78 Degrees


78 Degrees

The wonderful improbability of a perfect autumn day | Andrée Seu


Let me sing the miracle of 78 degrees Fahrenheit! Is there a greater proof of Intelligent Design? Here in Glenside, Pa., we had a string of such days in late summer, and I thought to myself as I reveled in this sweet spot—this perfect confluence of earth's ambience and my skin's felicity—"Breathes there a man so brutish that he cannot see the finger of God?"

There is something about 78 degrees. It is not 68, which is fine but holds a hint of a chill. It is not 88, which is bearable but rumors discomfort in the opposite direction. The red dye hovering two thin lines below 80 on my kitchen wall ­thermometer is the zone of delight. It must surely be the ­climate of the Garden of Eden, and will surely be again when Christ returns.

What people don't realize who emerge from their houses, briefcase-laden, on bracing mornings into a 78-degree-bound day is that the odds against a 78-degree ecstasy are almost ­insuperable. And I am not speaking primarily about physics, though that in itself was no shabby feat on God's part. I will here dispense with that easy subject first, since it is already well-known:

They say there are 100 billion galaxies, each with 100 billion stars, give or take a few billion. The point is that for one of them to support life—let alone delicious 78-degree days—there are 100 things that must be precisely right. A little "oops" and we are either popsicles or burnt toast.

Our Milky Way galaxy spins its spiral arms at half a million miles an hour (and I am not a bit dizzy). There is a lot of spinning going on within its internal spare parts as well, but much of it to no avail for lovers of autumn strolls. For instance, Venus spins too slowly (eight months per rotation). And, perversely, it spins in the opposite direction of the other planets in our system (like that one kid at the roller-skating rink who skates counter-clockwise against the tide). This gives our nearest planetary neighbor an atmospheric pressure 90 times ours. Its clouds also drip sulfuric acid, and its surface temperature (close to 900 degrees Fahrenheit) is not even in my personal tolerable range of 35 to 90 degrees.

Glenside's 78-degree fest was the result of a medium star at just the right distance from Glenside. It was also the result of a balanced ­diffusion of solar energy thanks to several ­ingenious built-in features—like Earth's stable 23-degree axis of rotation, which modulates the temperature difference between the poles and the ­equator. Then there is the shape of Earth, which obliges us with the strategically placed Himalayas in Asia, the Taurus Mountains in Turkey, and the European Alps, a series of speed bumps to thwart renegade air currents.

But all that is child's play, something God can do with one hand tied behind His back. Now to the real challenge: Beyond the staggering ­mathematical improbability of 78 is the infinitely compounded miracle that this external environment should be experienced by a sentient being as pleasing—that it should trace a smile across my face as I sip my morning tea.

For we are not, finally, dealing here only with the realm of the physical and chemical, but with the realm of that immaterial phenomenon that philosophers call consciousness. Sun and radiation and lunar gravitation have as much to do with consciousness as a thought has to do with a screwdriver. There is a chasm fixed between them. It's what Darwinists don't get—while they scribble their theses against God in fine 78-degree weather.

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