3,000 Miles and the Tower of Babel

This past weekend I was able to successfully take my wife's Nissan Cube on a 3,000 mile road trip from New Hampshire to California. Even during the dead of winter, the landscapes visible from a northern route on American interstates was amazing. Perhaps more remarkable, however, was the fact that over 72 hours I was able to drive 1/8th the circumference of the entire earth…and that was even taking time each night to get some sleep.

When I was young, our blue planet seemed so impossibly large…but after traveling across the country last weekend…and around the world other times…no location on our globe seems especially distant. Not necessarily close…but definitely attainable. The boy who so long ago grew up in Canaan, New Hampshire never imagined he'd drive or fly where his older, balder future version has.

Although, in some ways, having the world seem so much smaller is a bit depressing, during my trek it hit me that God created a perfectly-sized world. If getting from point A to point B really was impossible, nobody would attempt it…and humankind would not be able to see just how incredible our Lord's creation is in its myriad different forms across the continents. God gave us something we could achieve and the curiosity that would motivate us to try.

Back in 2004, Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Wesley Richards came out with a book titled The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery. In it they not only point out how perfectly suited the earth is for life, but:

Centuries of study, amplified by technological tools and innovation, have given rise to an unparalleled knowledge of the world around us. The combination of those preliminary discoveries now gives rise to another: The same rare conditions that have sustained our existence also make possible a stunning array of discoveries about the universe.

There is a purposeful value in this. Because of it, and only because of it, can our aspirations for scientific knowledge and discovery be satisfied. Careful investigation, study, and observation of the natural world ultimately succeed. With enough persistence, the natural world discloses itself to us in ways that we do not, and sometimes cannot, anticipate. Once perceived, the thought creeps up quietly but insistently: The universe, whatever else it is, is designed for discovery. What better mandate could there be for the scientific pursuit of truth? Scientific discovery enjoys a sort of cosmic prestige, but a prestige apparent only to those open to the possibility that the cosmos exists for a purpose (page 311).

The italics are theirs: "The universe, whatever else it is, is designed for discovery."

Earlier in the same book (on page 143), they quote Michael Denton, who noted:

Ironically, our relatively peripheral position on the spiral arm of a rather ordinary galaxy is indeed rather fortunate. If we had been stationed in a more central position—say, near the galactic hub—it is likely that our knowledge of the universe of other galaxies, for example, might not have been as extensive.

The universe, whatever else it is, is designed for discovery.

The same God who made driving to California from New Hampshire achievable made knowledge of His creation attainable too. The proper reaction to what we learn should be similar to David's, who in the first four verses of Psalm 19 exclaimed:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
   and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
   and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
   whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
   and their words to the end of the world (Psalm 19:1-4a, ESV).

Why did God make knowledge of His creation attainable? Perhaps because in it, if we look with truly open eyes, we will clearly see the Creator behind it. I know that was my reaction…whether looking at the innumerable stars on a crisp, cool winter night with binoculars…or learning about quantum physics in Navy Nuclear Power School. Sadly, that's not everyone's response. Instead we ignore the God behind what we discover and instead behave like our ancestors:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them" (Genesis 11:1-6).

Science and communication have put us in the same place as those whose ambition was to build "a tower with its top in the heavens" to "make a name for" themselves. Instead of increasing our faith in (and our faithfulness to) the Author of knowledge, we mix lies with truth to convince people there is no God. The aspiring tower builders were judged, and so will we be:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:19-20).

We should thank God that He's made so much so attainable…but we should also petition Him for forgiveness given what we do with what we attain…knowledge or otherwise.


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