Have you ever looked up into the night sky and wondered if we’re alone in the universe? A new study claims that we may not be.
Scientists have calculated that there could be a minimum of thirty-six active, communicating intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.
Astrophysicists at the University of Nottingham developed a new approach to calculating the number of Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations that may exist. These scientists created what they call the Astrobiological Copernican Principle, using equations such as the history of star formation in our galaxy and the ages of stars, the metal content of stars, and the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones where life could form.
They determined that intelligent life would form when a planet is between 4.5 and 5.5 billion years old. Based on such calculations, they determined that there are likely thirty-six active and communicating intelligent civilizations across our galaxy.
However, the astrophysicists also estimated that the likely distance between these potential civilizations would equal about seventeen thousand light-years. Detecting signals sent from such civilizations using current technology would take so long that it would be nearly impossible.
Let’s set aside the actual age of the universe and a theological discussion regarding the possible existence of life on other planets. For our purposes, I’d like to explore this simple fact: no matter how many lives exist in the universe, yours is unique.
This is a vitally important principle for these difficult days.
Your fingerprints, iris, ear shape, lip print, tongue features, voice, and brain anatomy are uniquely yours. No other person in all of human history has had exactly your experiences. You are unlike any other person who has ever lived.
This biological and experiential fact should not surprise us. David said to his Creator, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Each of us is uniquely fashioned by our Father.
In The Body: A Guide for Occupants, Bill Bryson states: “You could call together all the brainiest people who are alive now or have ever lived and endow them with the complete sum of human knowledge, and they could not between them make a single living cell.”
Our uniqueness is an empowering principle for the challenges we face.
As we respond to the continuing threat of COVID-19, a pandemic that has infected more than eight million people and killed more than four hundred thousand, we need to remember that our Maker loves us, grieves with us, and stands ready to lead us and comfort us (cf. Isaiah 43:1–3).
As we respond to the continuing sin of racism, a tragic reality that affects racial minorities across our nation, we need to remember that our Father loves us, grieves with us, and stands ready to lead us into a better future (cf. Galatians 3:28).
However, one of our most unique features is the fact that we can partner intentionally and proactively with our Creator in fulfilling his will for us. We can pray for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), but then we can find ways to help answer our prayer.
Each of us should do what each of us can do to lessen the spread of COVID-19 and support those caring for patients and seeking therapies and cures. Each of us should do what each of us can do to demonstrate God’s inclusive love for every person we know.
St. Augustine noted that God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
Now it’s our turn.