Are Aliens Real?


This question is more scientific than it is religious, but I do get asked it quite often, likely because of my own scientific background, but also because the possibility of Extra-terrestrial life does have religious consequences. So I'll start off - are aliens real.

First the short answer - probably, but who cares.

Chances are...

That's the short answer. First of all, the "probably" part. Its not unreasonable, from a scientific perspective, to assume that if the right conditions exist, such as temperature, humidity, electricity, etc., that life can spontaneous form. Believe it or not, this is not an "un-religious" thing to say, particularly given that the conditions have to be JUST RIGHT, and if they aren't, life WON'T form. Personally, I believe that God created life in this way, but putting all the ingredients together, mixing it up, and allowing it to form.

And then life evolved, according to the principles governming genetic mutation and natural selection, and here we are.

There are some scientists who can even form some very primitive forms of life in a laboratory, so they claim, that is "organic" life, primarily made of hydrocarbons. As long as the right conditions are present - these are teh conditions that would have existed here in Earth billions of years ago.

So what are the chances? Well, they're not very high, of course - if we had to venture a guess, of all the possible kinds of planets, all the possible temperatures, gravities, atmospheric content - I'm gonna pull a conservative number out of the air - 1 in 1 trillion planets can support life. Then, many scientist suggest that chances of life emerging, even on a planet where all the ingredients are there, is only 0.01% over 4 billion years. So, even less.

Given this, it would seem that life emerging wouldn't seem very likely - many believe this is evidence of the existence of God, who would be needed to make sure the life actually does emerge on our planet, and then faced with this astronomically low possibility, dismiss the possibility of life on OTHER planets altogether. I'm not so sure myself.

Because even though the chances of life occuring might be 1 in 100 trillion, how many planets do we have out there? Well, we have many many more stars than 100 trillion, and its extremely likely that most of them have planets around them - ours has eight after-all, plus whatever Pluto is now.

So that means that despite how difficult it is to create life, statistically, because there are SO MANY PLANETS, the chances of life existing on other planets is actually VERY high. In fact its very high that INTELLIGENT life exists on some of those planets. Some of those might even be carbon-based life, like us, and some of it would probably be completely different than what we've experienced, or even imagined.

But what about God? Why would there be no mention of aliens in the Bible, if there really were aliens? Well, the quick answer is there are a lot of things that exist that aren't mentioned in the Bible, like the Americas, the dinosaurs, all real. If there are aliens, then they too would be God's creatures - they might even believe in him.

So what are they like? Are they friendly? Are they going to invade us? This is the question that fuels Hollywood, and keeps little children awake at night. My answer - who cares.

Who Cares?

Why who cares, Fr. Catfish? Well, the reality is (and this is never realistically displayed on Sci-fi), space is REALLY REALLY BIG. We imagine that the Millenium Falcon can, because of light speed, travel from one side of the galaxy to the other. But the truth is, if we could travel at light speed, it would take 4 YEARS just to get to Alpha-Centauri, the NEAREST star to the planet earth. Traversing the Galaxy at light speed would take 100,000 years.

And here's the thing about light speed - we can't go that fast - it's impossible, at least as far as modern physics is concerned. The speed of light represents a universal speed LIMIT beyond which nothing with mass can exceed.

Now it may be that this is only because science itself needs to be re-defined - a new theory has to replace the current one - and a way can be found to send a space ship through space at over the speed of light. Maybe. But I doubt it. The more physics I learn, the more I doubt it. We'll see.

What this means is that it is unlikely that we'll be able to travel to other planets where life exists, or that they'll be able to travel to us, within a reasonable amount of time - not on a short trip anyway.

What about a LONG trip? Like say an entire civilization is travelling through space, after having outgrown or destroyed their home planet? Well, that's actually possible, but given the amount of time it takes for a species to EVOLVE to be smart enough to leave its home planet in large numbers, its not likely to happen for a long time. In fact, by the time the aliens get here, we'll probably be gone. Because our planet won't be able sustain life any more for one reason or another, we'll have to leave.

And the fact is, planets are really hard to find too. From inside another solar system its not so bad to find them, but from outside, its hard to tell where the other planets even are - they're too small and far to be seen by telescope - usually we can only tell they're there because they make their star wobble - and only the really big ones, with gravity that would crush any possibility of life evolving, are going to make a star wobble noticably.

What about communicating with radio signals with life from other planets, or spaceships travelling by? Well, with our understanding of technology today, there's no way to have inter-stellar communication, because the radio signals aren't strong enough to go that far. Their intensity decreases with distance by a factor of 8 - as such, the further the signal goes from its origin, the weaker it gets, until it will be undistinguishable from the background radiation in outer space - at least I'm pretty sure of that.

A spaceship passing through might be able to pick up a radio signal - but again, the likeliness of a spaceship passing through is so unlikely, its hardly worth even mentioning, for above reasons.

So is there life on other planets? Yea, probably. But until science can figure out a way for us to reach out to them, I'm not too concerned.