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"I Think We're Alone Now"

Last night my wife and I saw 10 Cloverfield Lane, a very tense, effective, and scary thriller. To say more about its precise genre would be a spoiler. I mention it because there's one of many great moments in the film when John Goodman as a bunker-dwelling survivalist plays a 1967 hit on the jukebox in his cellar, "I Think We're Alone Now," by Tommy James and the Shondells. It's prominent in the trailer too, and in the context of the movie the song resonates several different ways.

That could be, as well, the theme of new research indicating, as John Stonestreet points out in a new BreakPoint commentary, that "Increasingly, it looks as if we are alone in the universe." We've noted this already at Evolution News but Stonestreet frames it his own way, smartly and with a nod to Isaiah at the end:

As one astrophysicist argues in a forthcoming paper, the old estimates vastly inflated the number of potential alien civilizations. Eric Zackrisson at Sweden's Uppsala University suggests that modern research points not to a galaxy "throbbing and humming" with life, but to one in which Earth-like planets are exceedingly rare.

It turns out that Drake's equation failed to take into account factors that we now know to be essential to life. For example, scientists once believed that planets orbiting a certain distance from their host stars in the so-called "Goldilocks zone" were prime real estate for creatures like us.

But not anymore. It turns out that the size and chemical composition of the host stars matters just as much as planetary orbits. And according to Zackrisson, most planets in the universe likely orbit stars that bear little resemblance to our sun. These stars are either much bigger, much smaller, or just made of the wrong stuff.

And in light of the fruitless fifty-year search for extraterrestrial radio signals, predictions of a sky buzzing with activity are sounding less like science and more like science fiction. Increasingly, it looks as if we are alone in the universe.

And just how alone? Zackrisson estimates that given all the factors that make Earth what it is, our planet may be one in 700 quintillion to host intelligent life. That's one out of seven followed by twenty zeros, or the estimated number of planets in the entire universe.

Nathaniel Scharping at Discover Magazine writes with a straight face that Earth appears to have been dealt "a fairly lucky hand." He makes up for this understatement later, concluding that, "from a purely statistical standpoint, Earth perhaps shouldn't exist."

And yet, here we are.

Intelligent Design theorists have long pointed out how improbably unique our little blue planet is. And findings like this only deepen the problem for materialists. Because if thinking creatures emerged here and nowhere else, it makes us look less like accidents and more like -- dare I say it -- miracles.

Being alone in the universe resonates very differently depending on how you answer certain other ultimate questions. For materialists it's a source of fearful consternation, verging on refutation. Hence the need for recourse to fables of a multiverse.

For others, open to evidence of purpose and design in the cosmos, our solitude is not required. Life could indeed be intelligently designed, yet still common across the stars. But earth as a privileged planet and humankind as a privileged species fit together well with other lines of inference -- pointing to the conclusion that the universe, far being the result of a grand mishap, was tailored for us.