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Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking: Aliens

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Published: 1 December 2012 (GMT+10)
Flickr/Doug Wheller

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).

Discovery Channel

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:

  1. the primordial soup theory, and
  2. 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:

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

NASA/Jean-Luc Lacour NASA’s Mars science lab. NASA has spent millions of dollars trying to find life beyond Earth to support naturalistic theories.
NASA’s Mars science lab. NASA has spent millions of dollars trying to find life beyond Earth to support naturalistic theories.
“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?

Europa

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,

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona The ice that covers Europa, the tiny moon of Jupiter, is believed to contain sulphuric acid, making exploration by landing probes hazardous.
The ice that covers Europa, the tiny moon of Jupiter, is believed to contain sulphuric acid, making exploration by landing probes hazardous.
“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).

References

  1. November and December 2012. Return to text.
  2. See Life’s origin: Still a ‘mystery’ for evolutionists. Return to text.
  3. Bates, G. Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, p. 36, Creation Book Publishers, 2004. Return to text.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Earth has the right atmospheric density and magnetic field to achieve these objectives. Return to text.
  9. This section has been adapted from Gitt, W., Stars and their Purpose, Master Books, Arizona, pp. 142–51, 2006. Return to text.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Oops, Professor, This of course would kill evolution because evolution depends on death! Return to text.

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