I read an article not too long ago by Ken Ham, President of Answers in Genesis. In the article, Ham decried the amount of money that has been spent on the search for extraterrestrial life. Then, he made a statement which catapulted him into controversy, “Only descendants of Adam can be saved…To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.”
We can agree with Ham that the search for alien life has been fruitless up to this point. But, it is necessary to say that we, as Christians, should not get into needless controversies such as whether aliens can be saved or not. Ken Ham did say that “the Bible doesn’t say whether there is or is not animal or plant life in outer space.” He should have stuck with that. To go further than that is unfounded speculation.
There was a better way.
Ham suggests that the search for extraterrestrial life is motivated by “a desperate attempt to supposedly prove evolution.” This idea may, again, be speculation, but it does point us in the right direction. Can we not put this idea to the test as the apostle Paul tells us, “but test all things. Hold on to what is good (I Thessalonians 5:21, HCSB). What does the evidence gathered so far tell us?
According to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, more than 4,000 extrasolar planets have been confirmed. Our information about these stellar bodies is limited, although our technology continues to develop. Scientists are able to detect the size and orbit of these planets, among other details, but it is still not known whether these planets are inhabited or not. The presence of liquid water may indicate that an exoplanet could be habitable, but we do not have the technology to make that determination. There are still a great many unknowns out there.
There are something, however, that we do know. For advanced life to exist on an astronomical body, many qualities of that body’s environment must be in certain range of values. Among those qualities are the size and type of galaxy, the position of that body in the galaxy, the type of star the planet orbits, the planet’s axial tilt, and the presence of a large moon. The planet itself must have the right ratio of land masses to oceans, the right level of oxygen in the atmosphere, and the presence of sufficient mineral deposits in the planet’s crust. In 2004, Dr. Hugh Ross and the scientific team at Reasons to Believe calculated the probability of a planet sustaining advanced life without the intervention of divine miracles. They assert that such a possibility is one chance in 10 followed by 282 zeroes, an extremely large number with the real probability of zero. The search for extraterrestrial life has shown how unique and fine-tuned our Earth is for life.
The argument that we, as Christians, can make is not whether extraterrestrials exist and can or cannot be saved. The argument is what the evidence so far shows: Earth is unique as a life sustaining body. We can also make predictions based on that idea that more qualities such as Dr. Ross pointed out will be discovered. These predictions can be put to the test.
Is E. T. going to Hell? If the Bible does not speak to the existence of life on other planets, let’s stick with that one. We shouldn’t make unsubstantiated statements that have the effect of making Christians appear foolish or appear to be anti-science. Let’s make smart arguments that utilize the evidence we have.