The Nebular Hypothesis
Most of us have been taught that the planets of our solar system came out of the sun. It may come as a surprise that there are serious scientific difficulties with this presumption. In fact, a careful analysis of existing evidence suggests some surprising alternative possibilities.
Immanuel Kant, in his General History of Nature and Theory of the Heavens, in 1755 in Germany, theorized that some four billion years ago, the sun had ejected a tail, or a filament, of material that cooled and collected and thus formed the planets. Kant is generally credited as the originator of what is commonly called the “Nebular Hypothesis,” but the originator was actually Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772).
Swedenborg wrote his treatise on cosmology in 1734, in Latin: Prodromus Philosophiae Retiocinantis de Infinito et Cause Creationis . Some 21 years before Kant’s publication, Swedenborg proposed that the planets were the result of condensations of a gauze or filament ejected out of the sun. Swedenborg was a mining engineer with a wide range of interests and also claimed to have psychic powers. Historians and biographers seem to take him quite seriously and a number of public incidents caused his fellow Swedes of Stockholm to regard him as irrefutable. He claimed confirmation of his nebular hypothesis from seances with men on Jupiter, Saturn and places more distant. (Some 20 years earlier, in 1712, when Swedenborg was 24 years old, he had the opportunity to visit with Edmund Halley at Cambridge, who described to him the various aspects of comets and their tails. Halley had made a study of the reports of various medieval comets, their orbital trajectories, dates, and descriptions, and, of course, is famous for his predictions regarding the comet that still bears his name.)
In Swedenborg writing, “Arcana Coelestia,” he spoke of spirits. Aliens from other planet which he met on Jupiter and Mars. According to Swedenborg, he discovered that the spirits of other planets recognized the Lord Jesus Christ as their God, without knowing that name, obviously. But still they recognized the same Lord as Swedenborg knew, as all Christians on earth knew. “The inhabitants of other worlds… acknowledge the Lord as the one and only God” (Arcana Coelestia6700). They do this without knowing that the Lord was born on one particular planet as a human being in a body. Just like the Divine showed Himself in human form to Abraham, Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, etc., He shows himself on other planets in a form that is recognized as being human by them (Arcana Coelestia 6700).
Despite the fact that Swedenborg often saw aliens in shapes that basically reminded him of our own human form, there are numerous hints of differences too. Mercurians look pretty much like us, just smaller (Earths in the Universe 44). The inhabitants of Jupiter have very large faces and they “move with the help of their hands, almost like swimmers” (Earths in the Universe 52). Others are described with protruding faces and lips, and faces that are “flexible” (Arcana Coelestia 4799).
A very interesting description is found in this passage:
[Some] spirits said that they had never been clothed with a body, nor do they appear to each other in a bodily form, but in the form of a cloud, barely having a human shape. Some spirits have been portrayed to me in this way on several occasions, that is, as bright clouds in a roughly human shape, hardly recognizable as such. ( Spiritual Experiences 1669)
The famous mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace (1749-1827) lent his endorsement to Kant’s theory, but without checking the mathematical validations he was capable of providing. Thus, the nebular hypothesis gained widespread respectability despite serious mathematical flaws. Subsequent writers have continued to develop variations of this view even though increasing difficulties render it rather doubtful.