Over a year ago, on Sun Mar 27, I preached a sermon called "Biology and Spirituality." I shared with the congregation an argument that we may be all alone in the universe. It's an argument from science writer Stephen Webb:
There are 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. If we quite generously assume 10 planets per star, that would be 1 trillion planets.
Assume that 1 out of a thousand is habitable (has liquid water): Now we're down to 1 billion planets.
Assume that 1 out of a thousand of those has a stable climate over a long enough period for life to develop: Now we're down to 1 million planets.
Assume that on 1 out of a thousand of those microbial life gets started: now we're down to a thousand planets.
And if 1 out of a thousand of those develops complex life: now we're at just one planet in a galaxy the size of the Milky Way.
If 1 out of thousand of those develops sophisticated tool use, we're down to one planet for every thousand galaxies.
If 1 out of thousand of those develops science and mathematics, we're down to one planet for every million galaxies.
If complex societies and language develops that would be necessary to coordinate activities at the level of having a space program, we're down to one planet for every billion galaxies.
And if only one planet in a thousand manages to avoid disaster -- like a major solar flare, or a sizable asteroid, not to mention the inhabitants destroying themselves -- then we have only one out of a trillion galaxies.
And since we estimate that there are only 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, chances are, we're alone.
So goes the argument. Stephen Webb finds this a positive conclusion.
"For me, the silence of the universe is shouting, 'We're the creatures who got lucky. All barriers are behind us. We're the only species that's cleared them -- the only species capable of determining its own destiny.' And if we learn to appreciate how special our planet is, how important it is to look after our home, and to find others -- how incredibly fortune we all are simply to be aware of the universe, humanity might survive for a while. And all those amazing things we dreamed aliens might have done in the past, that could be our future."There's a certain awe and wonder to contemplating the vastness of space, the trillions of stars, and imagining ourselves the only ones able to be aware of the detail of this vastness.
But there's also awe and wonder in contemplating that maybe we aren't alone after all. If the barriers that Webb lists are surmounted at each stage 1 out of 100 times -- instead of, as Webb assumes, 1 out of 1,000 -- then we'd have complex life 10,000 times in our galaxy alone. And sophisticated tool use on 100 planets in our galaxy. From there, the rest might be merely a matter a time.
Whichever way we go, we find deep, deep awe and wonder!
Yours in the faith we share,
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I.C.Y.M.I. (In Case You Missed It)
The May 21 service, "Transitions":
The May 14 service, "Happiness":
Here it is, your...
MOMENT OF ZEN
The next evening Gray Wolf attended the circle gathering again and asked, "After all, what is zazen?"
Raven said, "Animal practice."
Gray Wolf said, "Of course it's animal practice; I wouldn't suppose that stones and trees do it."
Raven said, "That would be the zazen of stones and trees."
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