One of the interesting developments of the past twenty years has been the study of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. So far, scientists have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets. Those who believe the formation of Earth and its ecosystem is a product of blind mechanical chance seize upon this fact to affirm that God had nothing to do with the creation. They argue that given enough time and enough planets, life was bound to happen somewhere eventually. Do exoplanets disprove God?
One obvious difficulty with this claim is that the real issue of creation is how time, space, and matter/energy came into existence in the first place. How it got into a form that would sustain life is a matter of whether the creation was designed and planned by an intelligence, or whether it was a product of chance. Astronomy magazine, in its January 2020 issue, carries an article about the summer 2019 discovery of the first planet that exists in the habitable zone of its star. The media at that time made wild claims about the probable existence of life on that planet. Known as K2-18b, the planet orbits a red dwarf star which is about one third the mass of our Sun. What that means is that water could exist on the planet as a liquid.
So could life exist on K2-18b? This discovery highlights the incredible complexity of planet Earth. K2-18b is roughly twice the diameter of Earth and eight times as massive. The mass of the planet means that gravity there would be much higher than Earth’s gravity. That would result in a much deeper and denser atmosphere with pressures and temperatures thousands of times higher than we experience on Earth. Also, red dwarf stars emit powerful flares, and the orbit of K2-18b is twice as close to its star as Mercury is to the Sun. There is no way that life could survive the conditions on this planet, even if liquid water were present.
Remember that K2-18b is the first planet discovered that is located in a so-called habitable zone. The study of exoplanets has shown that the creation of planet Earth is a highly unique and special event. Do exoplanets disprove God? As we have said before, God can create life anywhere He wants to. But as more and more data becomes available on what exists throughout the cosmos, support for God as the creator and sustainer of life on this planet grows.
You can see evidence for advanced civilization support in the minerals of Earth’s crust—minerals that are essential for machinery and electronics that enable technology. One thing which perhaps you have not considered is how the size of our planet also supports advanced civilization. Among the achievements of science is space flight. The ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface makes it possible for us to place satellites in orbit. Those satellites include:
*Communication satellites which make possible nationwide and international television, news, sports, telephone, and video conversations.
*Global positioning satellites giving us GPS which we use for many purposes including airplane, ship, and personal navigation plus farming and safety uses.
*Weather satellites giving us advance warning of storms and helping to keep us safe.
*Observational satellites that allow us to study and learn more about our planet.
*Telescopic satellites which enable us to study our solar system and the universe.
We often fail to realize how important those satellites are for our advanced civilization. Also, the ability to use rockets to leave Earth’s surface allows us to send out space probes to explore our solar system and universe.
What does the design of our planet have to do with our ability to leave the surface? The answer relates to gravity. Astronomers have been looking for habitable planets orbiting other stars. They believe that they have found many of those exoplanets. However, the planets that are more likely to be located in habitable zones (where liquid water can exist) are much larger than Earth. A much-larger rocky planet would have much more mass and therefore much more gravity. Launching a rocket into space from such a planet would be much more difficult, if not impossible. Even airplane flight and the flight of birds could be affected by increased gravity.
A planet with a diameter 70 percent greater than Earth’s diameter would have ten times the mass. The advantage of having much more gravity would be that a planet like that could hold a thicker atmosphere which could give more protection from harmful cosmic rays and incoming asteroids. The disadvantage of a thicker atmosphere would be that it might also block useful solar rays. However, getting a rocket off the ground and into space could be prohibitive. It would require a much larger rocket which would require more fuel. That would require an even larger rocket to carry the extra fuel. The weight of the larger rocket and fuel would require an even larger rocket requiring even more fuel. This quickly spirals out of control.
On October 6 NASA’s daily space news website apod.nasa.gov contained pictures of a Martian global aurora. Because Mars has virtually no magnetic field, the radiation level goes sky high during solar storms. In the latest storm, radiation levels doubled–which would have been dangerous to life on Mars.
Earth’s magnetic field is very strong, and deflects radiation coming from the Sun. The radiation is deflected toward the poles, which is why we see the auroras near the poles. By deflecting the radiation, the magnetic field protects life on the Earth from dangerous levels. The more we learn about the cosmos, the more we see factors that make life possible on Earth. Our magnetic field is one more example of the design of our planet.
Looking for life in space is not just about whether there is water on a planet. There are a huge number of other factors that must be present. A strong magnetic field to shield from radiation is just one of those factors. Of course, an atmosphere suitable for life is also a requirement. NASA has a space probe called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiting Mars. The purpose is to find out if Mars lost its atmosphere due to not having a strong magnetic field.