Tag Archives: Science

Discovering Tyche

There are more planets in our solar system.

If you ask most people to quickly state how many planets there are in our solar system, most people will say nine, because we keep forgetting about that Pluto thing. In fact, if you google “planets,” one of the top hits will be, which continue to defend their name by pointing out “the change in [Pluto’s] terminology does not affect what’s actually out there.” Because there is, quite definitely, a giant rock spinning around the sun just past Neptune. There are actually several – at least three others hanging out with Pluto, as well as Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt.

Ignoring the dwarf planets, though, astronomers are currently scrutinizing over a pile of evidence which seems to proving the existence of the planet Tyche. It’s probably the second-largest planet, after Jupiter, but far more dense because it’s actually solid whereas Jupiter is gaseous. Its existence was only first proposed about 12 years ago, and there’s still no direct evidence of it, though scientists believe there is enough indirect evidence to argue its existence.

So the obvious question is: with millions of stars and galaxies mapped out and tracked, with planets discovered in other solar systems, with the locations of thousands of comets so well documented that we can predict their exact location 100 years from now, how did we not notice a planet the size of Jupiter in our own solar system? How is it that we still don’t see it?

Simple. The planet doesn’t get any sunlight.

It’s too far away, and it’s too dark of a planet to begin with. For all of our incredible technology, we’re still depending almost entirely on telescopes. Technically, even the existence of black holes is only theoretical, because they don’t reflect light. The gravitational pull of the sun is enough to keep Tyche in orbit, but sunlight only reaches so far. The indirect evidence supporting Tyche’s existence is mostly from observing what we can see—comets and other space objects that are obviously being affected by something just around the corner.

We can’t prove its existence, but we know it’s there. We observe its presence.

That last sentiment should sound familiar. It’s a popular refrain from people who believe in God in arguing that He exists.

But religion didn’t teach us about the planets. Science did. We didn’t figure out the world was round because God told us it was, we figured it out ourselves. Try to imagine mankind’s amazement when we discovered that sickness was not God’s punishment for wicked thoughts, but were an indication that there were MILLIONS of invisible creatures living inside of each of our bodies.

Religious people struggle to understand how atheists could have any respect for the world around them. How could you truly appreciate the earth and the stars if you have this belief that they just happened by chance? How can you have respect for life if you see humans as simply the progression of evolution from a microbe?

Theists and atheists alike agree that the odds are virtually zero that all of this happened by accident. To an atheist, then, the fact that all of this happened, that we defied all odds simply in existing, is fucking mind blowing. Then we atheists, in turn, look at religion with disappointment that people would be confronted with all of this amazing life around us and simply shrug their shoulders and say, “well, of course it happened. God wanted it to.”

How depressing is that? To an atheist, believing is God is the equivalent of looking at a picture of some incredible natural phenomenon and having someone say “eh, it was just photoshopped.” The thought that a supreme being simply made the world as he wanted it is boring and pointless. Who cares what we do on this planet, if it’s all just part of some guy’s plan that we can’t control?

Tyche has existed for longer than there has been life in the solar system. It’s probably older than Earth. Yet we had no idea it was there. There were signs that our understanding of the solar system was wrong, though – Pluto didn’t move right, comets didn’t follow straight paths, and there’s a giant asteroid belt just past Mars that we can’t explain.

It is at this point that Christians just say that the solar system was as God planned it, so if He wanted an asteroid belt, or for some weird force to push around comets, that was His will. That’s it. Three thousand years ago we gave all the credit in the universe to one guy and just said that we’d never understand how he works. Atheists are inclined to agree that we’ll never understand everything, but we really want to try, because we continue to be amazed at what nature has in store, what amazing things have been happening for the last 14 billion years and beyond. We’re continuously in awe of everything around us, how a caterpillar can turn into a butterfly, how an offshoot of primates can develop abstract thought, how a Samaritan would stop to help a beaten Jew despite their mutual hatred. Meanwhile, when Christians are confronted with those same questions, they don’t ask. They already have the answer: an architect named God, writing our existence like some reality TV show.

Christians wonder how atheists can ignore the grandeur of God. Atheists can’t figure out why Christians think religion deserves credit for any grandeur at all.

But we continue to study religion in an effort to find out.


Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized


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