By: Jim Virkler | ©2018
SETI, an organization committed to searching for life beyond the confines of our Earth and its Solar System, now researches many other wonderful features of our cosmos. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence is now a subsidiary topic of focus and has retreated into the background of their scientific research. The focus of SETI scientists is now geoscience, astrobiology, astronomy, geology, astrophysics, planetary science, and related topics. Only a few of the scholars at the SETI organization still center their studies on “Life beyond the confines of Earth and it Solar System.” However, the topic of intelligent life in outer space is still of interest to many. Does life beyond Planet Earth actually exist, many people wonder?
In 1960 the modern scientific quest for widespread life in the cosmos continued. In 1961 astronomer Frank Drake organized a scholar team, including Carl Sagan of Cornell University, which met at a facility in Green Bank WV in order to discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life. His reliance on the “Drake equation,” proposed at the conference, was often quoted. Without outlining the seven factors of the “Drake equation,” we affirm that accepting its implication strengthens belief that intelligent life even in our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is a common occurrence.
In 1950, brilliant nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi, sometimes called the “architect of the atomic age,” asked a group of his scientist colleagues, “Where is everybody?” His friends realized he was referring to extraterrestrial life. Even at the slow pace of interstellar travel, hopeful speculation supports the possibility that some of the many billions of planets circling sextillions of stars in our home Milky Way Galaxy together with billions of other galaxies in the universe may possess intelligent life forms and may have developed the technology for interstellar communication or travel. Fermi realized the absence of any communications from “out there” convinced him, according to his reckoning, that it is highly unlikely that ETs exist. His statements predated Frank Drake’s equation. Many theorists, including the late science popularizer Carl Sagan, have nourished belief in ET to this day, including some writers at the SETI Institute in Mountain View CA and other media. One example is NY Times writer Adam Frank who wrote in June 2016, “Yes, There Have Been Aliens.” He still assigns confident credibility to the Drake equation. SETI scholar Seth Shostak waxed exuberant when the TRAPPIST-1 array of seven generally earth-sized planets was discovered around a star only 39 light years away in February 2017.
The Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) at Oxford University on June 6, 2018 published research by Anders Sandberg, Eric Dexter, and Toby Ord at Oxford University positing that humans in our Solar System are alone in our universe. In their opening abstract they affirm, in response to fascinating and optimistic speculations about life elsewhere in our cosmos, “… we find a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe, and thus that there should be little surprise when we fail to detect any signs of it.” Their well documented and detailed research was reported in many media. Its thesis was discouraging to believers in extraterrestrial life. At the same time, creationists may take courage that God is the author of a single life-plentiful location. Our belief in the uniqueness of created life on Earth is supported by our knowledge of the incredible functional and esthetic qualities of our planet’s life and the physical systems supporting it. Earths is proving to be unique in the cosmos.
We link our posts of March 17 and March 19, 2017 describing the TRAPPIST-1 discovery and repeat some of our observations from them:
There are abundant reasons for dismissing the likelihood that any other planetary site in our universe could harbor life, even if it were blessed, for example, with the presence of water and a reasonably friendly temperature. As we discover more and more stunning requirements for life possessed by Earth together with the absence of that array of requirements on even the most promising planetary systems, we realize anew the truth of Psalm 104:24 (The Message Translation): “What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.”
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.