Monday, January 12, 2009

Venus' Ashen Light, and it's Lesson for ID

Venus' "Ashen Light", first noticed by Italian astronomer Giovanni Riccioli in 1643, continues to defy explanation after almost four centuries of observation. The article has some interesting astronomical tidbits:

"Riccioli was an astronomer of some repute. Working in the first generation after Galileo, he discovered that Mizar (the middle star in the handle of the Big Dipper) is actually a double star — the first one known. He also discovered satellite shadows on Jupiter and published a map of our moon's surface. The names he assigned (e.g., Sea of Tranquility, Sea of Storms) are still used today"

The mind boggles at someone able to discern a double star with 17th century technology. But the real eyebrow raiser for me was the conclusion:

"It's also possible the Ashen Light of Venus is caused by solar particles energizing the atmosphere like the terrestrial Aurorae Borealis and Australis — hence its evanescence.

Or it's some previously unknown combination of things we understand.

Or something we don't understand at all"

Much of that could be said for many fields of science, with evolutionary biology being prominent among them. Like the astronomers struggle with an explanation for Venus' light patterns, so biologists will struggle with explanations for much in the living world, particularly its beginning. This no more justifies inserting supernatural designers into biology than it would to suggest a supernatural source of light on Venus. Unknowns in the face of little evidence represent the frontier of knowledge for science, and deserve the "I don't know" answer science gives, rather than the baseless certainty in religious fictions clung to by so many.

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