IS THERE INTELLIGENT LIFE IN OUTER SPACE?
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
There can be little doubt that the prospect of intelligent life
existing in outer space has intrigued evolutionary scientists for
generations. Pick up almost any evolution textbook, and you'll find a
reference to, brief discussion of, or whole chapter on,
Some years ago, Dr. Carl Sagan, the eminent astronomer of Cornell
University, raised private funding for a radio telescope which would
search the skies for a message coming in to us from supposed
extraterrestrial beings. Dr. Sagan, and Dr. Frank Drake, were asked by
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to design an
interstellar communication specifically aimed at extraterrestrials, in
hopes of letting them know that we are here. Consequently, attached to
NASA's Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 spaceprobes (1973) were identical gold
plaques, inscribed with pictorial messages sent across the light-years
to tell about Earth's civilization. Since that time, various other
attempts either to accept communications from alleged
extraterrestrials, or to communicate with them, have been made.
WHY THE INTEREST IN EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE?
One might ask: "Why all the interest in the possibility of
intelligent life existing in outer space?" There are several answers to
such a question.
First, there are some who firmly believe in the existence of
intelligent extraterrestrial life because they are convinced that, if
life evolved here, it not only could have evolved elsewhere, but must
have done so. Dr. Sagan is but one example of evolutionists who follow
this line of reasoning. In an interview in January 17, 1980 issue of
`New Scientist' magazine, Dr. Sagan made the following points:
1. There are something like 10(ýý) stars in the universe, and as
about one in a million of these stars is a yellow dwarf star like our
Sun, this means there are about 10(16) Sun-type stars in the universe.
2. Now one in a million of these Sun-type stars probably has a
planetary system similar to that of our Sun's. Therefore there are
about 10(10) planetary systems in the universe.
3. One in a million of these planetary systems must have a planet
similar to that of Earth, and life must have evolved on those planets
in the same manner in which it has evolved here on Earth. Therefore
there are at least 10,000 planets in the universe that have life on
Dr. Paul Davies, the renowned physicist and cosmologist, has stated in
his book, `Other Worlds':
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains about 100 billion
stars grouped together in a gigantic spiral assembly
typical of the billions of other galaxies scattered
throughout the universe. This means that there is
nothing very special about the Earth, so probably
life is not a remarkable phenomenon either. ...it
would be surprising if life were not widespread
throughout the cosmos, though it may be rather
sparse (1980, p 151).
Sir Fred Hoyle joins such thinkers. In his book, `Lifecloud', he says:
"With so many possible planetary systems, should we not expect
inhabited planets to be moving around some of the nearby stars? We
certainly should..." (1978, pp 145,146). It is evident, then, that
evolutionists believe intelligent life exists on other planets simply
because evolution must work that way.
Second, there are some who believe life will be found in outer space
because life simply could not have "just happened" here on the Earth.
However, far from invoking a Creator, their intended point is simply
that the available evidence indicates that life is too complex to have
occurred here on the Earth by purely naturalistic processes. So, life
must have evolved somewhere in outer space and been planted here. This
is the view of Sir Francis Crick, in his volume, `Life Itself':
If a particular amino acid sequence was selected by
chance, how rare an event would this be?... Suppose
the chain is about two hundred amino acids long;
this is, if anything, rather less than the average
length of proteins of all types. Since we have just
twenty possibilities at each place, the number of
possibilities is twenty multiplied by itself some
two hundred times. This is approximately equal to
...a one followed by 260 zeros.... The great
majority of sequences can never have been
synthesized at all, at any time (1981, p 51).
Dr. Crick then makes the following fascinating admission: "An
honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could
only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment
to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had
to have been satisfied to get it going" (p 88, emp. added). But, while
acknowledging the impossibility of the accidental formation of life
here on the Earth, he refuses to accept the idea of an intelligent
Creator, and instead opts for "directed panspermia"---the idea that
life was "planted" on the Earth by intelligent beings from outer space.
Dr. Crick is not alone in this viewpoint. The same year in which `Life
Itself' was published, Sir Fred Hoyle authored `Life from Space', in
which he takes essentially the same position.
The likelihood of the formation of life from
inanimate matter is one to a number with 40,000
noughts after it.... It is big enough to bury
Darwin and the whole theory of evolution. There
was no primeval soup, neither on this planet nor on
any other, and if the beginnings of life were not
random, they must therefore have been the product
of purposeful intelligence.
Dr. Hoyle opts for a kind of pantheistic intelligence which created
life spores in other parts of the Universe, with these spores
ultimately drifting to Earth to begin life as we know it. Because of
the tremendous (and impressive) complexity of life---and the obvious
design behind it---other scientists are opting for this viewpoint as
well. Dr. Leslie Orgel, one of the heavyweights in origin-of-life
experiments, is on record as advocating this position (Orgel, 1982, pp
Third, there are, without a doubt, some evolutionists who are
determined to believe in some form of intelligent extraterrestrial life
because they are convinced this will somehow nullify creation. For
example, Ian Ridpath, in his book, `Signs of Life', has suggested:
"Religions which contend that God made man in His own image could be
severely shaken if we found another intellectual race made in a
different image" (1975, p 13).
Jonathan N. Leonard has likewise shown his disdain for the concept
of creation in his classic essay, `Other-Worldly Life':
Scientists point out that there is nothing miraculous
or unrepeatable about the appearance of life on earth.
They believe it would happen again, given the same
sufficient time and the same set of circumstances. It
would even happen under very different circumstances.
There is no reason to believe that conditions in the
atmosphere and oceans of the primitive earth were
modified by any outside power to make them favorable
for the development of life. They just happened that
way, and it is likely that life would have appeared
even if conditions had been considerably different
(1984, pp 186,187).
Such writers make it clear that they believe if extraterrestrial life
were to be discovered, it would somehow "disprove" the existence of a
What response should the creationist offer to these various
evolutionary positions on the existence of intelligent life in outer
First, let it be noted that any claims made concerning the
existence of life in outer space are just that---claims---and nothing
more. In their more candid moments, even evolutionists admit such. Dr.
Michael Rowan-Robinson of the University of London has observed:
From the almost imperceptible wanderings of several
nearby stars we can deduce that they have small
companions, but the masses of the companions deduced
in this way are, with one exception, one or two per
cent of our Sun's mass, that is 10-20 times the mass
of Jupiter. Such objects could in fact be tiny stars,
rather than planets, for they may be undergoing
nuclear reactions in their core. This one exception
is Barnard's star, the next nearest to the Sun after
the Centauri system, five light years away. It has
been claimed that this star has one or two companions
of mass about that of Jupiter. This is still a matter
of dispute between astronomers. It is an act of faith,
based on rather shaky probabilistic arguments, to say
that other planets like Earth exist in the Universe
(1980, p 325, emp. added).
Dr. Freeman Dyson, in his classic text, `Disturbing the Universe',
speaks eloquently on this very point:
Many of the people who are interested in searching for
extraterrestrial intelligence have come to believe in
a doctrine which I call the Philosophical Discourse
Dogma, maintaining as an article of faith that the
universe is filled with societies engaged in long-
range philosophical discourse. The Philosophical
Discourse Dogma holds the following truths to be self-
1. Life is abundant in the universe.
2. A significant fraction of the planets on which life
exists give rise to intelligent species.
3. A significant fraction of intelligent species transmit
messages for our enlightenment.
If these statements are accepted, then it makes sense to
concentrate our efforts upon the search for radio messages
and to ignore other ways of looking for evidence of
intelligence in the universe. But to me the Philosophical
Discourse Dogma is far from self-evident. There is as yet
no evidence either for it or against it (1979, p 207, emp.
These two evolutionists have an excellent point---there is no evidence
for any of these grandiose claims regarding "habitable planets."
Second, let it be noted that the claims being made are often
blatantly contradictory. For example, consider the following. G.E.
Tauber, in his work, `Man's View of the Universe' (1979, p 339), says
that there are "about a billion possible candidates in the galaxy
alone" where intelligent life could exist. That's one billion planets
just in our own Milky Way galaxy. Yet listen to this estimate by Sir
Fred Hoyle, who says:
Of the two hundred billion or so stars in our galaxy,
about eighty per cent fail to met the conditions
discussed above as being necessary for life. The
remaining twenty per cent are not in multiple star
systems and have masses in the appropriate range,
three-quarters to one-and-a-half-times the mass of
the Sun. The grand total of planetary systems in
the galaxy capable of supporting life is therefore
close to forty billion (1978, p 145).
Notice that these two men are both discussing the same thing---
potentially habitable planets in the same galaxy (the Milky Way). Yet
one places the number at one billion, while the other sets it at forty
billion. And their books were published within one year of each other!
Mark Twain was, by all accounts, correct when he observed in `Life on
the Mississippi', "There is something fascinating about science. One
gets such a wholesale return of conjecture for such a trifling
investment of facts." How can we be expected to accept, as credible,
figures as vastly different as these?
Third, those who wish to convince us of a "directed panspermia" via
some intelligence in outer space have apparently failed to understand
that they have not addressed the issue at-hand; they have only moved it
to another planet. Creationists are not the only ones who see this as a
problem. Fox and Dose, two evolutionists who figure prominently in
origin-of-life research, have commented: "Another criticism that has
been voiced is that moving the origin of life to an extraterrestrial
site also moves the problem to that locale. Only by the broadest
interpretation invoking organic chemical precursors can the site be
stretched to such a distance" (1977, p 324). The question obviously
arises: "Did the intelligence which allegedly directed the panspermia
evolve, or was it created?" And we find ourselves right back where we
started. Whether there is intelligent life in outer space or not does
not answer the basic question of where that life, or life on Earth,
Fourth, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for life on
other planets. Scientists have little choice but to admit this fact, as
the following quotations clearly indicate.
(1) Dr. Ervin Laszlo, in his book, `Evolution: The Grand
Synthesis', has observed: "The search for life, especially
intelligent life, outside the confines of our home planet has
always fascinated poets and scientists; in recent years it has
motivated major research efforts. Alas, these efforts have not
brought positive results" (1970, p 122, emp. added).
(2) Paul Davies notes: "Although we have no supportive evidence at
all, it would be surprising if life were not widespread
throughout the cosmos, though it may be rather sparse" (1980, p
151, emp. added).
(3) Dr. Theodosius Dobzhansky and his co-authors, in their text,
`Evolution', state: "The subject of extraterrestrial life,
exobiology, is a curious field of science, since its subject
matter has never been observed and may not exist" (1977, p 366,
(4) Dr. Isaac Asimov, in reviewing several books for `Science
Digest', offered his comments on one by I.S. Shklovskii and
Carl Sagan (`Intelligent Life in the Universe'). In his review,
Dr. Asimov said: "There are so many books on extraterrestrial
life (I have written one myself) that they would almost seem to
be a cottage industry. This is in a way surprising, since we
have absolutely no evidence that any such phenomenon as life on
other worlds exists" (1982, p 36, emp. added). When Dr. Asimov
says we have "absolutely no evidence" of extraterrestrial life,
his statement, and the conclusion to be drawn from it, could
hardly be any plainer.
(5) Dr. Hubert P. Yockey, writing in the `Journal of Theoretical
Faith in the infallible and comprehensive doctrines
of dialectic materialism plays a crucial role in
origin of life scenarios, and especially in exobiology
and its ultimate consequence, the doctrine of advanced
extra-terrestrial civilization. That life must exist
somewhere in the solar system or "suitable planets
elsewhere" is widely and tenaciously believed in spite
of lack of evidence, or even abundant evidence to the
contrary (1981, p 27, emp. added).
THE BIBLE AND EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE
Some will ask what, if anything, the Bible has to say about this
matter. The astute Bible student is aware of the silence of the
Scriptures on this particular matter. The biblical record does not
affirm the existence of extraterrestrial life. [NOTE': The word
"extraterrestrial" is here used to denote beings with physical makeups,
as opposed to spiritual beings such as angels.]
The Bible does make many positive statements about the Earth and
the Universe. And in those statements, it is clear that the Earth has
been appointed a very unique role. For example, the psalmist stated
that "the heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath
he given to the children of men" (115:16). The Earth, apparently, was
created uniquely for mankind. Statements made by the inspired apostle
Paul in Acts 17:24-26 echo this same sentiment. It is of interest to
note that many celestial bodies---the Moon, the Sun, and stars---are
mentioned in Scripture, and even spoken of as having definite purposes.
Specifically, the Sun and Moon are said to be useful for marking off
days, and seasons, and years (Genesis 1:14). And, we are informed that
"one star differeth from another star in glory" (I Corinthians 15:41).
Yet no celestial body, except the Earth, is spoken of in Scripture as
being a "dwelling place."
Furthermore, the Earth is unique in that Christ's activities are
described as having occurred on this planet. It was on the Earth that
the godhead became incarnate through Christ (see John 1:1ff). It was on
the Earth that Christ died for the sins of men (Hebrews 2:9). It was on
the Earth that His bodily resurrection occurred (I Corinthians 15), and
from the Earth that He ascended to His Father in heaven (Acts 1:9,10;
There is also another aspect which should be considered in this
light. The Bible clearly states that "God is love" (I John 4:8). Love,
of course, allows freedom of choice, and the Scriptures make it clear
that God does exactly that (see Joshua 24:15;John 5:39,40). Since God
is the Creator of the Universe (Genesis 1:1ff), and since He is
likewise no respector of persons (Acts 10:34), were He to create other
intelligent life, His loving nature would require that freedom of
choice be granted to such life forms. It also follows that since God is
loving, He would offer instruction to such intelligent beings---just as
He has to man---on the proper use of freedom of choice. Creatures
possessing free moral agency, however, are not perfect; they make
mistakes. Such mistakes (violations of God's instructions) require that
justice be administered, since God is not only loving, but just.
Because God is merciful, He institutes a way for those separated from
Him---as a result of their own mistakes---to return. The Scriptures,
however, teach that there is only one way to stand justified before
God, and that is through His Son (John 14:6). [NOTE: The angelic host,
while certainly possessing freedom of choice, was not allowed this
opportunity, apparently due to its completely spiritual (i.e.,
nonphysical) nature, and to the fact that angels had experienced God's
glory firsthand as they stood in His presence. Therefore they were
without any excuse for their rebellion against His authority (Hebrews
The Scriptures also speak to one other important point. The Hebrew
writer stated that Christ died "once for all" (7:27; 9:28). The wording
in the original Greek is explicit, meaning that Christ's death was a
once-for-all, never-to-be-repeated event.
Creatures possessing freedom of choice make mistakes in attempting
to carry out God's will. Forgiveness of those mistakes comes only
through Christ (John 14:6). Since Christ died only once (Hebrews 7:27),
it is a seeming violation of Scripture to suggest that Christ somehow
go "planet hopping" to die again and again as the propitiation for
infractions of God's plan, made by creatures (possessing freedom of
choice) in other parts of this vast Universe of ours. These biblical
principles should not be overlooked in any discussion of the existence
of extraterrestrial life.
The only conclusion which can be drawn currently is that science
has produced no credible evidence of intelligent life in outer space.
There have been many speculations and opinions offered. But empirical
evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial life is completely
lacking. A good suggestion might be, therefore, that we spend our time
on more important pursuits.
Asimov, Isaac (1982), "Book Reviews," `Science Digest', March,
1982. The book by I.S. Shklovskii and Carl Sagan, `Intelligent
Life in the Universe', was published by Holden-Day, New York, 1966.
Crick, Francis (1981),` Life Itself '(New York: Simon & Schuster).
Davies, Paul (1980), `Other Worlds' (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Dobzhansky, Theodosius, F.J. Ayala, G.L. Stebbins, and J.W.
Valentine (1977), `Evolution' (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman).
Dyson, Freeman (1979), `Disturbing the Universe' (New York: Harper
Fox, Sidney and Klaus Dose (1977), `Molecular Evolution and the
Origin of Life' (New York: Marcel Dekker).
Hoyle, Fred (1978), `Lifecloud' (New York: Harper & Row).
Laszlo, Ervin (1987), `Evolution: The Grand Synthesis' (Boston:
Leonard, Jonathon N. (1984), "Other-Worldly Life," `The Sacred
Beetle', ed. Martin Gardner (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Press; essay
originally published in 1953).
Orgel, Leslie (1982), `New Scientist', April 15.
Ridpath, Ian (1975), `Signs of Life' (New York: Penguin).
Rowan-Robinson, Michael (1980), `New Scientist', January 31.
Sagan, Carl (1980), `New Scientist,' January 17.
Tauber, G.E. (1979), `Man's View of the Universe' (New York:
Yockey, Hubert P. (1981), `Journal of Theoretical Biology', 91:27.
(C) 1991 Apologetics Press, Inc All Rights Reserved
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