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Humans love the idea of exploring the vastness of the universe and finding evidence of life on other planets. So how much do we really know about it?
To date, NASA has discovered more than 3700 “exoplanets”—those likely to support life as we know it—and 2700 planetary systems. The search for more of these worlds continues, because at least a hundred billion galaxies exist, and each galaxy is full of stars. Do the math yourself!
So far, Earth is the only planet we know of that harbors life—but recently, the field of astrobiology made a breakthrough when it found ancient organic matter on the surface of Mars. The findings on the red planet definitely boost our quest in the search for life beyond Earth, since Mars is just one planet in this vast universe.
So the million dollar question still remains: Is anybody out there? Is there any end to this limitless universe? This is not a question of idle fancy. Carl Sagan, the renowned American astronomer, once said “Space exploration leads directly to religious and philosophical questions.”
The Baha’i teachings say:
Witness the wondrous evidences of God’s handiwork, and reflect upon its range and character. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 162.
Baha’is understand that the universe is full of mysteries and unanswered questions for us to explore. The more we explore, the more amazement we experience. This limitless universe is not just a fixed number of years old, the Baha’i teachings say, but very, very ancient. The prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, wrote:
The learned men, that have fixed at several thousand years the life of this earth, have failed, throughout the long period of their observation, to consider either the number or the age of the other planets. Consider, moreover, the manifold divergencies that have resulted from the theories propounded by these men. Know thou that every fixed star hath its own planets, and every planet its own creatures, whose number no man can compute. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 163.
Many schools of thought, both scientific and religious, debate the idea of life beyond Earth. So far, we have little evidence to prove that such life exists—but remember, lack of evidence doesn’t prove non-existence. Humanity continues amassing that evidence in its scientific and spiritual quest to discover whether we’re truly alone in the universe or not, and the Baha’i teachings say that we will continue to progressively and scientifically advance, which means one day we may encounter those other creatures Baha’u’llah referred to in the quote above. We will only know the nature of these extra-terrestrial beings with further advancements in science.
One of the important tenets of the Baha’i Faith is the harmony of science and religion—which compels many Baha’is to expand the world’s consciousness on these hidden mysteries in our search after truth. We may be very close or very far from this breakthrough discovery—but it will happen at some point. Our efforts will not be in vain because “All men have been created” as the Baha’i teachings say, “to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 215.
While that important scientific research continues, now more than ever we Earthlings should first aim to achieve planetary unity here at home. That Baha’i principle—the unification of all people into one human family and all nations into one global government—constitutes the most powerful solution for addressing the critical issues of human life. Later, if we do establish contact with our galactic neighbors, then our next goal could be inter-planetary unity.
The essential unity of humanity transcends barriers of nationality, religion, or race, in the same way this mighty universe is guided by the physical laws that govern the Earth. Baha’u’llah reminds us, regardless of the nature of any potential extra-terrestrial beings, we are all guided by the same spiritual law, which asks us to recognize and love the Creator of our vast universe:
O Son of Man! Wert thou to speed through the immensity of space and traverse the expanse of heaven, yet thou wouldst find no rest save in submission to Our command and humbleness before Our Face. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 13.