Five years ago, I started pondering this question and people have clicked on this essay over a thousand times since then, 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...
A very well-known aphorism in the speculative fiction writer’s community is this:
‘“Call a Rabbit a Smeerp: A cheap technique for false exoticism, in which common elements of the real world are re-named for a fantastic milieu without any real alteration in their basic nature or behavior. ‘Smeerps’ are especially common in fantasy worlds, where people often ride exotic steeds that look and act just like horses. (Attributed to James Blish.)” (Edited by Lewis Shiner; Second Edition by Bruce Sterling; http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/)
For my argument, I’m going to suggest that when God created the heavens and the Earth, he created life forms that fit Earth’s biomes and fit specific niches in the ecologies of those biomes.
I’ll talk about “life as we don’t know it” in a later post, but I’ll be sticking with “life as we know it” for the time being – based on some version of DNA, able to live within a certain range of temperatures, for the most part aerobic (though anaerobes are important, there are no COMPLEX anaerobes on Earth).
Given those conditions, I might also limit the types of biomes available for life as we know it. Penguins, polar bears, and icefish (Notothenieioidei) live in the most inhospitable environment on Earth at the lowest end of the temperature scale. At the highest end of the temperature scale, there’s an entirely different set of life:
“Over 600 endemic species have been found so far in these communities. Some are living fossils, whose ancestors disappeared for 350 million years from the surface waters
Clams filter the bacteria, and crabs eat the bacterial mucus deposed over the rocks. Fish and echinoderms prey on all the smaller species. In these deep sea communities, some researchers found densities 100 times higher than on surface communities. The life communities are disposed in circles around the vents, on 100 to 1,000 square meters. Of course, all these animals had to adapt to the extremely toxic acid and sulphuric water and to the high temperatures. Some minute worms can make their tubes on the furnaces, where water can be up to 300 C (572 F).” (http://news.softpedia.com/news/Black-Smokers-Extraterrestrial-Life-on-Earth-78839.shtml)
So life as we know it will need to exist on planets like Earth. At last count, NASA’s Kepler mission had reasonable evidence for some 132 planets in the “Goldilocks zone” or the habitable zones around target starts. While NASA considered looking for stars that had ANY type of planet in the zone, they’ve tried to stick with Earth-like planets in order to keep the search manageable.
There are two planets that are more-or-less confirmed to be Earth-like. While they are distant, they offer the best chance so far that Humans may discover life on other worlds.
So – given that there may be two Earth-like planets some 1200 light years from Earth, is there anything in the Bible that specifically states that “the only place I created life was on Earth”?
To the best of my ability to search Scripture, there is no such passage. When the alien IS mentioned, (Hebrew e achdba or bgr or uegr, Greek xenoi koi paroikoi), God’s people are commanded to care for it. Other Bible readers concur: “The Bible is silent about extraterrestrial life, as it is popularly conceived, in other parts of the universe. At the same time, most of the world is markedly ignorant of the ‘extraterrestrial’ life to which the pages of the Bible so abundantly testify.” (http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/extraterrestrial-life-what-does-bible-say/)
If there is no ban on extraterrestrial life and when God DOES speak of sojourners and strangers, it is to direct God’s people to care for them; then I think that the idea of complex life on other worlds is acceptable to Him – and while it’s not proof that there IS (of course, no one on Earth has proof that there is extraterrestrial life (only well-reasoned arguments and hopes)) complex life elsewhere, it’s at least a strong suggestion that IF there is, THEN God approves of it AND it will probably be recognizable as such and perhaps even be classifiable along lines we might find comprehensible.