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Is Anybody Out There?


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The universe boggles the mind, at least it does mine, and I'm a science fiction writer with a wild imagination.

Just think of it: Our sun is one of at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and the Milky Way is one of nearly 100 billion galaxies in the universe. If you've got a big enough calculator the total is at least 10 sextillion stars (one followed by 22 zeros). That's just a lower boundary; there're probably multiples more than that. What about all the planets around all those stars? There are guesses that range from the numerous sextillions to the nearly infinite.

Astronomers are making great progress in identifying planets in other systems, but it's difficult and there's a long ways to go. Without knowing the full number, though, astrophysicists have calculated that galaxies such as our Milky Way don't contain nearly enough “stuff” to hold together on their own. As many stars and planets as there are, the math doesn't work out. So they hypothesized a substance called “dark matter.” 

It's dark because it doesn't emit or reflect radiation as would be expected by normal matter. In fact, some 30 percent of the universe is believed to be composed of this exotic dark matter.

One of the projects slated for the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is to prove out some of the hypothesis of dark matter. Even more astounding is the revelation that the universe is not only expanding, but the rate of that expansion is accelerating. For this mystery physicists have devised an enigmatic force called “dark energy.” To grasp the magnitude of dark energy consider the following: If all of the 10 sextillion stars and all the planets (however many there are), comets, asteroids, and stellar gasses were combined, they would make up merely 4 percent of the energy density of the universe. The remaining 96 percent is composed of dark matter and dark energy.

Imagine how small the earth is compared with all the mass and energy of the cosmos! Just the vast number of stars and planets suggest that extra-terrestrial life should be common. Yet, even with those probabilities, there are those who believe that there is no life except on earth.

Some of the objections come from the rare earth hypothesis which says that the conditions for life on earth are unique: the size of the earth, the exact distance from the sun, the size of the moon, the magnetosphere, etc.

But what about the movie “Aliens,” where life is silicon-based instead of carbon-based? That wouldn't require a unique earth, would it?

If you don't like silicon then life could be based on phosphorous, sulfur or even arsenic. OK so maybe it's tough to think there might be little yellow sulfur people from the Gliese 581g star system (where astronomers recently found a perfect earth-sized planet).

How about the claim that there's no God? The accomplishments of the scientific process have been phenomenal, fueling an increase in those who claim there is no spiritual world, that there is only matter and energy. The rise in this belief has been especially prominent among young adults. But from another perspective, we know just a little bit about 4 percent of the known universe. If we've learned anything in the scientific age it should be the lessons of dark matter and dark energy. There's more to our existence than we can see, feel, or touch, or sense by the Visible Integral-Field Replicable Unit Spectrograph (being constructed to detect dark energy). The scientific process can only discover so much. If there is unknown stuff such as dark matter and dark energy, why is it such a stretch to believe there's a spiritual world completely outside of matter and energy?

No, science cannot conclude that we're alone. If anything, we should admit the probability of the opposite. The idea that there's nobody out there sounds to me like some wild science fiction!

Bruce Meyer
Bruce Meyerhttp://www.dominsions.com
Bruce Meyer writes about the relationship between the physical universe and the pursuit of spirituality.

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12 years ago

I really enjoyed your post, Bruce, and the responses.

Eric Blauer
Eric Blauer
12 years ago

JOB 38:4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God [beney ‘elohim] shouted for joy? (NKJV)

‘The Morning stars, and all the sons of God’….is a phrase that makes room for ‘others’ out there…at least in my mind. Many commentators make the argument that these are ‘angels’…maybe, but as soon as we get into trying to determine who and what quaslifies as a lifeform ‘outthere’…it seems to argue your point, that there’s way more we don’t know, than we do know.

That should breed humility and curisoity…two things that unfortunately have not been virtures discoverers have found among those already discovered.

Sam Fletcher
Sam Fletcher
12 years ago

Agreed. Think about this: We are made up of several gallons of water, about 40 lbs. of carbon, and assorted salts and minerals. All life on earth is made from these same kind of basic, readily available elements. It seems that “life” is what matter does given enough time and the right conditions. It’s far more improbably that there is no life on other worlds. And since matter is the same, no matter where you go in the universe, life on other worlds probably wouldn’t be so entirely different there that it is here.

If you look at things this way, I think it builds great respect for all living creatures here on earth, and respect for a life-giving creator who put such marvelous processes into action. You begin to see life as a flowing river of change where we are just a part of something much, much more glorious that we will ever possibly know.

Thomas J. Brown
Thomas J. Brown
12 years ago

> How about the claim that there’s no God?

Science makes no claims as to the existence or non-existence of any gods. Science and religion are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

> The scientific process can only discover so much. If there is unknown stuff such as dark matter and dark energy, why is it such a stretch to believe there’s a spiritual world completely outside of matter and energy?

We may not have discovered dark matter yet (or have we? I’m not up-to-date on the subject), but we have observed evidence of its existence since 1933.

The scientific process has the potential to discover everything that is discoverable. The reason it’s a stretch to believe there’s a spiritual world completely outside of matter and energy is that there’s no observable evidence of its existence.

We may not have seen dark matter, but we have observed its affects on other objects. We have not seen a spiritual world, and as far as science is concerned, we have seen no evidence of its existence.

Make no mistake, though: Science isn’t saying that a spiritual world does not exist or cannot exist. What science says is that, based on the current evidence we have, a spiritual world does not appear to exist, and appears not to be able to exist. Could evidence come to light that disproves the current thinking? Maybe. We’ll just have to keep applying the scientific method to further our understanding of the universe in which we live.

Hanane Neff-Loutf
Hanane Neff-Loutf
12 years ago

Hello everyone,
This is one of my favorite topics. Why a lot of people believe in science instead of God? Seriously?
Science is there to show how things work, with the help of science we realize how amazing is the universe, how perfect is our body, how precisely our life is balanced and sustained… Ok, what else? That is it! Science can’t answer 3 very important questions – Who created the universe? – Why are we here? – What happens after death?
Science is one of the strangest tools we have to prove that God exist… In this age where there is a big emphasis on science and technology, science is one of the most efficient ways in believing in God. At the same time, science can’t deny the existence of God… it is much harder to prove that God does not exist than proving that God exists, If you can’t find something it does not mean that it does not exist, did they look everywhere at the same time?


12 years ago

Thanks for this great post Bruce! I honestly haven’t given it a lot of though. Why? Because I look up at the sky and am completely overwhelmed by its massiveness.
It’s nice to read about both faith AND science in the same post – not something one finds very often!

Sam Fletcher
Sam Fletcher
12 years ago

I think one of the best facets of science it is nearly tyrannical insistence on self-criticism. Any claim to be put forward in the scientific is rigorously tested and questioned by expert upon expert. New information is tested, and the test itself is tested, to eliminate any mistakes. So many times do I wish organized religion would demonstrate the same commitment to discovering what is really the truth, testing and retesting new claims and assertions.

Melvin Ugly Old Man
Melvin Ugly Old Man
12 years ago

Way back in the year of 1830 a young man wrote the following:
And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine. And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.
Now realize that this was 70 years before Hubble would clear the smudge on a photographic plate and exclaim, “Eureka, there are galaxies beyond count out there”.
Up until 1911 men published the “Steady State” universe and had it all figured out. Now, 2011 and we don’t know what time is, gravity is, electric power is and we are only guessing that there is dark matter and dark energy out there. We do know that the young man was right and that there are planets ‘innumerable to man’, planets that have ‘passed away’ with their ‘heavens’ and that they continue to do so.
The young man also wrote that some of these had life, even human live on them.
That young man believed in God and had a very advanced and firm grasp on things that wouldn’t be known for almost 200 years. I wonder, is there a God or was the man just a wild science fiction writer like you Bruce.
Good post and I could add some ideas but you said all that has to be said.

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