The James Webb Space Telescope Will Not Tell Us Where We Came From
As the long-awaited launch of JWST approaches,
it’s time to deflate some pompous predictions.
Long delayed and way over budget, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may finally make its debut Christmas Eve (see countdown page). Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), whose continuing career has reached legendary status, the JWST will take pictures primarily for astronomers. Its sensors are in the infrared spectrum, lending its imagery to hot spots that do not look realistic to human eyes, nor nearly as pretty. Astronomers, though, feel that the heat maps generated by its 6-meter-wide mirror (HST was 2 meters) will open up new vistas for theorists. Because the instruments must be kept cold, the telescope is expected to only last 5-10 years, compared to the 30 years of the HST so far.
As Yogi Berra allegedly quipped, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. Citizens who remember the near disaster with Hubble when its first images came back out of focus should beware of hyped expectations until JWST actually gets launched and makes it through a deployment period (two weeks). First images will not arrive till the end of the commissioning period (about six months). Nevertheless, some reporters are salivating already about what this instrument will show. They are making predictions not just about the future but about the past: what this new instrument will reveal about the history of the universe, earth and life.
Origins in Darkness
Jonathan Amos at the BBC News is one such gleeful prophet, describing the JWST as “$10bn machine [The HST budget was about half that] in search of the end of darkness.” The alleged “end of darkness” is the time in big bang cosmology when the first stars switched on. Prior to that, there was only total darkness.
But this is the story that scientists tell us, of the “dark ages” that gripped the Universe before the first stars ignited. And very shortly, they intend to show us that time, or rather how it ended – how the cosmos ultimately became filled with light.
They’ll do it using the biggest telescope ever placed beyond the Earth: The James Webb Space Telescope.
Launching in the coming days, JWST is on a mission to look deeper into the Universe – and therefore further back in time – than even the legendary Hubble Space Telescope, which it succeeds.
Mr. Amos is just getting wound up in his predictions about the past. To him, the JWST is the most powerful divination tool ever made, turning the universe into a crystal ball in which we see our own “atomic origins” from nothingness.
For what purpose, though? Why spend 10 years conceiving, and another 20 years building, a $10bn machine to detect some faint, red blobs on the sky?
Well, essentially it comes down to the most fundamental of questions: Where do we come from?
NASA’s JWST page makes it clear that the mission is focused on evolution:
Based on prior experience, what this means in practice is that any observations will be fitted to the reigning paradigm: the big bang theory. People who believe our finely-tuned and life-permitting universe is the handiwork of an all-wise, all-powerful Creator need not apply, and will likely have no opportunity to express that view in the official literature of the mission. Nevertheless, the gathering of data is a good thing that can be useful to all points of view. Past experience also shows that expectations do not always fit paradigms particularly well. Any ‘answers’ to ‘where we came from’ are likely to be heavily laden with worldview biases.
Cancel Culture Fail
The name of the telescope survived a petition earlier this year from LGBT groups who were upset that James Webb allegedly discriminated against gays and lesbians. NPR tells how NASA did not cave in to their demands. James Webb, a former NASA administrator, was considered a “towering figure” responsible for the continuing success of the agency.
Some Details of the Telescope
The BBC article describes interesting anecdotes about the construction of the telescope, its features, and its innovations. Amos also describes the extreme efforts made by engineers to ensure this instrument doesn’t have a “Hubble problem” like those that required expensive post-launch repairs to the HST. He also quotes experts who justify the investment:
If Webb succeeds in showing us our atomic origins, who will continue to quibble about cost?
“On face value there’s a lot of zeroes, and Europe alone has spent €700m (£600m; $800m) on James Webb,” says former European Space Agency project manager Peter Jensen.
“But when you look at it as a cost per inhabitant in Europe, it comes down to a cheap cup of coffee in a cheap café, drunk over a period of 20 years.”
The JWST is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) along with other international partners including 300 universities. The telescope will be launched from French Guiana (not Florida this time) on top of an Ariane 5 rocket. It’s so big it had to be folded inside the nose cone. For more information about JWST, see NASA’s Fact Sheet (pdf) and Key Facts page with links for more details.
CEH supports space exploration and the new data it brings. Without NASA’s missions, we would lack numerous measurements and observations that wreak havoc with secular origins theories and support young ages for the planets and Earth. When the worldview crust is scraped off the secular reports, space exploration has proven to be creationism’s friend.
Don’t expect beautiful images like the HST brought us. They will probably look weird, like more refined versions of the images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, an earlier infrared instrument. Astronomers are likely to get most excited about faint red dots in the blackness of space. Accustomed to Hubble’s fine art, laypersons may wonder, “We paid $10 billion for that?” Astronomers will claim the spots are the first stars after the Big Bang, and reporters will wax breathless over the glimpses of our “atomic origins.”
Critical thinking will be needed when hearing or reading press reports. Secular reporters treat the big bang theory and other consensus views as uncontested facts (see yesterday’s article about scientism). Reporters love the comfort of consensus. They don’t want to get into debates or controversies; they just want to take the word of the scientists and dress it up for their lay audiences with similes and metaphors.
But remember, these scientists (for the most part) believe that everything they see and know is only 5% of reality, the rest being indescribable, mysterious unknown stuff – dark matter and dark energy, which keep eluding their best attempts to find them. They also assume the one-way speed of light, which is impossible to measure (see 11 Jan 2021), meaning that the age of the universe is also impossible to measure. They assume the origin of elements came from stars, when another recent theory posits that they can be created in the interior of the Earth (21 Oct 2021). These same ‘experts’ think you can get everything from nothing (26 March 2021). Many of them also state publicly their belief in a multiverse, which is completely unknowable and borders on crazy. They think the first living cells ’emerged’ from randomly interacting chemicals. And of course, they uniformly believe in Darwinian evolution, with the corollary that their own brains are products of blind chance. This is their religion.
If you can scrape off the worldview interpretations, you will enjoy the findings of the JWST. Let the secularists say that in the beginning was darkness, because in their unbelief they love darkness rather than light (John 3:19). Creationists love the light and come toward the light (John 3:21), because their Creator said, “Let their be light,” and there was light. Secularists say, ‘In the beginning there was nothing.’ Creationists say, “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). So ask, who’s worldview has the necessary and sufficient cause for the ordered cosmos and complexity of life that we observe? Who has an Eyewitness?