Life in the Universe is the ultimate miracle

Life in the universe is rare, so rare in fact, I would wager that sentient life is only found on planet Earth. For nearly 50 years the collection of telescopes and scientists under the umbrella name of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) have searched among the wavelengths of a myriad stars in search of a radio signal, any signal, from intelligent life. But have they detected any? Apart from detecting the odd microwave oven in their own establishment,1 no is the answer.

This artist’s concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. Picture: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle Source: Supplied

Earth 2.0: An artist’s conception depicting of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle

In 2013 Space.com headlines with “Alien Life May Be Rare Across the Universe2 but on July 23, 2015 NASA announced the discovery of Earth 2.0 with a headline on Space.com of “NASA Finds Closest Earth Twin Yet in Haul of 500 Alien Planets.”3

It is all over the news with a host of pictures of Earth 2.0. But wait, they are only artists’ conceptions.” One such drawing is reproduced here.

The report is that NASA found a near twin to Earth named Kepler-452b. It orbits its sun every 385 days, is 60 per cent larger in diameter than Earth, has a mass probably 5 times that of Earth and is located about 1,400 light years away. It’s a big deal! But why?

The news.com.au reports4 that NASA has an answer to this question: “Are we alone in the universe?” saying,

“We’re taking one small step in answering that question today.”

And with that, astronomers hunting for another Earth announced they have found what may be the closest match yet, a potentially rocky planet circling its star at the same distance as the Earth orbits the Sun, NASA said overnight.

“Until about 20-years ago, we didn’t know the answer to that. Now we have a definitive answer.”

A definitive answer to the question about whether or not humans are the only sentient life in the Universe? Have they found any form of life at all? Radio signal from them? Well, no. That would be overstating it. The article only reports that NASA has found a similar planet to Earth.4

“This is about the closest twin to Earth 2.0 that we’ve found so far, and I really emphasise so far.”

Not only is this planet squarely in the Goldilocks zone — where life could exist because it is neither too hot nor too cold to support liquid water — its star looks like an older cousin of our Sun, the US space agency said.

But no life. The planet resides in a region distant from its parent star that could support liquid water. Of course the idea is that life evolved from a bunch of biochemistry in some hot rocks or sea spray or something 3.8 billion years ago on Earth, so why not all over the Galaxy? Well there are a lot of good reasons. It needs a Creator, an Intelligent Designer. Life is not just a random fluke. Now even professor Stephen Hawking is getting behind a new big search (they must be really frustrated at coming up nix for so long).5

But here now, it is sufficient that I reproduce the following article, written by Eric Metaxas, originally published in the Wall Street Journal, December 25, 2014, then in World News in The Australian, Monday, December 29, 2014. It attracted 2600 COMMENTS. However, it would appear that Mr Metaxas is a big bang /theistic evolutionist believer like John Lennox. I have not read anything else he has written and so I cannot endorse his position except the following arguments he makes for the miraculous nature of life in the Universe having arisen from the Mind of the Creator. (My emphases added.)

Science turns to God as universe (cosmos) appears to be ultimate miracle

TimeMagazineApril81966-IsGodDeadIn 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete–that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 21 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.

Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.

Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?

There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.

Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?

Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”

The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably [inevitably] points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

Related Reading

  1. 8 Reasons Why Evolution is Foolish
  2. The Lecture: 8 Reasons why evolution is foolish
  3. Cosmic evolution–Myth or fact?
  4. Soft squishy tissue in 80 million year old dinosaur bones

References

  1. Nadia Drake, Rogue Microwave Ovens Are the Culprits Behind Mysterious Radio Signals, Phenomena: No place like home, National Geographic, April 10, 2015.
  2. Miriam Kramer, Alien Life May Be Rare Across the Universe, Space.com, March 11, 2013.
  3. Mike Wall, NASA Finds Closest Earth Twin Yet in Haul of 500 Alien Planets, Space.com, July 23, 2015.
  4. NASA discovers Earth’s bigger, older cousin, Kepler 452b, http://www.news.com.au, July 24, 2015.
  5. Stephen Hawking launches $100m search for alien life beyond solar system, The Guardian, July 21, 2015.

11 thoughts on “Life in the Universe is the ultimate miracle

  1. John, Just for the fun of looking at the universe according to what God created is much more interesting than talking about rocks, gases and liquids, read my book redemption. Its about how God created life in the universe and how some of his creation needs to know the free gift of salvation that He offers to all of them. Let me know if you like it. You’ll find the my website interesting. Keep raising the issues that people continue to deny in reality and substituting them for creative fantasy.

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    • Richard, You are right that the creatures God created need to know their Saviour. It is the most important issue of all. I agree unreservedly. Sometimes people need a little help to get them to the point in their lives where the Creator becomes relevant. A friend of mine told me of a man he met, who told his testimony of becoming in a believer in Jesus Christ. This was through his own study, via his job, of the sedimentary layers and his own quest to understand the different problems he found in the old earth paradigm and “uniformitarianism”. Once he accepted that the Bible had something important to say on history, i.e. the great Flood, and the evidence it would leave, he then gave his heart to the Creator.

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  2. I benefitted from your article. I have gotten the book by Mr. Metaxas. Thanks for you voice in this world that is turning more upside down.

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  3. Hello Dr. Hartnett,

    I am a stay at home mom who loves science and apologetics, and I will admit that though I bought both your books about starlight and time, I could only understand about half of it. (though I did very much enjoy TRYING to understand it all. ) I am wondering if you would be so gracious as to watch this video my friend posted on fb and tell me what you think of it… I am skeptical of some of what it is claiming, I certainly have never heard of most of it on any Christian apologetics site before. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJioWKPlBIw#t=325 I am sure you are very busy, but if you get a chance, I’d like to know what a real scientist has to say.

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    • Karen, You should be sceptical on what that video is claiming. God does have all those attributes, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. But He is not part of His Creation but is extant to it. The arguments made in the video are mostly nonsense and the music sounds like Hindu chanting. In regards to the content, the nature of quantum theory is still argued over, whether it represents a true description of nature or is just a contrivance to get an outcome to an experiment. There is a ‘hidden variable’ theory that proposes there is an underlying physical theory and that the world is truly deterministic. But no evidence can prove God’s existence yet all nature is evidence for the Creator. That is not a contradiction. He made it all and left His fingerprints on it for those who can see the Design in the Creation, but we still require faith in His Word to know Him.

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      • Thanks so much for your help. I have come across such erroneous views before, that God is “in” everything… if you have heard of Rob Bell, he has a video making this claim using quantum theory. This video seemed to be quoting actual articles and people, so I wasn’t as sure if it was, as you say “mostly nonsense!” I was able now to pass along to my friend (because I could now feel sure) that this video was ‘off’ spiritually, and she has taken it down. Thank you so much for your help. I agree that God has left us much evidence of his existence and nature… it has always seemed to me that God has chosen to give us enough evidence that we can be intellectually satisfied with our faith, while still leaving the possibility of unbelief open to those who truly wish it. He does not bash us over the head to force us to believe if we are determined to live without Him, instead He gently invites us with the grace of his Holy Spirit to consider the evidence with a fair mind. God bless you in your ministry.

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      • Karen, I could not have said it any better than you. You said it perfectly. Yes, I have heard of Rob Bell and I would not waste my time listening to him. You already have discerned that too.

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  4. Mr. Metaxas, whom you mention at the end of your article, appears, from his book, to be a Big Bang, ancient earth, theistic evolutionist.

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    • I was afraid that that might be the case. He would fall into the same camp as John Lennox. They strangely enough see how impossible it is that life could arise by chance in the universe yet they blindly accept the origin of the universe via the big bang myth. I do not endorse that position at all. Nor was I recommending his book. I was only reproducing his article because the argument he makes on the miracle of life in the universe is valid.

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      • This is a quote from Mr. Metaxas book. “…some people believe that the universe was created a few thousand years ago, but when confronted with geological evidence to the contrary, they respond that God ‘can do anything,’ including creating geological ‘evidence’ that is deliberately misleading.”
        I had hoped Mr. Metaxas believed otherwise, but he certainly seems to be completely in the camp of a 14+ billion year old and expanding universe. Otherwise, he writes a lot of good things, as far as I can tell.

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      • To state that when a YEC creationist is “confronted with geological evidence to the contrary” means he does not himself understand the issues of age determination and evidence itself. The evidence itself does not say anything. It is always interpreted. I would think he has never read any real YEC literature. Saying that creationists believe God created “…geological ‘evidence’ that is deliberately misleading” is a straw man. That is a long refuted old canard. It is totally false that any well informed YEC researcher/believer has any grounds to believe such nonsense. He is quite ignorant if he believes that to be so. Since you are reading his book, how about writing a book review for the web?

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