A mere glance at the stars invites the question, “Are we alone?” — one of the ultimate facing mankind. Not long ago astronomer Carl Sagan thought there were a million advanced civilizations in the Milky Way alone. But astrobiologists, men who look for life in other solar systems, and scientists are painting a far different picture. Once thought to be average, our planet, sun, and galaxy are anything but. Heavier than 95% of the stars in the Milky Way, the sun is both metal-rich and life-friendly. It has been a stable source of radiant heat for literally billions of years, releasing most, but not all of its radiation in the safe, visible light portion of energy. More energetic stars would release too much ultraviolet radiation, tearing apart the biological bonds of living creatures. Less energetic ones would be so small that the habitable zone around them, the orbits where water can exist on a planet, would be too close to them.
Our friendly sun is surrounded by an orderly array of planets with nearly circular orbits. If they had more eccentric orbits that brought them closer to the sun, gas giants like Jupiter would drive the inner, earth-like planets right into it. A massive moon, both lovely and useful, orbits our beautiful earth. It has kept the tilt of the earth constant for hundreds of millions of years, stabilizing the earth’s surface temperatures in ranges suitable for life. The molten core of the Earth makes possible its great shield against solar and deep space radiation — its magnetic field. Its oceans, oxygen-rich atmosphere, and mighty upheavals of its crust to form continents — all have played their part in supporting life. Even the earth’s rotation has played a role. Planets like Mercury, locked into presenting one side to the sun, have an unchanging freezing cold half and a boiling hot half on the same planet. Any one of these features would make our earth and solar system uncommon; together, they make it unique.
In spite of everything going for it, life on planet Earth, according to the fossil record, has faced extinction no less than 15 times in the last five hundred million years. Five of these “mass extinction events” have eliminated more than half of all the species then inhabiting our planet. One of the most spectacular, 65 million years ago, ended the reign of the dinosaurs on planet Earth. A comet or asteroid only 6 to 10 kilometers in diameter struck the earth in Central America, darkening the skies for months with the dust of the explosion, the billowing black smoke of forest fires ignited worldwide, and a prodigious fall of acid rain. One just twice that size might well have sterilized the entire planet. The moon bears mute witness to the power of even larger impacts.
Much of the universe is actually inhospitable to life ever arising. Besides such spectacular events as stars going supernova, many regions of the universe are either too energy-rich or too metal-poor to ever support advanced life. And then there are events of a magnitude that men have never before dreamed, like mergers of two neutron stars, which cause the most powerful explosions in the universe and release enough energy to sterilize an entire galaxy!
Yes, we are alone. The universe is inhospitable for man now. It is waiting, groaning under the futility of so many stars, shining on so many lifeless planets, all of them alike subject to the same death and decay that faces men and women today, on this planet. 1 But there is a secret more vast and more significant than the death of neutron stars: man was never meant to die. Man was always meant to fill this planet with peace and life and take that to the stars. The many wars of science fiction are quite accurate – if man could go to the stars in the future he would just bring the war, the pollution, and his moral degradation there. But planet Earth is under a quarantine until the deep-seated problems within men and women are dealt with. It is not just a quarantine of distance; it is deeper than that – it is a quarantine of uniqueness. There are no other earth-like planets where we can live. But the day will come when the uninhabitable universe will be transformed and made habitable.2 It is beyond our highest imagination.
That is the hope that we have — a hope for the world that we found in Messiah Yahshua. His forgiveness of our sins makes possible a life of peace and friendship, not only between men and women, but between humanity and their precious cradle of life – the earth. The only true contribution you can make to solve the earth’s problems is to surrender the life you now live (whose wealth is causing all of the problems – including war) to the One who can save both you and the planet. He will one day return to destroy those who are destroying the Earth.3 You can be on His side today and in the ages to come, when human life will fill the universe in unending generations, forever and ever.4