The conventional wisdom has been among scientists is that a myriad of Earth-like planets exist in the universe, some of which have to be the abode of life, even intelligent life. However, Astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden has run a computer simulation of the universe, incorporating what we know about exoplanets thanks to the Kepler Space Telescope, the laws of physics, and the state of the early universe. The computer simulation came up with exactly one Earth, which is to say the one we live on. Every other planet in the universe does not have the conditions necessary to sustain life.

Indeed, strictly speaking, Earth itself should not exist according to the computer model, according to the story in Discover Magazine.

Setting aside the caveat that computer simulations are only as good as the data one puts into it, Zackrisson’s conclusions have profound scientific as well as philosophical and even theological implications. If the universe is so hostile to Earth-like planets, how is it that the Earth we’re living on exists? Did Earth become teaming with life thanks to a one in 700 quadrillion role of the dice? Or does some kind of theological explanation exist? Could Earth have existed without some sort of outside intervention?

To be sure, scientists shy away from bringing in the idea of a supreme being when discussing science.

On the other hand, perhaps the idea would go down easier if we don’t call it “God.” Maybe, to take a term from Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End,” we could call it the “Overmind.”

In any case, no one is likely to know for sure whether Zackrisson is right or not for a while. Newly developed space telescopes like the James Webb and WFIRST will refine our search for exoplanets.

If we happen to start finding Earth-like worlds with signs of life, then the computer simulation will have to be altered or thrown out altogether. Eventually people will venture to the stars and we'll really know for sure,

In the meantime, decades of science fiction, that imagined alien worlds, first contact, and interstellar wars would have to be tossed out if Zackrisson is correct.

One rather hopes he is proven to be incorrect. The universe would be a little boring if it did not have Vulcans and Klingons in it.

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