1,2 Artist's conception of GJ 1132b,
its atmosphere, and its red dwarf star.
Credit: Max Planck Society
Religious implications of the finding of exoplanets (Continued):
Paul Smith is the associate professor of Old Testament studies at Gateway Seminary, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Chandler, AZ, and vice president of the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference. He said:
"... the underlying purpose of searching for life outside our planet [often seems driven by a quest] "to 'prove' evolution." [Individuals on such a quest believe that discovery of] "life on another planet would indicate randomness in where life happens as long as the conditions are right rather than [creation] by the hand of God."
"The finding of water on a planet, bacteria or even some form of an atmosphere does not affect our understanding of the Bible's doctrine of creation.
[Bacteria and similar organisms] may be life [in a scientific sense, but they are] ... "not 'living' as the Bible defines it."
Smith said that the designation of "life" is reserved for creatures granted breath by God. He believes that Scripture rules out the existence of life forms comparable to humans on any other celestial body.
"Finding complex life forms [like humans] would change our view of creation and even more importantly our view of salvation. The Bible is clear that sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and is forgiven through one man, Jesus. Those two truths do not allow for life on another planet that is intelligent enough to discern between right and wrong." 3
Webmaster's comment [bias alert]:
The creation story in Genesis does describe how God molded Adam out of mud. However, Adam only became a human being when God:
" breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7; King James Version).
Traditional Jewish belief is that a human embryo and fetus are forms of human life that are "under construction." A fetus only becomes a full human person when it emerges from its mother's body as a newborn and takes "the first breath of life." 4
To say that human life starts with a zygote (an ovum fertilized by one spermatozoon during the process of conception), and only becomes a human person much later in pregnancy or at birth is fully compatible with a pro-choice view on abortion access, but appears incompatible with a pro-life position.
2017-APR: Another "Earth-Like planet with an atmosphere has been found:
Exoplanet, GJ 1132b, has been located. It is "only" 39 light-years (9.5 trillion kilometers, or 5.9 trillion miles) away. It has a mass about 1.6 times that of Earth and is about 40% larger in diameter. It revolves in a close orbit around its sun which is a dimly burning, red dwarf star. The solar system is located in the direction of the constellation Vela.It was discovered by astronomers at the MEarth-South array in Chile. 5
Since red dwarf stars are the most common type of stars in the universe, this finding bodes well for the discovery of future planets with atmospheres -- perhaps some where life is present.
Because of its closeness to us, scientists should be eventually able to determine the gasses in its atmosphere, its surface wind speeds, and the color of its sunsets.
John Southworth, et al., writing in The Astronomical Journal, said that the planet's:
"... surface radius of 1.375 ~+mn~ 0.16 allows for a wide range of interior compositions ranging from a nearly Earth-like rocky interior, with ~70% silicate and ~30% Fe [iron], to a substantially H2O-rich water world. 2
As of early 2017, this is the closest to an Earth-like planet that has been discovered with an atmosphere.
According to Phys.org:
"... this is a significant step on the path towards the detection of life on an exoplanet. The team, which includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, used the 2.2-m ESO/MPG telescope in Chile to take images of the planet's host star, GJ 1132, and measured the slight decrease in brightness as the planet and its atmosphere absorbed some of the starlight while passing directly in front of their host star."
"While it's not the detection of life on another planet, it's an important step in the right direction: the detection of an atmosphere around the super-Earth GJ 1132b marks the first time an atmosphere has been detected around a planet with a mass and radius close to Earth's mass and radius (1.6 Earth masses, 1.4 Earth radii)." 6
Unfortunately, the planet's surface temperature is estimated to be about 137 °C or 278 °F -- rather uncomfortable for humans to visit. However, a newly discovered microbe, initially referred to as "Strain 121," has been found on Earth in a thermal vent deep in the Pacific Ocean. It
"... thrives at 121 °C and can even survive for two hours at 130 °C." 7
So it is not beyond reason to speculate that GJ 1132b could possibly harbor life in at least a primitive form.
2018-APR: Recent discoveries that have a bearing on the possibility of extraterrestrial life elsewhere in the universe:
Scientists generally believe that there are seven elements that must be present for life to exist on Earth -- or for life like ours to exist in other planets: iron, phosphorous, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. A team from Cardiff University in the UK used the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands to observe the infrared light from two supernovae -- one in the Crab Nebula 6,500 light-years away, and the other in Cassiopeia A 11,000 light-years away. They found that the level of phosphorous differed greatly between the two supernovae, and was very low in the Crab Nebula. 8
Dr Jane Greaves of the Cardiff team said:
"The route to carrying phosphorus into new-born planets looks rather precarious. We already think that only a few phosphorus-bearing minerals that came to the Earth -– probably in meteorites –- were reactive enough to get involved in making proto-biomolecules.
Dr Greaves said that if a planet is closest to a supernova that is deficient in phosphorus, then
"... life might really struggle to get started out of phosphorus-poor chemistry, on another world otherwise similar to our own." 8
More developments are inevitable,
given the size of the universe and its variety.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Sara Kaplan, "There’s an ‘Earth-like’ planet with an atmosphere just 39 light-years away," Washington Post, 2017-APR-07, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
John Southworth, et al., "Detection of the Atmosphere of the 1.6 M ⊕ Exoplanet GJ 1132 b," The Astronomical Journal, Volume 153, #4, 2017-MAR-31, at: http://iopscience.iop.org/
David Roach, "Planets' discovery said to incite misplaced hope," Baptist Press, 2017-FEB-23, at: http://www.bpnews.net/