Scientists have discovered a new planet they believe to be similar to earth, and it didn’t take long for speculation to abound regarding the existence of alien life.
Kepler-452b, as it’s called, orbits a habitable zone- an area around a star where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface- and is said to be about 6 billion years old. It has a sun similar to ours, and could have a rocky composition, but it’s 60% larger than earth, 5% farther from its sun than we are to ours, and one year is 385 days long. Dr. Jon Jenkins of NASA said, “This is the closest thing that we have to another planet like the Earth.”
So far, according to NASA, scientists have confirmed the discovery of 1,030 planets with the Kepler exoplanet explorer, and it’s their hope to find another earth, or what’s known as “Earth 2.0”. Kepler-452b, which is 1,400 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation, is thought to be the closest in size and similarity to earth, so they wonder if it has all the necessary conditions for life to exist.
But with this discovery came some inevitable swipes at religion and the Bible. Marine biologist Dr. Jeff Schweitzer wrote a piece for the Huffington Post and said, “With this discovery, we come ever closer to the idea that life is common in the universe.” He argues that there are likely millions or billions of earth-like planets in the universe, and if we ever find alien life, then that’s “Bad news for God.”
Schweitzer is predicting that evidence of alien life would cause a re-write of history by the world’s major religions; they will claim their religion is consistent with such a discovery, but his goal is to declare such claims nonsense! He insists that life on another planet is completely incompatible with religious tradition, and to suggest otherwise requires twists of logic, contorted justifications, and is an “ex-post facto rationalization to preserve a myth.”
The Bible, he argues, makes certain claims, such as the earth is at the center of the universe, only humans are made in the image of God, and all life was created in six days. He also considers it a problem that God said, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) when there were stars more than 13 billion years old in existence at the time. He goes on to say that the Bible mentions nothing about alien life, even though God would have known he had made them. And even though some people accept that the days of creation are allegorical, Schweitzer is adamant that the days are literal earth days because they’re tied to the seasons on earth. And that means that there’s no room for alien life in the Bible. Therefore, the discovery of alien life would undermine God and the Bible.
Schweitzer does make a few good points, but his hostility towards God is apparent, and he ends up making some sloppy mistakes. I agree with him that Genesis describes a 24-hour day. And he’s right that the Bible tells us that God created man in his image, while not mentioning that he created anything else in his image. Such an omission would be problematic if there were other beings created in his image that we know nothing about. Mankind was the masterpiece of God’s creation precisely because we were created in his image. So there’s no logical reason to suspect alien races were also created in his image. But he’s wrong when he claims that the Bible tells us that the earth is at the center of the universe. There’s no Scripture passage to support that claim.
I also disagree with Schweitzer about the passage in Genesis 1:3 when God said, “Let there be light”. He’s mixing secular cosmology with Biblical cosmology and makes some fundamental mistakes. The source of light on day one wasn’t the sun. It couldn’t have been because God didn’t create the sun, moon and stars until day four (Genesis 1:14-19). Instead, God would have been the source of light, much like it will be in heaven (Revelation 21:23-26, Revelation 22:5, Isaiah 60:19-20). Further, I believe the earth and the universe are much less than 10,000 years old, so there are no stars or planets that are billions of years old. That’s a secular construct based on unnecessary evolutionary assumptions.
But he’s right that the existence of aliens would be problematic and undermine religion. I don’t see any passage in the Bible that hints at alien life, and such a discovery would call into question why God would omit such a huge detail. Are aliens meant to be a test of faith? How would the aliens be affected by sin? Would they be sinless, or would they have been corrupted by Adam’s sin? Would they be in need of a savior, and would Christ have to become one of them and die for them as well? Or would his death on the cross be enough to bring them salvation? And would we need to send missionaries and introduce them to the gospel message? At some point we’d have to sufficiently address all these issues.
But such speculation is moot because we haven’t found any evidence of alien life, and I’m inclined to say that we never will because they don’t exist. Those who think like Schweitzer assume that just because there are so many planets that exist, one of them must have evolved life. But such thinking is based on evolutionary assumptions- namely that, given enough time, life will spontaneously generate and inevitably evolve into some kind of intelligent organism capable of space travel. But Biblically thinking, if God didn’t create life on other planets, then there’s no chance of alien life existing on another planet.
Schweitzer is basing his entire article on “what if”. He’s basically mocking Christianity and religion because they’ll have a difficult time IF alien life is ever discovered. But that’s not the case. There is no evidence of alien life. Everywhere we’ve searched in space is completely devoid of life. We’ve spent millions and billions of dollars on space exploration and have found nothing. So why should we be so fearful of a “what if”? I don’t expect that day to ever come, so I’ll have to admit I’m wrong IF that day ever comes. But what Schweitzer and other atheists need to be worried about is what happens if we NEVER discover evidence of alien life? Are they prepared to disavow atheism and become Christians? Will they admit that a universe void of alien life is problematic and would undermine evolution and atheism?
I suspect not. I predict that they would bend-over-backwards, make contorted justifications to support their view, cite passages from other atheists suggesting that the non-existence of aliens is consistent and predictable according to evolutionary ideas and declare victory.
It’s also worth noting that back in 2010 scientists discovered Gliese 581g, another earth-like planet in the habitable zone, and scientists were abuzz, contemplating alien life. But a strange thing happened. Paul Robertson of Penn State University said, “Gliese 581g doesn’t exist.” And then we found out that neither does Glies 581d, another planet they hoped had evolved aliens.
So what happened? Well, scientists detect wobbles caused by the gravitational pull of a planet on the star. But it turned out that the wobbles weren’t caused by a planet at all; they were actually the result of stellar activity, or stars pots.
With this in mind, it’s possible that Kepler 452b doesn’t even exist. But even if it does, there’s still no reason to suspect the existence of aliens.
Nonetheless, Schweitzer seems to have missed something else. Religion has already accommodated alien life. The Pope has declared that aliens have souls and could go to heaven if they exist, and he’d even baptize them. Other religious leaders have made similar comments, so Schweitzer is already late to the game with his predictions. Further, another writer over at the Huffington Post has already weighed in. Shastri Purushotma took his turn defending the compatibility of alien life with religion. I don’t agree with all his points, but it demonstrates that religion has already accommodated the existence of aliens.
Fellow blogger Clyde Herrin tackled Schweitzer’s article as well and I’ll link to his review, which has a slightly different take.