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3 Ways Planet Earth Stands Out

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  • 3 Ways Planet Earth Stands Out

    I am not alone in thinking that the Earth may be unique, and may be the only place in this universe where intelligent life exists.

    3 Ways Planet Earth Stands Out
    March 24, 2016



    By Dr. Jeff Zweerink



    Is Earth special? A large fraction of the scientific community doesn’t think so. In fact, most have adopted the Copernican principle, believing that Earth’s capacity to support life is commonplace. However, a number of factors indicate that Earth may be rare (or possibly unique) in its capacity to support life—even among the 100 sextillion terrestrial planets in the observable universe, according to a recent paper.

    In two decades, the exoplanet catalog has grown to over 2,000 known exoplanets. Using data from those planets and host stars, astronomers have developed models to determine information about planets not yet discovered. Based on those models, astronomers have estimated that the observable universe contains around 1020terrestrial planets!1 For comparison, somewhere between 1022–1024 stars exist in the observable universe, so roughly one in a hundred stars have rocky planets. These models also allow astronomers to compare terrestrial exoplanets to Earth. Amidst the comparisons, Earth stands out in at least three ways.

    1. Age: Earth is younger.

    While most terrestrial exoplanets are between –8.4 billion years old, Earth is much younger, only 4.5 billion years old. Why is such a young planet habitable? This is probably because older planets (that formed earlier in the history of the universe) are subject to dynamical and radiation effects that diminish the possibility of hosting life.

    2. Galaxy type: Most planets reside in the wrong galaxies.

    The number of planets per star remains largely constant with galaxy size; so, most terrestrial planets reside in galaxies about twice the size of the Milky Way. However, the vast majority of galaxies this large are not spiral but elliptical. Consequently, most of the terrestrial planets in the universe reside in ellipticals, but research suggests that truly habitable planets must orbit stars in a spiral galaxy—such as the Milky Way.

    3. “Dangerous” neighbors: Earth has none.

    Most planets that orbit otherwise life-friendly stars might have any hypothetical life exterminated due to radiation from nearby supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, active galactic nuclei, or dark matter annihilation regions. Dynamical encounters with interstellar gas clouds or dark matter clumps could also disrupt the stability of potentially habitable planets.

    One theological point warrants discussion. The Bible gives much information about God’s activity to bring about human life here on Earth, but it says nothing about whether He performed similar work somewhere else in the universe. Except for angelic beings (they have no physical body), the Bible leaves open the question of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe. However, it emphatically states that all things exist because of His divine action (see John 1:1–3).

    It seems likely scientific discoveries will continue to provide a growing body of evidence that Earth’s habitability is the exception instead of the rule. Astronomers have much work to do before they have the capacity to determine whether life exists beyond Earth, but the search is interesting from both a theological and scientific perspective.

    Food for Thought

    Would finding life on a planet outside our solar system diminish the case for God? Visit TNRTB on Wordpress to comment with your response.

    Endnotes
    1. Erik Zackrisson et al., “Terrestrial Planets across Space and Time,” Astrophysical Journal, preprint, submitted February 1, 2016, http://arxiv.org/abs/1602.00690.
    Subjects: Astronomy, Exoplanets
    Dr. Jeff Zweerink

    While many Christians and non-Christians see faith and science as in perpetual conflict, I find they integrate well. They operate by the same principles and are committed to discovering foundational truths. Read more about Dr. Jeff Zweerink.





    Note from Lou:

    Our Sun is in a part of space that is almost empty. It is 2/3's of the way out from the center of our galaxy and also is in between two spiral arms. That part of our galaxy is almost empty. That means if a star supernovas it is far enough away not to kill all life on the earth. If we were in a crowded part of the galaxy nearby stars would supernova and would have killed all life on earth several times.

    Most stars are Red Dwarfs and it has been shown that any planet in the habitable zone of a Red dwarf star would be tidally locked to that star. That means the same side of the planet would be facing the star constantly. Which means that one side of the planet would be extremely hot and the other side would be extremely cold.

    Our solar system is very young compared to other stars. Most stars are far older. If there was life on other stars, that are billions of years older, certainly they would have contacted us by now, for they would be billions of years more advanced.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Lou Newton View Post
    Our solar system is very young compared to other stars. Most stars are far older. If there was life on other stars, that are billions of years older, certainly they would have contacted us by now, for they would be billions of years more advanced.
    Wonderful article and comments, Lou. Thanks.

    The Copernican Principle claims that Earth is not special, and life should be found teeming everywhere simply by the volume of the universe. Unbelievers have gone to great lengths to rationalize why we have not found evidence of life elsewhere.

    The Fermi Paradox expresses this conundrum: if life is as common as statistics suggest, why have we not found evidence of its abundance? Theories to rationalize the Fermi Paradox invent natural obstacles to life evolving (even though evolution is a failing theory).

    One such theory is The Great Filter. It says that there is some unknown obstacle that intelligent life must overcome before it can be civilized enough to develop space-faring tech and interstellar communication; and that this obstacle is a planet killer. No one knows what the great filter is because we have not overcome it yet: so there is this looming unknown challenge ahead of us that will wipe us out unless we invest all we have in the arm of flesh.

    Another theory is the Kardashev Scale, which posits that there are levels of technological discovery that advance intelligence in leaps and bounds: harnessing combustible fuels, earth power, sun power, and so on. It incorporates an axiom whereby an advanced intelligence becomes unintelligible to beings of lower intelligence, so the less intelligent would not perceive or recognize the advanced. This theory reminds me of a mash up of the ascended master, directed evolution, becoming god, transhumanism/singularity religions; a god of forces.

    I note that those theories do not need God. They have no place for Him, nor do they attempt to leave room for Him. These are thought experiments penned by men who require empirical proof of God: show us a sign; and in their arrogance might ignore all signs anyway. Indeed, they operate under the supposed axiom that pure science must not consider the unseen heavenly truths--even though the sound logic and deductive philosophical reasoning they prize so highly is an unseen thing of God. Whatever sciences we learn and local problems we overcome, and whether the great filter and Kardashev scale have any validity (this is me crediting God as infinite and past finding out), I still look around at the endless arms race endemic to the tree of knowledge of good and evil and it remains clear to me that we really, really need God.

    And, considering the evidence, we seem to be living in a very, very rare and peculiarly blessed place.
    Last edited by Baruch; March 30, 2016, 03:19 PM.

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