By Tom Flannery
As 2011 came to a close, two Earth-size planets orbiting a sun-like star were discovered less than 1,000 light years away.
And this was just a couple weeks after it was announced that another planet orbiting another star at the right distance to allow for liquid water and therefore the possibility of life.
The excitement of astronomers and other scientists was palpable.
But then all their hopes came crashing back down to – well, to Earth, still the only game in town as far as hospitable planets are concerned.
It turned out that those two planets of the right size are too close to their sun for life to survive there. And as for the one at the right distance, it is 2.4 times the size of Earth, which would likely make it gaseous like Jupiter and uninhabitable.
So the search goes on – notwithstanding the fact that, as Charles Krauthammer notes, it “betrays a profound melancholy – a lonely species in a merciless universe anxiously awaits an answering voice amid utter silence.”
“That silence is maddening … because it makes no sense,” he continues. “As we 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?”
This is the Fermi Paradox, named for the great physicist who famously asked: “Where is everybody?”
Or, as someone else explained it: “All our logic, all our anti-isocentrism, assures us that we are not unique – that they must be there. And yet we do not see them.”
Krauthammer elaborates: “Modern satellite data suggest the number [of them] should be very high. So why the silence?”
All of these questions, all of this confusion, all of this hand-wringing is based, of course, on materialist (atheist) philosophy. It evolves, so to speak, from the view that – as Krauthammer put it – we are “a lonely species in a merciless universe.” There is no God, so we are on our own and must fend for ourselves – unless there’s some similarly “lucky” planet out there where, as with Earth, all of the necessary elements to sustain life are present at astronomically unimaginable (i.e., impossible) odds.
You see, the problem for materialists is that the narrative into which they invested all their hopes – a chaotic universe formed by pure chance – has been decimated in recent decades by the discovery of dozens of finely-tuned equations governing our universe (Earth’s axis, the force of gravity). Not only that, but the accompanying knowledge that if any one of these equations were slightly altered, life on this planet would simply not be possible. Sir Isaac Newton saw the sun at the proper distance from Earth to give our planet the right amounts of heat and light (a little closer, we’d burn up; a little further away, we’d freeze), and he declared: “This did not happen by chance!”
Dinesh D’Souza writes in “What’s So Great About Christianity”: “We live in a kind of Goldilocks universe in which the conditions are ‘just right’ for life to … thrive.” He asks: “If scientists have spent centuries decoding the universe, who encoded it?”
Or, as physicist Freeman Dyson observes: “The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew we were coming.”
To try to explain this away, atheist scientists have come up with the theory of the multiverse. This hypothesis says, without even a shred of evidence, that there are actually many universes out there, and ours just happens to be “just right.” So it’s not surprising that they think there may be another “Lotto-winning” universe or two out there that hit the cosmic jackpot as we supposedly did.
Yet even the multiverse theory, as speculative as it surely is, doesn’t explain the origin of the laws of nature, or tell us why a universe made of matter should obey laws.
As physicist and cosmologist Paul Davies notes: “Multiverse proponents are often vague about how the parameter values are chosen across the defined ensemble. If there is a ‘law of laws’ describing how parameter values are assigned as one slips from one universe to the next, then we have only shifted the problem of cosmic biophilicity up one level. Why? First, because we need to explain where the law of laws comes from.”
So although, as atheists argue, their “logic and anti-isocentrism assures us that we are not unique,” the actual evidence continues to bolster … isocentrism, or geocentrism, the idea that man is unique and that we are at the center of the universe (not speaking of our physical location, but our place in the heart and mind of a loving Creator).
This idea, which they reject so resoundingly, is at the core of the biblical creation account, that we are God’s special creation and that He designed this planet uniquely and especially for us. Isaiah 45:18 tells us God “formed the earth … to be inhabited,” something modern science has confirmed with the Anthropic Principle regarding the Earth (that it was “made for man”).
So they continue searching breathlessly for signs of friendly planets supporting extraterrestrial life, while at the same time coming up with explanations why nothing and no one has been found. Carl Sagan, for instance, postulated that advanced civilizations end up destroying themselves, eliminating any possibility of eventually hearing from them.
To this point, Krauthammer offers a timely example: “On the very same day that astronomers rejoiced at the discovery of the two Earth-size planets, the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity urged two leading scientific journals not to publish details of lab experiments that just created a lethal and highly transmittable form of bird flu virus, lest that fateful knowledge fall into the wrong hands.” We all know from history and experience exactly what he means by that, but he nevertheless adds: “Wrong hands, human hands.”
This is a fact borne out by all of human history, and like isocentrism it falls right in line with the biblical account of creation. It is an inescapable result of man’s inherent sin nature which produces evil, suffering and death.
Krauthammer is right, of course – if materialist philosophy is accurate, there should be many of them, and we should literally be getting bombarded with radio waves and messages. But we’re not. All we hear is continually more of that “maddening silence” he mentioned.
In much the same way, if Darwinian evolution were true, the landscape should be littered with transitional fossils which Darwin himself said would have to be found in great abundance over time for his theory to be substantiated. Yet despite the fact that his prediction was made about a century and a half ago, those fossils are still missing. They are nowhere to be found, except for a handful of “breakthrough discoveries” which have appeared from time to time, only to eventually be reclassified as purely human or animal remains, or to invariably be exposed as hoaxes.
Not to worry, though. As Krauthammer also relates, astronomers assure us that it will only be a year or two more before we have our long-awaited close encounter of the third kind.
Say what you want about atheists, they are devoted people of faith.
And for them, notwithstanding the fact that they don’t believe in an eternity, hope somehow always springs eternal.
Tom Flannery writes for a newspaper in Pennsylvania. His opinion pieces have appeared in publications such as Newsday, the Los Angeles Times, MovieGuide and Christian Networks Journal. He has won the two $10,000 awards for opinion writing, the Eric Breindel Award for Outstanding Opinion Journalism from News Corp/The New York Post in 2000 and the first-place prize in the Amy Foundation Writing Awards in 2008. He has won eight Amy Awards in all, as well as a Keystone Award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publishers Association for his work. He is author of the book “1939: The Year in Movies,” and an essay he wrote on Hollywood was included in the book “The Culture-Wise Family” by Dr. Ted Baehr and Pat Boone.