Saturday, August 27, 2016

Is Anybody Out There?

This artist’s impression shows a view of the surface of the planet Proxima b orbiting the red dwarf star Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Solar System. The double star Alpha Centauri AB also appears in the image to the upper-right of Proxima itself. Proxima b is a little more massive than the Earth and orbits in the habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. By ESO/M. Kornmesser -, CC BY 4.0,

Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, once said: “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

Fifty years ago, in 1966, Carl Sagan and Iosef Shklovskii estimated that 0.001 percent of all known stars might have planets capable of sustaining advanced life forms. They made this estimate by extrapolating the likelihood that two variables (the right kind of star with a planet exactly the right distance away) might be repeated elsewhere in the universe.

Twenty years ago, in 1996, the media had a heyday speculating whether extraterrestrial life may indeed exist, either on Mars or on planets around 47 Ursa Major, 51 Pegasi, 70 Virginis, and other stars. More planets were discovered that year than in the past two millennia. By then, however, the necessary variables had multiplied greatly, to more than 40.

Fast-forward to 2016. 

We’re now speculating whether life may exist on a planet circling Proxima Centauri. 

In his autobiography, celebrated early 20th century attorney Clarence Darrow remarked, “I cannot help feeling sorry for [its residents] when I think what a great deprivation they must suffer through living so far away from our glorious planet.”

Traveling at the fantastic velocity of 1.1 million miles an hour, one six-hundredth of the speed of light, it would take nearly 5,000 years to travel to Proxima Centauri.           

Regardless of distance, is it safe to conclude anybody is out there?

Ready for a surprise?

The Judeo-Christian scriptures are emphatic: yes, most definitely. God is out there—and here. Celestial beings, good and evil, are out there—and here. And for well over a century, Christian writers such as George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham, and others have welcomed the idea that other mortal forms of extraterrestrial life very well may exist.

If God is God, of course it is conceivable and possible. It is no threat to classic Christian belief. Nowhere does the Bible say God created life on this planet alone.