By Rabbi Allen S. Maller
During Medieval times almost all Christian theologians accepted the Ptolemaic earth centered Greek view of the universe as an absolute universal truth. The Catholic Inquisition punished those who dared to voice other ideas.
I do not know why Catholic theologians believed that the rarity of life in our universe proves that God must have created life only on this planet. Perhaps they believed that if intelligent life were found to exist on other planets; it would diminish the miracle of God’s creation of Human Beings.
For me the opposite is true. That God’s universal creation is filled with life is simply the result of God’s love of living beings.
The Qur’an and the Hebrew Bible teach that the Living God created the whole universe to be conducive to the universal evolution of life. The Qur’an says, “We have not sent you but as a blessing for all the worlds.” (Al-Anbiya 107) Many commentators say “this refers to the 18.000 worlds created by Allah. Our world is one of them”. (Mir’at-e-Kainat, vol.1, p.77).
The Hebrew Bible says in the Zabur of Prophet David, King of Israel; “ Your kingdom is a kingdom of all the worlds; and Your dominion is for all generations.” (Psalms 145:13)
In January 2013, astronomers estimated that there could be at least 17 billion Earth-sized exoplanets in just our galaxy; the Milky Way. They also said that one in six stars could host an Earth-sized planet in a close orbit.
Now, two years later, proof that God’s Universe is filled with life is coming closer. NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered a star with three planets only slightly larger than Earth. The outermost planet, which is 50% larger than planet earth, orbits in the zone where surface temperatures could be moderate enough for liquid water and perhaps life to exist.
The star ranks among the top 10 nearest stars known to have transiting planets. The star is close enough for astronomers to study the planet’s atmospheres to determine if it has oxygen could possibly be conducive to multicellular life forms.
The star is a cool red M-dwarf about half the size and mass of our own sun. At a distance of 150 light years, the star ranks among the top 10 nearest stars known to have transiting planets. The star’s proximity means it’s bright enough for astronomers to study the planets’ atmospheres to determine whether they are like Earth’s atmosphere and possibly conducive to life.
For those who believe in the One God of all the inhabitable worlds, these two new scientific studies are not shocking. For unlike the Roman inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo, no Muslim or Jewish astronomer was ever condemned by a Muslim or Jewish inquisition, because Jews and Muslims never had an institution like the inquisition.
Also, because both Muslims and Jews had many philosophers who were critics of Aristotle’s and Ptolemy’s science, most medieval Jewish and Muslim religious leaders did not feel they had to prevent new science from disagreeing with Greek science.
Thus, even as new discoveries always change the scientific understanding of God’s universe; the religious belief that the whole universe exalts God and reveals God’s glory remains the same.
As it is written in the Zabur of Prophet David, King of Israel; “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Zabur of David-Psalm 19:2)
Rabbi Maller’s web site is: rabbimaller.com