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Is Life on Other Planets Part of God’s Plan?

SKA dishes by night

An artist's impression of the radio dishes that would make up the Square Kilometer Array, planned to be the world's biggest and most sensitive telescope and part of the quest for exterrestrial life..SPDO/TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

The Bible says God created Adam and Eve -- but what about E.T.?

While rocket-science researchers at the 100 Year Starship Symposium pondered interstellar travel on a whole new class of spaceship over the weekend, theologians debated an equally paradigm-shifting concept: reconciling the Bible with life elsewhere in the universe. Simply put, if life is discovered on other planets, can we still say that mankind is unique -- made in the image of God?

"The discovery of intelligent life from other planets would be a challenge to the Christian worldview," admitted Dr. Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist with the Creation Museum's research arm, Answers in Genesis

His museum, located in Petersburg, Ky., is based on the belief that Earth is "specially designed" to be inhabited by living beings, called the anthropic principle.

"The fact that no evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence has ever been detected must be considered ... a confirmation of Christianity," Lisle told FoxNews.com.

Yet it's not too farfetched to believe that there could be life somewhere out there. After all, there are estimated to be more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe, containing trillions of stars and planets.

Lee Strobel, author of the book "The Case for a Creator,"has no problem with the idea of life on other planets. But he points out that the anthropic principle is not a uniquely religious point of view: Pure statistics, he says, suggest life isn't likely elsewhere in the skies.

"The anthropic principle is an argument from probability, that the likelihood that conditions needed to bring about life are extremely rare," he told FoxNews.com.

Strobel points to the book "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe," written by scientists Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee. The book explores the hypothesis that much of the known universe cannot support complex life.

"It's as precise as throwing a dart from space and hitting a bulls-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in a diameter on Earth," he said.

But Dr. Ted Peters, co-editor of the journal Theology and Science, raises another issue: How can we be sure life began here on Earth?

All life on Earth is based on six chemicals -- carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Peters poses the question, "Is it possible that there are life forms that instead of living on those six chemicals can live on arsenic?"

Arsenic, of course, is poisonous to Earth's living creatures.

But the recent discovery in southern California's Mono Lake of a microbe that thrives and grows on arsenic had biologists arguing and theologians speculating: Could it indicate a sort of second genesis? And if there is a second genesis on Earth ... could there be one on other planets as well?

If life were found on another planet, Strobel says his belief wouldn't be shaken.

"Life is on a continuum," he said. And if there are other conscious, moral creatures on other planets, perhaps they would still be living in an innocent state. 

At the symposium, philosophy professor Christian Weidemannof of Germany's Ruhr-University Bochum talked about the dilemma created if extraterrestrials were capable of sinning. 

"If there are extraterrestrial intelligent beings at all, it is safe to assume that most of them are sinners too ... If so, did Jesus save them too? My position is no," Weidemannof said in published reports.

Weidemannof enters into an 800-year-old controversy about whether there would be multiple incarnations of Jesus or whether there need be only one.

Lisle has a simple answer. "It was on Earth that God Himself became a human being -- not a Vulcan or Klingon," he said. 

But much of that debate hinges on nuance. There's also the bigger picture stressed by Dr. Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City: Scientific discoveries do not negate a God who is outside of time and outside of creation itself.

Keller tells his congregation the story of a Bible teacher he once had, who said, "If the distance between the Earth and the sun (93 million miles), is the thickness of a piece of paper ... then the distance from the Earth to the nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high ... then the distance between the Earth and the outer edge of the galaxy would be a stack of papers 310 miles high."

"And if the God of the universe created all that with his fingers, is that the kind of being you invite into your life to be no more than a low paid, personal assistant?"

He was trying to say, there's a lot to think about.

Lauren Green currently serves as Fox News Channel's (FNC) chief religion correspondent based in the New York bureau. She joined FNC in 1996.