Check out this interview with Michio Kaku on Closer to Truth. Not sure if its new or not, but I just got an email about it today. 10 minutes long and its…its…well, kinda nuts. Civilizations…Type 1, Type 2, Type 3…I mean, really? What precisely is any of this based on? Star Trek? Don’t laugh…it sounds like it might be. And all this talk about migrating to other universes, and sending “seeds” into new universes that will make our DNA part of the fabric of these universes? All of this makes for some very interesting science fiction. Heck, it would make a pretty nifty religion.
Compare this with Joel Achenbach’s rather sober assessment about the newest exoplanet discovered, ‘Proxima b’:
As ever, I will remind people that we have no data about extraterrestrial life. None. It’s all speculation. And we should guard against our natural desire for life to be out there. Life resonates with life. We don’t want to be alone in the universe. I don’t think we are, but that’s just an arm-waving opinion without any evidence to back it up.
But even this Assumption of Mediocrity carries with it a belief — almost a prejudice, or maybe you’d just call it a wish — that life, where it exists, will often evolve to the point where a species will be intelligent, and technological and communicative. That’s several great leaps in succession.
Remember that life on Earth remained single-celled for several billion years. Given enough time, life can become what we define as intelligent — we know this from our sample of one — but there’s no way to calculate how frequently that happens.
And although life seems to be made out of stuff that’s just lying around everywhere, it’s obviously not something that pops up automatically on a planet or moon — because we don’t see that in our own solar system. We don’t know how it originates and don’t really have a solid definition of life.
Also, while we’re on the subject of universes, Jimmy Akin has some good thoughts on the verbiage we use:
What is the multiverse?
From the sound of the word, you might guess that the multiverse is some kind of alternative to the universe, and you’d be right.
The idea is that the physical universe that we see around us might not be all there is to reality. There could be other realms as well. These have been called other universes, parallel universes, and alternate universes.
That’s ironic, since the term universe originally meant “everything that exists.”
If you insist on that meaning, then these realms beyond the physical universe that we see couldn’t be other universes, because the universe would be everything that is. Instead, they would have to be other, unseen parts of the universe.
But this is not the way the language has been developing, and today terms like parallel universe and alternate universe are common in both science and science fiction.
Other even looser expressions (e.g., parallel worlds, alternate realities, other dimensions) are also used to refer to basically the same things: realms other than the visible universe that we see around us. The claim that we live in a multiverse is the claim that there are multiple universes that can be grouped into a single, overall “multiverse.”
Could a multiverse exist?
It depends on how you are using terms. If you use universe in its classical sense, to refer to everything that exists, then, no, there could not be a multiverse. But there could still be many realms other than the part of the overall universe that is visible to us.
But if you avoid quarreling about words (cf. 1 Tim. 6:4, 2 Tim. 2:14) and accept the way the terms are used currently in scientific circles then, yes, there could be a multiverse. God is omnipotent, and if he chooses to create more than one realm of existence, he can do that.
The point is that the word “universe” has two meanings (metaphysical and scientific). Actually the same is true of the word “cosmology.”
One last thought, courtesy of The New Atlantis:
Attempts to defend the night sky on cultural grounds must show how the qualities it embodies are unique to it. It is not enough simply to suggest, as many dark-sky advocates have, that the sky’s cultural value lies in its natural beauty that produces wonder and inspires us. Natural beauty can be found in many other places too — and for that matter, thanks to our space telescopes, we can now in a sense see the sky more clearly than ever before. Nor is it helpful to point to the many beautiful aesthetic creations the night sky has prompted. Perhaps van Gogh, had he lived under today’s light-polluted skies, would not have painted The Starry Night, but the vast majority of works of art about nature do not focus on the night sky, and so its disappearance would not end artistic creativity and appreciation.
If we do not understand more fully how the night sky as seen from the ground through the naked eye embodies beauty uniquely, the cause of preserving it remains vulnerable to economist John Kenneth Galbraith’s quip that “The conservationist is a man who concerns himself with the beauties of nature in roughly inverse proportion to the number of people who can enjoy them.”
The same goes for the concept of infinity that one might point to as an invaluable property of a starry night. (According to astronomer and writer Bob Berman, “an observer needs to see four hundred fifty stars at a time to get that feeling of infinitude, and be swept away.”) While the night sky’s immensity is undeniably impressive, unless we can explain the distinctive nature of the stars’ infinitude — that is, unless we can explain how it differs from, say, the countless grains of sand on the beach, or, for that matter, the vast array of shimmering pixels on the dome of a planetarium — we have not made a convincing case for why the stars should remain visible to us.
Such a case must show that the night sky is not culturally valuable merely as a relic of the past; rather, if it were more visible to us, it would teach us an important lesson even for our present and future, a lesson that perhaps nothing else in nature can teach us quite as well. We will see this more clearly if we recognize that the loss of the night sky was not an incidental consequence of the invention of particular lighting technologies but rather a direct implication of the modern scientific project. The unique importance of the night sky is that it reminds us of the limits of that project.
Unlike the American continent, outer space is practically infinite; there is no endpoint. But we can go only a very short distance before coming up against a barrier not “out there” but in ourselves: death. The fact of our finitude means we will explore only a small sphere of the total sum of space, and not an arbitrary sphere but only the one around our planet Earth. Sending people to Mars and other unvisited points in our own solar system will likely be possible in the next few decades, but traveling even to “nearby” stars would require complicated new technologies and trips lasting decades or centuries. A journey to Andromeda, the nearest neighboring galaxy, would take 2.5 million years at the speed of light. Besides, many of the starry objects themselves have already died long before their light reaches our eyes.
Thus, the inaccessibility of the stars reminds us that we are not and cannot be at home everywhere in the physical universe, that we are bound in time and place to a relatively tiny sphere of influence. Astronomy, arguably the most ancient of the sciences, has always understood what my professor on the first day of an introductory astronomy class called the “Tantalus Principle”: we can look but we cannot touch. The full meaning of light pollution for our understanding of ourselves is that the finitude that defines our own inhabitable sphere comes to light (so to speak) only in our encounter with the contrasting infinite background beyond. Our attempt to extend the light of our bedside lamps throughout our lived world has whited out this background, blinding our eyes to realms of the universe in which mankind has no agency. With the flood of artificial light blotting out the stars, we are, to borrow from Hamlet, “bounded in a nutshell” and counting ourselves “king of infinite space.” Seen in this way, our reliance on artificial light is not a Promethean defiance of our fate but a cowardly refusal to face it.
Quite the contrast with Kaku, no? Perhaps it is better that we wake up and smell our finitude in the face of infinity. As C.S. Lewis once put it, that is a genuinely religious experience.