Life in Two Worlds HTML version

A Life in two Worlds
Finding our way through science and faith
Compiled by Gerhard Nehls
The miracle of life
Have we lost the art to wonder? How often do we consciously stop to take note of the
world around us? It is packed with incredible beauty and majesty, be it in nature around
us, in the vast universe ‘above’, or in the microscopic world. How vast is it? Where and
when did it all start? Why is there something rather than nothing? And what has that to do
with you and me? Why are we here? It has always been a forgone conclusion that all there
is, was created by someone incredibly more intelligent and powerful than we are.
In recent history an alternative explanation has largely displaced our former worldview. It
is claimed in rather an aplomb fashion that the accumulated human knowledge and
scientific reasoning explain convincingly that all there is, came about by chance, aided by
limitless time to evolve. Knowledgeable people question faith, we are told. After all, is
not what is known, more trustworthy than what is just believed?
A look at the big picture
We look at the night sky. When the moon is in hiding, a huge cloud of distant light
becomes visible. We call it the Milky Way. A telescope will reveal that this ‘cloud’ is
composed of literally countless stars. The end of the universe – if there happens to be one
– is not (yet) in sight, not even by the most powerful Hubbard Telescope in space. If you
would attempt to count all the stars that are visible at one per second, it would take
roughly 25,000 years of uninterrupted counting!
The Milky Way is the galaxy within which our solar system is just a tiny spec of dust. If it
were the size of a coin, the Milky Way in comparison with the universe as we know it
now would be the size of the North American continent! It is made up of around a trillion
(that is a thousand billion, or one million millions) stars, and measures 27.000 light years
from one end to the other. A light-year is a unit of length for astronomic distances. It
signifies the length that a beam of light travels in one year, at 300.000 km per second! It
would take that beam a second to travel eight times around the earth. A light year is the
distance of 10 trillion kilometres. With the best of imagination we cannot fathom such a
figure. To compare, it takes just 8 minutes for the rays of the sun to reach the earth.
The closest sun (star) to ours is Proxima Centauri. To get there the sun rays would have to
travel about four and a half light-years, which is the average distance between stars in the
Milky Way. Andromeda, the nearest galaxy somewhat similar to ours, is about two
million light-years from us. Just try to think that!
The size of a galaxy is determined by the number of stars it boasts to accommodate. If it is
made up of less than 1 billion, it is considered to be small. On the other hand, it would be