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A review of the PBS series “Origins”

Part 2

by Dr Jason Lisle, AiG astrophysicist

30 September 2004

On Wednesday evening, September 29, the television network PBS (Public Broadcasting System) aired segments three and four of the four-hour miniseries “Origins” in the US. (Read Dr Lisle’s review of Tuesday evening’s programs.) This second half of the series begins with a look at popular science fiction depictions of alien life. But astute viewers will realize that most of the program that follows is also merely science fiction.

The third segment of “Origins” asks the question, “Where are the aliens?” This is indeed a perplexing question for an evolutionist. Since evolutionists believe that life can evolve by random chance processes from non-living material, they reason that these conditions must have happened elsewhere besides the earth. If particles-to-people evolution were true, we would expect to find life in outer space. Many evolutionists suggest that in some places, life may have evolved into intelligent beings capable of transmitting signals across space.

“Origins” discusses the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The SETI program searches the universe, listening for transmissions from advanced alien civilizations. Yet, they have heard no such signals. For that matter, no evidence has been found for any extra-terrestrial life anywhere. This is certainly a difficulty for evolutionists.

This silence, however, makes sense to those who hold to the biblical creation model. According to Genesis 1, God created life on the earth, but He made the rest of the universe to be for signs, seasons, days and years. The universe declares God’s glory (Psalm 19:1), and the more we find out about its vastness and diversity through modern astronomy, the more it fills us with awe and wonder. But it was not designed to hold extra-terrestrial life. The earth was designed for life (Isaiah 45:18). So, creationists would expect to find life throughout the earth, but not in outer space. The lack of any known extra-terrestrial life is a problem for evolution, but is perfectly consistent with biblical creation.1

The “Origins” program reviews the recent discoveries of extra-solar planets. By measuring the wobble of distant stars, astronomers can detect the presence of orbiting planets. This is all operational science,2 and seems very reasonable. But far from supporting evolutionary models, these planets are actually consistent with God’s creative design.3 Most of these extra-solar planets are “hot Jupiters”—massive planets that orbit extremely close to their star. This goes against secular ideas of solar system formation; the nebular accretion model had predicted that other solar systems would resemble ours, with small planets near the star and Jupiter-sized planets much further away.4

 In segment four, viewers are taken “back to the beginning” of the evolutionary story of origins—the alleged big bang. The program discusses the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB): low frequency radiation that is streaming from all directions in the universe. This CMB is claimed to be the echo of the big bang, but this is merely an interpretation—and one that is full of problems. The CMB is much smoother than the big bang predicted; this raises doubts about the ability of the variations to act as gravitational seeds for the formation of stars and galaxies.5 All regions of the CMB appear to have almost exactly the same temperature, yet there has not been enough time (in the big bang model) for light to travel between them to bring them to the same temperature. This is referred to as the “horizon problem.”6 (Big bang supporters have attempted to solve some of these problems with “inflation” as well as other models, but these ideas have difficulties of their own.)

By the secular cosmologists’ own assumptions, the big bang cannot produce any elements heavier than lithium. So the vast majority of elements must have been made some other way. The “Origins” broadcast explains that nuclear fusion within stars can produce these heavier elements; in the big bang view, the material comprising the earth and everything on it was once inside a star. Although stars may theoretically be able to produce these heavier elements, we know from Scripture that the earth was not made from “star dust” because the earth was made before the stars according to Genesis 1. If the heavier elements had been produced inside stars, then the first stars (called population III) would have had none of these elements. Although big bang supporters believe that some of these stars should still be around today, population III stars have never been observed. This is very difficult to explain within the context of the big bang model.

 We suggest that the evidence makes more sense when interpreted according to the framework of the Bible.7 Although it was an interesting story, “Origins” did not adequately answer any of the questions it raised in the prologue. But the Bible is the ultimate authority on these matters. The Word of God gives us the foundation to answer questions about extra-terrestrials, the origin of all things and how the universe came to be the way it is today.

Editor’s note: This web review examines the second half of the “Origins” PBS broadcast. Read part one of Dr Lisle’s review.

References and notes

  1. Could God have created intelligent beings elsewhere? See Evolution and the Science of Fiction. Return to text.
  2. Operational science is testable, repeatable and falsifiable. Evolutionary speculation does not fall into this category. Return to text.
  3. Spencer, W., The existence and origin of extrasolar planets, Journal of Creation 15(1): 17–25, 2001. Return to text.
  4. New Planet Challenges Evolutionary Models. Return to text.
  5. Hartnett, J. Recent Cosmic Microwave Background data supports creationist cosmologies, Journal of Creation 15(1):8-12, 2001. Return to text.
  6. Newton, R. Light-travel time: a problem for the big bang. Creation 25(4):48-49, 2003. Return to text.
  7. Creation: ‘where’s the proof?’ Return to text.

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