By Blogger Bruce Meyer
The universe boggles the mind, at least it does mine, and I’m a science fiction writer with a wild imagination. Just think of it: Our sun is one of at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way and the Milky Way is one of nearly 100 billion galaxies in the universe. If you’ve got a big enough calculator the total is at least 10 sextillion stars (one followed by 22 zeros). That’s just a lower boundary; there’re probably multiples more than that.
What about all the planets around all those stars? There are guesses that range from the numerous sextillions to the nearly infinite. Astronomers are making great progress in identifying planets in other systems, but it’s difficult and there’s a long ways to go. Without knowing the full number, though, astrophysicists have calculated that galaxies such as our Milky Way don’t contain nearly enough “stuff” to hold together on their own. As many stars and planets as there are, the math doesn’t work out. So they hypothesized a substance called “dark matter”. It’s dark because it doesn’t emit or reflect radiation as would be expected by normal matter. In fact, some 30 percent of the universe is believed to be composed of this exotic dark matter. One of the projects slated for the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is to prove out some of the hypothesis of dark matter.
Even more astounding is the revelation that the universe is not only expanding, but the rate of that expansion is accelerating. For this mystery physicists have devised an enigmatic force called “dark energy”. To grasp the magnitude of dark energy consider the following: If all of the 10 sextillion stars and all the planets (however many there are), comets, asteroids, and stellar gasses were combined, they would make up merely 4 percent of the energy density of the universe. The remaining 96 percent is composed of dark matter and dark energy.
Imagine how small the earth is compared with all the mass and energy of the cosmos! Just the vast number of stars and planets suggest that extra-terrestrial life should be common. Yet, even with those probabilities, there are those who believe that there is no life except on earth. Some of the objections come from the rare earth hypothesis which says that the conditions for life on earth are unique: the size of the earth, the exact distance from the sun, the size of the moon, the magnetosphere, etc. But what about the movie “Aliens,” where life is silicon-based instead of carbon-based? That wouldn’t require a unique earth, would it? If you don’t like silicon then life could be based on phosphorous, sulfur or even arsenic.
OK so maybe it’s tough to think there might be little yellow sulfur people from the Gliese 581g star system (where astronomers recently found a perfect earth-sized planet). How about the claim that there’s no God? The accomplishments of the scientific process have been phenomenal, fueling an increase in those who claim there is no spiritual world, that there is only matter and energy. The rise in this belief has been especially prominent among young adults. But from another perspective, we know just a little bit about 4 percent of the known universe. If we’ve learned anything in the scientific age it should be the lessons of dark matter and dark energy. There’s more to our existence than we can see, feel, or touch, or sense by the Visible Integral-Field Replicable Unit Spectrograph (being constructed to detect dark energy). The scientific process can only discover so much. If there is unknown stuff such as dark matter and dark energy, why is it such a stretch to believe there’s a spiritual world completely outside of matter and energy?
No, science cannot conclude that we’re alone. If anything, we should admit the probability of the opposite. The idea that there’s nobody out there sounds to me like some wild science fiction!