The Titius-Bode law — a Sign of Extreme Transcendent Intelligence (SETI)?
For a while in 1967, frenzied excitement swept through the ranks of those who search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Professor Antony Hewish and his team at Cambridge University used their new radio telescope to look for signals from quasars. When graduate student Jocelyn Bell was analyzing the data from one event, she noticed something interesting — an unusual pulse that she likened to a ticking clock. Further investigation months later turned up a clear series of rapid pulses, each about 1/3 of a second long, all equal in strength, and with equal spacing of around a second. Hewish and Bell decided that just possibly the pattern of signal might have been created by intelligent beings, and dubbed the source of the signal LGM-1 — short for Little Green Men. When they published their findings it caused an uproar. Many more LGMs were quickly found, and many people were fully convinced we had found the evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. Hope rapidly turned into disappointment for ET lovers when it was found the signal was produced by rapidly spinning neutron stars.
Untold millions of dollars are spent every year in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Many more millions are spent in the search for signs of any life at all out there, no matter how dumb. Study of sites such as www.seti.org quickly shows that many projects are currently underway. In their zeal to find evidence of intelligent civilizations, you can be sure that even the faintest hints of the existence of brainy aliens will evoke a storm of excitement. Of course, such evidence will never come, but hope remains high.
Why is it that we will jump at the slightest, barest token of life out there but deride any suggestions that evidence of extremely transcendent intelligence can be found “out there”? Of course, to those who believe in creation, every last vestige of this created order speaks of intelligent design. However, that's not what I'm focusing on here. I recently became aware of a rather bizarre fact of astronomy that hints far more powerfully at the presence of intelligence in creation than pulsing radio signals could ever hint at alien civilizations. It shows up the double standards of many skeptics who pounce on the tiniest scrap of evidence for the existence of aliens while turning a blind eye to the endless evidence of divine sovereignty.
I'm talking about the Titius-Bode law. Back in 1766, a German astronomer, Johann Titius, discovered a rather remarkable mathematical formula that “determines” where planets can be found in terms of distance from the sun.
In other words, planets don't seem to be “able” to plop themselves at just any distance from the sun and expect to successfully revolve. They are only found at certain discrete distances from the sun, the interval of distance between succeeding planets increasing as you go further out into the solar system, each interval being double the preceding one. Putting it differently, we can say that “orbits of planets in the solar system follow a simple arithmetic rule quite closely” (Titius-Bode Law: Fibonacci numbers and the Pascal Triangle). The mathematical formula was confirmed by the discovery of Uranus in 1781 exactly where the formula predicted. Strengthened by this discovery, many astronomers went searching for a planet in the gap between Mars and Jupiter where the formula predicted something should be found but where nothing could be seen. In 1801 a tiny “planet” was found, and soon many more in the same orbital zone. The asteroid belt had been discovered.
What's the big deal? Just this: absolutely no mechanical explanation has been found to explain why this law should be. (Interestingly, the “law” is not absolutely precise, like a genuine scientific “law” would normally be. But it's close enough to have been dubbed a law.) Writing in 1992, Cesare Emilian said this: “The mere existence of the Titius-Bode law, a numerical relationship for which we have no explanation, indicates that planetary distances are not random” (Planet Earth, p. 131). Most astronomers naturally believe the relationship flows from forces governing the formation of planets from a rapidly spinning parent body. However, as they admit, “It's not clear if the law has any physical significance, as computer simulations of planet formation do not, in general, produce solar systems with a Titius-Bode-type law” (Wolfram Research).
Two things should be obvious. First, the formula cannot be coincidental. Second, since we are not dealing with the incredibly complicated mathematics of nuclear physics but with the relatively simple mathematics of mechanics — the branch dealing with the forces acting on large physical bodies — we can be fairly confident that no natural explanation has been found because, in this instance, no natural explanation exists. We don't have to fear that “God-of-the-gaps” will come back to bite us. After all, mechanics has been studied for many years, and untold numbers of analyses have been performed on all possible versions of solar system evolution. Why won't searchers for extraterrestrial intelligence acknowledge that such phenomena in creation loudly proclaim the existence of staggering extraterrestrial intelligence known to believers as “God”?