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Astrophysicist punctures balloon: “There is a world of difference between habitable planets and inhabited planets.”

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In “The Loneliest Planet”(Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2011), Alan Hirshfeld reviews astrophysicist John Gribbin’s Alone in the Universe: Why Our Planet Is Unique:

Recent discoveries might seem to boost the likelihood of life elsewhere in the galaxy. We have confirmed the stunning ubiquity of extrasolar planets in other star systems, the latest a possible Earth-analog orbiting right in the habitable sweet spot—not too close, not too far—from its central sun. Biologists have encountered bacteria underneath a mile of Antarctic ice and nestled within rocks in a Yellowstone geyser; it’s only a modest stretch to imagine that the next generation of robotic spacecraft might find simple biota in equally hostile havens on Mars or on one of Jupiter’s moons.

But as John Gribbin points out in his grimly plausible book, “Alone in the Universe,” there is a world of difference between habitable planets and inhabited planets. Mr. Gribbin’s narrative reduces the vision of Disney’s documentary into the counterfactual fever-dream it really is. The author’s conclusion: Earth is the sole abode of intelligent life in the galaxy, the product of a profoundly improbable sequence of cosmic, geologic and climatic events—some thoroughly documented, some inferable from fragmentary evidence—that allowed our planet to become a unique refuge where life could develop to its full potential.

Pretty transgressive stuff in a world where learned profs assure the world, “THEY just gotta be out there! Otherwise, we’d be unique.” But so?

Mr. Gribbin admits the possibility —even probability—that elementary life forms have arisen elsewhere in the galaxy. But the object of his scientific and statistical scrutiny is intelligent extraterrestrial life. While he cannot prove a galaxy-wide absence of other civilizations, he presents an array of modern, research-based evidence that renders that conclusion eminently reasonable. He even suggests a decades-long survey of infrared emissions around stars (possibly arising from planetary atmospheres, even water vapor). This would yield the true number of “wet-Earth” planets in the galaxy—in his estimation, zero.

In which case, we are back to seeing our space aliens at the movies.

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If I believe that someone designed life, which I do, it follows that they were thinking on a much higher level. It's like playing chess with 1,000 pieces and seeing 5,000 moves ahead. So if they chose to put life on one planet or on two or on a whole bunch, the reasoning behind it might be tough to fathom. But what if life was only on this one planet? It doesn't follow that the intention is to have life on one planet. Maybe this is one corner of a very big picture. Maybe inhabiting the entire galaxy is. But that's speculation on top of speculation. I don't claim to have any idea. ScottAndrews2
Here's a question for anyone who cares to weigh in on the subject: If life on earth was designed and engineered, presumably by God, why would He limit this effort to one planet in one galaxy among the billions of galaxies each containing trillions of stars? What would be the purpose of creating such extravagance just to leave it empty of life? Bruce David
It's important to not allow Sagan's goo-to-you faith to become more culturally ingrained than it is, or removed to a location it cannot be reasonably tested....exoplanets. Even if an exoplanet is discovered to be habitable for life, it does nothing to demonstrate that life would begin there. Bantay
'Coincidentally', in this video I just ran across, Hugh Ross addresses this exact question in the first part of this video:
Dr Hugh Ross Interview ( Pt 1 ) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d22y_EBpv0U&feature=related

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