Does The Discovery of Earth 2.0 Mark The End of Religion?

Does The Discovery of Earth 2.0 Mark The End of Religion? July 24, 2015
Image of Kepler-452b, via NASA
Image of Kepler-452b, via NASA

Yesterday NASA made the announcement that they finally discovered something many have pondered: the existence of an Earth-like planet. The above illustration shows Kepler 452b, a planet somewhat larger than Earth but within the habitable zone of its star. Its year is almost identical to that of our own planet, and the amount of energy received from its sun is near identical as well– meaning if there’s life out there similar to our own, this is the kind of place where it’s happening. This discovery tells us two things: (a) Earth-like planets that host all the building blocks for life are probably relatively common in the universe, and (b) life may very well be relatively common in the universe also.

Discoveries like this are incredibly exciting, but are they bad news for God? Do they spell the end of religion? That’s precisely what scientist Jeff Schweitzer is arguing. In fact, he seems to think the discovery of extraterrestrial life would single-handedly strike down some of the world’s major religions if they were not re-written to accommodate such a discovery:

 “I would like here to preempt what will certainly be a re-write of history on the part of the world’s major religions. I predict with great confidence that all will come out and say such a discovery is completely consistent with religious teachings. My goal here is to declare this as nonsense before it happens.”

How does Schweitzer prove that extraterrestrial life is inconsistent with religion? Well, he goes straight to the Hebrew book of Genesis:

“Let us be clear that the Bible is unambiguous about creation: the earth is the center of the universe, only humans were made in the image of god, and all life was created in six days. All life in all the heavens. In six days. So when we discover that life exists or existed elsewhere in our solar system or on a planet orbiting another star in the Milky Way, or in a planetary system in another galaxy, we will see a huge effort to square that circle with amazing twists of logic and contorted justifications. But do not buy the inevitable historical edits: life on another planet is completely incompatible with religious tradition. Any other conclusion is nothing but ex-post facto rationalization to preserve the myth…”

Quoting Genesis 1:1 he notes,

“Nothing in that mentions alien worlds, which of course the ancients knew nothing about. Man was told to rule over the fish on the earth, not on other planets. But god would have known of these alien worlds, so it is curious he did not instruct the authors to include the language.”

He goes onto argue that the omission of alien life would require anyone without a closed mind to basically wash their hands of the Bible:

“None of the 66 books of the bible [sic] make any reference to life other than that created by god here on earth in that six-day period. If we discover life elsewhere, one must admit that is an oversight. So much so in fact that such a discovery must to all but the most closed minds call into question the entire story of creation, and anything that follows from that story. How could a convincing story of life’s creation leave out life? Even if the story is meant to be allegorical, the omission of life elsewhere makes no sense.”

While Schweitzer begins the piece by saying alien life would be a problem for religion in general, his entire argument is based upon the creation account in Genesis, so what he’s really saying is it is a problem for the three religions who worship the God of Abraham and share that creation account (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam). But is he right?

No, he’s not. The discovery of alien life will not be the end of any of the three Abrahamic faiths, nor will it require all but the closed-minded to leave.

If I understand his arguments, it seems he’s arguing the following: if alien life exists but is not mentioned in the creation poem, such a creation account is either (a) factually wrong or (b) contains an omission which would prove it were not inspired by God.

The irony of the argument brings up an important point that I’ve seen not infrequently: some atheists and fundamentalists often insist on reading the Bible the same way, yet both sides think the other is stupid for doing so. And this is precisely what Schweitzer is doing: he’s taking a fundamentalist view of Genesis and arguing that it would all fall apart with the scientific discovery of extraterrestrial life. (In fact, he’s actually going one step beyond fundamentalism and arguing that if the creation account omits any information, it is wrong.)

In praxis it looks like this:

Fundamentalist: This is what the text says. If it did not happen exactly the way it is recorded, it is not true. Therefore, it must be true.

Atheist: This is what the text says. If it did not happen exactly the way it is recorded, it is not true. Therefore, you’d have to be closed-minded to believe it.

It’s the same hermeneutical approach on both sides. It imports the same modern assumptions on how we tell history versus how ancients told stories, and assumes being “inspired by God” means the text must answer modern questions instead of ancient ones. Whether approaching it from the atheist side or that of the fundamentalist, it’s a rather unenlightening way to approach these ancient stories.

Our religion only falls apart if you hold Schweitzer’s assumptions: the creation account is a true account of creation and if something is omitted, the account is wrong. I don’t know many who actually hold to this position, so I would imagine the collapse of religion predicted would be relatively small.

In the end, I would be thrilled if they discover (as I already anticipate is true) that life is actually common in the universe. This will not shake my faith at all. This will not require me to become closed-minded an abandon the entire Christian narrative.

Instead, it would invite me to begin asking bigger questions about God and bigger questions about creation.

And as someone who loves asking questions about God, I welcome the opportunity.

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  • Nothing you’ve said is surprising to anyone who knows you or has read much of your work, Ben. But it does raise an interesting question; one that was posed to both Ken Ham and Bill Nye at their infamous debate. What would change your mind?

  • This is great and exactly true. Both certain stripes of atheists and fundamentalists flatten the Bible to one genre, read it all literally, and insist that it must be accurate in every way something can be accurate. And if it doesn’t specifically say something, then it is denying its existence.

    Incidentally, this is also how critics of Islam read the Koran, but I digress.

    One of my big issues with the inerrantist crowd is that they create atheists in precisely this manner. Either Genesis 1 is literal or the Bible isn’t true. They hammer that point home. AiG hammers that point home. So, when thoughtful students come to realize that Genesis 1 can’t be literally true, they take the only option their church has left to them.

  • liberalinlove

    The telling of our story, does not exclude the possibilities of other stories. I totally agree.

  • Tom LeGrand

    wonderful illustration of the similiarities found within extreme differences.

  • I love this. I mean, if God is creative enough to invent innumerable galaxies with even more stars and solar systems, really we should expect there to be life outside our planet. God might just be too creative to have only invented one planet capable of life.
    (I’m also holding out for something like Star Trek to occur someday, ahem).

  • liberalinlove

    Maybe the question is more about what would change your heart. Faith is a heart issue!

  • Jackie Heaton

    In one of his books John Crossan argues that the first Creation story isn’t about the creation of the universe but the creation of the world of the sabbath, the world of the Jewish people. The only thing that might be destroyed are some of our prejudices not our wonder at just what a strange and marvelous universe this is.

  • What would change my mind? Same thing that would change yours: absolute proof. The side of the skeptic desires ultimate proof in order to adopt belief, I would want ultimate proof to adopt disbelief.

  • Brian Kellogg

    We already know there are other animals on this planet with varying levels of morality, self-awareness, and intelligence. This only helps to reinforce and broaden our responsibility to act through wisdom more compassionately. Dualistic exclusionary thinking is the darkest of glasses through which to see. Life is ambiguity; it is, so often, metaphor.

    So I do not think finding life on another world would in any way affect the hermeneutic view of anyone except literalists and inerrantists.

  • “There is grace enough for thousands
    Of new worlds as great as this” – Fred­er­ick W. Fa­ber, “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy”, Or­a­to­ry Hymns, 1854.

  • God is god in life. Why would God bring about this vast universe and not fill it with life? I would find a clear demonstration that we are alone in this universe to be far more threatening to my acceptance of God in my life than discovery of life off our Earth ever could.

  • Randy Myers

    The problem with the so-called scientific view of Schweitzer as well as the fundamentalists is that both are products of modernism and so both are fundamentalist. There isn’t room for the play of God in scripture, of dance, what our ancestors in faith called Midrash.

  • The Eh’theist

    Are you sure that “ultimate proof” is what atheists are asking for? I’ve heard requests for “extraordinary evidence”, but that falls short of something “ultimate”. I’ve also heard a variety of other requests, some more reasonable than others, but none were for an “ultimate proof” that all atheists would accept.

    My thought has always been that an omnipotent God would know exactly what would convince me (better than I would even know) and can can choose to provide that evidence or not. It reminds me of WarGames where the NORAD system had the back door left from the Professor’s gaming work, although I don’t think God could be “hacked” in the same way.

    In terms of an “ultimate proof” against God, I can quickly see two complications with that: (1) while it is possible to provide lots of evidence in support of a negative, proof of a negative is impossible, except in mathematics, and (2) if the antitheist’s position is true, there is no agent to provide evidence against his own existence, as there is agency for a God to provide evidence if the theist’s position is true, so one would expect that there would be less explicit evidence for the former position that the latter.

    Obviously, arguing about a particular deity, with specific attributes and claims would shift some of those results, depending on the falsifiability of those attributes and claims.

  • Michael Edwards

    Thank you! It baffles me that fundamentalist Christians and militant Atheists read the bible the same way. I suspect this multiverse must be full of other intelligent life, and that doesn’t shake my faith in the least.

  • Fair enough– I’d be happy to call it extraordinary evidence, or a variety of other terms. My point is simply that on the side of theism one would want proof that compelled disbelief while on the atheistic side one would want proof that compelled belief. My biggest hang-up is that I have not found any scientific explanations for the spontaneous existence of matter (nothing created something) to be compelling. There are great answers for most of the other mysteries- which is why I have a good relationship with atheists, but for the existence of matter, nothing has ever been convincing for me out of naturalistic arguments.

  • gimpi1

    Yeah, that’s kind of where I went with his argument.

    Mind, I’m still not sure about any Deity, but the discovery of extra-terrestrial life wouldn’t prove a Divine force of some sort can’t exist. It would disprove a literal reading of Genesis, but so does the reality of the earth’s age and its geology, the biological process of the evolution of life and its interconnectedness and the age and physical structure of the cosmos. Most Christians don’t regard Genesis as a science text, so finding out that it was factually incorrect about one more thing doesn’t change anything.

    (Edited for typo.)

  • Brian Kellogg

    I would take it further than that moving into the realm of self-awareness and consciousness from inanimate matter. But, of course, we have to be cognoscente of straying too far into an argument from ignorance. Although I’m sure I’ve already opened myself up to that charge but I’m ok with that.

    What I find convincing about Christianity are the forms that put enemy love at the fore along with other ancillary correlate beliefs. Looking around the world I have to conclude this is the self-sacrificing answer exemplified in Jesus. This I accept by faith. Faith to me is not believing some propositional statement is unquestionably true in an unalterable sense, but that believing this way of living leads to the life and world changing results that points toward and leads us into that Truth.

  • gimpi1

    Yes, that’s true. And it has backfired on them.

    I’ve read several Atheists who’s de-conversion started with coming to understand that Genesis can’t possibly be factual. Since they had the “either it’s all literally true, or none of it has any meaning” mindset, they mentally cut the cord right there. It may have taken them a few years to fully realize it, but they came to understand that realization as the moment their faith ended.

  • The Eh’theist

    I agree it’s our most difficult challenge to address, right up there with the problem of evil for most Christians. What makes it even tougher is that at present we can’t know what scientific knowledge of our current existence has any applicability to what was happening when everything started (just like the fortunate fact that the chemical attributes of table salt differ dramatically from those of chlorine and sodium, or we’d have a tough time making pasta).

    It’s also why I tend to set aside the question of whether a generic god exists and look at the evidence for specific “suspects”. There may be a god who exists that does nothing but play Skee ball in New Jersey, but I’m unlikely to know about that without some revelation. It’s the ones that have claimed revelations which make demands on me that I’ve looked at and considered.

  • Mark Moore

    If religion were based on logic it would have been destroyed centuries ago. Religion is based on fear of death so even mountains of contradictory evidence has little or no effect as people struggle to maintain the fiction that they are not going to die.

    Whether or not a planet with life is discovered will not fix the human tendency to delude himself about his own demise.

    Fear of death of the religious may in the end kill us all since the fundamentalists are allowing global warming to progress full bore and the most likely outcome of that is human extinction.

    The only cure for religion is going to be the cure for the fear of death.

  • Andrew Barloq

    I think Schweitzer picked the wrong questions, because his “proof” is laughably easy to dismiss, as you have already proven, Ben. However, I think that it’ll bring about some more fundamentally challenging theological questions which would be far more difficult to deal with. For example, if we discover an intelligent species, then are they capable of attaining salvation (aka, did Jesus die for the aliens too)? Or what if we discover an intelligent alien species which has very similar Christ-like narratives – would this mean that God’s son had to come and die multiple times for each species? And if not, then how much sense does it make for Jesus to only come to one life-bearing planet and leave all the others in the dark (assuming that all of creation is sinful of course)?

    In any case, I think that these sorts of theological/philosophical issues would be far more likely to lead people out of religion if we contact alien life, rather than any supposed “incompatibilities” with the Bible and extraterrestrial life.

  • Cat lover

    Ben, here’s what I’ve wondered about. For the sake of argument, let’s begin with a premise that God exists and Christianity is true. What if other galaxies have other gods? Or the same God, but She has a different way of interacting with the creatures on those planets? It seems to me that life on other planets puts a lie to the exclusivist claims of Christianity. And without that exclusivity, I think most fundamentalists would crumble.

  • T Meyer

    Narrow mindedness is a Human characteristic. Just a short time ago we believed we were the center of the universe and that everything revolved around us. You were burned at the stake for even thinking otherwise. And we have this God who’s “ONLY” Son lived exclusively on this tiny insignificant speck of dust in a galaxy amidst billions of galaxies. But apparently our God is the God of this entire universe. This is and has been his home. The comment comes up that the writers of the bible never mentioned other life out in the universe. But guess what, they also failed to mention the other peoples that Cain was sent to. Who were they? Where did they come from? It’s right there in black and white. Read it, or have that entire section removed because it might offend. If we were actually an intelligent species we would be trying to hide ourselves instead of advertising our presence. For starters, when was the last time our species “came in peace”. We don’t. We kill everything in our path and exploit the resources. That is who we are as a species. That is what we do. We have never once in the history of the human race done anything other than that. So if we are able to travel to a lesser species we will kill all of them and exploit their resources. And more than likely the same will happen to us should a more advanced species find us first. The greed of big business and politics is what is going to destroy this planet and our species. And for allowing them to do this, perhaps we deserve it.

  • Oh– I agree. If there is life elsewhere, it will spark an entirely new set of theological questions. However, as a theologian that actually would be something I’d enjoy.

  • You have, of course, identified the key to so much of atheist vs. fundamentalist argument: “atheists and fundamentalists often insist on reading the Bible the same way, yet both sides think the other is stupid for doing so.”

    All I can do is stand aside and watch them go after each other with a literal Bible that does not even exist.

  • Andrew Barloq

    And as someone who likes to wrestle with theological issues, I’d have to agree as well! :)

  • The idea that some belief has to be based on “logic” is a post-enlightenment assumption that the vast majority of human beings throughout history simply did not share.

    Most ideas and practices were based almost entirely on trial and error, a Darwinian evolution of ideas if you will. God and religion tend to follow that path, the belief evolved because it served a purpose and replicated itself in nearly all peoples that have ever existed. Like any idea or practice it modifies itself over time and that which serves a purpose is retained while that which does not tends to be discarded overtime. Its not something that arose because some intellectual or philosopher say down, contemplated reality and put forth a theory. You don’t even see that in any society until Socrates in Greece, and even then it bears little resemblance to the scientific method or other formal theorizing we see from the enlightenment on.

    This is how you go from a God who asks you to follow rigid rules, to a God who asks you to love your enemies and be kind to the weak or outcast. As our moral ideas evolve, our conception of God evolves as well, but this does not mean there is not a real spiritual experience of God at the core of everything.

    You say religion is preventing global warming from being solved but the Pope, the leader of the world’s largest organized and structured religion just put out a document talking about the need to combat global warming. Clearly assumptions about what God wants from us can and are evolving, all while you and people like continue to harp on fundamentalists that have very little following or influence in the world.

    In any case reducing religion to simple fear of death is a ridiculous argument when you consider that many religions such as Buddhism or Hinduism do not contain a means by which your consciousness will continue, thus there would still be a pronounced fear of death as your currently personality and accompanying memories will cease to exist.

  • apawstate

    I’m atheist and couldn’t disagree more with the referenced piece by Jeff Schweitzer. It irritates me when anyone insists on telling someone else what they believe or SHOULD believe and he is trying to force ALL Christians to hold to a literal reading of Genesis. He’s plain wrong. However, you might be surprised how many of us atheists DO understand you. I for one recognize the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe would not be a problem at all for liberal Christians.
    You rightly say that atheists and fundamentalists often insist on reading the Bible the same way, but when atheists do that we are usually dialoguing with (or writing to) fundamentalist Christians. We read it that way, in that particular interaction, because THEY read it that way. Otherwise, we get it, we really do, that not all Christians hold that view of the Bible.
    What appears to be militant atheism gets more attention because it often comes across argumentative and “angry”. But please understand, many of us ARE angry at the hateful, abusive actions of fundamentalists, aren’t you? I and many other atheists feel we have a lot in common with liberal Christians. We don’t generally oppose your ideas because for the most part a lot of us see you as allies in promoting the health, well-being and happiness of humanity.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    no s*** Sherlock!

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    what if there is no if?

  • Maybe there is still hope, because as bad as we can be, we can do good, too.

  • Peter Yumi

    I read Schweitzer last evening.. I spent sometime thinking about how Schweitzer seems hell bent and furious about the judeo-christian tradition. What I find interesting is how a scientist spends so much energy developing anger and what seems like resentment towards something that really is not part of the conversation of science. Granted many religious zealots who take their religious manuscripts literally perceive science as a threat to the fundamental aspects of their religion, but science is outside of that conversation. To me the beauty of science is that science is based on data, to arrive at a truth in an antithetical way of how religion supposes it arrives at truth. I think for a scientist to even engage in those arguments with based on superstitions from our primitive past does a disservice to the scientific community in general. What Schweitzer fails to take into consideration is the multitude of religious beliefs of the billions of humans living on this planet, some christians are extremely open minded and reject the zealotry of extreme right wing christians. Hindus have believe that some of their gods live on other planets and even travel easily through time and space. The Buddhist have a belief system that encourages a much more open ended pluralistic view of life in the universe, the catholic church acknowledge that life most likely does exist on other planets. It’s our human tendency to put anecdotal evidence as a way of validating arguments, even in the other comments on this post people are basing their arguments against Schweitzer’s article on such things as ” I am an atheist” etc. The fact of the matter is that the evidence for life on other planets will far supercede any arguments for or against and most likely when or if we ever find life on other planets will forever change the evolution of human thinking. We are at a crucial step in our evolution in which we must step out of our limitations that have kept us within the bondage of warfare, poverty, famine, violence and superstition. Sadly, We can see from historical records and evidence that the discovery of life on other planets will most likely cause others to dig deeper into whatever their “ism” is. Atheist will have a field day, others will reject the claims, perhaps new religions will spring up. What we can say without hesitation is that we as humans are prone to bias, prone to making choices and commitments to ideas and clinging to them , even willing to fight to the death for those beliefs. Science begs us to move beyond the limited manner in which humans think, science does not say one has to believe in a certain god, or theological belief to practice science, it only says that logic and scientific method must come first to learn the facts as we know them at that time. Humans perhaps will always have the kind of bias that creates an article like the one that Schweitzer wrote, or the type of bias that a religious zealot might write as well. The wonderful thing about having the knowledge of this is that we can as individuals make choices to not engage in the type of thinking that keeps us wallowing in the slime and mud of the dark ages, instead of slinging mud, we can move forward in the spirit of learning and sharing knowledge in the hopes of moving humanity forward towards a truly awesome evolution that leads us beyond the confines of our limited thinking.

  • Guy Norred

    I have found this to be the case with more than just Genesis. For many their entire faith is wrapped up in not being able to question ANY aspect of it because if they should find that one part wrong, then nothing is right, or if I am feeling more charitable, how do I know what is right of what is left. It seems to be to come down to a lot of fear.

  • Guy Norred

    It often seems like people don’t want to know God is terribly creative even with just our own species so….

  • “So much so in fact that such a discovery must to all but the most closed minds call into question the entire story of creation, and anything that follows from that story.”

    So, I’m confused. If I’m telling one story (the story of man’s relationship with God), isn’t it actually necessary to tell it from the perspective of human beings? And human beings at the time of the writing of Genesis wouldn’t have been able to understand what we know now *even if it was explained to them* – as it is likely us moderns won’t understand the knowledge of our descendants two to three thousand years from now. Why would you expect creation stories to reveal random, irrelevant divine insights into non-Earth lifeforms that would be confusing to the language, culture, and mental frameworks of its intended audience?

    Let us say the writers of Genesis had randomly put in a nod to the existence of alien life – does that not clash with the whole narrative? Imagine: “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain saw a crop circle and believed it was made by aliens. Where he got that idea, I have no clue. But as it turned out, the crop circle was made by Abel, just to mess with Cain. As an aside, dear reader: did you know that aliens do exist and they live on other planets? It’s true. A planet is what you are standing on right now and your planet is orbiting the sun. I kid you not. Anyway. . . back to the story, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.”

    You can’t win with someone like Schweitzer – what level of scientific understanding, and from what millennium, should be shoehorned into the story? How much is enough to “prove” divine insight exists, when the only divine insight you’ll accept is directly related to our current level of knowledge?

  • Scott Harrington

    Is there any law of science that says life can exist in more than one place, or any law of necessity that says life necessarily has to exist throughout the whole universe? What laws of physics and natural law govern the existence and location of life? Of what necessity or law of physics is there to suggest life can arise anywhere in the universe? What are the necessary physical ingredients of life? And what causes the necessary ingredients of life to be located where they are located? What evidence is there from science where we know where all the necessary planetary conditions and physical laws for life exist? If water is the key element for the existence of life, and water exists in more than one place in the universe, is the mere existence of water in more than one location in time and space sufficient natural cause for the beginning of life from matter? What causes life to exist? What is physical life? How is this answerable without the existence of information, and how can information exist in the universe without an informed one, a Mind that knows the information? What Law governs the Universe that determines and decides where life will arise?

  • Statis

    There are many physicists that are working on theories offering explanations for creating “something out of nothing”, with Lawrence Krauss being the most prominent and outspoken of them. At this stage they are pretty crazy theories that have miniscule if any experimental support, but mathematically they are consistent with how we think the universe works and so they are possible. I am ok with you not thinking they are compelling at this point, but they shouldn’t be brushed off as impossible or nonsense (not your words). I think a major roadblock to understanding them is that the layperson’s definition and understanding of nothing is not that same as a cosmologist’s interpretation of nothing.

  • Literalism is an interpretive choice just like anything else. The Bible does not say, “Interpret everything in me, literally,” and unless you are prepared to defend the notion that Jesus is literally a plant, you don’t take everything in the Bible literally, either.

  • Cat lover

    Heavy, man.

  • Cat lover

    Oops. I should have read your comment before making mine. I said what you did, but less eloquently.

  • Matt Jacobs

    Schweitzer’s whole argument hinges on the assumption that Christians must never have previously considered that life on other planets exists, which is absolutely ludicrous. C.S. Lewis was playing with the idea of life on other planets over half-a-century ago.

    Non-human life is built into Christian mythology, in the form of angels, demons, and spirits in general. The jump to life on other planets isn’t that difficult.

  • Good point. :(

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    boy your going to carry that weight
    carry that weight a long time!
    ~ The Beatles

  • Uncouth Angel

    Genesis likely wasn’t meant to be taken literally even at the time it was written, since it was composed during the period of Babylonian exile, and contains many obvious allegorical references to Babylonian mythology. The patriarchs and their followers no doubt would have come into contact with these stories, which they would have taken for granted to be at least partially historically correct, and incorporated some elements of them into their account of the origins of the world. The emphasis, of course, was to differentiate their god from the gods of the Babylonians. Even the exile from Eden finds parallel in the real exile their leaders faced.

    Anyway, the author of the Huffington Post article is an idiot.

  • john

    Why don’t you commentators read C S Lewis he is way ahead of you. Anyway this argument is academic they will not ever find life outside the Earth

  • Will

    Your debunking of Schweitzer’s “argument” is sound, and we are certainly not alone. There is only a question of how far away our closest neighbors are.

    That being said, I would hesitate to use the word “common” with regard to life in the Universe. While Earth is not alone, it is rare. For every Earth and possibly Europa, there is a Mercury, Venus, Mars*, Titan (a moon of Saturn mostly covered in liquid methane, ethane, and propane), Ganymead, Pluto, Sedna, etc. Gas giants do have solid cores despite popular belief, but they could not be inhabited except by the most exotic of borderline acellular (not enclosed in cells) arguable biochemistry, and even that, if I understand correctly, could only happen in a relatively lukewarm example of a so-called “Hot Jupiter.”

    *Mars had life once. The Earthing and Martian Biospheres (systems of life) both started around the same time, but the Martian one became extinct very early in Evolution. Only Earth made it very far. The existence of modern microbes on Europa, however, remains to be seen, and those would be single-celled lifeforms, not intelligent aliens such we could talk to and sign trade agreements with them.

    Moreover, there are not dozens if not hundreds of barren star systems for every inhabited one. The nearest foreign star system, Alpha Centauri, is a compound star system with no planets let alone inhabited planets. One of the nearest planetary star systems (Solar Systems, basically) is one where the Sun is a pulsar, not a main sequencer like our own Sun. Every couple minutes, all the planets in that star system are rinsed with radiation that makes Hiroshima and Negasaki look like a household microwave. The possibly inhabited planets Kepler 22B and Kepler 452B are located 600 and 1400 light years from Earth, respectively. There are, however, many star systems closer than that.

    Life is not unique to Earth, but “common” is certainly the wrong word. Indeed, using that word brings you into a head-on collision with Fermi’s Paradox.

  • Trust me, you do not want to open that Pandora’s Box with me, as several here could personally attest.

  • jimwilson81

    I love it when I find a scientist with a closed mind, He is absolutely certain that he is right without any kind of actual physical Besides I like what Einstein said about the theory of Relativity when he said that it is a universal law, but on the other hand it could be a local phenomena. :)

  • José

    I find it interesting that atheist scientists presume to lecture us on our faith and then call us close-minded if we don’t agree with their narrow interpretations. Having said that, since I was young and read C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy and I’ve always hoped we’d get confirmation that the Creator of the Universe is doing all sorts of things in his vast, infinite domain.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    “And, in the end,
    The love you take
    Is equal to
    The love you make”

    — also The Beatles…

  • “The Bible does not say, ‘Interpret everything in me, literally,'”

    Are you suggesting my personal copy of the Bible *is not* a self aware entity, sir? Up until this moment, I had been wielding my trusty NET Bible as an actual living weapon, per a straightforward reading of Hebrew 4:12.

  • liberalinlove

    I am not afraid!

  • SAH

    Those of us who are Star Trek fans watched a story line about a second visit by the “Son” to a distant planet, as early as 1966. I don’t find that possibility inconsistent with my personal theology.

  • Brian Rush

    Why did you use “Religion” in the title, instead of “Fundamentalism,” which is what you obviously meant? You do understand the difference, right?

  • Well, there’s your trouble. You’re using the NET Bible. You need to use the Authorized 1611 KJV. Pages are sharper.

  • Vi Ps

    There is no evidence (a planet similar to Earth in the right zone does not mean that it has life, which seems to depend on very delicate parameters). There is no valid argument but some ridiculous rationalization: I don’t see why God should mention extraterrestrial life in a book devoted to salvation for the inhabitants of Earth, I don’t see why God omitting something in such a book has any significance (with the same argument we could say that God does not exist because Bible does not mention DNA or general relativity), I don’t see why God should speak about science to ancient people who doesn’t understand these things when he wants to speak about salvation for people of all ages, I don’t see how the writers of the Bible could understand these things so they put in writing. The fact that a scientist rushes to claim the end of religion based on no evidence and this ridiculous non-argument says nothing about God but says everything about this scientist, who wants so badly to end religion that he is willing to defy any rule of logic to make his dream true. This is called “wishful thinking”. It is the con of our times that science has become a hostage of atheism and many scientists use the beautiful name of science to preach their sophomoric philosophy. Why Do They Call It Science When They Mean Atheism?

  • “And on the sixth day, God said, ‘Let us make man in our image. And let us also make the sentient parasites of Artellaxia, but not so much in our image. Oh, and also let us make silicone-based life forms just to mess everyone up. Also… hey, Moses, are you getting all this down?'”

  • Your crop circle verses cracked me up.

  • I think you’re onto something. The Bible is a story about humanity in general and Israel in specific chronicling the history of Israel’s relationship to her god, YHVH.

    What kind of relationship YHVH would have with beings on other planets, or if He/She/It would have any relationship with them at all, is entirely off the Bible’s radar.

  • Why would Jesus need to die for another intelligent species off on another planet? I’m not following.

  • If Christianity is true, then gods of other locations throughout the cosmos are on the same level as pagan gods on Earth — if they exist, then they are created things just like we are, ultimately deriving from the one true God. It is therefore their calling to glorify God as all of creation is called to do, and subverting God’s glory for their own is a core evil, just as it is on Earth.

    If the Christian God is true and life on other planets exists, it is entirely likely that God relates to those creatures differently to how he relates to humans, just as he relates to humans differently to how he relates to angels, which is again different to how he relates to animals.

    Christ claims that he is the solution to human sin and all the problems that arise because of it. If creatures exist in the universe whose righteousness is not affected by the state of humanity, then Christ’s death as a human does not impact them. Either they are already in a right relationship with him and don’t need to be reconciled to him, or he is managing them independently of how he manages us.

    If, however, they do suffer death and decay as a result of being under human dominion, then Christ is the solution to their problems just as he is the solution to ours. His death, therefore, is instrumental in reconciling them to himself, and his resurrection is a confirmation that his death is efficacious for their reconciliation.

    So there really is no contradiction between Christ redeeming humans and a world that is broken by humans, and life existing elsewhere. Either other life is included in human brokenness and needs redemption through Christ, or it is excluded from human brokenness and the effects thereof.

  • Ben Mizrahi

    Extraterrestrial life is not mentioned in the Bible because even if extraterrestrial life deos exist (and the chances of that are pretty high) then they would still have to be created so far away from Us that traveling between Our planets would be impossible.

  • louismoreaugottschalk

    quite true old chap!

  • sTv0

    “I’ve always hoped we’d get confirmation that the Creator of the Universe is doing all sorts of things in his vast, infinite domain”.

    Yeah, me, too. I’ve always wondered what Wotan was up to after He vanquished all the Ice Giants…

  • Eris, elder daughter of Nyx

    This discovery tells us two things: (a) Earth-like planets that host all the building blocks for life are probably relatively common in the universe, and (b) life may very well be relatively common in the universe also.

    I’m sorry, I’m still “squeeing” over this. I need a minute.

  • Genesis describes the creation of the universe and life on earth. An absence of a description of alien life (should it exist) doesn’t prove the acount incorrect.

  • Benjamin Walburn

    Patheos talking out of it’s ass about religion. Hold up while I dust off my shocked face.

    Likely we’ll discover intelligent life outside of earth long before we find it in Patheos’ contributor list.

  • Linda Chatterjee

    I agree wholeheartedly, Ben. This is an old worn-out argument. In the past, the powerful Catholic church persecuted people who said that the Earth was not the center of the solar system, because that would disprove Genesis. These days some people dismiss evolution because it “disproves Genesis”. Get a grip. God is still in charge of the Universe regardless of how each generation understands it. Our creation myth is old and dear and has other things to tell us.

  • José

    that’s awesome sTv0!

  • As a famous President once said on the witness stand, “How do you define if”?

  • Herm

    Wow, when I saw this yesterday all I could think about was our horizons seem to keep expanding. I was excited. I am anticipating. I am wondering if we’re ready to be immigrants or welcome immigrants. God knows.

    Ben, after this article I stopped and thought very hard on what my Mom and Dad told me about Jim, born 19 days after me, who became my best friend for over 70 years. So help me, racking my brain here, I can’t remember a thing about Jim until for many years after I was born and certainly then nothing to really write home about. Why didn’t they tell me I wasn’t the only one when they knew Jim and his parents who introduced my parents to each other? Was it they didn’t want me to think I wasn’t the most special? Was it because I had enough to deal with just surviving infancy? … or was it because I wasn’t anywhere near capable of comprehending the significance of Jim even existing somewhere in my network?

    All I do know is Jim added immeasurably to my life by teaching me by the fruits of our friendship that I don’t ever want to be the only. He taught me the value of not needing or wanting to be self-serving. He more than any other taught me to care for another as myself. I’d gladly die for Jim.

    I pray that our Father in Heaven will help us through the painful awkwardness of this first step finding out we’re not alone. It gets more awkward meeting face to face. I really want Kepler 452b to become our best friend forever in the image of Jim. If we follow our Father’s lead they will be, guaranteed.

    Meanwhile, we have to give Jeff some slack, as we do the fundamentalists who believe they’re capable of being in charge. Both only seem to find their security by honestly believing they know all they need to know about Father’s work. None of us infant children has yet to get out of our crib without being held. None of us has seen the inside of Dad’s office or even glimpsed the outside of His office building. We only just now became aware of another crib existing and only potentially occupied. How capable are we to digest beyond the poetry of Genesis?

    There truly is peace in my heart and mind, though I do know I’m too ignorant and immature to survive on my own, or because of any of my sibling’s. I am secure because there is a perfectly capable Spirit I know personally working for each of us to survive. I am confident we will be introduced to more friends who will broaden our horizons to the ends of infinity taking an eternity of adventure shared before it’s over, when our Father knows we are ready. But Luke 10:27 and Matthew 7:12 are still in force to facilitate in that joining.

    Love you Ben! Thanks for sharing this news as gospel!

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    I have no problem with Sharpie-ing, penning in new stuff, and otherwise “correcting” the Bible to make it better reflect reality :)

  • Yes. You sound like an intellect of the highest order.

  • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

    This is how I originally thought of the inerrentist position worked against faith. It turns out that the progressive ways of reading the Bible work against faith as well. All the ways of reading the Bible as a believer are an exercise in avoiding falsifiability. The more a progressive, as I was, thinks and writes in disagreement of conservative interpretations, the more work I see Christians getting done (no god required). No god is doing the work of newer interpretations just as no god is busily endorsing conservative interpretations. Every Christian comfortably speaks without any effort from a god.

  • Jamie Trask

    J has a red ball. P has a blue ball. J tosses the blue ball to P. What can I infer from these statements? Therefore, there is no such thing as a green ball. Yep – proof! Oops. I think I learned about proofs in elementary school. Hmmm. Is there something wrong with his theory? That being said – Earth is round and a good temperature, etc., and has life. Planet 2.0 is similar to Earth… Therefore? Oops again!

  • Michael Demeule-Calella

    Creating a universe this big only to place one planet with life on it would lead me to the conclusion that if there is a God he is monumentally wasteful and cruel.

  • Falken

    I think it would only end one’s faith if they are superficial and mostly related to continuing a level of privilege people are used to.

  • Benjamin Walburn

    Nope, I just don’t applaud everything that is in disagreement with something I disagree with. I prefer facts, even with things I believe are myths.

  • pawood

    “In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ ”

    — Carl Sagan

  • Eris, elder daughter of Nyx

    Now that I’ve finished squeeing, I’ve come to say that Earth 2.0 does indeed mark the end of religion. Why? I don’t know. Heaven knows that once upon a time it used to be the case that some people thought that all the planets were inhabited with intelligent life because if they weren’t it was wasteful, and God wasn’t wasteful. But clearly this must be the end of religion if there are other plants with life any kind of life on them, and this planet might, so poof, no more religion. -wiggles fingers-

  • Maybe because that’s the word that Jeff Schweitzer (whom Ben is responding to) used? Which I thought Ben mentioned… perhaps I’m not remembering correctly.

  • Sue Bonner

    As a total Star Trek nut I think it would be cool if we could discover life on other planets. And as a Christian who believes that the Bible should be taken seriously but not always literally, I have no problem with God creating life on other planets. He’s a very big God who can do what he wants.

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    Can you please write a “translation” of the Bible? It’d be the funniest damn thing ever. (I actually got in trouble once for describing Ezekiel as having “probably peed his pants a little” when God raised a bunch of people from the dead in Sunday school. No room for creative interpretation, huh?)

    Seriously, though, as someone who knows so little about science — and religion, let’s be honest — that every proclamation from Angry Atheists makes me nervous because I don’t know enough to disprove it . . . this comment was not only funny, but insightful, thought-provoking, and comforting. If you have a blog, good sir, please direct me to it. :)

  • PinkyAndNoBrain

    I remember someone (I wish I remembered who) described our universe as a sandbox and science as the toys God gave us to explore and play with it. That image – of science being a gift and a joy that should fill us with wonder about God’s creation — is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine.

  • Alan Christensen

    Weve known for some time that the universe is much bigger than is suggested in the Bible. Religion is still around. If there is ever positive proof of alien life, some religious people will no doubt rethink some of their beliefs.

  • gilcarlson

    What do aliens have to say about this?


    Find out what they want you to know and what they don’t want you to find

  • LinCA

    Of course, for those that have already abandoned any literal interpretation of the “holy” texts, adopting their views to scientific reality may not be much of a stretch. After all, according to most believers the earth isn’t flat and it orbits the sun. Evolution, while in direct contradiction to most origin fables, is also accepted by all but the most ignorantly stubborn. Most religions are pretty adept at adapting. They have to, or risk oblivion.

    It won’t be any one scientific discovery that will be the last nail, it will be a death by a thousand cuts. The more science discovers, the more people are educated, and the more information is freely available, and the more obvious it becomes to more and more people that religion is little more than folklore and superstition, the more it will decline.

  • Brandon Roberts

    honestly i don’t think so it won’t stop christians from believeing and honestly idc if it does

  • Brandon Roberts

    i think some religous people fail to understand that the bible shouldn’t always be taken literally

  • Matthew

    I think when one moves away from the ancient literature and into the public ministry of Jesus Christ the folklore and superstition argument becomes much less viable.

  • Frank Eccleston

    IF a vacuum can truly be measured according to our ‘confined to time space and known physics’ laws and

    IF man, who has barely jumped off his own Earth and not even to another planet, takes a picture of another Earth-like planet and

    IF those pictures, or even a landed probe suggest that there may be some sort of life on this other planet (bear in mind that they will be happy if they find an amoeba)

    THEN we have to believe that they will ‘return with’/report the truth.

    I’m not anti-science but it is frequently wrong especially
    when it dips its toe into the unknown.

    I think the media have lied to me once or twice too.

  • Matthew

    The Bible´s main function (IMO) is to bring us the message of salvation for humankind. Couldn´t this message also be expanded to other intelligent life in the universe even if the Bible itself never speaks of such life beyond that of earth?

  • Jim Allyn

    The Genesis creation account is a MYTH, and was never intended to be taken literally.

  • Click bait headline. The bible is the least interesting religious book ever written. There are, for example, plenty of other religious books which *do* mention life in other universes. Or which do not have the silly limitation of trying to be the ultimate source of knowledge. I do hate it when people who should know better define religion solely in terms of fundamentalist Christian theology. Basic Catholic theology, with God as “Being Itself”, for example, is impervious to the kind of arguments put forward here by either side.

  • Never? Surely the early readers of the text would have had no reason not to take it literally, since nothing in their experience or knowledge would have contradicted such a reading, and there is nothing in the text itself to suggest to such a reader that they ought to put their metaphor spectacles on at any point.

  • “Only we’re allowed to have opinions! Keep your opinions to yourselves!”

    [Some] scientists are concerned with contradicting religious claims about the physical world because:

    1. Those claims tend to be wrong
    2. People tend to take those claims seriously nonetheless and act upon them
    3. Misery and foolishness are the inevitable results

  • It’s not so much that there is an absence, it is that the absence is conspicuous and reinforced by concepts already strongly present in the text. If, for example, there is truly “nothing new under the sun”, as Qoeleth would have it, then the text finds itself in strife with copy machines and shopping malls, never mind extraterrestrials.

    The real issue for an evangelistic, soteriologically oriented religion (like Christianity and Islam but unlike, say, Judaism and Buddhism) re: intelligent alien life, is when you start talking to aliens and you find they don’t have an analogue to Jesus, or sin, or a concept of fallenness of the material Universe, or an afterlife, or a soul, or [gasp] a deity. These would present far stronger problems for Earthly religion, especially ones that make strong and totalizing metaphysical claims, and would require from believers a strong re-examination. Really, the only thing that could avoid this collision is if space aliens had a religious sense nearly identical to humans. What do you suppose the chances of that are?

  • Frank Eccleston

    Afraid not… believers are saved from the sin of Adam’s rebellion.
    Life on other planets could not be held accountable because they are not of Adam’s bloodline.

  • Frank Eccleston

    “was never intended to be taken literally” – you should have prefixed that statement with “I believe”, since, many people do take the Bible literally.
    Or, maybe God has spoken to you, and made you aware of His original intent.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Some religious people believe in Angels and Demons (other intelligent non-human life), who knows how many planets they live on.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Any Christian will tell you. The Bible only speaks to those who believe it.

  • I agree mate. This blog typically has a sizable atheist readership for those exact reasons. We’ve got a lot in common, and there’s no reason why we can’t both dialogue and work together toward the betterment of society.

  • Or if you do, you might wanna bring a few beers, as I could personally attest.

  • PristineVision

    The Bible is very clear that there are other worlds with alien life. Here is a video to prove it:

    Is There Life On Other Worlds?

  • Walt Longmire

    The article appeared in the Huff Post. Enough said. It is entirely bogus. The notion of Huff Post giving religious news is about the funniest thing I have heard. They are godless, for goodness sake!

  • Walt Longmire

    Indeed, unless and until one is born again, he cannot either see [understand] or enter into [by faith] the kingdom of God.

    For me, for instance, I can think of no human writing that is as exciting as the Holy Scriptures. Human writings are so utterly mundane by comparison.

  • Walt Longmire

    Agreed. There must be linguistic reasons for deviating from the literal meaning of a text, even in human writings. In the Genesis account there is little exegetical reason for making it metaphoric. It records God’s creation of the universe and the earth and finally, mankind.

    I would argue, though, that interpreting the text there as being scientifically accurate is not warranted. It was not intended to be a scientific treatise, and should not be treated as such. But it does describe and record the actual acts of God in creating all things. As to the “technical” aspects, they are not necessary for believing the text, which I do.

    There is a huge problem in this debate: no one has yet defined the word “literal.” Most mean it to signify what we call “wooden literalism” or “letterism,” where there is no semantic range to words but yield only a single meaning. It is that limitation that is ignorant, and even religious authorities who are unlearned commit that exegetical fallacy.

  • Walt Longmire

    As long as you require that all such beings stand in the same relation to God and Christ as do we earthlings. To suggest that God has as many “plans” as there are planets in the universe is insulting to the Bible account and to God Himself.

    If there are sentient being “out there,” they need Jesus Christ. There is one plan of God and only one, and it is outlined several places in the Scriptures, not the least being Ephesians chapter one.

  • Walt Longmire

    See what I mean? This view debases the Bible account of the creation and redemption and does violence to the Holy Scriptures, making God to be perniciously coy in His revelation to mankind, his premier creation. I reject your speculations because –

    “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.”

    This, sir, is no greeting.

  • Glen Olives

    More sophistry in a (perhaps) valiant attempt to square the circle, to keep the sickly and failed dogma of religion standing when it should have been consigned to the dustbin of history long ago. I do agree with one thing, though. The inevitable discovery of life on other planets will not, indeed can not, touch the belief in god. Reason, facts, and science have no purchase in the lives of believers of the supernatural.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Walt, unless/until you understand that the work of Christ was to reverse the curse, you have missed the meaning of salvation. The relationship of God with Angles is entirely different to the relationship he has with mankind.

  • Bill Scudder

    The more science discovers the more it proves Christiantity.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Christians believe that the *entire universe* will be destroyed (and remade) because of man’s (Earthlings) sin.

    The discovery of life on other planets would indeed have an impact on Christian faith because, if God were to punish others (aliens) for the sins of man, it would make Him unjust.

    The Bible says that He is not an unjust God.

  • David Lease

    Good article and a concept that is definitely worth pondering – for me, the only thing the existence of extra-terrestrial life would do is better define the meaning of, “In the beginning…,” and make me once more question the traditions of man. But a fundamental question comes to my mind, based on your first sentence, “…NASA made the announcement…,” which is, why do we take take NASA’s claims as fact or truth? Reading the CNN article about the Kepler mission indicates that there are a lot of assumptions made by NASA in this ‘discovery.’ The public tends to take what NASA publishes in the media as scientific fact but NASA regularly makes assumptive claims and inserts nice CGI into their artwork which makes it hard (for me anyway) to tell the real from the fantasy – refer to the image above and look back at some of their recent Pluto art as an example of this. The CNN article explains that the Kepler spacecraft, “scans the light from distant stars, looking for almost imperceptible
    drops in a star’s brightness, suggesting a planet has passed in front of
    it.” I can’t believe they got the image above from this kind of observation. NASA is all about marketing, public funding and generating public interest to support their scientific cause. I would appreciate it greatly if these experiments were privately funded. But with public funding and a price tag of over $600M for this mission (and no way for us to ever get there from here – it’s 1400 light years away – assuming that’s the point of missions like this), I’m not sure it’s worth it, especially with the country teetering on the edge of financial failure ($18T in debt, no end in sight, and losing funding for programs like social security disability next year). If it was in the public’s best interest, I’d like someone to honestly tell us how it is (other than trying to discredit religious assumptions, which might actually be worth it in the end but not at this price) and I’d also like some independent validation of the existence of life-supporting planets before proceeding with a publically-funded 2017 planet hunting mission.

  • Glen Olives

    Would it have an impact? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Every time the “revealed truths” of the scriptures are contradicted (like the Earth is not ten thousand years old but 4.5 billion, or not the center of the universe, or that we evolved through a process of evolution by natural selection and not scooped up from the dirt) the faithful find a (too often fatuous and laughable) way of either outrightly denying the obvious facts or undergo logical contortions to say that it was god’s plan all along. I can’t really see how the discovery of extraterrestrial life would be any different.

  • ejoty

    The Bible also has Him saying that “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” [Isaiah 45,7] and asking “Shall there be evil in the city, and the LORD has not done it?” [Amos 3.6].

  • katta

    Why should it matter for the christians? They managed for centurys to deny not white people human rights and saw (see?) them as not so much worth as themselves. Why should they see otherworldly life as people at all? Only they matter, so when god destroys the universum because of human sin, its all right…

  • Literal means interpreted according to its literary genre, so the literal interpretation is whatever is most consistent with the type of text it is.

  • The Bible doesn’t say the Earth is 10,000 years old, so there’s nothing to contradict.

  • LinCA

    I think when one moves away from the ancient literature and into the public ministry of Jesus Christ the folklore and superstition argument becomes much less viable.

    How so? Everything you believe to know about Jesus comes from ancient folklore and superstition. Jesus, if he ever existed, was little more than a mediocre speaker. Very little of what he allegedly said is original. The reason that he is deemed special is his alleged lineage. His lineage is entirely mundane without relying on even more ancient and ignorant literature.

    Without divine paternity, Jesus is nothing special.

  • Tom

    In the actual announcements by NASA the above image is identified as an artists painting of what the planet might look like. As to your other comments, the pictures of Pluto are real and absolutely amazing. Yes, NASA does produce pretty pictures of galaxies and clouds of gas that are color enhanced. Scientists are interested in the chemical composition of such objects so they assign different colors to different chemical substances so they can be seen more clearly in the final product. This is for the purpose of analysis but if that makes for a prettier picture, so much the better.

    As to your other comments, finding out whether habitable planets, and potentially life, exists elsewhere is, in my opinion, essential as part of man’s quest for understanding of who we are and why we are here at all. It helps define us as a species living on this rock we call Earth. Besides, do you really think our government will spend the money on something you consider more worthwhile if they didn’t spend it on this type of fundamental research?

    As to your last point, you want proof something exists before we go look for it?

    I know that in keeping with the other comments here I should be adding some either pro or anti theist sniping here but I think I will just stick with the science.

  • LinCA

    The more science discovers the more it proves Christiantity.

    Oh right, how could I have missed that. That must explain why among scientists Christianity is so prevalent, right?

    May I suggest you remove your blinders? Take a look at history. Whenever there was a conflict between a religious view and a scientific one, science prevailed. Every single time. The only way religion can stay relevant is by adapting to scientific reality.

    As mentioned above, the earth is not flat and it isn’t the center of the solar system, and humanity didn’t originate from a single mating pair. Religious absolutes of yesterday are nothing but ignorant folklore today.

  • Glen Olives

    I stand corrected. Those unlucky religious sheeple tasked with the tedium of studying the genealogy of the the cast of characters contained in the bible disagree somewhat on the “true” age of our planet. Apparently it’s at minimum 6,000 years old and at most 15,000 years old. A distinction, in my view, without much of a difference.

  • John W. Morehead

    Thanks for tackling this issue. I would make some of the same points you do in response. The part about atheists and fundamentalist Christians reading the Bible the same way is interesting and instructive. Their narrow hermeneutic mirrors the other, as does their hostile stance in relation to the other.

    You are correct that the author makes the mistake of dismissing religion in entirety but then confines his critique to one reading of the Genesis creation narratives. He is obviously unaware of other religions such as Mormonism and Raelianism that incorporate “alien” life and populated worlds beyond earth. In addition, some mainstream Christian scholars have felt at ease with this possibility, such as Ted Peters and his work on astrotheology. His essay on the implications of ET life for religion can be read in the journal Philosophical Transactions at

    The discovery of planets capable of supporting life may be a challenge for fundamentalism, whether Christian or atheist, but not for the entirety of religion, nor thoughtful forms of Christianity.

  • The idea of dating the earth that way just came up a few hundred years ago, and is only accepted by fringe fundamentalists. It is not the dominant Christian viewpoint.

  • Glen Olives

    I didn’t realize there even was a dominant Christian viewpoint on the age of our planet. The official position of the Catholic Church for example, to its credit, is that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Which raises the question: What is the dominant Christian viewpoint? (Rhetorical of course.)

  • There’s not a dominant view– just trying to clear up the misconception that the average Christian is a young-earth creationist. The fundamentalist who teach this have the loudest voices, but they don’t represent the majority of us, IMO.

  • Frank Eccleston

    One of the first believers was an “Ethiopian eunuch”, I don’t think he was white, do you?

    Just because people claim to Christian doesn’t mean that they are Christ-like… “by their deeds shall they be known”

  • Glen Olives

    As a non-fundamentalist, then, how old do you think the Earth is?

  • Frank Eccleston

    You deserve an answer because you are focusing on the word ‘evil’ and I can see that you are struggling with that.

    The word can also be translated ‘disaster’, ‘calamity’ or ‘bad times’… It is simply a declaration that The Lord God is in control of all things.

  • Frank Eccleston

    What did they say?
    I’m too lazy to click the link.

  • Jeanne Fox

    This idea of finding life on other planets would disprove religion is nothing new. In Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-1944, Hitler said, “All that is left is to prove that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has been widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.”

    Personally, I don’t think finding life on other planets would affect my theology one way or the other.

  • I have no idea. I’m a theologian and not a scientist. If the scientist say 4.5 billion years, that seems like as good of an estimate as any to me.

  • Taboo llc


  • I’m a Christian, and I do not believe the entire universe will be destroyed because of humanity’s sin. The Bible does not teach that.

  • Why must there be linguistic reasons for deviating from the “literal” meaning of a text? Why is “literal” the default?

  • Why would they need Jesus Christ?

  • The aliens said they were Presbyterian.

  • Glen Olives

    An entirely reasonable response. But one that should raise an unsettling question, namely: Why would god create this beautiful Earth and wait so long to create us humans? (We’ve only been around for at the most a couple of hundred thousand years.) If his intended plan was to create this planet for us, why didn’t he just get on with it? A “god only knows” or “he works in mysterious ways” response won’t really do. More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on our planet have gone extinct, and we were very close to being one of them. If this is god’s plan, it’s a weird one, to be sure.

  • You mean like not knowing how to turn their caps lock off?

  • It’s a good question, and there could be a host of answers. I would say that our concept of time is completely different to that of an infinite being, so to say “wait so long” is really a relative term.

    Or, perhaps he choses to typically work within natural order (i.e, evolution) and the amount of time it took was the exact right amount of time.

  • Glen Olives

    Interesting. And only brings up more troubling questions. If god’s time is different from ours, as you suggest, why would he make it so? He is god, is he not? What benefit would it be to confuse us with different timescales? Perhaps he chose to “work within the natural order,” again as you suggest, but didn’t he actually created the natural in the first place? If he didn’t create the natural order, them by definition he is not god.

  • I don’t see them as troubling questions. I love theology for the same reason why scientists love science: you never run out of questions to explore and investigate. When they become troubling to me it will probably be time to hang it up and find something else to do.

    The time question doesn’t really trouble me either way. If God is God and decided to create, and that creation spanned billions of years, is it a problem for me that my species was the most recent one? Not really.

  • Jesop Ash

    you just committed the assumption of stupidity fallacy, that someone who holds a different opinion than yours is automatically mentally deficient in some way for not agreeing with you. Most every single advancement in science was made by someone who believed in God or later supported by someone who did. And if you read about the origins of scientific discovery in history you will find that religion actually invented science. God actually thus invented science in a very real way and you are playing an opposition card that does not really exist. if intelligent aliens were discovered Christianity would simply spread to the stars fulfilling the Great Commission on a truly cosmic scale. You are whipping a dead horse and calling it witty, so sad to see that.

  • Taboo llc

    having caps on means emphasis and perhaps little anger .
    You fuckin losers slowing down progress and evolution…. you are parasites that need to be destroyed for the best of civilization

  • Your position sounds just like ISIS but with an atheist twist. I guess if nothing else it’s proof that even atheism has its own fundamentalists.

  • Glen Olives

    I suspect it might here that we must agree to disagree. True, theologians like yourself may love to explore and investigate questions from a different view. But science actually works.I wouldn’t want to fly on on airplane built by theologians. The fertile land to investigate is not the land of theology. It is the land of science.

  • I think it’s an eye of the beholder type thing. I hate math, but math gurus claim there’s exciting stuff happening there. For me, theology is very fertile ground, but I respect that you see it differently.

  • Well, what I just said applies to every text that exists.

  • Good point, man. No religion has ever changed at all.

  • Nimblewill

    If God exist, and I’m betting on it, and God has existed eternally, and God is a creator then God has created eternally. If the earth is 6 billion or 6 thousand year old, it doesn’t change the fact that God is a creator.

    …….and God withholds information. There’s lots of things He doesn’t tell us. Life on other planets would not be necessarily be human would it?

  • DeepThought0042

    What? You mean God is a compulsive creator?

  • DeepThought0042

    I suspect that a lot of what is said about God and religion is more of a reflection about what we don’t understand than what we do. Even if I don’t personally follow a formal religion, I do believe that the human mind senses it is part of a much larger universe with higher levels of complexity than our minds can process. God is simply our way of trying to put some solidity and “substance” onto that incomprehensible dimension of the universe. It shouldn’t surprise us that we may not perceive or understand the enormous complexity of the universe. Every other species on the planet lives in its own closed little subset of the universe and is not even aware or capable of seeing more complex parts of the universe. For example, does your dog understand the Internet?

  • Glen Olives

    I thank you for an uncommonly thoughtful discussion devoid of the usual argumentum ad hominem.

  • Nimblewill

    ??????? Not sure what you question is. I don’t think God is compulsive.

  • You as well. Feel free to come back any time. I have a considerable number of friendly and thoughtful atheists/agnostics who frequent the comment section here, so you’d find plenty of other conversation partners similar to yourself.


  • John A. C. Kelley

    It was clearly written as poetry. It is of the same poetic styling of many ancient authors and the ancient East was not concerned with facts as we are. Reading something as if it is speaking of physical events in blunt language that is from a culture that did not do that is wrong.

  • Glen Olives

    Thanks, and peace to you as well.

  • LinCA

    AS usual the fundamentalist atheist who has no place trying to interpret the bible.

    Reading the bible critically and for comprehension is one of the surest ways to atheism.

    why don’t you guys take your own advice. you don’t like religion shoving their ideas down your throat so don’t do the same.

    I’m here trying to help. It’s a shame so many waste their lives on their knees for an entirely fictional god. You aren’t required to open your eyes and mind but I highly recommend it.

    Stop trying to ruin it for others.

    That sounds an awful lot like a 10 year old not wanting to hear that Santa isn’t real. Fitting.

  • jrb16915

    I enjoyed the comparison of the narrow mindedness of the atheists and the strictest literalists. PS. I am not a fundamentalist, but from my knowledge it seems a though its a bit imprecise to confuse literalists with fundamentalists.

  • LinCA

    Do you believe that humans were the intended species of creation? Are we the end product? Are we special to your god?

  • It’s an interesting notion, but on the other hand a person speaking against the physical truth of the events described would have been considered, at most time in most places where that story was considered to be divinely inspired, to be blaspheming (or insane). The text seems to rest in a funky sort of eigenstate where it is simultaneously true and incontrovertibly so, but also florid and poetic when that would be more convenient.

  • ccws

    I knew a guy in high school who believed that UFOs were not only real, but they were “of Satan,” and one in college who was absolutely sure that Jesus only had to come to earth and save humans, because humans were the only sentient beings in the universe who sinned. O-o-o-o-o-kaaaayyyyyy…

  • kiljoy616

    Nothing will convince the deluded of reality, so no they will probably never stop believing even if aliens landed on earth. The would say it was demons or something to that effect.

  • kiljoy616

    and a compulsive destroyer.

  • kiljoy616

    No it has not, it has been fragmented or squashed thru force but change by its own accord I would say no.

  • Matthew

    I believe the historical Jesus is mentioned in extra-biblical Greco-Roman and Jewish texts — Lucian of Samosata, Tacitus, and Josephus, the Jewish historian all directly mention or refer to Jesus. So … there is evidence out there for the existence of Jesus beyond what is mentioned in scripture.

    What things did Jesus say that in your mind are not unique or special among world religions, belief systems, etc.?

  • Matthew

    I have no problem with facts, reason, and science as a believer in Jesus Christ.

    When science is used for what it is intended — studying and drawing conclusions about the natural world — I have no “beef” so to speak.

    My problems begin when science becomes some sort of philosophical naturalism that attempts to explain absolutely everything in scientific terms while denying that any other realm (i.e. the supernatural) exists.

  • Frank Eccleston

    It’s in 2 Peter 3:10-12… if you have a Bible you’ll find it there.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Free (flying) Presbyterian? ;)

  • Matthew

    Good point. I suppose the question is when scripture speaks about the heavens and earth being destroyed by intense heat on the day of the Lord, does that necessarily include the entire universe? What constitutes the “heavens” exactly?

  • katta

    As Jesus was a jew from near east and he was preaching only to his fellow jews, there weren’t any ‘white’ chistians in the beginning. Only when the movement sprang over to the gentil christians in Rome and Europe that changed.
    That was the reason I wrote ‘centurys’ and not millenias. Just think of the african slavery …

  • Frank Eccleston

    I’m going to be honest and answer… “I don’t know”

    I have always viewed these verses as the inclusion of the entire Universe, just as I see Revelation 21 addressing the entire Universe.

    However, many learned men have misinterpreted prophesy in the past and for me personally, I won’t know, or claim to *absolutely* know until it happens.

  • Frank Eccleston

    African slavery was a terrible thing to be sure. If every white man in existence is to blame, hatred and bitterness will gain a foothold. The Irish have also endured their time of slavery and we have put it behind us.

  • Matthew

    You may be right. Although scripture does indeed mention the universe, the Bible seems to be more focused on the human condition, earth, and then heaven or paradise — which could be interpreted as being only part of the overall universe?? I´m with you, I don´t really know either.

    The good news is all relevant things will be made new and perfect. That´s a place to look forward to :-).

  • katta

    I don’t blame any kid for the sin of the parent and I never will.
    There are a lot of christians and people of every other belivesystem (and it will be the huge mayority) who are decent people. But everyone who belives that he is better than the rest of living organisms just because they are human and their god tells them won’t have moral problems with a god who destroys the universum because of them.

  • KGG

    “science actually works.I wouldn’t want to fly on on airplane built by theologians.” Scientists don’t design or build airplanes. Engineers and technicians do. I’d keep that in mind before you further applaud the realms of theory and experimentation.

  • KGG

    Did we read the same books of the Bible? I only remember Jesus coming to preach to those in Israel. Absolutely nothing in Ephesians 1 suggests that there is or is not alien life or that it does or does not have anything to do with God’s plan or that is would or would not have to “stand in the same relation to God and Christ”. Will you next suggest that the angels and heavenly host “need Jesus Christ” for salvation? If you consider Jesus as God or the voice of creation, then sure Jesus would also be a destroyer and not simply a creator or savior.

  • KGG

    The priests of yesterday became the scientists of today. I think you’re the one needing to remove the blinders. Many prominent scientists are Jewish or Christian. Even a non-practicing Jew like Einstein clearly believed in a creator entity. The Bible doesn’t suggest that the Earth is flat or the center of anything. Humanity did actually come from a small number of mating pairs. Just so much of what you typed is not based within the realm of facts and nothing within the realms of science or philosophy preclude the existence or necessity of a creator.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Your argument could be brought back home to Earth… When God destroys the Earth the animals will also be destroyed.
    Science tells me that I am superior to an animal.

  • Glen Olives

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too. There’s simply no evidence for the existence of the supernatural, that god exists or his son was born of a virgin, just as there is no evidence that any of the other thousands of gods that humans created over time existed. Certainly your an atheist with regard to the existence of Thor or Apollo or Shiva or Vishnu.

  • katta

    And that prooves my point… *g*
    Sience only prooves, that we are a more evolved kind of primate, nothing more.
    It doesn’t proove, that we are superior to an animal (or any other kind of live) just have different abilities

  • liberalinlove

    I am not afraid. Either I am deluded and partaking of the opiate of the masses or, I serve, love and follow a living God, whose love sustains and keeps me. Either way, the conversation is never unwelcome.

    I trust and respect that your journey has integrity. And I respect your right to pursue whatever course it takes.

    In the meantime, since you don’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible, you won’t be afraid of any prayers that He be revealed to you in the method, means and way that would change your mind and heart.

  • Frank Eccleston

    It proves more than that.

    Science proves that we reason, we have rational we are sentient.

    We don’t just have different abilities to the beast in the field, we have greater abilities than them.

    It is the nature of man to strive to excel, we even compete with each other to discover who is the best.

    The jungle animals have discovered this truth and the food chain has long been established… It’s the circle of life, the superior survive, the weak perish.

    BTW: Science DID say that human beings are superior to animals although they don’t all agree and it’s not P.C. to say it anymore.

  • Linda Hug

    So, what are the hosts of heaven? Maybe the Bible was talking all the time about aliens out there.

  • Shiphrah99

    We mothers of children with autism are sure that the Divine has autism, too. S/he set the world spinning after all …. :-D

  • Azra Awan

    To me it seems ancient people were taught in language they understood according to conditions prevalent then and humanity has so far not been able to quite understand God.

  • You mean the part about the elements being freed (lythesetai). That doesn’t mean destroyed, unless Revelation 20:7 is saying Satan is destroyed as opposed to being freed.

    Assuming that Peter is even talking about new creation and not apocalyptic language to describe the coming of the Lord in judgement, the portrait he gives is that the world as we know it will be no more and, through its trials, reveal a new one.

  • Except for all the internal changes that have happened by their own accord.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Walt, you are aggressive and arrogant. Repent of such behavior.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Don’t make the text say something it doesn’t say. You may chose to reject it if you like but don’t reinterpret it to suit yourself.. the words are clear.

  • Frank Eccleston

    The fact that you bear me no greeting gladdens my heart for I perceive you to be a pharisee.

  • d0e1ow

    Discovering a “new world” is not a problem for Islam. I don’t know one Muslim who has been unnerved by this discovery. Anyways, why is everyone assuming that this new planet is “just like ours”? It’s not. Not even close.

    The Qur’an literally uses the term “worlds” to describe God’s infinite reach and influence. It never makes a references to earth being “the only place”. The idea that we are “made in God’s image” is also an absurd one in Islam, because God doesn’t have an image. No gender, no image, no “human like essence”. The closest we could come to defining “made in God’s image” in Islamic terms would be that we are given the capacity to have faith and have free will and express mercy and love.

    Again though, the Qur’an does not limit itself to defining reality or the extent of creation as being just earth. I read the Huffington Post article and it was a total eye-roller. The author calls for the end of religion because of this discovery that we still know little about and treats the entire planet’s religious populace as if they are Christians who are Bible-literalists.

    I don’t know why I both reading anything online anymore. It’s a festival of ignorance.

  • Lane Meyers

    So if there is life on other planets, and I believe there is, do we convert them to our religion or will they be trying to convert us?

    There is a novel “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell — science fiction about the first Spanish Jesuit priest in space. Just began reading it, but the premise is interesting.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Religion is a man made attempt to reach God… They are all erroneous. Man/Woman will only find God when they respond to His voice and discard religion entirely… God is Spirit and true worshipers will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

  • Frank Eccleston

    not all believers are religious, we are believers.
    You believe what you choose to believe, we believe what we choose to believe. Can you deny us that right!

  • d0e1ow

    And I suppose you are the one who knows what “God’s voice” is saying? Random internet dude with a weird picture?


  • LinCA

    I believe the historical Jesus is mentioned in extra-biblical Greco-Roman and Jewish texts — Lucian of Samosata, Tacitus, and Josephus, the Jewish historian all directly mention or refer to Jesus. So … there is evidence out there for the existence of Jesus beyond what is mentioned in scripture.

    Everything there is that is claimed to be about Jesus, and that includes the biblical accounts of course, is extremely questionable. The only records that could possibly mention a Jesus are copies of copies from centuries after the alleged events. There is nothing that even comes close as anywhere near conclusive. That, of course, doesn’t prove that he wasn’t real, but believing he must have been real, is little more than wishful thinking.

    The best evidence for the Jesus myth having been at least partially based on a real person is the obvious fabrication of Jesus of Nazareth having been born in Bethlehem. It points to a need to reconcile the prophecy of the messiah being of the House of David whit stories apparently was set in Nazareth.

    But even if there was a real person on which (part) of the Jesus myth was fashioned, that still doesn’t mean he was of divine paternity.

    What things did Jesus say that in your mind are not unique or special among world religions, belief systems, etc.?

    I can’t think of a single thing that he allegedly said that is particularly special or unique.

  • LinCA

    The priests of yesterday became the scientists of today.

    If they did, they did it by separating their religious views from their work. If they mix religion into their work, it ceases to be science.

    I think you’re the one needing to remove the blinders.

    I’ve looked at religion and found it to be utterly ridiculous. The core belief in gods is no more reasonable than a belief in the Tooth Fairy. The evidence for both is exactly the same.

    But I am open to be convinced otherwise. If you have anything that makes the existence of gods even remotely likely, I’ll be happy to listen.

    Many prominent scientists are Jewish or Christian.

    While true, among scientists the rates of atheism increase dramatically. Among the more esteemed scientists religious beliefs are becoming a rarity, especially among those in the fields of life science and physics.

    Even a non-practicing Jew like Einstein clearly believed in a creator entity.

    Einstein did not believe in a personal god. Nothing resembling anything the typical Christian or Jewish god.

    The Bible doesn’t suggest that the Earth is flat or the center of anything.

    Here is a link to some reading material. According to the bible the earth is flat, immovable and at the center of the universe.

    Humanity did actually come from a small number of mating pairs.

    Not nearly as small as a single pair. And while the population of humans may have been as small as just a few thousand those that wrote the Genesis account had no way of knowing this.

    Just so much of what you typed is not based within the realm of facts and nothing within the realms of science or philosophy preclude the existence or necessity of a creator.

    They also don’t preclude the existence of the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. I don’t find that compelling enough to start believing in them.

  • That’s exactly my point. The Greek words are clear. Your interpretation is wrong.

  • Lane Meyers

    Frank, your response kinda has nothing to do with my comment. And what I wrote has some deeper questions (if anyone cares to think about it), such as: If we do have alien contact, are we going to be insanely concerned if they have a religion? If they do and it’s not like any of ours, do we wipe them out? If they don’t, do we still wipe them out? (Have you seen the movie or read the book “Contact” by Carl Sagan wherein religion played a huge roll in determining who the astronaut would be because the religious right just couldn’t tolerate sending an atheist. Good story.)

    And hey, maybe the aliens we discover could possibly be the God and Angels and Devils of our archetypal dreams/beliefs (“Childhood’s End” by Arthur C. Clark).

    Actually, I was attempting a bit of humor in my original comment, but humor doesn’t seem to have a place in religion and maybe therein lies a great flaw in us humans clinging to our dogmas.

    Even God has a sense of humor — he created the Platypus.

  • Anyone stupid enough to believe in talking snakes, adam and eve or noah’s ark etc is an idiot anyway. Who cares what idiots think?

  • Osman Idris

    Assuming we find intelligent life out there somewhere in the abyss of the eternal almost vantablack universe, and assume they are more advance than our race by many folds but yet believe in a God with many diverse religions. What then?

  • Frank Eccleston

    Apologizes, I didn’t know you were ancient Greek.

  • Akincana Krishna Dasa

    I follow the Vedic culture of India, with the oldest scriptures known to mankind, such as the Vedas, Upanisads, and great epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharat. Although I don’t prefer the label, I am a Hindu. Life on other planets is discussed repeatedly throughout Vedic literature. This article mentions “life as we know it”, Vedic literature predicts both life as we know it and all kinds of life beyond what we know. God is alive, life is at the origin and center of reality. Life exists all over this universe, as well as many many more universes, say the Vedas. If science ever finds life on other planets it will deepen my faith and confirm the predictions of the scriptures I follow.

  • Ibn Tahhara

    Fantastic essay, Benjamin. I love your point about the fundamentalist/naive readings of ancient texts by atheists—I find this a constant source of frustration. (Dawkins is exhibit A). BTW, on other bizarre approaches of certain atheists who should know better, have you seen the very funny:

  • Ibn Tahhara

    What about atheist “idiots”? =>

  • I’m not. I can just read and translate it.

  • chrijeff

    “Nothing in that mentions alien worlds, which of course the ancients knew nothing about. Man was told to rule over the fish on the earth, not on other planets. But god would have known of these alien worlds, so it is curious he did not instruct the authors to include the language.”

    Why? If humans are *only* to rule over *this* planet, and since the people God was then interacting with had no way to get to other planets anyhow, why bother with it? It would be like telling them about computers when they had none of the technological capability to build one. In any case, maybe the future isn’t fixed; maybe, given other choices and pathways, we wouldn’t have discovered that planet.

    “None of the 66 books of the bible [sic] make any reference to life other than that created by god here on earth in that six-day period. If we discover life elsewhere, one must admit that is an oversight. So much so in fact that such a discovery must to all but the most closed minds call into question the entire story of creation, and anything that follows from that story. How could a convincing story of life’s creation leave out life? Even if the story is meant to be allegorical, the omission of life elsewhere makes no sense.”

    Why is it an oversight? God, being God, isn’t obliged to tell people *anything at all*. And if he chooses to interact with them, he can tell them as much or as little as he cares to. He’s *God,* after all. Who’s going to make him change his mind?

  • girly girl

    I like the points you make – I have often thought, “What if we only have the ‘Earth’ bible?”… cuz when you think about it, if we don’t know what’s beyond our reach, at any given moment. .. then we really don’t need info, or instructions that do not apply. We’ve already gone beyond God’s purpose for the earth… and with such limited human thinking, God has a right to give us only the essentials for life for us here, anyway. How many people, already Don’t bother reading the Bible, and how many who do, do not have the right understanding..

  • baaron31

    Its tragically ironic that you attack atheists and say they bend “the rule of logic”, claim “ridiculous non arguments” when in all seriousness you believe that an invisible, inaudible, undetectable “father” exercises parental supervision over you, protects you from evil (except when he doesn’t), and, for the mere price of surrendering your faculty of reason (which you seem to have done pretty well), and behaving in ways spelled out in various magic books, will ensure your postmortem survival. And you call scientists who try to disprove these ridiculous claims as being sophomoric!? Your delusion is only excusable if you are aged 6!

  • bdlaacmm

    First off, to answer the title question, “NO!”

    Secondly, we are far, far from discovering anything remotely like an Earth 2.0.

    Any planet worthy of such a name would have to be one heck of a lot less massive than Kepler 452b – a world described in the first paragraph of this article as “somewhat larger than Earth” whereas in reality it is 5 times as massive, with a consequently more powerful gravity. This implies that any atmosphere possessed by Kepler 452b will be much denser than our planet’s – perhaps as dense as the hellish Venus in our own solar system. In fact, before I continue, let’s consider Venus. If we found such a world with the Kepler spacecraft, we’d be tempted to announce the discovery of a Second Earth. And how wrong we would be!

    There is no evidence for a Jupiter sized world around the star of Kepler 452b, yet astronomers know that a Jupiter is mandatory to clear out any planetary system of debris that otherwise would continually crash into Kepler 452b, causing one mass extinction event after another.

    We have no evidence that Kepler 452b has a magnetic field. Neither Venus nor Mars has any appreciable field. Yet one is necessary to support life – to prevent the planetary surface from being regularly sterilized by solar storms.

    He have no evidence that Kepler 452b has plate tectonics, which is required to prevent the surface from “freezing up”, with no recycling of crustal materials. Without plate tectonics, the surface of Kepler 452b would resemble the Moon.

    I could list at least 20 additional “must haves” before we could ever claim to have discovered an Earth 2.0. So far, we haven’t.

  • bdlaacmm

    And another thing. Schweitzer’s argument is ridiculous on its face. After all, the scriptures make no reference to the Western Hemisphere. Since such an omission did not invalidate revelation, why should the discovery of a second Earth?

  • Agni Ashwin

    Does The Discovery of Earth 2.0 Mark The End of Religion?

    …or the expansion of the LDS Church?

  • KGG

    You must know already how intellectually dishonest it is to compare commercialized figures of fiction and folklore that have been distorted over time with historical or philosophically transcendent bases of religions. You’re already stretching quite a bit comparing Abrahamic deity with Norse deity. But then you slide even more to the side with a fertility figure…next you will try to juxtapose with Cthulu… Yes. I am shaking my head right now.

  • trinielf

    Not necessarily.

    Even when we are flying around the universe at warp speed and having inter-stellar relations with alien worlds, Christianity can be relevant but it would no longer be able to assert absolutism of Hebrew culture or biblicism or blood magic and human sacrifice.

    It will have to evolve into something more esoteric that separates myth from science and puts each in its rightful place.

  • Obscurely

    JESUS dewd — this is some SERIOUS inside theological baseball … what’s the cash value in our daily walk of faith??

  • Joseph M

    Schweitzer is behind the curve, some of us have already accounted for this.

    Moses 1:31-39 (June 1830)

    31 And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.

    32 And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.

    33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

    34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

    35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

    36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.

    37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: Theheavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

    38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

    39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

    Doctrine & Covenants 76:22-24 (February 16, 1832)
    22 And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!

    23 For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—

    24 That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.

  • silicon28

    Oh good Lord… Another scientist looks at Genesis and doesn’t have the FIRST CLUE what he’s reading – treating it like some academic paper or a Windows manual… And of course the very next scientific discovery – or even hypothesis – will mean the magazines need to pull the “GOD IS DEAD” headlines out all over again. This kind of nonsense actually gets really tiring, IMO…

  • LinCA

    You must know already how intellectually dishonest it is to compare commercialized figures of fiction and folklore that have been distorted over time with historical or philosophically transcendent bases of religions.

    It would only be dishonest if there were a fundamental difference. There isn’t. That adults can’t shed their beliefs in gods doesn’t make them any more real than any other fictional characters. The case for the existence of gods is exactly equal to the case for the existence of the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. They are equally likely to be real and a belief in either is equally “reasonable”.

    If you have evidence to the contrary, I’ll gladly listen. I’ll even tell you where you are wrong.

    You’re already stretching quite a bit comparing Abrahamic deity with Norse deity. But then you slide even more to the side with a fertility figure.

    Same evidence, same likelihood. Your god is not any more real than any other.

    next you will try to juxtapose with Cthulu.

    Yup, just like the thousands of other gods ever invented.

    Yes. I am shaking my head right now.

    Don’t shake your head, use it.

  • RonnyTX

    In the end, I would be thrilled if they discover (as I already anticipate is true) that life is actually common in the universe. This will not shake my faith at all. This will not require me to become closed-minded an abandon the entire Christian narrative.

    Instead, it would invite me to begin asking bigger questions about God and bigger questions about creation.

    And as someone who loves asking questions about God, I welcome the opportunity.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    I agree. And I can’t prove it of course;but I am of a mind to believe that God probably/likely created life/living beings in many places. And just because God chose not to tell us about such,as far as I know,that doesn’t mean such might not, be very well true.

  • Walt Longmire

    Bernard Ramm would define is somewhat differently, but your definition is better than none at all.

  • Joe M

    There are plenty of arguments against the Bible already that render it unbelievable even without the existence of a habitable exoplanet.

  • Ruthitchka

    Wow, that’s the truth! I argue occasionally that He’s the One that created the laws of physics, etc. I don’t thing God’s against science at all, since He created it, heheh!

  • Ruthitchka

    I love your last paragraph!

  • Ruthitchka

    Whoa. Taboo llc has some anger issues!

  • Ruthitchka

    Yeah, my fundamentalist bro-in-law thinks I’m not Christian ’cause I think maybe the earth’s older than 5K yrs. old. He’s loud… ( o :

  • Vi Ps

    Thank you baaron31! You make my point about the complete logical bankruptcy of most atheists, who try to disguise their lack of arguments with ridicule. You have no argument whatsoever.

    At least, Jeff Schweitzer tried to reason, in a pathetic way, but tried. He tried to bend the rules of logic. You don’t do that. Your comment has no rule of logic whatsoever. A rule has the shape “Since A, then B” and it’s applied in a specific example: “Since Genesis does not mention extraterrestrial life, God does not exist” (as I said, pathetic application but, at least, it has the shape).

    You don’t include any rule of logic in your comment so you don’t prove anything. You only say: You believe A, B, C, D, E, F and G. On the one hand, you don’t give any reason why A, B, C, D, E, F and G are false. You think that mocking people is substitute for proving them wrong but this only shows your intellectual weakness and your ignorance of the rules of a rational debate (which, for your surprise, it is not based on giving no argument -as you do- and telling the other person is a moron, but it is based on proving the other person wrong with an application of sound reasoning – yes, it seems that you don’t know what this is but anyway).

    On the other hand, many of these A, B, C, D, E, F, G are not what Christians believe so you are using the “strawman fallacy” (putting words in my mouth to attack me for things I haven’t said). For example, undetectable “father”. Sorry, it is not undetectable. For example, “the mere price of surrendering your faculty of reason”. Sorry, I haven’t done that. You are the one who are surrendering your faculty of reason, since you use ridicule (which is not to use your faculty of reason) and strawman fallacy (which is not to use your faculty reason). You don’t give any rational argument in all your comment. Projecting much, huh?

    Thank you, baaron31! With atheists like you, it is very easy. Every now and then, you find an atheist that tries to reason but it is rare. It usually is “you are ridiculous, you believe in [insert distorted version of what we believe], this is false because I say so, I am the mega-man, the rational, admire at my intellect while at the same time, I am making a fool of myself before people who have the basic knowledge of the topic (whether they believe or not)”. You are only another example of the Dunning-Kruger effect (I copy from Wikipedia):

    “The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to accurately evaluate their own ability level.”

    In your case, please change “relatively unskilled” for “completely unskilled” so it can apply to your knowledge of “rules of logic”, “reasoning”, “debate”. Have a nice day and don’t try to learn! Keep on relishing in your illusory superiority and telling everybody who does not think like you is like a 6-year-old. You are the man! This way you don’t have to use your faculty of reason to evaluate other opinions. This is too hard for you.

  • baaron31

    You are welcome Vip’s though I never said that I agree with Schweitzer. Logically you cannot disprove the existence of God just because there might be life on another planet!

    Nonetheless, since I am the unskilled individual (I am glad you discovered the Dunning -Kruger effect) and you seem to be the grand master of logic please feel free to provide me with some logical argument to why your beliefs should be taken more seriously than that of a six year old believing in the tooth fairy! Can’t wait for your sound argumentation! Until then if you are older than six I advise you expect more ridicule.

  • Vi Ps

    “you seem to be the grand master of logic”

    Another strawman fallacy. I have not said that. But claiming someone has relinquished the faculty of reason while making no argument in the entire comment (only mocking and ridicule), that was rich.

    “Please feel free to provide me with some logical argument to why your beliefs should be taken more seriously than that of a six year old believing in the tooth fairy”

    I feel free and I do it. Not some logical argument, but several of them. Of course, you cannot do that in a combox (Would you explain Physics or Biology in a combox?). Things are more complex.

    But this is why God made Amazon! :-) (just kidding)

    “Does God exist?” – William Lane Craig. (There are two books with this title. One book has Craig as its only author. This is the book you need for a treatment of the arguments.

    Other is a debate of Craig with the atheist philosopher Flew – he ended up becoming a theist because of philosophy, but was still an atheist when the debate. You can learn a lot from Flew. He reasons and defends his atheism with logic without recurring to cheap excuses for an argument like “six year old”, “tooth fairy” and the rest. Hard to believe, huh?)

    If you want a complete treatment of the Christian faith, read “Reasonable faith” from the same author).

    “Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith” – Douglas Groothuis

    (Maybe there are better books but I am packing for an intercontinental flight. This will do)

    If you don’t want to learn, please keep on saying nonsense like that of the the tooth fairy, which only shows your ignorance of religion but makes you feel intellectually superior. Dunning-Kruger effect.

    But if you want to learn, read those books, please contact me and we can have an email discussion about the things you disagree. I don’t pretend to convince you only to have an honest debate. You can contact me at merdeta at But don’t do it before reading those books. I am not wasting my time with stupid things like the tooth fairy (fallacy of false analogy) but with logical arguments against the existence of God. These do deserve being answered.

    You can also benefit of a book about logical fallacies. Look it up at Amazon. There are some pages on the Internet too.

    Now rushing to the airport. My family waits for me.

  • baaron31

    Thanks for your reading list. May I suggest you download-
    “I am an Atheist, and you should be one too-Why religion is misguiding the world, and how atheism has the power to stop it” by Ragnar Galt. Its a good listen especially on an intercontinental flight. Also you can just get hold of a bible.

    Its the surest way to become an Atheist. Enjoy your flight!

  • Peschken

    I reject the term ‘Earth 2.0’ ..There is only one earth. God created everything, which by definition includes obviously ‘everything’. Whatever we discover now and in the future: It was already created by God.

  • jzhgdmz

    Basically, bullshit! The whole article.

    Doesn’t make god exist eitherway

  • silicon28

    April 8, 1966 cover of Time Magazine:

    (Hence the reason for what I said above…) Duh…

  • silicon28

    It’s called a type of metaphorical hyperbole. Analogy used to make a point? The ancient Hebrew concept was “charaz (חרז)” and means “stringing pearls.”

    By the way? Theology isn’t “metaphysical thought…” It’s “the study of God.” My earlier snarkiness aside? Your thought simply missed the point…

  • axelbeingcivil

    Religion is remarkably adaptable. If aliens exist and contact us, the Christian response will almost certainly be to say that the Bible was written for Earth. Non-Abrahamic faiths will take a more cosmic view, as they always have. It takes a strong myopia not to expect this.

    If being proven wrong that the Earth was not flat, that the Earth is not the centre of the universe, and that the Earth and universe are truly ancient didn’t break the back of religion, why would this? Change it, sure, but break it? Unlikely.

  • silicon28

    Then simply don’t bother replying. That part really isn’t rocket science, is it? Jeesh… *SMH*

  • trinielf

    You make a good point. If the religion is more esoteric and about personal spiritual exploration of self, then it is less threatened by science and discovery.

    If the religion is about asserting ABSOLUTE TRUTH about the entire universe and has an imperialist objective to subjugate all by asserting itself in this manner, then science will threaten it.

    If other worlds are discovered, aliens land on the planet etc. Buddhists will continue doing their meditation and inner reflection. Christians who focus more on the humanistic values that Christ emulated while on earth will continue that focus. It is the fundamentalists and legalists who claim to know for sure exactly what God’s plans are for everyone and everything are the sole custodians of truth and special authority that will be threatened.

  • Howard Chambers

    I’m just waiting for the day, if it ever were too happen, that aliens come in contact with us here on earth, then they begin to ask why so many of the humans here did not believe the almighty one. Everyone on our planet knows him in a personal way, why did you abandon him. Just a thought.

  • axelbeingcivil

    “Because Zorblax the Mighty never appeared to us on this world.”

  • axelbeingcivil

    They were threatened by all those other things, though. Somehow, we still have them. That’s the thing about fundamentalists; what’s fundamental changes with time.

  • Müntzer

    If aliens exist and contact us you really believe that the missionaries (both evangelical and catholic) won’t be out of the gate almost before the first contact?
    All the new uncertainties won’t make faith obsolete either, because that what faith is for:
    Giving certainty and succor in a world of uncertainties and monster.

  • gimpi1

    Well said.

  • gimpi1

    Personally, I think that, everything is open to interpretation,” and, “there is no truth,” are two different statements, with no relationship to each other. One does not have to follow the other, and linking them is not necessarily reasonable.

  • gimpi1

    I assume Mr. Moore lives in the U.S. Fundamentalism looms large here, and conservative Evangelical Christians have far more political power than their numbers would seem to justify, perhaps because they are very good at acting together. If the cooperation of the U.S. is critical for addressing climate-change, (and most think it is) then the large number of conservative fundamentalist or Evangelical almost entirely Republican congress people do represent a major obstacle to addressing it. That might be what he was referring to.

  • gimpi1

    The writers of the Bible didn’t mention Aztecs or Aboriginal Australians or the Navaho tribe either. The fact that there doesn’t appear to be anything in the Bible that people located in the region and time its various books were written wouldn’t have known is one argument against taking it too literally.

  • Jeanne Fox

    “God is dead.”
    – Nietzsche

    Nietzsche is dead.
    – God


  • Croquet_Player

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there are aliens, we’ve figured out a way to communicate with each other, and that they can travel through the vast distances of space and reach our planet. One alarming possibility is that the aliens have their own religion, and like most members of most religions, they’re quite convinced theirs is the right one, and they’d like to convert us. Let’s just hope they don’t insist.

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl
  • Couldn’t tell you were being sarcastic until I saw your next post. Your Poe-fu is very powerful.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Don’t like my picture??? and I tried so hard to pose just right.

  • Frank Eccleston

    Don’t worry, they don’t.

  • Frank Eccleston

    …and probably without even reading it – eh!

  • Frank Eccleston

    I don’t know why you respond/

  • Frank Eccleston

    if thou wouldst lower thyself to insult it proves that you have neither though nor rational on the matter. God voice will be heard by the one who listens to HIM… he who has an ear, let him hear..

  • Annie

    This makes me think of C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy that draws the reader into imagining other inhabited planets all of which are under the Lordship of our God. He (Lewis) writes of our planet as being the “silent” one, the one that is a mystery to other races/cultures of intelligent beings; possibly the one that is in a kind of quarantine because of its sin infection. That trilogy has been a very strong shaping of my spiritual and Christian view of the universe. Life on other planets can in no way upset the truth of our Creator God or of His Christ. It might even give more evidence to our faith.

  • Silentrose

    It just broadens the scope of religion, I believe in god and aliens, so no it does not mean the end of religion at least for me, I think to have science you have to have beliefs as well, and it’s stupid to think that discovering aliens or another earth type planet would mean the end to religion!!

  • stanleyhead

    The Bible indicates God spoke the universe into existance. In another place it said he created the worlds. Jesus made this world out of nothing. If God created all the universe I would think through the power of the Holy Spirite It is all his handy work.

  • vipersdad

    That Religion is so fungible and adaptable in the face of all of the scientific refutation of it’s claims is dishonest but it’s not a good use of time trying to convince religionists of that fact. I=Thus, I think it’s a bit of a waste of time to even have this debate. That is, of course, my opinion.

    We can never know the intentions of the author of the book of Genesis. Was it allegorical, or just a bronze-age creation myth hatched in the protective warmth of a fire thousands of years ago? Genesis t is most certainly scientifically nonsensical, and the fact that we continue to debate fundamentalists and literalists on this topic shows the futility of the project of convincing certain people that they are wrong.

    The relentless march of scientific discovery has chased myths like Genesis across time to the less significant corner it now occupies (as compared to it’s influence over the ages), but we should never minimize the damaging or stultifying effects it continues to have over a certain class of people.

    People who make public policy believe this fireside tale to be literally true and literally the spoken word of the creator of the universe. Let that sink in for a second.

    As we continue to abuse the planet we currently occupy, and defend that practice by invoking references to and belief in this prehistoric mythology, it’s scant hope that we may be finding a “plan b” that might one day be able to sustain human life.

    My only hope is that we don’t export this damaging mythology to that place if and when we set off to explore it.

  • John A. C. Kelley

    You act as though their culture placed value on fact. They did not. Your argument, when applied to other myths such as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the other creation stories were clearly fictional stories meant to convey a truth. This is where the “moral of the story” came from. The ancients weren’t concerned with factual reality, but fictional conveyances of truths.

  • Yes, but asserting a different pattern of facts than those asserted in the narrative would perforce (under most circumstances) lead the person so doing to deny the “truth” being communicated by the story. Do you really mean to tell me that a person in, say, the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th century, that asserted that God did not create the world in six days and rest on the seventh would have been tolerated as a guy with just a different opinion than what was written, and not a heretic denying the truth of holy scripture?

  • You’re a pretty funny guy.

  • John A. C. Kelley

    Absolutely not. No one believed the Epic of Gilgamesh actually happened, but told the story to convey certain beliefs about the world. It’s story telling. Even today we still have similar instances such as fictitious works with a strong “moral” message.

    Yes, that is exactly what I’m telling you. Why? Because they did. That’s exactly what Jesus did. What is a parable? A myth.

  • Bones

    That is exactly correct. When one examines the composition of Genesis we see many contributions which have been added over hundreds of years.

  • Bones

    Actually many of the Church Fathers believed the days represented 1000 year old days.

    Many also read the Old Testament allegorically and not literally.

    It really wasn’t a critical issue like some are making it out to be.

    No doubt if they had our knowledge, they would assimilate that knowledge into their own accounts.

    Beliefs evolve as truth is revealed to us.

  • Bones

    No. You don’t understand church history.

    From the beginning, the Early Church was divided into allegorists and literalists. Augustine also made it clear that Christians shouldn’t have beliefs which are clearly at odds with the scientific worldview. He wrote that it actually discredits the gospel and makes it a laughing stock.

    From his “The Literal Interpretation of Genesis” (early fifth century, AD),

    It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation.

  • Brigitte De Kroon

    Hi Ronnie – OF COURSE God did > He created the ‘Angels’ serving Him – even Lucifer is one of His creations – not so? So it is written – so what’s the argument? What else are these beings but ‘other life forms’? These beings were included in the His Word to Mankind because they interacted with the humans … other life forms, which God might or might not have created, had no earthly exposure (yet?) and did not need to be included in God’s ‘Story’ concerning mankind …. that’s anyway how I see it.

  • Maxov Max

    If one accepts there is a God who created us, then that God also owns us. He thus has a right to set the rules by which we must live. In the Bible, He has revealed to us that we are in rebellion against our Creator. Because of this rebellion called sin, our physical bodies are sentenced to death—but we will live on, either with God, or without Him in a place of judgment.But the good news is that our Creator provided, through the cross of Jesus Christ, a means of deliverance for our sin of rebellion, so that those who come to Him in faith, in repentance for their sin, can receive the forgiveness of a Holy God and spend forever with their Lord.God is uncaused and uncreated—He simply exists….

  • Kay Kirkman

    I think we also need to remember that the Bible as we know it is not the complete text. King James ordered only parts of it to be included, believing the commoners would not be able to comprehend such vast amounts of writing. I’m a firm believer that much of what we read today fit in with the culture of the time and that which did not fit in our made society uncomfortable was set aside. This could include aliens, abortion or anything else that really isn’t concreted in our Bible. This is simply my instinctual reaction to topics like this and I am no scholar! I also believe that any controversy found in the existing pages are meant to draw us closer in discourse, discussion and determination, hopefully expanding our beliefs and fellowship. Two cents, doesn’t even buy penny candy these days…

  • God created all things. I don’t understand why anyone thinks that discovering more of God’s creation — potential extraterrestrial life included — would invalidate religion. ANY religion. It just means that God created more than this Earth alone. Not a big deal.

  • Clayton Gafne Jaymes

    Why would ppl ask such a question knowing full well that so many religions speak of life from outside of thee earth itself?