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Editor’s note: This column is adapted from Rutz’s latest book, “The Meaning of Life.”
I shake my head every time NASA or the press makes one of its periodic statements about our “search for life” on Mars or in outer space.
What they’re actually searching for, mostly, is life that has evolved on its own, without any help from our local God. Their unspoken yet hilarious assumption is that if we can find little green men on Planet Goombah orbiting star HD 219879 a few gazillion light years west of Earth, then that will prove life evolves on its own, far beyond the turf of our primitive local Yahweh (Jehovah). So the moment they find even a microscopic fungus cell Out There Somewhere, you will hear the media chorus singing, “God is dead!”
They feel that life must be commonplace across the universe. Yes, just find a nice star with a warm planet, add water and voil? – instant life, leaping upward from protozoa to fish to Cindy Crawford. In other words, they say, life is no big deal. With beaucoup of planets out there, “odds dictate” that a whole potful of them must be supporting life.
Well, when odds aren’t connected to scientific facts, they don’t dictate anything. The hard evidence shows that our sloshy little rock is likely the only spot in the cosmos where intelligent life could exist. Even if you were to make the romantic assumption that macroevolution is real, you still would have to face a strong likelihood that the most advanced “life” in other worlds would be a few miserable bacteria cringing underground for protection from a highly poisonous atmosphere on some doomed planet swinging wildly around a volatile star.
Why? Because we now know that the requirements for life are so stringent and intricate that getting “life by chance” is as likely as getting an unabridged dictionary from an explosion in a print shop.
Consider just a few criteria (adapted mostly from the new bombshell book, “Privileged Planet”). To host intelligent life, you need:
- A nice, gentle, fat, middle-aged, sunlike star. Our sun is a relatively rare, good-sized (in the top 9 percent of the Milky Way), even-tempered, luminous, main sequence G2 dwarf ball of hydrogen and helium, exploding with about 1,038 fusion reactions per second. If it were 30 percent smaller or 50 percent larger, it couldn’t have a planet with intelligent life. If it were a youngster, prone to erratic violence, it would zap life on Earth with radiation all day long. And if it were old – let’s not even go there.
- A third-row seat with a climate somewhere between the Sahara and Siberia. Get stuck in the second row and you get a fried face. Go back two rows and you have icicles hanging from your nose. In more scientific terms, if Earth were 5 percent closer or 20 percent farther from the Sun, it would not support life. And given a solar system our size, mere chance would put a planet into this Goldilocks zone one time out of 150.
- A round, steady orbit. Egg-shaped orbits are common, but hazardous to your health. You could get a great tan in the summer (even inside your house), but a terrible cold in the winter – meaning ice floes in your veins.
- One beefy moon. Next time you look at the Moon, thank the Lord … because if it weren’t there, you wouldn’t be here. The Moon isn’t just a cool celestial decoration for evening lovers; it keeps the Earth rotating in line with the Sun instead of spinning end over end and wiping out life century after century. A smaller moon couldn’t do that. And two moons would mess everything up royally.
- A set of neighborhood vacuum cleaners. Smile when you look at the Man in the Moon. If the Moon hadn’t been there to suck in meteors and asteroids, Earth would likely have taken the enormous hits that formed the Moon’s craters and maria. Would that have caused problems? Yep. Just ask any dinosaur.
But Mr. Moon is only a last-resort backup decoy. The middle linebackers on our team are Venus and Mars. And the great bulk of the vacuuming is done by our gigantic main bodyguards, Jupiter and Saturn.
Without this grand, God-designed team, Earth would be a chewed-up punching bag by now. Likewise, for any faraway planet to harbor higher life, it, too, would have to be surrounded by such a rare and carefully placed armada of protection. Go figure the odds!