Overheard on CNN.com: Space, science invoke some of life's thorniest questions
An artist's rendering of sunset on Gliese 667 Cc, a previously-discovered super-Earth.
March 29th, 2012
07:18 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Space, science invoke some of life's thorniest questions

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

CNN's Light Years blog always seems to be addressing some of life's biggest, most perplexing and indeed thorniest questions. Our readers often go there to debate grand themes and ponder the meaning of the universe.

1. Are we alone?

Astronomers have estimated that in our galaxy, there are tens of billions of rocky planets not so much bigger than Earth that could be candidates for harboring life.

Astronomers: Billions of 'super-Earths' in habitable zone of red dwarf stars

It follows that many would ask whether there is life on other planets. Readers have varied views on this.

Etheras: "Life as-we-know-it is unlikely to be plentiful. ... If you keep adding-on all the vital elements to the evolution of life as-we-know-it (the only life we can say for sure exists) it becomes increasingly plausible that life (at least 'complex life') in the universe is very rare. Its just a numbers game. So why do scientists constantly talk about life on other planets? Money. They want headlines because headlines means publicity which means grants. They're telling people what those people want to hear, because if they didn't people wouldn't give them money. Now ... I'm not saying life doesn't exist on other planets. I am saying that, its more likely than not, humankind will never find another intelligent civilization, even if we could colonize half the galaxy. Sorry chums, we're alone."

Brandon T: "As an astronomer studying exoplanets, there are still too many unknowns to even consider evaluating the possibility of life on other planets. Viewed statistically, however, it is EXTREMELY unlikely that the only planet known to harbor life would ultimately involve life intelligent enough to ask this question. Therefore, it's likely that there are many planets out there with non-intelligent life, at the very least."

2. Can religion and science coexist?

Stories about research into human origins often give rise to debates over evolution, creation, science and religion.

The discovery of a partial foot fossil in Ethiopia suggests that our human ancestors were possibly an occasional tree-climber and an occasional upright walker.

Scientists discover foot of possible human ancestor

Some of our readers expressed feeling a strong sense of inner conflict.

syz: "Why all three holy books have written that human were created by God? Currently I am in a dilemma. I know evolution is true, that means Bible is false. But if I am Christian, are you telling me not to read the Bible? How can we practice science and read Bible same time? Is that possible? Do I have to be atheist to believe in evolution? Unless the scientists can answer this question, i.e. the question whether God exists or not, the Bible will remain and will prevail among all."

Steffan: "I too have been conflicted with a mesh of science and faith. Basically, time has always been a work in motion. Time as it is now was formalized not too long ago. Who is to say how long a day was back then? See the point? When you take all that into consideration, it's certainly plausible."

Dan: "Do you think God wants us to be able to prove that he exists? I think not –- any idiot (or at least most of us) will believe something that can be proven. It is called belief for a reason? I believe in God, if you require proof, you are in the wrong business; you believe the Bible to be true and yet then cite that as proof that God exists? The Bible contains great truths it is not literal truth, i.e. factual. Science does not require the truths contained in the Bible or in religion in general to be false, just not literally true."

3. What's our place in the universe?

This question may be the most challenging to answer of them all. Several comments in one Light Years/Geek Out! post have referenced this idea.

Citizen scientists shape destiny of humanity

The Allen Telescope Array is a collection of small satellite dishes that can simultaneously pick up signals for radio astronomy research. A woman named Jill Tarter wants to have humans analyze the signals the array sends back in real time, a task that current machines can't do. The more eyes and ears, the better chance of finding evidence of intelligent life.

Our readers from Light Years often talk about the purpose of science and space exploration. What drives us to look up at the stars? Is space travel worth the effort? Here's what two readers had to say.

RMc: "As sure as I am here (pinch), they are out there. If humanity wishes to conquer the stars, we must get off this rock. There will come a day that we harvest planets like we harvest a crop. It's sad to see us fighting over a speck of sand amongst a cosmic sandbox. Just because we are small doesn't mean we have to think small."

iBod: "Very good thought. I wish to see the day we land on Mars. I am only 19, so maybe by then - 10 to 30 years down the line - I'll be sipping a Pina Colada on old Luna watching them. LOL! Thinking in that context, you realize, we are only getting started."

But here's what another reader opined, in explaining why they feel a sense of doubt about SETI's efforts to find intelligent life.

MrHanson: "Exercise: Think of an experiment that would be very expensive, with a very low probability of success that might take decades or centuries, but, if successful, would reveal something interesting. Create a list of selling points on why private foundations or governments should fund your experiment, but be honest: tell them 'You can think of lots of ways that this experiment wouldn’t work.' Practice your spiel with all the emotive power you can muster, and see if you can convince a friend."

Do you have any answers to these questions, or even more questions you want to ask? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com • Religion • Science • Space
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    10. The Bible changes lives

    Prost i tutes have been reformed. Drunkards have become sober. The prideful become humble. The weak become strong, when they read the Bible. I, too, have been transformed. After I started reading the Bible, and believed in what it said about Jesus Christ, an 18 year old girl said to me, "Randy, you're really different. You've changed." Even my 17 year old sister said to me, "Randy, how come you don't fight with me, or do the mean things you used to do anymore?" And in my own church, there are hundreds of testimonies of drug addicts who came clean, violent men who became gentle, alcoholics who became dry, atheists who became believers, troubled marriages that became happy ones, because they read the Bible and what it said about Jesus Christ.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Gadflie

      Pretty much every religion has stories like this to tell. By your "reasoning", this means that they are all true.

      March 31, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • momoya

      Beliefs will have those effects regardless of whether the belief is accurately placed..

      April 3, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick from Philly

      I believe that no one will live to see the resurrection of Jesus Christ because no one returns from the dead and you have until the day that you die to see if I'm wrong. Speaking of death, we all find out if religious belief is right when we die... But, who wants to die!? Until the day that you die, those who believe in the spiritual will continue to do so and those who don't won't...

      April 4, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jkflipflop

      Funny, I read the Bible and all I could think was "what a crock this is".

      To each their own.

      April 6, 2012 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. High Hopes

    When I think about how vast the universe, and how everthing in it is a testiment to God's glory, I realize anything is possible. Besides, it's still expanding. Life and the renewal of life, has no beginning and no end; but it definitely has a purpose... and we are a grand part of that purpose if we come to be one with Him.

    ~Bless Yourselves,
    Hope

    March 30, 2012 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
    • JA

      Good message there. Rock on High Hopes!

      March 30, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  3. High Hopes

    Awe Inspiring:

    Job 38 and 39

    March 30, 2012 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Thanks HH, I am reading as I post. On lunch now and thanks again for the reminder of this scripture.

      March 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. michaelfury

    http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/between-us-and-the-enveloping-darkness/

    March 30, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • michaelfury

      “The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and politics, but it is not the path to knowledge; it has no place in the endeavor of science.”

      – Carl Sagan

      http://michaelfury.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/darkness-visible/

      March 30, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mark L.

    The best thing NASA can do now is send a lunar module off to one of these planets and board Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul on the spacecraft to look for extra-terrestrial life !!!! And just so that these clowns don't get too lonely, may as well include Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin to keep them satisfied...LMAO !!!!

    March 30, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. athinkingliberal

    Religious or not;

    The universe is still a fascinating.

    http://progressiveprogression.blogspot.com

    March 30, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DShadowind

    listen i think its great that you and millions of others have found something to put your personal faith into. if thats what it takes to get you through your day and it works for you then by all means do that. all im saying is you dont have to impose your faith on everyone. everyone has something and what works for you may not for someone else.
    for all anyone knows there may be a God and he/she/it may have created life all over the universe for the same purpose that of which no one can truely know. but that doesnt change the fact that we as a species continue to search for whats out there and some still search for what we still havent discovered here on our planet. no one can say for a fact there is not life on other planets just like no one can say theres not a God. we dont have the facts to prove either case. science finds reasons there could be life elsewhere, i for one hope there is but at the same time if God or evolution only set the universe up for us then if nothing else we will have new places to expand.
    in either case this was a topic of scientific discovery to offer more information about the universe. so allow those that want to discuss this topic to do so.

    March 30, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. banasy©

    What is up with the newest trend of besterdizing someone's username?
    What a dismissive and demeaning habit to suddently acquire.

    March 30, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat) ©

      @ banasy

      I think in some kind of perverted way these hijackers may feel they can cause hard feelings amongst friends here.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      @bc(iah):
      well, it doesn't work...and it just makes the hijackers doing it look very immature and silly.

      March 30, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pimply-faced Pete

    I wonder if there are lots of TV channels on other planets.
    I like watching TV.

    April 1, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Report abuse |
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