That’s So Second Millennium

Episode 040 - Kirby Runyon: Christian planetary scientist

December 31, 2018

I had the chance to have an unofficial interview with Kirby Runyon. (Planetary science is a very publicity-heavy field, and planetary scientists often labor under certain constraints regarding their contact with the media. We avoided mentioning his institutional affiliation to emphasize the point that this interview in no way characterizes any official position by his institution. You can find out where he works, and get access to some of his work, via web search if you are curious, and there's a clue around 13:00 as well.)

We opened the interview with a discussion of Kirby's research on surface processes on planets. He works on data returned from the Moon, Mars, and Saturn's moon Titan to evaluate how winds, asteroid impacts, and other forces shape the surfaces of those bodies.

We discuss the difficulties doing planetary geology, in particular the lack of samples from other planets. We have samples (lunar and Martian meteorites) that nature has shipped us from other planets via impact, but we don't have "provenance," the knowledge of exactly where on those planets the samples came from.

Kirby is a self-professed "space junkie," and gave us an update on the news of space exploration. The most exciting is arguably that New Horizons is reaching its secondary target, Ultima Thule, tomorrow (when this episode launches).

At about 20:00 we transition into talking about the culture of geoscience vis-a-vis religion and Christianity specifically. We spend some time discussing what relationship God might have with time, including Augustine's notion that God is outside time, and Hugh Ross' alternatives to that (https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/50937.Hugh_Ross).

We spend some time discussing Kirby's ecclesial situation as a sacramental evangelical (as he understands the latter term, it means emphasizing the "personal relationship with Jesus" as opposed to some of the other connotations that have grown up around it). There were several questions that I intended to ask that I ended up throwing away as the discussion went off in a different direction. Kirby's sense of "church" I might sum up as being pretty heavy on Mark 9:40:

9:38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,
40 for whoever is not against us is for us." (NIV)

As a Roman Catholic, I have to consider that while I could not possibly leave the Churches that carry the apostolic succession, and therefore some necessary amount of *institution*, the third millennium is going to see all these Churches wither to the extent that they cannot escape the clutches of a second millennium *institutionalism* that welded them to the secular state, condemned them to great hypocrisy, and fomented the long train of rebellions that have shaken Christendom and splintered it.

You can see Kirby and hear more from him at his YouTube channel, and you can follow him on Twitter @nasaman58.