I remember in 1994 when Mexican astrophysicist Miguel Alcubierre was the first (that I’m aware of) to postulate that the “warp drive” we all know and love from Star Trek was in fact more potential science than fiction. He even used terms like “warp bubble” and others, borrowed from the show, to describe how he envisioned “bending” space-time to create a wave we could right to exceed Einstein’s cosmic speed limit for all travel and communication (the speed of light — you know, “c” in his famous E=mc^2 equation).
Well, after a couple decades of not hearing much about faster-than-light travel outside of Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica, earlier this year, Nasa scientist Harold White has postulated a potential design for an engine based on Alcubierre’s original theories. Scotty and Zefram Cochrane would be proud!
In the light of this revolutionary announcement (read more), I asked a group of friends at lunch today, and I’ll ask you… So what?
Let’s say that NASA starts in earnest to built an FTL drive, meets with every conceivable success, rides the prototype into the stars in a couple years (without unzipping the space-time continuum like a cheap jacket), perfects the process over a ten year stretch, and – before another 20 years go by – has revolutionized our concept of space travel. Let’s say, by 2034, we’re leaving warp signatures all over the Sol system and beyond that even the most dim-witted Vulcan traveler could stumble across, even with sensors set to stun. Again, so what? What exactly would we do with the ability to travel to distant stars in … reasonable amounts of time?
Well, first, I’m sure we’d explore. We could send out probes to take pictures of far away places and send them back to earth. I’m also sure we’d search for resources, such as natural resources we could use for fuel or construction – probably of more ships. And ultimately colonize, because we will someday have too many people and too few resources on one planet. I think these are all admirable and useful goals. But the first place everyone’s mind went at lunch today was to the search for life on other worlds. So, in keeping with my tendency to overtly stir the conversational pot, I asked if they all thought we would someday find ET in a neighboring star system.
There were several answers given immediately. First, “I don’t care”. Ha! I guess I’m just a tad nerdier than the average guys chowing on Gyros in the NW suburbs. Second answer, “Of course. It’s statistically inevitable.” Interesting, and reasonable. There are certainly an unimaginable number of galaxies and stars and planets. We’ll get back to that. Then a question I greatly appreciated, “What kind of life?” Excellent question! But the answer I most appreciated was, “Well, that’s both a scientific and a spiritual question…”
My first premise: God is actually real. He made us, not the other way around.
My second: So is the Bible. It’s not just a book, but rather the infallible, inerrant Word of God.
So, I realize that I’ve lost a few (a lot?) of you at this point. That’s fine. But if anything else I say here is going to make any sense, you have to be all the way in on these first two ideas. And by the way, that’s always true. You can’t really have a discussion about anything meaningful without a philosophical starting point, right? Much of what people readily call “science” today cannot be put in a test tube and tested, so it’s really more philosophy than science. So is it with this question. But I digress…
If God is real, and Jesus really lived, and all these prophets wrote about Him, and all those prophecies came true, and there’s a Moses, and an Abraham and an Israel and so on… If that’s all real, then I can’t imagine there is intelligent life on other planets.
And we shouldn’t confuse finding another world that could support life and actually finding sentient life. An “M-class” planet (sorry for all the Star Trek references) or two or many is statistically pretty likely, but I contend on spiritual grounds that finding sentient life is not.
The thing is that you and I aren’t space bunnies … or regular earth bunnies either. We’re not just animals. God “breathed into us the breath of life” (See Genesis 2:7). This means we’re special. We’re spiritual. We’re eternal. We have souls — a little like God Himself.
If somewhere out in the distant cosmos there was even one planet just like Earth, where people something similar to us wandered around asking questions like “Is there life on other worlds?” AND all that spiritual stuff (which isn’t “stuff”, it’s the core of reality if you have the eyes to see it) is true, then only three possibilities remain…
- The story of the Bible took place here, but not there.
- The story of the Bible (or something similar) took place BOTH here and there.
- We started one place, where the Biblical account took place, and transported life across the universe to/from the other place (either way), but forgot about it and there’s no evidence of it (literature, history, archeology, technology, etc).
The last of these seems pretty unlikely to me. How do you “forget” something like that? Where did all the tech go? Why is there not really anything like that in ancient legend (all due respect to Prometheus and company)? Seems like there’d be some kind of evidence. We’ve done a ton of archeological exploration and proven quite a few of the Biblical accounts, many of them dating back thousands of years. Why not the “aliens planted us here” account? Even Daniel Jackson had some inkling that the pyramids weren’t built by the pharaohs, right? (Just for giggles)
And the other two of these possibilities – where I think people would linger longer and debate harder – massively erode the Biblical story. Where there two Abrahams? Two Jesus’s? Two nations of God’s chosen people? Two Gardens of Eden? Or, and this would be even harder for me to swallow, did we just “luck out”, and this other world kinda got screwed?
And when I read the Bible, I get no sense whatsoever of “another earth” — anything to indicate anything about any of these theories.
And the main reason I feel these 2 theories don’t work… Neither are consistent with God’s character.
So, in my world, if you fundamentally believe that man created God, then nothing I’m saying here makes sense. Even if you believe God created man, but don’t buy into Jesus, then you could probably go along just fine with the X-Files worldview. But if you’re a Bible-believing, card-carrying Jesus follower like me, then I don’t believe the door is open to you to expect us to find intelligent life outside of the human race.
And (I could write a whole entry on this alone)… How cool is it that God created the whole vastness of the universe just for us!? Not just for us “humans only”, but for us “humans and God”. In the universe, as in our bodies, as in so many things, God is showing off. His amazing creativity and limitless power are so evident to me in the reality that there are hydrogen atoms swirling around rocks in galaxies so far away that it would take a billion years for the light from them to see us, and God’s holding those atoms in the palm of His hand as much as the molecules that make up my mind and heart. (See Colossians 1:15-20). Something about that just fires me up!
I hope it does the same for you!
Ammendment… Check out a couple of cool videos I looked up…