“Miracles, in the sense of phenomena we cannot explain, surround us on every hand,” George Bernard Shaw once observed; “life itself is the miracle of miracles.” While that sentiment might have once been left to the realm of poets and philosophers, it is today increasingly the conviction of accomplished scientists, astrophysicists, and mathematicians.
Consider the proposition that life as we know it may exist on other planets in other solar systems, in other galaxies, and even in other universes. Billions of dollars have been spent on orbiting telescopes to look for it, such as the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 and the James Webb Space Telescope in 2022. Best-selling author Eric Metaxas, in his remarkable book, Miracles, said that in the 1960s cosmologist Carl Sagan believed there were only two fundamental prerequisites for life to exist on distant planets. In the intervening years, a significant change has occurred in the scientific community regarding the probability of life on other planets. “The number of variables necessary for life on a planet has exploded,” Metaxas explains, “while the number of possible planets that could conceivably support life has withered. The number shrank all the way down to ‘zero’ years ago, and as the number of variables necessary to support life have continued to grow, the number of planets that could support life have shrunk further and further below zero.” He thus concludes, “Our existence is a statistical and scientific virtual impossibility.”
The author goes on to list fascinating prerequisites necessary for life to exist on Earth, many we may never have considered. Take, for example, the exact size of the Earth itself. If our planet were smaller, say the size of our moon, then water vapor could not stay on its surface; it would float heavenward, never to return. Say goodbye to the splash pad in your backyard, parasailing in Cancun during spring break, and the need for reporters to stand in blue rain jackets tilting against the wind during a Florida hurricane.
Or as Metaxas notes, consider the rotation of the Earth. It turns on its axis every 24 hours. If it turned any slower, the temperature swings between night and day would become exceedingly perilous. Yet if it turned any faster, winds could reach up to 1,000 miles per hour.
What about our moon? It is the perfect shape, size, density, and distance from Earth to produce the stable environment that is important for life to thrive. If it were not, the difference in the rotational axis of the Earth would eventually make life impossible.