Thursday, March 8, 2012

Extraterrestrial Life?

Like everyone else, I'm fascinated by the idea of intelligent life existing elsewhere than on this one planet.  I've no idea what that might do to Christian thinking, but that doesn't worry me a bit.  Truth can always handle newly-learned facts.  It would be so, so cool to find "brothers and sisters" from some other planet!

Some astronomers are trying to tell us that with the billions of galaxies and untold numbers of planets, it's inevitable there will be life on some of them.  But guess what?  If we go by pure chance, we may as well forget about any life as we know it existing elsewhere, much less intelligent life.  It takes more than a planet simply being the right distance from its sun.  It has to be the right size, and tilted at just the right number of degrees.  That sun also has to be the right size and the right age.  That planet also has to have a moon of the right size and in the right place.  It has to have neigboring planets bigger than it is, to deflect away from it the larger asteroids, but not so much bigger as to swallow up the planet in question, nor knock it too far off a regular orbit.  The planet has to have a molten core and it has to have plate techtonics, for reasons I forget.  It has to have enough volcanic activity to make an atmosphere, to shield life from the deadly radiation of its sun - but not enough volcanism to blot out the light of the sun.  There are dozens more conditions necessary for life as we know it, some of which which I've listed in previous posts, here and here .  And the chance of any one of these conditions being right is, in many cases, unimaginably small.  Never mind you have to have them all combined.

The key phrase here is "life as we know it".  Some may like to argue that perhaps our minds are too small, our imaginations too limited, to grasp the nature of the life that is surely out there.  One such person gave as her example the weird life forms discovered not so long ago in the very deep sea, where light virtually does not penetrate.  How can there be life without light?  It's a pretty good example, because these creatures (if memory serves) take their energy and minerals from the earth's hot core instead of from the Sun, a phenomenon previously unimagined.  However, these are still variations of "life as we know it". 

Even if we move to the realm of fantasy and think of things like the Medusa or faun or cyclops, these are still imaginary recombinations of known life forms.  Take a human upper half and put a fishy lower half on it and you have a mermaid.  Put a man's head and torso on a bull's body and you have a centaur.

Life as we do not know it would be, for example, ghosts.  But ghosts supposedly originate right here on earth.

Angelic life?  How can there be life without a body?  Without size or shape or dimension or temperature or weight or velocity or color, no eating, no drinking, no reproduction, so that each angel is sui generis?   Now there, truly, is an example of life as we do not know it!  But then nobody supposes angels originate from any specific planet. 

In any case, all of these examples are firmly outside the realm of science, whether because they are pure fantasy or because they are pure spirit. Any life as we do not know it is by definition strictly unscientific. 

So science must confine itself to pretty much variations on life as we do know it.  And the chances for that are so small that  if we read anywhere that "science tells us" there must be life out there, it doesn't.  It just doesn't.  Scientists may tell us that, but not on the basis of science. 

Of course if we want to step outside the very narrow confines of science and the scientific method, then things change.  If we want to acknowledge God, then we are no longer stuck with pure chance. 


Anam Cara said...

Horse. A centaur is half horse. I don't know what creature is half man and half bull. (well, maybe some politicians....)

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yup. The half bull creature is the Minotaur, I think.

GretchenJoanna said...

I love this. The phrase that comes to me is "a good romp." I hope that is not insulting - it was a pleasure to read and consider.

Anonymous said...

Good post. For us geocentrics, there would be no other life in the universe as the Earth is at the center of it all.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

@Gretchen Joanna: well, writing it also felt like a good romp! Thanks for your kind comments.

@Anonymous: Well, certainly Earth is the center of it all so far as you and I will ever know during our sojourn here.