Are we alone, or is there life elsewhere in the universe?
For decades, speculation about extraterrestrial life has been boosted by tales of flying saucers and encounters with aliens. In 1996, this was fueled from another source. NASA researchers claimed to have found evidence for simple life forms in a meteorite, allegedly from Mars, found in Antarctica.
Since then, this “proof” of life in the “Mars rock” has very much lost lost favor among the scientific community. The supposed “nanofossils” were probably no more than magnetite whiskers plus artifacts of the experimental process.
Despite this, the 2 kg rock ignited a new surge of “Mars fever.” In the next 20 years, the Americans, Europeans, Japanese, and Russians plan around 20 projects to explore our neighboring planet, which is about 34,580,000 miles (55,651,000 kilometers) away at its closest approach to Earth in 2729 (farthest distance is about 250 million miles or 401,300,000 kilometers).
Meanwhile, belief in extraterrestrial intelligence continues to grow with an almost religious fervor.
The UFO Wave
Harvard University psychiatry professor Dr. John E. Mack recently attracted worldwide attention with his collection of cases of people claiming they were “abducted by aliens.”
There was also the release of a film of an alleged autopsy on an alien from a crash in New Mexico close to the U.S. Air Force Base at Roswell. The blurry footage, which most have dismissed as an obvious and crude forgery, was nevertheless the main attraction at the 1995 UFO World Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Then, of course, there was the “alien invasion” film “Independence Day,” which grossed more in its opening week than any other previous film.
A recent poll in Germany revealed that 17 percent of the population believe in visits by alien craft, while 31 percent believe there is intelligent life in other galaxies.
What should Christians think about UFO accounts?
Never a single contact with an “extraterrestrial”
In 1900, the French Academy of Science offered a prize of 100,000 francs for the first person to make contact with an alien civilization—so long as the alien was not from Mars, because the academy was convinced that Martian civilization was an established fact!
Since then, not a trace of “little green men,” or indeed any life, has been found on any of the planets that our probes have explored, including Mars.
Despite this, a great number of astronomers think that, since life supposedly evolved here on Earth, it must have evolved near one of the many stars out there. Around the world SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) researchers have scanned the sky, looking in vain for signals from intelligent beings. Despite all the listening, on thousands of frequencies over many years, nothing indicating intelligent life has ever been heard.
Conditions must be “just right”
Life on any planet can only survive provided a great number of very stringent requirements are met. For example, the planet must be at the right distance from its sun, so as to be neither too hot nor too cold. In particular, it must be in a very narrow temperature range so that liquid water exists.
Even if planets around other stars are confirmed, it is extremely improbable that any of them would fulfill all the requirements needed for life. Just having liquid water is completely insufficient, despite the excitement created when such was possibly detected on the surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa. (The fluid is now thought to be sulfuric acid.)
Life cannot form spontaneously anyway
Without intelligent, creative input, lifeless chemicals cannot form themselves into living things. This is the theory of spontaneous generation, disproved by the great creationist founder of microbiology, Louis Pasteur. Without unfounded evolutionary speculation, UFOlogy would not have its present grip on the public imagination.
Even if we assumed life existed somewhere else in the universe, a visit by extraterrestrials to Earth, such as is claimed in UFO reports, seems completely impracticable, if not impossible. The distances (and therefore the likely travel times) are unimaginably vast.
The closest star to the Earth, Proxima Centauri (a-Centauri C) is 40.7 million million kilometers (approximately 25 million million miles) away. The Apollo flights took three days to get to the moon. At the same speed, one would need 870,000 years to get to the nearest star. Of course, one could accelerate (particularly unmanned) probes to a greater speed.
At the incredible speed of one-tenth the speed of light, the trip, one way would still take 43 years. However, one would need enormous amounts of energy for such an acceleration, roughly equivalent to the electricity consumption of the entire world's population for one month.
Furthermore, in every cubic kilometer of space, there are an estimated 100,000 dust particles (made up of silicates and ice) weighing only a tenth of a gram. At such a velocity, colliding with even one of these tiny objects could destroy a spaceship.
So what about UFOs?
How then, should one understand the UFO phenomena and all the associate hype? In the German magazine Focus, it was recently stated “90% of UFO reports turn out to be a humbug, but there is a residual 10% which are not easy to dismiss.”
The article quoted sociologist Gerald Eberlain as saying:
Research has shown that people who are not affiliated with any church, but who claim they are religious, are particularly susceptible to the possible existence of extraterrestrials. For them, UFOlogy is a substitute religion.
The Bible gives a description of reality concerning all living things. The living God reveals himself as the Triune One—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In heaven, there are the angels, powerful created beings who also serve mankind on Earth.
The devil has his own repertoire of deception in the form of various occult practices and a multitude of religious rites. It could be that behind those unexplainable UFO reports there is the work of the arch-deceiver. UFO reports, by definition, remain nebulous and not identifiable. People who do not know Christ are easily fascinated by all sorts of phenomena that are difficult to explain. For Christians there is Jesus' warning in Matthew 24:4 to “Take heed that no man deceive you.” What is the best antidote to deception? Paul exhorts us, in 2 Timothy 2:15, “study” the Scripture, so we might “accurately handle the word of truth.”
Secret Bases?… Government Cover-ups?
Many UFO enthusiasts spread the “urban myth” of secret U.S. government experiments on aliens, etc.—an idea reinforced by the movie Independence Day. However, does a cover-up make sense when, under the inspiration of atheists like the late Carl Sagan, the U.S. government has spent millions of taxpayers' dollars listening “out there” for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life? Many other evolutionary humanists, like Sagan, passionately believe that intelligent life has evolved “out there” in addition to Earth, and would pounce on any hard evidence for this idea. Consider the media frenzy about the “life in Mars rock” fiasco. To imagine that a much more exciting discovery would be kept secret for decades defies credibility.
Feasibility of Inter-stellar Travel
The following calculations are given for the benefit of the more technically minded.
For a spacecraft to acquire a speed of c/10, the kinetic energy needed is given accurately enough by the non-relativistic formula of mv2. For a very small unmanned spacecraft of 10 kg, this is x 10 kg x (3 x 107 m/s)2 = 4.5 x 1015 J, or approximately the whole world's electricity production for a month.
For a manned spacecraft weighing several tons, the energy requirements would greatly exceed the world's annual electricity consumption. For the city-sized spacecraft in Independence Day, the energy requirements would be staggering. And when the spacecraft slowed again, it would use up to almost this amount of energy in braking.
If the spacecraft had to accelerate to c/10, slow down, and speed up many times, the energy needed would be many times greater.
It would probably be impossible for enough fuel to be carried without some sort of antimatter drive. If perfect annihilation—complete conversion of matter to energy (E=mc2)—where possible, 1 ton of antimatter could annihilate 1 ton of ordinary matter to produce: 2000 kg x (3 x 108 m/s)2, or 1.8 x 1020 J. And this is the absolute maximum amount of energy that could be produced from a given mass of fuel. A real spacecraft could be nowhere near this efficient.
The kinetic energy of a speck of dust with a mass of just 0.1 gram impacting at a tenth the speed of light, calculated from the spacecraft's reference frame, is mv2, or…
x 10-4 kg x (3 x 107 m/s)2 = 4.5 x 1010 J.
The combustion energy of TNT is 4,520 kJ/kg, or 4.52 x 109 J/ton. So 4.5 x 1010 J is equivalent to 9.95 tons of TNT. Therefore, the impact energy of a 0.1 g object hitting a spacecraft traveling at c/10 would be equivalent to an explosion of about 10 tons of TNT.
For more information
What does the Bible say about intelligent life on other planets? Answer
Were the biblical nephilim (sons of God) extraterrestrials? Answer
Did a “Martian” meteorite proven the existence of ET? Answer
Where did life come from? Is evolution really the best scientific answer? Answer
Can evolution be the source of life in all its complexity? Answer
Why is abiogenesis impossible? Answer
What disturbing roadblocks are researchers discovering in attempting to prove evolutionary origins? Answer
References and Notes
Much of this page is based on an article by Dr. Werner Gitt published in Creation, 1997, 19(4):46-48.
J.D. Sarfati, “Life on Mars?” Creation, 1996, 19(1):18-20.
J.D. Sarfati, “Life from Mars?” CEN Technical Journal, 1996, 10(3):293-296.
Bob Holmes, “Death Knell for Martian Life,” New Scientist, 1996, 152(2061/2):4.
See Anon., “Another Blow to Mars 'Life' Claim,” Creation, 1998, 20(2):8.
Some recent creationist critiques of evolutionary origin of life theories are: S.E. Aw, “The Origin of Life: A Critique of Current Scientific Models,” CEN Technical Journal, 1996, 10(3):300-314; J.D. Sarfati, “Self-replicating Enzymes,” CEN Technical Journal, 1997, 11(1):4-6; C.B. Thaxton, W.L. Bradley, and R.L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life's Origin (New York: Philosophical Library Inc., 1984).
This means there is a very small chance of hitting one in each linear kilometer traveled, but over such vast distances, a hit is almost certain.
Hallo Erdling, “Ufologie,” Focus, 1995, 45:254.
Ibid., p. 252.
William Alnor, cult expert and award-winning journalist, has studied UFO phenomenon for many years. His book, UFOs in the New Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992) documents his investigations that lead to the conclusion that some UFO phenomena have an occult source.
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