The belief that we're not alone in the universe has fed many sci-fi novelists. Now it's hit mainstream science, as Robert Wearner describes. But one needn't search space for the truth.
For thousands of years, thinking men and women on Planet Earth have wondered if there are intelligent beings anywhere else in the universe. Do thinking, reasoning people capable of communicating exist out there somewhere? Modem science has yet to answer that question.
Because of the enormous number of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy, many astronomers believe it is reasonable to assume that other intelligent beings exist somewhere. Perhaps they share our wonder, and may have developed a technology like ours that would allow communication.
This subject—the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)—has been endorsed by the International Astronomical Union, a world organisation of professional research astronomers.
Serious search for life in space began in April 1960 when Frank Drake focused a 25-metre radio-telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia. Astronomers at the Ohio State and Harvard Universities joined in the search. Astrophysicists organised the SETI Institute, a nonprofit organisation, with Drake its president. He has tirelessly continued the search for life in space for more than four decades.
Scientists at Arecibo Radio Telescope, the world's largest, located in Puerto Rico, were among the first to participate in SETI activities, as well as astronomers in Australia, the former Soviet Union and Spain.
According to J Kelly Beatty and Alan MacRobert, in an article in the Sky and Telescope (November 2004), “Despite 44 years of listening, astronomers have detected no artificial radio signals from other civilisations among die stars.”
So are they ready to give up the search? Not at all!
At a recent meeting of the Planetary Society, 15 experts studied the issue. They concluded that it was still too early to come to a consensus. Guillermo Lemarchand, of the University of Buenos Aires, calculated that scientists had probed only a hundred-trillionth of the “cosmic haystack” of radio channels, and sky directions needed to be sifted for the “needle” of an artificial signal. Far from being discouraged, the experts expressed excitement that SETI's capabilities were increasing by leaps and bounds.
Reasons for their excitement include listening with new technology and improved radio telescopes. Seth Shostok, an astronomer for the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, wrote about the new technology in Astronomy (September 2004), “The SETI Institute and the Radio Astronomy Lab of the University of California, Berkeley, are building a new instrument that will accelerate enormously the examination of individual star systems. Christened the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in appreciation of the generous funding provided by Paul G Allen (cofounder of Microsoft), this instrument ... will sport hundreds of dishes, each with reflectors 20 feet in diameter.” This ATA is being constructed on ranch land in the Cascade Mountains about 400 km north-east of San Francisco.
Dr Shostak goes on to say that the Berkeley team is also planning to upgrade the popular SETl@home screen saver, used by millions of computer users to analyse signals. Dan Werthimer, director of the Berkeley SETI program, plans to make additional bandwidth available for SETI@home application. He hopes to do the same for a down-under experiment, Southern SERENDIP, so home computers can pore through the cosmic bits and bytes collected by Australia's Parkes radio telescope.
Even more exciting is the discovery of planets orbiting stars far beyond our Sun. Robert Zimmerman, in an article titled “Seeking Other Earths", published in Astronomy (August 2004), reports that more than 120 planets outside our solar system have recently been discovered. He admits most of them are mostly gas giants, like Jupiter and Saturn, and not a likely home for intelligent beings. He said he hoped that astronomers would soon find Earth-like planets outside our solar system.
He didn't have to wait long. The front-page story of the September 1, 2004, USA Today was titled, “Planets more like earth found circling nearby stars.” Science reporter Dan Vergano writes, “Astronomers report finding three worlds close in size to Earth orbiting nearby stars, opening a new era in the search for planets like our own.” He goes on to give their names and how they were found.
Even though much progress has been made, Seth Shostak admits that “the bottom line remains the same: still no confirmed signal from any other world.” Some astronomers remain pessimistic. In conversation with a professor of astronomy at a large state university, I asked his opinion as to the prospects of finding evidences of intelligent life in space. He had his doubts, and thought it was limited to this Earth. I responded that the universe was teaming with intelligent life, but that my source of information was based upon revelation, a “fourth special dimension,” beyond natural science.
As a Bible-believing Christian, I turn to the book of Genesis for my picture of the origin of life. In its first words the prophet Moses declared quite unambiguously: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” as a home for an intelligent race of human beings.
I list the following about life in space, unknown or unacknowledged by mainstream science, but revealed in Scripture:
1. An all-wise Creator-God spoke into existence Planet Earth, in six 24-hour days, and placed plant and animal life on its surface. His dwelling-place is in the highest heavens (2 Chronicles 6:18). We would call that outer space.
2. On the sixth day of Creation week, the Creator-God spoke into existence humankind after His image. He gave them a mental capacity capable of reasoning and He told them to “be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28).
3. Beginning in Genesis 16:7-12, then in some 300 verses following, the Bible informs us of the existence of another order of intelligent beings called angels. These supernatural beings were created before Planet Earth, and throughout Bible times served as God's messengers to bless humankind (Hebrews 1:14). The patriarch Jacob saw them ascending and descending to and from the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:12-17).
So are there intelligent beings in space?
Yes, an innumerable company of angels according to Hebrews 12:22—and all busy doing God's bidding.
I asked in the title, “Are we alone?” My answer is, no! We admire the earnest efforts of scientists and engineers in building telescopes and spacecraft in search of life. Governments and wealthy individuals have spent billions to pay for it all. But so far they've found no trace of life in space.
Science fiction authors write stories about grotesque-looking threatening characters. But we don't take them seriously. Only Bible writers answer our question by telling us that a loving heavenly Father dwells in the highest heaven and is in complete control of His universe. All the hosts of His heaven, created by Him, are friendly to us. We can put our complete trust in Him.