Would Heaven Be Boring?

Reservations for Heaven may be very limited, but assuming that I make the cut, would I be bored spending an eternity there?

Nobody knows what awaits us in the afterlife, but living an eternity on earth would be a nightmare.  Over the course of eternity, your body would deteriorate to the point you would be bedridden.  Not being able to die as your body failed you would be horrible, indeed.

So, we must assume that matter in Heaven will be different.  I assume that we will not have to eat or use the rest room or breathe or have a body that will age ungracefully.  Perhaps, thinking will be our primary activity.  Knowing the frailties of man, it is quite possible that thinking about anything for an eternity would be a challenge.

It might even be considered cruel and unusual punishment if it becomes solitary confinement within your thought process.  So, certainly there will be others to communicate with in Heaven.  But what will you communicate?  Will you talk about the weather on earth?  Will you be able to watch earth’s activities like on a television screen?  Will you have animals around you to entertain you?  What mental challenges will be at your disposal?

Quite frankly, an eternity is a long time.  Will I get bored in Heaven?  Will God and the other residents get bored with me?  Are there any requirements for being able to stay in Heaven?  Or will I want to stay if eternity starts to become an issue?  I like to eat cherry pie, but I would get sick of it if I ate it every day.

I believe that God is so unbelievably smart that He will make Heaven inviting for an eternity.  My curiosity would be peaked by investigating the billions of galaxies and the billions of potential solar systems in each galaxy.  It is very likely that there are many forms of life scattered throughout the universe.  I can’t imagine that I would be bored if God allowed me to explore the billions of galaxies.  And by the time I had examined them all, things would have changed, so I could reexamine them with different results.  The vast universe could not possibly bore me.  And if there are multiverses, then it will be even more interesting.

God, I’m certain, has a creation that would keep us in a discovery mode for an eternity.  I would be very excited to try living in God’s universe, if I am considered worthy.  I guess that is the problem:  How does God know if I am Heaven-worthy?

I know that I need to do my best to mirror Jesus and His teachings, but the Beatitudes tell us that we can’t even think bad thoughts.  Wow!  I missed the boat big time on that one.  The Bible indicates that there may be three Heavens, so there may be three tests that we have to pass. And is each heaven a contingency, so you could actually drop back  to the past Heaven, depending on your actions in that particular Heaven?  The Bible also makes it very clear that only a few will reach God’s universe.  Thus, the majority of us will not have an opportunity to even see if Heaven is boring.

What happens to most of us who don’t get a taste of Heaven?  I don’t know, but my guess is that we will be recycled in our closed universe’s hopper, which may spit us out in some other form.  Will we still be thinking if we return as an ant or bird?  I don’t know.  Will we still be thinking if we come back as a rock?  Or will we still be thinking if we are in limbo in space?  Nobody knows.  So, will you be bored if you are not in Heaven forever?  Being sentenced to this universe for infinity may really be cruel and unusual punishment.

Perhaps the best we could hope for, if we don’t make it to Heaven, is for life to end with there being nothing else beyond that.  But the odds of that happening are not very good because matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed in our universe (First Law of Thermodynamics).  So, our thinking, which may be both matter and energy, will continue in some form after we die.  We just don’t know in what form.  And life without consequences or something beyond life would make life absurd (existentialism).  However, we have no clue what consequences await us.

 

Stromatolites – Our Ancient Ancestors

Our earliest ancestor was a plant, not an animal.  This most ancient ancestor was a stromatolite dating back more than 3.5 billion years ago or about a billion years after our earth was first formed.   Stromatolites consist of blue-green algae that aggregates, creating layers.  Even though most of our early ancestors have gone extinct, stromatolites still exist today.  A large population is located in the Hamelin Pool in Shark Bay in western Australia.

Stromatolites were the most abundant fossils found in rocks dating to the Precambrian era, from the origin of Earth about 4.5 billion years ago to 544 million years ago.  Stromatolites became prolific starting about 2.5 billion years ago, releasing oxygen into the environment which set the stage for animal life.  Both plant and animal kingdoms diversified over the years, but stromatolites remained the same since they were able to adapt to many environments and did not require diversification to survive.  They formerly existed all over the world, but today they are endangered.

Over billions of years, both plants and animals evolved into large trees and dinosaurs, but there were many mass extinctions that cut off the branches in our family tree.  One of the most widely discussed was the death of the dinosaurs, which occurred about 65 million years ago.  The K-T boundary or thin geologic line representing the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Tertiary ages included iridium.  Iridium is found primarily in meteors.  This was strong evidence of when the large mountain of a meteor about six miles wide crashed into the Yucatan Penninsula near the town of Chicxulub in Mexico.

Scientists are fairly confident that this meteor caused significant stress on the dinosaur population, but are not certain if this event could have accounted for the mass extinction by itself.  However, if you examine the effects of the meteor’s impact, it might be sufficient.  The impact set off volcanic eruptions, massive earthquakes, and tsunamis, all sending dust and debris into the atmosphere, where it blocked sunlight for centuries.  This created a nuclear winter with temperatures plummeting.  There were wildfires all over earth, causing acid rain.  This sounds pretty convincing, but there is one more piece to this puzzle.

About this same time, a large volcanic eruption occurred in the Deccan Traps located in the northwestern part of the Deccan Plateau in India.  It may be the largest volcanic province in the world, consisting of more than a 6,600-foot depth of basalt lava flows covering an area of 190,000 square miles.  When the event occurred, some estimates show that 580,000 square miles were impacted.  This would have been a significant event, which when combined with the meteor could have been too much for the dinosaurs.

Some scientists believe that the Deccan Traps eruption occurred first about 66 million years ago, lasting for thousands of years, and then the Yucatan meteor smashed into the earth about 65 million years ago, causing a double whammy which wiped out the dinosaurs.  However, it may be more than a coincidence that the Yucatan impact area is on the opposite side of the world from the Deccan Traps.  If you place your finger of your right hand on the area where the meteor landed and a finger of your left hand on the Deccan Traps on a globe of the earth, these locations are eerily opposed to each other.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  I would argue that the time lines need to be reexamined.  It is more likely that the meteor stuck first, which triggered the great Deccan Flats eruption.  Whether this occurred 66 or 65 million years ago is not known, but it must have been closer in time than scientists believe.

Mammals were able to survive these events and over time, an animal called Homo erectus popped up in the east African rift zone about 2 million years ago.  These hominids were able to stand upright, so we believe that we descended directly from them.  Homo sapiens seem to have entered the scene about 500 thousand years ago, and the subspecies Homo sapiens sapiens, which is very similar to modern man, can be found about 200 thousand years ago.

Our subspecies just barely hung on after the mega-volcanic eruption at Lake Toba in Indonesia about 75,000 years ago.  This was the biggest eruption that we know about during the history of earth, which caused a nuclear winter just like the Yucatan meteor and Deccan Flats eruption.  Our species came very close to being wiped out.  There were only about a thousand of our species that survived this event, which explains why all humans are so genetically similar.  After surviving the ice age, our species started repopulating the earth about 10,000 years ago.

So the bottom line is that Homo sapiens sapiens has not been king of the earth for very long.  In the great scheme of things, we should examine all our ancestors and realize that we are very insignificant in the great scheme of things, not only in the amount of time that we have occupied the earth, but also in our vulnerability to changes.  We have been very fortunate that we are right in the middle of a warm, moderate period, but will we survive the next ice age or cataclysm?  Time is really not on our side.

Tipping Points

Our earth is located in what scientists term the “Goldilocks Zone” because it is “just right.”  If we were not located exactly where we are in the solar system and in the galaxy and in the universe, we probably would not exist.  Extremophiles probably live in hostile environments throughout the universe, but mesophiles, like our species, need a stable and moderate habitat or they cannot survive.

There have been mass extinctions throughout the life of our planet with the Permian extinction having the distinction of killing off the most – about 90% of the species on earth at that time.  Some scientists are concerned that we may be on the brink of a sixth major extinction since plants and animals are dying off anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times faster than they did before humans came on the scene. 

Scientists at Duke University completed a study, published May 29, 2014, in the journal Science, that measured the rate at which species are disappearing from earth.  In 1995, the researchers found that the pre-human rate of extinctions was roughly 1. Now, that rate is about 100 to 1,000.

Stuart Pimm, the study’s lead author, said habitat loss is mostly to blame for the increasing death rates.  As humans continue to alter and destroy more land, animals and plants are increasingly being displaced from their natural habitats.  Climate change is also a factor, he added.

So, with the balancing point of nature being “just right” on our planet, it probably does not take much to tip the balancing scales to one side or the other, which will have devastating effects to those species which cannot adapt in time.

There are many potential tipping points on our planet:  (1) climate change, (2) ocean currents, (3) frozen methane, (4) buried black carbon, (5) permafrost and glacier melt, (6) hydrological cycle, (7) reduced sea ice, (8) draught, (9) bacteria resistant to penicillin, (10) proximity of sun, (11) proximity of moon, (12) volcanic activity, (13) pestilence, (14) movement of asteroid belt, and (15) other things that we may not even see coming, such as black energy and black holes.    

Although global warming focuses on greenhouse gas as the culprit, there are other more significant sources of carbon that would be more dangerous tipping points that would contribute to major climate change that might lead to mass extinctions.  These sources of carbon are black carbon buried in soil, methane frozen in water, and volcanic eruptions.  In fact, the Permian extinction may have been caused by all three of these releases of carbon. 

The most devastating of the three releases may be methane, which has an exponential impact.  As the climate warms, more methane is released.  As more methane is released, it causes our temperatures to go up higher than they would with releases of carbon dioxide.  This melts more methane, causing even higher temperatures with a tipping point being reached with runaway releases like in the Permian period.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, have found that there is black carbon only about six and a half meters below the surface in Kansas, Nebraska, and other parts of the Great Plains where ancient soils are filled with black carbon and plants that have not yet fully decomposed.  These carbon stores could be released into the environment via erosion, road construction, mining, or deforestation.

Erika Marín-Spiotta, a professor at UW-Madison and a coauthor of the study, which was published earlier this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, stated, “It was assumed that there was little carbon in deeper soil.”  Since most soil studies do not penetrate deeper than 30 centimeters, scientists had dramatically underestimated underground carbon reserves that could be released into the air.

Erika explained that carbon reservoirs in buried soils can lurk in a range of environments—under dust accumulation, in floodplains, in valleys, at the foot of slopes of hills and mountains and under lava flows.  She said they are likely to occur in many other parts of the world.

Marín-Spiotta said as much as 5.95 trillion pounds of carbon could be lurking in the depths of the Great Plains area her team looked at.  That’s assuming the ancient soil forms a continuous layer across the region; the researchers were only able to collect measurements from specific points and don’t really know what portion of the region contains the carbon-rich soil.

This giant carbon bomb could be released over the next few decades as we clear cut more forests and see more erosion in draught-prone areas.  We have already seen recent exposure to the atmosphere.  But for the subterranean reserves, Marín-Spiotta believes a number of factors are at work, including how much carbon there really is, how much has persisted since it was buried, and what kind of carbon is down there.

Though Marín-Spiotta says the buried reserves carbon don’t pose an immediate risk to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, but land managers need to take precautions, since the researchers found that the ancient soils are more reactive than was previously understood.

As with all tipping points, there can be multiple contributors to the final point of no return.  And these contributors can have exponential effects on each other.  We probably will not know when we have reached the tipping point, but our ancestors will not only know when that tipping point had been reached, but will also suffer the consequences.

Weather or Not, There Are Climate Changes

Some scientists argue that climate changes occur in cycles, not necessarily the result of temporal weather patterns.  For example, we had a series of vicious winter storms that struck the eastern United States in 2013-14.  On one day, all fifty states had snow.  This weather is not indicative of a climate change, by itself.  It may have been an anomaly.  So you may have bitter cold weather patterns interspersed during a warming climate change.

However, there may have been some interesting reasons for the unusually cold winter.  Typically, a Polar Vortex circling in Canada and the Arctic area, keeps frigid air north of the United States, but when there are unusual warming trends in the climate, this could disrupt the Polar Vortex, breaking it down, allowing cold air to drop into the deep southern states.

Many scientists now believe that man’s burning of fossil fuels has triggered a climate change that may be locked in and cannot be reversed.  Once the climate is tipped into a new direction, there are forces that not only continue down that path, but many times can accelerate it.  For example, the drought conditions in the southwest create more forest and grass fires, which, in turn, cause more soot to carry to the poles, causing “dark ice,” which causes accelerated melting of the ice. 

As the air and oceans warm, the most dangerous consequence awaits us in the cold depths of the ocean.  Methane ice is frozen at great depths, but it only takes a few degrees of warming of the ocean to trigger the thawing of the methane gas, which would create a global warming scenario hundreds of times worse than what man can cause with fossil fuels.  This warming of methane in the oceans may have been what caused the Permian extinction.  Once the blanket of methane covered the earth’s atmosphere, we would move quickly into a Global Winter for decades with most plants and animals dying off.

The new normal with our climate will be its extremes and unpredictability.  We will have more intense storms, more mega droughts, more ice storms, more tornadoes, more hurricanes, more flooding, more fires, more snow… more extremes in weather.

The Arctic has been our bellwether for climate changes, and it clearly points to climate change that is here to stay.  The ice is melting at a rapid rate.  Greenland is losing 300 billion tons of ice each year.  The Inuit hunters are not finding wildlife along the ice pack near their home because the ice edge is moving further north away from them, causing the walrus and seal population to move north too.

There is a theory that the ocean currents are being impacted by the new climate change, so that normal warming from equatorial waters, being carried north and south, is also being interrupted.  This disruption of warming currents and the methane melt could combine to cause our world to go into a deep freeze.  It sounds strange, but global warming may actually be the trigger for the next ice age.