Case Study: A Wasted Life, Martians vs Percival

470172a-i1.0What led to Percival Lowell’s obsession with life on Mars? Led him to be convinced all the way to his deathbed it held signs of ancient civilizations? Led him to waste 22 golden years convincing his eyes of what his heart wanted to see? Life on mars, and martians,  is a theory that captivates the imaginations of people even today. (See: UFO’s and God)

As the egregious failure to provide evidence of abiogenesis, or the natural process of life arising from non-living matter,  marred evolutionary progress in the late 1800’s, some form of organic evolution had to be found. Abiogenesis was essential for propping up Darwinian theory, and amidst the embarrassment of Darwin’s disciples classifying gypsum (sulphate of lime) as a spontaneous sea life form, science needed a new, non-divine source for life. Incidentally, the newly found ‘life form’ was never denounced publicly, and Haeckel, the evolutionist who presented it, was convinced the real life form of his imaginings was laying in the ocean floor waiting to be discovered until his dying day. He was lecturing in Berlin on evolution in 1905, standing before a back drop of artist renderings relating man with apes, and his own notorious embryo drawings, found later to be completely falsified. (Haeckel was known to be a German hero of Hitler, and gave credence to his opinions on the master race.)

At the height of his influence in 1876, Haeckel said, “[The spontaneous generation] hypothesis is indispensable for the consistent completion of the non-miraculous history of creation.” One year later was the’discovery’ from Italian astronomer Schiapatelli that would ignite a series of far reaching events to answer this evolutionary vacuum. With the limited telescopic technology available, this searcher of the stars found a straight line on the planet mars. He called them “canali” for channel in Italian, which of course became “canals” in English. A few months after this announcement was the failure of Haeckel’s spontaneous life form. Despite the modesty of Schiapatelli’s report, the imaginations of the scientific community where abuzz with visions of extraterrestrial life. And why? Ian T. Taylor says it this way: “Relegating that origin to some cosmic outpost gave a measure of intellectual satisfaction since no amount of negative evidence could lessen the possibility of it being true; in other words, it was for the foreseeable future beyond the reach of man’s inquiry and could neither be proved or refuted.” (In the minds of Men, 2008)

Which brings us, stage now set, to Percival Lowell. While traveling abroad, Percival discovered that Schiapatelli was no longer able to continue his work, and enthusiastically adopted the search for proof of Martians. He was surrounded by the progressive thinking of evolution, and with science clamoring for a life source from space, Mr. Lowell was all too eager to help. From 1894 to 1916, Lowell observed Mars, wrote about Martians, and encouraged the public with lectures and maps. Using the excellent viewing conditions of Arizona’s nighttime sky, the number of canals he observed swelled to over 700.

Other scientists seemed to struggle with eyeing the same canals Percival did, to which he replied – ‘such observations relied heavily upon viewing conditions.’ There was even a water vapor discovery that also somehow eluded other scientists. This did not stop the passionate, if not obsessed, astronomer from producing “Mars” (1895), “Mars and Its Canals” (1906), and “Mars As the Abode of Life” (1908) along with a myriad of articles discussing our fourth planet.

I discuss the dangers of indoctrination in other articles, and continue to make application as we face an educational system today that is itself obsessed with the faith of evolution. Let us examine the fall out from Lowell’s observations, bearing in mind the unrelenting PR campaign for evolution that took place before Lowell, run by Huxley, the X-Club, and various societies that held sway over the whole scientific community (this is not an exaggeration, and parallels today’s methodology). Lowell influenced the imaginations of the western world with his continual promotion of a martian probability. One such imagination belonged to a writer named H.G. Wells. The very one who wrote War of the Worlds (1898) about a martian invasion of Earth.

You know what comes next. Another Wells, this time Orson Wells, and his Halloween hoax radio show of 1938, an age of tension, and war, and technological terror. Orson proved that with theatrics, some sound effects, and not a shred of evidence, a dedicated groups of individuals could create absolute panic. The radio broadcast convinced thousands the end of the world was happening, as he presented a War of the Worlds live radio show, causing at least one death, flooding the police switchboards, and pulling off the greatest media stunt of all time.

Sci-fi followed suit, from Isaac Asimov to  area 51 to Star Trek, and as evolution was blasted into the American school system in 1959 via Eisenhower’s National Defense Education Act, the need for abiogenesis was just as necessary as it was in 1876. With the space race against the Russians being the impetus for this, and the moon landing not far off, it is no wonder America never lost its fancy for Martians.

In 1976, 60 years after Lowell’s death, the Viking spacecraft landed on Mars, mapping the surface, and proving what the Mariner series spacecraft had already ascertained a couple years before. Lowell was wrong. There were no canals. None. Not one.

I cannot think of a more disappointing scientific legacy that that of Percival Lowell. I have written my first book, and know the passion and dedication that it takes to carry it out. This man not only wrote three, but built his own observatory, staffed it, and arduously studied the red planet for 22 years. I in no way feel that Lowell was a con-artist. On the contrary, I believe with every fiber of my being that he worked with dedication, ethics, and honor, and that he truly felt he was serving humanity with his efforts. He never learned of the worthlessness that was his legacy. So where did it all go wrong?

The presupposition, of course. The starting point, believed with an emotional faith that, I dare say, no one could have talked him out of. It is the same here as with biology, paleontology, anthropology, and all sciences, where how you interpret the world around you is directly affected by what you believe. Some would levy the same argument against Christianity, and would be right to do so, though it is the only starting point that offers satisfaction. To explain would take another article entirely, however I will say this. There is reason, logic, and answers within Christianity that cannot be found anywhere else. Rom 1:20 – “For from the creation of the world the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” God can be clearly seen, and a presupposition beginning with a holy, inerrant, and prophetic creator is a much more reasonable faith than a faith based on man’s failed attempt to prove we are all just cosmic accidents. If Percival Lowell hadn’t been influenced by man’s idea to supplant Christian truth with humanistic evolution, as history shows us, this story wouldn’t be so tragic. Would  those 22 years have been better spent studying God’s word, instead of Mars?

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You Have Two Choices

There are really only two games in town. Both Christian scientists and atheistic scientists agree that the universe had a beginning. I have spoken with post-modernists who offer up alternatives to these two possibilities, such as a past eternal universe, or mere relative understandings of truth. Without getting into the weeds too much, your main theorists and thinkers on both sides reject these ulterior notions based on sound evidence, such as heat death, entropy, and others.

Biblical creationists already have a Genesis account of a beginning, corroborated by Christ, and many writers of scripture, so this news does not pose issue in and of itself.

On the other hand, when scientists discovered that the universe had a beginning, they were not happy.

Physicist Arthur Eddington wrote: “philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me… I should like to find a genuine loophole.”

When Einstein discovered that space-time-matter had a beginning, he was quoted as saying the result “irritates me”, due to its theological ramifications. You could surmise that a multi-verse would somehow change the implications, but it does not. Mathematically (since a multi-verse is hypothetical and un-explorable), a theorem that explains a multi-verse, created by Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin and his scientific team, proves that even if one exists, there is a beginning to them all.

Vilenkin, a believer in a multi-verse rather than God says,  “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning (Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176).”

So to the point: the two games in town are

a) The universe created itself, or

b) A creator outside of time, space, and matter created it. Therefore He is timeless, spaceless, and immaterial.

We have delved into space travel, the Big Bang, and other related topics on this site, but to now bring up an additional bit of information in the realm of philosophy, there is a self-evident principle of causality with which we must contend. In its simplest form, the law of causality simply states that everything has a cause. A house has a cause, yes, but that is an easy one. But I can go pick a leaf off a tree, and determine its cause, or a rock laid down by an ancient flood, and it will have a cause. Now, we may disagree on what the forensic evidence points to as an initial cause, but we will not disagree that said object does indeed have one.

This self-evident first principle of philosophy is there, along with others such as the law of non-contradiction, identity, and so on, to prevent the need for an infinite regression of explanations. In other words, if you have to explain everything, then you will never get to the end of explanations, and truth ceases to exist. This is why we must stop with certain obvious realities, or these first principles.

Of course a common retort is, who caused God then? But being outside of time, space and matter, being infinite, there is no logical reason to need a cause. Like our first principle, He is self-evident, or the un-caused first cause – Aristotle said, the unmoved mover. Hence why He refers to Himself as I AM. There is no “was”,  there is no “will be”. For us yes, but not for Him. Besides, you cannot have a higher god that is “more infinite” than infinite. This also is illogical.

Now, in regards to anything within the forensic sciences, something not repeatable, observable, or demonstrable, we are looking for causes at the most basic level. Science is basically the search for knowledge, or search for causes – causality.

Therefore, one must now ask him or herself, do I abandon the law of causality when it comes to origins? This isn’t about age of the universe, or dinosaurs, all which do have answers according to a biblical world view. But simply regarding the beginning of it all, do I base my life on the natural and material sciences only, dismissing all possibility of creation, and force myself to choose a beginning that happened in eons past against the laws of all I claim to hold dear?

The great skeptic and atheist Christopher Hitchens was debating Frank Turek, and equated the Big Bang to a suitcase about to pop open, “and everything that is ever going to be is inside that;  that was the best I could do.” He went on to say, “And I don’t think many people could do, if I say it myself, that much better.” For such a revered and intelligent man, to state that the historical narrative of the Genesis account, in all of its beauty, and mastery, revered for thousands of years, and preserved through the ages doesn’t compare with this suit case analogy is quite telling. But in the end, an avid atheist will always struggle with how to articulate a result with no definable cause, because to repeat the point, both sides agree there was a definitive beginning.

There are only two choices. Einstein knew this. I commend atheists for being consistent in their take on naturalism, but as we view all manner of explanation and mental gymnastics to explain godless possibilities, and then relegate those possible happenings to the far unobservable past, do we not firmly place it in the category of faith? Faith in that there must not be a God.

Both sides, as human beings will try to identify the three basic life questions:

Where did I come from?

Why am I here?

What happens when I die?

The last two questions are bound inexorably to the first. Einstein was right, it can be irritating, since there is a beginning. But if nothing can cause something, or more than that, everything, then we have undone what is self-evident, and have removed meaning from all we observe.

There are only two choices.