A common theme of modern sci-fi has been the exploration and colonization of other worlds. As humanity’s technological prowess has grown, so has its ambition. For a while, the moon was the fixation of mankind’s wanderlust, and tales of its exploration started appearing in early science fiction stories, such as Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaall. The moon was so near yet so far, and so mysterious. Mars also crept into science fiction, with H.G. Wells’ War of the World creating quite a sensation as the first portrayal of an invading alien race.
As our telescopes and satellites improved, we realized that these worlds were not hostile; they were just dead. Our moonwalks revealed a gray rock with hardly any atmosphere, and while Mars has proven to be a lot more intriguing scientifically and speculatively, it’s still just a windswept red desert. However, numerous efforts are underway to get people there (hopefully Matt Damon is not being considered). The frigid red rock for which I am named is being looked at as a serious contender for humanity’s next home.
But that’s not all. Our telescopes and satellites are probing the depths of the universe deeper and deeper every day, and scientists have discovered a whole buffet of “habitable” worlds, planets that could conceivably sustain life. Only a couple of months ago, the news media went bonkers over the discovery of seven possibly habitable worlds only a mere forty light years away. If you read the articles, you would have thought that NASA was already firing up the rockets. Of course, more terrestrial concerns quickly reclaimed the headlines and people went back to regular life.
I love to take hypothetical and speculative romps through the imagination but I consider myself to be a realist. I find the media and the public’s enthusiasm for the rather frequent discovery of “habitable” worlds to be silly groupthink excitement. Yeah, it’s cool that we’ve found other planets that we might have a chance to explore many centuries from now. But the fact remains that we have several right here in our solar system, and they contain countless mysteries we have yet to fathom, and the world at large hardly seems to care. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t “habitable,” a convenient though scientifically dubious label, with possible exception of Mars. It’s like someone saying, “Hey, guess what? They found a new island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean!” Okay, so? How does that make a shred of difference to a family in suburban USA or on the plains of Siberia or a Chinese mega-city?
The idea that we can just pack up and move out like the pioneers heading out West is a romantic notion that remains strictly in the realm of science fiction. My favorite sci-fi whipping boy, Interstellar, took this concept to ludicrous heights. So it’s easier to head out to a wormhole near Saturn and blast off to a distant galaxy to find a world that could support human life (what idiot thought that a planet next to a blank hole would be a viable candidate?) than to fix our own planet? Instead of remodeling our existing house which has some problems, let’s move out to that rocky little island in the middle of the Pacific and see if we have a better shot out there. Seriously?
Regardless of where humanity ends up, we know from the Bible that our final destination will be Earth. Now, it doesn’t seem to be this Earth, but Revelation 21:1 tells us that after Christ’s return, there will be a new heaven and a new Earth, one without any sea. 2 Peter 3:12-13 says that the heavens will be burned away and the elements will melt. It seems to me that no matter where humanity goes, whether we stay Earth-bound or, by some miracle, actually make it to the stars, those who belong to God’s kingdom will spend eternity on a new Earth, not in some heavenly city in the clouds. Mankind was not meant to live among the stars; we were meant to live in the world that God created for us. Unfortunately, it was corrupted by sin, but after judgement and purification, we will be given a new home that will be even better than the first.