This is one of my favorite images taken by the Hubble of columns of old, cool interstellar hydrogen, and other gases, that are giving birth to new stars. The longest being about 4 light years from top to bottom – it is believed that our own sun, and all life here on earth, all got its start in much the way.
By the time that I had first seen this eerie image of a part of the Eagle Nebula, I had already developed an understanding of the process from which all of the elements within the universe were formed – the creation of all the known elements in the universe, began with the fusion of hydrogen within stars. The fact is that everything here on earth, was all manufacture in the birth, life and death of stars – and there is not one single credible scientist who would dispute this fact. Our current understanding of the universe is derived from the countless observations, experimentation and critical thinking; we then develop theories which are based on the most logical explanations of our observations at the time. These theories are then tested and retested, and subjected to even more meticulous observation and experimentation; however, our current scientific methods, are not about proving anything as absolute truth – it’s more about removing information which is absolutely false – science is simply a tool used to help us understand reality.
Our current understanding of the age of the universe dates it at about 14.5 billion years old, and the age of the planet that we live on, at about 4.5 billion years old. And through meticulous observations, and scientific research, we are now developing a greater understanding of how life began here on earth, and how it evolved into what we observe today. Through science, we are now just beginning understand, just how that all of the elements of which comprise all life here on our planet, were all forged over billions and billions of years within stars.
Our current understanding of the information which is absolutely false, are that the earth only being 6,000 – 10,000 years old, and that the universe and humans, along with all of the other plant life and animals here on earth, all magically appeared, and all in their current forms, and all within the first 6 days of “creation.”
I can understand why at a time, when humans had absolutely no real understanding of life and the universe, just why they simply made up stories, in an attempt to explain the things which they had little or no understanding of – today, however, holding on to such stories as absolute truth, simply verges on insanity – and as a parent, I felt no more obligation for allowing our children, to even being exposed to religious insanity, as I felt obligated in allowing them to be exposed to thieves, liars or pedophiles.
I clearly remember the day, when I first seen this image. A long time friend of mine, and a friend of our family (he is also a physicist and an avid astronomer), who was staying in our home while on his vacation. He had brought with him a few gifts for our children, one of which were large posters of this image. Our children then place the posters on their bedroom walls next to their other posters of space images and other stuff – with the exception of our 5 year old son, who was frightened of the poster, he said because he thought that the image on the poster, looked like monsters – our 2 older children simply loved the posters.
Our house guest spent most of the week, talking with me and the children about cosmology and other science. About 3 weeks after our friend’s visit, our oldest son and I, were looking at the poster of this image, and talking about the origins of life here on earth. That day, he told me that he had realized for the first time – that the universe simply was not made just for us, and that we are not at the center of the universe, or even at the center of our own galaxy either – and we exist, simply of a consequence of the universe existing, and not the other way around. And that he believed that everywhere in the universe where life can possibly exist, that it probably does – I thought, not bad for a 14 year old atheist!