Intelligent Life in the Universe (.. Astrobiology)
Aggressive atheism seems to be increasing in the world. By this, I mean the mocking of people of faith as being ignorant, superstitious, illogical and therefore “dangerous”. Hateful intolerance has been around for centuries and is wrong in all its forms. Most atheists and agnostics are pretty confident that no one can prove there is a God. And in fact most serious discussions (or arguments) regarding of the existence of God revolve around some sort of proof or lack thereof. Therefore, I wish to discuss the subject in terms of simple numerical analysis. I propose to show that when you run the numbers using the science we have now, the odds lean heavily in favor of the existence of intelligent beings much more advanced than ourselves.
Consider that in the observable universe there is estimated* to be 800,000,000,000 (800 billion) galaxies with an average number of 4,000,000,000 (4 billion) stars in each galaxy. That makes for 3,200,000,000,000,000,000,000 (3200 trillion trillion ) stars total. So how likely is it that our earth is the only inhabited planet with “intelligent life”. It’s simply impossible from a practical standpoint. To demonstrate, lets take a conservative approach on how many planets like ours there might be out of 3200 trillion trillion possibilities. Based on the number of extra-solar planets that have been found to date, it’s estimated that at least 10% of all solar systems have planets – so that’s somewhere between 10% to 100%. At 10% (I am being conservative), that leaves only 320 trillion trillion solar systems with a potential terrestrial (rocky) earth-like planet. Let’s say that only half of the remaining solar systems have a rocky “terrestrial” type planet (very reasonable, since our own solar system has 4 rocky planets out of 8 total) and that only half of those are around the size of the earth (our solar system has two: Earth and Venus – Mercury and Mars are too small). Now we’re down to only 80 trillion trillion solar systems with an Earth sized planet. We know that the distance from the Sun is important for life. In our Solar system there are 63,375 possible orbits between the Sun and Jupiter (each orbit with a width of 8,000 miles). So if by pure chance our Earth inhabits precisely the right distance from the Sun for life to thrive then the odds are that there are at least 12,623,274,161,735,700 (12.6 million trillion) earth-like planets at just the right distance from it’s Sun.
You’re probably getting bored with numbers by now but perhaps you see the point that when you start out with such a large number like 3200 trillion trillion** stars, it’s simply impossible to reasonably reduce the odds to a small number. So, now we’re talking about 12.5 million trillion planets with the right conditions for life in general. Well, if evolution is the only way (we’re being conservative again) for intelligent life*** to exist and we follow our own earths evolutionary example then each planet will have intelligent life at some point in it’s history. Since it apparently takes about 4.5 billion years for the earth to be ready for life to evolve to an intelligent state, then only 6.25 million trillion planets are left that could harbor intelligent life at this very minute. Of course, some intelligent life could have become extinct through wars, disease, or natural disaster (like large meteorites) but since it only takes 2.5 million years for intelligent life to re-evolve then that process could, with no overlap, occur 200 more times on a planet like earth capable of supporting life for 500,000,000 additional years (conservative estimate).
So far I have used conservative estimates applied to the observable universe only which resulted in 6.5 million trillion earth-like planets that could each evolve intelligent life 200 times over. In our recorded history science didn’t really take off until a mere 180 years ago and now it is progressing very rapidly. Very rapidly indeed, and if we humans continue at this pace how much progress will be made in 1000 more years? How about 100,000 or 100 million years? After all we’ve got PLENTY of time since the Sun won’t make earth uninhabitable for another 500 million years or so. It seems obvious that after a few million years of scientific progress, those humans of the future would be like gods to us in their level of knowledge and experience, and if they attained a moral perfection (why not?), they would indeed be gods by our common definition. They would have mastered physics, quantum mechanics, and the “theory of everything” and be fully aware of all the dimensions of space, the processes of life, and able to use all that knowledge in ways that would be totally fantastical to us, including planet and star forming activities — and not only interrupting the natural processes from time to time, but actually creating and controlling what the “natural” processes are. The human genome would be fully deciphered so that they would have long ago taken complete charge of evolution and this would allow the aging process to be defeated. The brain would be augmented and current brain limitations eliminated so that progress would accelerate even faster than now. So there you have it. By the numbers there are other earths with intelligent life, and many with God-like intelligence. So, in general, how can one possibly NOT believe there is a god-like being?
The numbers say there are at least millions of trillions of them. Religion simply says that there is at least one. A VERY VERY reasonable idea. In fact, by the numbers, everything else is totally unreasonable. The universe is simply too big for our little planet to be the unique center of anything.
Yet I do not base my belief in God on this type of reasoning. My argument here is simply that a belief in God is fully credible from all angles.
– Jay Mackley
P.S. If my numerical hypothesis’s are correct then that brings us to “Fermi’s Paradox”. Recognizing the arguments for superior intelligent life, he is reputed to have asked “So, where is everybody?” For an answer to that question, see the Essay “The Purpose of Life”.
*All figures derived from Wikepedia.org and verified from secondary sources. I found Wikipedia’s numbers to be conservative compared to other sources.
**For a comparison, I calculated the number of grains of sand (medium grit) on all the sea shores of the world with sandy beaches and came up with “only” 90 million trillion grains of sand.
*** By my definition, “intelligent life” means capable of written language, and advanced tool making.