“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”
How many times have you seen headlines proclaiming that “Sixty billion planets in the Milky Way could support life” or “One hundred billion planets in our galaxy may harbor complex life”? It seems that the numbers change with each new announcement. Where did those numbers come from in the first place?
It all started when astronomer Frank Drake, a firm believer in extraterrestrial life, hosted the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute’s very first meeting back in 1961. He wanted to inspire the other scientists in attendance, so he developed an equation which has been described as a “probabilistic argument used to estimate the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.”
The Drake Equation, as it has come to be called, sounds mathematical and scientific, but when you examine the equation, you will see that it is based on conjecture after conjecture, guess after guess. In fact, most scientists today totally reject it, calling it a guesstimate or meaningless. Nevertheless, we keep seeing headlines about the fifty or sixty or one hundred billion planets out there which are capable – or even likely – of having life. After all, if life evolved on Earth, surely it evolved on any planet capable of supporting life.
But as scientist Donald DeYoung points out in his book Astronomy and the Bible, the first variable in the Drake Equation actually turns out to be zero. So when you multiply all the variables together, you end up with not billions but a big fat zero!
Heavenly Father, I pray that You will help me develop critical thinking skills and spiritual wisdom so that I will be fully equipped to detect error when false teachers seek to deceive me. Amen.
Astronomy and the Bible, D. DeYoung, pp. 117-118, (BMH Books, 2010). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation. Photo: Dr. Frank Drake. Courtesy of Raphael Perrino. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.