Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#76 - 200 Parameters for Life

As scientists learn more and more about the world around us and the universe, they are learning how incredibly synchronized, interconnected, and interdependent every little aspect is.

In fact, some are saying that according to the laws of physics and chemistry, we shouldn’t even be here.

In 1966, astronomer and famous promoter of science, Carl Sagan announced that there were two requirements for life to be possible on a planet. He said you had to have a certain type of star like our Sun and you had to have your planet a certain distance from the star. Given there were 10(exp 27) stars in the universe that would mean there were about 10(exp 24) planets where life could exist. Surely we were not the only life. Our planet was just a “pale blue dot”, tiny, and insignificant. Humans were insignificant in any scheme of things.

But since that time, scientists have kept discovering more and more parameters that are requirements for life to come into existence. The number of parameters required went up to 10, then 20, then 50. One Christian apologist, Dr. Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist, has compiled 200 parameters [1] that must be met by any planet that could possibly support life such as us. That was over 10 years ago.

What started out as 10(exp24) possible planets for life, kept shrinking and shrinking and shrinking until it hit zero, zip, nada. Then it kept right on going! In other words, the probability that any planet at all, even ours, could exist and support life became more and more impossible. We shouldn’t even be here!

Check out these two links for long lists of the necessary parameters along with detailed explanations.

Does Life Exist On Any Other Planet In The Universe? Another Look At SETI

Fine-Tuning For Life On Earth (Updated June 2004). (Lists 154 parameters necessary.)

Let me give you some examples. It turns out that not any old galaxy could allow life to exist. Actually it will have to be a spiral galaxy. It will have to be a certain size, not too big, and not too small. It will have to be a certain age, not too old and not too young. These facts would eliminate an estimated 90% of galaxies as candidates for a planet that could support life.

Next, some more parameters about the necessary star were discovered for life to be supported. It would have to be situated in the right location in the galaxy. It has to be located in a narrow region between the spiral arms of the spiral galaxy. If it is too close to the center, it will be destroyed because it will travel too fast and run into one of the spiral arms. If it is too far away, it will travel too slow and be destroyed as well. It can’t be in one of the spiral arms either.

There is a nice name given to all these amazing coincidences: the “Goldilocks” parameters, as in “not too hot, and not too cold, just right.”

The star has to be a single star. 75% of the stars in our galaxy are double stars or multiples. So they get eliminated. A planet can’t exist for long unless the star is single due to the irregular gravity. Also, the star has to be the right size, and the right mass, and the right age. It can’t be too hot or too cold. It can’t burn erratically and send off varying amounts of energy. The star has to be formed at just the right time in the history of the galaxy or the right chemicals for life won’t exist.

The planet that can support life must be in a very narrow zone around the star. It can’t be too close or it will get sucked in or burned up. It can’t be too far away or it will be too cold. It also has to be tipped on its axis approximately 23 degrees to allow for seasons and the right climate for life to grow in a large habitable zone.

Since life first began on earth, the sun’s luminosity has increased about 15%. Normally this would destroy all living things, but because life was growing and absorbing CO2 and other greenhouse gases, it was perfectly synchronized. Life was able to flourish. A very life supporting temperature has been maintained as life developed and exactly because that life was developing. It never got too cold or too hot. Going too far in either direction would have started a chain reaction leading to destruction of life.

Most stars as they revolve around the center of their galaxy also oscillate up and down. This is bad for life because the center of a galaxy sends off lots of radiation. It is extremely fortunate for us that there are lots of cosmic dust clouds to shield our sun from the radiation coming from the center of the Milky Way and also that our sun does not oscillate up and down too much. If it did, we’d die from radiation.

Obviously we need lots of water for life. If the earth moved just 2% closer or farther from the sun, there would be no more water.

The gravitational pull of the earth is exactly right for keeping water vapor trapped, but also amazingly and precisely right for letting methane and ammonia escape from the earth. These gases would be deadly. A few percentage points change in that and we all die.

The earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours. This is perfect. Any slower and we would be frozen or toasted, depending on which side you were on. Any faster and the winds would blow us away.

The earth is tilted on its axis 23.4 degrees. This is again perfect. More tilt and the climate would go crazy. Less tilt and the amount of livable space would be very small.

I wrote a whole proof for God on the unique qualities of our Moon. [2] It has many, many significant parameters that are just right. For example, if it was not a an abnormally large size for a moon or the exact distance which it is, we’d all be dead.

Did you know that you owe your life to the planet Jupiter? It is estimated that Earth would be struck by large meteors 1,000 times more often if not for Jupiter, obviously resulting in huge catastrophes and death. Jupiter is just the right size and in the right position to protect the Earth. If it were bigger, it would suck us away from the sun. If it were smaller, it would not shield us as well. Jupiter and Saturn have very nice smooth orbits which is to our benefit. If their orbits were a little more erratic, they’d pull us out of our orbit and you guessed it, we’d die.

All the gases in our atmosphere, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc. seem to be in exactly the right proportions to sustain life. A little more oxygen and we could never put out all the fires.

The Earth has so many “Goldilocks” parameters that it is really mind boggling. The tectonic plates are necessary. The molten core is necessary for life. The earthquakes are necessary. The correct ratio between oceans and land masses is necessary.

This goes on and on and on. Up to 200 parameters have been identified already and that was 10 years ago. I’d be willing to bet that in the future even more parameters are going to be discovered, thus making it more impossible that we are alive by accident. If you want to get into more of the details, I highly encourage you to go to the two webpages I have referenced above or other resources that exist. Here is a third from the Wall Street Journal in December, 2014: Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God. [3]

So you can decide for yourself of course what you are going to believe, but you certainly have to admit that the odds of all these factors occurring so that life could emerge are almost infinitesimally small. Dr. Hugh Ross put the odds at 1 in 10(exp 42). There are an estimated 10(exp 27) stars in the whole universe. Let me write those odds out for you; 1 chance in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. He also said that was an optimistic estimate because he was generous when assigning the odds to each parameter.

Could we really be that lucky? Here’s my conclusion.

There must be God.

[1] Hugh Ross, PhD., Fine-Tuning For Life On Earth (Updated June 2004), 

[2] Jim Stephens, Proof for God #49, The Moon.

[3] Eric Metaxas, Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God, Wall Street Journal,


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