Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Several days ago, there was an interesting article that appeared in the newspaper that comes to our house. The article was entitled, Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God (by Eric Metaxas, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 26, 2014).

In the article, the author took issue with the widely held opinion that as scientific knowledge progresses, people would understand that there would be less of a need for a “God” to explain the universe. However, as the author Metaxas states, “It turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature.”

Metaxas then goes on to explain that in 1966, astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important conditions that are necessary in order for any planet to support life. These two criteria were, 1: the right kind of star (like our Sun), and 2: a planet that was just the right distance from that star (like our Earth). Using these two conditions and the estimated number of planets in the universe, Sagan said that there should be about a septillion (1 followed by 24 zeros) planets in the universe that could support life.

This hypothesis of the probability of extraterrestrial life set in motion a large effort to come into contact with these intelligent life forms that must be out there.

SETI was formed. SETI, for those of us who may have forgotten, was the project called the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. This project was not merely a few quack scientists with tin-foil hats that got together to peer through telescopes, but highly respected, well-educated (and well-funded) men and women.

These scientist listened with a vast network of telescopic radios, trying to detect any type of sound indications in the universe that would resemble not merely random signals, but something that could be construed as coded intelligence.

But after these optimistic beginnings and after more than fifty years of listening, the silence coming from the rest of the universe has been deafening. In the words of the author of the article, “Researchers have discovered precisely bubkis, (0 followed by nothing).”

What happened was that as the scientists increased their knowledge of the universe, and as they came to understand better all the factors needed to support life, the two parameters that Sagan supposed grew to the necessity of 10 conditions that are essential, then to 20, then 50, and the number kept on increasing. Today, scientists recognize more than 200 known parameters necessary to support life.

As we came to realize what was really needed for a planet to support life, Sagan’s septillion planet estimate dropped to a few thousand planets, and then continued to fall. In fact, the number of possibilities dropped to 0, meaning that from what we can understand, even the earth should not be able to support life. We should not even be here at all!

The author continued on to tell of some of the almost unbelievable conditions that need to not only be present, but even fine-tuned in order for human and other life to exist. He argues that the more science learns, it will not explain away God, but instead confirm the existence of God.
I can see that this post is again getting a little lengthy. I will have to split it into two. In a few days I will tell you some of my own thoughts on the subject, including in what way solving a crossword puzzle is similar to the scientific quest for knowledge.

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