On Thursday, September 30, 2010, researchers from the University of California Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institution of Washington, announced that they have discovered the first planet that could support life. The planet, named Gliese 581g, orbits a red dwarf named Gliese 581 in the constellation of Libra about 20.3 light years or 119.3 trillion miles from earth.
According to their reports, the planet’s orbit lies in what is called the habitable zone, a distance from their sun that would allow liquid water to exist on the surface. Gliese 581g is estimated to be three to four times the size of earth and only takes about 37 days to orbit Gliese 581.
Unlike earth, Gliese 581g does not rotate on its axis, but is tidally locked, indicating that one half of the planet always faces Gliese 581 and the other half would remain in perpetual darkness. The discoverers admit that if life existed on this planet, it would have to be at the edges where the light and dark halves meet.
The first thing about this announcement that caught my attention was the title: “Researchers Find First Planet That Could Support Life”. Obviously, these researchers have been spending WAY too much time in the laboratory and forgot about our own little planet called Earth, that is the only known planet to support life in the entire solar system.
Secondly, I always enjoy reading these astronomical discoveries to learn just how much they really know about the claims they are making. Let’s examine the preciseness of what they have said: “The researchers ESTIMATE that the rocky planet has a mass ABOUT three to four times of Earth, with an orbit of ABOUT 37 days.” (emphasis mine) With a background in the life sciences, I know that had I ever presented a paper that used such ambiguous terms in reporting measurements, it would have been rejected straight away. Yet it seems that the field of astronomy regularly uses fudge-factor terminology to base their near definitive claims upon. I strongly challenge you the next time you read an article about an astronomical discovery, look to see if they are using precise terms or fudge-factor terms like: estimate, about, perhaps, could be, might be, etc.
All the rhetoric aside, we need to ask ourselves if there could be life on another planet. To answer that question, we first need to turn to the only source of knowledge that is trustworthy and irrefutable – the Bible. What does God’s Word tell us about the universe and the possibility of life existing elsewhere within it?
Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Then in Genesis 1:14-16 states, “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years. And let them be lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light upon the earth, and it was so. God then made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night: he made also the stars.”
Evolutionary astronomy would have you believe that all of the stars throughout the universe were created billions of years before the earth formed out of a cloud of cosmic dust. Yet, according to God’s Word, he created the earth first on day one and then he created the sun, moon and ALL of the stars three days later on day four. That would include any objects orbiting around those stars as well. Obviously the earth is a very special place in God’s scheme of things, much more so than any other object in the universe.
However, the most critical issue involves the possibility of life on another planet. Before we can address this, we must clarify the use of the terms life according to science and according to the Bible.
Science defines life as any organism that is capable of self replication. While some argue whether or not viruses are considered to be living organisms, most agree that life includes all one-celled organisms including bacteria all they up to complex plants, animals and man.
The Bible defines life as anything that has a nephesh or the breath of life within it. Basically, nephesh is translated to refer to any breathing creature or living creature. This would include animals and humans, but not plants, or many of the so-called lower forms of life which would include bacteria and other one-celled organisms.
Would there be a chance that some type of bacterial or other microscopic form of life exists elsewhere in the universe or on Gliese 581g? That is still a matter of controversy within the creationist circles as they are biblically not considered to be living.
What about nephesh life that meet the biblical definition?
Again, we have to turn to God’s Word which tells us that God created living or nephesh life on Earth on days five and six of Creation. There is no mention of God creating life on any other planet, just Earth. And this is important why?
Because after God created most of the nephesh life, he created man in his image on day six. Afterwards, God brought the animals to Adam to name and it was then that God said that it was not good for man to be alone, so he made Eve from Adam’s rib. Shortly thereafter, Adam sinned (Gen. 3:6-7) and brought death (Gen. 3:17-19) and disease into all of creation (Rom. 8:22).
Once sin entered the world and affected all of creation, man could no longer commune with a holy and righteous God without some type of intervention or sacrifice for man’s sin. God knew that he alone had to make that sacrifice and he promises to do so starting in Gen. 3:15. The fulfillment of the that promise was the physical and human birth of God the Son, his perfect life, death on the cross and his physical resurrection and ascension to heaven to sit on the right hand of God the Father as the sacrificial lamb for man’s sin.
Jesus Christ was called the Last Adam for a reason. He was a physical descendant of the first Adam. Christ’s redemption only applies to those that are descendants of the first Adam. If there were any similar life forms on any other planet, there is no way they could be redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice here on earth.
From the very first verse of Scripture to the very last verse, we see that the Earth is a very special place in God’s creation and the only place where he created nephesh life.