of Christianity or, before and parallel to that, Judaism, or the lands they controlled. There are several important links in the article you can use to expand upon these thoughts.
Tim L.
You said, "Anything beyond [an assumed] 13.8 billion light years …", which implies that the size of the universe is less than 13.8 billion light years. However, I thought one of the main problems with the Big Bang is that the radius of the known universe is ~45.5 billion light years (hence the use of inflation to explain how we can see further than 13.8 billion light years). Therefore, as I have understood it, we as creationists don't have a problem with distances of billions of light years, but rather with the understanding that distances of more than 6000 light years prove that the biblical chronology is wrong. Is there actually good reason to think the distances are vastly less than what secular scientists report? If so, would a modified Big Bang model based on these shorter distances remove the need for inflation?
Robert Carter
We can only directly measure distance out to the limits of parallax. Everything beyond that is assumption. They claim we can see out to 13.8 light years. In other words, that is how far away those objects were when they emitted the light we are seeing. The conclusions astronomers draw are based on operational science in one sense (i.e., what would it be like if we had to use the known laws of physics to explain what we see without invoking a Creator?), but they then resort to ridiculous conclusions (like 'the universe inflated billions of fold in size in one quintillionth of a femtosecond with no known physics or reasons').
John Z.
A flat earth can obviously be "round." The Bible doesn't say that the earth is a sphere. Also, everyone starts with unprovable assumptions, including those who believe in a spherical earth. Saying that it's hard to labor with people "trapped" in a flat earth mindset could easily be turned around to say that it's hard to labor with those who won't give up their indoctrination. Our experiences and observations show that the earth is flat and stationary. People oppose this conclusion because it implies God and/or because they don't want to admit that they've been deceived.
Robert Carter
No, the two are not equivalent. Every bit of evidence points in one direction: the earth is an oblate spheroid. By citing "your" observations and experiences, you have demonstrated that you have fallen into the idiocentric model. See my article Why the Universe does not revolve around the Earth: refuting absolute geocentrism for the first use of the term.

In Dystopian science part 1: why the Bible enables science to work I give a longer explanation: "People with a natural tendency to think independently (which is generally a good thing!) can sometimes become entrenched in a radical skepticism that refuses to believe anything unless they can see and prove it for themselves. But one reason we need ‘authorities’ is that no single person can master every possible realm of knowledge. The attempt to prove everything by oneself is idiocentric (idios being the Greek word for ‘self’). In our attempt to rebuild science, we are going to need to reach outside ourselves and work with others, we are going to have to accumulate knowledge, perhaps over generations, and we will be forced to carefully document all findings."

This is a matter of operational science. It is not in conflict with the Scriptures, and, as far as science is concerned, the case is closed.
Ged W.
Have you seen any real photos of the oblate spheroid you speak of in parrot fashion? No that's right you have only seen composite photos of the world depicting a perfect circle hmmmm...Go out and test for yourself how far you can see which proves the lack of curvature required to fit the earth's supposed radius. Scientism goes beyond real science that can be tested and repeated. How do you suppose our earth's high pressure gas is hurtling through a vacuum with no container keeping it in? It's comical listening to scientistists explain theory as fact and we plebs have to take your word for it.
Robert Carter
Every point you make has a simple, easy to understand answer. You are, in fact, wrong on all counts. Start here: A flat earth, and other nonsense.
John S.
You say every flat earth conjecture has a simple answer. I challenge you to answer ONE simple question. If a microwave transmitter on a 50 foot tower on both transmitting and receiving ends can send signals 150 miles from an island in the ocean to the shore, does this not disprove the mathematical model for the curvature of the earth ? Microwaves are line-of-sight and an object 150 miles away would be many thousands of feet below line-of-sight. This is a real situation, it is in magazines as an advertisement for their equipment. You will likely send a 10,000 page scientific expose which no one can read as an answer. How about being honest and giving a short paragraph answer >
Robert Carter
From much experience I have learned that it is generally useless to try and answer a flat earther, but for the sake of the other readers here is the answer: A flat earth, and other nonsense#Things disappearing over the horizon. You make a grave mistake in discussing the passage of light (microwaves) though an optically dense atmosphere while ignoring the refractive effects of that same atmosphere. If you cannot understand that, then hits the school books. Or just read it again. We are not writing on a technical level. This is basic science and not beyond the ken of the average person. By the way, there will be no further discussion unless you acknowledge my answer. Why? See Mark Harwood's excellent 2014 Creation magazine article Anyone for Tennis?
Chris W.
Hmmm, I've become more than a little nervous when church leaders and commentators say things like 'I think we can safely say that COVID-19 is not a harbinger of the end times.' Jesus makes it clear that '... no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself...(Matt 24:36) He also told us to be savvy and 'read the signs'. As Christians what we do know is that there will be 'an end-time', and that there will be a degree of turmoil leading up to it and during it. But whether the signs stretch over years, decades or hundreds of years - we do not know. What we do know from Revelation is that plagues (actual not allegorical I assume) will form part of the end times, so rather than say Covid 19 is not an indicator of end times let's just keep watch, and meanwhile show God's love to a fallen world, ready and eager to point them to the Saviour.
Antonio F.
Does Olber's paradox take into account that light intensity drops off the further away from it's source due to it taking the properties of a wave? 'Cause I can't see how the sky would be bright if the stars were so far away and only emitted a finite amount of light. Afterall, I'm sure that the outreach readings of our own solar system taken by the satellite Voyager 1 (? or 2) showed a drop-off of the sun's light intensity as it journeyed further from the sun.

I have a question, or more like a perspective for you. I thought Einstein proposed that the universe was football like in shape and that light bends towards the edges of it. Dr Hartnett proposed a model suggesting that the red shift that we see in the universe from stars might have nothing to do with the universe expanding away from us but could be explained as a universe under tension upon itself. My thoughts are that the universe is finite because the Bible implies it to be so, i.e. time of the fallen state is finite, implies number of people are finite, and God tells us that Abraham's descendants are as numerous as the stars in the night sky. What I'm getting at is that if an amalgam of Einstein & Hartnett is right, then looking at the same set of stars from a different angle, wouldn't they look different to the very same set of stars being looked at? So wouldn't looking deep into space mean that we would think that we see more stars but in reality we are viewing the same stars, just from a different angle? I'm aware that they rate size of the stars due to intensity but could this be correctly determined with an incorrect perspective of our model for the universe?
Robert Carter
Yes, the brightness of a luminous object drops off by the square of the distance, but as it gets smaller, the number of objects of the same size and distance that fit in the same frame of vision goes up by the square of the distance. Thus, an infinite wall of candles would appear the same brightness no matter how far away you were. Or, in this case, you could replace the brightness of the sun with 4 identical suns at twice the distance, 9 at three times the distance, 16 at four times the distance, etc., or any combination of near and far objects of varying sizes. If the universe was infinite and eternal, there would be nowhere to look that was not filled with starlight. In fact, there would be no night.
Nicholas S.
So far I have not heard nor read of any answers to  questions e.g. who measured the width of the flat disk earth? who measured the height of the flat disk sun? where are those measurements recorded? who are the corroborate witnesses of those observations and records? to offer substantiated evidence that would convince me that I could have faith in the earth is flat. So, with subsequent reasonable conclusion, I would judge that the flat earth is still only a theory upon which I cannot base my world view or to put it another way, it does not have a strong evidence based foundation upon which to base my worldview. Beware of blithely accepting a theory without a reasonable test of validity, which may then lead to a distorted world view. In contrast, by tested observation, there is absolute, overwhelming evidence of the explicitly fine tuned Creation of this three dimensional universe and by the substance of tested faith, the inclusive reality of another dimension also, both upon which I base my worldview and am absolutely convinced, the other dimension is the dwelling place of the Purposefully Directed Awesome Power of God. Like flat earth, another unsubstantiated theory and the jeopardy within itself: the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is trying to remove God from the Equation of Creation. Thank you Creation Ministries International for continually acknowledging God as the Formula Designer, Creator of the universe and everything in it (Psalm 8). CMI, keep up the Good Worship of our Lord God in acknowledging Him as the Creator of the universe, so we could have our existence, to stand on this planet earth, journeying through this life in the Salvation of and in Obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ to then be with Him in pure Joy and Peace forever in Heaven. Amen

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