Are we the only intelligent life in the vast universe we live in? Are UFOs or UAPs evidence of extraterrestrial life? Can we know whether anyone is out there?
Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe?
This is a question people have asked, thought about and speculated on throughout the history of mankind. There are those who have concluded we are not alone, while others have concluded we are the only intelligent life in the universe.
Humanity’s fascination with the heavenly bodies and what is beyond them may go back to the beginning of human history. The Mesopotamians in the second millennium B.C. are credited as the first civilization to interpret the movement of celestial bodies as omens. However, it is very likely the Egyptians and other groups of people were looking to the heavens even earlier.
It is not a stretch of one’s imagination to believe that some of these ancient people, as they gazed at the stars, wondered if anyone was out there.
History of our interest in extraterrestrial life
The earliest known recorded thoughts about extraterrestrial life were provided by the Greek philosopher Metrodorus of Chios (400 B.C.) and the Roman philosopher Lucretius (50 B.C.). Both believed it was unnatural to have only one inhabited world in the infinite universe, since nothing they observed in the world around them was unique.
In the 17th century Jordano Bruno and Christian Huygens argued that life existed on other planets because God would not leave the infinite number of solar systems, with an infinite number of planets, “deprived of living creatures.”
Aliens in science fiction
Humanity’s musings about extraterrestrial life, science and technology have developed into the genre of science fiction.
Science fiction stories, books, movies and television shows have fueled our imaginations and have shaped our view of what extraterrestrial life may look like and how aliens may act toward us or we toward them.
Extraterrestrial life has been portrayed as little green men with wide eyes and short featureless bodies or as an array of reptilian-looking species. Others imagine species with human forms, but with differing anatomies and physiologies. Some science fiction depicts life-forms that have achieved their highest potential, far beyond our human capabilities.
These descriptions of intelligent life in the universe are based on the assumption that life formed by evolution on earth and on other worlds.
In most science fiction works, the intelligent life-forms tend to be belligerent and not peaceful, which precipitates a battle for human survival. Think of the panic that was caused in 1938 in the United States when Orson Welles broadcast a radio version of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
These portrayals give us a sense of distrust toward these beings—if extraterrestrial life really existed and were capable of reaching earth.
Sightings of UFOs or UAPs
The sightings of unidentified flying objects (UFOs)—or, as the U.S. military now calls them, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs)—seem to have increased over the years. This has added to the mystique surrounding the question of the existence of extraterrestrial life.
In fact, there are now many who believe that humanity was deposited on this earth by extraterrestrial life. One book that expounds this theory is Chariots of the Gods. Some also propose that many wonders of the world, such as the pyramids and the sphinxes in Egypt, were built by these extraterrestrials.
The search for extraterrestrial life
In our quest to know if anyone is out there, scientists began to search for extraterrestrial life.
So far, our search for extraterrestrial intelligence has come up empty. Additionally, many astronomers are skeptical of the claims that UFOs or UAPs are spacecraft from planets in other solar systems.The first to present a scientific proposal for communicating with extraterrestrial life was Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1830. He wanted to plant a gigantic forest in the shape of a right triangle that could be spotted by intelligent life with powerful telescopes on other worlds. Gauss thought that by showing our familiarity with the Pythagorean theorem, extraterrestrial life would recognize intelligence on earth.
During the infancy of space exploration in the late 1950s, Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison published a paper in Nature, proposing that the search for extraterrestrial life should be conducted by detecting radio waves from other interstellar civilizations.
Answering the call to action in the Cocconi and Morrison paper, Frank Drake in 1960 began the search for extraterrestrial technological civilizations, which eventually became the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project, by analyzing radio signals from outer space.
From its inception to the present day, SETI has not detected any radio signals from outer space that have been determined to be generated by a technological civilization.
For the past 100 years, we have been sending human-generated radio waves into space, so by now these could have reached the 75 stars closest to the earth.
There has been no response from any of these solar systems.
Some astronomers still have hope that extraterrestrial life will be found on some exoplanet. This hope was bolstered by the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in December 2021.
The Webb telescope, with its infrared capabilities, has already detected distant galaxies that have never been seen before. It has found the presence of carbon dioxide and water vapor on some exoplanets. The Webb telescope also has the ability to detect artificial light. The presence of artificial light on an exoplanet would indicate the presence of extraterrestrial life.
The science of space travel
So far, our search for extraterrestrial intelligence has come up empty.
Additionally, many astronomers are skeptical of the claims that UFOs or UAPs are spacecraft from planets in other solar systems.
Calculations show that using the fastest spacecraft we have built so far, it would take 80,000 years to reach the nearest star.
Some propose that a more technologically advanced civilization might have made a perfect propulsion system (100 percent efficient) and be able to travel at 70 percent the speed of light. However, the energy cost of a round-trip journey in such a craft would be “equivalent to several hundred thousand years’ worth of total U.S. electrical energy consumption” (Astronomy 2e, OpenStax.org). The expanse of space and long travel times would make space travel prohibitive.
The scientific evidence, at this time, seems to support the conclusion that there is no intelligent extraterrestrial life and humans are alone in this universe.
But there is evidence of superintelligence
But we are not alone in this vast universe. There is a source that claims intelligent life exists beyond the earth.
The best-selling book of all time, the Holy Bible, tells us of this intelligent life that exists in a spirit world outside of our physical universe. This world is made up of God the Father, who rules over the vast universe, and Jesus Christ His Son, who sits at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1; Luke 22:69). It includes a host of angelic beings that serve God, Christ and humanity (Hebrews 1:7). It also includes Satan the devil and the angels that followed him when he rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:13-15; Revelation 12:9).
We are told in Genesis 1:1 that God created the heavens and the earth. From verse 3 to the end of Genesis 1, the chapter describes God’s formation of a functioning ecological system to support His crowning achievement—the creation of human life made in His image and likeness (verse 26). (To explore the evidence that God exists and that the Bible is His revelation to us, see Does God Exist? and Is the Bible True?)
The next question that needs to be asked is, Why did God create human beings?
God’s purpose for humanity
The Bible says God created humanity for a purpose.
To achieve that purpose, God made a planet that was the perfect distance from an energy-giving source—the sun. He established an environment that is conducive to the survival of the human species, allowing us to populate the earth.
Why? So He could fulfill His purpose of building a spiritual family of the God kind (Hebrews 2:10).
We were given, by God, a physical life and intelligence so we could develop God’s holy, righteous character during our lifetime and then, through a resurrection, become spiritual beings with eternal life in God’s family (1 Corinthians 15:42-54).
What a fantastic future God has given humanity!
Where is God’s focus now?
Yes, God maintains the universe, but His focus is on earth, where He is in the process of creating a spiritual family.
Could He be doing the same on other planets in the universe?
He has not indicated that in the Bible. His focus on humanity and His incredible sacrifice of His Son point to humanity having a unique place in the universe.
Romans 8:20-22 tells us that the whole creation “groans and labors with birth pangs” in anticipation of humanity’s change from physical beings to spiritual beings.
Earth seems to be the focal point for God’s plan to reproduce Himself and then to continue to increase His government and peace forever.
The first part of Isaiah 9:7 says, “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.” Does God have plans for the universe He has created? Isaiah seems to suggest that He does.
What does the future have in store for us?
From the Bible, we know that all human beings who repent, are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (allowing them to develop the character of God—holy, righteous character) will become members of God’s family. When all are brought into the family of God, the Father will descend to a new earth with the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1-3).
It will be a time when there will be no more crying, sorrow, suffering or death (verse 4).
Beyond this, the Bible does not give details about what will happen. There is a vast universe that God created for a purpose, and the Bible says there will be a new heaven. What He has in mind for this expanse only He knows at this time.
Instead of focusing on whether extraterrestrial life exists, shouldn’t our focus be on fulfilling God’s purpose for us, developing the character of God and becoming members of God’s family?
Study more in our article “Why Were You Born?”