The Universe continues to blow my mind, as previous posts have often indicated. The more I discover – what I’ve learned is a tiny amount of knowledge coupled with an immense awe – the more I feel that “God” has nothing to do with it. The distances involved, the implications of those distances for space travel and communication, and especially the phenomenon of an expanding Universe leave, in my mind, no room at all for believing in the God humans have invented.
Let’s begin with contemporary projects to colonize Mars. Elon Musk is investing 300 million dollars to send, in the very near future, 2018 (!), a space-probe to the red planet, which is in our backyard – only eight months’ space travel away. It may seem out of this world – and it is – but such a voyage is do-able, whether or not Musk manages to keep to his schedule. Just seven years after the space-probe, he intends to send a manned spaceship to initiate human colonization of the planet, involving multiple eight-month, one-way (!) trips, with the objective of sending every two years as many as one hundred people to Mars, estimating that within one hundred years, the inhabitants of the first Martian city will number one million !
Musk and his rival, Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, whose project involves creating space-stations in orbit around the Earth to delocalize heavy industry and to provide the energy we need, are dismissed by many as dreamers. But they both mean business, and are putting their money where their mouth is. Is the utopia they believe in an Impossible Dream, or a reality many young people today may see realized in their lifetime ?
Getting any further than Mars does seem to be, however, truly an impossible dream (never say “never” ?). We are too far from other planets within our solar system to imagine being capable of a journey to say, Titan, one of the moons of Saturn, the only moon in the solar system to possess an atmosphere like that of primitive Earth. The average distance of Mars from Earth is a mere 225 million kilometers. Titan is 1.5 BILLION kilometers away, more than six times as far.
When it comes to speculating on traveling outside the solar system to the nearest exoplanet, we clearly need to come down to Earth. Alpha Centauri A and B, along with Proxima Centauri (Alpha Centauri C) constitute a star system which, at 4.22 light-years, is the closest to our Sun. That means it is 270,000 times further away from us than the Sun; it takes only eight minutes for light to arrive on Earth, not four years ! But while we’re at it, let’s look even further into the Cosmos and consider the youngest known galaxy, I Zwicky 18, discovered only in 2004.
Zwicky is a dwarf galaxy. Compared with the HUNDREDS of billions (!) of Suns in our galaxy, it has (only !) several TENS of billions of Suns. The other galaxies were formed just one billion years after the Big Bang, that is to say 13 billion years ago. Zwicky is a youngster by comparison; it is only ONE billion years old, and is still in formation. More to the point, it is 60 million LIGHT-YEARS away from us. Not only is that a bit too far for a star trek, but even sending a radio message to it would take 60 million years for it to get there, and, if there were anyone there ready and willing and capable of replying, another 60 million years to get an answer. “Hi ! We got your message. Sorry it took us so long to get back to you.”
But the main reason I consider it unthinkable that there is a “God” behind all this is that we know that the Universe is E-X-P-A-N-D-I-N-G – mindlessly, madly and more and more quickly. There is just no “room” – metaphorically speaking – for God in what looks decidedly like an infinite, purpose-less Universe.
Victor Hugo famously suggested that even Science will never discover the truth in its entirety : “Science is asymtotical with the truth. It approaches it incessantly without ever touching it.” If this is true of Science, what hope does Theology have ?