A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

Are we alone?

This question has intrigued humanity for millennia. Hollywood has made billions of dollars producing movies that speculate on the answer. Philosophers and theologians have spent countless hours debating this very question. Even late-night talk show hosts and tabloid journalists have joined the game. Only for the last few decades have scientists been able to contribute any hard data; but the data they provide make a compelling case that Earth alone is designed to support life. Here are two recent examples.

Science Daily ran an article with a great headline, “The Aliens Are Silent because They’re Dead.” The title refers to Fermi’s Paradox. If, as some calculations show, the galaxy is teeming with alien societies, where are they? Why haven’t we seen them here on Earth or at least detected some signals from them in outer space? Scientists have proffered many answers. Perhaps Earth is a big zoo where these aliens observe us in an undetectable way. Maybe after a cost-benefit analysis, the aliens decided against colonizing the galaxy. The people claiming to see UFOs assert that aliens are visiting Earth, but Science Daily describes a more logical option.

Habitable Planets Need Life

From the moment life first appeared on Earth, it began altering the face of the planet. From changing the atmospheric oxygen and nitrogen, to enriching the oceans with nutrients and removing poisons, to recycling Earth’s biomass, life keeps Earth habitable. Now consider a recently formed habitable planet orbiting a star, and assume this planet actually hosts life. What would happen if that life did not change its environment quickly enough to counteract the dramatic astronomical and geological changes that occur on a young planet? The planet would experience runaway heating or cooling and any life would rapidly die.

It seems that many (if not all) exoplanets with hypothetical life could see that life snuffed out before it makes the planet sufficiently habitable. The scientists involved refer to this as a Gaian bottleneck.1 Such a scenario highlights Earth’s remarkable characteristics, which enable our world to support a diverse array of life 4.5 billion years after it formed.

Habitable Planets Need Rotations

Another possible scenario that would make advanced life rare (or unique to Earth) relates to the circadian rhythms (internal clocks) that govern our bodies. Studies show mice with circadian rhythms out of sync with Earth’s rotation have dramatically lower survivability compared to mice with a 24-hour rhythm.2 If circadian rhythms could vary without bounds, then presumably life would simply adapt to the host planet’s rotation period. However, if bounds exist, then only planets with the proper rotation rate could host complex life. One relevant scenario where this would apply is on planets around M-dwarf stars. Since these stars make up 75 percent of all stars many scientists hold hope that exoplanets around M-dwarfs will host life. However, planets in the habitable zone around these stars don’t rotate. Consequently, it would be impossible to align the circadian rhythms of any hypothetical life with the planet’s clock. Given the unusual set of events that determine Earth’s rotation, such as the collision that formed the Moon, maybe otherwise habitable exoplanets could not host advanced life.

Astronomers still need to learn more before we can truly answer whether life exists beyond Earth’s confines. The advances they have made so far continue to support the idea that only Earth is designed to support life. Such an idea comports well with the biblical description of God who created and fashioned Earth for just that purpose.

Subjects: Astronomy, Exoplanets

Check out more from Reasons to Believe  @ Reasons.org

About The Author

Jeff Zweerink

Since my earliest memories, science and the Christian faith have featured prominently in my life - but I struggled when my scientific studies seemed to collide with my early biblical training. My first contact with RTB came when I heard Hugh Ross speak at Iowa State University. It was the first time I realized it was possible to do professional work incorporating both my love of science and my desire to serve God. I knew RTB's ministry was something I was called to be a part of. While many Christians and non-Christians see the two as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. My passion at RTB is helping Christians see how powerful a tool science is to declare God's glory and helping scientists understand how the established scientific discoveries demonstrate the legitimacy and rationality of the Christian faith. While many Christians and non-Christians see the two as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Jeff Zweerink thought he would follow in his father's footsteps as a chemistry professor until a high school teacher piqued his interest in physics. Jeff pursued a BS in physics and a PhD in astrophysics at Iowa State University (ISU), where he focused his study on gamma rays - messengers from distant black holes and neutron stars. Upon completing his education, Jeff taught at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Postdoctoral research took him to the West Coast, to the University of California, Riverside, and eventually to a research faculty position at UCLA. He has conducted research using STACEE and VERITAS gamma-ray telescopes, and currently works on GAPS, a balloon experiment seeking to detect dark matter. A Christian from childhood, Jeff desired to understand how the worlds of science and Scripture integrate. He struggled when his scientific studies seemed to collide with his early biblical training. While an undergrad at ISU, Jeff heard Hugh Ross speak and learned of Reasons to Believe (RTB) and its ministry of reconciliation - tearing down the presumed barriers between science and faith and introducing people to their personal Creator. Jeff knew this was something he was called to be a part of. Today, as a research scholar at RTB, Jeff speaks at churches, youth groups, universities, and professional groups around the country, encouraging people to consider the truth of Scripture and how it connects with the evidence of science. His involvement with RTB grows from an enthusiasm for helping others bridge the perceived science-faith gap. He seeks to assist others in avoiding the difficulties he experienced. Jeff is author of Who's Afraid of the Multiverse? and coauthor of more than 30 journal articles, as well as numerous conference proceedings. He still serves part-time on the physics and astronomy research faculty at UCLA. He directs RTB's online learning programs, Reasons Institute and Reasons Academy, and also contributes to the ministry's podcasts and daily blog, Today's New Reason to Believe. When he isn’t participating in science-faith apologetics Jeff enjoys fishing, camping, and working on home improvement projects. An enthusiastic sports fan, he coaches his children's teams and challenges his RTB colleagues in fantasy football. He roots for the Kansas City Chiefs and for NASCAR's Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon. Jeff and his wife, Lisa, live in Southern California with their five children.

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