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Answering coronavirus and flat earth questions


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 Sanders, 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.

Published: 11 July 2020