(Image © Don Davis; from PAINTINGS at www.donaldedavis.com)
The last I heard, scientists were still debating what killed about three quarters of Earth's plant and animal species in what used to be called the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction. It's got a new name now, which won't bring the dinosaurs back: and that's another topic.
It's starting to look like the mass extinction happened after near-simultaneous impacts left craters in the Yucatán Peninsula, Ukraine, and North Sea.
Meanwhile, massive volcanic eruptions were dumping unhealthy stuff into the atmosphere. Those eruptions may have been caused by a fourth impact. 66,000,000 years ago was a really bad time to be on Earth.
The good news is that impacts like the one at Chicxulub don't happen often.
We think something the size of the Chicxulub object fall every 100,000,000 years, on average. That's an average, though. They don't come at regular intervals, so the next Chicxulub-size event might happen exactly 100,000,000 years after the last, 35,000,000 years from now; or after a longer interval.
Or something six miles across may fall out of the sky before the Summer Olympics in Tokyo: we don't know, but we're learning more every year.
Would using that technology be the right thing to do?
The question isn't as silly as it may seem.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (December 18, 2002)
I didn't think 'God kills people' made sense when a high-profile Christian said that God killed Haitians as revenge for something he thought their remote ancestors did. (January 16, 2010)
I don't think it would make sense in this hypothetical case, either.
(from Non Sequitur, Wiley Miller (March 5, 2013), used w/o permission)
Science and technology aren't as popular, or fashionable, as they were a half-century back. My memory's too good to yearn for the 'good old days,' though. Human nature, good and bad, hasn't changed much:
"Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared to the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good."Science and technology aren't good or bad by themselves. Learning about this creation and developing new ways to use it are part of being human. What matters is how we use what we have. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2292-2296)
Abraham Lincoln, Response to a serenade (November 10, 1864)
"For mischief comes not out of the earth, nor does trouble spring out of the ground;
"2 But man himself begets mischief, as sparks fly upward."
"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them."
Getting back to that hypothetical incoming comet or asteroid.
1985, and asteroids in 1991. NASA has another asteroid mission scheduled for launch in 2016. That mission has a catchy name: OSIRIS-Rex, short for Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security -- Regolith Explorer.
Bringing a two ounce sample back from an asteroid isn't the same as mounting engines on the rock and moving it. But I think asteroid mining is decades, not centuries, away.
With avoiding a replay of the Crectaceous-Paleogene extinction event's opening act as incentive, my guess is that at least one national government would decide that asteroid missions should be hurried along.
We might even see the sort of cooperation that's maintaining the International Space Station. Then again, maybe not.
The question isn't whether or not we have the knowledge and at least the beginnings of the technology needed to move asteroids and comets. It's a matter of having the good sense to use that knowledge.
The problem isn't that human beings deserve punishment because we're all bad, or that God goofed and made a world that doesn't work right. Genesis is quite clear about that:
"God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed - the sixth day."Trouble started when the first of us made a monumentally bad decision: and humanity has been living with the consequences ever since.
We're still basically good creatures, living in a world that's basically good: but we have free will. God won't interfere with our power to make decisions, and hasn't fired us as stewards.
Looks like we're stuck with free will, and the responsibility of taking care of this creation. (Catechism, 299, 309-314, 2402, 2404, 2417)
- "Asteroids, NASA, Congress, and Quarks"
(June 21, 2013)
- "Designed as Stewards"
(March 17, 2013)
- "Ethics and Asteroids"
(February 20, 2013)
- " '...The Man With the X-Ray Eyes,' the Tuskegee Experiment, and Seeking God"
(February 10, 2013)
- "Science, Technology, and Being Human"
(January 27, 2013)
Getting a grip about sin, God, and all that:
- God is in control
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 303)
- Sacred Scripture often doesn't mention secondary causes
- That's not "primitive"
- It's recognizing that God is in control
- And that we should trust Him
- Jesus says
- Knows our needs
- Will give us what we need
- We should trust God to give us what we need
- The way a child trusts parents
- The physical world is
- Basically good
- Not perfect
- "In a state of journeying" towards its ultimate perfection
- Sin is
- A misuse of free will
- Humans are
- A special sort of animal
- Endowed with reason
- Capable of
- A special sort of animal
- Stewards of the physical world
- Responsible for its
- Responsible for its