The World versus the Planet
By Robert Morrison
In Paris, there stands a giant spherical structure recently donated by Denmark. This Symbolic Globe is displayed outside the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) headquarters there. With Iran threatening to close down the Straits of Hormuz, with the Muslim Brotherhood promising to revoke Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, with North Korea launching missiles, the U.N.'s peace-through-dialogue program seems as barren as this model of the planet that man has made, or is trying to make. This metallic tribute to secular achievement is cold, empty, devoid of life and color. It is sterile compared to the world made by God. And uninteresting.
Contrast this paean to the planet with the view from the International Space Station, helpfully provided by The Atlantic magazine. Here, to the strains of Chopin's lovely Nocturne No. 2 in E Flat Major, Op. 55, we see the rich, bright, cherished orb stretching out before us. The lights of human habitation roll into view like precious gems glowing on a well-worked tapestry. This is our Earth, our beloved home. It is not just another planet to us.
From the Space Station, we do not see war and strife. We do not see the unseen lairs far below of the Taliban who murdered 12 U.S. soldiers this fall in Kabul, Afghanistan. These and thousands of other doers of evil are lost in the rolling cascade of puffy, cotton-like clouds, bright blues of the oceans and rugged landscapes of deserts and mountains.
The view from 110 miles above the Earth is serene, sublime. Seen from this perspective, it becomes at once possible to have an understanding, however limited, of those awe-inspiring words: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved."
Those words were the Word that inspired and gave life and breath to the nations that put that Space Station into orbit. The people who gave the Symbolic Globe would probably not choose those words - "For God so loved the world" - as their motto. They probably would not engrave them on a gold anodized aluminum plaque and send them to the farthest reaches of space as their testimony to be communicated with alien beings.
Scientist Carl Sagan did send a message in 1972 in the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. Sagan's plaque cited no Scripture, but included scientific notations. And it contained an image of a man and a woman, Adam and Eve figures of indeterminate race, whose size and weight were computer-generated averages of human types, male and female. Just two sexes.
Sagan also offered a musical gift to our extraterrestrial cousins. Among the selections he chose to represent mankind's highest achievements were compositions from Johann Sebastian Bach.
Sagan was famously atheist. He said in the PBS documentary series Cosmos that "the Cosmos is all there is, all there ever was, all there ever will be." We paid for that message. Just as we paid for the Pioneer 10 space probe. Just as we Americans pay 24 percent of the U.N. budget.
One must wonder, though, if the world of Johann Sebastian Bach and that of Carl Sagan are not closer to each other than Sagan is to us, today. Would Carl Sagan dare to send into the farthest reaches of the Solar System a golden table in which the human figures are but male and female, with no other possibilities even hinted at? Would he in today's multicultural miasma not consider it cultural imperialism to offer our interstellar neighbors Bach instead of, say, Lady Gaga?
Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972. The last signals were received, amazingly, on April 27, 2002. That thirty-year record of scientific prowess must owe something to the original ideas that man was created in the image of God and that God loves the world. These ideas form the foundation for science. We know that God's laws are explicable, thus giving a powerful impetus to scientific inquiry.
It is perhaps fitting that Pioneer 10's last signals came to us on earth just months after the September 11 attack - an attack not only on the dignity and worth of man, but also on the idea that God loves this world. Those who launched the September 11 attack could never launch a Pioneer 10 or an Apollo 11. Their rage was also an attack on science and reason. They used our aircraft and our skyscrapers to telegraph their bloody message to a terrified planet.
They attacked not only our people and our religion, but also our science. They love death. They would proclaim that message on tablets of gold and send them out beyond the crescent moon, if only they knew how.
Our God is a God who loves life. We know He loves this World. I am not sure what He thinks of "the planet."
Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.