Thursday, June 30, 2011

Billy Graham on ET

"I firmly believe there are intelligent beings like us far away in space who worship God, but we have nothing to fear from them because, like us, they are God's creation."

"Nothing can hide the fact, however, that these unexplained events [extraterrestrial encounters] are occurring with greater frequency around the entire world and in unexpected places...."

"Our solar system is just one of billions in God's colossal Creation - and I find it very hard to believe He would have created only one living planet, Earth."

"I firmly believe there is intelligent life in outer space - beings who probably look very much like the average American."

"I feel they [advanced extraterrestrial civilizations] have developed space vehicles capable of reaching Earth."

"I don't believe that all reported UFO sightings can be dismissed as mere figments of the imagination. Without doubt, there have been legitimate sightings of flying objects which cannot be explained."

"I've discovered that many of America's top scientists and astronauts - who are actively investigating the question of extraterrestrial life - share my view. I firmly believe there are intelligent beings like us far away in space who worship God. But we would have nothing to fear from meeting these people. Like us, they are God's creation. And if we should eventually make contact with these civilizations, it would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the history of mankind. It's mind-boggling to imagine how much we could learn from them. They're probably at least as advanced as us, and possibly more advanced - which means they may have found answers to many of the problems we face on Earth. Disease, war, environmental pollution may be nonexistent on these other living planets. But my biggest hope would be that they are loving, caring societies who are at peace with God and free from sin. I see no reason why other planets should be cursed with the riots, demonstrations, wars and rebellions which threaten the future of our civilization."

"From my studies of the Scriptures, I can find nothing that would change our faith in the Gospel if we discover life on other planets."

Modern Myths: The USA is a Christian Nation

Thank you all for reading my first Modern Myths post on Native Americans. I hope you enjoyed it. This next issue is one that will be controversial, but like many myths it can affect the way that we think in alarmingly dangerous ways.

The USA is a Christian Nation and was founded in Christianity
A view that has been predominant from the 1950s until recently and is still commonly believed especially among the average church-goer--the idea of the USA being a Christian nation is an integral part of the mindset of many Americans. As strong as patriotism is the sentiment that we belong to God's nation. This view affects the way we view Christians, non-Christians, foreigners, public policy, and much more. It is rooted in the reason many people think the way they do about national and international issues.

However, the USA is not a Christian Nation, and it was the farthest thing from the intent of the founders for it to be so. First, lets take a little peek at what the most influential founders were like:
  1. All the founders were raised Christian. They were raised Puritan, Anglican, Congregationalist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Catholic, Quaker, and Huguenot, but they all had strong Christian rearing. The late 1600s and early 1700s Christianity was familiar for all of them. This may not surprise you since by the end of the reign of Elizabeth I, virtually the entirety of the UK considered themselves Christian.
  2. Despite this strong Christian upbringing, only half of the founders were Christian. Benjamin Franklin was a deist who believed Christianity to be bunk. George Washington was a deist who considered Christ a good teacher and always left church while everyone else took communion. John Adams was a Unitarian and a deist; Thomas Jefferson was as well. James Madison was a deist. Alexander Hamilton was irreligious most of his life, though he later had an Episcopalian conversion experience after the founding of the USA. Robert Paine was a Unitarian. Benjamin Rush was a universalist. Gouverneur Morris was a deist, and Thomas Paine was also a deist.
  3. 65% of the founders were Freemasons. For those of you unfamiliar with the Freemason view of religion: "Every Mason must believe in God and in the immortality of the soul. The Volume of Sacred Law must be open on every Lodge Altar. A candidate takes his Obligations upon his knees. Before engaging in any important undertaking a Mason seeks aid and guidance through prayer from the Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. This is religion, but it is not a religion. It is faith, but it is not a faith confined to any one creed. It is worship, but it is not a worship chained to any one Altar. In the great words of the First Book of Constitutions it is the religion in which all good men agree. It is the ground which underlies all religions, all churches, all creeds..." This view is inherently Unitarian Universalist (though it is not tied with the church of that name). Mason founders include Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, James Madison, John Hancock, Robert Paine, James McHenry, Roger Sherman, Thomas Paine, and Paul Revere.
Despite this the founders did represent a people largely consisting of Christians. These people whose identity was deeply Christian were influential in the establishment of the principles of the nation. However, it was these very Christians who did not want the national identity to be Christian. The states fought for the inclusion of an explicit statement of the separation of church and state, because not only did they want to keep religion out of government but they wanted to keep religious identity separate from national identity. This had caused them much trouble back in Britain--Puritans, Presbyterians, Baptists--many of them came to America because they wanted to escape discrimination based on their personal beliefs. Separation of church and state kept an individual within the nation from being discriminated against based on belief and it kept the nation from being discriminated against by other nations based on belief. It allowed for political issues to remain political and religious issues to remain religious.

The Pledge of Allegiance was originally composed by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, in 1892. This is its original form:
I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
The "under God" was not added until 1954. The pledge was a national pledge, not a religious pledge.

"In God We Trust" was not originally on US currency. In 1864 it was added to the two-cent coin only, but it was never added to the dollar bill until the 1950s.

President John Adams said in the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797: "The United States government is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion." He also stated at a different time: "It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service [formation of the American governments] had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven..."

Why is this important? There are a number of people out there who consider the USA to be "God's nation". These people will often act like the USA is the core of Christianity in the modern world. The USA holds no such privileged position. The USA is as much God's nation as any other nation is. It is not some kind of chosen nation. The important thing to remember is that it was founded on freedom--so that anyone would be free to have their own beliefs.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Modern Myths: Native Americans Were Primitive

As I was thinking where to head next with my blog, this great idea suddenly popped in my head: "Top Ten Modern Myths and Why They're Not True". While I assembled the material for this blog post, I realized that there would have to be much more than ten points and that to do each point justice I would need to make separate posts. On that note, here begins my new blog series "Modern Myths".

Native Americans were primitive before Europeans came along

Many of us have grown up with images of the hooting, hollering "red man" dancing around the camp fire by his tee-pee and sharpening his tomahawk for scalping the "white man". These images have been spoon-fed to us by TV shows (e.g. Looney Tunes), sports teams (e.g. Redskins), and wild tales from USA folklore.

In reality, Native Americans were quite advanced. They had built towns. They played organized team sports. They excelled in hunting and fishing. They had somewhat democratic government structures. In farming they were experts. Women often held prominent roles in their society. They had medicine which they shared with the Europeans. They had sophisticated religion and theology which were a key part of their society. Cleanliness was important to them: in fact, they were more clean than the Europeans for whom bathing and clean clothes were not all that important. Their culture was centered on toleration and freedom. They avoided conflict when possible and abhorred devastating war. They had a sophisticated language. Monetary currency and economic systems were also present in their society.

The Native Americans generally strived for good relations with the settlers. In fact, scalping was introduced by the Europeans. It is due greatly to Native Americans that settlers survived the early years.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Quotes from Scientists, Government, Military, and a Theologian on ET

“In my mind, there is no question that they're out there. My career is well established. My text books are required reading in all the major capitals on planet earth. If you want to become a physicist to learn about the unified field theory-you read my books. Therefore, I'm in a position to say: Yes- Most likely they're out there, perhaps even visited, perhaps on our moon.”
– Professor Michio Kaku, Author of Theoretical Physics UNY, ABC News Quote

“I've been convinced for a long time that the flying saucers are real and interplanetary. In other words we are being watched by beings from outer space.”
– Albert M. Chop, deputy public relations director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration,(NASA) and former United States Air Force spokesman for Project Blue Book

“When the long awaited solution to the UFO problem comes, I believe that it will prove to be not merely the next small step in the march of science, but a mighty and totally unexpected quantum leap.” “We had a job to do, whether right or wrong, to keep the public from getting excited.”
– Dr. J Allen Hynek, Director US Air Force´s project Blue Book as a scientific consultant, astronomer, investigator and analysis

“Given the millions of billions of Earth-like planets, life elsewhere in the Universe without a doubt, does exist. In the vastness of the Universe we are not alone.”
– The Bible According to Albert Einstein

“The possibility of reduced-time interstellar travel either by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations at present or ourselves in the future, is not fundamentally constrained by physical principles.”
– Dr. Harold Puthoff (Director, Institute for advanced studies at Austin, Author of fundamentals of Quantum Electronics)

“The least improbable explanation is that these things are artificial and controlled ... My opinion for some time has been that they have an extraterrestrial origin.”
– Dr. Maurice Biot (leading aerodynamicist and mathematical physicist)

“The evidence is overwhelming that Planet Earth is being visited by intelligently controlled extraterrestrial spacecraft. In other words, SOME UFOs are alien spacecraft. Most are not. It's clear from the Opinion Polls and my own experience, that indeed most people accept the notion that SOME UFOs are alien spacecraft. The greater the education, the MORE likely to accept this proposition.”
– Stanton Friedman, Defense Contractor Nuclear Physicist

Extraterrestrial encounters “are NOT demonic, they are NOT due to psychological impairment, they are NOT a case of entity attachment, but these encounters deserve to be studied carefully.”
“Extraterrestrial contact is a real phenomenon. The Vatican is receiving much information about extraterrestrials and their contacts with humans from its Nuncios (embassies) in various countries, such as Mexico, Chile and Venezuela.”
“As God's power is limitless, it is not only possible but also likely that inhabited planets exist. ”
“It is probable that there are other beings. That is not very strange, because there is too much discrepancy between human and angelic nature, of which we have the theological certainty. And since in man, the spirit is subordinate to matter, and since the Angels are alone spirit, it is probable that beings exist with very much less body and matter than we have. They could be those that we call Ufo, these persons that would appear with these wagons, and that also have not only one science, but a natural ability to be our guardians.”
– Monsignor Corrado Balducci, As stated 5 different times on Italian TV (Vatican theologian insider close to the Pope, Monsignor Balducci said that he is on a Vatican commission looking into extraterrestrial encounters, and how to cope with the emerging general realization of extraterrestrial contact.)

“With control of the universe at stake, a crash program is imperative. We produced the A-bomb, under the huge Manhattan Project, in an amazingly short time. The needs, the urgency today are even greater. The Air Force should end UFO secrecy, give the facts to scientists, the public, to Congress. Once the people realize the truth, they would back, even demand a crash program...for this is one race we dare not lose.”
– Major Donald E. Keyhoe, USMC, Director NICAP 1953

“Unknown objects are operating under intelligent control... It is imperative that we learn where UFOs come from and what their purpose is. I can tell you, behind the scenes, high ranking military officers are soberly concerned about the UFOs.”
– Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter (Former director of the Central Intelligence Agency)

“I can assure you that flying saucers, given that they exist, are not constructed by any power on earth” – President Harry S. Truman

“I certainly believe in aliens in space, and that they are indeed visiting our planet. They may not look like us, but I have very strong feelings that they have advanced beyond our mental capabilities.”
– Senator Barry Goldwater (1965)
(Retired Air Force Brigadier General and pilot with many decades of flying experience)

“I think about how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And I ask you, does not this threat already exist?”
– President Ronald Reagan, UN address

“The phenomenon of UFOs does exist, and it must be treated seriously.”
– Mikhail Gorbachev

I believe, and I scientifically am certain, that there are endless other living forms out there, including intelligent sentient beings. I do know that there are entire universes of living forms out there.
– Dr. Story Musgrave, NASA scientist-astronaut

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets which obviously are a little more technically advanced than we are here on Earth.”
– Colonel L. Gordon Cooper (Mercury 9, Gemini-5 Astronaut)

“I've been asked about UFO's and I've said publicly I thought they were somebody else, some other civilization.”
– Commander Eugene Cernan, Commanded the Apollo 17 Mission. (LA TIMES, 1973)

“We have contact with alien cultures.”
– Astronaut Dr. Brian O'Leary

“In my official status, I cannot comment on ET contact. However, personally, I can assure you, we are not alone!”
– Charles J. Camarda (Ph.D.) NASA Astronaut

“We all know that UFOs are real. All we need to ask is where do they come from, and what do they want?”
– Apollo 14 Astronaut Capt. Edgar Mitchell

“All Apollo and Gemini flights were followed, both at a distance and sometimes also quite closely, by space vehicles of extraterrestrial origin - flying saucers, or UFOs, if you want to call them by that name. Every time it occurred, the astronauts informed Mission Control, who then ordered absolute silence.”
– Maurice Chatelain, former chief of NASA Communications Systems

“At no time, when the astronauts were in space were they alone: there was a constant surveillance by UFOs.”
– NASA's Scott Carpenter

When asked if he believed that UFO's were real: “Yes as a matter of fact I do.” He was also asked if he had ever seen a UFO and he said he had, on his Gemini mission. He went on to say that he tried to take a picture of it, but it did not come out.
– Brigadier Gen. James Mc Divitt, command pilot of the Gemini space craft. (This interview can be seen on a video tape called Beyond Belief, from United Entertainment, Inc. 1986.)

“I was testing a P-51 fighter in Minneapolis when I spotted this object. I was at about 10,000 feet on a nice, bright, sunny afternoon. I thought the object was a kite, then I realized that no kite is gonna fly that high." As I got closer it looked like a weather balloon, gray and about three feet in diameter. But as soon as I got behind the darn thing it didn't look like a balloon anymore. It looked like a saucer, a disk. About the same time, I realized that it was suddenly going away from me -- and there I was, running at about 300 miles per hour. I tracked it for a little way, and then all of a sudden the damn thing just took off. It pulled about a 45 degree climbing turn and accelerated and just flat disappeared.”
– Mercury Astronaut Capt. Donald Slayton

“Yes, there have been ET visitations. There have been crashed craft. There have been material and bodies recovered. There has been a certain amount of reverse engineering that has allowed some of these craft, or some components, to be duplicated. And there is some group of people that may or may not be associated with government at this point that have this knowledge. They have been attempting to conceal this knowledge. People in high level government have very little, if any, valid information about this. It has been the subject of disinformation in order to deflect attention and create confusion so the truth doesn’t come out.”
– Edgar D. Mitchell, D.Sc., American pilot, engineer, and astronaut

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Bible on ET

“Put on the whole armor of God to enable you to stand up to the strategies of the Adversary. That is not to us the wrestling against blood and flesh, but against the ancient ones, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of the dark of this age, against the spiritual forces of wickedness among the ones from the stars.” - Ephesians 6:11-12, translated from the Greek 
For a similar translation see: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians to the church in Ephesus so that they might receive the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” and that the eyes of their heart “may be enlightened” in order to know the hope of God's calling—that is, his great power that he gives to us and the inheritance of his glorious goods. The whole letter is addressing the strengthening of the Ephesian church that they might be well-equipped warriors for God. Paul walks the Ephesians through their previous struggle and reminds them of how they all—Jew and Gentile alike—came to be citizens of God's household. This in mind he informs them that he was tasked with enlightening them with God's big secret plan, hidden for ages, that the church will make known God's manifold wisdom to the ancient ones and the authorities among the ones from the stars. Paul says that because of this big plan for the church he prays for them that they have the power to grasp Christ's love that surpasses knowledge, so they may be filled with the fullness of God. Following his prayer, Paul urges them to live their whole life in focus of this plan. He reassures them again that Christ will help them and that he has given them gifts—as well as reminding them that Christ ascended so that he might finish his work throughout the universe. Paul then gives them suggestions on how to live in order to further this goal—emphasizing that they be enlightened and pursue the truth. He asks them to give thanks to God for everything. Before his conclusion Paul addresses the working of households, that no area of life will be left in the dark. He urges fathers to train and instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. Finally, Paul concludes with a passage beginning with the verses above—that we may gird ourselves as warriors for God so that we may take on the evil forces among the ones from the stars as we accomplish our mission of making known God's wisdom among them.

“If you have been driven to the furthest reaches of space, Yahweh Elohim will gather you and from there he will take you and Yahweh Elohim will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.” - Deuteronomy 30:4-5, translated from the Hebrew 
For a similar interpretation see: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
In Deuteronomy 29 the writer of Deuteronomy tells the people under God's covenant that the things that God has revealed to them are for later generations and those from distant lands—that if they follow his instruction his blessing will be upon them but if they abandon his covenant his curse will be on them and their land. In Deuteronomy 30 the writer says that when the blessings and curses have come on them and they are scattered among all beings, once they return to God and obey him with their heart and soul according to his command, he will restore their fortune and have compassion on them and gather them from all the beings where he scattered them. This is when the writer reaches the verses above telling them that even if they were driven to the furthest reaches of space, God would bring them back. He goes on to say that once they are back God will circumcise their hearts and the hearts of those they have witnessed to who have followed him, and that God will put all the curses on their enemies who hate and persecute them. It seems that God does not distinguish between beings on earth and beings in space. The followers of his covenant will be sent to all of them and any who follow will be blessed as well. The writer concludes Deuteronomy 30 with the ultimatum, the command that is set before them: to love God. If they follow they will be blessed wherever they go. If they turn away, they will be destroyed. The writer calls those in space and on earth as his witnesses that he has set before them life and death, blessings and curses, and has instructed them how to choose life.

“You, Yahweh alone, you made the cosmos, the abode of the worlds, and all the host of them, the earth and all that are on it, the seas and all that are in them, and you give them all life; and the host of the cosmos worships you.” - Nehemiah 9:6, translated from the Hebrew 
For a similar interpretation: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
Nehemiah writes that on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month in the newly reconstructed Jerusalem, the Israelites had gathered to fast and confess their sins and their ancestors' sins in front of their foreign audience. The Levites called out that everyone should stand and praise God. Their praise begins with the verse above and continues to say that God chose their ancestors and made a covenant with them. They say that God kept his promise. They say he spoke to their ancestors and revealed his good commands to them. They go on telling how disobedient their ancestors were yet how faithful God remained. They finish with “We are in distress.” The statement in the verse above says that God gives life to all the multitudes—the multitudes of space, earth, and the seas—all those in the cosmos who worship him. Clearly the Israelites are recalling in this praise the instruction given in the aforementioned Deuteronomy passage. The fact that they are recalling this in the presence of foreigners is significant. They seem to have realized the cosmic importance indicated in Deuteronomy and are making their best effort to achieve it in the moment. While the foreigners in their presence are hardly from the farthest reaches of earth (much less the farthest reaches of space) their allusion to the inhabitants of space indicates that they still realize the full extent of their ultimate goal.

“In that day Yahweh will punish the high host above and the kings of the earth on the ground.” - Isaiah 24:21, translated from the Hebrew 
For a similar interpretation: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
Isaiah, in chapter 24 of his book of prophecy, foretells a time when the earth will be laid waste and ruined. In the midst of his description of the earth's devastation, Isaiah indicates that not only will the earth be desolated, but the universe will also be desolated along with the earth. He then goes on about the earth's disobedience until he reaches the verse above in which he declares that God will not only punish the kings of the earth down here, but that he will also punish the multitude of dignitaries throughout the universe. He continues, saying they will be herded together and bound like prisoners. They will be shut up in prison and be punished after many days. It seems that there are rulers throughout the universe that are just as guilty as the rulers on earth. It says that only before the elders of Mount Zion (the promised home of God's followers) will God reign in glory.

“But in those days after the affliction, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its beam. And the stars of space will fall and the powers in the universe will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with much power and glory. And then he will dispatch his angels and assemble his elect out of the four winds from the farthest reaches of earth to the farthest reaches of space.” - Mark 13:24-27, translated from the Greek 
For a similar interpretation: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
In Mark 13 Jesus is describing the end times to his disciples. He tells them the signs of the end, and he tells them what will happen when the desolation occurs. Then in the verses above, Jesus indicates that after this time of affliction the sun and moon will be darkened and the burning ones of space will fall (this could be meteorites). Once these signs have occurred the powers in the universe will be uprooted much like they are in Isaiah. Jesus indicates that the Son of man will come at that point in power and glory (evocative of the Ephesians passage above). He will dispatch his messengers and gather his elect from all of the universe. Jesus finishes by saying that even those messengers that he will send do not know when this will happen, so his followers must be ready. He says that he will be going away and they do not know when he will come back to their house, so they must watch. In Matthew Jesus follows up this warning with a parable about a master who is going to other countries and will later return to his servants. In this context it seems that earth is one house/country that Jesus left, and that he will return only after visiting other countries (other worlds?). This viewpoint would seem to be consistent with the fact that he will send messengers throughout the universe to gather his elect.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. Because of this my Father loves me, that I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No one takes it from me, but I am laying it down myself. I have the authority to lay it down and take it again. This instruction I received by my Father.” - John 10:14-18, translated from the Greek 
For a similar interpretation: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
In further support of this is this passage containing Jesus' imagery of the good shepherd. He says that he has other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, and they he must bring them together also so that there may be one flock and one shepherd. 1 Peter 3 says that after Christ was made alive he went to the spirits in prison (this prison is elsewhere in the Bible stated to be among the stars) to distribute what is being done (literal translation of the word translated as proclaim). Jesus, of course, does not need to die again, but he goes to other worlds to distribute his sacrifice. Much like he showed Thomas his scars, Jesus can show the evidence of his death and resurrection to the whole universe so that they too might believe.

“The kings came and fought, then fought kings of Canaan in Taanach by the waters of Megiddo; they took no plunder of silver. From space the planets fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. March on, my soul; be strong. Then the horse hoofs thundered—galloping, the galloping of his mighty ones. 'Curse you planet Meroz,' the angel of Yahweh said, 'curse greatly its inhabitants, because they did not come to help Yahweh, to help Yahweh against the mighty.'” - Judges 5:19-23, translated from the Hebrew 
For a similar translation: 
Note: I do not endorse the views held on this website.
After Sisera and Jabin were killed, Deborah and Barak sing a song concerning the events. They call all kings and rulers to listen to their words. Their song says that God came down to earth and chose new leaders in Israel. New willing volunteers in Israel rose up to fight against the mighty kings. When the song comes to the verses above, the mighty rulers have come to fight. At this point God summons other planets to assist in fighting the mighty kings. He curses the planet Meroz because they did not come to help fight. Why would God summon other planets to assist in defeating these earth rulers? Sisera means “servant of Ra” and Sisera had previously defeated every country that he had fought against. He had superhuman powers: a voice that could shake solid walls and cause animals to fall dead. He had nine hundred iron chariots at his command. The king Jabin through men like Sisera held Israel in subjection for twenty years despite the fact that Israel had a fighting force of ten thousand. Jabin means “the wise,” and it is possible that, like Sisera, he was given superhuman powers (in this case wisdom) through occult means.

In summary, the seeming lack of mention of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe in the Bible is due mostly to the translation of certain passages in language that today has only poetic, symbolic, or spiritual meaning—but in another time had a more concrete meaning. This is demonstrated in the above passages translated directly from the original language with the assistance of interlinears, lexicons, and commentaries in order to best ascertain the meaning in the context of the passage. These are not the only passages in the Bible concerning ET, but they are the most easily ascertainable.

Friday, June 10, 2011

We Are Not Alone

Are we alone in the universe? Humanity has been asking this question for millenia. Our creation of thousands of gods, spirits, and intelligent creatures is fueled, in part, by our intense desire for cosmic company. As long as we have been asking this question, there have been a plethora of answers. This quest for company continues today—embodied predominantly in the study of extraterrestrial life. Today our big questions take the form: “Is ET out there? If so, is it intelligent?”

With our present telescopes comes the ability to peer deeper into space than we ever have before, and the findings in recent years have been immense. This has dramatically changed the potential for extraterrestrial life. In the observable universe there are about 100 billion to 1 trillion galaxies. Spiral galaxies like our own have about 100 billion to 1 trillion stars. Elliptical galaxies like Maffei 1 have about 1 trillion to 10 trillion stars. Since elliptical galaxies make up about a third of all galaxies, the number of stars in the universe is about 100 sextillion to 300 sextillion: “or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion” (Borenstein, “Number of Stars”).

What does all this mean for extraterrestrial life? There are 50 billion or more planets in our galaxy. “At least 500 million of those planets are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold zone where life could exist” (Borenstein, “Cosmic census”). This means that one of every two stars has a planet and one of every 200 stars has a planet in the habitable zone (Borenstein, “Cosmic census”). If you do the math, that's around 50 sextillion planets in the universe, conservatively. Around 500 quintillion of those are habitable. That's 100 billion times 5 billion planets that could harbor life like us.

Professor Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia estimates that the chances of life like us occurring is “less than 0.01 per cent over four billion years” (Science 2.0) The oldest known planet is around 13 billion years old (Savage, Neal, and Villard). This means that a very rough estimate of the number of Earth-like planets with life like us on it is 16.25 quintillion, or 16,250,000 in our galaxy. Now, when I say “life like us” I don't mean that they will look a lot like humans. I mean life that shares four similar formational attributes. However, even this estimate may be far too narrow: “if life originated independently, even within our own solar system, it might have nonterran characteristics and, thus, not be detectable by NASA’s in situ or remote-sensing missions designed explicitly to detect terran biomolecules or their products” (National Academies: Space Studies Board). In other words, life could be drastically different from us and could exist in greatly varied environments.

This is all well and good, say the skeptics, but what is the likelihood of us actually coming in contact with anything intelligent if there are such life forms out there? That question is answered by the Drake Equation. “The Drake equation was developed as a means of predicting the likelihood of detecting other intelligent civilizations in our galaxy” (Astrobiology Magazine). The Drake equation takes the rate of star formation per year, the rate of production of new planetary systems per year, the number of planets in the continuously habitable zone, the fraction of potentially habitable planets that actually give rise to life, the fraction of living systems that give rise to an intelligent species, the fraction of intelligent civilizations which give rise to a technology which we might detect, and the longevity of such a civilization and returns the number of communicative civilizations (Astrobiology Magazine). Frank Drake's current solution to his equation is 10,000 such civilizations (Ford).

The final issue with extraterrestrial intelligence is if there are really that many civilizations out there that we could have come in contact with, why haven't we come in contact with them yet? This question is known as the Fermi Paradox. The problem with the Fermi Paradox is that it assumes that extraterrestrials haven't already attempted to contact us. There are a number of sufficient explanations for why they may already have been (or are) in our solar system and we simply cannot observe them yet. Freitas says, “The current observational status of the Solar System is insufficient to support the assumption that ETI are not here. Most advanced civilisations also would be either invisible or unrecognisable using current human observational methods, so millions of advanced societies may exist and still not be directly detectable by us. Thus the Fermi Paradox cannot logically be raised as an objection to the existence of ETI until these major observational deficiencies have been corrected.”

Ultimately, there is still a lot that we don't know about space, life, and intelligence, but what we do know so far is overwhelming support for the existence of extraterrestrial life. Not only are they out there, but some of them may be intelligent, some may be contactable, some may have already attempted to contact us, and some...we may yet be on the verge of discovering.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Not All Who Wander...

My good friend Kevin recently started a blog. His first post is a little more eloquent than mine. Now I'm wishing I had put a little more effort into my first post. Maybe I would be a little more frequent on my blog if I had. Anyway, this was just an excuse to post something new.

Not All Who Wander...