A quote from Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, by John Lennox, p. 99.
“So, both Genesis and science say that the universe is geared to supporting human life. But Genesis says more. It says that you, as a human being, bear the image of God. The starry heavens show the glory of God, yes; but they are not made in God’s image. You are. That makes you unique. It gives you incalculable value. The galaxies are unimaginably large compared with you. However, you know that they exist, but they don’t know that you exist. You are more significant, therefore, than a galaxy. Size is not necessarily a reliable measure of value, as any woman can tell you as she looks at the diamonds on her finger, and compares them with lumps of coal.”
Grace and Peace
2 thoughts on “Humans and galaxies — the incalculable value of people”
We’re reaching the point where there’s only one unanswered variable in the Drake equation, that is, how often “life” occurs in a given set of conditions. We’ve pretty much nailed down the ratio of planets of various sizes (billions upon billions).
Three questions and an observation:
1. Biblically, is there anything we know of that would preclude the existence of life elsewhere?
2. Is it possible that there is life that has mental faculties on par with ours.
3. Is is possible that if such a thing existed, God would have made others in His own image as well.
Observation: I was put into Christian schools around 6th grade. We routinely watched creationist videos, both in science and Bible class. As a big astronomy geek (I had a full-size wall mural of the planets in my room), I heard several unqualified claims over and over, from people like Ken Ham, Kent Hovind, etc. That
1. There was no such things as black holes. Since they could not be observed, they were a work of fiction from scientists. (Conservapedia still claims this)
2. That our solar system was the only one that held planets.
3. That light was created “in transit” when the stars were made. (Without explaining when, if ever, anything we observe happen actually happened, and when.)
4. That Einstein’s theory of the relativity of time was a falsehood.
I had almost forgotten about Conservapedia. Sure enough, the article on black holes starts with “Black holes are theoretical entities popularized by pseudoscience despite their implausibility and lack of ever being directly observed.”
I think we have a somewhat better handle on the Drake equation than we did a few years ago, but there are still multiple uncertainties.
1 — We know that this part of the spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy have lots of planets, but still don’t know that we can extend that knowledge to parts of the galaxy closer or further away from the core of the galaxy, as there are different abundances of metals (anything heavier than helium) in stars in different parts of spiral galaxies.
2 — While a wide range of planets and moons might have conditions suitable for sustaining primitive life (bacteria), the question of whether or not life can emerge on these worlds by natural processes is, in my mind, still a very long way from being settled. Sixty years of origin of life studies has not yielded a convincing pathway from an organic soup to the simplest possible, reproducing cell. I’m not saying God could not have designed the universe so that life could emerge from non-life, but the science is not convincingly pointing towards this being possible.
3 — There is also a rather substantial leap from primitive life to complex, multicellular life. How difficult is this? On how many worlds could this happen? There could indeed be bacterial life beneath the ice on Europa, but less likely that there are worms.
4 — There is also a huge gap between the thoughts of higher-level mammals and those of humans. Not all will agree with me on this. Christian paleontologist Simon Conway Morris believes that the progression from non-life to life to intelligent life is somewhat inevitable, something hard-wired into the universe. I’m not convinced.
I have a young-Earth creationist friend who would be deeply troubled to find any kind of life elsewhere in the universe. I pressed him on this, as the Bible doesn’t say anything at all about whether or not the universe is teeming with life — bacteria, algae, plants, animals. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The Bible doesn’t say, I guess the reasoning is something like
1 — The Bible doesn’t say God created life elsewhere so it must not be there .
2 — For God to put life elsewhere in the universe would be a waste, as the only reason God created the universe was as a home for humans.
The existence of intelligent life, of course, could be a much greater theological challenge to work through.
I taught middle school Earth Science in a Christian school for a year. The school used Bob Jones Earth Science, which taught some of the things you mention, such as that our solar system is the only one with planets. Again, just like it says in the Bible.