The media loves to enlighten us each year with strategically-timed pronouncements that some brainy scientist has discovered yet another Earth-like planet suitable for life in a galaxy far, far away. Ho-hum, yawn, and pardon me if I don’t click my heels.
In 2007, the Earth wannabe slathered across the headlines was Gliese 581d, a newish planet located the ideal distance from its star; one that, so we were told, more than likely contained the elixir of life itself: precious water. The papers, internet, and nightly news programs were panting and all abuzz about the nirvanic possibilities of this “breakthrough” discovery, presenting it as if it were the greatest of news (“great,” I suppose, because it represented man’s rescue from himself).
Predictably, a host of similar discoveries soon followed; most notably, in 2010, with the even more highly touted Gliese 581g. It was determined to have such an optimal orbit that, according to one astronomer, “The chances of life on this planet are 100%.” Most reassuring of all, though, were his next words: “I have almost no doubt about it.” One gets the sense that if not for the qualifier almost, “the chances of life” would have blasted right through that ever-illusory 100% certitude barrier to parts beyond.
Yes indeed, the media gets all drooly over the slightest peep from the scientific elite about other habitable worlds. How telling, then, that such reports do not receive comparably prominent retractions when they prove to be false. Most of us who browsed the daily headlines in 2007 and 2010 couldn’t help but be aware of the Gliese worlds; but few knew that in 2013 the “discoverers” of these “planets” admitted there were no such objects after all. It turns out, the Doppler shift data was coming from the star itself, and that the Glieses d and g were figments of man’s wishful thinking, a reach that exceeds his grasp.
So why would they bury this follow-up story instead of further “enlightening” the public with the correct and amended information? I have a foolproof theory of which I’m almost 100% certain. First, some background.
ARE WE ALONE?
We often hear that it’s presumptuous to believe we are alone in the universe–that it’s the height of egotism to think for one moment that there isn’t intelligent life on other planets. The illuminati party line goes something like this: Centuries ago, man in his ignorance and vanity thought the Sun orbited the Earth; that is until in the16th century when Copernicus showed us it was the other way around (pun intended). So you see, Earth is not the center of the galaxy and hence man is not so special after all. The manifesto thrums to its conclusion: We humans are most assuredly not alone in the universe. We are just insignificant specs on a tiny blue ball in the greater cosmos, a place so vast that we could not possibly be the only ones.
Now admittedly, I’m no expert astronomer. Then again, last I checked, neither did an astronomer write the Bible (which so happens to have a thing or two to say about this matter). But thankfully, one doesn’t need to be a trained astrophysicist or a seminary graduate to sort out why so many seem vested in these claims of other worlds. Being an amateur philosopher before an open Bible is qualification enough. Since I qualify on both counts, here goes my attempt:
God chose to create (Genesis 1:1), but He didn’t have to; for He is sufficient in and of Himself. Thus it must be that it gave God great pleasure to make the universe, to create man in His image, and to give us a home in that universe. And for the same reason that nothing inherently compelled Him to create us, nothing compelled Him to make other beings (or other planets) either. But suppose He chose to do so–to make thousands of other Earth-like planets with beings much like ourselves. Would that make you or me any less significant in His eyes? I would think not. On the other hand, if we are in fact the only beings in the universe, would that make us any more significant in His eyes? Again, I would think not. In either case, we are already utterly significant for the simple reason that God, out of the depths of His love, chose to make us at all. The well-known verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life,” reveals just how much He loves us. And if we take this passage at face value our significance becomes undeniable, to an infinite degree! God loves Earthlings! Pass it on.
SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
Is it egotistical for man to proclaim we are alone in the universe? Not necessarily. Our place in the universe is for God to decide. He, not we, hung the moon and the stars. If anything, I would think it is egotistical for man to pronounce we couldn’t be alone in the universe. Fair enough you say, but the question remains: Do other planets harboring life exist? Candidly, I don’t know the answer. You can certainly find a crowd of theologians, philosophers, and scientists on all sides of the issue. But, if I had to guess–based on the philosophical reasons already discussed, as well as on theological reasons found particularly in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, and which are beyond the orbit of this article–I would say “no.” Though to be fair, I know there are many thoughtful followers of Jesus who would answer “yes” to that same question. It’s certainly not a salvific matter, but it can be a revelatory one. In point of fact these questions and others like them expose man’s view of God much more so than God’s view of man.
Take as one example the subset of men and women who deny the existence of God but still believe (perhaps the better word is demand) that there exist multiple life-giving planets. There seems to me a defensiveness and more than a whiff of desperation in their assertion that there must be life elsewhere in the universe. For as we’ve seen, so hopefully are these claims declared, and yet so recklessly are they attended. Now in thinking the best of them–and here I speculate–perhaps it is simply comforting to believe other worlds or beings exist. It makes them feel good to believe they are not alone, and so gives them hope that some other intelligence (besides God) is out there that could possibly solve their earthly woes, or at the very least provide a safe haven from them. But in the interest of transparency of authorship, I confess my sense is that many of those who deny that God exists are preoccupied with the mantra “other earth-like planets must exist” for evasive purposes. They dance the galactic two-step to avoid surrendering their wills back to God.
MY THEORY EXPOSED
And now I’ve done it. I’ve tried so hard to be balanced in my presentation, diplomatic and fair, but the cat is out of the bag: many of those who deny the existence of God choose to distract themselves by pretending other stars and worlds will solve their problems in order to avoid giving their allegiance to the Creator who made it all to start with. They are not unlike spoiled teenagers who borrow Dad’s car, soon feel entitled, and then refuse to return the keys.
For the Christian it is refreshingly different. He knows there are no other planets or beings (real or imagined) in the universe who will solve his woes. Better still, he embraces the God who transcends the universe and broke into our world to solve them already. One day, perhaps soon, the whole world will find that out. Until then, you’ll have to forgive me when I yawn at such other-worldly pronouncements. They are astronomically interesting–I suppose possible, even–but in the grand scheme of things they matter not. However there is another pronouncement coming that matters a great deal, and that all people would do well to heed. One that is sure to dominate the headlines for seven years, if I had to guess.
I hope this encourages you today.
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