A Universe Teeming with Life?

It’s called “galactic panspermia,” and it’s a theory held by some scientists that the universe, space included, is full of life. The idea has been around for quite a while, but it seems to be gaining new attention lately. NASA’s exploration of Mars and search for water there is fueling speculation that minimal conditions may be present for very simple organisms to exist there.

One aspect of this notion of life adrift in the not-so-empty “void” of space is that microbial lifeforms may have crashed along with meteorites into the earth billions of years ago. Either that or the complex amino acids needed as the building blocks of life were present. Whichever scenario one chooses to accept, the implication is that terrestrial life may well have extraterrestrial origins.

Sometimes I wonder why some people get so excited over the possibility of life, in any form, existing on other planets and possibly in space. If it is the excitement of exploration and discovery, then I have to say that I share it. What I really would like to know is if, somewhere in the back of the minds of some folks, there is an idea that if we can prove that life isn’t unique to our planet, then that does some damage to belief in God.

To be fair, I haven’t seen or read in any major news source where a single scientist has made an anti-theistic argument based on the possibility of life existing throughout the universe. Yes, this may do damage to literal interpretation’s of a particular faith’s creation stories, but it doesn’t preclude the existence of God.

In fact, if you think about it, even if life is found to be abundant throughout the universe and in many forms, this only moves the question back a step. The fundamental question of how life came about still remains, but in the form of questioning its universal rather than strictly terrestrial origins. The even more basic question of how and perhaps why this universe exists, what its “first cause” might be, persists.

Science is doing on Mars what it is supposed to be doing. It is seeking answers to clearly defined questions following scientific methods. So far I’d say the project is going pretty well. The only recent problem I’ve seen so far is of a technical nature. The scientists at NASA apparently didn’t consider the possibility that things the Phoenix lander scooped up, it might not be able to dump. Before they ever had a problem with the design I wondered why they hadn’t used an ice cream scoop as a model. You know, with that little lever to push out the contents?

Whether life is found on other planets, riding comets or meteors or not at all beyond our atmosphere, I look forward to whatever further exploration of our solar system will turn up. It should be interesting.

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