Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking: Aliens
Published: 1 December 2012 (GMT+10)
Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking is a Discovery channel TV mini-series written by British physicist Stephen Hawking, It premiered in the USA and the UK in 2010, and is currently being shown in Australia on SBS-TV.1 In the episode, Aliens, Prof. Hawking looks for aliens in the universe, and gives us the product of his imagination as to what such entities might look like, if they existed.
He begins with a logical fallacy known as a non sequitur, namely that the immense numbers of stars in the universe “make thinking about aliens perfectly rational”. The universe is big only to us mortal finite beings, so if God created the stars, as He says He did (Genesis 1:14–19), then a much more rational thought is: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
The origin of life
Hawking then raises the tremendous problem for evolutionists of explaining how life (with all its hallmarks of design) began, and he concedes that “exactly what triggered life here is still a mystery”. His fellow evolutionist, Paul Davies, has said: “There is no known principle of matter that says it has to organize itself into life.”2 However, the origin of life is no mystery to creationists or, for that matter, to anyone who is willing to accept Genesis 1 as truth. Nevertheless Hawking offers two atheistic evolutionary hypotheses in answer to what to him is a problem. These are:
- the primordial soup theory, and
- panspermia (life began elsewhere and was seeded to Earth by asteroids).
The second of these neatly offloads the problem away from Earth to somewhere in space, apparently in the hope that no one notices. In fact, both of these evolutionary ideas are scientifically and mathematically bankrupt. And the near infinitely low probability of life starting by itself makes thinking about aliens totally irrational, as has been shown by CMI’s UK colleague Dominic Statham in Hawking claims that life can form by chance. See also:
- Cheating with chance
- Space life?
- Panspermia theory burned to a crisp: bacteria couldn’t survive on meteorite
We therefore direct readers’ attention to these articles, and will move on to discuss the imaginary organisms that Hawking offers in his speculations about alien life.
With the vexed question of how life began unresolved, Hawking proceeds to the search for “a place or places where organisms could find food, replicate, and evolve ”. Notice the word, ‘evolve’ in this sentence. This highlights the fact that the basis for virtually all belief in alien life is the faith that evolution has occurred for countless eons not only on the earth but also all over the universe.3 (See also Prepare ye the way—the aliens are coming!)
The search for water
Hawking goes on to tell us that all this (alleged) alien activity requires one thing, water. Yes, in living cells water does provide a liquid medium, necessary for amino acids and other organic chemicals to mingle and react. However his next statement does not follow because assumptions are not facts: “Find water and aliens could exist nearby.” He then tells us that
“to find liquid water we need somewhere at the right temperature. Around every star is a region that is not too hot or too cold, but just right, like the porridge in the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Around our sun there are two planets that lie in this Goldilocks zone, the earth and Mars.”
Presumably Hawking hopes you will not stop to ask: Is this all that is necessary? Most assuredly it is not. The presence of liquid water would require a planet to have features very like those of Earth. These include having a star very like our own sun (an exceptionally stable star see The sun: our special star), being the right distance from its sun,4 as well as having an orbit5 and speed of rotation6 that would maintain a suitable temperature range. Also needed would be an atmosphere that was non-poisonous,7 and which would also absorb or deflect lethal doses of ultraviolet light, x-rays, and gamma rays, as well as a magnetic field strong enough to deflect the solar wind (a stream of high-energy charged particles).8 Complex life forms would need oxygen to be present in the right proportion. Earth alone is the ideal and only example of all this in our solar system.9 See Did life come to Earth from outer space?
Hawking next directs his viewers’ attention to Europa, a tiny moon that orbits the huge gas planet Jupiter. He tells us that Europa has a mean temperature of -260°F (-160°C), and is covered with ice perhaps 15 miles (24 km) thick. But heat from tidal flexing (of Europa as a result of its elliptical orbit around Jupiter) may mean there is a hidden ocean of liquid water underneath this ice which protects it from the vacuum of space above. He says,
“If so, there could be aliens living here. … I think it’s even reasonable to guess at some of their physical features. … Aliens here would probably swim in a similar way to our own ocean life. … They might use chemicals in their skin to generate their own light as many deep-sea creatures do back here. … They might even swim in school-like colonies, just as aquatic animals do on Earth. But even if advanced animals do live inside Europa, I think they are unlikely to be trying to make contact with us any time soon. Cocooned in an icy shell 15 miles thick, they would be blissfully unaware of the universe beyond.”
He illustrates this elaborate description of hypothetical alien life with a computer-generated picture of something that looks like a mobile three-legged jellyfish! But he has not seen any of this supposed life, and he offers no proof of its existence. He has imagined it. It seems that the imagination of his mind is driven by what he hopes for—that such a discovery would presumably ‘prove’ evolution and do away with the need for God.
What he doesn’t tell us is that, based on measurements of light reflected from Europa’s surface, NASA suspects that up to 80% of its surface ice, in some spots, may be concentrated sulphuric acid.10 This finding doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility of life, as some of Earth’s bacteria have design features enabling them to live in very acidic environments. But this news has certainly dashed notions of Europa being an ideal place to search for alien life, despite Hawking’s expressed hope that this might one day happen. Strong acids not only destroy organic compounds but, in liquid form, could be corrosive enough to eat through an exploratory landing probe.
What about extrasolar planets?
Having failed to offer a single viable example of life elsewhere in our solar system, Hawking now directs our attention to extrasolar planets, i.e. those in the universe beyond. He tells us “Somewhere out there, perhaps not too far away,11 is a rocky planet a bit like Earth, a planet with liquid water, where life has begun.” He goes on to tell us that “due to the power of evolution” they probably have a mouth (input orifice) if they eat; legs if they live on a solid surface or are clinging to a cliff; eyes if their planet is well lit, on either side of their head to look out for predators, or forward facing to accurately judge distance when hunting if they are the predators. Finally, “alien struggles of life and death are probably happening right now thanks to the universal power of evolution!”
Note the repeated evolutionary flag-waving, none of which involves any proven fact. All is the product of wishful thinking, and imagination in the Professor’s mind, as are his computer simulations. But these are not supported by a single piece of scientific evidence for life outside of Earth.
Life unlike us
Having warmed up his imagination speculating on extrasolar life, Hawking next directs our attention to the supposition of extraterrestrials (ETs) totally unlike us, i.e. life, but not as we know it. He says, “There could be, perhaps should be, really bizarre aliens that have followed a different evolutionary path—aliens that don’t depend on water but on other chemicals instead.” His first theoretical candidate is life with the ingredients of liquid nitrogen at -320°F (-195°C) instead of liquid water, and silicon as a major component instead of carbon. Other possibilities, he tells us, could be even stranger, including the ability to ‘consume’ the power of lightning storms as an energy source.
He then jumps to a wild conclusion.
“If such extreme life forms are possible, then life elsewhere in the universe could be very common indeed. There are certainly many more planets that fall outside the Goldilocks regions of stars than form inside. It suddenly seems like there could be life nearly everywhere you look.”
His first sentence is a supposition based on sheer speculation. His second claim is another non sequitur. What if such extreme life forms are not possible? (See Artificial life: the revival of mysticism in science.) Needless to say Prof. Hawking has no example(s) to offer us. In fact, the true situation re alien life is known as the Fermi Paradox. The famous scientist Enrico Fermi, when discussing extraterrestrial life with his peers, is said to have asked, “So, where is everybody?” I.e. if there are all these planets in the universe that are capable of supporting life, and all those intelligent species out there, then how come none has visited Earth?
What about abductions?
Back to Hawking, who says: “I think it doesn’t really matter what aliens are made of; to me it’s what they can do that counts. Are they thinking about the cosmos too, just as we are?” So what about abductions? Hawking says he’s a bit suspicious, and asks,
“From the aliens’ point of view, what’s the point of crossing vast tracts of the universe in a hi-tech ship just to abduct some lone earthling? … And if governments are involved in a cover-up, they’re doing a much better job at it than they seem to do at anything else!”
While the above sentiments are adequate for people who do not claim to have had the experience, those who do claim to have experienced abduction are referred to the article Prepare ye the way—the aliens are coming! by our Gary Bates for a substantial discussion of this matter. Also, Aliens in your bedroom?
Hawking then suggests that aliens that have discovered E=mc2 but have somehow avoided blowing themselves up could be colonizing the universe. He then gives us his massive presumptions on what advanced aliens might do:
“Ultimately they could halt aging and become virtually immortal.12 … They might exist in massive ships … perhaps become nomads—looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach … [exploiting] each planet to build more space ships so they can move on … only limited by how much power they could harness and control. … E.g. it might be possible to collect the energy from an entire star … [deploying] millions of mirrors in space encircling the whole sun and feeding the power to one single collection. Such power might make it possible to warp the very fabric of space and create a portal called a wormhole. This portal would act like a short-cut, allowing them to travel huge distances in the blink of an eye.”
Let’s stop pretending
Speculation can be limitless as here, but also profitless as here. Prof. Hawking is entitled to promulgate science fiction as here, but not to give the impression as here that it is virtually scientific fact. We believe that there is intelligence in the universe. This intelligence is not the product of speculation or wishful thinking as here, but is a person and has a name—Almighty God. He is both immanent, i.e. within the universe He created, and transcendent, i.e. outside of it. He tells us that life began because He created it here on Earth on Days 5 and 6 of Creation Week (Genesis chapter 1), about 6,000 years ago. Extraterrestrials (ETs) are not mentioned in God’s Word, the Bible; they are not just absent, but are conspicuously absent. For an in depth discussion of this see Did God create life on other planets? and Does denying the existence of alien life ‘limit God’?.
This divine intelligence, Almighty God, has advised us that He loves us, whom He created in His own image, and He wants us to spend Eternity with Him. Certain conditions apply, including our coming into a right relationship with Him in this life. See John 3:16 and John 3:36. In his TV program, Prof. Hawking speaks several times about things he thinks are rational and reasonable, so we will close with the following invitation to reason from God:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
- November and December 2012. Return to text.
- See Life’s origin: Still a ‘mystery’ for evolutionists. Return to text.
- Bates, G. Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, p. 36, Creation Book Publishers, 2004. Return to text.
- Earth’s average distance from the sun is 150 million km (93 million miles). At this distance, the energy received by Earth from the sun is just the right amount to maintain a temperature range on Earth mostly between 0 and 40°C (32 to 100°F)—the narrow limits required to sustain life as we know it. Some microbial organisms can tolerate lower or higher temperatures, but they are the exceptions not the rule. Return to text.
- Earth’s orbit around the sun is very nearly a perfect circle; if the orbit were an elongated ellipse with the sun at one focus, Earth’s temperatures would be extremely high during closest approach and extremely low at the outer end of the orbit. Return to text.
- If Earth’s speed of rotation around its axis were much slower, then the differences between the climate during night and day would be extreme. If it were much faster, increased centrifugal forces would cause atmospheric gases to escape into space. Return to text.
- Carbon dioxide in large enough quantities is lethal to living organisms. On Earth it amounts to 0.03 % of the atmosphere; on Mars it is 95%. Return to text.
- Earth has the right atmospheric density and magnetic field to achieve these objectives. Return to text.
- This section has been adapted from Gitt, W., Stars and their Purpose, Master Books, Arizona, pp. 142–51, 2006. Return to text.
- One explanation is that this may be from sulphur atoms originally thrown out from volcanoes on Io, another of Jupiter’s moons, interacting with hydrogen peroxide formed when charged particles trapped in Jupiter’s magnetosphere strike water molecules on Europa. Other scientists think the acid derives from Europa’s internal ocean. Tom McCord of the Planetary Science Institute in Winthrop, Washington state, points out that the greatest concentrations of acid seem to be in areas where the disrupted surface suggests that ocean liquid has gushed upward and frozen. See Hatchett, J., Life could be tough on acid Europa, New Scientist 15 February 2004, newscientist.com/article/dn4664-life-could-be-tough-on-acid-europa.html. Return to text.
- This is a strange comment by Prof. Hawking, The nearest star to Earth (outside our solar system) is Alpha Centauri. It is 4.37 light years away, which means that light—travelling at 300,000 km (186,000 miles) per second—takes 4.37 years to reach us, 40 million million km away. If a space probe were sent to this star at the speed of Earth’s escape velocity (11.28 km per second or ~40,220 kph, or ~25,000 mph) , it would take 115,000 years to get there. Hence scientific exploration of even the nearest star beyond our solar system is impossible. Return to text.
- Oops, Professor, This of course would kill evolution because evolution depends on death! Return to text.
Hardly sooner when I commented on how clever Satan was using dinosaurs then here he is again using aliens. I once read that the overwhelming deception would be demons masquerading as dead relatives and friends. What would most people trust more than a favorite friend or relative that has "been to heaven". Rather than that trouble causing preacher announcing "fear GOD and give glory to him, for the hour of His judgement has arrived"
Stephen Hawkins and Lewis Carroll have this in common - they have invented the most interesting beings. Hawkins aliens could well be mome raths, Jubjub birds, bandersnatches, slithy toves, borrogoves and Jabberwocks. His creatures are just as fictional as Carroll's, but not as amusing.
I had a very unsual experience as a new christian where i saw a being (alien looking) run toward me and stabbed me in my shoulder and disapeared as quickly as it had appeared. During the entire time, about 10 secondes, my body was numb and i was unable to move. As soon as it was over, i could move again but i felt the pain in my shoulder. I could have easilly believed that it was an alien but i knew better. A few weeks later, the similiar experience happened but that time, i was ready and as soon as i rebuked that being (which was in fact a demon, fallen angel or evil spirit) in the name of Jesus, it was gone ! I understood that day the power the name of Jesus has just like in Luke 10:17. I wished that people could understand who those so-called aliens really are ! Thx CMI for all the great info you are giving us which help us put into practice 1 Peter 3:15.
Great article, but I'm curious about the fifth footnote. It states that the Earth's orbit around the sun is nearly a perfect circle and that an elliptical orbit would result in extreme temperature differences, but didn't Johannes Kepler's studies of astronomy and mathematical equations point out that the planets actually have an elliptical orbit?
Both you and the footnote are correct; all the planetary orbits are elliptical, but note the footnote does not say it is circular, but nearly so. And it contrasts that with a very eccentric ellipse.
Here is a good summary, from the website www.universetoday.com:
"The shape of Earth’s orbit isn’t quite a perfect circle. It is more like a 'stretched out' circle or an oval. Mathematicians and astronomers call this shape an 'ellipse'. An ellipse can be long and skinny or it can be very round. Scientists need a way to describe how round or 'stretched out' an ellipse is. They use a number to describe this, and call it the eccentricity of the ellipse. Eccentricity is always between zero and one for an ellipse. If it is close to zero, the ellipse is nearly a circle. If it is close to one, the ellipse is long and skinny. Earth’s orbit is almost a circle, it has an eccentricity of less than 0.02. That is why the distance from the Sun at perihelion and aphelion are very close."
I barely started reading and already are you making excuses to attack Hawking's position. here:
"He begins with a logical fallacy known as a non sequitur, namely that the immense numbers of stars in the universe make thinking about aliens perfectly rational”
a non sequitur is when the conclusion doesn't come from its premises. I'm going to explain what he meant using PHILOSOPHY:
P1: the greater the probability of something rare happening, the higher the probability humans will think/talk about it.(God is an example)
P2: there are trillions of stars.
P3: the more stars, the greater the chance of life, which is rare (whether it's sentient or not).
CONCLUSION: therefore, it is rational for humans to think about aliens.
it is completely baffling how you can deny something as trivial as this just to get another punch in.
"Hawking then raises the tremendous problem for evolutionists of explaining how life (with all its hallmarks of design) began"
and here you just show that you don't know what evolution is about, because the origin of life is outside its scope. what you are talking about here is "abiogenesis". but I'm sure you already knew that ;)
"However, the origin of life is no mystery to creationists or, for that matter, to anyone who is willing to accept Genesis 1 as truth"
so I assume that not only did light exist before stars, he also created a light source which we can only assume it's the moon... except it's not a light source nor a star. and yet it's abiogenesis and panspermia that's "scientifically and mathematically bankrupt" when you claim "bacteria couldn’t survive on meteorite"->bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11039206
also, you criticize hawking as if he's saying those creatures exist. that's called a strawman fallacy. I dare you to accept this comment
First, all comments are accepted on their own terms, we don't respond to dares or otherwise. Second, you really need to read this website a bit before rushing in to criticize, or you would not have made the somewhat haughty comment on light from distant stars, for one thing, which is not some insurmountable problem at all for Genesis creation. Your opening syllogism falls down because you are assuming that there is a finite, though small, probability of life evolving. Apart from the belief that it did so, a tenet of naturalism, there is no evidence for this. The laws of science that we do have show that its 'theoretical possibility' is in the same category as the probability that one end of your bathtub water will spontaneously freeze while the other spontaneously boils: technically possible by random rearrangements of molecular velocities, but so vanishingly improbable that it will never happen, (which is why we have the Second Law of Thermodynamics, incidentally).
Hawking certainly gave millions of viewers the impression that he was quite confident that in all likelihood such creatures did exist, btw.
Finally, it's tiresome to have to repeatedly refute the old 'dodge' that abiogenesis is not a part of evolution. I presume you have heard abiogenesis also referred to as 'chemical evolution'? Start tracing the origin of species back to the common ancestor in the Darwinian story, what rationale is there for stopping there, without explaining that common ancestor itself? Most evolutionists are not content to do so, and in fact the whole point of the exercise is to explain the world and all its living things, and the universe with which they are surrounded, without God, i.e. having made itself. As some cartoonist put it, the evolutionary 'big picture' taught in schools is simply that hydrogen is a colourless, odourless gas that, given enough time, turns into people. That is certainly what I and my fellow atheists at university believed, all through our undergraduate lives. To pretend otherwise, that one can artificially compartmentalize evolution only to commence with the first life is arbitrary and dare I say also, disingenuous.
I've got a more down to earth place for evolutionists to look for life from nothing. Long ago Louis Pasteur did experiments to prove that spontaneous generation did not occur. Out of his discoveries great strides in sanitation were made and the canning industry started, very much to human benefit. But, maybe Pasteur was wrong? Today millions of products are put in tins and once in a great while one of them spoils. Why not set up a big lab where all those defective tins could be shipped so they could look for new forms of life in the "soup." PS Sorry for the sarcastic comment but it points out something significant: Even with an extremely large sample size and components carefully chosen to support life no one would be willing to take on this experiment, because in their heart of hearts no evolutionist really believes in spontaneous generation.
I truly believe the Mr Hawkins has 'lost the plot'! For such a brilliant mind to start rambling about aliens and the like with absolutely no scientific evidence to back-up his statements is appalling.
The trouble is that many uniformed souls will believe him!
Wouldn’t it be great if the eminent professor could meet up with one of his imagined ETs and hear it say to him, “Have you and your race been so long in the universe and still do not know and reverence the living God who fashioned us all? Did you miss his visitation?”
You may be unaware of the important theological reasons why the Bible rules out such sentient non-human aliens as part of God's creation. See this list of relevant articles, particular the second on the list, at creation.com/alien-life-ufo-questions-and-answers
Apart from outer space beings emptying their cosmic ashtrays in our oceans millions of years ago, exactly how do Hawkings and others theorize that life began its journey to Earth such as in the case of panspermia? How is explained that these rocks with bacteria hanging on for dear life eject from their planet of origin? By the way, this was another great article illustrating the "cleverly invented stories" that simply come with zero grounding in observable, testable or even rational evidence. However, it would make for a great Steven Spielberg movie ...
“I think it doesn’t really matter what aliens are made of; to me it’s what they can do that counts."
Would it matter if Aliens turned out to be evil spirits, even Stan himself?
It didn't seem to matter to Eve as the objective was obtaining "knowledge" for Appearance, Taste and Pride.
It is the modern pandemic of pragmatism in both the world and the church which is rapidly leading us down a road with a brick wall at the end.
It was said in Jurassic Park that even though they could they didn't ask if they should.
Even Dawkins has admitted as plausable the idea of Aliens as our makers.
But what the church is missing out on is a vast field of opportunity to not only preach Christ but deliver the power of his name.
I have had a number of extreme experiences I won't go into here, but listening to Alien Intrusion on CD on my way home from work one morning I literally cried tears of joy over the Chapter discussing the research done on which people groups are not effected by or at least can stop dead alien encounters.
When I got home I rushed out of my car to read my wife the chapter Emperically PROVING the power of Jesus over Alien / Devils, which validated my own experiences.
I also read it to my step son who has previously had questions over his encounters with Orbs.
My ex wife delved into witchcraft and our home became a literal battlefield.
I loaned my mum the book. My Dad as a kid saw with his Mum a UFO as big as a football field literally hovering above their heads in a field in the UK.
It is this that is end game for intelligent design. Be careful to qualify using it as a defense.
This issue is not going away, and the church has a great opportunity to at least point to these Christians overcoming these so called "Aliens".
Agreed. Alien Intrusion is a powerful must-read for all, including believers unaware of how ubiquitous this phenomenon is. It's exciting while avoiding sensationalism, well-researched debunks a lot of commonly believed UFO myths. I know of several who have become Christians as a result.
To be honest, Stephen Hawkings belief(s) on aliens are no different from that ridiculous flying spaghetti monster.
Convenient method the professor uses to direct our reasoning away from reality. No proof here so let's transplant it way out in space where it's impossible to prove yet able to plant weird thoughts into vulnerable minds.
Get back to tackling the real issues. Once an evolutionist indocrinated by the establishment I ponder the efforts of the 'blob' that supposedly emerged from the 'primal soup' It begs countless questions.
How did it, with no brain yet know there was a world out there and begin manufacturing an eye so that in a few million years it could be viewed?
How did it know that sound would exist and (at the same time) begin to develop ears?
How did it know that food would be necessary to give it sustenance or that it would have a taste and give off an odour?
How would it know that to be able to feel and touch would be an advantage?
As a bucket would empty from the tiniest of holes so would its blood! Oh it hasn't yet realized it will need blood yet so forget it will need to develop a clotting system to overcome that if an injury occurred.
Injury? What's that? [and so on]
I like to see how Stephen Hawking can explain why we haven't detected even just one radio signal emanating from an alien race on another planet, let alone countless of them. Given the hypothesis that the Universe is billions of years old and his hypothesis it should be teaming with life, then surely some of them have reached a similar level of technological advancement as we have but did so millions or billions of years ago. So, surely we should have easily and quickly detected some of their signals given the large effort by the SETI group. Stephen Hawking's response to such a question would be very interesting even in his pretend world let alone in the real world.