Our place in the universe

Posted on Aug 21st, 2013 at 12:00 PM

By Rich Peck

Kepler is a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. The planets are known as Goldilocks planets as they are neither too hot nor too cold and they are just right for the presence of water and the development of life.

In May, NASA announced the spacecraft had been crippled by failure of a reaction wheel that keeps it pointed in the right direction. In August, the administration announced Kepler could no longer continue its search for planets.

Prior to the May failure, Kepler had discovered 4,437 planets.

According to a study by California Institute of Technology the Milky Way Galaxy contains at least as many planets as it does stars, resulting in 100–400 billion planets outside our solar system. At least two billion of these are potential Goldilocks planets.

Ethan Siegel, a theoretical astrophysicist living in Portland, Ore., says there may be as many as 100 billion galaxies in the universe. That escalates the number of potential Goldilocks planets to 200 billion.

I think we can safely say, “We are not alone in the universe.”

However, the closest star is Proxima Centauri, 4.3 light years away. It’s more than unlikely we will see someone travel at 186,000 miles per second in our lifetime. At that speed a person could circumnavigate the equator approximately 7.5 times in one second.

We’ll have to leave the possiblity of visiting Goldilocks planets to the Captain Kirks of the 23rd century.

Nevertheless, as residents of this tiny planet on the outskirts of a galaxy among galaxies, we need to adjust our earth-centric views of creation.

The United Methodist Social Principles states, “We find that science’s descriptions of cosmological, geological, and biological evolution are not in conflict with theology. . .We find that as science expands human understanding of the natural world, our understanding of the mysteries of God’s creation and word are enhanced.”

I’m uncertain how we should respond to the Kepler findings. Perhaps we should simply turn up the volume on the hymn “How Great is Our God.”

Understanding our place in the universe certainly makes our concern about national borders seem silly.

Be nice to each other. We all live in the same ant hill.


  1. It is interesting that with 40 years of searching for extraterrestrial signals from outer space plus the exploration of all of the planets in the solar system that only the earth can support life. Only in science fiction does there exist other forms of life ourside of our planet. It just may be that God did create the heavens and the earth about 6000 years ago as is clearly presented in our scripture. As an Aerospace Engineer I have found many scientific examples that support a young earth. The imagination of scientists is unlimited. Proof of scientific findings are much more nebulous. The cosmic studies are based on points of light on a receptor that are interpreted as the scientist wishes. For example all of the color photos of the galaxyies are generated by computers and were not what was in the raw data. The belief in a Big Bang billions of years ago is much more of a mythological concept that factual. In my understanding of physics a Big Bang that produced electrons and protons would still be expanding forever with no forces that would cause them to collect into anything that resembles our cosmos. Look at the equations for population and the current population fits the idea of eight people getting off of an ark about 4500 years ago much better than millions of years for people on earth. Carbon 14 dates of diamonds, oil, gas, coal show that there has not been millions of years for carbon based life on earth. Read any of the Creation Science literature to find better answers that the mythological cosmologies of NASA. Charles A. Rodenberger, PhD Aerospace Engineering

    Posted on Aug 26th, 2013 at 12:20 PM by Charles Rodenberger

  2. Dr. Rodenberger is certainly correct is saying that the Earth is the only place where life has been found so far. A 6,000 year age for the planet, though, is far more open to challenge. But, should any of this be a matter of faith? If we are alone or surrounded by other humans far flung in the galaxies; if the earth is very old or very young, should our faith shine in one case and dim in another? I think not. Such things as counting planets, counting years, and counting noses are matters of man, not matters of faith.

    Posted on Aug 28th, 2013 at 6:51 AM by John

  3. I occasionally catch a christian radio program that offers a type of devotional about the challenges of earths age, evolution, etc. He offers scripture and writing to support the Biblical accounts verse scientific theories . Dr. Rodenberger has good sound writing, that I think are good; However, Johns statement "should our faith shine in one case and dim in another. Such things as counting planets, years and noses are matters of man, not matters of faith".

    Posted on Oct 10th, 2013 at 7:57 PM by GB