Goldilocks Planets Myth: BUSTED

For well over 2,000 years, since before the Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, mankind has been trying to find ways to deny the divine creation of the world and to worship the creation rather than the Creator. One manifestation of this presupposition is the research done by scientists seeking to show that the Earth and the intelligent life therein are not unique in the universe and are, therefore, a product of natural forces and random chance.

On December 5, 2011, Science Daily reported that a team of researchers, including Carnegie’s Alan Boss, had discovered what could be a large, rocky planet with a surface temperature of about 22 degrees Celsius (72 degrees Fahrenheit), comparable to a comfortable spring day on Earth. Boss noted, “This discovery supports the growing belief that we live in a universe crowded with life.” Boss concluded, “Kepler is on the verge of determining the actual abundance of habitable, earth-like planets in our galaxy.” (Science Daily, 2011)

The Goldilocks zone
This was the article associated with the discovery of Kepler-22b, one of a thousand new candidates for earth-like planets are the Goldilocks planets or in the habitable zone. This fanciful term originated with the childhood story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears whereby one bowl of porridge was “too hot,” and another one was “too cold,” but the third bowl was “just right.” These terms are used to describe places in the universe that might be able to support life “as we know it.”

But more recently, in July of 2014, Penn State researchers have said that two distant earth-like planets, which some believed might be able to harbor life, actually do not exist and that astronomers were confused by a star’s sunspots. The controversial pair of planets, Gliese d and g, some 22 light years away, was once believed to be in the Goldilocks planets zone — not too close and not too far from the star, where the potential exists for water and perhaps life.

They are part of a larger trove of potentially earth-like planets that have been identified by astronomers so far, and NASA has said billions may be out there. Too far to be seen with the naked eye or a telescope, they were spotted with a technique called Doppler radial velocity, orbiting a cool, red star called Gliese 581. The method takes starlight from a telescope and analyzes its wavelengths. By detecting signs of a wobble from the gravitational tug of an orbiting planet, it can reveal the mass of a planet.

Unreal planets
“These two Goldilocks planets that people have been talking about, unfortunately, based on our research are not real,” said co-author Suvrath Mahadevan, assistant professor in the department of astronomy and astrophysics. “What was previously thought to be a planetary signal was actually caused by stellar activity,” he said. In other words, magnetic fields or sunspots had interfered with the signal that astronomers were reading. The study in the journal Science said that “intense stellar magnetic activity, like sunspots on our own star, created false planet signals for d and g.” Scientists have already ruled out the existence of a third planet: Gliese f. That leaves three other planets known to be orbiting this particular star, none of which are in the habitable zone.

Intelligent design
This is all part of a growing body of scientific evidence that points to the absolute certainty that even the very existence of higher forms of life on Earth requires at the very least an Intelligent Designer. The scientific community is becoming more and more aware that the odds against all of the criteria for a habitable planet being fulfilled by mere chance are astronomical, much in the same way as the odds against a single DNA molecule being correctly programmed to sustain life are astronomical. Many scientists today no longer believe that these all occurred by random processes.

Statistically impossible
According to Tom DeRosa, executive director and founder of Creation Studies Institute, there are a number of incredibly complex and interrelated geophysical criteria that must be met for any planet, including Earth, to be in a habitable zone and able to support and nurture life. These include the size and mass of the sun or star; its luminosity, intensity, radiation and protective devices; utilization of energy; the ratio of oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen levels; gravitational force, abundance of water (as in oceans, not just a few molecules of crystalized water), plant life, weather patterns, atmosphere of the exact composition to shield from harmful radiation but allow heat and light to get through and light with the exact wave length that is necessary for the production of photosynthesis.

Of the dozens of critical factors that must be present, if we only consider twenty of them, the odds against all twenty being fulfilled by “chance” on any given planet are one in 10 to the 15th power, or one in 1 quadrillion. Of course any educated person knows when all the factors are considered, it becomes statistically impossible.

Scientific faith
Why do otherwise intelligent scientists and philosophers subscribe to these wild, harebrained ideas and schemes? The answers can be found in Romans 1:18-25. Rather than put their faith in a God that might hold them accountable or require them to change their lives, they invent myths and fables to systematically exclude the existence of God.

Consider the true story of the agnostic professor at the University of Maine in Orono in 1976, who spent about two weeks with lectures attempting to discredit the “creation myth” in his modern philosophy class. A small group of evangelical Christian students decided to play a prank on the unbelieving professor. They made an intricate, sophisticated scale model of the solar system, secretly brought it into the professor’s lecture hall, installed it on a table in front of the lectern and plugged it in. Monday morning many of the students arrived early, eager to see the professor’s face when he saw the scale model, with the planets slowly revolving about the sun.

When the professor walked in and saw the model, he cried out, “Where in the world did that thing come from?” One of the students replied, “We don’t know. It probably just evolved overnight, or there was an explosion in the lab and it just came together by mere chance.”

“That is absolutely ridiculous and patently impossible,” said he red-faced professor. “Somebody had to have made it and put it there.”

Patiently the student responded, “Professor, with all due respect, if someone had to have made this small, simple scale model of the solar system and put it here in place, how much more did Someone have to have made the real solar system, so much larger and more complex and teeming with life and beauty?”

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Bob Woods is a senior project manager at AECOM Technical Services, as well as a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].

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