ARE WE ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE?

With the world population having grown to over seven billion and with the increasing difficulty of finding “alone time” you would think that the problem of loneliness had been solved.  But there is another sense of aloneness that is fueling a search throughout the universe to find out if our planet is the only place that harbors life or if we are the only species of “advanced” life.  So far, the evidence is pretty slim that life exists on other planets or that there are other advanced civilizations out there.  Nevertheless, many think that since the universe is so large and there are so many stars and planets, there must be other examples of living matter or of sentient, even technologically advanced, life.

There have been two recent bits of science news that have re-fueled that hope.  The first happened on August 24th when the science journal, Nature, published an article based on a recent finding of an “earth-like” planet orbiting one of our nearest neighboring stars, “Proxima Centauri”.  At only 4.2 light years away, it is close enough to inspire an effort to send probes.  Stephen Hawking and others have proposed that we send small space probes that would be propelled to 1/5th the speed of light using sails that catch photons from the sun, also being supplemented by laser beams from earth.  The idea is that they would continuously gain momentum until they leave the solar system.  At 20% of the speed of light it would take such probes about twenty years to reach their destination.  But getting back to this new “earth-like” planet, it seems that “earth-like” was a bit of a stretch.  Yes, it is just a third larger than earth but it is very closely orbiting a red dwarf star, taking just 11.4 earth days to circle it.  While it would probably sustain temperatures that would allow for liquid water, its surface would be bombarded by intense radiation and probably doesn’t spin on its axis, wreaking havoc on the kinds of molecules we assume are necessary for life.

The second news item concerns a tantalizing burst of radio signals from a star about 94 light years away.  This star is similar to our own and so has prompted speculation that it could be from an advanced civilization, perhaps more advanced than our own.  The report comes from a Russian radio telescope and other participants in the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program are tuning in to see if it persists.  Still, scientists think the signal is much more likely to have either a natural explanation or will turn out to be of earthly origin.  Despite these recent glimmers of hope, the fact remains that if there is life “out there”, whether primitive or advanced, it will be there for the same reason it exists on earth:  intelligent design (implying a Designer, as the Bible teaches).  Mere chance simply cannot produce even the “simplest” form of life.  It requires a mind that chooses and causes the right steps to happen in the right order.  Eugene Koonin, an evolutionary biologist who specializes in computational questions relating to evolution, says the odds against even the simplest form of life arising by chance are so great that it would take the existence of a near-infinite number of universes to find one in which it would happen once.  Yet he believes this to be the case!  Such is the tenacity with which materialists cling to their faith in matter.

So where does this leave us?  Are we alone in the universe?  Whether or not there are other life forms besides those that reside on earth, the Bible tells us that we are definitely not alone.  God asks, “Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:24)  The Psalmist takes this truth to heart:  Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.  If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. (Psalm 139:7-10) The answer is clear:  God is everywhere present.  He “fills” the heavens and the earth.  But doesn’t God dwell in heaven, a long way from where we are?

God answers this:  For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)  He dwells in heaven and also upon the earth.  Heaven is simply the place where His glory is most displayed and where His creatures can most fully enjoy His presence.  Nevertheless, He is present everywhere, even in Hell, the place spirits go who cannot abide His glory.  It is their irrational antagonism and antipathy toward Him that blinds their eyes to His goodness.  But He is there, nonetheless.  And He is here too!  When we repent of our independence from Him and place our trust in His infinite loving kindness we will know that He has never left us and will always be with us.  When she lay dying in a Nazi concentration camp for helping Jews escape, Betsy Ten Boom told her sister Corrie:  “When we leave this camp, and we will, we must go everywhere and tell them that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.  And they will believe us because we have been there!”  Betsy died but Corrie went on to carry out this mission to proclaim to everyone that God is with us no matter how terrible the conditions in which we live.

The Father promises us:  Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you! (Hebrews 13:5; quoting Deuteronomy 31:6, 8)  The Son says, And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) and that His Spirit will dwell within us (John 14:17) The whole Trinity is always with us!  We are not alone!