Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Immanuel: We Are Not Alone

Astronomers at NASA were giddy in the spring of 2014 when they announced that the Kepler Space Telescope discovered the first Earth-sized planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone"—the optimum distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. Kepler-186f, as the planet has been dubbed, resides about 500 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The system is also home to four companion planets, which orbit a star half the size and mass of our sun. The star is classified as an M dwarf, or red dwarf, a class of stars that makes up 70 percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

Scientists also reported that Kepler-186f is slightly larger than earth—about 1.1 Earth radii—orbits its star once every 130-days, and receives one-third the energy from its star that Earth gets from the sun. Experts theorized that on the surface of Kepler-186f, the brightness of its star at high noon is only as bright as our sun appears to us about an hour before sunset.

So why all the excitement for a planet so far away? One astronomer put it this way, “Kepler-186f can be thought of as an Earth-cousin rather than an Earth-twin. It has many properties that resemble Earth. This discovery is a significant step toward finding worlds like our planet Earth and first signs of other life in the galaxy.”[1]

Evolutionists are interested in finding extraterrestrial life for several reasons. First, there are some who firmly believe in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life because they are convinced that, if life evolved here, it not only could have evolved elsewhere, but must have done so.  Some scientists, like the late Carl Sagan, believe that life must exist elsewhere in the universe because on a cosmic scale what happened here on Earth wasn’t really all that special. Statically speaking, they reason, with all the billions of stars and planets in our universe there’s bound to be another like ours.

In an interview in January 17, 1980 issue of New Scientist magazine, Dr. Sagan made the following points: “There are something like 1022 stars in the universe, and as about one in a million of these stars is a yellow dwarf star like our Sun, this means there are about 1016 Sun-type stars in the universe. Now one in a million of these Sun-type stars probably has a planetary system similar to that of our Sun’s. Therefore there are about 1010 planetary systems in the universe. One in a million of these planetary systems must have a planet similar to that of Earth, and life must have evolved on those planets in the same manner in which it has evolved here on Earth. Therefore, there are at least 10,000 planets in the Universe that have life on them.”[2]   

As one character in Sagan’s popular book-turned-film, Contact, would say, “The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space.”

Second, there are those who are trying to find life elsewhere in the universe because they cannot explain how life came to be on Earth. In a sense, this is the reverse of the other situation. Whereas some say, “If you play the cosmic lottery, you’re bound to win more than once” others say, “The game has to be rigged, because we lose every time.” In the latter case, the problem of life is too complex because biologists are recognizing the impossibility of DNA arising from natural processes and random chance.

Therefore, one popular theory today is directed panspermia—the theory that life was seeded on Earth by an alien life form or brought here by meteor. Renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking weighed in on the issue when he gave a lecture entitled, "Why We Should Go Into Space," for NASA's 50th Anniversary lecture series at George Washington University in 2008.

Hawking said, "But we don't know how life first appeared. The probability of something as complicated as the DNA molecule being formed by random collisions of atoms in the primeval ocean is incredibly small . . . However, there is a possibility, known as panspermia, that life could spread from planet to planet, or from stellar system to stellar system, carried on meteors. We know that Earth has been hit by meteors that came from Mars, and others may have come from further afield. We have no evidence that any meteors carried life, but it remains a possibility. An important feature of life spread by panspermia is that it would have the same basis, which would be DNA for life in the neighborhood of the Earth.”[3]

The fact that this theory is even on the table for many serious scientists highlights the problem that evolutionists have with explaining how life came about here on Earth. In order to have life without God, naturalism has to answer the riddle of abiogenesis somehow. Since the skeptic refuses to let a Divine foot in the door they are forced to come up with something besides an Intelligent Designer, no matter how baseless it might be. Moreover, even if panspermia were true or if they did find life on Mars or some planet like Kepler-186f, it doesn’t really solve anything, it merely pushes the question of origins back one step.

The Bible offers good reasons to doubt that intelligent life exists on other planets. Scripture points out the absolute centrality of the Earth and gives us no hint that life exists elsewhere. Just look at the creation account in opening verses of Genesis. God made the earth habitable on days 1-3 before He created the rest of the planets and stars on day 4. The rest of the universe exists as a support system for the main stage of Earth where God’s Divine drama takes place.

Admittedly, the Earth is but an astronomical atom among the whirling constellations, only a speck of dust among the ocean of galaxies, nebulae and stars. Nevertheless, when we ponder the meaning of Christmas and the incarnation of Jesus we understand that our tiny blue orb has been visited by the God who spoke it all into existence. As The Message so eloquently paraphrased the prologue to John’s Gospel: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14).

Amazingly, the Creator became a creature and for a short time our planet was privileged to host its Architect. On Earth, Jesus was an artist in a gallery of His own paintings. He was a composer listening as the orchestra interpreted His music. He was the main character written into the narrative by His own pen. He was a computer engineer walking around in His own holographic simulation.      

In a way, the advent of Christ answers the question of extra-terrestrial life. Indeed, there is life outside our galaxy, even universe, but it’s not the kind that is going to show up on Kepler or Hubble’s radar anytime soon. God exists outside time and space, yet mysteriously through the person of Christ He became spatial and temporal. The One who set Kepler-186f in its orbit and dipped His finger in the center of the Milky Way to get it spinning, humbled himself into the confines of a virgin’s womb. The Creator, who commanded starlight to shine, became a speechless child. No wonder we sing, “Joy to the World” this time of year. We are not alone in this vast universe. Two-thousand years ago an angel announced, “Immanuel: God with us” (Is. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). -DM      

[1] “NASA's Kepler Discovers First Earth-Size Planet In The 'Habitable Zone' of Another Star,” NASA, 17 April 2013, <http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/nasas-kepler-discovers-first-earth-size-planet-in-the-habitable-zone-of-another-star/#.VIdflzHF9Ag>

[2] Carl Sagan, New Scientist, Vol. 85, No. 1190, 17 January 1980, p.152. 

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