It is a little known fact that scientists who argue that the paleontological record of life is hundreds of millions of years old, when confronted with astrophysical facts, must eventually rely heavily on the hypothesis of finely tuned, large scale global warming. The problem is known as the Faith Young Sun Paradox. A few claim they have solved the paradox, but many remain skeptical of the solutions. But one fact remains, it is an acknowledged scientific paradox. And beyond this paradox, the question of Solar System evolution on the whole has some theological implications.
Astrophysicists concluded that when the sun was young, it was not as bright as it is now. As the sun ages it creates more and more heat, eventually incinerating the Earth before the sun eventually burns out. This is due to the change in products and reactants in the nuclear fusion process that powers the sun. This nuclear evolution of the sun will drive the evolution of the solar system, unless Jesus returns…
As a brief aside, my favorite agnostic/atheist philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell, made this observation that mentioned the evolution of the solar system:
Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief…all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins–all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.
Ironically Russell’s words inspired my re-acceptance of Christianity after I nearly left the faith in 2001-2003. There seemed little ultimate personal benefit over infinite timescales if there were no God. If I were to find personal benefit on infinite timescales, it would have to be something God himself provided, and thus from that time forward I sought to find evidence to support creation, Noah’s flood, and the historicity of the gospels.
To that end, any anomaly that challenges evolutionary theory caught my attention. One of them was the Faith Young Sun Paradox.
The faint young Sun paradox describes the apparent contradiction between observations of liquid water early in Earth’s history and the astrophysical expectation that the Sun’s output would be only 70 percent as intense during that epoch as it is during the modern epoch. The issue was raised by astronomers Carl Sagan and George Mullen in 1972. Explanations of this paradox have taken into account greenhouse effects, astrophysical influences, or a combination of the two.
The unresolved question is how a climate suitable for life was maintained on Earth over the long timescale despite the variable solar output and wide range of terrestrial conditions.
If the Earth were an ice ball, there would be no Cambrian explosion. If the Earth were an ice ball, the shiny white ice ball Earth would likely reflect sunlight back into space and keep it an ice ball to this day. To solve the problem of how the Earth did not remain frozen during the pre-Cambrian and Cambrian, advocates of the billion-year-old fossil record invoke global warming!
Not only are there serious empirical and theoretical problems to solve the Faint Young Sun Paradox, but even assuming there is a solution to the paradox through global warming, it would be nothing short of miraculous.
The sun’s heat output is constantly increasing over time, and the necessary greenhouse effect would have to be finely tuned to spontaneously diminish itself to keep the Earth from incinerating as the sun got hotter. So this glorious global warming must walk a tight rope of fine tuning with no intelligent direction to prevent the Earth from either turning into an ice ball or becoming an incinerator.
Emeritus professor of Astronomy, University North Carolina, Danny Faulkner:
For instance, the current makeup of Earth’s atmosphere is in a non-equilibrium state that is maintained by the widespread diversity of life. There is no evolutionary imperative that this be the case: it is just the way it is. Thus the incredibly unlikely origin and evolution of life had to be accompanied by the evolution of Earth’s atmosphere in concert with the Sun. One could call this the Goldilocks syndrome, an obvious comparison to the children’s tale of the three bears.
The physical principles that cause the early faint Sun paradox are well established, so astrophysicists are confident that the effect is real. Consequently, evolutionists have a choice of two explanations as to how Earth has maintained nearly constant temperature in spite of a steadily increasing influx of energy. In the first alternative, one can believe that through undirected change, the atmosphere has evolved to counteract heating. At best this means that the atmosphere has evolved through a series of states of unstable equilibrium or even non-equilibrium. Individual living organisms do something akin to this, driven by complex instructions encoded into DNA. Death is a process in which the complex chemical reactions of life ceases and cells rapidly approach chemical equilibrium. Short of some guiding intelligence or design, a similar process for the atmosphere seems incredibly improbable. Any sort of symbioses or true feedback with the Sun is entirely out of the question. On the other hand, one can believe that some sort of life force has directed the atmosphere’s evolution through this ordeal. Most find the teleological or spiritual implications of this unpalatable, though there is a trend in this direction in physics.
Of course, there is a third possibility. Perhaps the Earth/Sun system is not billions of years old…
So even assuming the glories of global warming solve the Faint Young Sun Paradox, it would do so in a way that is indistinguishable from a miracle. Like so many things, the Faint Young Sun Paradox adds to the view that we live on a privileged planet in a privileged universe. At some point privileged observations are statistically indistinguishable from miracles.