Extraterrestrials—Where Are They?
ACCORDING to science writer Isaac Asimov, this is “a question that, in a way, spoils everything” for those who believe in life on other planets. Originally posed in 1950 by nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, the question capped an argument that went something like this: If intelligent life has arisen on other planets in our galaxy, many civilizations should now exist that are millions of years ahead of our own. They should have developed interstellar travel long ago and spread abroad in the galaxy, colonizing and exploring at will. So where are they?
While some SETI scientists are admittedly shaken by this “Fermi paradox,” they often reply to it by pointing out how difficult it would be to voyage between the stars. Even at the speed of light, enormous though that is, it would take a spaceship a hundred thousand years to traverse just our own galaxy. Surpassing that speed is deemed impossible.
Science fiction that features ships hopping from one star to another in a matter of days or hours is fantasy, not science. The distances between stars are vast almost beyond our comprehension. In fact, if we could build a model of our galaxy so tiny that our sun (which is so huge that it could swallow a million earths) was shrunk to the size of an orange, the distance between the stars in this model would still average a thousand miles [some 1,500 km]!
That is why SETI scientists lean so strongly on radio telescopes; they imagine that since advanced civilizations might not travel between stars, they would still seek out other forms of life by the relatively cheap and easy means of radio waves. But Fermi’s paradox still haunts them.
American physicist Freeman J. Dyson has concluded that if advanced civilizations exist in our galaxy, finding evidence of them should be as easy as finding signs of technological civilization on Manhattan Island in New York City. The galaxy should be buzzing with alien signals and their immense engineering projects. But none have been found. In fact, one article on the subject noted that “searched, found nothing” has become like a religious chant for SETI astronomers.
The Doubts Begin
A number of scientists are beginning to realize that their colleagues have made far too many optimistic assumptions in addressing this question. Such scientists come up with a much lower number of advanced civilizations in our galaxy. Some have said that there is but one—us. Others have said that mathematically, there should be fewer than one—even we shouldn’t be here!
The basis for their skepticism is not hard to see. It could be summed up with two questions: If such extraterrestrials existed, where would they live? And how did they get there?
‘Why, they would live on planets,’ some might reply to the first question. But there is only one planet in our solar system that is not downright hostile to life, the one we occupy. But what about the planets circling the thousands of millions of other stars in our galaxy? Might not some of them harbor life? The fact is that up to now scientists have not conclusively proved the existence of a single planet outside of our solar system. Why not?
Because to detect one is exceedingly difficult. Since stars are so distant and planets do not emit any light of themselves, detecting even a giant planet, such as Jupiter, is like trying to spot a speck of dust floating around a powerful light bulb miles away.
Even if such planets do exist—and some indirect evidence has accumulated to indicate that they do—this still does not mean that they orbit precisely the right kind of star in the right galactic neighborhood, at precisely the right distance from the star, and are themselves of precisely the right size and composition to sustain life.
A Crumbling Foundation
Yet, even if many planets do exist that meet the stringent conditions necessary to sustain life as we know it, the question remains, How would life arise on those worlds? This brings us to the very foundation of the belief in beings on other worlds—evolution.
To many scientists, it seems logical to believe that if life could evolve from nonliving matter on this planet, that could be true on others as well. As one writer put it: “The general thinking among biologists is that life will begin whenever it is given an environment where it can begin.” But that is where evolution faces an insurmountable objection. Evolutionists cannot even explain how life began on this planet.
Scientists Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe estimate that the odds against life’s vital enzymes forming by chance are one in 1040,000 (1 with 40,000 zeros after it). Scientists Feinberg and Shapiro go still further. In their book Life Beyond Earth, they put the odds against the material in an organic soup ever taking the first rudimentary steps toward life at one in 101,000,000. If we were to write out that number, this magazine in your hand would be well over 300 pages thick!
Do you find these cumbersome figures hard to grasp? The word “impossible” is easier to remember, and it is just as accurate.*
Still, SETI astronomers blithely assume that life must have originated by chance all over the universe. Gene Bylinsky, in his book Life in Darwin’s Universe, speculates on the various paths evolution might have taken on alien worlds. He suggests that intelligent octopuses, marsupial men with pouches on their stomachs, and bat-people who make musical instruments are not at all farfetched. Renowned scientists have praised his book. However, other scientists, such as Feinberg and Shapiro, see the gaping flaw in such reasoning. They decry the “weakness in the basic experimental foundations” of scientists’ theories about how life got started on earth. They note, though, that scientists nonetheless “have used these foundations to erect towers that extend to the end of the Universe.”
The Wrong Religion
‘Why,’ you may wonder, ‘do so many scientists take the impossible for granted?’ The answer is simple and rather sad. People tend to believe what they want to believe. Scientists, for all their claims of objectivity, are not exempt from this human failing.
Hoyle and Wickramasinghe observe that “the theory that life was assembled by an intelligence” is “vastly” more probable than spontaneous generation. “Indeed,” they add, “such a theory is so obvious that one wonders why it is not widely accepted as being self-evident. The reasons are psychological rather than scientific.” Yes, many scientists recoil from the idea of a Creator, even though the evidence points that way. In the process, they have created a religion of their own. As the above authors see it, Darwinism simply replaces the word “God” with the word “Nature.”
So in answer to the question, “Is anyone out there?” science clearly gives no grounds for belief in life on other planets. In fact, as the years pass and the silence from the stars continues, SETI is a growing embarrassment to scientists who believe in evolution. If various types of life evolve readily from nonlife, then why do we not hear from them in this vast universe? Where are they?
On the other hand, if the question belongs in the realm of religion, how do we find an answer? Did God create life on other worlds?
The rest of evolutionary theory is equally fraught with trouble. Please see the book Life—How Did It Get Here? By Evolution or by Creation? published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
[Box on page 8]
Visitors From Beyond?
Many people believe that man is being visited, or has been visited in the past, by extraterrestrials. Scientists generally dismiss these claims; they cite the lack of verifiable evidence in all cases and maintain that most UFO (unidentified flying object) sightings can be explained by natural phenomena. They tend to relegate the abduction claims to unexplored areas of the troubled human psyche or to psychological and religious needs.
One science-fiction writer noted: “The urge to investigate and believe in this stuff is almost religious. We used to have gods. Now we want to feel we’re not alone, watched over by protective forces.” Further, some UFO experiences reek more of the occult than of science.
But many scientists believe in “visitors” in their own way. They see the impossibility of life originating by chance here on the earth, so they claim it must have drifted here from space. Some say that aliens seeded our planet with life by sending rockets loaded with primitive bacteria. One has even suggested that aliens visited our planet ages ago and that life originated by chance from the garbage they left behind! Some scientists draw conclusions from the evidence that simple organic molecules are fairly common in space. But is that really evidence for the chance formation of life? Is a hardware store evidence that a car must accidentally build itself there?
[Picture on page 7]
Even if other habitable planets exist, is there any evidence that life could originate on them by chance?