Are there other Earth-like planets out there?

/Content/files/Articles/QOTM-EarthLikePlanet.jpgHeadlines from the Huffington Post’s science section (July 23, 2015) bolded stated…

“Earth 2.0: Bad News for God”

What’s behind this brash claim?  According to a NASA press release (also July 23), scientists believe they have discovered an Earth-like planet (about 60% bigger than Earth) orbiting its own star.  A key element to the story is not only the existence of the planet but that it lies in what they believe is the “habitable zone” of that particular solar system.

/Content/files/Articles/QOTM-HabitableZone-1.jpgWhat does this all mean?  The “habitable zone” is a distance range from the star that could possibly “sustain” life.  Much farther out and it would be too cold… closer in and it would be too hot.  It’s also been labeled the “Goldilocks zone” for obvious reasons. (The diagram on the left shows the “habitable zone” for our solar system.  Note the Earth is the only planet within this band.)

However, it is an astronomical leap (no pun intended) to claim there might be life on this planet, just because it lies within this zone.  A location within the habitable zone is only one of many, many factors that have to be “just right”.  

Here are a few other examples: 

  • Color & mass of the planet’s sun
  • Presence and mass a moon
  • Distance of its moon from the planet
  • Its gravitational field strength
  • Tilt of the planet
  • Oxygen/nitrogen ratio

Many others could be listed.

Here’s another HUGE problem for “life on other planets” scenarios.  It’s not enough just to find a planet that might be in the habitable zone and even fortuitously have all of the right values for these crucial life-sustaining factors.  That’s just what would be necessary to “sustain” life, but in order to sustain life… you have to create it first!  It’s kind of like me saying I am confident I could sustain possessing $50 billion.  It’s another thing altogether for me to say I could make $50 billion!

There is nothing in science that shows in the slightest that life could form naturalistically even under the most ideal conditions on our own planet.  Therefore, there is no justification that it would form somewhere else where we not only don’t know all of the current factors, but we certainly don’t know all of the factors throughout the planet’s history, which would be even more essential to know.

The chances of life forming by accident have been calculated many times by many scientists and mathematicians, each resulting in numbers so astronomically low they show it is equivalent to being impossible.  But the reply comes, “Yeah, but if there are enough planets out there, it’s bound to happen somewhere!”  In reality, even when you take into account the estimated number of galaxies and stars out there and their alleged planets, it still leaves you with a virtual zero probability.

For those interested in seeing what kind of probability we are talking about, here’s just one way of seeing how destitute chance is in creating even the simplest imaginable form a life (i.e. even simpler than anything we know actually exists):

Chance of forming and correctly assembling the 387 proteins necessary for this hypothetical simplest form of life is 1 chance in…

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In case you don’t feel like counting, that’s a 1 followed by 5,035 zeros!  Alright, so it’s a big number,
but if there are millions or billions of Earth-like planets out there, (which I don’t believe, but let’s grant them that for now), couldn’t this still happen somewhere?  On the surface this argument seems to make sense, but logically it doesn’t add up and here’s why.

This number is telling us you would have to complete that many random atomic interactions in order to feel assured this life form could assemble by chance.  How many random interactions are even possible in the entire universe?  We can estimate that, too.  Even given the greatly exaggerated age of the universe (13.8 billion years) and the estimated number of atoms in the universe which could potentially interact (1 followed by 80 zeros), there are only about 1 followed by 110 zeros number of possible interactions.  Taking this into account (and maybe losing many of my readers at this point as their eyes glaze over), the probability of life forming by accident is still only 1 chance in a 1 followed by 4,925 zeros! (See footnote at the end of this article.)

So even though it sounds good to say that anything can happen given enough time, the statement doesn’t hold up, and there isn’t even enough time in the alleged billions and billions of years they readily accept!

And just as an aside -- the writer of the Huffington Post article clearly shows his biblical illiteracy from the following comments:

He claims to quote from Genesis 1:1, but then states Genesis 1:26-27.  Not the end of the world, but it does reflect on his qualifications to report on this topic.

He falsely claims the Bible states the Earth is at the center of the universe.  Nowhere in Scripture is this clearly taught.  An Earth near the center of the universe, however, would be consistent with the concept of biblical creation, but there’s nothing that demands this.  It’s interesting to note that there is actually a fair amount of scientific evidence that we truly are (our solar system/galaxy) somewhere close to the center of the universe.  Another topic for another time.

He also made a statement which was very revealing, but not in a way many would like to admit.  He said “…let me speculate what would happen should we ever find evidence of life beyond earth…”  This is inherently confessing that to date, there has been no actual evidence!  This statement is interesting because of how often the secular scientific community gives you the impression that they are continually finding more and more evidence.

I will end by sharing something the writer stated that I do agree with.  He said:

“As I stated at the beginning, none of this will matter upon life's discovery elsewhere. Religious leaders will simply declare that such life is fully compatible with, in fact predicted by, the Bible. Just like they eventually swept under the rug being wrong about earth's position in the heavens. Or evolution. They will create contorted justifications to support this view, cite a few passages of the bible that could mean anything, and declare victory. Don't say I did not warn you.”

This is generally very true, especially of the more liberal or non-Christian religions.  However, we see this all too often within the conservative, biblically-based denominations.  They are all too willing to accept whatever comes out of the scientific community, seldom ever even questioning its validity and then jumping through all sorts of hoops and performing clever hermeneutical gymnastics to show how these new findings do nothing to disparage the Bible in any way… because it doesn’t actually mean what most people think it means (i.e. the plain reading of the text).  In reality, true science always comports to the biblical text, but too often we are not dealing with true science, but rather, fallible man’s flawed opinions about the past.  (“…let God be true, but every man a liar” Romans 3:4)

As with all of our other articles, much more could be said about this, but if you have any questions related to this month’s article or any other issue, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

 

Footnote:

This number is calculated by subtracting 110 from 5,035.  These details where taken from Evolution's Achilles' Heels, Creation Book Publishers, pp. 96-97 (2014).

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