Let’s just pause a moment and consider how astonishing it is that 229 extrasolar planets are currently known, all of them discovered since 1992. Our six-year old is (like I was at that age) fascinated by astronomy, and this has to be one of the most striking changes in astronomical knowledge compared with when I was his age. One of the great scientific revolutions of the past quarter-century.
And now we have news of a “Goldilocks” planet – one whose distance from its star makes it neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right for liquid water to be found on its surface. How long, I find myself wondering, before the Big One: the first detection of free oxygen – a strong indicator of life – in an exoplanet’s atmosphere?
I wonder how ready Christians are, intellectually and emotionally, for the discovery of extraterrestrial life. Because we can be sure that the likes of Richard Dawkins are ready for it, and in particular to claim it as Christianity’s death-knell. It would be nothing of the sort, of course, but this claim would be aggressively made and in many quarters would rapidly become an unquestioned, self-evident truth.
If and when this happens (and personally I think we are talking when, and we’re talking sooner rather than later), we need to be ready to respond, not defensively, but singing:
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
– bearing in mind that, in biblical terms, “the earth” can refer to the whole visible realm “under heaven”.