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. Greek American

    Ahhh now there's the hamsta I know! Welcome back! And I was born here, parents in Greece, but they are citizens.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. centexan©

    Geez..i feel left out....i never get trolled

    March 29, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • hamsta

      No this is just anotha one of your names

      March 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Greek American

    Don't feel so bad, there's still time for you, haha. Your name appears blue on my phone with a copyright symbol and underline, so that might make it more difficult for a trolling.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. centexan©

    @greek...yes, i'll probably regret that comment...DOH!

    March 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy©


    March 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • centexan©

      Hi banasy!! I haven't been on here in while and I've missed it.

      March 29, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Greek American

    Was that last hamsta post someone trolling him again? Hahahaha, they used the word "anotha." I'm confused. See what trolling does? Not good.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Is there really a God who cares?

    C'mon. Most of us would rather win the lottery than to see this question completely demonstrated. (and @Raven. 'Religion' is whatever way you choose to worship God. The word literally means 'form of worship'. Faith? Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for. The evident demostration of realities though not beheld...anything but "blind")

    March 29, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. leeintulsa

    @bobcat: in october, 2010, china banned the export of rare earth metals, such as neodymium, dysprosium, terbium, and europium to list a few. these elements are necessary in most of our key military technologies.. not to mention everything from ipads to hybrid cars. the hellfire missile requires chinese components, as do a host of functions in satellites, avionics, night vision equipment, and precision-guided munitions. the m1a2 abrams, the aegis spy-1 radar, the ddg-51 hybrid electric drive ship, all need chinese components because we haven't the elements to make them here, and can't get them.

    china controls 90-95 percent of worldwide supply. an estimated 25 percent of all new technologies rely on rare earth elements. this is why iphones are made in china. china's happy to export the finished product, not so much the materials to make them here.

    it's not as distant as you might think. we already have, or had, robots in space on the shuttles. it wouldn't be that hard to fit them or something like them with mining apparatus. there may be 'ree' on the moon.. we need to diversify our supply.

    my source on china and rare earth elements is http://www.businessinsider.com.

    our rare earth mining industry died over 10 years ago, beat out by china. chevron/molycorp and rare earth resources are looking here in the us, and others are looking in australia, canada, and greenland, but it could be 15 to 20 years before they are able to produce anything meaningful.

    why limit ourselves to china's whim?

    March 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      lol. wow. i can't believe the knights of nee didn't find something not to like there. about half way through, i thought i was probably wasting my time

      March 29, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Monty Python


      March 29, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat) ©

      @ leeintulsa

      I do essentially agree with what you are saying. The only point I'm trying to make is that the technology for us to do these things in space is generations away, so actually there is nothing we can do about it at this time. We have far more pressing issues here on our own planet that must be addressed first.
      Besides, I feel, in order for us to conquer space, it is going to take a international effort. Again, at this time, that is not possible. If and when the world ever is able to acheive a true peace, then and only then will we be able to look outward.

      March 30, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  9. Is the bible really the word of God?

    Nope. The prophecies of... increased wars, earthquakes, food shortages, pestilences, increased lawlessness, love cooling off, "men becoming faint out of fear in expectation of things coming upon the inhabited earth", people hating true Christians, EVERYONE on earth being told the "good news" of Jesus Christ as these things occur, men marrying, etc etc etc (some 200 prophecies fulfilled)...were all "lucky" guesses.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Riddle Me This

      Explain Jonathan and David.

      And no, the bible isn't the word of god.

      March 29, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      lucky.. inevitable.. whatever you want to call it..

      a friend will lose his friend's hammer, and children will not know where lieth the things put there by their father only just the night before..

      March 29, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. @Lee

    Ask yourself where China gets those precious metals. (hint: same as where we get much of our oil)

    March 29, 2012 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. raven

    I know what faith is. I know what religion is. Thats why I don't lump them into the same category. I don't think any one religion is more "holy" than another. I think one can be faithful without being religious. I stand by what I said. Demonstrating how religious one is, does not make one faithful. It just makes one demonstrative.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • ♔Mmmmm♕

      you have a the certainty of an agnostic...

      March 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. @Lee

    ...and then ask yourself where China get's much of her oil. (China produces 53% of their own energy, mostly coal. Oil and Ng imported from Iran and Russia account for part of the rest, understandably. But what's not understood is how much oil China buys from the HWBush-Bin Laden Group, foundation families of The Carlyle Group. How much of this Ng flows to the giant ENRON powerplant built in India with bilked billions? Did George W. ever pay-back the 5 million bucks he borrowed from his best friend Salim Bin Laden as a young man? C'mon. There are tougher jig-saw puzzles than this.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      @whoeveryouare: it seems we're talking about two different puzzles.. it doesn't matter where or how the chinese have locked up the market.. the fact is they have, and we need to find our own supplies..

      March 29, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Riddle Me This

    Once again the goddies have taken over. Ruin every blog. Does god care? hell no, lmfao!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ♔Mmmmm♕

    science is not god and neither is it a absolute measurement of reality further it speaks with certainty of things that is at best highly speculative and without basis...

    March 29, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Riddle Me This

      similar to the bible in that it has no basis to reality either...

      March 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Philip

    Ok, Raven. But not all religion/form of worship is directed towords God. Some worship money, for example. (aka the love of money being an injurious thing, especially viewed along with a true love of neighbor being a distinct possibility) Others worship idols like MJ or a piece of wood fashioned to resemble Mary. There are even some people who worship animals, even caring for them more than their own. Religion is a many splintered thing, whereas love is a many slendored thing. (good to see you again)

    March 29, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
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