Jewellery stores on the moon
Published: 22 March 2012 (GMT+10)
The group of tourists is on the first commercial tourist trip to the moon. As they alight from their luxury space liner, a Hollywood celebrity spots a shiny nugget in the dust next to their designer moon boots. “Gold!” our celeb cries out with delight, “There must be jewellery stores here! We simply have to buy some lunar rings and necklaces to take back with us. The people back home will be green with envy.” The fellow travellers roll their eyes and wish they had taken the self-guided tour option.
Everyone (except our celeb) sees it as an obviously ridiculous conclusion. They instantly, almost intuitively, know that it requires infinitely more than the presence of gold to make a jewellery store. Property developers, agents, architects, builders, jewellery designers, artisans, managers, sales staff, miners, engineers, accountants—and numerous other people—applying their intelligence, aesthetic inspiration, training, skills, money and hard work all combine to produce a jewellery store. Not to mention more abstract requirements such as supply and demand, markets and advertising. In short, it requires a vast amount of intellectual capital that gold, steel and stone can never supply. While gold may be necessary to a jewellery store, it is by no means causative of such a facility. The moon could be strewn with gold and precious stones and it would not be one step closer to having jewellery stores without these other entities of personal intelligence and effort.
OK, so the story seems ridiculous; it’s hard to imagine anyone deducing the existence of jewellery shops from such a lunar find. But then, many otherwise sane and intelligent people have been drawing similarly farfetched conclusions, while thinking they are being ‘scientific’. Consider that over the last few decades billions of dollars have been spent on trying to discover whether the elements and conditions essential to sustain life exist anywhere else in our solar system or in the universe. There have been squeals of delight in the media whenever evidence for the existence of water or some other element necessary to sustain life has been discovered on a planet. More recently we have been bombarded with a series of discoveries of planets as we see increasingly further into our amazing universe with more powerful tools such as the Hubble space telescope and the various probes launched over the past decades. “New alien planet is perfect for life, scientists say”,1 is typical of these sorts of claims. The inclusion of the word ‘alien’ disingenuously implies that it’s almost a certainty that as the planet falls within the so-called ‘habitable zone’ of its host star, alien life is somehow inevitably out there.
Scientists have become increasingly aware of how fine-tuned Earth is to support life. Myriads of potential variables have just the right ‘settings’ for life to thrive. Like Goldilocks who tested the chairs, porridge and beds until she found those that were ‘just right’, these variables of distance, strength, intensity and so on, are ‘just right’ for sustaining life on Earth. As a pilot checks the readings of numerous dials and settings before deciding his aircraft is ready for flight, so the earth has to have parameters like gravitational, magnetic and nuclear forces, distance from the sun, speed of rotation and numerous other factors to be within a very narrow tolerance, to cocoon life on this planet. This fine-tuning of our earth and its neighbourhood is known as the Anthropic Principle (from the Greek anthropos = man). The probability of all these characteristics being ‘just right’ for the existence of mankind by chance is mathematically so outrageous that some scientists, constrained by philosophical naturalism, have to posit the ‘ditzy’ idea that ours must be just one of an infinite number of universes that therefore improves the mathematical chances of one of those universes coming up trumps in the casino with our Earth the jackpot.
These and other scientists believe that given the right conditions, planets in the ‘habitable zone’ of their host stars have the potential to create life and the more of these planets we detect out there, the more likely there is to be life. By faith they believe that on one of these planets that are not too hot, not too cold, not too big nor too small, with rotation neither too fast nor too slow, ‘sun’ neither too red nor too blue— and on and on—life has undoubtedly arisen. Their naive belief is not really different from that of our fantasy celebrity who thought the presence of gold inevitably implied jewellery stores. If anything, it is even less rational. Life involves far more intelligence, information, design and ‘handiwork’ than retail malls. Even a perfect, ‘just right’ planet, as unlikely as it is, would still lack the intellectual capital of life that matter and energy can never provide.
“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old” (2 Peter 3:5). The same God who masterfully created the universe and the earth prepared an ideal environment in which life could survive and flourish. He also used His infinite creativity, wisdom, design and intelligence to create the incredible information-bearing and self-replicating machinery which is life. Life may be dependent on water, carbon and many other elements to survive, but none of these things are in any way causative. It requires vastly more than the presence of water to make life.
He also created man in His own image and “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that they might seek the works of God. Those that ignore the testimony of their hearts and say, “there is no God”, deny their very nature. No matter how clever and educated they may be, this conclusion not only ignores reality and experience, it is ultimately a resort to irrational foolishness (Psalm 14:1), and leaves them “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
- Chow, D., New alien planet is perfect for life, scientists say, foxnews.com, 2 February 2012. Return to text.
Great article. On the 'just right for life' scenario, though, it appears self-evident that any life that hypothetically evolved on earth would be exclusively suited to the conditions existing on earth.
In which case the coincidental existing parameters are irrelevant as a value of probability. Perhaps more pertinent are the parameters for any conceivable life evolving here?
Conceivable life, meaning also non-dna forms, logically. (Or is alien 'life' limited to things containing dna? Admittedly it's a ridiculous idea, but that's what it's come to with science today)
Thanks Graham. Re your comment about the fine-tuning argument being irrelevant, in essence, I'm suggesting not to concede that ground too readily. To see what I mean go to this brief article http://creation.com/the-universe-is-finely-tuned-for-life where the objection to fine tuning on that basis is given as objection 1, and the answer given is William Lane Craig's pertinent response about a firing squad.