Telescopes and Microscopes—How Have Their Revelations Affected You?
TELESCOPES and microscopes. They have revealed hidden wonders: galaxies spanning breathtaking distances, microorganisms so tiny that a quarter of a million of them could fit on the period at the end of this sentence. And in doing so, these tools have profoundly changed man’s outlook. In ancient times man looked upon the heavens with a sense of religious awe. The stars and planets were perceived as gods exerting a potent influence on men’s lives. Man, however, was confident that he and his planet Earth were the very center of the universe.
This concept of an earth-centered universe provided, according to professor of astronomy Edward R. Harrison, “a secure foundation for [pagan] religion,” and it seemingly “gave meaning and purpose to human life on Earth.” The telescope and its dramatic revelations shattered this comfortable universe. The microscope has taken the mystery out of such things as conception and birth (once thought to be incomprehensible miracles—but still miracles) and disease (once thought a plague of the gods).
Many thus feel that the questions once answered by religion are now best answered by white-jacketed researchers. But has man really become so adept at observing, measuring and analyzing that he no longer needs a God to give meaning to what he sees? Have the telescope and the microscope eliminated a basis for belief in the foremost book about God, the Bible?
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Galileo must have been awed. On that evening in 1609 he had pointed his crude telescope toward that great arc of light that ancient men called a “circle of milk.” With the assistance of his telescope (left) Galileo could see what no human eye had seen before: The Milky Way was “a mass of innumerable stars.”
A little over 70 years later a Dutch businessman named Antoni van Leeuwenhoek also peered through a homemade contraption of glass and metal (below). He, though, had no formal scientific training; grinding and polishing lenses was more or less a hobby. From these lenses, however, he constructed crude versions of an instrument that would grant mankind entry into a universe of another sort: the micro world, where a drop of water or just a tiny spoonful of soil would teem with life.