What to Do When You See an Eclipse

What to Do When You See an Eclipse

Most of us are likely aware of what you shouldn't do when there is an eclipse - do not look at it directly! That's pretty well known as evidenced by the fact that you can't buy those eclipse glasses (which I wouldn't invest in after Monday). 

What is less known is what we should do during an eclipse. That's what I'd like to talk about in this post. 

What I'm Planning to Do During the Eclipse

On Monday morning, our family will be at the Seattle zoo. That part wasn't planned as related to the eclipse but it worked out well because Seattle is far enough south that we should get an amazing experience of the eclipse. I've never experienced something like this in my life so I'm quite excited for it. The light of the sun will slowly get covered by the moon and everything will go dark for approximately 2 minutes.

As we all, "Oooh" and "Ahhh" and as the animals at the zoon (potentially) go crazy, I will pause in that moment and say a prayer of worship to God. That's what Romans 1 says we theists are supposed to do when God reveals something of himself to us. 

Why I Believe Eclipses Point Us to God

For an eclipse to occur, the moon and the sun have to be the right size and the right distance from each other and us on Earth. Most of us, like many of the wonders of the universe, take this for granted. The sun is four hundred times bigger than the moon but it is also four hundred times further away. That is why the two celestial spheres appear roughly the same size from the Earth. What are the chances of that happening? 

You may have heard apologists rattle off the following truths when discussing evidence for God's design: 

  • If the sun were any bigger it would be too hot to sustain life. 
  • If it were any smaller, there would be no life. 
  • If the moon were bigger, it would throw off our seasons, currents, and gravity. Again, no life.
  • If the moon were any smaller, it would have similarly disastrous effects to the harmonious balance provided by the laws of physics that we enjoy each day on Earth. 

On and on we could go. 

Jay Richards and Guillermo Gonzalez have written a fantastic book on just how privileged we are to live on Earth at this time. The book is called The Privileged Planet.

It forever changed how I see the Earth and how I approach the wonder of eclipses.

No Eclipses, No Life?

The truth is that all of our universe, the stars, planets and moons, coupled with the laws of physics are finely-tuned to support life on Earth. If any of these were altered, there would be no life - no us. 

That's why I believe that God is the best explanation for the phenomena that we observe in science. I spent two chapters on this point in my book, Clear Minds & Dirty Feet. The evidence for God based on the fine-tuning of the universe is one of the strongest arguments for God's existence. It has what has kept me a theist during my days of doubt.

Eclipses not only point us to God, I believe they are God's way of telling us something.

What Eclipses Tell Us

The Privileged Planet makes the point that God's inclusion of the eclipse in his created cosmos tells us that he encourages scientific research. Did you know that eclipses are responsible for several breakthrough discoveries in science:

  • They were integral for validating Einstein's theory of relativity (he suggested that gravity bends light).
  • They taught us about solar flares on the surface of the sun.
  • They showed us something called coronal mass ejections on the surface of the sun. 

Our Earth the ideal for observing the wonders of space. It's as if it was all designed for this purpose. Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe has done a convincing work showing that we are at the best place and time for doing science.

Scientists learned all this during an eclipse because they are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. God put them there as an invitation for scientists to discover more about the world he made.

And, I believe, he wanted people like me to write about it and point others to the wonder of God when eclipses happen.

Here's My Point

Eclipses exist because our universe is fine-tuned to support life on Earth. I conclude that God is the best explanation for this fine-tuning. Eclipses have given us massive advances in science. Therefore, we can thank God for giving us eclipses that advance science. 

An appropriate response is to thank God for giving us eclipses that advance science. 

Just a Coincidence? 

Not all will draw the same conclusion as me.

Romans 1:21 talks about how God has revealed his attributes to us but many people fail to acknowledge him or give him thanks. David Dickinson writes for Phys.org denies any intelligent source behind eclipses. He calls them “happy celestial circumstances". That's why I mean by failing to thank God.

British science writer, John Gribbon gives us a great example of someone who notes the uniqueness of and eclipse yet falls short in his conclusion. He writes in Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet is Unique:

Just now the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, but the Sun is 400 times farther away than the Moon, so that they look the same size on the sky. At the present moment of cosmic time, during an eclipse, the disc of the Moon almost exactly covers the disc of the Sun. In the past the Moon would have looked much bigger and would have completely obscured the Sun during eclipses; in the future, the Moon will look much smaller from Earth and a ring of sunlight will be visible even during an eclipse. Nobody has been able to think of a reason why intelligent beings capable of noticing this oddity should have evolved on Earth just at the time that the coincidence was there to be noticed. It worries me, but most people seem to accept it as just one of those things. (My italics)

Many, like Gribbon and Dickinson before, will give no thought to the wonder of God expressed in eclipses. 

Since I read The Privileged Planet for my graduate degree, I have been in awe at the sun, the moon and the eclipse of the two. They lead me to worship.

That's what science should do - lead us to God. That's why when the moon eclipses the sun on Monday, August 21, 2017. Wherever I will be, I will stop and pause for a moment of worship to my amazing God.

Here's another approach toward this idea.



Photo: 2009 total eclipse from Panchagarh District, Bangladesh, by Muntasir Mamun Imran (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.