The Music of the Spheres

NASA Spitzer Space Telescope Photo of Galaxy NGC 1291
NASA Spitzer Space Telescope Photo of Galaxy NGC 1291
Around 500 B.C. there lived a famous Greek philosopher by the name of Pythagoras. He gained a sect of followers in a place called Crotone in southern Italy. The Pythagoreans taught that the planets (including an Anti-Earth on the other side of the Sun), the Moon, and the Sun were fastened to great spheres of crystal, rotating around a central fire. They believed that the motion of these spheres created an exquisite harmony which ordinary people cannot hear. Pythagoras and his followers believed they could tune instruments by mathematical calculations so the instruments would resonate with the spheres. Dancing to the music of the spheres was an activity that occupied much of the time of the ancient Pythagoreans.

Although the ideas of the Pythagoreans were not accurate in many ways, from a scientific standpoint, we can see the harmony of the spheres of stars and planets today. You could say that the music to which the spheres dance is loud and clear. Our solar system moves with definite rhythms, following a “musical score” written with incredible precision and purpose. As our knowledge and understanding has improved, the incredible complexity of the musical score has become obvious. Isaac Newton gave us the original score, and Albert Einstein fine tuned it. Both gained their understandings by looking at the grand design. We have learned that the Moon helps to hold Earth at the proper tilt. We have seen that the large Jovian planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) help to shield Earth from intruding comets. We know that the very substances of which we are made had their origin in the stars.

Dean Overman in his book A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization showed the fallacy of trying to explain everything we see in the cosmos by chance. It has been suggested that a large number of monkeys typing on a large number of typewriters would eventually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare. Overman shows that the chance of monkeys typing a section from Macbeth containing only 379 letters would have a probability of 10 to the 536th power. When you consider that there are only 10 to the 80th power atoms in the known universe, you can see that the chances are very small. Mathematicians consider anything with a probability of 10 to the 50th power as a mathematical impossibility.

The dance of the spheres and the music to which it moves is nothing like what Pythagoras thought. It is much more complex. It is also very real, and it speaks to us in beautiful ways about our own design and purpose.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

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