Why are we here? Literally. The latest science says we shouldn’t be. It says that the chance life exists at all is less than zero. So, is science the greatest threat to the idea of Intelligent Design or is science its greatest advocate? Best-selling author and lecturer, Eric Metaxas, poses this intriguing question and comes up with a very unexpected and challenging answer.
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In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: “Is God Dead?” The cover reflected the fact that many people had accepted the cultural narrative that God is obsolete — that, as science progresses there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. It turns out, though, that the rumors of God’s death were premature. In fact, perhaps the best arguments for his existence come from — of all places — science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured its now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two necessary criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion planets in the universe — that’s 1 followed by 24 zeros — there should have been about septillion planets — that’s 1 followed by 21 zeros — capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, scientists were optimistic that the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, known by its initials, SETI, an ambitious project launched in the 1960’s, was sure to turn up something soon. With a vast radio telescopic network, scientists listened for signals that resembled coded intelligence. But as the years passed, the silence from the universe was deafening. As of 2014, researchers have discovered precisely bubkis, nada, zilch, which is to say zero followed by an infinite number of zeros.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were, in fact, far more factors necessary for life — let alone intelligent life — than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10, then 20, and then 50, which meant that the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer, a magazine that strongly affirms atheism: “In light of new findings and insights . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life–every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. For example, without a massive, gravity-rich planet like Jupiter nearby to draw away asteroids, Earth would be more like an interstellar dartboard than the verdant orb that it is.
Simply put, the odds against life in the universe are astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfectly met by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that it is science itself that suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions in fact require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds?
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