I began listening to the debate on Naturalism vs. Theism between Jeffrey Jay Lowder and Phil Fernandes the other day. I’m about halfway through (it’s over two hours long) and, thus far, Lowder is “winning” decisively. There are several claims made by Fernandes that inspire a facepalm, but I found one claim especially annoying.
You will often hear creationists talk about the Earth residing in a Goldilocks Zone. Here was a claim along these lines made by Fernandes:
If the distance between the Earth and the Sun was to differ by just 2% in either direction, no life on Earth would be possible.
This, like nearly every creationist claim, is demonstrably false. Yet, such things are repeated ad nauseum. Now, we could say why this claim being used as proof of a designer is problematic in terms of philosophy, but I think some fairly simple science will be our best method of debunking here.
The Earth’s orbit around the sun looks something like this (not to scale):
You’ll notice that it is an ellipsis. Why does this matter? Well, we can see that the existing orbit does differ. At the Earth’s greatest distance from the Sun, the distance between them is about 152 million km or 1.0167 AU. This is called the aphelion. When the Earth is closest to the Sun, the distance between them is 147 million km or 0.9833 AU. This is called the perihelion. At this point, you’re probably tempted to take out your calculator. If so, you would find that the distance between the Earth and Sun actually differs by 3.3% or 3.4%, depending on whether you use the aphelion or the perihelion. Either way, we don’t have to wonder what would happen to the Earth if its distance from the Sun differed by more than 2% because it already does. Yet, here we are.
At best, the creationist claim here is poorly phrased. At worst, it’s plainly false.