I recall in my younger days preaching something along the lines of, “Everything in the universe was made just for you. There’s stars billions of miles away just so you’ll have light at night and something beautiful to look up at.”
But my spiritual logic there is undone by the expansiveness of the universe. You simply can’t see everything that exists in our universe—not even with an incredibly powerful telescope. There is absolutely no reason we should conclude that everything out there is just for tiny little humans on our tiny little planet, because we’ll never know or see it all. We didn’t even know that a lot of it existed until our modern technology showed us.
As much as we like to think we’re the center of the universe, we’re not. Our earth is not the center of the solar system and our solar system is not even the center of our galaxy. Everything is not about us.
So if everything is not about us—because logically, we’ll never see it all—then we have to ask the question: who is it about? Someone else, perhaps? Johannes Kepler came to that conclusion when Galileo discovered four moons revolving around Jupiter in 1610:
Our moon exists for us on the earth, not the other globes. Those four little moons exist for Jupiter, not for us. Each planet in turn, together with its occupants, is served by its own satellites. From this line of reasoning we deduce with the highest degree of probability that Jupiter is inhabited.
Of course, modern cosmology does not necessarily give us reason to believe that there must be life on Jupiter, but the logic still stands: Jupiter’s moons don’t revolve around Jupiter for our sake. And if Kepler can make that observation according to the celestial bodies that we can see, we should be more apt to make that observation according to the billions of celestial bodies we cannot see.
In the end, we are theologically forced to ask, if no life exists beyond the edge of our solar system, then why on earth did God make two trillion other galaxies? I think theology, science and logic press us to believe that could be an answer to that question (whether that answer truly has any bearing on our actual lives or not), and I don’t see any real reason to see that answer as heretical.
When we face the facts, we at least have to consider that perhaps, in the end, we’re not alone in this universe.
This is an excerpt from my upcoming book: Alien Theology: The God of Two Trillion Galaxies.
Rosen, Edward, translator. Kepler’s Conversation with Galileo’s Sidereal Messenger. Johnson Reprint Corporation, 1964, p. 42. NOTE: While Kepler was not opposed to life on some planets, he did not believe that planets must harbor life.
“Hubble Finds 10 Times More Galaxies Than Thought.” Edited by Karl Hille, NASA, 13 Oct. 2016, http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/hubble-reveals-observable-universe-contains-10-times-more-galaxies-than-previously-thought.
Photo credit: Bryan Goff