Traveling at an impressive 38,000 miles per hour (61,000 kilometers per hour), the space probe Voyager 1 was launched into space 45 years ago to explore the planets of our solar system. After passing by Jupiter and Saturn, completing its initial mission, the probe prepared itself to leave the solar system.
As it approached the 3.7-billion-mile (6-billion-kilometer) mark from Earth, Carl Sagan, the famous Cornell astrophysicist, suggested that NASA turn Voyager’s cameras back and take a last picture of our planet. In that picture Planet Earth appears as a “pale blue dot”—insignificant in the vastness of the known universe. At first glance, this “speck of dust” suspended in the middle of nowhere seems to have nothing to offer.
However, when you zoom in on Earth, it’s possible to find beauty, life, and diversity. Earth, in fact, is quite singular when compared to the rest of the observable universe. It doesn’t take much time to notice that when God brought this planet into being, He displayed His artistic genius when He created it with a variety of colors, plants, animals, and particles, dispensing a deluge of creativity and aesthetic beauty.
The Living Realm
When we observe the plant kingdom, it’s easy to get lost in the quantity of different species that grow on Earth. There are trees of all shapes and sizes, from the small bonsai to the 260-foot (80-meter) sequoia trees.
While some are minuscule, other plants have leaves so big it is even difficult to lift them, such as the Amazon Coccoloba leaf, considered by some to be the largest dicotyledon leaf in the world, reaching sizes of 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length and 4.7 feet (1.4 meters) in width.
Furthermore, the variety of flowers, perfumes, and colors in the plant world is enough to drive any bee mad. “Why is there so much variety?” one could ask. God could have created just a few types of trees, plants, and flowers. The insects could have been “instructed” to pollinate only a dozen different flower species. But being a God who enjoys diversity, He opted to dream big!
In the animal kingdom the picture becomes even more extravagant. Scientists cannot come to agreement on how many different animal species there are on the planet. Some estimate 8.7 million, while others speak of 25 million. This multiplicity inspired Charles Darwin to travel around the world looking for an explanation. Accustomed to Britain’s fauna, Darwin was astonished at the variety of species he found in the Americas, especially on the islands of the Galapagos.
The theory of evolution was his attempt to explain why there are so many species and how they came into existence. The hypothesis that new species are generated by mutations in the genetic code, although explaining small changes in organisms, has been considered only a partial answer to the question. Why is there so much variety? Why are there so many digestive, breathing, positioning, and movement mechanisms? A complete answer is still elusive to evolutionary biologists.
Although the theory of evolution may be a proposal that has enjoyed considerable acceptance among scientists, many are aware of its limitations. Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna and a great defender of Darwinism, confessed that “evolutionism as a way of seeing the world” “has far greater difficulty with this. For this worldview, there are not really any species, for things have no existence of their own. What we regard as ‘species’ are in fact merely ‘snapshots’ in the great stream of evolution. Everything is just transition and a stage of being passed through, and each individual is merely a fluke, which had the luck to survive because it was ‘more fit’ than the others. This is certainly a shortsighted view of the variety of creation.”
When we turn our attention to the physical world, we became acutely aware that, whether at the microscopic or macroscopic level, multiplicity is ubiquitous. The galaxies observed by astronomers appear in innumerable shapes and sizes, whether they be orphan, gigantic, elliptical, spiral, or irregular. Their stars may be dwarf, compact, gigantic, super gigantic, red, blue, dark, made of hydrogen, helium, iron, or neutrons, only to mention a few. The nebulae whose photos fill our computer screens may be lightened by emission or reflection. They may be dark, solar, planetary, or composed of whatever was left of supernovas.
On the other hand, when physicists turn to the subatomic universe, they discover that matter is not only comprised of one subatomic particle, but many, which are subdivided into two groups: the fermions, which constitute matter, and the bosons, which transmit force. Fermions are made up of quarks called up, down, strange, charm, bottom, and top; and of leptons, known as electrons, muons, taus, electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, and tau neutrinos. Bosons, on the other hand, are comprised of photons, gluons, bosons Z, bosons W, and the famous Higgs bosons.
In addition to all these particles, scientists have discovered what they refer to as antimatter, comprised of its antiparticles. For every particle there is an antiparticle. Whereas a common hydrogen atom is composed of a single proton and electron, an antihydrogen is composed of a positron and an antiproton.
Why is the university so diverse? Did it need to get so complicated? All this variety hints of a superintelligence behind everything. Only a God with unlimited knowledge and wisdom could create such a complex universe as ours. Four hundred years ago the great physicist Sir Isaac Newton declared that “no variation in this arises from blind metaphysical necessity, which must be the same always and everywhere. All the diversity of created things, each in its place and time, could only have arisen from the ideas and the will of a necessarily existing being.”
But intelligence isn’t the only thing we can infer from nature. The Creator has a heightened taste for beauty. Look at the quantity of colors observed on any given day. Our eyes can distinguish up to 10 million different colors, from the green variations in leaves to the different colored nuances created by sunbeams as they penetrate our atmosphere.
All this diversity provokes in us what Albert Einstein once referred to as “rapturous amazement.” It is a feeling of finitude when confronted with the sheer richness of the universe. Once more, evolutionism is unable to explain our appreciation of colors, beauty, and grandeur. Our admiration of the beautiful and artistic finds its reason only in a Creator, who, by making us into His likeness, gave human beings the capacity and the pleasure of perception.
As Warren W. Wiersbe well noted: “Whether we study invisible microscopic life, visible plant and animal life, human life, or the myriad of things that have no life, the diversity in creation is amazing. God could have made a drab, colorless world, one season everywhere, only one variety of each plant and animal, cookie-cutter humans, no musical sounds, and a few minimal kinds of food—but He did not.”
Portraits of Omnipotence
Throughout creation we can observe that God is extravagant in what He does. He overflows in beauty, diversity, and greatness. The grandeur of His plans can be perceived even by the way He interacts with humanity. When multiplying the bread and fish, Jesus did not do it only for the 12 disciples. No! He preferred to feed a whole multitude of at least 5,000 men, perhaps even 12,000 if women and children are counted (Matt. 14:21)!
When He chose to walk on water, He did not do it to cross the narrow Jordan River. Jesus decided to cross the extensive Lake of Gennesaret (also known as the Sea of Galilee) in the worst moment: in the middle of a storm! The disciples were so frightened by what they saw that they thought He was a ghost (verse 26). When He went to see Lazarus, Jesus did not heal him from far away. No! He waited until His friend was dead, waited three additional days, and resurrected him only when the whole multitude was near enough to witness that incontestable miracle (John 11:1-46).
From what we read in the Bible it doesn’t take long to notice that God is not ashamed of being who He is. God doesn’t suffer from shyness or low self-esteem. Much to the contrary! When He comes down to earth, David describes Him as shaking the foundations of the mountains (Ps. 18:7) and covering the skies with darkness and thick dark rain clouds (verses 11, 12). When He speaks, God thunders down from heaven with hailstones and coals of fire (verses 12, 13). His appearances always leave human beings in a state of astonishment.
But what does this all mean? In the first place, God doesn’t dream small. His plans are much greater than what we can fathom. This implies that when we are praying to Him, we are not referring to someone limited as human beings usually are, capable of devising only one or a few alternatives. This God of diversity can come down and answer our prayers in the most diverse way possible, leaving us, in most cases, bewildered. When we least expect it, He can change us into someone we never dreamed of becoming.
Second, since He created the universe with such beauty, we understand that He is a great admirer of art, music, and human creativity. God delights in receiving our thanks, adoration, and devotion through music, painting, or other artistic expressions.
Finally, living in a universe full of variety implies that we must love and respect those who think, act, and behave differently from us. Although Satan strives to use our differences in order to create barriers (as manifested in race or gender, for example), or as an excuse for moral relativism, God wants us to look at our differences as an invitation for dialogue and mutual learning. By doing this, Christianity acknowledges that God is the Creator.
Glauber S. Araújo is an editor at Casa Publicadora Brasileira (Brazil Publishing House) in São Paulo, Brazil.