I am a Christian. I believe in the God of the Bible, in God the Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. I believe in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (NIV)" I am a biochemist and a pharmacist by education. As such I have a desire to understand nature. I am writing this blog as my way to express the facts of true science as I understand them, from the perspective of one who believes that all things were created by God, for God and for His purposes.

Feel free to comment, to offer your perspective, or to give suggestions for subjects.
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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Caffeine - Celebrating National Coffee Day! - Revisited

Happy National Coffee Day! Coffee is our number one beverage and boy do we all need our caffeine. It seems that every year they find out something new and usually good, about coffee and its affects on our health. The consensus in the medical community is that moderate regular coffee drinking in healthy individuals is either essentially benign or mildly beneficial. Drink it black and in moderation, it may be good for you. I posted this blog five years ago in 2011 and thought it time to revisit it so here it is.

Today (Sept 29th) is National Coffee Day. To celebrate we will take a look at the main draw in that cup of joe, Caffeine. Check the Internet for coupons from your favorite coffee house; you just might get a free cup.

I don't drink coffee but that does not mean I miss out on my daily caffeine fix. I mentioned it in a blog about Ice last month. Caffeine is the most popular psychoactive drug in the world. Every day enough cups of caffeine (not just coffee) are served up to give one cup to every man, woman and child on the planet!

Although the FDA calls caffeine a "generally recognized as safe food substance", it is clearly a drug with profound physical and psychological effects. In humans, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant, temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. It also has diuretic properties. Long-term consumption can lead to addiction and tolerance. Withdrawal symptoms can also appear within 12 to 24 hours after your last latte. In spite of this, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world.

Caffeine is a bitter xanthine alkaloid. It is occurs naturally in varying amounts in the seeds, leaves, and fruit of a number of plants. In these plants it acts as a natural pesticide, killing the insect pests that are damaging to the plant. Caffeine is a natural component of coffee, tea and chocolate, and is added as an energy boost in most colas and energy drinks. About 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine every day in one form or another with more than half of all adults consuming more than 300 milligrams (3 cups of coffee) daily. Caffeine was first isolated from coffee in 1820. Today most pure caffeine comes from the process used to make decaffeinated coffees and teas.

Caffeine is also found in diet pills and some over-the-counter pain relievers and medicines. Medically, caffeine is used as a cardiac stimulant and a mild diuretic. It also acts as a bronchodilator. In beverages, it is used to provide a "boost of energy". More and more people are taking energy drinks to stay awake while working or driving long distances. Many people feel as though they need a morning cup of coffee to get going for the day and provide the wake up jolt it gives them.

Caffeine operates using the same biological mechanisms that amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin use to stimulate the brain. Caffeine impacts the functioning of the neurotransmitters adenosine and dopamine. It blocks the adenosine receptors so you don't feel sleepy and your blood vessels constrict. This causes adrenaline to be released, which stimulates the body. Caffeine also blocks dopamine reuptake thus increasing dopamine levels resulting in elevated mood, improved memory and cognition, and increased heart rate. If you feel like you cannot make it through the day without it, then you may be addicted to caffeine. In excess it can cause restlessness, insomnia, muscle twitching, gastrointestinal disturbance, cardiac arrhythmia and a host of other problems.

The problem with caffeine is its long-term effects, which tend to cycle downward. Once the effects of caffeine wear off you face fatigue and depression. So what are you going to do? You get another cup of caffeine to get the cycle going again. As you can imagine, having your body amped up all day long isn't very healthy, and can make you edgy and irritable.

Worse still is the effect that caffeine has on sleep. The half-life of caffeine is about six hours. That means that half of the caffeine you consume at 3:00pm is still in your body at 9:00pm when you are trying to go to bed. You may be able to fall asleep, but you will probably miss out on the benefits of a deep sleep. The next day you will feel worse, so you need more caffeine as soon as you get out of bed. And the cycle goes on day after day. This is why so many of us consume caffeine daily. Once you get in the cycle, you cannot get out because if you try to stop the caffeine, you get very tired and foggy headed with a splitting headache forcing you to run back to your caffeine crutch.

In spite of all these side effects, we all love our Frappe Mocha Latte in the morning. And caffeine has some benefits as well. We will look at some of our favorite caffeine fixes and their caffeine content as well as the benefits of caffeine in the next blog release.

So the Israelites must have run out of coffee when they confronted Moses on this day! Exodus 15:24 (NIV) - "So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, What are we to drink?"

Caffeine - How Much Do You Need? - Revisited

I first posted this back in 2011. Thought it would be good to share it again.

Now a days, coffee comes in many varieties, such as Frappacino and espresso, as well as different flavors and sizes. Colas are made with artificial flavors and added caffeine. The amount of caffeine in all of these different drinks can vary widely. Coffee used to be just "black". Coca-Cola® was originally made with Kola nut extracts and contained cocaine, no wonder it was so popular! Energy drinks are a new trend in highly caffeinated beverages. They contain a wealth of sugar and other natural stimulants that help provide that sought-after energy boost. Caffeine is also found in many weight loss preparations and in some over-the-counter pain, diet and stimulant medications.

Here are the most common sources of caffeine for Americans:

  • Coffee - Contains about 100mg per 8-ounce cup though most coffee drinkers will use a larger cup (12-16 ounces) for their daily brew.
  • Black Tea - Contains 50mg per 8-ounce cup. Green Tea contains 25mg.
  • Caffeinated Sodas - Coke, Pepsi, and others contain 40-50mg per 12-ounce can.
  • Super-Caffeinated Colas - Jolt contains 70mg per 12-ounce can.
  • Energy Drinks - Red Bull and RockStar contain about 80mg per 8 ounce can.
  • Milk Chocolate - Contains 6 mg/ounce.
  • OTC Medications - Anacin contains 32mg/tablet. Extra Strength Excedrin contains 65mg/tablet. NoDoz and Vivarin each contain 200mg/tablet.
How much do you consume? Add it up and see. I would guess, if you are a typical caffeine consumer, that you top out over 300mg per day.

Caffeine has long been considered an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Caffeine's negative effects on the nervous system and how it increases anxiety, heart rate and sleepless nights have always been a concern. But recently coffee and caffeine have been shown to have some significant medical benefits.

After more than 10,000 scientific studies over the past 30 years the findings indicate that people who drink one to three cups of coffee a day are less likely to contract diabetes, develop Parkinson's disease, or have gallstones. Additionally, coffee reduces the risk of colon cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Some of these findings may be due to the health benefits of the coffee bean itself, but most can be linked directly to caffeine. Coffee has also been shown to be beneficial in asthma (caffeine is a bronchodilator), stopping headaches (a vasoconstrictor) and improving mood (releases dopamine), all due to the systemic actions of caffeine.

In spite of these beneficial effects, it is still recommended to consume caffeine in moderation. Enjoy your day cup(s) of joe - or my favorite, Diet Pepsi® - but remember that too much of a good thing is not always better. Everything in moderation, nothing to excess.

For more on Caffeine, be sure to read my previous blog, Caffeine - Celebrating National Coffee Day.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 (NIV)"A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Looking Upward Part Three - The Heavens

Be careful what you read! Recently a planet was found to be circling Proxima Centauri, a red dwarf star very near to Alpha Centauri, and the closet star to our solar system, about 4+ light years away. In many of the accounts of the discovery the headline read something like this: "Potentially Habitable Planet Found Orbiting Star Closest to Sun." But what they tell you is the planet is "earth-like" because it is terrestrial (a rocky planet). But this planet has other things that make it less like earth and more likely to be uninhabitable. For a planet to be a possible life sustaining place, it does not have to be just like earth but must fit within a matrix of conditions that makes most, if not all, contenders unsuitable. In fact the odds are such that no planet can meet the requirements without outside help.


As mentioned in my last blog, Reasons to Believe has listed at least 154 independent environmental factors that must be fine tuned in order for a planet to be capable of sustaining life. That list was from 2004, they have since expanded it to over 300 tune-able factors. The fine tuning is not just for the planet either. Many of these deal with the stars, the galaxies, galaxy clusters and the Universe as a whole.

Just looking at a few of these conditions that deal with the Heavens - galaxies, stars, and planets - should give you an idea how rare our earth truly is. The probabilities listed come from Reasons to Believe and relate to the probability of the existence of space objects that meet the requirement. Thus a probability of 0.001 means that only 0.1% of all existing stars, for example, would be the right size. You must then multiply the probabilities of all factors times the number of stars, since each factor is independent of the others, to get the number of stars that would possibly meet all of the included conditions.

First a few for the galaxies. For a galaxy to be a suitable location for a solar system and ultimately a planet that can sustain life, here are just a few characteristics it must have.

It must be the right size - If it is too big, there would be too many stars and stellar gases that would disrupt the host star's orbit, possibly preventing planet formation or if planets do form, there could be too many collisions between the host planet and stellar debris. (probability of 0.1)

It must be the right type - If too elliptical or irregular insufficient heavy elements (elements heavier than Hydrogen and Helium) for life chemistry would not be available due to limited star formation. It appears that spiral galaxies (like our own) are the most suitable. (probability of 0.1)

It must be in the right location - Too close to a rich galaxy cluster or a very large galaxy, the host galaxy would be gravitationally disrupted, impacting the formation of a suitable host solar system. If it is too far away from other, smaller galaxies it can pull into itself, there would not be a source for gas and dust to sustain star formation long enough for heavy element formation. (probability of 0.1)

Assuming there are 100 trillion galaxies in the universe, just these three factors reduce the possible life supporting galaxies to 100 billion.

Now lets look at supernovae eruptions within the galaxies. Supernovae are exploding stars that have come to the end of their life and will be seeding the galaxy, the solar system, and specifically the host planet with heavy elements.

If there are too few supernovae - Not enough heavy elements would be present for the formation of rocky planets. Rocky planets are a requirement for life. (probability of 0.1)

If too many supernovae - Too many heavy elements, resulting in planets not able to sustain life plus too many collision events, exterminating any life that may have been able to start. (probability of 0.1)

Also, if supernovae are too soon or too late during the life span of the host planet, the heavy elements may be too few or too many to sustain life. Likewise, if the supernovae are too close or too far from the host solar system. (probability of 0.2)

Did We Just Find Another Earth
Orbiting a Nearby Star?

Now if we take the 100 billion galaxies from above, adding these factors reduces the possible life supporting galaxies to 200 million.

Next we will look at the host star. This next group of factors are requirements of the central star, like our sun, that will be supporting the host planet.

The star must be in the right location within the galaxy (Galactic Habitable Zone or GHZ) - If too close to the center or a spiral arm of the galaxy, the star would be exposed to too much galactic radiation and too many other stars such that planetary orbits around the host star could be affected. (probability of 0.02)

The star must be the right age - If too old or too young, the star's luminosity could change rapidly and impact the surface temperature of the host planet so as to prevent life. (probability of 0.4)

The star must be the right size - If too big the star could burn too quickly, changing the luminosity and burn out before life had a chance to form. If too small, the host planet would have to rotate closer to the star and possibly become tidal locked to the star - the planet would rotate like our moon and one side would always face the star - getting too hot for life on one side and too cold on the other. This is the suspected condition of the planet recently discovered around Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is a Red Dwarf and is most likely not suitable as a life supporting star. (probability of 0.001)

The star must be a constant source of light - If the star's luminosity changes too quickly or too much, the planet will not have a consistent environment in which to sustain life. (probability of 0.0025)

The star must be the right color - If too red or too blue in its light output, photosynthesis could not occur. Another reason that Proxima Centauri is most likely not suitable as a life supporting star. As a Red Dwarf, its light is much more in the Infrared end of the visible light spectrum. (probability of 0.4)

Now if we take the 200 million galaxies from above and multiply by the average number of stars in a galaxy (100 billion), we get 20 million trillion possible stars. Using the factors just discussed reduces the number of possible stars to 160 billion. This is just considering so far a total of 10 of the possible 300+ factors.

Finally we will look at some of the factors directly affecting the host planet. This will just include some of those that relate to the planet's relationship to its host star and other planets within its solar system. There are many others related specifically to conditions about the planet itself that will be considered in a later blog.

The planet must be the right distance from the host star - This is the Circumstellar Habitable Zone or CHZ (sometimes called the Goldilocks Zone). If the planet is not within this zone, the surface will be too hot or cold for a stable water cycle and possible life. If the planet is too close as well, primarily if the star is not the too small, the planet will get tidal locked as mentioned above. (probability of 0.001)

The planet must have a close to circular orbit around the host star - If the planetary orbit is too elliptical, the seasonal temperature differences would be too extreme, thus prohibiting life. (probability of 0.3)

The planet must have a rotational period (day) that is not too long or too short - If the day is too long, surface temperatures would vary too much between the day and the night, thus limiting the possibilities of life. If the day is too short, atmospheric wind speeds would be too great. (probability of 0.1)

The planet must have a small axial tilt - The earth tilts approximately 24 degrees on its axis. This is one of the factors that creates seasonal weather variations. If the tilt was less or zero, there would be no seasons and daily temperature variations could be too high to sustain life. Days would be warmer and nights would be colder. If the tilt is greater than 24 degrees, then seasonal temperature variations would be greater as well. The tilt of the earth has been relatively stable for millions of years, varying from 22.0 to 24.6 degrees. Excessive tilt could produce weather fluctuations much like we are starting to see now. Could a change in the tilt be the cause of "Climate Change?" (probability of 0.3)

The planet must have a large moon at the proper distance - Back in 1993, French astronomer Jacques Laskar and his team showed that the tilt of the earth’s axis has been stabilized over long periods of time because the earth has a large moon (the moon is about 25% the size of earth). They demonstrated that the earth’s axial tilt varied only between 22.0 and 24.6 degrees over many millions of years because of the moon. Without the moon, the earth’s axial tilt would vary between 0 and 85 degrees. Variations in Earth’s axial tilt of much more than a couple of degrees could generate climate changes (as mentioned above) that would be catastrophic for advanced life. (probability of 0.01)

The planet must have a gas giant planet in its solar system, orbiting farther from its star. This gas giant must be the right size and distance from the host planet - If the gas giant is too big or too close to the host planet, the orbit of the host planet could be unstable due to gravitational effects between the two bodies. If the gas giant is too small or too far from the host planet, the host planet could be subject to many asteroid and comet collisions. We saw an example of this with Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 between July 1992 and July 1994 when the comet broke apart and ultimately collided with Jupiter. This collision highlighted Jupiter's role in reducing space debris in the inner Solar System. (probability of 0.01)

Now if we take the 160 million stars from above and multiply by the average number of planets suspected to revolve around each star (2.5 on average), we get 400 million possible planets. Using the planetary factors discussed above reduces the number of possible planets to just 360 in the entire universe! This is just considering 17 of the possible 300+ factors. As you can see, it doesn't take too many more conditions to reduce this number to less than one. In fact, when all 300+ independent environmental factors are considered, Reasons to Believe concludes:

There is less than 1 chance in a million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion (10282) that such a planet would exist anywhere in the universe without invoking divine miracles. These highly fine-tuned features form one of the cornerstones of the evidence for a supernatural, super-intelligent Creator.

Psalm 19:1 (NIV) - The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Remembering 9/11 - The Chemistry of Forgetfulness - Revisited

Today is the 15th Anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York by two commercial jetliners, another plane ramming into the military fortress that is the Pentagon and the heroic struggle that ended with a crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania, preventing a possible attack on the White House. All these events occurring at the hands of Islamic extremists on 9/11/2001. I published this article back on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. With all of the terrorist mass shootings and suicide bombings happening around the world, including here at home, I think it is still relevant today. There are still people hell bent on our destruction.


Ask anyone old enough to remember where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001 and they can tell you. Our Nation was rocked awake from its sleepy dreams of safety and protection as the Twin Towers came down and two other planes exploded, each with a passenger list full of Americans. Men, with hatred in their hearts, rammed four jumbo jets into three landmarks and a field in Pennsylvania. The cry was "We shall not forget".

For those that were there or those who lost family and friends, they truly will not forget. The tragic images and unbelievable grief are burned into their memories forever. But what about the rest of our Nation? What is it we will not forget? It needs to be more than just a fading memory of the loss of 3000 American lives that day.

Time is the catalyst of forgetfulness and comfort is its substrate. Complacency is the morphine for the pain and we have become addicted. We have forgotten.

We have forgotten the God we cried out to that day for safety and protection, compassion and mercy.
  • Spontaneous Memorials popped up all over Ground Zero shortly after the attack. Were these just the seed that fell on the rocky soil? (Mark 4:5 NIV)
  • Congress joined across the aisle and embraced - with calls for prayer and songs of unity. We cannot do this today, even as our nation sinks into the quicksand of backbreaking debt.
  • Now are we, in the name of tolerance, denying the same call for prayer on this day of remembrance? Tolerance once meaning open-mindedness now forces an idea on all and calls anyone who does not agree intolerant (or worse - hatred/hate speech).
  • We don't want to display the Cross from Ground Zero because some might find the Cross offensive?

We have forgotten the evil in the hearts of those who did this.
  • Radical Islam is still alive and well, working for the destruction of all who do not believe in its tenets. Yet we continue to support them with our addiction to oil and our acceptance of their treatment of Israel.
  • We squabbled over the building of a mosque near Ground Zero while it seems any peaceful and compassionate religion should see that this is not the time nor place for such an action.

We have forgotten the innocents who died at work or on a plane, their families and the men and women who rushed to their aid.
  • The Memorial at Ground Zero seems to have been more about political posturing than it is about those who suffered and died there. Men, hungry for fame and notice argued over the design much too long. After ten years it is just now coming together, slowed by these continued squabbles about how the site should look, not to be completed for another two years or more.

We can not forget the pain of that day, the suffering of those who innocently died, the memory of those who rushed in unselfishly to save those they could and in doing so suffered or died with them. But especially we can not forget the unity that descended upon our great Nation in a cause and cry for freedom; freedom from tyranny, freedom from hatred, freedom to call upon a God who loves us in our time of suffering. It is this pain and suffering that must be seared into our minds and hearts. We are a great Nation that has been blessed by God and we must continue to fight for the freedoms we have fought so strongly for in the past.

Without pain and without difficulty we come to believe we do not need God, that we can do all on our own. Sometimes a wake up call is needed to take us back to what made this country great. The continued remembering of the events of September 11, 2001 can be that wake up call. This Tenth Anniversary remembrance should not just be a day of great speeches with empty words, or halfhearted soliloquies, but a day for remembering we are one Nation under God with liberty and justice for all.

We must remember, we can never forget.

"If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)"

Sunday, September 4, 2016

It's A Stick Out

Back in the day when my kids were younger, they wanted to believe everything I told them, and I wanted to tell them everything I knew. They would ask me questions and I, in my great wisdom and knowledge, always had an answer. As they grew older, I think they figured out I was not that Guru on a mountain top and sometimes my answers were not exactly on target shall we say.

One Father's Day one of my sons gave me a card (OK, it really was a birthday card) that became an instant family fable. It had a picture of a dad talking to his son (no, it was an older couple, a man and his wife) as they were overlooking the coastline (they were at a lake).

The dad, pointing to a small outcropping of land along the coast (the lake shore) said to his son (no, his wife):

See that piece of land sticking out over there into the water? There's a technical name for that. It's called a "Stick Out".

Inside the card it said:

“Another year older... another year closer to making up crap!”

Instantly my credibility was gone! Everyone in the room laughed and knew that I did not know everything and that sometimes I made up answers from what little knowledge I had on the subject at hand. My answers to their questions were often nonsense, absurdity, silliness... totally made up with very little foundation in truth or reality.

Every kid wants to believe his father knows best but,
We have a Father in Heaven who does and He cares for us.

Every kid wants to believe his dad knows it all but, just like puberty, there comes a day when things radically change and they realize that their dad is an imperfect human being, just like everyone else. It is the day that they start to grow up, become young adults and know that although their dad does not have all the answers, he has always had their best in mind. They are now ready to be dads (or moms) themselves.

It is a secure feeling when you are young to be able to believe that there is someone who always has your back, has experience in this world and wants to teach you, protect you and keep you safe from the things of the world. For many kids, that person is their dad.

We all have a Father in Heaven who is such a person. He does not have to guess at what a "Stick Out" is, he is all knowing and He has prepared a job for us in this life that he will help us through, unto the day of Christ Jesus. We can trust Him in all things and call on Him when we don't know what to do or where to go next. We just need to be patient and listen for His voice.

He is a Good, Good Father!

Happy Father's Day!

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Philippians 1:6 (NIV) Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Looking Upward Part Two - The Rare Earth, A Privileged Planet?

"Pale Blue Dot" is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles). In the photograph, Earth's apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, among bands of sunlight scattered by the camera's optics.


Voyager 1 (still sending back data over 38 years after its launch) was initially expected to work only through the Saturn encounter. When the spacecraft passed the planet in 1980, Carl Sagan proposed the idea of the space probe taking one last picture of Earth. He pointed out that such a picture would not have much scientific value, as the Earth would appear too small for Voyager's cameras to make out any detail, but it could have been meaningful nevertheless as a perspective on our place in the universe.

In 1994, Sagan wrote a book titled after the photo, "Pale Blue Dot." Here is a quote from Sagan:

"To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." — Carl Sagan, speech at Cornell University, October 13, 1994

I agree with Sagan that it is "our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish" the earth, but I think he missed the point. He says because of our insignificance, we should be humble. I think we should be humbled that a Creator God would love us so much that He would share His handiwork with us and nurture and protect us in the vastness he made to sustain us.

Another premise of Sagan's book is that the Earth is just an insignificant bit of space fluff, lost in an extremely vast and expanding universe. He states that:

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves."

On the contrary, the fact that our planet is so "rare" in the cosmos leads me to believe that our existence can only be attributed to a Creator God; one who loves us - all of us - such that He would create the vast array of wonders as we now see in space. He did this not only to challenge us to learn and understand it to some degree, but to make it possible for our "pale blue dot" to exist at all as it does with its own array of wonders that support life as we know it. The Universe, with all of its expanse is necessary to allow our habitable planet to exist, and to be able to support His cherished creation on it.

Do Other Planets Exist with Intelligent Life?
Or Are We The Only Ones Home?

Now lets look at how rare our planet really is.

In 1961, Frank Drake proposed an equation to arrive at an estimate of the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy. This was to stimulate scientific dialogue at a meeting on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Called the Drake Equation, it is a probabilistic argument not intended to actually be solved as most of the factors can not be determined with any degree of accuracy. His equation was written as follows:

N   =   R∗   X   fp   X   ne   X   fl   X   fi   X   fc   X   fL


N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible


R* = the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
fl = the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point
fi = the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
fL = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space

Although this equation was not intended to be calculated, it was supposed that the number "N" would be somewhat large and thus the SETI program had a good chance of finding another advanced civilization within our galaxy. This was the prevailing expectation for many years, even though SETI has not "made contact" as of yet.

In 2000, Peter Ward, a geologist and paleontologist, and Donald E. Brownlee, an astronomer and astrobiologist wrote a book entitled: "Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe". In it they argue that the universe is fundamentally hostile to complex life and that while microbial life may be common in the universe, complex intelligent life, like that found on Earth, requires an exceptionally unlikely set of circumstances, and therefore complex life is likely to be extremely rare. The book basically expands on the Drake Equation to include additional factors that must be met for complex life to exist. Their formula looks like this:

N   =   N*   X   ne   X   fp   X   fpm   X   fg   X   fl   X   fi   X   fc   X   fm   X   fj   X   fme

Compared to the original Drake Equation, the new terms are:

N* = the number of stars in the Milky Way
fg = the fraction of stars in the Galactic Habitable Zone (GHZ)
fpm = the fraction of metal-rich planets (rocky surfaces)
fm = the fraction of planets with a large moon
fj = the fraction of systems with Jupiter-size planets
fme = the fraction of planets with a critically low number of mass extinction events

They also do not calculate "N" but based on their premise, it could be as low as 0 or 1. In the 2001 book "Life Everywhere" by David Darling, written largely in reply to "Rare Earth," Darling states:

"What matters is not whether there's anything unusual about the Earth; there's going to be something idiosyncratic about every planet in space. What matters is whether any of Earth's circumstances are not only unusual but also essential for complex life. So far we've seen nothing to suggest there is."

Three years later, something suggested just that.

In 2004, the book, "The Privileged Planet", by Guillermo Gonzalez, astrophysicist and proponent of intelligent design, and Jay Richards, an analytic philosopher and intelligent design advocate, took the Rare Earth formula even farther. They identified 20 finely tuned factors as required for a planet to have intelligent, technological life. Although it is not possible to set a value for every variable, when using 10% as the fraction for each (most are likely much smaller), the result is approximately 100,000 planets in the Universe that "could" support intelligent life. This is much, much smaller than the number of galaxies in the Universe, 100 trillion, such that only one galaxy in a billion would have such a planet.

The authors used most of the factors from the "Rare Earth" equation, with some being defined more precisely. They also introduced some new factors that required fine tuning to produce life, including - the presence of liquid water and carbon based molecules, steady plate tectonics and associated magnetic fields, a clear and proper atmosphere (high oxygen and low carbon dioxide), the right distance from the sun to support water in all three phases, the right size and type of sun to provide consistent heat and luminosity for billions of years, the right age in the formation of the Universe (reduced star formation and radiation), a stable circular orbit, and the right type of galaxy (able to be in the GHZ for an extended period of time).

But this was just the beginning.

In 1986, Reasons to Believe (reasons.org) was founded by Hugh Ross, a Canadian-born astrophysicist and creationist Christian apologist. Reasons mission is to demonstrate that "sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature."

They have since continued to expand on the Drake equation concept proposed in "The Privileged Planet." They have currently identified as many as 154 such finely tuned factors required for any life to exist on any planet. Even using just half of these factors, each at 50%, gives just 165 possible "earth-like" planets in the Universe. This is based on 100 trillion trillion stars in the Universe, each with 2.5 orbiting planets. Using all 154 parameters the chances of finding even one planet with life in the Universe is less than one in a billion trillion. To me, this shows that Genesis 1:2 (NIV) is correct:

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters."

The Hebrew word for "hover" is "rachaph," which means to be moved by tender love, to cherish. God "cherished" the earth as the future home of His creation so much that He made sure that it had all of the "right conditions" to become that one "Privileged Planet" that He would send His only Son to live for three years and to die and rise again to save His creation from sin.


This exquisite fine-tuning of the Universe to allow for life as we know it seems to demonstrate such a tender care. If any of the 154 cosmology or nuclear parameters were changed even slightly we would not exist. It is extraordinarily improbable that all this came together through undirected, random, natural processes — it may, however, reflect hypernatural manipulation by a Creator-God. The conditions in our Universe really do seem to be uniquely suitable for life forms like ourselves, and perhaps even for any form of organic chemistry.

Physicist Paul Davies has observed:

“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all... It seems as though somebody has fine tuned nature's numbers to make the Universe... The impression of design is overwhelming."

Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV) - The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.