Sometime in the not too distant future when the sun appears darkened, the moon pale red, and the seas are heaving beyond their bounds, a fascinating astronomical phenomenon will appear in the eastern sky.
It will first appear as a small, distant light. Astronomers will turn their telescopes toward the light source. They will not be able to positively identify the object, but many will surmise that it is a natural astronomical phenomenon. Scientists will speculate wildly over the cause of the light source, especially as they notice it growing larger overtime. I think that most people will identify it as a comet on a collision course with earth.
Among all the scientific speculation on the cause of the light source, there are some who will know the cause and meaning of the light source, not because they are privy to secret scientific information or because they are good guessers. They will know the cause of the light source because they read their scriptures and/or the teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith, and they know the signs of the coming of the Lord.
Like the righteous Nephites who knew that the new star in the heavens and the brightness of the sky at the going down of the sun portended the birth of Jesus, the righteous will know that the light in the east is a sign of the coming of the Lord. And like the wicked Nephites who dismissed the new star and extended day as unusual astronomical phenomena with some natural cause, proud scientists will search for naturalistic explanations and call the believers silly.
If all this isn’t weird enough for science, as the light grows in intensity, people will start vanishing from the earth. Two people will be waiting in line at a grocery store and one will suddenly disappear. “Where did she go?” a frustrated clerk will say, pointing to a cart full of frozen food. “She just left her groceries sitting there!” And two people will be working side-by-side at a flour mill when one employee suddenly vanishes. “Where is he now?” a shift supervisor will bark. “Another coffee break!?”
Science will be hard pressed to explain these disappearances. I imagine scholars will be conjuring up theories of spontaneous combustion or being sucked into a subspace portal due to a passing black hole. The righteous will be the only ones being taken from the earth, and they will not fear for they shall know why they are being taken from the earth - to meet the Lord Jesus Christ.
What happens next will be interesting. The atmosphere will get very hot and the earth will begin to burn like an oven. I imagine that proud scholars who mocked the Lord with allusions of flying spaghetti monsters and boasted in their atheistic doctrines of creation will proclaim, as they point toward the large light source, “We were right - It is a comet!” In their final breath, they will be wrong. They will not be burned by a comet; they will be burned by the presence of the Lord and celestialized beings in whose presence they cannot survive.
After the earth is cleansed by fire, the Lord, celestialized beings, and the righteous who were caught up to meet the Lord will arrive upon a renewed, telestialized earth. Thus will begin a thousand years of righteousness and a new era of science that is in complete harmony with the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many Latter-day Saints are familiar with the first law of thermodynamics. It is the law of conservation of energy which states that energy can be transformed, but never created nor destroyed. But how many of us are familiar with the second law of thermodynamics? Probably not as many which is unfortunate because the second law provides rational, scientific-based evidence for the existence of
The second law of thermodynamics states that matter in a closed system such as the universe will move toward a more disorganized state assuming outside forces are not acting on the universe. If we assume that the universe is a closed system and that there is no god (outside force), then we should see disorder growing around us. But the net level of disorder in the universe does not appear to be increasing. It appears that the opposite is happening. With the exception of rare supernova, everywhere in space we see evidence of highly organized planetary and biological systems forming.
However, the second law of thermodynamics also states that disorder (entropy) may decrease in a closed system by chance alone. This means that star and planetary systems may organize without influence from an outside force (i.e., god). Atheists kind of like this part because it suggests that complex organization can occur without divine intervention. Now I argue that the chances of spontaneous complex organization (low entropy) occuring by chance are very slim, but in all fairness to atheists, as Jim Carey's character on Dumb and Dumber reminds us, even with extremely small odds, there's still a chance.
My point is that notwithstanding Dumb and Dumber's philosophy on rare events, the chances that such an event took place without divine intervention is so rare that I have to agree with Warwick University philosophy professor Roger Trigg who claimed that “It’s much simpler to believe in God who created the one universe, rather than saying . . . we just happened to . . . come up in this way [by chance].” I would add that as a member of the church, it is not only simpler to believe in a creator, it is more logical to believe in a creator from a faith-based perspective.
We live in a universe. The “uni” in universe refers to one, meaning there is just one universe. Universe is one of those enduring concepts of science that has remained unchanged for many years. Well, as is the case with most other seemingly infallible scientific theories (Newtonian mechanics and luminiferous ether come to mind), new evidence is challenging the age-old concept of a single universe.
Recent evidence suggests that there may be multiple universes. Some scientists believe that we live in a multiverse instead of a universe. To conceptualize a multiverse, think of a room full of floating bubbles. Each bubble contains a separate realm or universe. Sounds intriguing, eh? Well the multiverse theory gets even more fascinating when we consider possible relationships among those universes. Owing to discoveries in quantum mechanics, there is evidence to suggest that some universes may be parallel.
The theory of parallel universes, developed by Hugh Everett in the early 1950s, posits that some universes are branch-offs of other universes. A parallel universe contains a reality similar to another universe; what differs between the two is that a single event turned out differently in one universe, at which point reality took a different course for that universe.
For example, in a universe parallel similar to our universe, there may be someone exactly like you living the life you now live with one exception – the “you” in the parallel universe won 3 million dollars on a game show. Or there is a parallel universe where everything is the same except that the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor did not happen, where the sunlight caused Lee Harvey Oswald to sneeze as he pulled the trigger and thus he missed President Kennedy, where Elvis Presley stayed thin and lived to a ripe old age, and where a lightning strike missed the inorganic soup in the primordial earth.
While I can probably accept the idea of multiverses, I cannot accept the notion of parallel universes. When viewed from the perspective of the grand master plan of the Lord (i.e., the Plan of Salvation), I don’t see how there could be a seemingly infinite number of people just like you and me living alternative realities based on different outcomes to events. However, there is intriguing evidence of parallel universes or alternate realities in the Doctrine and Covenants. It is the Manifesto on polygamy by Wilford Woodruff in Official Declaration I.
The Lord showed President Woodruff exactly what would happen if the Church did not stop polygamy. President Woodruff wrote:
The Lord showed me by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if we did not stop this practice. If we had not stopped it, you would have had no use for . . . any of the men in this temple at Logan; for all ordinances would be stopped throughout the land of Zion. Confusion would reign throughout Israel, and many men would be made prisoners. This trouble would have come upon the whole Church, and we should have been compelled to stop the practice.
This revelation is astonishing. The Lord did not suggest what might come to pass nor did He show Woodruff what might happen. The Lord showed him what would happen if polygamy did not stop. It is almost as if the Lord was giving President Woodruff a glimpse into a parallel reality where everything is the same except for the fact that in the parallel world, the practice of polygamy did not come to an end.
Could such a place really exist? I don’t think so. I think this revelation was made possible by the fact that the Lord knows all things, including the exact details of what might have been had we taken different paths in our lives. This is an amazing concept. His omniscience includes not only what has happened and what will happen, but what might have happened both in the past and the future!
Indeed His omniscience is beyond mortal comprehension.
Stephen Hawking's new book titled The Grand Design hit the bookshelves on Sept. 7th, 2010. Since its release it has become a lighting rod for religionists. How can Hawking engender the wrath of believers who 22 years ago applauded his God-friendly message in A Brief History of Time? What is going on?
In his 1988 book A Brief History of Time, Hawking discusses his lifelong dream to discover the Grand Unifying Theory (GUT) of the universe. GUT is a scientific theory that unites all laws and theories of physics. He declares that when we discover the GUT, we will know the mind of God. This declaration created warm fuzzies in the minds of religionists who viewed Mr. Hawking as a genius and fellow believer on a mission to uncover the handiwork of the Creator. With Hawking’s latest book, however, warm fuzzies have been replaced by sharp criticism.
Here’s one source of the criticism. In The Grand Design Hawking declares that understanding complex theories of physics makes it "[un]necessary to invoke God." Believers are in a tizzy over this statement, claiming that Hawking has dismissed God. Hawking has not dismissed God – he is staying true to the tenets of science by giving a scientific explanation that does not invoke God. Anytime we claim that something happened because God did it, we are giving a theological explanation, not a scientific one. It is good to acknowledge deity in science; it is not good to invoke deity in scientific explanations.
Moreover, hearing that it is unnecessary to invoke God is a good thing because it minimizes our reliance on what are called “God of the gaps” explanations. “God of the gaps” involves resorting to “God did it” explanations when we don’t have an adequate scientific explanation for natural phenomena. Getting rid of such explanations is a good thing because it means that we are moving closer to the truth. However some believers like “God of the gaps” explanations because they represent a validation for their faith (“See here! Science can’t explain this phenomenon, so it must have been done supernaturally. There is a Creator!”) Here’s some advice for these folks: Don’t let your faith be driven by what science does or does not discover.
A second criticism of The Grand Design involves spontaneous creation. Hawking declares that “The Universe can and will create itself from nothing…. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.” He continues, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going…. Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
For those who accept the false doctrine of creation ex nihilo (creation from nothing) and believe that there has been and always will be just one god, and that he created the entire physical universe, yes, the notion of parts of the universe existing without supernatural intervention is very problematic, but not if you’re LDS.
From latter-day revelation we’ve learned that the elements of the physical universe are co-eternal with our God. So, yes, in a way our God did not have to “light the blue touch paper and set the universe going” because it was already going.
As I point out in Truth & Science, restored gospel truths can go a long way in helping to reconcile science and religion.
We know through modern revelation that there are other inhabited planets. Have you ever thought about how exciting it would be to visit other worlds? Even the thought of communicating with other worlds is fascinating. We could ask them what diseases they have cured and what technologies they have developed. We could also ask them about their belief in deity and whether they have heard of the Atonement. It would be exciting to compare notes.
Chances are that such communication will never take place because of the vast distances separating us from exosolar planets (planets outside our solar system). Until we discover Star Trek Warp Core technology that enables us to propel humans at speeds exceeding the speed of light (something that is theoretically impossible according to Relativity), back and forth visitations are improbable. And until we develop a faster than light form of communication, active 2-way interstellar communication is also improbable. Other worlds are just too far away.
The Lord positioned his populated worlds far apart for a wise purpose. Can you imagine how disruptive it would be to the Lord’s plan if we contacted other telestial, mortal worlds like ours? They might tell us that their prophets are saying that the Son of God was crucified on another world. We might reply, “Yes. That happened here 2000 years ago!”
Or what might happen if we contacted a post-judgment telestialized or terrestialized world? They might say something like: “You guys better keep the commandments or you will end up where we are.” I am not even going to speculate on contacting a celestialized world because I don’t think it is possible. Imagine if we tried to reach a celestialized planet by space travel. Our spaceships would burn up on approach because it could not withstand the glory of a celestialized world. And if we tried to communicate with them they would know it beforehand and jam our incoming transmissions.
Ok, I am having fun with this, but the point is that the Lord doesn’t want us to know much about His other worlds right now. When the Lord showed Moses this earth, Moses asked the Lord to tell him things “concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof.” The Lord agreed. Then the Lord showed Moses other worlds which He had created. Moses got a little greedy and asked the Lord to tell him things concerning other worlds in “the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.” The Lord replied with a gentle rebuke: “Moses, my son, I will [only] speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest.” In His infinite wisdom the Lord withheld information about other worlds.
Our knowledge about other worlds will likely be limited while in mortality. I am fine with that. When the Lord returns He will reveal mysteries in the heavens and earth. I can wait. Until then we will have to rely on our limited scientific knowledge and imagination.
For several years the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program has scanned the skies listening for messages from other planets. So far we have not made contact with beings from other worlds, but we know they are there. The Lord created worlds without number with the purpose of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. It seems that in His wisdom he has spaced them far apart to prevent one world from meddling in the progress of another.
Even if science confirmed the existence of intelligent life on other planets, the distances between us would preclude visits and active two-way communication. Still, it would be nice to hear from another world, to confirm scientifically that we are not alone. Many scientists agree and that is why some are taking a proactive approach to confirming intelligent life on other worlds.
Enter the Cosmic Call project. The Cosmic Call is a 400,000 bits long message that has been transmitted to solar systems with suns similar to our own. The first transmission went out ten years ago to stars in the Summer Cross, visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
Astronomers “fired” the message with a 70m (230 ft) Ukrainian antenna equipped with a 150 kW transmitter broadcasting at 5 GHz (6 cm). Any civilization within 100 light-years with access to a radio-telescope covering an area up to one squared-kilometer will be able to receive the message. Sounds exciting, eh?
What makes the Cosmic Call project even more exciting is that a few years after the first Call was first fired in 1999, astronomers discovered that a targeted star systems called HD190360 (located at right ascension 20h 03m 37s and declination 29h 53m 48) harbors two planets.
Planet HD190360A is somewhat similar to our own earth. It is slightly larger (1.5 times the mass of the earth) and substantially further from its sun than our earth (3.92 Astronomical Units [earth is 1 AU]). The other planet, HD190360B is smaller than our earth (.057 times smaller) and closer to its sun (0.128 AU).
While it seems like planet A is too far from its sun to harbor life (like Mars), and planet B is too close to its sun to harbor life (like Mercury), perhaps there is an undiscovered planet C somewhere in the middle that is roughly the same size and distance as our earth. If a habitable planet exists then my guess is that it is a telestial world going through the same stages of mortality as our world.
Wouldn’t it be cool to make contact with them, or them with us? Well, HD190360 is 58.1 light years distance from our earth, so a radio message (which travels much slower than the speed of light) is going to take a long time to reach its destination.
There is one other issue to be concerned about. If they receive the Cosmic Call, are they going to understand it? You decide. Here is the message, created by Canadian physicists Dutil and Dumas.
According to experts, the Cosmic Call “has been designed using some of the principles of interstellar communication proposed in the early works of Hans Freudenthal,Frank Drake and Carl Sagan. Mathematics and physics have been used to define the message, so that it will be clear and based on universal concepts. For example, the hydrogen atom [was] used to describe quantities such as mass, electric charge and length. To these basic ideas were added simple notions of astronomy, biology, geography and cosmology. Easier concepts and ideas are at the beginning while the more elaborate ones appear at the end of the message. Any true communication is not complete without an answer. Therefore, the last page of the message invites anyone who reads it to reply, sending information about themselves.”
(Source: http://www.matessa.org/~mike/dd-pr.html)Personally I think the Call looks like text from a "buggy", old fashioned, dot matrix printer, but who knows? It might make sense to someone at HD190360. If it does and they send a reply, we won't be around to receive it (we're talking really bad snail mail, friends).The star map at the top shows where to find HD190360 in the constellation Cygnus (aka “Summer Cross”).