Vastness of Space

Vastness of Space and the Big Dipper

One of the struggles we all have in dealing with the creation of the cosmos is understanding the vastness of space. When someone tries to give a naturalistic explanation for Earth and its abundance of life, they assume that the variables necessary for the creation of life and the conditions required for life to exist have just happened naturally. Because of the number of stars and planets, they assume that the creation can be a product of blind opportunistic chance.

In 1961 Frank Drake (a founder of SETI) presented what is known as the Drake equation. It involves multiplying seven variables that are necessary for creating a planet with intelligent life by the odds of each of those variables happening by chance alone. Let’s say the odds of having one of Drake’s seven variables are 1 in a million. Those promoting chance explanations of the creation would say that since there are 100 billion stars in the galaxy in which we live, the odds are reasonable for the creation to happen by chance.

There are many problems with this equation and the chosen variables. One statistical problem is that you can’t just have one variable which is isolated from all the other variables. If there are seven variables, then they all have to be accomplished at the same time in the same place. You can’t have variable one at one place at one time, and variable two at a different place and at a different time.

We don’t seem to comprehend the vastness of space, and how isolated stars are from one another. An excellent example of this is the asterism we call the Big Dipper. Seven stars make up the Big Dipper. When seen from Earth, they seem to be close together. The fact is that the stars are nowhere near each other. Mizar, the second star from the end of the handle is 78 light years away from Earth. (A light year is how far light goes in a year – roughly 588 quadrillion miles.) Dubhe, the star at the top edge of the bowl of the Big Dipper is 124 light years away. Merak which with Dubhe makes up the pointer stars of the Big Dipper is 79 light years away from Earth and 45 million light-years from Dubhe.

The size of the cosmos is incredible, but that size does not make chance explanations of the creation accurate. Having the right size planet going around a star that is a red giant would not support life. If you had the right size planet going around a spectral G-2 star (like our Sun), it would not support life if it were located at the core or in the equatorial plane of the galaxy. All variables have to work together at the same time and place, and that is unlikely considering the vastness of space.

When wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22-23 she says, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the Earth was.” The vastness of space isolates us from the destructive forces that exist throughout the cosmos. It also reinforces the statement of Romans 1:20 which says “we can know there is a God through the things He has made.”

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
In 1960 radio astronomer Frank Drake began research to find alien civilizations in deep space by aiming an 85-foot radio telescope at some sun-like stars. He found nothing, but it was the beginning of a program known as SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

The SETI program has continued through the years with many radio telescopes aimed at every area of space. In 1971 NASA funded a study that involved Frank Drake. They issued a report proposing Project Cyclops. That project would require the construction of 1,500 radio telescopes at the cost of ten-billion dollars. That project was never completed for obvious reasons. However, the concept of the report was used to continue the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence to this day with funding from various sources. Thousands of hours and millions of dollars have been spent with a net result of zero. No radio signals containing any intelligence have been detected–only noise.

Now there is “active SETI” in which scientists are sending radio signals toward distant stars. Frank Drake admitted that in 1974 he transmitted an encoded message toward a star cluster 25,000 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. Naturally, that message will arrive at its target in 25,000 years. If any intelligent being gets the message and responds immediately, it will take 25,000 years for the return message. Drake will not be here to receive that message in 50,000 years, and neither will anyone reading this.

As the search for extraterrestrial intelligence continues, is it possible that there really is an intelligent Being out there who is listening and waiting to hear from us? Is it possible that this Being is not limited by time and space? Is it possible that this Being is our Creator who has already communicated with us by becoming one of us? Is it possible that we are not listening?
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Venus-Jupiter Affect Earth’s Climate Cycle

Venus-Jupiter Affect Earth's Climate Cycle
A new study shows that gravitational fields of Venus-Jupiter affect Earth’s climate cycle. A research group at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Rutgers University released the study on May 7, 2018. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, and Venus is our closest planetary neighbor. Together they have a significant influence on the Earth’s climate.

Dennis Kent, who led the study said, “The climate cycles are directly related to how the Earth orbits the sun and slight variations in sunlight reaching Earth lead to climate and ecological changes.” The study shows that there is a repeating cycle which they calculate takes 405,000 years. That cycle causes wobbles in the Earth’s orbit leading to climate extremes. Not only do studies like this help us understand the past, but they also help in our understanding of current global conditions such as climate change.

The enormous number of things that have to be just what they are for life to exist on Earth continues to grow. In 1961, American astronomer Frank Drake, a founder of the SETI program, presented an equation that attempted to calculate the number of “earths” that might exist in our galaxy. Drake’s equation took the variables that must be right for a planet like ours to support life. He then multiplied the variables together to get the probability of another planet like ours.

Dr. Drake had only seven variables in his calculation, and today that number exceeds 50. We list 47 of them on our doesgodexist.org website, but even that list is far from complete. Now that we know that the gravitational fields of Venus-Jupiter affect Earth’s climate cycle, we have one more factor to add to the list.

Our planet is a delicate place, with an incredible number of factors all contributing to an environment where we can survive, and where humans have survived for a very long time. The more we know about the creation, the more evidence we see for a Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Since 1960, scientists have been using radio telescopes to search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. The program is called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). So far it has been 57 years of listening without any positive results. Scientists have now entered the next phase of the search called Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI).

On October 16-18, 2017, scientists beamed a message toward a red dwarf star known as GJ 273 in the hope that there might be someone there listening. Of course, there are always radio and TV signals of various kinds going out from transmitters all over the Earth, but this attempt is a concentrated signal beamed toward this specific system. The transmission contained mathematical and scientific information as well as music. The reason scientists chose GJ 273 is that there are two planets orbiting the star that they hope might be able to support life. And it is the closest possible potential life-supporting location.

Picking one random star to direct a communication signal toward may seem like shooting in the dark–and it is. However, a METI team member said that this is just a prototype of what they want to do “one hundred times, or one thousand times, or one million times.” In other words, this is just the beginning.

So when will the results of this experiment be in? GJ 273 is more than twelve light-years from Earth. So in about 2030, the signal will reach its destination. If there is intelligent life there listening and they respond right away, we might hear something by 2042 or 2043. Translation will be a challenge. If Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence continues to send out signals to other potential inhabitable planets, they will be farther away, and thus it will take longer to hear anything back.

Some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, have criticized this effort because they are afraid it might wake up hostile extraterrestrial beings to the fact that we are here. Perhaps the aliens will not like our music style and decide that they want to put an end to it. They could send their “storm troopers” to start a Star Wars type of scenario. Of course, since they would not be able to travel at anything close to the speed of light (if Einstein is correct), they might arrive here centuries from now to find nobody left on this planet.

We have three observations on this project. First, all indications are that the chances of life existing anywhere in space are very slim. There are far too many variables needed to make life possible on any planet or moon. Secondly, the resources going into SETI and METI could better be used helping people right here on our own planet. Thirdly, as we have said before, whether or not life exists anywhere else in the universe has no bearing on whether God exists. God can create life anywhere He chooses.

When it comes to messaging extraterrestrial intelligence, we believe that there is Intelligence out there. We also believe that He would like to hear from us. We further believe that He has been to Earth to communicate with us. And we believe that if we choose to communicate with Him, we will not be limited to the speed of light. He can hear us instantaneously.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

SETI Is Still Searching for Intelligence

SETI
A few days ago we wrote about the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The newest SETI project is in the news because the Chinese government can’t find anyone to manage it. That is in spite of the fact that the chief scientist-manager will receive a $1.2 million-dollar salary plus housing. The job is to supervise the operation of the world’s largest “filled aperture” radio telescope.

This new telescope is designed to search for radio signals from intelligent life in the universe up to 1,000 light-years away as well as to monitor pulsars and detect interstellar molecules. Its name is Five hundred meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) because it is 500 meters (1600 feet) in diameter. It was constructed in a natural basin in southwest China at the cost of $180 million dollars. Since FAST can’t be turned to receive signals from different directions, it is made up of 4450 metal panels that can be rotated independently to pinpoint different areas of space. Construction has been going on since 2011, and it’s in the testing stage now.

Sixty-five people lived in a village located in the valley where FAST was built. The Chinese government evicted them. Also, to prevent interference from electronic devices in the area, more than 9,000 residents within 5 km (3.1 miles) of the site were also relocated. They were given about $1800 each for relocating. About 500 families tried to sue over the demolition of their homes without adequate compensation. In the end, the Chinese government spent about $269 million to relocate the previous residents in addition to the cost of the telescope.

Now China is searching the world to find someone to manage the operation of FAST. So far they have had no success in spite of the large salary. There are several reasons why they haven’t filled the job. For one thing, the area is very remote and doesn’t have much to offer in the way of entertainment or activities. Also, because of the failure rate of the mirror activators, any scientist who wants to spend time in research using the telescope may end up mostly dealing with technical problems. In addition to those factors, the Chinese government has placed very high requirements on potential job applicants. With the educational and experience requirements, there may be only a handful of qualified candidates in the world.

China will eventually find someone to manage FAST. Calibration of the radio telescope is projected to take three years. Then the operation will require hundreds of astronomers and the SETI project will spend years and large sums of money searching for intelligent life in the universe. We have said many times before that whether life exists anywhere else in the universe has nothing to do with whether God exists. God could choose to create life anywhere, but so far the effort to find signs of intelligent life beyond our planet has not been promising.

What if they get this new radio telescope working and receive a signal from intelligent beings 1000 light-years away? That message would have been sent out 1000 years ago. If we send a “Hello” message back to them, it will arrive 1000 years later. A two-way conversation under those conditions would be slower than postal mail. In the meantime, thousands of people have lost their homes, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent plus millions more will be spent to continue the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Listening for E.T. Continues

Listening for E.T.
The media seems to be obsessed with the quest to find life in outer space. They are especially interested in a “Mr. Spock” type of life–human in appearance but with super powers. SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) has been going on now for almost 60 years. Billionaire Yuri Milner has committed $10 million dollars per year until 2025 to keep the SETI project listening for E.T.

We have pointed out many times that finding life in space would not invalidate Christianity or the Bible in any way. Humans seem to be dedicated to finding an alternative to God’s way as revealed in His Word. Many seem to believe that finding an advanced alien civilization would be such an alternative.

The September 2017, issue of Astronomy magazine, has an interesting article by associate editor John Wenz. The article on pages 34 and 35 is cleverly illustrated with cartoons by Theo Cobb. It shows 16 different “alien” cases that all turned out not to be messages from E.T. Wenz traces the misguided attempts to find alien signals from outer space that would indicate intelligent life out there wanting to interact with Earthlings. He goes back to 1960 when SETI’s first project called OZMA claimed to have received a signal from Epsilon Aurigae, a star about 2,000 light-years from Earth. The team, including Frank Drake who founded SETI, thought that they were receiving a signal from space, but it turned out to be terrestrial in origin.

Again, this is not an apologetic issue, but it does show the desire of humans to find a better existence. We would suggest the better existence comes from reading and understanding God’s Word, not from seeking alien help in straightening out the mess we have made. Those listening for E.T. may be waiting for another 60 years–or perhaps thousands.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alien Claims and the Media

No Aliens Are Near
Every time some unusual signal from space is discovered, we see headlines in newspapers about aliens being the source of the signal. In August of 2016, reports came out of a radio telescope in Russia known as the RATAN-600 that had picked up a strong signal in the 11 gigahertz band. This was coming from a star known as HD 164595 and was first detected in 2013. Since that time the RATAN telescope and SETI have listened for repeat signals, but none have been detected. Headlines in the media have been things like “Baffling Alien Signal Detected.” Dr. Eric Korpela who works with SETI says, “There’s always the problem that scientific vocabulary is different from the public vocabulary. Detection, to me, means something was detected. To the public, it may translate as ‘We found aliens.’” It turns out that the signals have several possible natural explanations, none of which involve aliens.

The question remains as to why the public is so obsessed with the theme of aliens. We have pointed out repeatedly that finding life in space doesn’t have anything to do with the existence of God. If God chose to create life in other places for reasons we don’t fully understand, that is no issue. The Bible deals with humans and our existence on Earth. It is becoming obvious that there are no higher forms of life anywhere close to us, so the question is moot. This is not a question that has implications for the existence of God or the credibility of the Bible.

I have had atheists respond to me by saying that if life exists elsewhere, it proves that life can come about by chance. That assumes that God exists only on our planet, which is a misunderstanding of what God is. The fact remains that having a story about aliens sells, and video games and sci-fi movies will continue to propagate the idea. I have often told the story of doing a radio debate with an atheist on the Larry King talk show in Washington D.C. before he became famous. A listener called in and asked the atheist what he would do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn, and a little green man jumped out with a Bible in his hand and said: “Has Jesus been here yet?” My atheist friend responded “punt,” and maybe that’s what we should all do on this issue until we have more facts. Source of Information: Astronomy magazine December 2016, page 9.
–John N. Clayton © 2017