No one gave a thought to the older worlds of space as sources of human danger, or thought of them only to dismiss the idea of life upon them as impossible or improbable. It is curious to recall some of the mental habits of those departed days. At most, terrestrial men fancied that there might be other men upon Mars, perhaps inferior to themselves and ready to welcome a missionary enterprise. Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.” -From The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Man has often been fascinated by the idea that life would exist on a world outside of our own. Some of history’s and modern society’s most notable scientists revel in considering the possibility of extraterrestrial life.
The most recent discussion on alien life forms has been caused by the discovery of the first earth-sized planets. One (the Kepler 20e) is slightly smaller than Venus, or about 0.87 times the radius of the earth; and the other, (the Kepler 20f) is slightly larger than earth, with a radius 1.03 times the radius of earth. Unfortunately, neither of these planets (found by NASA’s Kepler program, a search for habitable planets) are habitable. The Kepler 20f maintains a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit, and the Kepler 20e has a temperature more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit — hot enough to melt glass. That’s some serious global warming.
Astronomers were ecstatic to find these planets. Not because they thought they had found something habitable (which they didn’t), but because these are the first earth-sized planets they have ever found. That is, the first planets they have found that even has a chance of being habitable. But to think that up until now we have never even been able to find any indication that there could be other habitable planets is surprising. And it is with this new information that believers is extraterrestrial life have found confidence. Yet many are still not pleased with the lack of scientific discovery.
Charles Krauthammer wrote a commentary soon after the discovery lamenting at our inability to find other life forms. He found our lack of discovery maddening, “Not just because it compounds our feeling of cosmic isolation. But because it makes no sense. As we inevitably find more and more exo-planets where intelligent life can exist, why have we found no evidence — no signals, no radio waves — that intelligent life does exist?”
Interestingly enough, many of the scientists who believe in extraterrestrials are atheists. Perhaps the two most notable are Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. Sagan spent most of his life supporting the SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), so much so that the SETI Institute has a Carl Sagan Center. Hawking’s most famous assessment of alien life was in his Discovery series Into the Universe. In one episode, he instructed viewers to stop trying to find or contact alien life forms because they are probably far more advanced, and ruthless imperialists. He supposes that these aliens would only come and steal our resources, moving from planet to planet, harvesting unsurpassed energy from stars, creating worm holes, and attacking earth — so stop contacting them. Or to paraphrase, just stop it.
In the face of such claims and discoveries, Christians often ask, “What does the Bible say about alien life?” The direct answer is, not much. There is no book, chapter, or verse in which God outlines his creation of aliens, or His prohibition of our belief in them. But there are many indications in the Bible which demonstrate that the existence of extraterrestrials is highly unlikely.
Usually when we read Genesis 1, we focus on the creation of earth — indeed, most of the chapter is spent there. But it also outlines His creation of the universe. It tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. And later it tells us about the creation of the sun, moon, and stars. “God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:16-18). I am led to believe that if alien life were possible, it would mention this somewhere in the outlining of the creation of the universe. But we find here, and throughout the Bible, that God spends His focus on earth, not other life forms.
In Romans 8:19-22, Paul tells us that Adam’s sin and the fall of man affected all creation. So they wouldn’t just be aliens, but depraved aliens. So if aliens did exist, they would be affected by the fall of the earthlings. And if Christ died for sinners (Romans 5:8), then he also died for depraved aliens — but how would they know? How would we know how they would know? We don’t know.
Such a supposition also presents a vocabulary problem. Romans 5:8, and many other verses, say that Christ died for sinners; but John 3:16, and other verses, say that Christ died for the world. This presents a problem because the world, would imply the earth; but if the fall affected all of creation, then Christ died for the universe. If life beyond our planet did not exist, there would be no problem. Similar doctrinal problems would ensue.
From a Christian standpoint, however, it is not impossible. God is the arbiter, creator, and controller of all things (Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 51:15, Acts 17:24); so it is within the power of God to create another living species and place them on a habitable planet. But nothing we have found, in the Bible or in science, indicates that He has done this.
Attempts to prove that there is life on other planets are often efforts to diminish the uniqueness in our own existence. Enrico Fermi is partly famous for his Fermi Paradox, which asks why we have not found extraterrestrials; being unique doesn’t make sense. And yet, it makes perfect sense when we view how God made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). We are sacred because we are made in His image; humanity is unique because it is sacred.
Krauthammer says in his piece, “[A] lonely species in a merciless universe anxiously awaits an answering voice amid utter silence. That silence is maddening.” Maddening? The silence can be maddening, until you realize that everything was created by the greatest Extraterrestrial. As John Lennox said, “It always amuses me that atheists often argue for the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence beyond earth. Yet they are only too eager to denounce the possibility that there exists a vast, intelligent being ‘out there’—God.”
Some atheists even believe that humanity originated from aliens who planted seeds and left. Yet even this theory does not escape the problems with evolution since the next logical argument is that the aliens were formed by chance. If atheism and evolution are true, this universe should either be teeming with life, or with no life at all. If a huge explosion, goo, and a million years could ever form life, we should see it everywhere. It would be like a Star Trek episode where almost every planet has a life form of its own, having evolved and changed according to the conditions of each planet.
Interestingly enough, Carl Sagan believed that the reason we don’t find intelligent life, is because advanced civilizations kill themselves. Stephen Hawking has expressed a similar view in Into the Universe. This reveals that some of our most advanced atheist scientists are now recognizing the depravity of man. Our nature is self-destruction by sin, the solution (the part Sagan and Hawking miss) is Christ. They have a feeling inside, like Fermi, that asks, “Where is everybody?” When we eliminate God from all equations, there is still an emptiness inside which cries out for something beyond ourselves.
This reach by atheist scientists into the unknown universe in search of other intelligent beings are ignoring the greatest Intelligent Being, who we know and can talk to. It reminds me of Acts 17 when Paul visited Athens and took a gander at all their idols, noting that one of their idols was dedicated, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Paul makes that unknown God known to them (Acts 17:23) — and we should do the same.
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” –Acts 17:24-31 NIV, 1984