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.

Post by:
Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com • Religion • Science • Space
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Philip

    @Lee...Interesting. (children not knowing what their father put there until the night before) Good thing believers saw Jesus put there 2,000 years ago then, huh. That wouldda sucked if he sprung it on us.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Philip

    @Lee...it is I China. China raypes Africa just like we do. Not for oil though, for minerals. I forget the name of one mineral China gets from Africa, but I do recall without it cellphones don't happen. You may have referred to it above.And then there is Wal-Mart, Lee. Try weaning the baby of that teet.

    March 29, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • leeintulsa

      yep, 2 different puzzles. i'm talking about mining in space.. near space.. the moon, asteroids, etc.. where there are no indigenous people to suffer..

      branson will probably do it before we get a balanced budget, then he'll control everything

      March 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. 18 Candles

    Whatta a bunch of crapola!

    March 29, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. 18 Candles

    What about that th orny question of Jonathan and David? Anyone? Anyone?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  5. @Riddle me Dis

    Where ya been bub? The "goddies" took-over when the freaking Mayflower landed. Your freaking US President is a "goddie". YOUR Congress prays to your "goddie" before each and every single session. Your "goddies" rule this entire nation, and yer flippin' over someone mentioning God here. Really?

    March 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    1. The Bible claims it's true

    Although this in itself does not prove that the Bible is true, we could immediately doubt the truth of the Bible if it never made this claim. The fact is that the Bible claims that it is written by God and thus keeps open the possibility that it is true:
    All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16)

    Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

    March 30, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    ...having trouble getting past the mode er ate ers. Nice seeing you again Raven. Lee. gn

    March 30, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    2. Jesus claims it's true

    Even if you think Jesus is just a great teacher, that fact that a great teacher makes such a claim about the Bible must count as evidence for the Bible's truth. Jesus claimed that "Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35), "until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished" (Matthew 5:18), and "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken..." (Luke 24:25-27). Jesus also used the Bible as a weapon against Satan in Matthew chap. 4. And He kept appealing to the Bible as if it had authority, by saying "it is written" seventy times.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    3. The Bible is a morally and ethically superior piece of literature

    My college English professor (a non-Christian) at the University of California, Berkeley, encouraged us to read the book of Ecclesiastes, claiming that it was a remarkable piece of literature. The Bible's superiority has often been acknowledged even by unbelievers and is denied by few who have actually read and studied its pages.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    4. The Bible has the power to affect us

    When some people read the Bible, they claim to "meet God." In the 1500's, one man, Martin Luther, the great father of Protestant churches said, "My conscience has been taken captive by the Word of God." I too have been "taken captive" by the Bible. I didn't fully believe that the Bible was true until one evening, when I was 19, I started reading the Bible, beginning in the books of John and Matthew. Beginning with the first evening, the Bible so captivated me that I couldn't put it down. I started to read it ten minutes a day, then 15, then 20, then 30 minutes a day. I was so moved by what I read that I committed my life to Jesus Christ.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  11. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    5. The Bible has extraordinary unity

    The Bible is composed of 66 parts, or books, written over a period of approximately 1,500 years (from about 1450 BC to about 90 AD) by over 40 different people. These writers were all different from each other. Some were rich, some poor, some young, some old. Some were priests, some prophets, one was a tax collector (Matthew), one was a doctor (Luke), a tentmaker (Paul), and a fisherman (Peter). Yet they all wrote about the same man who claimed to be God – Jesus Christ. On the surface, there might seem to be disagreement between the writers, but if you study deeper, you will find that they all agree about Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the end times, salvation, heaven, hell, etc.

    Not all collections of religious writings can claim this feature. The Koran was entirely written through the revelations of one man, Mohummad. The Book of Mormon was entirely written through one man, Joseph Smith.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    6. The Bible is historically accurate

    Luke, a Bible writer, is one example. His details about Roman officials such as "Sergio Paulus of Cyprus," "Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia," "Herod the Great," "Pontius Pilate," and "King Agrippa,"are all confirmed by ancient Roman historical records and archeology. Even unbelieving scholars agree that King David, King Solomon, the Philistines, and countless other persons mentioned in the Bible were real people, and that such cities as Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica were real places. The ancient Ebla Tablets, a collection of 17,000 tablets discovered since 1968 and written around 2,500 B.C. mention the biblical cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar, found in Genesis 14. The Mari Tablets, 25,000 tablets written in 1,900 B.C., mention the names of Abraham, Jacob, Nahor, Dan, Levi, Benjamin, and Ishmael, found in the book of Genesis. Also a Canaanite bronze calf was discovered a couple of years ago and reported in Time magazine, confirming the Bible's account that pagan nations worshipped calves.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    7. Bible prophecies are fulfilled

    Jesus Christ, for example, fulfilled numerous prophecies. Read Isaiah 53 (the entire chapter), Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:25-27, and Jeremiah 23:5-6, and Psalm 16:8-11. In these few Old Testament prophecies, made several hundred years before Christ, we are told the exact time of Jesus' coming, the exact place of His birth, the family of which He would be born, the condition of His family at the time of His birth, how He would be received by people, the method and details of His death, how He would be buried, and His resurrection. These predictions were all fulfilled with great precision in Jesus Christ.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    8. The Bible has been extraordinarily preserved

    The Bible is very old. Its oldest book is almost 3,500 years old. Yet, somehow, more than any other ancient writing, the Bible doesn't seem to change over time, even over thousands of years. For example, ancient scrolls of parts of the Bible (e.g. book of Isaiah, Psalms) written around 100 B.C. were found in the 1940's near the Dead Sea in the Middle East. When compared to the next most ancient biblical scrolls, the Masoretic Texts, written around 900 A.D., there are virtually no significant differences!

    As for the New Testament, there are about 25,000 ancient manuscripts (i.e. copies), dating as early as 120 A.D., or in other words, just 30 years after the last book of the New Testament was written. Compare this to Homer's Iliad, of classical Greek literature (which you might have studied in junior high), of which there are only 643 ancient manuscripts, dating only as early as 500 years after its writing. There are only 193 manuscripts of the works of Sophocles, 49 of Aristotle, and only 7 of Plato's Tetralogies, dating as much as early as 1,200 years after its writing. In short, the Bible is perhaps the most well-preserved book in the world.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ten Reasons Why the Bible is True

    9. The Bible writers endured great persecution for what they saw

    They were eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection or His existence and held to their story even under great persecution. If the events in the Bible were false, no writer in his right mind would endure such torture for a lie. Matthew was slain with a sword in Ethiopia. Mark died by being dragged through the streets of Alexandria. Luke was hanged on an olive tree. John was banished to prison in Patmos. Peter was crucified upside down. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Paul was beheaded at Rome by Emperor Nero.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4