TRAPPIST-1 may not be our new home but the Creator declared it good anyway.
An increasing number of people today are putting their hopes in the stars. The eminent Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking noted in a recent speech that humans must “continue to go into space for the future of humanity.”
In February, that humanist glimmer of hope gleamed brighter with NASA’s discovery of inhabitable worlds outside our solar system. The Spitzer Space Telescope discovered so far a total of seven Earth-sized planets orbiting the newly named TRAPPIST-1 star. Of the seven exoplanets discovered, three are within the habitable zone—meaning they’re the most likely of the seven to have liquid water.
At “just” 40 light years away, the TRAPPIST-1 system looks ripe for exploration. And the parameters of TRAPPIST-1e, the fourth planet from the system’s red dwarf star, looks like the best place to start. The race for discovering our next home is on.
The idea that humanity’s future and hope is in finding inhabitable worlds many light years away can seem problematic to a Christian whose future and hope is found in God. Is it?
The eschatological overtones found in many of these pronouncements can account for most of the unease. As Christians, we know our home is not this world, but we’re not sure it is TRAPPIST-1e, either. Meanwhile, movies such as Interstellar promote the view that our dying world is a given—either through environmental disaster, nuclear war, or zombie apocalypse—and that in order to survive, we’ll need to put all our energy towards escaping to a better place.
It’s just a new version of “I’ll Fly Away”—sung by choirs of humanists with their hope for utopia, not heaven. Some bright morning when this world …