Life on Mars

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For what it is worth, here’s a personal opinion (Geoff’s) about the amazing developments in the space program achieved in the last week.

Several reasons may be proposed for spending a very large fortune on exploring Mars. These reasons range from the apparently selfish motive of gaining access to minerals and other resources, or practising necessary steps towards travel to further and better points in space, or giving expression to human creativity, ingenuity and plain-ordinary inquisitiveness. But we need not kid ourselves that these are the major reasons. The most fundamental purpose is to find out if life existed there (the primary reason cited by the European Space Agency: see link 1 below). We only really need to consider two possible answers to that question, because it either did, or it did not! However, even if no evidence of past life is found on Mars, then further vast fortunes will simply be deployed in trying to find it elsewhere. In the minds of some, the answer can only be “yes, life does exist elsewhere”. So, a quick answer based on the current expedition results is not likely to be a final one.

We can argue in both directions: either the fact that everything that has been tried to date has revealed no evidence at all of actual life elsewhere, and the more we find out about our own solar system the less hospitable other “nearby” places seem. Or, we can argue that in the billions of billions of other possible locations, an atmosphere at least as favourable as our own must surely exist somewhere else. Latest estimates are in the range of 6 billion potential candidates for Earth-like conditions, and that’s just in the 400 billion stars of our Milky Way Galaxy, and there are billions more galaxies! (Psalm 8:3,4) But an average human lifespan is far less than 40 million minutes, so we need a lot of super-speed computer assistance to do our research and narrow down our search. And, as the Bible predicted, knowledge is indeed increasing (Dan.12:4).

If we are pragmatic, we will admit that even if we knew of another location outside our own solar system that provided for our physical needs, currently it would not be particularly helpful knowledge. For instance, if we watched the Mars landing, we would know that just getting the pictures back from there to Earth took 11 minutes of our time. Getting a person there, rather than just a digital message, takes more than 6 months. But the nearest alternative environments to our lovely Earth are light years away. Proxima-B in the Centaurus constellation is the nearest candidate, and NASA (see link 2 below) tells us it is 4.2 light years away, or say 73 thousand years of travel for us at the current fastest rocket speed (i.e. Voyager). Not a candidate for emigration!

Let’s cut to the chase. What some scientific minds are thinking is that if we found life on Mars, it would make us “confront the myths” about how and why humanity exists here. By myth is meant a widely held but false belief. Peter’s words on that subject are germane (2 Pet.1:16); Christians are opposed to belief in myths and fables. As of now, the allegation of believing in myths could more reasonably be made against those who “believe” in a billions to one chance of life existing elsewhere. By contrast, what Christians believe in is well-attested in the most abundantly documented history available (the New Testament). Its acceptance of the supernatural is based on first hand witness accounts. Its belief in God is the most reasonable of explanations for why, against all odds, life as we know really does exist here (and it’s surely reasonable to use what we can see and feel and read as a starting point, rather than imagination – see Acts 17:27). After all, if the visible natural world were not governed by very precise known laws and orderliness, it would have been impossible for us to get a vehicle on Mars anyway. And if there is a design and a law, then Christianity’s belief in a Designer and Lawgiver are again reasonable conclusions (and perhaps supported by the law of entropy, which reveals a weakness in the idea that a long succession of mere chance events will produce orderliness). If you would like to see what those with PhDs in the relevant disciplines say on this aspect, please contact us for a suggested reading list.

Would Christianity be disproved if life existed other than on Earth? No! First, because Bible-based Christianity makes no such claim. Indisputably, new types of life are discovered on Earth (503 new species in 2020 alone!), so why make its physical location a deciding matter? Christians believe God has revealed what we need to know about His creative acts, primarily as they concern humanity, and that is enough. The message of Christianity is that, of all life forms, God has chosen that humanity should express God’s image, and be given the ability to believe or disbelieve in God (as well as many more attributes not given to other creatures: Col.3:10; 2 Pet.1:3,4). However, Christians also believe God has created beings unlike ourselves, with powers different and greater than ours (the angelic realm of beings, that are certainly not confined to Earth). We should not let the atheist’s false concept of an imaginary and limited mythical god cause us to be deflected from a study of who God really is, what God is like, and what this Creator who arranged for us to have communication and reasoning capabilities has communicated to us (Heb.1:1-4; 2:5-16). What would disprove Christianity would be if it could be shown, not that other created beings exist, but that God had become their Saviour, not ours. The way to avoid a futile search for life, is to first find the wisdom of God our Saviour (Prov.8:34,35; 1 Cor.3:20)