Is There Life Out There? (Interview with Jeff Zweerink)
by J Warner Wallace
Between novels, movies and television series, some of the most popular story lines involve extra-terrestrial beings living on exotic planets somewhere in the universe. The notion of alien life in the cosmos has captured our creative imagination and our scientific focus. If you’re like me, you’ve probably given the possibility of extra-terrestrial beings some serious thought. You may also have wondered if the existence of such beings would significantly impact the claims of Christianity. If aliens do live somewhere in the universe, would their existence disprove the Christian worldview? Well, Jeff Zweerink, an astrophysicist and Senior Research Scholar at Reasons to Believe, has written a new book that will inform and help Christians think clearly about the possibility of extra-terrestrial life. Is There Life Out There is a fascinating and informative book, so I asked Jeff to answer a few questions:
Jeff, can you tell our audience a little bit about your professional background and your ministry experience?
From my earliest memories, I have loved understanding how things work. Growing up, I planned to follow in my dad’s footsteps and pursue a chemistry career. While I find chemistry fascinating, I loved my first physics class in high school. So, I went to Iowa State University and received a BS in physics with minors in astronomy and mathematics. In graduate school, my focus shifted slightly to high-energy astrophysics where I investigated objects that emit gamma rays with millions of times more energy than those that produced the Incredible Hulk. I now work for Reasons to Believe (RTB)—an organization seeking to bring the gospel to those people interested in science. A large part of my job at RTB entails speaking and writing about intriguing topics where science and theology overlap, like my most recent book Is There Life Out There?
This is a very interesting topic, but not one I’ve seen addressed in many books. Can you tell me why you decided to write an entire book about it?
Two things conspired to bring this topic to my attention. First, astronomers started finding planets outside the solar system just over two decades ago. Since the initial discovery in 1992, they have found thousands of planets orbiting distant suns. These advances bring us closer (from a scientific perspective) to having actual data regarding how unique life on Earth is. Second, it seems like the topic of life in the universe fascinates lots of people. I noted a common theme in many of those discussions. Many Christians and non-Christians seem to think that the discovery of life “out there” would seriously undermine the truth of Christianity. To my knowledge, there are no books that describe the incredible advances in the search for planets beyond the solar system and how those discoveries impact the Christian faith…
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