February 3, 2013

Slice of PIE Christianity – UNIVERSAL OR ANTHROPOCENTRIC V: Did God Make SIMPLE Life Forms?

Five years ago, I started pondering this question and people have clicked on this essay nearly a thousand times, making it the single most-viewed thing I’ve ever posted. I’d like to continue thinking out loud on the issue now that I’m older and the world has changed a bit...

I was studying astronomy with my son – he’s gone back to college to finish his AA degree and then wants to move on to a physics degree – and we were discussing…oh…everything under the sun (literally!).

Paging through the book, I came to the last chapter. Since the end of the 20th Century, you’ll find that most astronomy textbooks for undergraduates end the class with a discussion of Extraterrestrial Life.

I find this amusing because in a book filled with theories, observations and a careful delineation of the history of the science, they end on a note of Science Fiction.

After filling pages of the text with high-sounding quotes from any and every authority who can be quoted, they conclude that THERE MUST BE LIFE OFF OF EARTH.

Mind you, they offer not a single shred of evidence except for the extremely tired old saw about “Martian Meteorite Fossils”, found during the analysis of a meteorite fragment discovered in Antarctica in 1984. Most add the script quote from the movie CONTACT which is obliquely attributed to Carl Sagan: "I'll tell you one thing about the universe, though. The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space. Right?
A recent addition to the canon of “if there’s life here, there OBVIOUSLY must be life elsewhere!” is this: http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Polonnaruwa-meteorite.pdf (this is the original paper that all the tabloid headlines screamed from -- of course, it's from a "fringe" website and the paper isn't peer-reviewed).

Undeniably, these are shaped like the diatoms we find on Earth. The authors compare the cometary diatoms to Earth diatoms and conclude: “...that the identification of fossilised diatoms in the Polonnaruwa meteorite is firmly established and unimpeachable. Since this meteorite is considered to be an extinct cometary fragment, the idea of microbial life carried within comets and the theory of cometary panspermia is thus vindicated (Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, 1981,.1982, 2000; Journal of Cosmology, Vol,21, No,37 published, 10 January 2013 Wickramasinghe, Wickramasinghe and Napier, 2010). The universe, not humans, must have the final say to declare what the world is really like.”

A quick read of the Wikipedia entry on the Polonnaruwa meteorite under the heading, Criticism will give you a succinct review the scientific community has taken of this startling discovery. I’ve provided the link below because my purpose here is not to discuss panspermia or cometary diatom fossils.

I want to talk about WHY I believe that God has allowed for simple life on other worlds.

First, I think that Scripture supports the view that it’s neither beyond God’s power nor outside of God’s desire to create simple life forms off of Earth: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Psalm 19:1

The Hebrew word used for “heavens” here would be pronounced “eshmim” in Hebrew.

According to my survey, it is a form of the Hebrew word whose Anglicized form is “shamayim”. This noun can mean several things – as all languages do when we give multiple and shaded meanings to different words – among them: “the physical heavens (includes all that is above the earth, and any given passage may include all or merely a constitute universe), and “the heavens as the abode of God (as in ‘the heavens are infinitely high above the Earth, so are God's thoughts and ways infinitely above man's ability to comprehend’).”

To my mind, God has used the things we see on Earth to reveal Himself: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Why would He do anything different in the rest of the Universe. It’s effectively infinite, so He would fill it with life. Why not simple life?

Despite the crazies, I believe there’s good evidence that it was an act of God to fill the Universe with simple life forms.

Can you Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Bahais, Confucians, Jains or Shintos point to a Scripture that would contraindicate God creating simple life elsewhere?

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