What would be the purpose of radioactive elements in the natural world, why would God create them?

I was reading about radio isotopes this morning and it suddenly occured to me…

If the alpha, beta amd gamma particles can be and often are harmful to us, why would God have created elements that emit them in the first place? What is their function in the natural world? Do they perform an important function and if so, what? Why would God create unstable elements?

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Stable and radioactive isotopes all follow the same fundamental laws of physics, and these laws that make possible the various necessary for life elements, inevitably also allow for the existence of unstable isotopes. These laws are at the very foundation of nature, and govern everything from the Sun warming the Earth to the biochemistry keeping you alive. As far as we can observe, these laws are constant, and even small changes would alter stars and life in common.


Extreme heat is harmful - even fatal to us, and yet aren’t you glad that fire and stars are part of creation?


The only thing that I can think of is that the planet Earth could have lost its liquid core and mantle after billions of years if it weren’t for the heat produced by radioactive decay. However, this function wouldn’t exist in YEC.


To help us learn about his cool creation, to learn about radiation without which a lot of current medicine would be primitive or nonexistent, to help us calibrate and verify the accuracy of other natural elapsed time clocks that YECs deny, …and on and on.

Have you ever answered me about girdled rocks?


Obviously, he created them so we could use them to date the universe. We knew it was old by geologic formations, but had no way to tell how old until radiometric dating. :wink:

My view is that the physical constraints of creation are the way have to be, because otherwise we would not be here, and within those constraint, radioactive materials have to exist and decay to other elements, something that really does not depend on age of creation.


I have often wondered if this has to be the case. Could there be a set of physical laws that allows for intelligent species like us without also producing harmful ionizing radiation? That’s probably unknowable, but a rhetorical question worth considering.


There’s harmful radiation from space, but in God’s sovereignty over the design of his creation he has protected us from it in several ways (but we get still get the beauty of the Aurora Borealis :+1:).


This point was raised on stack exchange, clearly radiation from the sun is harmful, however, is it possible that prior to the fall of man, this was not the case?

The point is theologically, the idea that dangerous or even deadly forms of radiation existed seems to discredit the entire idea that there is even a God of the like illustrated in the bible.

How can the plan of salvation and restoration of all things back to an uncorrupted state be possible if exposure to harmful radiation is fatal to humans and other life on earth??

The bible says Adam and Eve were naked, they had no protection from exposure to even infra red.

Theologically, if you’ll read your Bible thoroughly, you’ll find that God had two creations in mind from before the beginning of the first, and the first was destined to futility before it was created. Jesus was not Plan B, as he has to be in your scheme.

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A basic point of reference in the Bible is how darkness and the chaos of the sea will not be a part of the new heavens and earth, but they were part of the world before the fall. Something else is the garden only covered a small portion of the earth, the rest of it was wilderness.

The fall of man is mythological narrative attempting to explain the human condition or the Babylonian exile (or both).

Radiation (light) formed a few hundreds thousand years after the Big Bang and has been in existence for billions of years. Radioactive elements came as stars fused higher and higher elements. Life does not happen without radioactive elements or the processes that created them, or the constants having the values they do to allow for those processes.


What about the resurrection of the dead?

Eschatological hope. Theological necessity (if God is good). Personally I suspend belief for one instance of this only because I believe God incarnated himself in the form of a human. I would doubt every other resurrection story someone told me lock, stock and barrel. If it’s not Jesus I cannot suspend my belief. Human witnesses do not provide reliable enough testimony of what I deem the laws of physics or the constancy of nature. My faith is what leads me to accept the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly not bad, “historical” apologetics.



Or hedging your bets :wink:

Thank you for the earnest reply. Theological necessity compels me to believe (some of) the more dramatic miracles, the less dramatic ones are less perplexing or more so due to the way they can result from the decisions of other people.

For me personally I don’t believe the Spirit of God bringing life to Adam or calling Abraham are mythical events. And therefore a real fall and representative sin for humanity is very believable for me. As are the promises of the Abrahamic covenant.


The sun would need to dramatically decrease it’s heat output in order to not produce ionizing UV radiation. There would still be a lot of high energy particles streaming out from the sun, even with decreased output.

You would have to dramatically change the most fundamental laws of physics in order to stop the sun from emitting deadly radiation. This runs into a huge problem for the fine tuning argument which states that those same fundamental laws can’t be anything else.

The Problem of Suffering is a long standing theological debate, I will give you that.

Infrared is non-ionizing, so that wouldn’t be a problem. The longest wavelengths capable of breaking chemical bonds are in the UV, and it only gets worse as the wavelengths get shorter from there (e.g. x-ray, gamma). There are also cosmic rays beaming from everywhere in the universe.


I don’t think the call of Abraham has to be understood as a supernatural nature defying miracle. If you believe every detail in the Biblical accounts such would be necessary. My studies in regards to the Bible tells me it just isn’t that accurate or concerned with history that I would feel compelled to believe all it’s details as written.

As a Christian I have no way of knowing what details did or did not happen 4,000 years ago in most cases. No one does. Some just choose to accept them for other reasons. Some suspect them because the stores are thousands of years old, look like political propaganda and have no real credible lines of transmission. That God called Israel into a special covenant is part of our faith. Exactly what happened and when is unknowable on rational, academic grounds.

What we have are Biblical stories. I prefer to read them didactically and ignore unanswerable historical questions. I honestly don’t think ancient authors cared that much about history in the same way we do. Some of the scenes are historically plausible and some clearly are not (e.g. logistic problems. With the Exodus or internal contradictions between the doublets by the different authors/traditions in the Pentateuch). Most of them are just stories of alleged events hundreds or thousands of years earlier. There is no confirming or denying a lot of what is inside. It is self-delusion to think otherwise.

But I do understand as a part of faith accepting the big picture or the broadest outline of Israel’s redemptive history. But I don’t think Adam needs to be literally there and there is enough murder, slavery, genocide, misogyny, nonsense, contradictions and problems for me to not feel compelled to take all or any of the stories as literally true in all their details. They are meant to teach in my opinion and in some cases we have progressed far behind those ideals leaving questionable morality and standards in parts. Jesus seems to have used fictional stories far more frequently than he did appeals to allegedly historical stories in the OT.

Did Moses get a law from God on Sinai? Maybe. I can believe some guy had an encounter with God and wrote some stuff down. Do all 613 laws in the OT come right from God and were they preserved exactly for ~1300 years or so until the time of Jesus? I very strongly doubt it based on my studies.

Did Adam change the universe? Were there no hurricanes before the fall? Was there no death before the fall? Were there no natural disasters or “dangerous radioactive elements” (per this thread?). The old view of the fall breaking the world is no longer accepted. Because for most people natural disasters, diseases and stuff like that were a part of that broke world. But science has shown they predate humans by billions of years. The fall just brings some vague “spiritual death” into the world but at the time the story was written I doubt Physical and spiritual distinctions were as prominent as today. I’m tired of holding on to the fringes of defeated theology. Science overturned the traditional interpretation of Genesis. Rather than clutching on to things I prefer to wipe the slate and start fresh.

Adam being a representative of humanity works just as well to me as a literary fabrication because in the end I accept no responsibility for Adam’s sin and I deem punishing (feeling it’s effects) all life on account of it unethical. Feeling pains of child birth because of it or making farming harder for everyone is just cruel. It’s just a story. We are all Adam. We all sin. We all feel the alienation from God. We are all Israel exiled from their home by Babylon. We are Babylon to ourselves. Our own worst enemy. Adam doesn’t need to be real because we are and so is our self-imposed exile from God due to our sin.

I’m honestly done with original sin, mythological falls and all that jazz. I’m also done with taking one chapter of Paul in Romans overly-literally as fact and forcing myself to accept Adam as historical because of it.

Jesus was much bigger and did a Hell of a lot more than undo the effects of an ignorant child (intellectually) tricked into eating a piece of fruit by a talking snake. Viewing Jesus as the counter to Adam almost seems sacrilegious. It’s lowering Jesus. It is demeaning, patronizing and does zero justice to the Divine Condescension. God choosing to lower himself and be found as a human in order to reconcile sinners to Himself is the heart and soul of Christianity.

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Yeah I get a lot of that. I may come back to pick through some of it. This part jumped at me though. Jesus is the perfect counter to Adam. Whereas Adam was defeated by the serpent’s deception of his bride, Christ has so established the New Covenant that his bride is eternally secure in his redeeming blood.

Oh and I don’t believe Adam’s sin fundamentally altered the laws of the universe, but it did put a quick end or course change for the paradise-kingdom God was establishing in the Earth.

i agree with all of this. However, how does a Christian attribute radioactive decay to a useful process in our environment?

I guess there are perhaps two perspectives to answer the above question…

  1. as a theist scientist
  2. as a non theist scientist

i am not an expert in any of this, so my question here is a works in progress as this (the possibility that God created radioactive decay) is not something that i had really thought about before…

When we read the account in Genesis, it says in Chapter 2:15

> 15Then the LORD God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.

irrespective of whether or not one believes that God literally created Adam as a mature man, my question is not trying to put any perspective on that belief, my focus here is on the second part of the verse…

“God placed Adam in the garden to cultivate and keep it”

This suggests to me that there was in place some kind of biocycle that required tending/cultivating.

If there is a biocycle, i immediately think “decay”. When i think of decay, I am faced with a theological dilemma…

  1. Would God have created harmful radioactive elements that emit dangerous particles?
  2. What protected two naked individuals from sunburn in the Garden of Eden?
  3. From a “theistic” environmental point of view, what is the purpose of the decay from parent to daughter isotopes? (i understand the elements aim to reach stability…but that is not what I’m asking about with this question)

If the first creation was destined to futility (it was “very good” for God’s purposes, not “perfect” in itself like YECs want to illegitimately claim), if it was destined to futility from the start, even before humans were on it, death and destruction and their accompanying causes should be expected, not something to argue against as if the whole earth was a fairy-tale garden.