Someone has apparently decided to send me literature from the fundamentalist Christian American Family Association; the AFA Journal has begun arriving at my house. The January 2010 issue features a Nazi flag on the front cover, with the caption “The Evil Lives In Secularism” below. It only gets stranger on the inside. In his monthly column, AFA President Tim Wildmon enthusiastically reviews Christopher Knight and Alan Butler’s book, Who Built The Moon?. To bolster his creationist worldview, Wildmon embraces the pair’s finding that:
The metric system, which is now universally adopted across the world for scientific measurement, appears to have been created specifically to highlight the pecularities of the moon. For example, the earth is 109.3 times smaller than the sun, while the circumference of the moon when measured in kilometers is 10,930 km!… there can be only one logical explanation. Some agency saw the life-bearing potential of the earth/sun system and added the moon as a means to create and nurture life. But the same agency did much more. It made certain that the resulting mathematics would be particularly relevant to a species with 10 fingers and also in the absolute knowledge of the eventual use of the metric system.
You read that right: according to Wildmon, some deity created the moon, the sun and the earth with specific measurements, knowing that 10-fingered people who use the metric system would come along. That’s the “only logical explanation” for the fact that the “earth is 109.3 times smaller than the sun, while the circumference of the moon when measured in kilometers is 10,930 km!”
Well. According to a variety of sources, the circumference of the moon is actually 10,864 km. The earth is only roughly 100 times smaller than the sun when you consider the two objects 2-dimensionally; in terms of volume, the earth is many, many times smaller than the sun than that. But fine, let’s consider the earth two-dimensionally. The earth’s equatorial diameter is 12,756 km, and the sun’s equatorial diameter is 1,391,400 km. The sun’s diameter is 109.08 times as large as the earth’s diameter, and the circumference of the moon is 10,864 km! Wow! What a… um, gee, wow, it’s not a coincidence at all.
Even if the circumference of the moon were exactly 10,930 km, and even if the earth’s diameter were exactly 109.3 times smaller than the sun, what would that mean? It would mean that Christopher Knight and Alan Butler had picked and chosen their statistics carefully. Think about it: one of these statistics has to do with circumference and another has to do with diameter, one of the statistics is about the moon and another about the earth and sun, one of the statistics is about a single body in the solar system and another about the relationship between two bodies in the solar system.
Within the set of possible geometric measurements and the set of major bodies in the solar system, how many measurements are possible?
There are at least 10 major bodies in the solar system: the 9 planets and the sun. Add in the moon: Wildmon and the authors of Who Built the Moon? did. For each of these 11 bodies, there are a number of measurements to be made about them: volume, mass, diameter, radius, circumference, density, surface area, period of rotation on its axis, period of revolution around the sun, rotational tilt off the orbital plane, surface temperature, and surface gravity being just 12 basic ones of them. Right there you’ve got 132 possible measurements.
Then you’ve got comparisons you can make. For the above-mentioned 11 bodies of the solar system, there are 55 pairs of bodies between which comparisons can be made for those 12 sorts of measurements. That’s another 660 measurements. Now if you have 792 (132+660) possible measurements for 11 bodies of the solar system and their relationships to one another, how likely is it on the basis of pure chance that the absolute value of any two measurements, ignoring magnitude, will result in a sequence of digits that are close to one another, like the “109.08” of the sun-earth diameter comparison and the “10,864” of the diameter of the moon? It’s just about certain you’ll find such near-coincidences, especially when you consider that you can further multiply the 792 solar system measurements mentioned above by the multiple choices of units for different measurement systems (such as English imperial measurement and God’s own preferred system of “cubits.”)
Moving back out from the details to consider the notion that there is “meaning” to all this, do you really think that God, ruler of the Universe, would prove His existence by picking two measurements (one of them in the culturally-specific, non-Hebrew, yet-to-be-invented metric system) out of hundreds-to-thousands of similar measurements and making sure that the one pair of measurements have sequences of digits that are near to, but not identical to, one another? Is that a clear sign from the above and beyond? It seems much more likely to me that humans, casting about for some empirical twig to justify their religious choice, would pick and choose their statistics and then write a silly book.