In October, 2008, after seven years of detailed concept development and planning, NASA will launch the Kepler Mission telescope. Its purpose is described this way: “The scientific objective of the Kepler Mission is to explore the structure and diversity of extrasolar planetary systems.” Elsewhere, on the site, the objective is narrowed further: “The Kepler Mission… is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to detect and characterize hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone. The habitable zone encompasses the distances from a star where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface” (Kepler Mission). The emphasis is upon finding planets in the habitable zone. The search method is designed so that, “If Earth-size planets are common then Kepler should detect hundreds of them”.
Although the NASA site doesn't seem to mention “life” anywhere, it would seem that many other people, both professional and amateur, look upon this mission as not just a planet survey, but a planet hunt designed to find life — and in the eyes of many, intelligent life. Perhaps the world's most famous searcher for “extraterrestrial intelligence”, Seth Shostak of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, views the mission in this light:
The Kepler Mission has a simple objective: find small planets around other stars — worlds like Earth that could possibly spawn life. It promises to be one of the most exciting astronomy projects of the coming decade (“The Kepler Mission”).
As a believer, I'm all for SETI — so long as
one changes the meaning of the acronym to “Search for Extremely Transcendent Intelligence” — God, in other words. Human beings spend untold billions in a vain pursuit of signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Few labors could be more pointless. Even were intelligent life out there, simple practical constraints mean we would never find it. Even if intelligent beings lived next door — in the nearest solar system to ours — the chances of them being able to transmit a signal strong enough to be detectable by our instruments are virtually non-existent. A hydrogen bomb going off probably would not register on our most sensitive instruments. I can't imagine smart aliens deciding to jeopardize life on their own planet just to let us peons down here know they are there.
I just don't get it. Why oh why oh why won't human beings dedicate themselves to probing and understanding the Extremely Transcendent Intelligence of God? He has power not just to titillate the senses but to impart eternal life! If any other planets out there harbored intelligent life, it would be as a result of intelligent creation on the part of the God of the Bible, the Father of Jesus Christ, the God of all mankind, the creator of the universe, the Holy One of Israel. Instead of groping the universe for other creatures, let's pursue knowledge of Him:
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth… so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).
Though the universe is huge beyond understanding, He is not far from each one of us! Unbelievable.