One popular speculation among ordinary citizens and some science specialists is whether life exists anywhere but Planet Earth. If there is agreement that life may exist elsewhere but Earth, further questions are triggered: What sort of life could it be? Simple one-celled life? More complex multi-celled life? Even life similar to sentient human Earth life? Such questions have broad mass appeal. These questions provide literary fodder for imaginative science fiction novelists.
Recently there has been a media buzz concerning the possibility that the Earth’s twin, Planet Venus, manifests a signature of past life. The planet’s surface temperature is currently hot enough to melt lead and its atmospheric pressure is 92 times that of Earth. In the past three billion years however, conditions supportive of life existed in terms of more favorable temperatures, atmosphere, and the presence of water. Russian and US space probes have visited the atmosphere and surface of Venus many times in the past 50 years. Surface probe vehicles have quickly been destroyed by the currently harsh temperatures and dense atmosphere. Until now little speculation concerning life on Venus has been put forward. Mars has garnered most attention in that regard.
When research uncovers the possibility of life on another planet, considerable enthusiasm is generated among astro-biologists. When the news leaks out to the public, enthusiasm multiplies exponentially. With respect to possible Venus life, public fervor has been generated by an esoteric discovery. The upper atmosphere of Venus possesses lower temperatures than its surface. It is there that the compound phosphine was detected in quantities that may be a signature of life. Phosphine (chemical formula PH3—one phosphorus, three hydrogen atoms) is a by-product of life processes. The compound is present in the Venus atmosphere at concentrations far above the level that non-biological processes could explain.
Is the presence of past or present life on Venus therefore, proven? No, but these are curious results, perhaps nothing more than “anomalous and unexplained chemistry.” Mars researchers have the same problem as they also attempt to find potential signatures for life on Mars in sedimentary rocks several billions of years old.
Earth was blessed with the initial appearance of life starting about three and one-half billion years ago. It arrived on our planet suddenly—morphologically simple, but biochemically complex. Today’s biologists have no explanation for the mysterious sudden origin of biologically complex life. Theistic scientists such as Dr. Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe, believe the sudden appearance of life approximately 3.5 bya is the signature of a creation event produced by the God of the Bible.
Enthusiastic secular scientists promote the concept that life may have originated spontaneously and naturalistically on billions of planets in our vast universe. So far such enthusiasm and optimism is unwarranted. Dr. Ross’s popular volume The Creator and the Cosmos, fourth edition, (2018, pp. 243-266)) lists 150 separate parameters a planet, its moon, its star, and its galaxy must manifest for life of any kind to exist. If even one of the parameters is absent, life is impossible. This requirement is known as “fine tuning”—precise conditions which must be present for the operational existence of a living physical system.
Dr. Ross has also proposed that primitive microbial life forms could have been transported from Earth’s atmosphere to other planets such as Mars and Venus by asteroids and meteoroids colliding with our planet. Earth material could thereby be deflected to another planet in our Solar System. This is known as interplanetary panspermia. The process was recently described by technology/science reporter Chris Ciaccia: A meteoroid from outer space grazed Earth’s atmosphere in December 2017. The resulting fireball travelled more than 800 miles through the upper atmosphere of southern Australian and then skipped back into space. In earth’s long history the above scenario may have occurred thousands of times. Microbes are known to exist in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
Bio-scientists admit that a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life does NOT exist. Many explanations have been proposed but none can be proven. The processes of life as it exists are majestically and wonderfully complex. People who believe in God recognize the origin of life as a divine miracle. Likewise, life processes are sustained by a divine miracle. Many works of literature and music contain the sentiment that Life Is a Miracle.
Does life presently exist on Venus or Mars or did it exist in the past? It is possible. We are positive that life on Planet Earth is the result of dozens of unique, fine tuned physical conditions. Life on our planet is described by theists as a signature product of the divine Creator. The more we discover about the wonders of life, the more we intuitively sense the reality of the Creator.
Here is a link to the first of four posts from July 2018. We discussed many related questions on life in our vast universe and the human curiosity whether life of any sort exists at any other location than our own home Solar System: