Is There Life on Other Worlds?

The beautiful picture on the cover of our journal this month is very familiar to most of us. As man has pushed farther and farther into space, we have all been astounded at the diversity of the objects that make up our solar system. Each planet seems to have its own set of peculiar properties with very little in common with the other members of the solar system. Even the larger moons of the solar system show amazing diversity in almost every property you can imagine. Jupiter's moons vary from asteroid sized hunks of rock to what appears to be an ice-covered world that may have liquid water. One of Jupiter's moons named Io is covered with active volcanoes while another named Callisto appears to be old and battered with impact craters covering its whole surface. Massive amounts of carbon are seen around the solar system, even within the rings of Uranus. Organic molecules have been discovered in meteorites, some of rather high complexity. Does not all of this suggest that there should be life out there somewhere?

In addition to all of this information about the solar system, science has learned that life can exist in incredibly hostile places. Miles below the surface of the sea, scientists have found deep sea vents where hydrothermal activity is extensive. Around these vents are many living creatures, some of which function on a chemistry much different than their counterparts near the surface. Primitive life forms have even been found in hot water pools around geysers living in water that is close to the boiling point. If life can live in such austere places, is it not reasonable to believe that life exists in places other than Earth? Is this a threat to those who believe in God or who believe in the biblical account? We suggest that life in space is not a biblical issue nor a religious one. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Life in space is not a creation issue. The question of creation is not a question that involves life. The existence of life elsewhere would have many explanations both scientifically and religiously. The question that relates to the existence of God is "how did matter/energy come into existence," not "how did matter get organized into life." It is true that the question of whether life could develop by chance has biblical interest, but that is a design issue, not a creation issue.
  2. The Bible does not say that this is the only place God created life. If God created and designed life to live in the oceans of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, it will be there because God may have had some excellent reasons to place life on other worlds for man's use in the future or some purpose we cannot envision. It has always intrigued me that, when Jesus gave the Great Commission in Mark 16:15, He did not say to go preach the Gospel to Palestine, or to Europe, or to Earth. The Greek word that is used in this passage is cosmos. I would not make any argument for anything from this verse, but it is interesting.
  3. Life in space does not mean it got there by chance. We have already pointed out that the creation of matter from nothing is not what the issue of life in space involves. We have also pointed out that the life created by God could be in space because He designed it to be there. It is also important to realize that there are other ways life could exist in space and not be there by chance. More and more scientists are learning that the earth has had violent astronomical catastrophes in the past. There is strong evidence that an asteroid collision in the Yucatan Peninsula caused massive extinctions on Earth. Volcanoes like Krakatoa in the Eest Indies have been known to explode with unbelievable force. It appears that the moon, like the earth, has had massive numbers of strikes from objects extra-terrestrial in nature. These types of astronomical catastrophes could blast chunks of Earth materials into space and seed other worlds with our life forms. The press' promotion of life from Mars in a meteorite found on Earth depended on such a process to explain how that meteorite could have gotten to Earth from Mars.

When there is a conflict between science and the Bible, you either have bad science or bad theology. The search for life elsewhere in the solar system/cosmos is a fascinating study, and it has been plagued with some dubious science in its history. Whatever is learned in the years ahead will just broaden and deepen our understanding of God and His power and wisdom in all He has done.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug00.