“Space. The final frontier.”
Man, I love Star Trek, don’t you? I’m a sucker for sci-fi (or as the muggles call it, science fiction). Star Wars (which is actually my favorite), Firefly, Dark Matter. I grew up on Star Wars and Star Trek, and shows like Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. And reading books like Nor Crystal Tears, Battlefield Earth, and more.
“…to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations…”
One thing in common with most sci-fi is the thought that there is an abundance of planets with advanced life throughout the galaxy.
But the reality is that it’s harder for advanced life to exist than one might think. In this series, I’ve already addressed how fine-tuned it is for life to exist at all in our universe, how fine-tuned a solar system has to be for advanced life to exist, and how fine-tuned a galaxy has to be for advanced life to exist. There are incredible probability factors for each of these to occur (addressed in each blog). But there’s one more factor to consider: the fine tuning of a planet.
J Warner Wallace sums up four of the many ways our planet is fine-tuned for life in his book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines The Evidence For A Divinely Created Universe :
The Earth’s Relationship to the Sun Is Favorable to Life:
Earth orbits the sun within a tight “habitable zone” that is highly statistically unlikely for a planet. If Earth were very slightly more distant from—or slightly closer to—the sun, a stable water cycle would be impossible. Also, small changes in the orbital tilt of our planet, or minor variations in the tilt of Earth’s axis, would disallow our climate. The length of rotation matters, too. If Earth had a slower one, our days would be too hot and our nights too cool to support life; shorter, and the wind speeds would be too extreme.
The habitable zone is known as the Circumstellar Habitable Zone. If our planet’s orbit was 5% closer to the Sun, it would be too hot, causing our planet to more resemble Venus than as it is now, which would prevent advanced life from forming. And if our planet’s orbit were 20% further away, it would cause our planet to be colder and to more resemble Mars than it is now, which would prevent advanced life from forming.
In the same way, our sun resides in the Galactic Habitable Zone, not too close to the center of the galaxy and not too far, and not to close to the spiral arms, and on an even rotation around the center of the galaxy to prevent it from crossing over into one of the spiral arms.
When you hear news reports of 200 billion earth-like planets in our galaxy, they are actually predicting that there are that number of planets that reside in the Circumstellar Habitable Zone of stars in our galaxy. From what I can tell, that’s without looking at the fine-tuning of a galaxy and the fine-tuning of a solar system that is needed. Even the star has to be just right to have the Circumstellar Habitable Zone just right. They also predict this without considering even these other criteria that J. Warner Wallace talks about:
The Earth’s Atmospheric Conditions Are Favorable to Life:
The surface gravity of Earth is critical to its ability to retain an atmosphere friendly to life. If Earth’s gravity were stronger, our atmosphere would contain too much methane and ammonia. If our planet’s gravity were weaker, Earth wouldn’t be able to retain enough water. As it is, Earth’s atmosphere has a finely calibrated ratio of oxygen to nitrogen—just enough carbon dioxide and adequate water vapor levels to promote advanced life, allow photosynthesis (without an excessive greenhouse effect), and to allow for sufficient rainfall.
The Earth’s Terrestrial Nature Is Favorable to Life:
Earth’s crust thickness must lie within a particular range in order to support life. A thicker crust would negatively impact the quantity of oxygen in our atmosphere; a thinner crust would result in excessive volcanic activity and unstable tectonic plates. In fact, Earth’s crust allows limited seismic activity, resulting in nutrient recycling and carbon dioxide release without destroying all life on the planet. The nutrient and mineral concentrations of Earth’s crust also fall within life-permitting ranges.
We always hear about water being necessary for advanced life to exist, but the atmosphere is just as important. So also is plate tectonics, and much more. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross says that there are 268 parameters required for advanced life to exist on a planet and that the odds of such a planet that meets all those parameters occurring is 1 in 10^281 (10 to the power of 281). In comparison, the number of subatomic particles in the known universe is 1 in 10^80 (10 to the power of 80). And the number of estimated planets in the known universe is 10^22 (10 to the power of 22).
Even our moon is critical to life:
The Earth’s Relationship to the Moon Is Favorable to Life:
Few While other planets have an orbiting moon; ours is critical to our existence. Our large Moon is just the right size to stabilize Earth’s orbit and rotation, limiting the variations in our climate and temperature. Without a large moon, the axis of our planet would likely have wobbled dramatically—perhaps by as much as 90 degrees. The role of the Moon cannot be underestimated. Astronomer Donald Brownlee and paleontologist Peter Ward write, “Without the Moon there would be no moonbeams, no month, no lunacy, no Apollo program, less poetry, and a world where every night was dark and gloomy. Without the Moon it is also likely that no birds, redwoods, whales, trilobite, or other advanced life would ever grace the earth.”
J. Warner Wallace also talks about these 4 criteria in his book God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe. When he gets to the part about the moon, in his footnotes, he quotes theoretical physicist Michio Kaku:
Computer programs show that without a large Moon (about a third the size of the Earth), Earth’s axis might have shifted by as much as 90 degrees…(The moons of Mars are not large enough to stabilize its spin. As a result, Mars is slowly beginning to enter another era of instability. In the past, astronomers believe, Mars might have wobbled on its axis by as much as 45 degrees)
Another amazing thing is that when you compare our moon to the Sun, the Sun is 400 times farther away from the Earth than the Moon is, and it is also 400 times larger than the Moon, which is the perfect ratio for eclipses. Near as we can tell, that ratio doesn’t exist anywhere else. This and more is discussed by astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez in his video The Privileged Planet.
Hugh Ross has compiled 137 parameters that make up our Moon that is necessary for advanced life to occur, and the odds of all 137 parameters occurring in a satellite orbiting a planet are 1 in 10^106 (1o to the power of 106).
Furthermore, Hugh Ross has compiled 159 parameters of a planet’s ecosystem that are necessary for advanced life to occur. And the odds of all 159 parameters occurring on a planet are 1 in 10^390 (10 to the power of 390).
When you consider all of the data for the fine-tuning of a galaxy, solar system, and planet that are necessary, it seems that the odds of advanced life really is rare. Hugh Ross compiles the following data:
There are 501 parameters required to sustain bacteria for 90 days or less. The odds of one such life-supporting body occurring anywhere in the universe is 1 in 10^311 (10 to the power of 311).
There are 676 parameters required to sustain unicellar life for 3 billion years. The odds of one such life-supporting body occurring anywhere in the universe is 1 in 10^556 (10 to the power of 556).
There are 816 parameters required to sustain intelligent physical life in a globally distributed high-technology civilization. The odds of one such life-supporting body occurring anywhere in the universe is 1 in 10^1032 (10 to the power of 1,032!).